“Life is infernally complex.” –Rafael Sabatini, Captain Blood
Elizabeth was very accustomed to sleeping little, though her time aboard the Black Pearl had usually made her earn her seven hours of sleep per night. But the night before she and Jack left for England, she lay completely awake, blinking only when the film of sleeplessness burned her eyes. She listened to the moaning of the Pearl, the distinct sound of her as she tracked waters foreign to her. In the middle of the Atlantic—perhaps along the coast of North Africa, perhaps as far north as Corsica. She had to marvel at Jack—though he stubbornly refused to show the maps to anyone, he had managed to avoid any sea traffic—not only the British Royal Navy, but any of the others. Not for the first time, she wondered about his compass—wondered about the miniature of his mother . . .
Thomas stirred in his sleep, and Elizabeth gazed at him tenderly. There had been a time early in her marriage when she hadn’t been sure whether she particularly relished the responsibility of having children of her own. At least Thomas had taught her that much; she smiled, gazing at the serenity of his sleeping brow, his wide, plaintive lips. Jack had had to remind her that Thomas was not her child—she was almost glad that he had. He was right—Thomas would do well anywhere. Now that she had taught him to read, perhaps more avenues might open up to him. Yes, of course it was common knowledge—as AnaMaria had pointed out—that educating slaves was a dangerous business. But hang common knowledge! Freedom . . .
She got up long before the four bells, using the pink curtain around her hammock to dress. She wore the dark grey poplin of her gown, conservatively cut, but the sensible thing for a woman of her station and situation to wear. She unbound her hair to a vague upsweep from the strict plait it had been in—one couldn’t be expected to dress grandly aboard ship, could one?—and donned her stays and underthings (kept safe in her father’s chest) for the first time in a fortnight. She felt lanky and awkward, in a gown; she couldn’t have known the tan and color wrought from the voyage had increased her beauty tenfold.
Her feet pinched and tugged in the high-heeled brass-buckled shoes when she was used to boots. She dragged her father’s chest with her as silently as she could manage, and was ill-prepared for the surprise of the recent rain on deck when she stepped up. A fine mist still clung to the air, and the Pearlseemed to be sailing in a cloud. An eerie silence, much like the one accompanying the Concepción, hung around. Elizabeth looked toward the bowsprit, then toward the helm, as she could see no one on watch.
She didn’t even hear him come up behind her. His hand was over her mouth, suffocating any breath or cry she might have made. The only thing that calmed her, that let her know it was Jack who’d come up behind her and clapped his hand over her mouth, was that she recognized the hand. A perpetual film of dirt seemed to cover it, making every line and wrinkle darker. He released her, and she spun to see him, just to make sure. She had to look more carefully than she would have otherwise: she did not at first recognize him. His dark hair, newly shorn to the chin, was drawn up in a neat solitaire, and he was no longer dressed in his motley outfit. The clean shirt, fustian coat, waistcoat, stockings, looked better on him than she would have ever guessed. He was cool, self-contained, and seemed to hold all the promise in the world. Truth be told, she was rather proud of him. But for his battered three-cocked hat and the black outlines around his eyes, he looked the part. John Turner. Her husband.
“Come on, ‘Lizabeth, I’ve already loaded the boat,” he said in a harsh whisper. He took her hand without asking and began to lead her to the rowboat tethered to the hull.
“Are we just going to slip away silently like this, like . . .?”
“Like thieves, you were about t’ say?”
“I was not.”
“I—Oh, come off it, Jack, we’ll never get on if we’re already arguing like this!”
He drew in close to her, and she missed the sounds of his jewelry. “Then let’s not make a fuss. Do what I say.” She sighed and handed him the chest. He tossed it into the boat. He jumped, landed unsteadily on the wood, and beckoned her down. She jumped as well, falling quite painfully into his arms. She shoved him off quickly and took her seat at the stern of the boat. Her cheeks were immediately damp with the mist surrounding them. Jack pulled away the rope from the Pearland, giving the hull a steady but fond kick, they were off.
She couldn’t help a mournful look at the ship. Jack saw her as he wound up the line and said, “Oh, don’ fret, love. Gibbs an’ AnaMaria’ll stick t’ the Code, do things right.” All the same, she saw him blow the ship a kiss before he waved goodbye. “Gi’ me tha’ chest,” he said. Elizabeth hesitantly obeyed, opening it when prompted.
“What are you doing?” she asked, watching him dump three cutlasses, two pistols, shot and powder, into the chest.
“Fer safe-keepin’,” he said. She noticed he was wearing his pistol belt—complete with pistol, cutlass, and compass—over his civilian clothes as well. Then he stared at Elizabeth.
“I’m not rowing,” she snapped. He sat down with a melodramatic grimace. “After all, I am the lady.”
“How could I forget?” Jack replied and launched into a spirited row, backward into the fog.
Elizabeth looked back toward the Pearl, seeing the gallery of the stern disappear into shimmery white. “Don’ look back,” said Jack seriously. “ ‘S bad luck.”
Elizabeth hunched her shoulders and stared dead ahead, thinking she might scream if one more man told her something was bad luck. Jack had been rowing for some time when Elizabeth remarked, curious, “You are certain the schooner is to meet us?”
Jack nodded bluffly. “Should be comin’ up on ‘em any moment.”
“Do they know you’re Captain Jack Sparrow?”
