“Conrad writes . . . how the love of a man for his ship ‘is nearly as great as that of man for a woman’ . . .”
–Silvia Rodgers, “Feminine Power at Sea”
Elizabeth was content to awake finally in her own bed, the covers soft and warm and the sweet breeze of her husband’s breath stirring her hair . . .
When she opened her eyes, however, it was a tiny hand of ebony-colored skin that shook her shoulder gently, and a quiet voice that was not Will Turner’s urged her, “Mrs. Turner . . . they coming back, ma’am!”
She had fallen asleep in the open, in the waist of the Black Pearl, sprawled lazily toward the stern with her legs tucked under her. Young Thomas, holding his white hat deferentially in his squirming hands, was standing a few feet away. She stumbled upright, tripping over her boots in her panic. The same sort of vulnerability that had assailed her when the two gruesome pirates had been peeping in on her came back again, and she struggled to manage herself. She looked wildly for AnaMaria—and found her, sitting on the lubbers’ hole on the main mast. No longer smoking her pipe, she was staring down at the dock. Elizabeth shielded her eyes against the rising sun, having lost her hat, and discovered that the crew of the Pearlwas trickling back from Tortuga. She watched them lurch and sway, each man expressing his own sort of half-drunken contentedness; from a distance, it looked like a whole army of motley Jacks, swaying to and fro peculiarly. Where was Jack? she wondered.
As if thinking the same thing, AnaMaria climbed down from the rigging and leapt down beside her. Elizabeth half-expected a look of animosity, but instead the second mate gave her a half-smile. Utter relief caused Elizabeth’s shoulders to slacken in surprise. Thomas ran toward Elizabeth and ducked behind her, hiding.
Angus Duncan was the first aboard, blinking and sputtering with drink and addled brain; it was hard for Elizabeth to ever imagine him as the gentleman of fortune he purported to be. As he scurried up on deck, he saw AnaMaria and tipped an imaginary hat—he always wore a tatty periwig but never a hat—at her. “Good morning,” he said cheerfully but slyly. He turned to Elizabeth and repeated the gesture. Moises, the sharp-eyed topgallant man, came up next, observed Duncan’s conduct, and repeated it at both women, holding back a chuckle. Elizabeth’s hands flew to her hips in confusion at the private joke the crew seemed to be sharing as they all scattered up the gangplank with similar greetings. AnaMaria was less subtle. After half the crew had greeted her with a lopsided grin--Peter Cotton who did not, of course, say a word, but instead pulled a cheeky smile—she extracted a mean-looking knife from her belt—Elizabeth had not seen that one yet—and snarled, “Next man ‘a salute me gets gutted!”
There was a genuine menace to her voice that the men seemed to take seriously until Elizabeth impulsively added, “And I!” The crew broke into soft laughter, shuffling on deck. AnaMaria’s look was bewildered and dismayed as she hid her knife in her belt once more.
Elizabeth shrugged. She turned back toward the dock and bespied Joshamee Gibbs struggling up the gangway, one burly arm outstretched as if to give him better balance. He was muttering softly, his flask still clutched mightily in one fist. Elizabeth forgot she had just vowed to gut her own crewmates. Her natural feeling betrayed her, and she stooped down the gangway, taking Gibbs’ arm and steadying him. “Are you all right, Mr. Gibbs?”
She heard someone behind her say, “He’s had too much flip, I’ll wager.” She could smell the evil blend of rum, beer, and brown sugar on his breath.
AnaMaria sprang from her spot, and Elizabeth hoped she might assist in dragging the sea dog up the slant. Instead she hissed in Elizabeth’s ear—but loud enough for all to clearly hear—“He’s a stinkin’ drunk.”
“And the firs’ mate of this vessel,” said a calm voice Elizabeth recognized as Jack’s. “As such, you owe him your respect.” Elizabeth glanced at him as his voice turned hard. She was fascinated to see him shouldering his fine gentleman’s coat with a new swagger, wearing his old tattered hat like a badge, his eyes clear. She felt herself looking for some clue as to what she had spent the night doing—as if debauchery could be read like stains. She seized Gibbs’ arm more tightly, giving him an enormous heave up the deck. He muttered something, but her eyes were on Jack and AnaMaria.
“Firs’ mate,” AnaMaria cried loudly, incredulously. “On a ship that should belong to me!” She raised her arm, and Elizabeth winced in preparation for a blow or worse.
But Jack said softly, “Calm yourself, madam.” He leaned in. “Tonight we shall settle this to our own satisfaction, eh?” Elizabeth saw him raise an eyebrow as one gnarled, dirty hand floated to the small of the Creole woman’s back—just as she had seen, vice versa, the day before. How absurd that such a gesture should have an effect, Elizabeth reflected, when AnaMaria stood down and huffed off toward the quarter-deck.
“Get up on those sails, ye scurvy mudnecks, and fill ‘em! Weigh anchor and get us heaved to!” Jack’s voice turned harsh, though the edge of amusement never left him. Elizabeth thought at the time it was an extremely unsound strategy, to get the crew almost too drunk to do their duties—“You there,” Jack roared, “fall down or stand up, but make up your mind, savvy?”—but later reflected how shrewd it proved to be. Drunk, contented, placid, there weren’t likely to offer much resistance to Jack’s next choice of destination. Except AnaMaria, of course.
Elizabeth wiped off her hands, sending Gibbs off toward his post near the helm. Jack was on the forecastle, taking their present position by de’d reckoning. The bearing and distance were measured from Tortuga. She held out her hand to Thomas, who eyed Jack with suspicion, then scurried to her side. Jack noticed the movement, peered over his shoulder, and nodded to Elizabeth. “Mrs. Turner.” Elizabeth felt Thomas squeeze her hand more tightly. “I thought I ha’ made it impeccably clear t’ye that our friend was to be dropped off a’ Tortuga.”
Elizabeth threw her shoulders back defiantly, studying his dark eyes. He really must be drunk, she thought. “Seeing as how I didn’t go to Tortuga . . .”
He held up a ringed finger to his nose. “Tha’s an entirely diff’rent matter.” He gazed down at the boy beside Elizabeth, his large black eyes staring boldly up at the pirate. Jack cleared his throat, grabbing Elizabeth and pulling her aside. “It were all well an’ dandy,” he whispered harshly to her, “when you were shootin’ a’ cursed men who never died. But a real sea battle, ‘Lizabeth?” She looked into his eyes for the first time, saw how grave his look was. “With cannons blowin’ off limbs an’ such?” She trembled. “D’ye really think a child should be seein’ that?”
She pursed her lips, acknowledging what he said made some sense. For once. She felt an awareness of wonderment; she had assumed Jack just wanted the boy off the ship because he had no use for him. She saw now that this was not the case--Jack’s concern for the boy touched and surprised Elizabeth. Still, she could not see him being any safer in Tortuga. With this spirit of defiance, she murmured archly, “Well, you must have been a child when you took up piracy
. . .” She waited for him to roar and clap the boy on the back, declaring a hearty “aye” and the rough-and-tumble life good for boys, puts hair on their chests or some such nonsense. She faltered when he said nothing. “. . . weren’t you?”
Jack was no longer looking at her, but somewhere far off. His brow furrowed, and she saw a look of distance, small and sad, come into his eyes. “A child . . .?” he murmured. He swallowed. “Aye, I s’pose I was.”
Elizabeth squinted at him. She felt embarrassed, like she had intruded on something uniquely his, somewhere she was forbidden to tread. She found herself gazing downward to Jack’s arm, his shirt falling away just enough to reveal the pirate brand. She studied it for a moment, recalling a desire she had first felt upon seeing him to touch it.
