As well as writing the third Brough & Miller story, I am editing a pirate adventure I wrote last September, getting it shipshape for submission to the publisher. I was inspired by one of my favourite songs, Gay Pirates by Cosmo Jarvis, but as I got deeper into my story, I realised it also has things in common with Barry Manilow’s Bermuda Triangle!
Here is the opening scene to give you a taste of things to come.
I met the love of my life at my wedding reception. Lousy timing has plagued me all my days.
We made eye contact across a crowded room – corny, I know but that’s how it happened. I was gazing, absent-mindedly, from the top table, looking out on the sea of faces, wigs and assorted headwear as my wedding guests – our wedding guests, rather; I must acclimatise myself to pluralising all my possessive pronouns – as they tucked into the veritable feast my new father-in-law had laid on, like so many hogs at so many troughs. I had no idea who most of them were, being newly arrived in the colony. My ship had been delayed for want of wind – a pity the same could not be said for those who had supplied the speeches.
And then I saw him, gliding through the guzzling horde like a swan. His back was straight and his head was held high, balancing on it a prim, unadorned white wig; in his hand a silver platter on which he was conveying goblets of Rhenish wine. My eyes tracked his progress across the room. He seemed to me an ethereal being, made of light and beauty, untouched by the sweating, grunting and gobbling of the mere mortals around him.
“Dominic?” A small hand squeezed my thigh. I turned to see the inquiring face of the bride to my right. My bride! My wife! “Are you quite well, my love?”
I was unable to find words. The hand rose from my leg and pinched my chin. The silk of her glove was smooth against my skin. Only two hours before had I shaved for the first time in weeks.
“You’re gaping like a landed fish!” this girl, my wife, laughed. “Is there something wrong with your repast?”
I continued to gape at this pretty stranger to whom I was bound eternally. Her eyes seemed inordinately large to me. They searched mine, trying to read me. I hate it when people try to read me. I closed my eyes and got to my feet, pushing my heavy chair backwards with a scrape. I tore my napkin from my shirt front and discarded it. Everyone was looking at me, in anticipation or indeed dread of yet another interminable speech.
“Cecily, I…” I murmured. She continued to look up at me, smiling in a manner that was at once patient and patronising. I felt sick. I stooped to whisper to her. “I have to make water.”
She blushed and nodded. Suddenly her smile seemed to be for display purposes only. She returned her attention to her own plate, pecking at it with her fork. If her appetite were to continue in this vein, she would not cost me much to keep.
I made my way across the platform and stepped down onto the floor proper. Relieved that I was not going to make a general address, the guests got back to their muttons, figuratively and literally.
A bewigged servant – not the vision I had spotted earlier – bowed his head and opened the door. I thanked him even though you must never thank the servants – how many times had Mother drubbed that into me, in the hope that one day I would better myself and attain a social standing that obliged me to have servants?
Well, Mother, I mused as I strode along the corridor and away from the banquet, how do you like me now? Have I climbed a high enough ladder for you yet?
Governor Wilkins’s mansion sported more in the way of corridors than most. The walls were lined with portraits, darkening paint in gilded frames: former governors, friends and family, worthies of history…all pompous arses by the look of them. I felt their eyes upon me as I, lowly Dominic Drubbins from Bristol, walked among them. I could almost hear their disdain. I could almost feel the air being sucked into their flaring nostrils. I could imagine their affronted questions. What’s he doing here? Things have reached a pretty pass indeed if we are to admit the likes of him into our ranks!
Where I was going, I didn’t know. As I said, I was newly arrived in the colony and had not yet had the opportunity to explore the grand mansion that was to be my home and place of work. My buckled shoes, new and pinching my heels somewhat, made satisfying clip-clops as I strode along the chequerboard tiles.
I could keep walking, I realised. I could be out of there and down at the docks in minutes. I could jump on a ship – any ship! – and be away from the bride with the big eyes and her insufferable pompous arse of a father and the life that had been laid out for me with very little consultation of yours truly.
I didn’t want to be the Governor’s clerk. I didn’t want to be married to his daughter, however pretty and sweet she may be. How I had come to be in this sorry situation I wasn’t entirely certain. Mother of course had had a lot to do with it. Forever pushing me forward, recommending me here, introducing me there, shoving me into places I didn’t want to go every-bloody-where. Her scheming and machinations had backfired on her somewhat when it became apparent that my social climbing involved separation from her by the width of an entire ocean. She had sobbed into her scented handkerchiefs as she had waved me off but her eyes were full of pride for a job well done.
I think I had allowed myself to be swept along with all of this just to be free of her at last. And what had happened? After the most tedious and uneventful and slow progress across the Atlantic I had arrived on the day set for my wedding and was thrown into a blur of activity, tossed from barber to tailor to priest like a doll.
I should keep walking. I really should. Take charge of my own destiny for once.
I was about to do so, having located the back door of the mansion where my egress could occur with the minimum or even the complete absence of attention when my bladder informed me that it would be better for the both of us if I were to empty it first. You can’t argue with reasoning like that.
I scanned about, looking for the necessary. The third door I tried opened onto a closet in which stood a huge copper pot already half full and heady with urine. Governor Wilkins would not require his guests to step outside to the latrine on as special an occasion as his daughter’s wedding day.
I unfastened my breeches and, taking myself in hand, let nature do its work. Ahh! Is there any relief like it? My water splashed into the copper, a strong and admirable jet to put a racehorse to shame and I was just shaking off the last drops when I heard the door open behind me.
“Er – just a minute, please!” I called over my shoulder, still shaking myself. I tucked myself away, certain a drop or two were still very much with me and turned to find myself facing the servant from before.
He was taller than me and slender. A smile was playing on his generous lips and his eyes – turquoise and bright – bore into mine. He raised a long finger to my lips and pulled the door closed behind him.
“Hello,” he said in a breathy whisper. “I’m Sebastian.”
I kissed his finger.