Raising The Black

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Chapter 2

Anne Bonny smiled at her new husband and placed her hand on his as the carriage jostled them onwards. She felt secure in the knowledge that her future lay open before her, littered with endless opportunity. He was her ticket to freedom, away from the strict regime of her father. The fact that he disapproved only helped to further her ambition to marry as quickly as possible and live the way that she wanted. Anne had always had a streak of defiance running through her. Her father solely blamed her mother for that and said it was due to her Irish heritage.

The young James Bonny was handsome and had an air of mystery about him which Anne found hard to resist. He had a keen sparkle in his eye and his cheekiness attracted her. They had met in Anne’s hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, where James had been in town ‘on business’ and the couple had eloped within weeks of their first meeting.

Anne felt a weight release itself from her the further they travelled away from her father’s plantation. He had not approved of the marriage, but then Anne had never been one for conceding to her father’s wishes. After years of tirade about the ‘kind of woman she was expected to be’, her father had given up trying to mould her as society felt she should be seen, and her decision to marry without his approval was the final nail in the coffin , firmly securing their estrangement. Anne had always been wilful, defiant.

She felt that her father was hardly one to speak of propriety; the family had been forced to emigrate from Ireland after the lusty young lawyer William Cormac had impregnated his housemaid. His decision to stand by the maid and being a life with her created such a scandal that the family’s only option was to leave and make their life elsewhere. Anne’s mother had died when she was just a young child and she was raised mostly by her father and the occasional maid.

William was fond of blaming Anne’s headstrong ways on the influence of her Irish mother and though Anne would never admit it, she knew that her fierce and courageous temperament came from her father; they were more alike than she would dare admit. William’s stubborn refusal to accept his daughter’s marriage only made Anne all the more determined to take charge of her own life. She had been adamant that she would leave behind the stuffy privileged existence she had never grown accustomed to and make her way in the world along an alternative route, and James Bonny was the perfect man with whom to take the first steps.

Anne watched the busy fields roll past; a hive of activity amongst the green shoots of sugar climbing towards the golden rays of sunshine. Whilst the couple had little prospect without her father’s blessing or consent, she could taste freedom and that was wealth enough. She trusted James’s business motives and knew that he had more than a few tricks up his sleeve.

A cool breeze lilted in through the small open space at the carriage window and Anne could taste the swirl of sugar which spun on the air, smelling sickly sweet as the carriage rushed past the fields. It wasn’t long before the screech of gulls signalled their approach to the coast and Anne craned her neck to catch her first glimpse of the glittering expanse of blue.

It looked so open, so endless and she felt a warm flutter of excitement in her stomach as the carriage rounded a corner and the full view of the ocean opened out in front of them. She played with a strand of fiery hair that had fallen from beneath her bonnet, twirling it around one gloved hand.

James turned to face his new wife, a satisfied smile on his face as he took in the beauty of her; her freckled skin, full lips and flaming hair. Leaning over, he stroked her face.

“Welcome to your new life,” he said, kissing her passionately.

“How long until we reach New Providence?” she asked when their lips parted.

James scratched his chin, and ran a hand through his chestnut hair. “A few days at sea is all.”

He looked at his hands in his lap; he couldn’t confess to his new wife that he was disappointed she came with no dowry and no promise of wealth at all, and the prospect of a long voyage across from South Carolina to The Bahamas did little to ignite his enthusiasm.

There was news that the Bahamian Governor, Woodes Rogers, had offered the King’s pardon to any pirate willing to abandon their life of crime, and James conceded that he would surrender himself shortly after they arrived. If he turned informant, he was sure he would make more money than he ever had as a little-known pirate. Enemies he knew he would accumulate in equal measure, but at least he would have the law’s protection, if he was on the right side of it.

As the carriage drew to a halt, the dock was bustling with people, some dressed for travelling as Anne was, others selling their wares. The screech of gulls was at its loudest here and they pestered the fisherman as they hauled aching nets of fish off their boats.

Street urchins played by the water’s edge, throwing stones at the screeching birds and slipping whatever they could from the stalls into their pockets when backs were turned. The children were filthy, their teeth standing out starkly white against their smudged skin, their hair wild and untamed.

Taking her by the elbow, James guided his wife towards the vessel on which they would travel to the Bahamas. Anne stepped aboard, graciously accepting her husband’s extended hand. She felt the ocean swell beneath her and she breathed deeply.