As quickly as he had sunken in his reverie, he snapped out of it. His eyes became bright once more, even comical, as he pulled back from Elizabeth to say loudly, “Well, the boy remains in your charge, Mrs. Turner.” He had turned on his heel when he spun back around to face her, the baubles in his hair swinging and jingling. “Almost forgot.” He reached, with secretive, pickpocket fingers, into the lining of his fine coat. He pulled out and handed to her a bale of dark grey poplin fabric. She looked at him in perplexity. He grinned, a rogue’s smile, and fished out a long line of lace from the low pocket on his coat. The way he was smiling did not make her anxious to know where he had acquired it. “Tha’ should do, I think,” he said warmly, “for yer gown. ‘S good fabric, fit fer a woman still in half-mourning.” She stared at him. It was customary to continue to mourn one’s parent for as long as a year, but she had forgone the tradition ever since Will had disappeared. Her guilt made her lip tremble. “So I am told,” said Jack.
She opened her mouth to speak. “One more thing, or had ye put it past ol’ Jack?” he said, the amusement in his voice telling her to be wary. Out of another pocket of his deep coat—what was he, a conjurer? she asked herself tetchily—he produced half a coconut shell, hollowed out. He handed it to her. Inside were hundreds of small brown objects. “Choc’late!” Jack declared with a laugh in his voice. “Well, beans of the cocoa plant,” he said, slightly abashed at her look. “ ‘S what you asked for,” a petulant child. “S’posed to have rare . . . aphrodisiac properties.” He leered. “In fact, the ol’ king Montezuma for’ified ‘imself with cocoa ‘fore visiting his harem.” She gasped, annoyed at how much he was enjoying this. “Save it for Will when you find him,” he went on in a low voice, “should do him good.” And he clapped her hard on the back and strode across the deck toward the wheel, where AnaMaria was staring at them fiercely.
The cocoa incident had embarrassed Elizabeth, so to avoid the crew’s knowing jeers and catcalls, she had gone below decks, with Thomas firmly at hand. While the boy was engaged in rooting around for Elizabeth’s hat, she tossed all the cocoa out through a porthole.
She did not see Jack again all that day, though she was certain he had come on deck once or twice. As her anger wore off, she felt a good deal of shame. The cocoa had probably cost good money, and though he was likely to take it out of her share of the profits later, she wished she had not disposed of it so meanly. What if she failed? What if they got to London and Jack was arrested and hanged? He was taking a risk—an incredible risk—and however scurrilous he proved in other respects, she still owed him for helping her.
That was one thing, then, she could at least remedy: she would make certain, if it killed her, that she could pass Jack Sparrow off as a law-abiding citizen, her husband. This was the attitude she took as she went quietly after supper at her mess to the cabin door of Captain Jack’s quarters. Nervously she approached, almost convinced she was going to interrupt an amorous engagement that was really no business of hers. Forgetting herself again in the Navy code, she rapped politely on the door when she could have just walked in.
She half-expected low voices, a shrill giggle—though when she considered, she suspected AnaMaria absolutely incapable of a shrill giggle. Instead there was silence. A great deal of it. When the door swung open, it was only Jack—and the open end of his raised pistol. “Oh, s’you,” he said in a voice marked with disappointment. He let the gun drop and as he refixed it in his pistol belt, he let the door swing open. He didn’t invite her in, but instead took two heavy steps back into his quarters. “What is’t you want?”
She cleared her throat, watching him stare distractedly at the maps again laid out on the table. “Thank you for the material,” she said softly. “It will go a long way for authenticity’s sake.”
“Ah, good,” said Jack, only half listening, his fingers drumming incessantly on top of the map. Mercifully he said nothing of the cocoa, sparing Elizabeth any awkward lies.
“Um, speaking of authenticity,” Elizabeth whispered, nervously tracing the line on the door jamb, “I think you may have forgotten—“
“I didn’t ‘forget’ anythin’,” said Jack sharply, looking up from the maps. The dark kohl outlining his eyes suddenly made him look harsh, malevolent. “ ‘F ye’re referring to the fact I must have clothes t’ suit yours—” the sound of disgust was heavy in his voice “—then the fact that I ran across jus’ such an ensemble should please you.” The word ‘please’ was silken, almost accusatory. He jerked his head in the direction of the horsehair sofa. On it rested a small folded pile of clothing. She approached it slowly, as the cabin gave a groan and a lurch. She flicked her eyes uncertainly to Jack, who nodded her on. She unfolded the country gentleman’s coat of brown fustian, the dark waistcoat of faded silk, and the matching trousers along with woolen stockings. Although she could not in the least imagine Jack wearing the clothes, they were exactly the image she wished to portray. She shook them out before refolding them, as a strange, barbarous scent seemed to emanate from the cloth.
“Excellent,” she said, unsure if praise was what he sought. He grunted in response, returning to his maps. Elizabeth nonchalantly peeked over his shoulder to eye the maps. She finally commented, “The clothes will do nicely. But there is another thing . . .” He stood up straight, throwing down the pencil he had been grabbing in sooty hands, and peered at her. She had a feeling his patience was limited.
“Jack,” she said, her voice soft but determined, “I’m willing to do whatever is needed to get the money from my uncle. I assume you feel the same.” He nodded with sudden gravity, stroking the strands of his beard. “Then will you allow me, without feeling insulted, to teach you a few things you must know?”
He slouched, examined the ruined tufts of his fingernails. “Why would I be insulted, ‘Lizabeth?” He appeared calm, but a reckless light in his eyes told her he was beginning to get angry.
“Oh, just a hunch,” she said airily. “You always seem to rather . . . overreact.” She widened her eyes, spread her feet outrageously, forced her hands into tight shapes as she waved them, doing a fair impression of him in his manic state. “ ‘Why’s the rum gone!’”
“A legitimate question a’ the time, I think!” he snarled, eyes tightening into crescents.
“Don’t let’s argue,” Elizabeth pleaded. “Now, we shook on this scheme.” She strode toward him, ignoring the protesting muscles in her legs, exhausted from lower yard work. “Shall we agree to do our utmost to ensure success?” She held out her hand. She thought of Norrington doing the same. She thought of the brand, the tattoo.
“This ‘ad better be a ruddy lot of gold,” said Jack, with only a twinge of bitterness. He took her hand and shook it, though when Elizabeth tried to pull away, he seized her palm and brought it up to his face. She thought he was going to kiss her hand, a gallantry she thought beyond him until she remembered that was how he had first greeted her. “Wha’s this?” he asked, staring at the inside of her delicate but no longer white hand.
She pulled away nervously. “What? This scar?” She traced the finger of her left hand down the diagonal red-and-white slash. “The treasure cave. Aztec gold. You have one too, you know.”
Jack held up his own hand and looked into the palm. The blood to be repaid . . . He looked back at her. “I know. But why’s yours all red an’ swollen? Thought it should have healed up nice.”
She shrugged. “I’ve been slushing the deck all day, or hadn’t you noticed?” She expected something snappish. Instead he was awkwardly silent. And there—a look of pity, doubt. That she couldn’t stand! “Look, now,” she said hastily. “Let’s go over introductions.”
“In polite society. Start at the beginning.”
“Naturally.” His laugh was hurtful and derisive.
“Well, go on,” she said tartly, her face contracting at his tone like a squishy apple. “Introduce us to my uncle.” She indicated the gallery windows.
Jack squinted. “You need introducin’ t’ yer uncle?”
“It doesn’t have to be him, just . . . anyone!” she snapped hastily.
Jack sighed, executed a clumsy but flamboyant bow to the windows. “May I present meself, Captain Jack Sparrow—”
“No, no! Do you want to get hung in chains from Hangman’s Dock! You can’t say you’re Jack Sparrow!”
He appeared faintly insulted, wrinkling his nose up at her and complicating his moustache with a sneer. “Well, wha’ should I say?”
“Aren’t you pirates good at coming up with aliases?” Elizabeth asked breathlessly.
“Oh, aye. Ye want me t’introduce meself as Black Jack Flint?” He grinned outrageously, little beams of light shining on every tooth (particularly the gold ones).
