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Pirate Fiction -- Blackthorne's Story
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
Cutthroat
Posts: 312



7588 Gold -

PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

AWAKENING FROM A DREAM
_______________________________


As the reality of Virginia loomed closer, the warmth of southern climes faded, like a dream difficult to recall upon waking. Ill-prepared for the cold, Dove’s survivors came above less frequently and did not linger. Sims gave Mrs. Henry his heavy black woolen cloak. For William, Blackthorne offered her the great coat taken from Beaufort’s captain, thinking she would dismantle it and use the fabric for a new garment. Instead, she proportioned it to William’s size, scaling down the fit, trim and buttons into a perfect replica of a French naval officer. With his wooden rapier belted to his side, William adopted a square-shouldered swagger, and the crew took to saluting the tiny captain when they passed.

In the three weeks since leaving Port-de-Paix, the surgery had emptied of patients. Most had left under their own power, some were carried out in sailcloth, and one — Richard Lester — was assisted by Sims, who taught him how to compensate for his missing leg with a crutch.

Blackthorne’s interactions with Mrs. Henry were few and proper, even when Sims was not at her elbow. But there were moments when their eyes would meet across the distance of half a ship, and she would hold his gaze, a faint smile curving her lips. He was never entirely sure what he was reading in her expression — fondness? gratitude? resignation? But if there was also a touch of sexual attraction, it was quickly subdued, and her attention would return to her son.

Despite the cooling temperatures, Blackthorne and Sims had resumed their customary hour together on the stern gallery, and their discourse had found equilibrium again in the safe grounds of politics, science and history. On a temperate day in January, Sims brought his Bible, which he set aside while they discussed the events of the day. Legacy had made landfall at noon and had shifted to a course parallel with the Carolina coast. The Chesapeake Bay would be coming into view within two days, Blackthorne estimated. Then after a 16-mile jog to the west, they’d arrive at the mouth of the James River, where Blackthorne hoped a pilot would be there to guide Legacy between the waterway’s shoals to the settlement 35 miles upriver.

When the two men fell silent, Sims reached for his Bible, opened it to a page he’d marked with a leather thong, and began to read. “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’”

Sims closed the book again and lifted his gaze to the swirling water in Legacy’s wake. “Four hundred ninety times, Peter, though in truth it were meant forgiveness was to have no limit.” He smiled and shook his head as he rose, his hand on the door latch. “But I do hope you will not put me to that test.”


.......................................................


A road ran alongside the James River’s eastern shore, tucked between the river and a landscape dotted with tobacco plantations. As Legacy made its tedious approach upstream — at times within 50 yards of land — travelers along the road hailed the ship, learning her name, learning that Dove had perished, that Legacy bore her only survivors. The news traveled ahead of the ship, disrupting commerce and households as residents and shopkeepers locked their doors and hurried to the wharf to see the visiting warship commanded by a pirate. As Legacy approached, a cannon at the fort fired in welcome, causing Dove’s traumatized survivors to cower until informed of its meaning.

The river immediately alongside the town was naturally deep, allowing ships to dock and avoid the laborious task of transferring goods and people from a ship at anchor. On the final yards to her destination, sailors streamed aloft to furl Legacy’s sails while others on deck tossed cables to men ashore.

Legacy’s crew had not finished mooring her to the Jamestown dock before Dove’s survivors, eager to finally land in Virginia, began queuing up by the waist. Bertie, whose breeches were now held up by a length of coarse manila rope, demanded the front of the line, followed by Jonas Fitch who seemed particularly impatient to debark.

“There she is!” Mrs. Henry exclaimed to Sims, and she waved toward a family on the wharf.

“Your cousin?” Sims asked, mimicking a joy he did not feel.

“Yes, Margaret — and there is her husband, Daniel. Hellooooo! Hellooooo!”

“Mrs. Henry...” Sims squirmed. He had waited too long to broach this subject with her, and now she was about to be whisked off a new life without him. A desperation overtook him. “May I speak with you? Alone?”

She looked at him, curiously, then with a sudden intuition that brought a wash of compassion to her expression. “Of course. William, my darling, would you stay here by Captain Bertie?”

Sims guided her to a spot by the belfry, the only place on the main deck that wasn’t teeming with activity. “I do not know how to say this,” he said, uncomfortably, “so I will just say it. I... I have lost my heart, utterly and horribly, for I fear that you do not share my feelings, or perhaps ever could. But I must at least ask if... if you might one day care for me as I care for you, for I would ask for your hand, that I might love and protect you and William for my life entire.” He looked at her, his face stricken, every measure of his dignity laid bare before her.

“Oh, my dear Dr. Sims,” Mrs. Henry replied, her voice soft. “I would cherish an affection such as yours.”

For a moment, Sims’ heart leapt.

“But my heart is too crowded with sorrow,” she continued gently. “And I fear...” Her eyes filled with tears. “I fear to love another. To lose another.” She dropped her gaze and took a breath to compose herself again. “In time I hope there is room again for love. In time.”