It seemed to give him satisfaction to hear his “title” pronounced. “Blazes, no. Communica’ed via” (she couldn’t believe he had used the word “via”) “courier buoys—Cap’n Jack told Cap’n François tha’ he’d be sendin’ an emissary by the name o’ Greery—‘s me, darling,” he clarified, “t’ see that Cap’n Jack’s precious cargo—” he tapped the wooden chest “—got safely to London. Ha’ its disadvantages of course,” he mused. “Seemed the best course, though.”
“And who, exactly, did you say I was?” Elizabeth narrowed her deep brown eyes.
“Don’ recall exactly,” said Jack evasively.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “And these Frenchmen—are they pirates?”
“Smugglers—so aye, fer all intents an’ purposes. Any more questions?”
“Yes, a few. What did you promise them in return?”
He grinned, rooting through the pockets of his coat. He cupped what he found in both hands and nodded Elizabeth over. In his hands was a large stone, polished but uncut. It was almost clear, but had a vague yellowish tint to it. “Cut glass?” she ventured weakly.
“I am surprised a’ your lack o’ imagination,” said Jack, tsking as he began to put the stone away. “A diamond? For a governor’s daughter, per’aps?” She shook her head. “On second thought, mi’ you be interested in holding it fer me? Keep it safe, eh?” She held out her hand for the stone and drew out the small bag in which she kept her money between the crevices of her breasts. Jack’s eyes widened dramatically, more awed than leering. “Smart girl,” he said.
She shivered as she saw the low hull of the schooner rise up out of the mist. They were only about a hundred yards away, plowing through the calm waters steadily, like a murky ghost. Jack turned and saw the ship. “Ri’ on time,” he remarked drily. Elizabeth shivered again, though she really couldn’t say why. They crossed the stern and, as if to confirm her suspicions, it had La Reine Charlotte written in peeling paint. The canvas wasn’t fully drawn and appeared limp and sluggish in the mist. Elizabeth saw the faint shapes of plumed shadows on deck. She shivered again.
“Now, my dear little wife,” said Jack, managing a smile but sounding jittery nonetheless, “Cap’n François is o’ course, French. He’ll be speakin’, then, in French. I’ll listen t’ wha’ he has t’ say, an’ I wan’ you to translate back fer me.” Elizabeth grimaced. “Are you up t’ tha’, Mrs. Turner?”
She cleared her throat. “Do you trust these men?” she asked, trying to keep her voice steady.
“I trust ‘em t’ take us t’ London in return fer a diamond,” he said evasively.
She nodded. “All right. I’ll do my best.”
Jack leaned forward. “Wha’ matters in this life—an’ I gave this bit o’ advice t’ young William—is wha’ a man can do—an’ what a man can’t do. In your case, a woman.” She raised her eyebrows at him, nervously eyeing the man aboard the schooner who was looking down at them through a spyglass. “Can you translate fer me or can you not?”
She looked for the hint that he might be teasing her again. She could not find it: his deep eyes were mirthless, almost kind. She inhaled sharply. “I can and will do this for you, Jack.”
“Very good,” he said.
An officer of the Reine Charlotte—Elizabeth assumed it was an officer because of the crisp, pure pronunciation—hailed them down and asked them to identify themselves.
“Tell ‘em I’m Sparrow’s man Greery an’ would remind M’sieur o’ his agreement.”
Elizabeth breathed deeply, then said in her clearest, loudest voice, “Il est le seigneur du Capitain Sparrow. . .”
Once the message had been relayed, the officer conferred with another man in a language Elizabeth could not understand. Then the officer asked her who she was. Before Jack could absorb the information, he told them she was his “indispensable translator.” At that the Frenchman and his associate conferred once again. “Allez-y!” he called, and one of his men threw down a rope ladder.
“Ladies first,” said Jack, ushering her upward. For a moment she could not believe he was sending her first onto an unknown ship, but she quickly realized she should never have expected anything less. Half-embarrassed at the prospect of Jack looking up her skirt and petticoats, she sidled up the ladder as quickly as she could, though her high-heeled shoes caught on the braided rope rungs. A dirty lace cuff greeted her at the top of the ladder, and she took the hand hesitantly. She was pulled on deck and met with the silent, intrigued gaze of a tall, pasty-skinned man dressed in a black coat and waistcoat, soiled cravat. Only his long brown perruque wig was fastidious. His moustache was clipped as though he had shaved that morning, but the look of his eyes unnerved her—they seemed damp, hollow puddles.
“Madame Greery,” he offered his hand and kissed hers. “Capitain François Moucheau. Enchanté.”
She tried to shake off the greasy feeling from his fingers, tried to ignore his ill-concealed stare and that of the man beside him. Shorter, stouter, and with a natural head of dirty chestnut hair, he wore neither coat nor clean linen. His trousers were baggy and affixed with enormous faded red ribands. He was leaning heavily on a walking stick. The crew, too—an unremarkable lot of sailors, though the shadows on their faces indicated a poorly fed, poorly treated group. She wondered at Jack’s intentions, bringing them aboard this ship. They probably hadn’t seen a woman in weeks. And this time she did not have the protection of a curse.
She was almost relieved when Jack came aboard, lugging her father’s chest. He gave a hearty laugh. “Tell him I’m happy to make his acquain’ance . . .”
“Monsieur Greery est heureux de vous connaissez . . .”
“ . . . an’ I hope this voyage’ll be profitable fer all of us.”
“. . .et il espère que cette voyage . . .”