They spent the next few days mostly on deck together, making plans for the future. James told her of the life they’d have once they reached the Bahamas; how they might run into other pirates and live a life of adventure. Anne felt dizzy with excitement; nothing could have delighted her more.

***

They reached New Providence after a calm and steady week at sea. The gentle crossing had done nothing to quell the weakest of stomachs, and the hold had turned into a putrid hovel with the milling stench of stale vomit.

They entered the port to the gentle setting of the tropical sun, which cast sketches of powdered pink across the pale inky sky. James was tired from travelling, his patience short and his eyes rimmed with fatigue, but Anne still seemed to be revelling in it. Irritated by her optimism, he sulkily gathered their things and ushered her off of the ship and onto the dockside. He became even more short tempered with the tripping and shoving that came with all of the passengers attempting to disembark at once. He knew that there wouldn’t be enough lodging in town to house them all and the best rooms would soon be taken. Impatiently, he grabbed Anne’s arm and moved her away from the anxious cluster of people so that he could secure them a room and savour a stiff drink.

As they walked towards the road, James saw a nearby cart and whistled through his teeth. The horse whinnied impatiently, its nostrils whipping up dust from its long face and they trotted over to where James raised an arm.

“Take us to Nassau,” James requested, as the man twisted the leather reins between worn hands.

James helped Anne into the cart and threw their trunks onto the ledge at the back. The driver clicked his tongue and shook the reins with calloused hands as the horse moved forward, giving James just enough time to scramble up beside Anne.

They jostled dustily towards Nassau, flicking up motes of earth from the roadside and scattering it over people as they clattered to a halt. James climbed down and roughly dragged their luggage to the roadside.

“Plenty of lodgings around for you and the lady sir.” The man said, swatting at a fly which landed on his hand.

James thanked him and flicked a coin that the man caught swiftly in the palm of his hand, curling his fingers eagerly around it.

The couple made their way through the town, Anne dawdling as she took in the scenery and the smells of this strange place. She shuffled her feet and caught up to James, who made a beeline for the nearest tavern, its wooden sign swaying loftily above the door, bearing its name ‘The Three Sails.’

“Let’s settle in our lodgings and then quench our thirst.” He said to Anne with a wink.

She followed him into the shadows and was hit by the aroma of spice, sweat and indiscretion. There was a level volume of chatter, amidst the clattering of glass and the guffawing of closely packed groups of men leering over highly colourful women. The chatter lessened slightly as the two strangers entered, accompanied by whispers and furtive glances.

Anne noticed a man who seemed to warrant more attention than anyone else in the bar. He sat with a group of men, all of whom seemed to gaze at him with admiration as he animatedly spoke to them. His tanned face made his deep blue eyes stand out and there was a glint of mischief that creased his smile in the corner of his mouth. He wore a long colourful coat, which made him more vibrant than anyone else seated in the tavern. Sensing that he was being watched, he returned Anne’s gaze and gave her a wink.

Anne followed James as he struggled around the tables with a trunk under each arm, trying not to fall over people’s feet as he navigated his way to the bar.

“We need a room,” he said bluntly.

The barman had a plain face, which was creased with anxiety and laced with a line of sweat. His impressive moustache hid his mouth, so it was difficult to understand his gruff voice. He rummaged beneath the bar and produced a key. “Top of the stairs, last room on the right.” He said, expressionless. “First night’s rent upfront.”

James muttered his thanks as he pushed some money towards the barman and shuffled Anne out of the room, guiding her towards the stairs. Anne felt the vibrant man’s gaze following her as she left the room and she forced herself not to turn round.

As they reached their room, there was a musty odour of damp, but the room was furnished pleasantly enough; a wardrobe stood in one corner, next to a chest. A full length mirror stood underneath a high window and next to the bed there was a well-worn side table. On the other side of the room was a small desk with a chair tucked under it, and another narrow doorway revealed a tiny washroom.

With a sigh of relief, James tossed the luggage to one side and scooped his wife into his arms. “Alone at last,” he whispered in her ear, as he nuzzled against her neck.

She giggled dutifully but longed to lie down and rest.

“I’m just going down for a quick drink, make a few business introductions,” he said, nonchalantly.

She nodded “I’m tired from the journey, I’ll unpack our things.”

James smiled and blew his wife a kiss as he retreated through the doorway with a low bow.

Anne let out a deep breath and wearily dropped her shoulders as she settled herself on the edge of the bed, taking in her new home.

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