Before Elizabeth could vociferate over this absurdity, her awed childishness said, “That was you? Black Jack Flint was . . . you?”
Jack struck a roguish pose, tucking his arms into his pistol belt with flair. “Oh, aye, and let me tell you—”
“No,” dismissed Elizabeth, shaking her head. “It doesn’t matter. Now my uncle knows that I married a man named Turner.”
Jack glared at her sullenly. “Jack Turner then, I suppose?”
“I think John Turner more appropriate.”
“Well, John is your real name, isn’t it?”
The lopsided grin told her otherwise. “ ‘Course, love.”
She sighed heavily, not willing to let him know that the bits and pieces of what little valor she still found in piracy were crumbling. Disillusionment. “Well, go again.”
Jack faced the windows. “May I present—”
“My wife, Mrs. Turner.” He looked at her. “The woman is introduced first. It’s the custom.”
Jack muttered something obscene, then began again. “May I present me wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Turner. I am your humble servant, John Turner.” He turned to her with open hands. “What now?”
She shrugged. “That was quite good.” She considered. “But I’m not sure we should mention that you—my husband—is a blacksmith.”
“Very good, because I did not want t’introduce meself that way.” He fidgeted. “ ‘S embarrassing. Ev’ryone knows tha’ blacksmiths are all . . .” He looked away, ostensibly uncomfortable, but really smiling behind his moustache. He made a quick pair of scissors with his fingers, jerked them upwards. “Snip!”
Elizabeth’s look was darkly disapproving. Ignoring him, she said, “Something exotic so you won’t be questioned. How about . . . a . . . tobacco planter . . . from—from Virginia?”
Jack clicked his tongue. “Well, I s’pose.”
“Good, now—” she curtsied low, “I think you should show me your bow.” He snickered. “What?”
“I ‘ave t’ say, ye look rather strange . . . curtsying in breeches.” His eyes roved over her figure.
Eyes flashing, she snapped, “I’ll be wearing a gown when we do this in earnest! Now bow!” Jack placed a wobbly boot forward and leaned down for a stiff bow. “Here,” she said, spontaneously taking his right arm in her hand. “Tip your hat. Tuck your leg behind you—there—bow.”
“I feel such a fool,” he admitted.
She did not say what she thought—you are a fool—but instead cleared her throat. “You’re doing well.” She awkwardly dropped her hand from his forearm, pulled away. The finger with her wedding band got caught inadvertently in the heavy strands of his hair. Though he squawked loudly—hardly courageously—and whined like a mule, his hands were warm on hers as he slipped the ring away. As he worked to free her, she saw him gaze at the ring. It flew to the floor of the cabin with a ping! and as he bent to retrieve it, she found herself apologizing profusely, as she might to a stranger.
She saw him examine the ring carefully; a simple band of gold, it contrasted heavily with the gem-incrusted rings on his own hand. He half-smiled. “Your wedding ring . . .” He held it out to her, still looking at it in a strangely wistful way.
“Yes, thank you.” She slipped it hurriedly back on her finger. When she looked up, Jack was still gazing at her. “What is it?” she asked, faintly defensive.
“Oh. Nothin’,” he said. “I never thought t’ask about your wedding . . .”
She flushed, smoothing the ring down her finger. “What was there to ask?” she snapped, more rudely than she needed. He quieted, abashed.
“Well, I still ha’ a great deal t’do—”
“—I should return to Thomas—”
“Good night, Mrs. Turner.”
“Good night, Captain Sparrow.”
The sky never seemed to change on the ocean, though the land seemed to: without being sure, Elizabeth fancied they were no longer in the Caribbean. She shrugged, giving her bucket a kick forward with the heel of her boot. She thought of the day the Black Pearl had met up in a fire fight with the Interceptor, eventually blasting her to smithereens. Wistfully she recalled herself by Will’s side, issuing orders like some kind of hellcat. What had gotten into her at the time? The knowledge that if someone didn’t act, they would all die? She hadn’t done anything so brave or remarkable the last two weeks aboard the Pearl, and her lack of enterprise left her feeling fairly ashamed. Still, it wasn’t as if she’d been a complete waste of time—she was making excellent progress with her gown, though she quite despised every moment spent sewing it. She was making less-than-excellent progress educating (he preferred the term “needlessly torturing”) Jack on etiquette: one moment he would be remarkably enthusiastic about it, regarding it as a parlor game; the next he would be sullen, intimating none-too-subtly that she was wasting his time.
She heard a shout from the rigging and automatically raised her head. Using the wrinkled brim of her recovered hat to shield her eyes, she caught sight of the small shape of Thomas. “Thomas!” she cried shrilly, leaning on a nearby rope. “Thomas, you had better—”
“Oh, leave him, Mrs. Turner,” came the broad, coaxing voice of Gibbs. Elizabeth dropped from the rope obediently. “He does very well in the riggin’,” said Gibbs with a smile.
“Better than me, you mean,” she said sheepishly, pushing back a strand of her brown hair nonchalantly. She had nearly fallen from the mizzen mast when instructed to run a line and add a second sail in the doldrums; ever since, she’d felt a little queasy about running the rigging and had noticed the crew hadn’t pressed it on her.
“Don’ dwell on it, lass,” said Gibbs dismissively. Elizabeth peered at his leathered face, a patchwork of sunburn and tan over years in the sun and salt, rough but smiling. She admired his kindness to her, which he had showed from the first day she’d stepped on board, just as she admired his pigheaded strength in peace and war. His drinking, not so much.
“Tell me, then, Mr. Gibbs,” she said seriously, “what good have I ever been to the Black Pearl?”
Gibbs raised a brow, creasing his forehead until it looked like vellum stretched over sand. “Well, the work you done for Cotton.” It was true; in the days since her near fall from the mast, Elizabeth had taken a more-or-less apprenticeship to Peter Cotton, the ship’s makeshift carpenter and sometimes cooper. She learned very quickly that bits of mast and parts of decks were extremely temperamental and always falling apart. The white hands she had so disparaged were quickly becoming a motley hue of red and brown from splinters and sunburn. She smiled faintly at Gibbs’ praise. “An’ . . . what about the boy?” He jutted his chin toward Thomas, now climbing carefully down the starboard side of the rigging. “Ye’re teaching him to read, aren’t you?”
“An’ you think that a good thing, do you, t’ educate people like us?” This last from AnaMaria, slouching underneath her hat as she dragged the mounted fourteen-pound cannon across deck to be repaired. Elizabeth saw her eyes, and they were full of malice, glinting, but not for her.
Ruffled, Gibbs tucked away his flask. “People like you?”
AnaMaria dropped the thick cord on the cannon and swaggered up to Gibbs, accidentally knocking Cotton’s parrot from his shoulder. The parrot squawked in outrage and went to dirty up the forecastle wheel. “Runaway slaves,” she said with a bright coldness that chilled Elizabeth. “Thought you were a respectable man, Mr. Gibbs. ‘S not lettin’ slaves learn to read—”
“Ye be daft, woman!” Gibbs muttered, clearly uncomfortable. Across the ship, Crimp called AnaMaria. She gave Gibbs one last hostile glare and heaved to with the cannon. Once she had gone, and Elizabeth was preparing to go below decks, Gibbs nudged her shoulder and said covertly, “Been in a foul mood all day.” He scratched his whiskers, giving Elizabeth a significant look. “Can’t imagine why, can you?”
The careful insinuation left Elizabeth blank. She played with the brim of her hat and said, “What do you—?”