Sims nodded. “I can wait until your heart heals,” he whispered. “Should I stay in Jamestown?”

“No, you should not,” she said, her eyes kind. “Remain with Legacy. Tend to her sailors until they are swimming in King Phillip’s gold. Then perhaps, come again to Virginia and call upon me. And we will have you to supper, and you can tell William your tales of piracy, if they are not too terrible. Will you? Please say that you will.”


Last edited by Capt Peter Blackthorne on Sat Sep 02, 2017 5:27 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
Cutthroat
Posts: 312



7588 Gold -

PostPosted: Wed Aug 30, 2017 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PRIVATEERS OF THE CROWN
___________________________________


Blackthorne watched from the quarterdeck as Mrs. Henry and William were loaded into a farm wagon and driven away. He had spotted Sims and Mrs. Henry by the belfry, engaged in a private conversation about which neither appeared joyful. But unlike Blackthorne, at least Sims had been granted a farewell. With any other woman, Blackthorne would have resented the slight, but this was Mrs. Henry, and damned if she wasn’t inexplicable and enticing to the end.

Sims joined Blackthorne at the rail, and the two men stood in companionable silence for a few minutes. “And so,” Blackthorne said quietly. “Did you ask for her hand?”

“In a way.”

Blackthorne looked at him. “I take it she refused you.”

“Yes. And no.” Sims huffed a laugh. “In truth, I am not quite certain how I stand with her.”

Peter suppressed a smile. “That, my friend, is ever the way with women.”


.......................................................


On the second morning in Jamestown, the boom of a cannon jolted Blackthorne from sleep. He pushed up on his hands, listening, but when the gun did not sound again, he dressed and bypassed breakfast on his way out of the inn to the wharf, where he saw that his hunch was correct — the shot had signaled the arrival of another ship.

Meriwether was an English galleon sent by the Virginia Company to resupply the colony, he learned later over an ale with her master. Captain Hawkworth, a ruddy faced, portly gentleman from Pembroke, had made the crossing in 60 days — impressive speed given the indirect 6,000-mile route customarily followed to make the most of prevailing winds. Blackthorne sensed a competent mariner in Hawkworth, and the respect appeared to be reciprocated when he relayed the stories of Legacy’s battles en route to Virginia.

And so when Blackthorne inquired, captain to captain, about spare sailcloth, Hawkworth agreed to sell him enough to replace Legacy’s main course, which had taken the brunt of the French sloop’s grapeshot.

To Blackthorne’s profound relief, he also agreed to convey Bertie back to London on Meriwether’s return voyage, a week hence. Although they did not discuss the cost of his passage, Blackthorne sensed that the genteel captain might require less of Bertie. Perhaps he would let him keep his buttons.

“What news of England?” Blackthorne asked, and as Hawkworth rose to leave, he spilled the contents of a leather haversack on the table planks, covering them with pamphlets and broadsides.

“Leave’t all with the taverner,” he said upon departing, “who’ll preserve it for those who can read — else ‘twill all be stolen for kindling.”

Blackthorne settled in by a window, lighting up his pipe with the sweet, nutty leaf Virginia was becoming known for. There was unrest in Scotland, and the King’s troubles with Parliament continued. A princess had been born, but she died the same day. A new colony — Connecticut — had been founded in America, settled by Congregationalists. The Netherlands and Spain had fought a major battle in the Downs, and the Netherlands had prevailed, further proving the decline of the Spanish navy and parallel rise of the Dutch.

But there was one story — little more than a paragraph in a London broadside — that caused Blackthorne to set down his pipe and lean in closer to read, and read again. He sat back in his chair, blinking from the news, and then emptied his pipe into the fireplace and slid the folded broadside into his shirt before striding out.

.......................................................


Bertie, it seems, had vanished. Nobody had seen him since the day they arrived, creating a dilemma for Blackthorne. If he sailed before finding Bertie, he might not get the message about his passage aboard Meriwether and would be stranded in Jamestown. Blackthorne could only imagine the outrage.

Hoping word of Legacy’s imminent departure would reach Bertie wherever he was, Blackthorne recalled the crew from shore leave. When every man in Legacy’s company was accounted for and at his station, Blackthorne himself set off in search of the irritating young nobleman, inquiring at the local tavern, inn and boarding house to no success.

Exasperated, Blackthorne returned to the wharf, and he was about to mount the gangway to Legacy when he heard a man call his name.

“G’day!” Jonas Fitch approached him, out of breath. “I’ve a message from Governor Harvey.”

Blackthorne glanced briefly at the parchment in his hand. “Never mind the Governor. Where is Bertie?”

As a matter of fact, Bertie was at the Governor’s mansion, Fitch told him, and would not be returning to England. Bertie had demanded to see the Governor, to put the lie to Blackthorne’s story about the gunpowder. Instead, the Governor learned that his goods had been destroyed, and when Bertie could not compensate him for his investment, Governor Harvey put him under house arrest until the Earl sent another shipment of powder or a full refund.