Moucheau glanced back and forth between Elizabeth and Jack, then at the chest. I guarantee safe passage to London, he said. But had they the diamond?
“Tell them we do, but payment upon arrival.”
“Nous l’avons, mais . . .”
Moucheau nodded curtly and smiled—a sharp, scheming smile. Of course, he said. But I would like to see it just the same. For security purposes, of course.
Elizabeth sighed heavily. Jack shrugged at her. She turned around, convinced she had never been so humiliated in all her life, and drew out the diamond from the bag in her bosom. She held it out with steady palm to Moucheau. The sun broke through the mist, and she could see the diamond sparkle more brilliantly than ever. The crew, she saw, paused momentarily in its labors to look. Moucheau crept forward with wide eyes full of greed. “Magnifique,” he said.
He said something to the man beside him, who replied in a thick tongue. “Wha’s he saying?” Jack whispered in Elizabeth’s ear.
“I don’t know. I think he’s Dutch.” She looked back warily.
Jack grabbed the diamond from her hand and hid it away somewhere on his person. “Lovely, in’it? Well-worth the price agreed upon with Cap’n Sparrow, aye?”
“Ce diamond est joli, non? C’est le valeur . . .”
“Now, ‘f you wouldn’t mind, the lady is tired . . .”
“Donc, s’il vous plait, nous sommes fatigués . . .”
Of course, said Moucheau. Please, let me show you to your quarters. You may stay in the cabin of my first officer, Kluptker. He indicated the Dutch gentleman.
Kluptker’s cabin was small and cramped, about the size of a large closet. There was room only for a small bed, whose sheets smelled foul and decadent, a wobbly washstand upon which stood a cracked pewter bowl, and a lone chair. “Oh, this is horrible,” Elizabeth said when she and Jack entered after supper in Moucheau’s cabin.
She slumped upon the bed. Jack slammed the door and seated himself on the chair. “Wha’ is?” he snapped. He immediately untied his hair from the strict solitaire and kicked off his boots. Elizabeth stared at his stockinged feet—one of the stockings had a hole that showed his big toe—and wondered if she was imagining she could smell the stench from where she sat.
“This room—this ship!” she snapped, her voice brittle.
“Ain’t so bad,” said Jack philosophically, leaning the chair against the wall and lazily tilting his eyes closed beneath his hat. “You got the firs’ mate’s cabin.”
“Ha! A real man of honor would have given us his own cabin,” she remarked primly.
A smile from beneath the hat. “Well, he invited us to supper in the captain’s dining room.” She thought of the event with a turning stomach. The food had been mediocre, but everything in Moucheau’s cabin had been cheap and second-rate. It was not even a case of his things being humble. A film of disuse and grease lay on everything from the windows to the silver wear. It had made a surprising contrast to the meal in Barbossa’s dining coach. His silver and plate had been immaculately clean. She imagined this was due to the fact, frustrated as they were, the crew of the Pearlhad had plenty of time and a frantic energy to make things perfect for the time when they could eat again. She never thought she would consider any facet of those pirates virtuous.
“It was quite distasteful.” Jack and she had been joined by Moucheau and the Dutchman Kluptker. The latter spoke very little, always in short, broken English rather than French. Moucheau’s own French was impeccable, but Jack left most of the talking to Elizabeth. She was increasingly horrified at the silky, dangerous compliments Moucheau kept paying her, while Kluptker did as much with his eyes. To her chagrin, Jack’s defense of her was limited.
“Ah, so you didn’t enjoy’t much?” he asked with mock-concern.
“I should say not,” she said tartly. “The fact that they asked me to—” She couldn’t finish, twisting her face with disgust.
Jack let his chair touch the floor. “You mean the diamond?” His grin was incorrigible. “Love, they jus’ wanted t’ watch you put it away.”
“I know!” Her eyes flashed vehemently, and she trembled with rage. “And where was your honor then? To let them . . . treat me that way?”
“I said I was an honest man,” said Jack. “I never said I was honorable.” And a grin full of gold teeth to prove it. Elizabeth gave him the coldest stare possible. “Look,” he said, his smile disappearing, “we did agree t’do whatever it took to make this work. Or did tha’ only apply t’me?”
She looked away, the more furious because this logic statement made sense. “Well, perhaps you enjoy hurting me and humiliating me—”
“Wha’ it amounts to,” he interrupted, drowning out her voice, “is tha’ they were admirin’ yer beauty—which makes sense, seein’ as how you are beautiful.”
She looked away quickly. How could her anger be extinguished so quickly by one word? “Oh.” She studied the ratty coverlet, anything to avoid Jack’s gaze. She could feel him staring heatedly down at her just as she might be able to feel the sun beaming from the sky. At last she said, “Um, if you don’t mind, I’d like to—”
“Oh,” he said. “I’ll go an’ . . . walk on deck for awhile.” Without another word, he grabbed his boots and left, closing the door softly. She waited a moment to see if he was really gone, then used the water in the basin to wash her face and arms. She took her hair down and combed it out with her fingers. There was a wooden comb in the chest, but she knew she would have to dig through layers of cutlasses to reach it. She was about to remove the gown but decided against it—she would feel much safer sleeping in her clothes on board la Reine Charlotte. As she climbed into bed, watching the candle burn and waiting for Jack’s return, she wondered how much longer she could stay awake. Of course, he would have to sleep on the floor—she didn’t trust him enough to share her bed, especially after what he had said.