“Blast it, and never you mind,” Gibbs reproached, shaking a meaty finger at her. She saw him look in the direction of the wheel as a cold spray of wind flew up on deck. She glanced back up at the rigging and found that Thomas was no longer there. Where’s that boy gone to now? she thought. Since the morning of the return from Tortuga, she had seen him regain some of his spirits, become lively and talkative. There was no longer any cause to keep watch over him, as he was quickly becoming adept at a pirate’s life. He had learned the ropes, as they said, and frequently ran errands for all the crew. Even Jack, Elizabeth noticed, had quit treating him with indifference. She had taken over the task of teaching the boy to read—from an old, battered hymnal and a volume of Ben Jonson she had found, apparently abandoned, in her mess’s sea chest. “A smart boy,” Jack had remarked in one of his more magnanimous moments.
“Oh, Miss Eliz—I mean, Mrs. Turner,” Gibbs blustered on, “there was some matter I wanted to speak t’ye about.” Did someone need a chair made from scraps of wood? she wondered. It had become her job to report requests for carpentry to Cotton. Of course, he never acknowledged her with more than a smile. “There’s been rumors.”
Not exactly what she had expected. “Oh?”
Gibbs glanced at her nervously, then removed to the starboard railing and beckoned her to follow. He spat over the edge, excused himself and looked at her boldly. “Well, you know as well’s I that I’m a common-sense type, not to be mixin’ in things’d don’t concern me . . .” Elizabeth looked away and rolled her eyes extravagantly. “. . . but there been rumors, circulatin’ ‘mongst the crew.”
Elizabeth found her imagination not quite equal to the task of speculating what rumors would surface aboard a pirate ship. Perhaps speculation that Jack might have finally gone completely mad. Perhaps a mutiny to wring Cotton’s parrot’s neck once and for all. Heaven forbid that Jack and AnaMaria should be implicated as lovers—she had since, quietly but completely, decided that they could be nothing but. Even though there was little affection passed between them and she had not yet caught the two in Jack’s cabin. The knowledge amused her—was Gibbs about to inform her that AnaMaria might soon be expecting a junior Sparrow? Elizabeth caught her absurd laugh just in time. Primly, she said, “What about?”
However amusing Elizabeth found the situation, Gibbs was all gravity. “ ‘S not like Jack not to give at least a hint o’ where we be going.” His eyes were wary, confused. “Hasn’t said a thing about where the Pearlis headed. Me geography ain’t as good as his, but I ‘spect we’ve been swimmin’ around the sea—” he licked his finger and held it up to test the wind, “—in circles since you got aboard!”
Elizabeth looked away guiltily. She wasn’t certain she could lie about such a vital grain of knowledge. “Well, I—”
Gibbs leaned in, and she saw concern written in the wrinkles of his jowls. “Crew is gettin’ the least bit anxious, you understan’. There’s been naught but that Portuguese frigate—La Margarida or whatever she were. Not a great take in herself.” A few miles out of Tortuga, the Pearlhad come upon a small bark. Deciding quickly she was a merchant vessel with little defense, they’d shadowed her before driving her into a nearby reef and running her aground. The flustered, inexperienced crew gave up after a brief, nearly bloodless fire fight and surrendered their cargo. Unfortunately, it was as Gibbs said—a poor take. There was little in hard cash to be found, and aside from the captain’s silver candelabra collection, little besides cane and tobacco. Jack had left the survivors on the reef, offering the vessel to AnaMaria as a prize and her first command. Curiously she had refused, saying she deserved a much bigger prize and would hold out until then. Jack had left the ship in the care of the slaves aboard, with their oath that they would spread the fame and dread of the Black Pearl wherever they went. The Portuguese crew were blindfolded and tied together in concentric circles, making escape difficult but conceivable. “A ship will pass by in a day or two,” said Jack mildly. Elizabeth was of the opinion that this was rather cruel, but conceded when pressed by Jack that it was preferable to killing them. For her part, she had been told to keep out of sight—one woman on board a pirate ship was rare enough; two would surely give them away.
“ ‘S all for near two weeks,” Gibbs went on. “Doesn’t seem quite right says I.” He looked at Elizabeth expectedly.
Her voice trilled in nervousness. “You wouldn’t expect me to know anything . . .”
Gibbs leaned on the railing. “Well, in fact I thought you might, seeing as how you’ve become
. . . very friendly with the captain, as of late.”
Elizabeth could not remember a time when her jaw dropped farther. “With the captain!” she gasped, white in the face. “With Jack Sparrow! You actually think—” She couldn’t believe that Gibbs would actually imagine there was anything—anything—between her and Jack. She had been speaking to him as often as every night, it was true, but—“Mr. Gibbs—” her voice was stern “—you cannot mean to imply—”
“Logical, in’t?” He shrugged shamelessly. “Your husband gone, thought dead, somewhere ‘cross the ocean; ‘twould make sense, a young woman seeking solace in Jack Sparrow’s arms—”
Elizabeth was so scandalized she could almost not speak. Rage struck her tongue to the roof of her mouth in awkward silence. She could not imagine the gall, first to accuse her of faithlessness to Will—Will, whom she loved so obdurately, for whom she was risking everything—second, to implicate her with him—
Well, what’s so wrong with Jack Sparrow? asked a tiny voice in her head.
He’s vulgar, and unkind, conceited, rough, and there’s nothing about him that I would find attractive enough to break my wedding vows—
“Solace in his arms! In Jack’s arms!” she sputtered indignantly.
“What’s this I’m hearing about me arms?” It was Jack’s voice of course, approaching from directly behind her, and when she turned, absolutely glazed in shock, she expected the worst—that he’d heard everything. She said nothing for a long moment, instead gazing at him blankly. The so-discussed arms were visible, he having stripped himself of his coat and folded his shirt-sleeves up to the elbow—she supposed to assist in filling up the leak that had sprung in the hold. He was concealing a smile behind his moustache, but that was not usually the face he wore when teasing her. She decided he had not heard anything but the last.
“A-A-Actually,” she said, thinking quickly, “there was something I was wondering about your arms.” Jack leaned forward, looking slightly baffled. She stared at the brand on his wrist, the curious, intricate indenture in his skin. “Why do you have that brand on your wrist rather than your forehead? The broadsides I read said the East India Trading Company branded pirates on the forehead.”
Gibbs cleared his throat forcefully and inched out of the way. Jack brought his forearm up, began unfolding his sleeve and then seemed to think the better of it. She wasn’t quite sure if he was exactly embarrassed by the mark, but her words had a clear impact. “Don’ believe everything you read i’ books, Mrs. Turner.” He gave a gruff sound of annoyance and turned from her, his shoulders hunched and his fingers wisping in the air like he was getting ready to pounce. Clearly, said his mannerisms, I am a busy man and you are not worth my time.
This attitude, in conjunction with the dreadful slander Gibbs had told her, boiled her blood. She followed after Jack with her own bristling self-importance as he tracked over to the main mast. “Perhaps they didn’t want to ruin the perfect glory of your ruggedly handsome face,” she theorized tartly.
Jack looked at her over his shoulder just long enough to say humorlessly, “I reckon that be it.” He flipped his compass off his belt and held it up squinting cock-eyedly at it. Elizabeth considered replying, then was about to stalk away in exasperated disgust when she heard a loud clink and scrape.
Startled, she automatically bent to retrieve the object which had fallen. It was Jack’s compass, and she picked it up with one hand; as she was preparing to hand it back to him, her eye fell on a small slab of white that had presumably fallen when the compass did. Jack snatched the compass from her outstretched hand while she sank to one knee to pick up the object.
It was smooth and slippery to the touch, glistening, oddly fascinating. She turned it over in her hand, the piece of ivory broad and flat, about the width of a kernel of corn. Her first thought was that the miniaturist who had painted this portrait was extraordinarily talented. But such a thought was superseded when she realized she was looking at the most beautiful human being she had ever seen. She wasn’t certain what caught her eye first: the wafting, thickly curled hair the color of burgundy wine, freely about the woman’s shoulders, or her enormous blue eyes, deep-set into skin as pale as powder and slightly tilted under thick eyelashes. Perhaps it was the perfect smile that somehow held a hint of roguishness, independence. She was dressed in the manner Elizabeth’s mother might have in her courting years: a fontage headdress of lace set above her unruly curls, the bodice of her gown a sharp triangle. “What is this?” she asked.