“And so the Governor bids you deliver his terms to the Earl,” Fitch concluded, and he tapped the rolled parchment against Blackthorne’s chest.

Blackthorne seized the man by the front of his jerkin, lifting him to his toes. “Tell the Governor to find a different errand boy,” he snapped, releasing him with a shove into the dirt.

Fitch was still slinking off when a wagon, driven by a servant, rolled up and halted by the wharf. The servant dismounted and turned to assist the lady he was driving.

Blackthorne almost didn’t recognize Mrs. Henry, as her battered silk gown had been replaced by a modest linen skirt and laced bodice in muted colors. A lace-edged kerchief, wrapped around her neck and shoulders and tucked into her bodice, allowed only the barest glimpse of décolletage. Her hair was drawn up into a coif, worn under a high-crowned felt hat.

Upon her approach he pulled his hat from his head, sweeping it before him as he bowed, but she did not offer her hand.

“You are away then,” Mrs. Henry said.

“We are indeed,” he replied, and he glanced over her shoulder at the empty wagon. “Where is William?”

“Ah. He is in school, I’m pleased to say.”

“Already? Saints.”

“And so we resume our ordinary life. And I take cheer in it.”

An ordinary life. At that moment, it came to Blackthorne whole, this comprehension that Mrs. Henry craved only to be welcomed and accepted by common society — moral society. On the day that they landed, with the streets thronged with spectators, she could not have been seen consorting with a pirate. There had been too many eyes. Too many tongues to wag. For the sake of her future and William’s, she had made sure to arrive in Jamestown above reproach.

Mrs. Henry’s orderly world was as foreign to Blackthorne as his life of pirating had been to her, but their two worlds had intersected for a night, when her need to be comforted had overpowered all else. The return of her son salved over the wounds inflicted by her many losses, ensuring that she would not be moved to such desperation again.

She smiled up at him and brushed a wisp of hair away from her eyes, and he would have moved heaven and earth just then to kiss her.

“Were it not for Dr. Sims, I would—”

“You would... what, Captain?” Mrs. Henry said, her tone teasing. “Take me as your wife? Become a planter? Attend church with us every week on the Lord’s Day?”

Blackthorne laughed and looked down to his boots.

“Be safe, Peter. Wherever in the world you may go, please be safe. Know that we are to each other all that we were ever meant to be. All that we ever could be.”

She offered her hand, and he kissed it properly, then turned it over and kissed the inside of her wrist most improperly. Her eyes darkened and she took a sharp breath, stifling a smile.

Blackthorne returned his hat to his head, tipped it, then turned away on a heel. He’d taken two steps away before a thought struck him. “Mrs. Henry,” he said, pivoting to face her. “How do you know the King?”

She gazed at him quizzically. “I do not know the King, Captain.”

“Ah” He started to turn.

“But I do know the Queen.”

Blackthorne inclined his head.

“I was the principal housekeeper at Kensington Palace. It was the Queen’s kind influence upon the King that secured my passage aboard Dove.” She canted her head in confusion. “But I thought you knew that, Captain, as I delivered a letter from the King to Governor Bainbridge which, to my understanding, was instrumental in gaining your help.”

Blackthorne’s stride back to Legacy was quick and strong, and he gave the order to cast off. He watched from the quarterdeck rail as the ship was warped around to face downstream, as the sails overhead were dropped with a whoosh, as the yards creaked and swung into position and the ship’s canvas breathed with new life.

Dickerson moved to Blackthorne’s side, his seasoned gaze on the crew’s work as he conversed. “No Bertie then?”

“No Bertie.”

“Well. Are we still puttin’ inta Port Royal?”

“Not if we’ve provisions enough to make Providence Island.”

Dickerson squinted. “Why Providence?”

“They’ve a spot of trouble there.”

The Spanish had been harassing the colony, Blackthorne had learned. The Providence Island Company had pressured King Charles for help, and he responded by permitting it to issue Letters of Marque authorizing attacks on the Spanish in retaliation. Located only 250 miles from the Spanish stronghold of Portobello — where ships departed laden with Peruvian silver — Providence would make an ideal base for Legacy’s raids on the Spanish Main. Under a Letter of Marque granted by Providence Island, the plunder would be legally gained, ensuring that their pardons would remain intact.

“We are 200 men and 42 guns strong, and we’ve a Letter of Marque from the King and victories against France to prove our worth,” Blackthorne concluded.

“They’d be fools t’ deny us.”

“Precisely my thought.” He clapped Dickerson on the shoulder then turned to his bosun. “Mr. Alden!”

“Sir!”

“Hoist the Cross of St. George.”

“England, sir?”

“Indeed. We are loyal English subjects and privateers of the Crown. Let us get be glad of it.”




...................... FINIS ......................
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