Finally enough time had passed that Elizabeth blew out the candle and prepared for sleep. She hesitated behind the door. She certainly didn’t want to fall asleep and have to wake up to the unlocked door, the victim of marauding seaman. “Jack’ll be all right,” she told herself, jamming the door with the chair. She tried to ignore the smell of abject human sweat coming from the bed.
When she came cautiously aboard the next morning, she found him sitting at the edge of the deck, watching the sun rising over the waves. She wondered if he’d slept at all that night. He did not complain, though, when he saw her—he intimated he had passed a pleasant night in contemplation. Then he snapped open his compass and stared at it greedily.
After several days on board the French schooner, Elizabeth learned there really wasn’t much for a woman—who was not acting in capacity as a fellow sailor—to do. She remembered from letters that Norrington had written her, when he was away and serving in the Atlantic, that captains’ wives enjoyed few amusements aboard ship, aside from needlework and reading, which Elizabeth had had a great deal of aboard the Black Pearl. The sailors’ wives were in worse shape; they might be lucky if they could coerce enough fresh water out of the officers for laundry. The idea of doing laundry for thirty extremely dirty men hardly appealed to her, so she was left to her own devices.
She took many turns about the deck, maintaining a stealth so that she avoided Moucheau and attempting to find times when Jack was around, though he seemed increasingly disinterested in her welfare. She found herself more often than not in the cramped, poorly ventilated cabin. She would most often resort to daydreaming. And these daydreams were almost without fail about her husband.
She found herself recalling her wedding day. A few days before, she and Will had enjoyed a rare unsupervised moment when their chaperone—a very elderly lady, wife of the town’s bailiff—had fallen into spitting, snoring sleep. A great deal of passionate, furtive kisses had been exchanged. Elizabeth remembered throwing her arms over the strong, supple shoulders of her fiancé and receiving each kiss from his damp, warm lips with greediness and affection.
“You’ll be my wife tomorrow,” Will had whispered between kisses on her collarbone, one hand gently supporting her head while the other massaged her wrist.
“I know,” she had replied. “And then I shall really be yours.” They’d giggled and rubbed noses. “Will,” she’d asked as he’d continued kisses up the ridge of her ear, “do you think Jack will be at the wedding?”
Will had laughed, pulling back from her, his dark eyes twinkling. “Jack? I don’t think so, my love. Why would he be?”
“Well, I just wondered. He might find the supply of free-flowing alcohol tempting.”
“Should I have sent word to him?”
“Oh no,” she replied with a dazzling smile. “I only wondered whether we might see him.”
And then the day itself arrived. As a girl who had barely turned twenty (Will was nearing twenty-two), Elizabeth had in her life regarded marriage with both excitement and indifference. She was of the customary age for marriage but had relied on the fact that as long as her father lived, she would have some source of income—a privilege, she knew, she enjoyed and many others did not.
But the day. She remembered color, excitement, boisterousness, ceremony. The license and certificate were signed (no publishing of the banns for the daughter of Governor Swann, by God). The older married ladies of Port Royal—whose company she was obliged to keep in the weeks following the wedding—claimed it was the grandest event the island had ever seen. A throng of Port Royal’s finest citizens and neighboring governors and the denizens of the Navy were crowded into the church pews for the ceremony. She remembered Will standing at the communion altar next to her as they declared their vows. Her movements were stiffened by a heavy gown of figured white silk heavily embroidered in silver, her hair fastened with silk flowers and a lace cap, her skin lightly powdered so as to avoid any unsightly tan she may have gained on board ship (her father’s idea). And Will in his finest suit—a point of honor since it was bought and tailored from his own wages rather than as a gift from Governor Swann—of brown cloth with silver brocade lining, a matching waistcoat of silver brocade, and linen of dazzling white.
For a moment he had returned to the formal, slightly jittery Will she had known all her life; she was afraid he was going to address her as Miss Swann during the ceremony. But once he had stumbled over the vows with his earnest, heartfelt voice, it was only subdued fervor which poured from his eyes. All the usual things were done—the scattering of grain outside the church door, the gift of a wedding band, through which unmarried guests later passed pieces of the cake for good luck. Her father was looking resplendent in gold cloth and velvet made in London, and Commodore Norrington was grand and unsmiling in full military dress.
After the ceremony, the festivities had begun in earnest. Dancing commenced in the ball room of the Governor’s Mansion, with stately minuets and lively cotillions. The swirl of well-wishers doubled, pouring through the doors of the ball room as the wine flowed freely from crystal. Later in the evening, Elizabeth found herself met by glasses of burnt cherry-brandy, punch, and syllabub; wishing to avoid drunkenness, she sampled carefully. Guests kissed her and shook hands; servants of the household handed out kid gloves like party favors. Elizabeth found herself being thrust farther and farther away from her husband, though she could still see him laughing quietly from across the room.
At the end of a minuet, she found herself at the end of the ball room, where Commodore Norrington stood, drinking a glass of burgundy and watching the dancing silently. Elizabeth approached him as quietly as she could in her heavy gown.
“Ah, Mrs. Turner,” he said with an automatic smile. “Congratulations.”
She studied his face for any sign of jealousy or anger. “Are you enjoying the evening?”
His smile was cautious, wry. “Very much.” He swallowed the wine. “It is a grand affair, but that is fitting.”
She took a few steps toward him. “Commodore—James—I would like it if you called me Elizabeth.”
She watched his face, imagined she saw a struggle, thought he would refuse. “Then, my dear Elizabeth,” he said, taking her hand and pressing it fondly, “I still offer my sincerest wishes for your health and happiness—together.”