“Funny, AnaMaria asked the same question.” The comment failed to draw any laughter. “Give it t’ me.”
Elizabeth continued to stare, wiping the grime and dirt from the miniature. Her fingers rubbed over the one-word inscription: Ysabel. She murmured dazedly, “But Jack, who is she?”
Jack was rigid, the tendons in his bare arms standing out. “Give it t’ me!”
“Don’t you trust me?” Elizabeth asked quietly, giving one last look at Ysabel, whoever she was, and handing the miniature back to his dark, dirty palm. He snatched it away roughly.
She looked up at him, his black-rimmed eyes. He shared her look, nervously rabbiting until, dropping under his hat, he muttered, “She was my mother, all ri’?”
His mother? She had to admit to some surprise, though a quick assessing look at Jack confirmed this—the high, defined cheekbones were the same, as well as the way the eyes tilted slightly. Ysabel Sparrow? she thought, vaguely amused. Jack was no pauper as far as looks were concerned, under all that grime and filth, but there was no comparing him with her. “What was she like?”
A sound of impatience, anger. “Damn it, ‘Lizabeth,” he muttered between bared teeth, “intent on robbing yerself o’ all pretense? Intent t’ know that I’m a bastard wit’ no knowledge o’ my father?”
Elizabeth winced, a tiny tic, but replied sharply, “I didn’t ask about your father, I asked about her.”
“She was a handmaiden t’ the Princess of Castile, ‘f you must know. Sailed to England wi’ her illegitimate child—yours truly—an’ died in childbirth.” She quirked an eyebrow at him, prepared to expound—no—wait—
“Is that true?”
He grinned enormously. “ ‘Course it is.” In a feathery imitation of her own voice, “ ‘Don’t you trust me?’”
She sighed angrily, and he, tipping his hat, began to walk off. “She was . . . beautiful, wasn’t she?”
Jack turned, heaving a sigh. His eyes took on a sad distant look that was fragile, heart-rending. “Yes . . .” he faltered. “She was.” Then his look hardened, and he was once again the flamboyant, careless Jack Sparrow who cared naught for anybody but himself. “But she’s dead.” The finality of his tone repulsed her.
“My mother died when I was three,” she said crisply.
“Ah, well, ‘tis a wonderful world for us orphans,” he said darkly and turned away from her.
She could have continued the conversation, even as he traversed the waist and came up on the larboard side. But his coldness was like a punch to her chest, knocking out her breath and will. She stared at him, angry that whenever the slightest remnant of the real Jack—sad, sweet, incisive, even profound—surfaced, it was quashed by his bravado self.
“Mrs. Turner.” Thomas had climbed down and was skidding along the deck toward her. She tried to smile at him, but what Jack had said about orphans prevented her. “You should try it up there, some time, missus,” said Thomas with breathless abandon. “See the ‘ole world up there, you might.”
“Yes, I know, Tho—”
“Cap’n Sparrow! You might want to see this!” It was Crimp on the jib, squinting with one eye and pointing with one limp wrist. Thomas climbed up on the deck railing and was heading for the rigging. “Thomas, wait—” She was lost in the din as all those aboard the ship raced toward the bow with murmured exclamations and confused words. Elizabeth had no choice but to follow.
Jack had climbed on the prow and was holding his spyglass blithely. “Steady, AnaMaria!” he barked. “Keep ‘er steady!”
“Aye, sir, I’m trying!” she shouted back from the helm. A breathful of fog clouded up the path of the Pearl, rising suddenly where no fog had been before. Elizabeth shivered, not so much from the cold but in the suddenness.
Her hair whipped about her neck as the Pearlgroaned. “Take those sails down! Be quick about’t!” Gibbs’ voice rose above the fog. Men scurried up the rigging to furl up the foremast, slowing them down.
Though she could at first see nothing at all, Elizabeth felt the chill of dread—just as she had felt it the first time she had seen the skull and crossbones and the ship with black sails. As if echoing her sentiment, Cotton’s parrot hooted mournfully, “Dead men tell no tales,” and floated listlessly to the top gallant.
Peering forward, she saw the faint outline of a mast. A sail, a spar, a shroud. “Turn her hard a’ port, AnaMaria!” Jack yelled. “Turn ‘er around!”
The Pearlswerved quickly but fluidly, and the entire crew watched as the shape of a massive vessel appeared out of the fog. A collective gasp. Elizabeth heard murmurs all around her. “. . . a galleon, must be . . .”
“. . . look, the flag of la Maritima Royal d’Espagna . . .”
“. . . where’s the crew? Why’d they let us approach?”
“Do you see it, ma’am?” Thomas’s voice was tinny above Elizabeth. She looked up, shivering, and said thinly, “Yes, I do.”
Suddenly Gibbs was beside her with the forbidding look she had seen him give nine years previously. “Spanish treasure ship,” he said, though she was not certain if he was speaking to her, or thinking aloud. “Pretty prey for pirates. Eerie, though, this fog. Reminds me of—”
“Just what I was thinking,” concurred Elizabeth.
Gibbs eyed her warily. He crossed to Jack. “Should we make the ready? Fighting sails? Load the cannons?” Jack continued looking through the glass, silent. “Captain?”
“Not yet, Mr. Gibbs,” said Jack coolly. He folded the spyglass and put it away. “She appears to be adrift. No crew to be seen.”
“Could be a trick. Somethin’ to lure ships in, seekin’ rescue.”
Jack seemed to consider soberly. “Could be indeed, Mr. Gibbs. But,” and he smiled, too cheerfully even for Jack, “nothing ventured . . .” Gibbs shrugged uneasily. “AnaMaria!”
“Get Cotton to hold the wheel. Gibbs, Crimp, AnaMaria, Marty, you’re wi’ me. Launch a boat.” He stared hard at Gibbs. “We’ll land, secure the rudder ‘f she is genuinely adrift, set up grappling hooks so she won’ float away. Moises, keep watch. First sign o’ trouble, tell the rest of them—” his eyes passed over Elizabeth “—to load the cannons and board.”
Orders were issued promptly and correctly, but with an overwhelming sense of sluggishness. Elizabeth watched, half-sick with worry, half-fascinated, as the landing party loaded pistols, cutlasses, muskets, and powder and made ready to drop the rowboat.
“Me, sir—where d’you want me?” It was Thomas, saluting Jack as the captain prepared to depart. Elizabeth ran forward to pull Thomas away.
“You stay here,” said Jack brusquely with such a degree of raw concern it chilled Elizabeth. His eyes met hers. She wanted to warn him, to tell him what a bad feeling she had, but the words stuck. She looked at his eyes and could think of nothing but his mother. “You, too, Elizabeth.”
She watched as the boat was lowered down the side. Gibbs and Crimp at the oars, Jack standing in the front of the boat. You fool, she thought, wondering why she was so sick at heart. While they were gone, Elizabeth kept a keen eye on the galleon. It was a far cry from the blazing merchant ship from which Will had been rescued, but still the feeling nagged at her. Perhaps they were, as others were murmuring around her, simply a stranded ship, an easy plunder but no threat. The longer they waited, the more grateful she was for Thomas’ hand in hers. The fog swelled, giving tantalizing view of the hull of the monster—Elizabeth had never seen a ship so huge—room for 100 guns had it been a warship. But there was the sole cry from Moises, “They’re aboard—throw the grapples!” to explain what they saw. Throwing the hooks was like pitching in the dark, but once the two ships were hubbed together, Elizabeth felt at least a little safer.
Then silence followed for the longest time. Not complete silence of course, as the Pearlgroaned and scudded through the water, the wind teasing her sails. But for anyone expecting the sound of battle, waiting on the alert to raise the black flag of no surrender, the silence was unnerving.