“Thank you,” she said, retaining his hand. For a moment she looked into his green eyes, completely devoid of envy or pettishness. She wondered how things might have been . . .
“Excuse me, sir.” She turned. It was Gillette, who doffed his hat at the sight of her and offered his felicitations. “Commodore, I believe we’re ready.”
Norrington gently let go of Elizabeth’s hand and announced brightly, “If you’ll make known to your guests, ma’am, that we’re to assemble at the fort, we believe you shall see something quite extraordinary.”
He turned smartly on his heel, and Elizabeth was left to gather her husband and father. They proceeded up to the fort where the assembled crowd waited in earnest for Norrington’s surprise. A full military salute with a barrage of guns was followed by the firing off of cannons into the sea and a final shower of fireworks. Elizabeth had watched in awe and happiness with the rest of them, clasping Will about the neck and kissing him wildly, deaf to the stares of the onlookers. She had never loved him more.
The evening proceeded in revelry; Elizabeth danced a minuet with Norrington and one with her husband. The dancing spilled out the doors of the mansion and into the town below, where the tradesmen and their wives danced to rowdy fiddle music. Guests ate fistfuls of gingerbread and currant cake, and when Elizabeth was feeling the effects of wine and merriment, a huge punchbowl was brought out, forged in J. Brown’s smithy apparently.
Elizabeth had been watching, half-hoping and half-knowing that she would be disappointed, for Jack Sparrow. When the punchbowl was wheeled out, she laughed and thought of Jack; when she did not see him scooping mugs of the punch with the other revelers, she was certain he would not be there. Did a shade of sadness pass over her? Perhaps.
In any case, flushed, her feet aching, her fine gown splashed with punch and her stockings dusty, she clung to Will’s arm and said, “Shall we to bed now, darling?”
The bridal chamber was a guest room in the mansion; Governor Swann had refused to allow them to stay the night in the room behind the smithy. As Will carried Elizabeth across the threshold, enormous gown and all, they encountered well-wishers in every state of inebriation, some calling obscene things after them. In a normal circumstance, Elizabeth would have been appalled, but, giddy and slightly drunk, she laughed loudly and hurried Will on to their room.
They brought one candle with them. Setting it down and latching the door, all Elizabeth could do at first was stare into the eyes of her husband. In them she saw all the love he had borne her, but something else, a feeling she could only liken to a small fire. He veiled his sweet dark eyes when he leaned down to kiss her. As they kissed, she felt his hands rove over her, smoothing the silk on her bodice, caressing the white of her throat, removing the pins and flowers from her hair until it came down upon her shoulders. Their soft, scented hair mingled together, the perfume from her throat melting on his fingers. His mouth followed where his hands had been, and her heart pounded beneath her gown. She had never felt so ready.
“I love you, Will,” she said, lacing her arms around his neck and pulling his curls out of his solitaire.
The warmth in his eyes touched her. “I love you,” he whispered. After that, his kisses grew more demanding, and she kissed back with all of her ardor. His hands slipped across her back, tugging at the lacing of her gown. “Elizabeth,” he was whispering against her throat, his fingers beneath her chemise, hot against her skin. She felt his hips tense against her, heaving, thrusting half-unconsciously. She longer thought, she felt . . . Her hand moved down across the muscles of his stomach to the front of his trousers, caressing what she found there—
“Elizabeth!” Will moved back, drew away with breathless surprise.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, taken very much aback. “I thought . . .” And he gave her such a disapproving look that she trembled.
The rest of the night was a blur to her. Heat, sweat, soft tendriling sounds of pleasure from her husband. And then the pain. A red, splitting pain that colored the evening. There were moments when the pleasure of his kisses and caresses superseded the pain, but before she knew it, he was done and panting madly into her shoulder.
When she was certain that he was asleep, she had burst into hot, bitter tears of frustration and disappointment—and then wept the more because she should not be weeping at all. The matrons had never told her what to expect, she thought with acrimony. She knew from common sense the mechanics of what was to be done, but she’d envisioned things more romantically as per the books she’d read. She’d been ill-prepared, that was all. But that wasn’t all. They were together a few more times before his departure, and she found the kissing and kind, loving touches brought her both fire and tenderness—but she was always left with a tight, pinched feeling afterward. And as much as she tried to ease, the pain continued. She supposed it was her own fault. But deep down, she knew it was not.
She forgot that she was not in her husband’s arms. She forgot that she was sailing for England in a French schooner. She had been staring at her wedding ring, spinning it over and over in her fingers. She was reclined on the bed in the cabin, her skirts askew. As she sat up, she saw Jack Sparrow sitting in the corner by the door, rocking in the chair silently. He was staring fixedly ahead, fixedly at her.
She quickly pulled her skirts over her stockinged legs, strove to hide her misty eyes from him. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
He nodded blankly at her. She wondered if it was the light of the unsteady candle—sliding across the floor with the ship—but she thought Jack’s eyes were misty as well, contemplative. “What were you thinkin’ about, Mrs. Turner?”
His voice was detached, as if it came from a shadow. She turned away so he wouldn’t see her wipe the tears in her eyes with the heel of her hand. “Oh. Nothing.”
She heard a harsh snicker. “I’m not a fool, love. That weren’t nothing.”
She swallowed, seeing his eyes following her, almost with a plea. “You’re a smart man, Jack,” she said darkly.
He dropped from the chair, slamming his boots on the floor. “But ye don’ exactly trust me, ‘s that it?”
She pushed a clump of light brown hair back from her forehead. “I don’t trust anyone anymore.”
He nodded, a look something between wry approval and the most distant sort of disappointment. She waited for him to speak, to deliver a Jack-flavored homily on how trusting people was a sign of weakness. But he said nothing.
She looked obliquely over at him, and for a moment, her eyes grew wet and warm again. He looked well enough, she supposed, dressed in conventional attire and with his hair cut short. But part of her cursed her for doing it to him, robbing him of his uniqueness, his . . . freedom. She allowed herself to wonder as she had not thought it proper before, whether all relations between husbands and wives were the same as had been hers with Will. For instance, would Jack in Tortuga . . .?
“Jack,” she asked, her voice listless and cloying, “what exactly did you do in Tortuga?”
His eyes flashed to her, staring in curiosity and surprise. He laughed—an unpleasant, patronizing laugh. “Damn me, ‘Lizabeth, I don’ think you really want t’ know that.”
“Yes, I really do,” she snapped.
Jack removed from his seat and came over to sit on the bed next to her. The action was intimate, and she was almost certain he would tell her the truth. “ ‘F you did,” he said, “you would have come wi’ us.”
She looked away, unsurprised. This jab at her was expected. She snuffed up, wiping away the last remnants of her tears in what she hoped was a nonchalant gesture. “Is this really the extent of it?” she asked him. “Do pirates just steal things and kill people to spend it on women and drink?”
He gave her a tiny, unrepentant shrug. “Yeah,” he said with confident brusqueness. She sighed and turned away, moving farther away from him on the cot. “I thought by now ye would have realized the sum o’ a pirate’s life.” He was earnest, not unkind, but she turned her back to him, pretending to ignore him. He touched her lightly on the shoulder. “ ‘S our place, wha’s expected o’ us. Jus’ as it’s your place t’ marry, be a lovely young wife—” he gestured fancifully, “—an’ make lots of babies.”
She spun around, her anger and annoyance evident in her grimace. “But I didn’t choose to be a woman—I didn’t choose that life. You chose to be a pirate—”
He shook his ringed finger at her. “Ah, but you did choose. You chose to marry Will.” He dropped one hand, palm-up, on his knee. “You could have chosen Norrington—” he dropped the other “—become a Royal Navy wife, hunted pirates, made lots o’ aris’ocratic babies.”
She hopped off the bed and paced the small room angrily, furious at his impudence. He seemed to sense everything; he seemed to have known she had been thinking about Norrington, about . . . baby-making. “Perhaps right now I don’t want to be making anyone’s babies!” she snapped shrewishly.
“There was another alternative.”
She whipped around, saw him carefully studying the creases in his boots. “You mean never marry, become a spinster . . .” Her voice was quieter. He did not reply, but looked up at her, his dark eyes expansive. She could not conjecture what his alternative was, but she was uncomfortable with that look. She turned fiercely away, facing the pewter basin, where her own reflection gazed out at her from the water.
She heard him get up. “ ‘F you don’ want t’ be makin’ anyone’s babies,” he cautioned in a dead voice, “I’d suggest makin’ sure this door’s closed.” And he was gone.
Elizabeth never failed to jamb the chair under the door again, even if Jack was still out by the time she went to bed. It was wise, too, as once or twice she was awoken by the sound of a jiggling door knob, and she knew Jack would knock first. She was glad that, despite all his flippant dismissals, he realized the danger to her was real. It had been quite an understatement, to call Jack a “smart man”—by summing up her existence as some kind of mass baby-producer, he had struck a chord. It explained all that to her was intriguing about the romance of piracy: that freedom he so glorified. She might have become bitter about marriage in general, but her blind love for Will never allowed her to fall that far. As for Jack, she supposed it was his shrewd insight that had kept him alive for so long. Against her will, she was still forced to admire him.
She got word the next day they were passing by Calais; the Channel was neutral territory for any ship, and this inspired Elizabeth with the confidence that they might yet get to London alive. But one thing she had for certain determined: she was not going to spend another supper in the company of Moucheau. His allusions were all too clear by now, Kluptker’s laughter more vivid than any words. They tended to completely ignore Jack now and since, she surmised, he didn’t appreciate being ignored, he withdrew, rather sullenly, from conversation.
She might have starved, for all his help in the matter, but a few passes at the galley and she had made fast friends with the cook—the only man on board, it seemed, who did not have some interest in her. He had the surname of Pierre, a stout-hearted Marseillien who had lost his leg aboard the Ste.Croix, a story he never failed to tell her. But she kept alive on the food he would slip her, refusing Moucheau’s increasingly flustered meal invitations. She also learned from Pierre that the crew had little feeling toward Moucheau and his Dutch friend.
Clutching a stack of sea bread in a handkerchief, Elizabeth removed from the sweaty darkness of the galley, attempting to remain unseen. Until she saw Jack come up from the hold. It was amusing to her that Jack retained his swaying walk even without his buccaneer costume; she had tried to correct it during lessons on the Black Pearl, but it seemed inherently tied to his soul. He walked so toward the upper decks and turned lazily when Elizabeth quietly called his name. The diamond weighed heavily in the bag in her bosom, though she couldn’t remember how many times she’d been asked to retrieve it.
“Fancy meetin’ you down here,” he said quietly.
“What were you doing?”