It wasn’t soon enough when Moises shouted a loud but unsure, “They comin’ back over. Hoist back the grapples!” A barrel-chested crewman heaved back the hooks with an ill-disguised look of bewilderment. A strange whooshing sound, unearthly, came from the galleon as it slid away and disappeared completely. The familiar splashing sounds of a rowboat heartened everyone. The boat was hoisted on deck, and Jack and the others returned, carrying one large chest among them. Their faces looked grey and ill at ease, even Jack’s.
“Take this down to the hold,” he ordered listlessly. “We’ll divide ‘t up later.” His glance swept over Elizabeth darkly. “AnaMaria, would you—”
“Aye aye, sir,” she replied, her voice tight and fearful. Back at the helm, she steered the ship around.
Thomas squeezed Elizabeth’s hand and gave her a broad questioning look. She nodded at him. “Well?” Her question hung in the air; Gibbs looked at her woefully and turned away.
“Well, what?” Jack snapped turning on her with an angry, exasperated look.
She stood up tall, rigid, refusing to allow Jack’s grim look to intimidate her. “Well, would anyone tell me what he saw?” None of the crew would meet her eyes, looking guiltily away, except Jack who glared obdurately and said nothing.
Finally Gibbs swallowed and said brokenly, “Was a Spanish galleon. By the name of Concepción, from the look of her—”
“The crew,” Gibbs went on, pale.
“They were dead.” AnaMaria’s voice from the helm, cold and clear. “They were all dead.”
Jack’s shoulders slumped, and suddenly he looked very small. “Looked like they were attacked,” said Gibbs. “Quick fight, ambush maybe.” He coughed. “Not one left alive.” He looked significantly at Thomas.
Elizabeth sighed. She felt herself gripping the railing for support. “And?”
Gibbs looked forward, knotting his sealy grey brows together in something approaching sorrow. “And nothin’ was taken that we could see!”
Elizabeth didn’t understand. “Nothing?”
“Someone come along just interested in killing,” broke in AnaMaria, her own voice tinged with fear and distrust. “Who’s in these waters like that?” She looked at Jack. “Even the cursed pirates—they never . . .”
Elizabeth’s hand became a fist. “They were dead, and you just left them there?” she addressed Jack.
He was unruffled, unconcerned. “Had we done anything else, someone might’ve figured out we passed this way.” A significant look.
Elizabeth trembled, ripped through with anger, surprise, and fear. Some part of her knew she shouldn’t blame Jack, but he was an easy target. Her voice pierced and shivered at the same time, a physical abstraction of rage. “You left them to rot, not even a Christian burial—”
“You forget yerself here, Mrs. Turner. Seems I am the captain, not you—”
“—and then you had the . . . effrontery to take their things!” Murmuring voices surrounded her. Elizabeth’s arms shook much more than when she had held the gun to Jack’s head.
“Be quiet!” Jack roared. There was wrath in his voice such as she had never heard before, and she stepped back as if he had struck her. When he looked at her, the rage in his eyes was so potent—so unlike Jack—Barbossa’s eyes had assaulted her thus on her first night aboard the Black Pearl. “We are . . . pirates,” said Jack significantly. “Understan’? Bloody pirates!” He jabbed two fingers at the top of his chest where the open collar of his shirt came closed so violently she turned away. “This is what we do. I don’ know what you are pretendin’ t’ be, other than a little girl, afraid an’ helpless . . .”
He didn’t finish, because for the first time she had stepped aboard, Elizabeth fled.
“It’s lookin’ badly, all right.” These were Gibbs’ words. He was rubbing together his two meaty hands, ostensibly to keep warm, but it seemed almost like a supplication as Elizabeth peered at him. The light below in the gun decks was sparse, provided only by a few candles sparingly lit. She wasn’t certain to what Gibbs was referring—the storm that was pursuing the Pearlfrom the West, or the meeting the crew had called.
“How badly?” she asked seriously. She cast a careful eye at Thomas, asleep in his hammock strung beside hers.
Gibbs cleared his throat and shrugged unevenly, wiping the sweat on the top of his lip on his sleeve. Immediately after her departure, the crew had demanded a meeting—and a vote. Such a vote was called when pirates were unhappy with their chosen leader. In this case, Jack. “Some berate ‘im, as you did, for leaving those poor Spaniards.” He made some sort of oblique signal, a bastardization of the sign of the cross, perhaps. “Some think we should have taken the ‘hole o’ the treasure.” He laughed mirthlessly. “But most everyone agrees our take ‘as been much too small o’ late. Since ‘e hasn’t given up the idea o’ where we be travelin’ next . . .”
Elizabeth looked down in dismay. They had invited her, even encouraged her, to come to their meeting. She lived aboard the ship, so she had some say. But she had refused. She was so angry and distraught with Jack she was afraid anything she said might be used against him. And she did not want that, no matter how much he had disappointed her. “What does AnaMaria say?” Would she attempt for captain-elect herself? Or would she remain true to her lover?
Gibbs snorted with a half-smile. “She says very little.”
Elizabeth grunted in understanding. The ship swayed. She looked up appealingly. “Mr. Gibbs, you don’t think that . . .” she swallowed. “You don’t think they’ll try to maroon him again, do you?”
Gibbs was tempted to laugh but, seeing the guilty, pained expression on Elizabeth’s face, forbore. “No, I don’t think so.” He gave her shoulder a light pat. “They’re just afeared, young missy.”
“Do pirates get afraid?”
“Oh, aye. Although if I do say so meself, your concern is—”
Gibbs nodded, shutting up. “Then I’ll be off. See what’s come o’ castin’ the vote.”
“You didn’t vote?”
“Already made clear me position,” said the old salt with a touch of pride. “I’m with Jack all the way.” Elizabeth managed a faint smile. She hadn’t meant to speak so irately up on deck—she knew what Jack had done had been right by the Code, he’d done what was right by him. He’d had reason to be angry with her for questioning him—he was the captain—for stirring up vague whispers of mutiny. But she could find little to excuse the cruel, glittering look he had given her. She hadn’t deserved that.
She slept badly. She was eager to go up on watch at the two bells, eager to hear from someone the result of the vote. As she climbed up on deck, AnaMaria brushed past her. The two women stared at each other for a long moment. The Creole woman’s face was expressionless. “Well, the leavin’ for London—it’ll be soon,” she said at last, her voice brittle.
“What do you mean?”
“The crew voted overwhelmingly for ‘im.” A faint smile. “The old fool, I’m glad for him.” Her smile faded. “Though I s’pose ye’ll be takin’ him away from me soon.”
Elizabeth flushed. “AnaMaria, you won’t lose him to me—”
“He’s asked t’ speak wi’ you.” And she slipped below. Elizabeth stood, one foot in the passageway, one on the slippery deck. No, I won’t, she thought. I’m relieved for him, but . . . she shivered, remembering his look. She waited out her watch in silence and returned to bed immediately afterwards.
When she took her post the next day for holystoning the deck, having spent her morning listlessly working on the gown, Jack was waiting for her. His walk was less flamboyant than usual, his black-laden eyes less bright. Still, there was a blatant stubbornness imbedded in every sinew that she could not ignore. “I asked t’speak t’you last night,” he said blandly.
Elizabeth looked over her shoulder nervously. “I . . . I had the watch.”
“Well, ‘f you please, now’s as good a time as any.” He beckoned her into his cabin. Warily she adjusted her eyes to the darkness. This day his quarters had a spare, empty feeling. She noticed the brown fustian coat and other accoutrements folded again on the sofa, her father’s trunk sliding slightly with the ship. The maps were no longer on the table. Instead, only the stub of a burnt-out candle and Jack’s compass, still not pointing north. Jack cleared his throat and said, “I wanted t’know, Mrs. Turner, whether you speak any French?”
Elizabeth’s eyes shot up at the question. It was so completely unexpected that the clouds in her thoughts broke up suddenly. “Yes,” she ventured. Jack leaned forwardly expectantly. “Oui,” she amended. He tossed a beringed hand toward her, encouraging. She flushed in annoyance and said curtly, “Je suis désolée que mon capitain est un sot qui joue les jeux bêtes.”
Jack fell back into his chair, laughing, revealing his golden teeth. She bristled. “Tha’ wasn’t very nice, ‘Lizabeth,” he said, clearly amused with her. She stared at him. She hadn’t realized—“Per’aps I should’ve told ye that though I cannot speak French, I can understan’ i’ fairly well.” He beamed at her. She did not share his look. He looked down, his smile fading, and he played with the end of his moustache quietly. “I . . . regret . . .” He coughed, he fidgeted. He couldn’t look up at her, instead staring at the quivering needle of his compass. “I regret . . .” he began again. She waited. This was clearly something difficult for him to say. He finally looked like he was about to be sick. “I regret what I said to you yesterday. It was . . . wrong o’ me.” He looked up at her briefly, long enough for her to see he was sincere. She noticed his words were crisp and without accent.
She raised an eyebrow, considering she was perhaps the first person to receive a genuine apology from Jack Sparrow. A marvel. An honor. She accepted it with diplomacy. “Yes, I see. But what does my speaking French pertain to anything?”
“It pertains, Elizabeth,” he said clearly, scratching under his bandana, “because we shall be meeting—rendez-vous-ing, ‘f you prefer—” he gave her that rogue’s smile, “with a French schooner which will take us t’ our destination.”
Her shock was considerable. She squinted at him—how long had he been planning this? “London? On a French schooner?” He sensed her rising inflection and began to speak. “You know best, I suppose,” she said, dismissing her objection with a wave of her hand, though she remained unconvinced. “Have you told—?”
“—the crew? No, I ‘aven’t.” He grinned with reckless abandon that reminded her—of all things—of Barbossa’s monkey. “Gibbs an’ AnaMaria,” he said quickly, in response to her look, “but it seems she already knew.”
It was Elizabeth’s turn to be embarrassed. “Oh,” she breathed. Jack’s eyebrow wiggled; he knew she had told. “Yes. Well—”
“In any case, they’ll have charge o’ me ship while I’m away.” He patted the wall to his cabin. “Better take damned good care o’ her, too.”
Elizabeth felt compelled to ask, though she knew it furthered her cause not at all: “But Jack . . . you’re leaving your ship in the hands of those who might have taken it from you. Aren’t you
. . .” she lowered her eyes “. . . aren’t you afraid you’ll lose her?”
“Lose her?” he scoffed. “I’ve lost her before—and found her again.” He gave the Pearlanother loving pat. “The Pearl’’s mine. As long as I live.” Elizabeth sighed, amazed at his nonchalance—and at his courage. She thought of what he was giving up—to do her a favor. She hoped to God her inheritance was as grand as she believed it—she was almost willing to give the entirety to Jack for his sacrifice. “This French schooner—”
“La Reine Charlotte,” he said, with a deplorable accent.
“—when are we meeting her, exactly?”
Jack played idly with his compass, counted on his fingers, and then brightly announced, “Tomorrow, ‘f I’ve calcula’ed right.”
Elizabeth stumbled. “Tomorrow! You can’t be serious!”
“I’m afraid I am,” he said testily. “You do have that dress finished, don’t you?”
She glared. “Barely. Just!”
“Ah, well, good.” She shook her head sadly. This wasn’t going to work. They weren’t ready. She had just begun teaching him how to sit at table! She opened her mouth to protest, to beg him to reconsider. But love of Will overwhelmed and destroyed her doubt—for better or worse. She inhaled sharply and vowed not to complain. Thinking of Will, she couldn’t help but ask, “What will Thomas do when we leave?” The thought of leaving him came as an awful surprise, too sudden for her to realize the consequences.
“What d’ye mean? He’s done well for ‘imself on this ship. He’ll manage. He’s not your child, after all—”
“Yes, I know!” Elizabeth snapped, sucking back her anger—he’d hit a weak spot. Jack threw up his arms, chagrined. She stared at her hands for a long time, waiting for her eyes to stop watering, and reflected with a bitten-back ironic laugh that now that her hands were tan, white, dainty things were what was needed. Her blurred vision did give her one advantage, however—squinting at Jack, she could almost imagine him in the country gentleman’s clothes, almost imagine Jack behaving correctly, passing him off for Will. When she wiped her tears away, however, there were two enormous obstacles.
As he continued to stare at his maps, she clicked open the lock on her father’s chest. Rummaging about, she picked up a small, round mirror. As she cleaned it off with the edge of her shirt, she saw Jack nonchalantly peering at her out of the corner of his black-laced eye. “There is one thing you should know about London,” she said.
“Well, take a look into this.” She handed him the glass.
“It ‘as been some time since I looked in a mirror,” Jack admitted, taking the glass with a simper.
“Yes, I was sure of that,” she muttered. She fished secretively in the chest for a small pair of scissors that she slipped into her pocket as she stood up to face him. Jack peered into the mirror, grimacing and contorting his face in reflection.
“Londoners,” Elizabeth said, “are very critical of appearance. If anyone looks strange or outlandish . . .” She waited for him to find himself in this group. “. . . well, it’s sometimes been known for Londoners to stone people out of town.”
He ignored her warning, instead using his tongue to clean his gold teeth contentedly. “Ah, yes, well, s’good I’m not outlandish looking.” He glanced at her, a frown. “Though you, you may ha’ a problem.” Elizabeth rolled her eyes. He was still grinning at his uneven reflection, stroking the beaded strands of his beard with a roguish wandering hand. “Wha’ a handsome devil I really am—I had quite forgotten!”
“Stop making faces and do be serious!” Elizabeth snapped, whirling around angrily and grabbing for the little glass. “You—need—to—look like everyone else!”
“Tha’ will do, Mrs. Turner!” Jack replied with an imperious tone that only made him appear more silly as he grappled for the mirror. Elizabeth relented and picked up the scissors. Jack cradled the mirror close to his chest, looking up at Elizabeth—and the scissors, especially.
“There is nothing . . . to be done about . . . your teeth.” She tried not to grimace, but the slightest curl of her lips manifested, and Jack gave her a withering look.
“An’ if there were, Mrs. Turner,” he said sternly, shaking a long finger in her face, “an’ if there were, I would do nothin’ to destroy this . . . pleasin’ visage.” He smiled very broadly, revealing every single one of his gold teeth.
Elizabeth ignored him, turning the scissors so the pewter handles faced Jack’s outstretched hand. “But you cannot expect anyone in London to take you for an . . . honest husband of the Governor of Port Royal’s daughter with . . .” she gave a little shrug, “your hair.”
Jack glowered up at her, shaking his head firmly. Elizabeth leaned down and pleaded, “Jack, we discussed this. We agreed that the deception must be complete if I am to ever see my uncle and for you to ever see any of the gold.” Jack began to chew noisily on one of his battered fingernails. “Please,” Elizabeth pleaded. “We agreed—we agreed to do whatever it takes. Now, look at me. I’ve worked on that horrid gown for weeks.” He ignored her. “Please, Jack! You’ve already consented to be parted from your ship—why not your hair?” She hesitantly touched his forearm with her fingers. “Hair does grow back, you know . . .”
Jack glanced at her and continued to make a feast of his fingernail. Elizabeth sighed deeply, taking a breath for what would certainly be a long tirade. “Mrs. Turner,” he interrupted, “have you ever cut your hair?” He looked up at her briefly as she considered.
“Well . . . no,” she said lamely.