“Oh, jus’ thought I’d slip away an’ survey the hold, all by me onesies.” The sing song went out of his voice. “I’ fact, there is something I’d like you t’ see.”
Elizabeth looked longingly toward the main deck; her hair stuck in coils to her face from the galley fires, and she anticipated her one enjoyment aboard the ship: cleaning her face with the fresh water basis, refreshed daily. But Jack beckoned her on, and down they went into the hold. It was dank and dark, and a smell of rot was overpowering—it reminded Elizabeth of the smell of the Black Pearl when Barbossa’ crew commanded it. Elizabeth choked and covered her mouth hard with her hand.
Jack turned to her and said, “Now tha’ there is the smell o’ death.” He kicked the thin layer of dark water collecting in the hold. “Plain an’ simple.”
Reine Charlotte was ostensibly a fresh fruit schooner who came into London every few weeks with halfway fresh fruits: pineapples, coconuts, bananas, plantain, lemons, limes. Elizabeth could see the mountain of heavy crates where the fruit was stored, and it did look comparatively fresh. But much larger was a pile of musket guns under an oily rag, as well as an enormous pyramid of bottles filled with a dark brown liquid. “Is this what you wanted me to see?”
He did not reply but wandered slushily over to the bottles. “Rum, I s’pose. Could test it for them . . .” She flew to his side, spraying filthy bilge all over them. She placed a warning hand on his chest.
“No, Jack, I don’t think so.”
“Fine,” he pouted.
“But is that what you wanted me to see?”
He looked at her very gravely. He took two large steps forward as the ship turned sharply. With his boot, he indicated something in the water. Cautiously, she came to his side and looked down.
Skeletons should have long before ceased to frighten her, but she emitted a startled cry when she recognized the dull white globe-shape of a human skull. A trail of vertebrae followed it into the muck. “Killers as well as smugglers?” she managed to ask.
Jack nodded. He began to say something, then took a few steps back. “Shh,” he said. Elizabeth heard nothing. “Someone’s comin’ down.”
An outrageous note of panic came into her voice. “Should we get back up? Should we hide?”
“No, no,” Jack said. “Listen.”
She did. Faint voices became clearer. “. . . take care of him and the girl . . .” she repeated softly.
“Une boussole?” Jack asked sheepishly.
“Compass,” she said. “They want your compass apparently.” Jack immediately seized his compass and tried to jam it into his coat pocket. More seriously, though, she saw him fingering his pistol.
Moucheau and Kluptker appeared at the top of the stairs, laughing rowdily until they saw Jack and Elizabeth. M’sieur Greery, said the Frenchman, doffing his hat. And Madame Greery. What a surprise.
Elizabeth tried to smile. Her face was stone, she could not unhinge her jaws. What are you doing here?
“We got lost, I beg your pardon,” Elizabeth trilled in a high, nervous voice.
“Er—aye—‘perdu’,” chuckled Jack, throwing an arm around Elizabeth which landed on her hip. She flashed him an outraged smile.
Ah, I see, said Moucheau, chuckling without amusement. Well, if you’ll come with us, we shall be happy to escort you above deck.
As soon as they were out of sight, Elizabeth seized Jack’s hand and cast it off her waist with a withering look. He hid his smile and whispered to her, “Good thing we reach London tomorrow. They mi’ decide t’ kill us before then.” She shrugged, convinced Jack would get the axe and she would get something worse. “An’ ‘Lizabeth, I think I should like t’ keep me compass i’ tha’ sea chest of yours, fer safety’s sake.”
Elizabeth was awoken the next morning—prematurely, she hastened to tell herself—by a pounding at the door to Kluptker’s cabin. Dragging herself awake and hesitating in sleepy-eyed haze, she cautiously crept to the door and removed the chair. She opened it a crack, and Jack’s face peered through. “Rise an’ shine, Mrs. Turner,” he said.
“It’s very early,” she snapped.
“Aye, but we’re comin’ in t’ London, ‘f you’d care t’ notice.”
“Oh.” She yawned. His enthusiasm failed to garner a reaction.
He lowered his voice. “Ye might wan’ t’ be on deck as soon as ye’re able. I fear we may have t’ make a run fer it.” This news finally woke her to the reality of what he was saying. She remembered the skeleton with more than shiver. She relinquished the door, allowing him entrance.
She began to adjust her dress, combing her fingers through her hair distractedly. “Let me just
--” She attempted to make herself presentable though she really didn’t know why. Jack stood at attention, his fingers playing with the air. “All right,” she said sharply, stepping over her father’s chest.
A haze of fog blew over the main deck as Jack and Elizabeth reached the foremast. The sun was rising in the East and to the West was London. The mouth of the Thames was only a few miles from where they stood. The golden light sprayed over the schooner’s masts, painting the decks, topping the prows of the other motley vessels speeding into the river.
“Bring me that horizon,” Jack muttered.
Elizabeth turned to him. “What was that?”
“Nothin’,” he said. She studied him silently, seeing a wild, wonderful look coming into his eyes. She gave up trying to interpret it, falling prey to her own joy at finally reaching London. She squinted at the coal-filled skies.
Madame Greery, you are looking in the bloom of health today. It was Captain Moucheau sidling up the deck, Kluptker, as always, not far behind.
Elizabeth was so jubilant about being so near to her goal that she smiled. “Oui, merci, M’sieur.”