“Hmm,” Sparrow replied, rubbing his chin meditatively. “Well, neither have I.” He gave one last tug with his teeth to his fingernail. “All ri’,” he said softly, with distant eyes not looking at her.
Elizabeth, transported by relief, quickly offered him the scissors. “No,” he said, refusing them. “You do it.”
“I?” Elizabeth replied in shock. He wasn’t looking at her. He wasn’t even examining his hands in mock-nonchalance. “Are you . . . are you certain?”
“Blast it, woman, do it or don’t!” he snapped. She saw his hands seize the arms of the chair, the veins rising from the skin of his hands.
“All right, Jack . . . I’ll do it,” she replied, her hand trembling a little. She placed the scissors back in her pocket as Jack looked away from her with a brooding expression. She reached gingerly around his head to the knot of his head scarf. The loop held against her labors to pull it apart, but finally it came undone in her shaking hands. Slowly she drew it, incrusted with sea salt, away from Jack’s black hair. It came away none too easily, with a few rough strands of hair, and another stream of salt and sand tumbled out of his hair and onto his eyelashes. “Sorry,” Elizabeth muttered. He blinked and did not respond.
His forehead was understandably paler where the scarf had shielded his eyesight from the sun. On that pale skin she saw the remains of what looked like another scar. She decided not to question him about it, though in its ugly way it receded back into his hairline and scalp. The scarf unwound, salt and sand dumped into her fingers and upon the floor, she stood behind him and daintily began to untie the fat braid that ended at the base of his neck. His hair came out of the braid wild and scraggly. She came to one of the smaller braids, twisted with beads, which she could not untie from its cord. Jack cleared his throat and said nothing, and feeling a little nervous, Elizabeth sought the scissors from her pocket. Quivering slightly, she gave the braid a snip. The braid came out, and she let it drop to the floor. She moved on. The sea spine she untied from his hair, careful not to prick herself with it though Jack issued no warning. Every little trinket and braid she could not untie met the same fate, to be unwrapped or cut out entirely, and ended in a small pile on the floor. The Black Pearl lurched.
The half-crazed look of Jack Sparrow toned down gradually but never, even as she bent to clip off the small golden coin that usually hung over the front of his scarf, entirely disappeared. She was reminded, of course, of a certain Biblical shearing, and the thought of divesting Jack of his symbolic freedom and manhood was enough to stay her hands on several occasions. But mercilessly she went on, sobered and feeling strange, though he seemed to pay her no heed. The scissors slipped from her hand, she was trembling from a nervousness she should not be feeling. Jack looked up, a blank and curious look in his eyes. “Done, then?” It was more a breath than an actual question, so quiet, in a voice so dull.
Her eyes met his. His mouth was open, the tip of his pink tongue at the edge of his lips. The scissors discarded in her left hand, her right hand, without knowing it, was pressed gently against his chin. Unconsciously, her fingers played with the two little braids that sprouted from his chin. She twisted them between forefinger and thumb over and over, counting the white and red beads. Tugging gently, she released the braids from between the beads, combing out the strands of salt-stained beard in her fingers.
His eyes flicked over to her fingers, half accusatory, half curious. She knew she should stop, stop her fingers kneading the braids of his beard, stop her fingers from crawling up his face, against the tan skin and rough stubble . . . Why was it, she wondered, that she had never looked closely enough at the beads? They were rather pretty. She hadn’t noticed, either, a tiny dimpled scar—the size of a pumpernickel seed—below his lower lip. When she touched it, she found it smooth. His look turned from confused and vaguely condemnatory to roguish. When she at last gained the strength to pull away, he stuck his tongue out of the corner of his mouth and grazed her hand.
She was more shocked than angry, and so pretended that nothing had happened. Shakily, she said, “Sorry. I’m nearly done here.” Shivering and unable to forget the soft, velvety touch of his tongue on her skin, she lined up each unruly curl and cut it squarely until his hair was an even, uniform length just below his chin. She avoided his eyes, and eventually he stopped looking at her. Had she seen him, she would have realized that the lascivious look had given way to one of sadness.
The process had taken a good deal of time, she realized, slumping a bit in fatigue. When she finished, she came back to face him. He was looking down at the little hairs scattered about the floor in disarray. “I’ve finished,” Elizabeth announced, both bravely and timidly.
The door to Jack’s cabin was banged resoundingly, and just as Jack had jumped up in response, the door was wrenched open—and in came AnaMaria. “Jack—” she began. She stared.
“Well, what is it?” Jack snapped, ignoring the newly shorn fall of his hair. AnaMaria gaped, looking back to Elizabeth and the scissors, instruments of pillage, still in hand.
“We’re . . . nearing the meetin’ place . . . sir,” AnaMaria answered, straightening up as she would in the presence of her captain, though there was a certain look of horror on her face.
“Now, I expect you t’ break the news to the crew. You will ha’ command of the Pearl, under Gibbs, until I return,” he barked. “See that you keep a good eye ‘n the crew.”
AnaMaria nodded sharply. Her dark eyes blazed. “Aye aye, sir.” She glanced at Elizabeth, and her look hardened to one of surprise and sadness. She looked at Jack, who was again examining his fingernails. Caught between two young women was a circumstance in which he frequently found himself, but there was a certain quiet awkwardness that made both of them loathe to approach him. Finally AnaMaria took a deep breath and took two steps toward him. “I don’ pretend to question your orders, Cap’n,” she said, “but whatever it be you’ve got in your ‘ead—”
“Tha’s enough, AnaMaria!” said Jack sternly, though he looked at the young Creole woman with a kind, almost tender lilt. “I’ll ‘ave no insubordination on me ship, savvy? Not after wha’ was last. ‘F you have any grievance wi’ me--”
“Don’t talk t’ me so coldly,” she whispered, ignoring Elizabeth. “Not when you’re about to leave . . . and who knows when—”
“AnaMaria, don’.” His voice commanded.
Elizabeth, at a loss, turned silently away and carefully gathered up Jack’s hair trinkets and put them into her pocket, using the little rush broom in the corner to sweep up the remains of Jack’s hair littering the cabin. The Black Pearl gave a groan and heaved off bodily to one side. Elizabeth staggered a little. When she looked up, brushing her dry hands of the strands of Jack’s hair that clung to them, Jack and AnaMaria were gazing at one another in silence. It certainly was no starry-eyed sweethearts’ gaze, but it was a dark, nonetheless intimate look.
“Excuse me,” Elizabeth muttered. “I suppose you’ll be wanting these,” she said, offering the poisoned spine, the baubles and beads.
To her chagrin, Jack didn’t even look at her. “Toss ‘em overboard, Mrs. Turner,” he said coldly. “Since you found it so imperative to disconnect ‘em, might as well destroy ‘em, eh?”
Elizabeth’s flush of anger deepened. Jack was nonchalantly brushing the little hairs that clung to his neck and shoulders while AnaMaria continued to look on with the closest to a starry-eyed look Elizabeth could possibly imagine the young woman to have. “Mrs. Turner, I will expect you a’ dawn,” Jack said, fingering his pistol belt absently. “In costume, you understan’, an’ ready?” He did not look at her, and she could only peer over his high shoulders and be met with the strange look AnaMaria had for her. It was regret but also resignation and Elizabeth wondered for the first time if they were more than just lovers—if AnaMaria felt more strongly for him than she was letting on. Elizabeth longed to tell her that she had no intention of taking the other woman’s place; far from it! She was already married!
“Yes, Captain Sparrow,” Elizabeth replied. She turned to leave, her boot heels clicking loudly on the cabin floor. As she opened the door, the ship heaved again. She looked behind her. Jack Sparrow was watching through the gallery windows as the ship swung, and AnaMaria had come up behind him and was plying his newly short hair into a neat queue. Elizabeth turned away, a strange feeling flooding her senses. It shamed her, and yet she couldn’t deny it. The tenderness between the two, the understanding—for the first time, Elizabeth admitted she was jealous.