Moucheau continued down the deck until he stood a few feet from Elizabeth. She could feel Jack’s presence behind her, an almost tangible amount of anxious readiness. She felt her smile fading. Well, it seems we have made our destination, said Moucheau, a sneer on his face though his voice was light and cordial. The great city. Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder. The schooner was lazily passing through the first barriers of the Thames. Through the fog, she thought she could make out the colossal form of Tower Bridge. Time for payment, I believe, said Moucheau, bowing shortly.
Elizabeth turned round to Jack, seeking his counsel. He stared at her for a moment, increasing her growing unease. “We’ll give ‘em the diamond,” he muttered to her, “but then let’s get the hell out o’ here.” She saw him fingering his pistol. She removed the diamond, then handed it to him when he asked. He was suddenly smiling, raucous. He tramped across the deck toward Moucheau who was giving him a sour look. “Well, here is your prize, an’ rightfully earned, too. Cap’n Sparrow will be right pleased.” And it suddenly occurred to Elizabeth that they had left the chest in the cabin.
When she looked back, Jack was gesticulating wildly at her. She said quickly, “Donc, voici c’est votre prix, et . . .” As she spoke, Jack handed the gleaming diamond over to Moucheau with great ceremony, ending with his palms together in an awkwardly entreating bow. Elizabeth, increasingly agitated, her foot tapping unconsciously against the deck, looked aft, where the sailors of la Reine Charlotte were watching with what seemed wide-eyed expectancy. She looked forward, where the streets of London were becoming clearer. “Capitain Sparrow sera—”
Moucheau broke in. Do you think I am such a fool? Capitain Sparrow, indeed. Jack looked at him blankly, his eyes bulging in unmitigated surprise. Elizabeth steeled herself. She wanted desperately to run, but there was nowhere to go. The schooner was passing fast through the river. Moucheau laughed derisively, a guffaw echoed by Kluptker. They were both heading her way across the deck. Elizabeth stood straight; her fear was rampant because she did not know what to expect. Moucheau looked down at her with a cruel triumph in his eyes. I’ve been thwarted before, Madame, he whispered secretively, but not by a slip of a girl. I had no idea you English women were so hard to get.
She bristled, taking a few steps backward. Sparrow, I have no further use for you. You may take a boat and go. He turned back to Elizabeth. I’m afraid Madame must stay . . . Elizabeth put on her meanest scowl, wishing she had a musket or a pistol; she scanned the deck for an oar. Then she saw Jack quietly sneaking off towards the longboat on deck. “Jack!” she snapped, surprised and hurt despite it all.
Jack shrugged. “Sorry, love. You’re on your own this time.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. He couldn’t be serious! She looked at him in wide-eyed terror, and she realized he was quietly mouthing something. What—?
Moucheau laughed outrageously. Get this man a boat, he said, jerking a thumb toward Jack, and get him out of here. He approached Elizabeth with smirking eyes. She threw her arms up to ward off his pursuit. Jack was still mouthing furiously, the crew pulling down the boat on deck to launch. Moucheau drew closer, spilling his rot-scented breath all over her. With a quick slam, she threw her forearm against his face and made a run for it. There was a loud cracking, and when Kluptker had grabbed her, she turned to see Moucheau’s nose a puddle of blood. He seized her forearm as she struggled. Get some rope! he roared at Kluptker.
If a lady acts badly, he seethed, we punish her. He withdrew a long dagger from his belt and raised it toward her. Suddenly the dagger flew backward, and Moucheau was thrown to the ground. Elizabeth wrested herself from his grip and discovered that Jack had come up behind Kluptker, kicked him down, seized the rope, and used it to disarm Moucheau. Now he was at her side, handing her his pistol. “Do not lose this,” he told her, the ghost of a smile on his face. “Now, get t’ the boat!”
Her eyes raced forward: the boat was at the bow of the boat, ready to launch.
Jack ducked as Kluptker sprang to his feet and thrust his cutlass at Jack’s head. Jack’s hat flew across the deck as he rolled out of Kluptker’s grasp, drawing his own cutlass. The crash and scrape of steel on steel. She looked at the pistol in her hand, cocked it. Jack and Kluptker danced across the deck. She rushed toward the boat, scooping up Jack’s lost hat as she did.
She slammed onto the deck. Moucheau had seized her ankle and brought her down. The pistol went flying. Moucheau growled and raised his dagger over her. She spun, grabbed a bucket of bilge water from the deck. The water landed in Moucheau’s face, and she banged his face with the bucket. Howling in pain, he released her ankle and she scrambled across the deck, limping.
Jack and Kluptker were against the larboard side, Jack light and nimble with parrying blows, Kluptker all brawn with vicious swinging blows. Get them! Moucheau roared at the crew, his face a mess of blood. Reluctantly, the crew assembled in front of the boat, preventing Elizabeth from reaching it.
“Shoot them! Any o’ them!” Jack shouted, now astride the mast and cutting the canvas. It slammed the unsuspecting Kluptker.
Elizabeth gazed at the crew, wondering which one she should shoot, then thought the better of it. Moucheau was hobbling toward her, loading a pistol of his own. She jumped backward over the capstan, seized the wheel, and slammed the jib boom toward the crewmen. Jack jumped down from the rigging beside the boat, sword drawn.
The crew ducked, and the boom swept across, hitting the unsuspecting Jack, and sent him howling into the river. Moucheau laughed, spitting blood on the deck, and aimed his pistol at Elizabeth. She climbed onto the railing and, unable to avert a shrill scream, jumped into the Thames.