|Port Royal, 1718
"G'morning, Miss Elizabeth."
Her first instinct upon
seeing a stranger on the doorstep was to draw back, one hand going to her
middle in an age-old protective gesture.
The man's gaze followed,
and his face split in a broad, beaming grin that bowed his bushy sideburns
out on his reddened, grizzled cheeks.
She gasped. "Mister Gibbs?"
"Aye," he said, tugging
away the false beard and moustache and eyepatch that had left her initially
unable to recognize him. "How d'ye like me disguise?"
Elizabeth floundered, then
recovered her wits. She darted a swift glance around and saw that no one
else seemed to be paying undue attention. "Won't you please come in?" she
Gibbs entered the house,
his expression turning appreciative as he took in the fine furnishings.
They had arranged a compromise,
she and Will and her father. These surroundings were far less opulent than
those of the governor's mansion on the hill, but, as she often reminded
him, they were considerably nicer than the smithy loft that had once been
his lodging-place when he had toiled thanklessly as Mister Brown's apprentice.
"No servants?" he asked,
shifting from one hand to the other a large bulky sack.
"A cook and a maid," Elizabeth
said, hearing that same defensiveness in her voice that she'd heard when
first her father, and then Commodore Norrington their first dinner guests,
an affair rather stilted by all that went unsaid had placed much the
Indeed, the curious gimlet
eyes of the housemaid peeped down through the railings of the second floor
landing. Elizabeth sent her scurrying back to her work with a single raised
brow, and beckoned Mister Gibbs into the parlor.
He stood uncertainly on
the rug, the sack at his feet, twisting his hat into a shapeless crumple.
His waistcoat was straining at the buttons, and she noted that he had some
sort of squarish parcel imperfectly tucked inside it.
"Will you join us for tea?"
she inquired, already on her way to the small passage that gave onto the
Inside, she was bubbling
with curiosity, a tea kettle herself ready to sing with questions rather
than steam, but her father always said that manners should come first.
What her father would make
of her manners, entertaining as she was a pirate in her very parlor,
she couldn't hazard a guess.
Of course, Mister Gibbs
had not always been a pirate. When they had first met, twelve years ago,
Elizabeth had been a girl not yet on the cusp of womanhood and Gibbs had
been in the royal navy. He had been an officer from time to time, even
rising as high as bo'sun or first mate, before a few too many nips at his
trusty and well-worn flask led him slipping back in rank to a common sailor,
And, of course, Port Royal
had not always been like this. It had once been such a pirate's haven,
despite nominally being under English rule, that Henry Morgan himself had
been considered governor. He was known for opening a keg of wine in the
very street and obliging all passing sailors to stop to drink with him.
"Aye, some tea would go
down nice," he allowed. His hand crept to a pocket she was almost certain
he was unconscious he did it and she hid a smile in the knowledge that
he'd be sure to tip that selfsame flask to 'hearten' the tea.
She went into the kitchen
and asked Cook to prepare a tray, then hurried to the back door. Their
yard was high and fenced, climbing with vines. The air was heavy with balmy
breeze and the sweet scents of the sea and tropical fruits. A few bright
birds chattered in the boughs, scolding the resonant clangs and scrapes
that came from the building at the far end.
"Will!" she called, lifting
the hem of her skirt as she trod the stepping-stone path.
The clanging stopped. A
wooden shutter swung open and her husband leaned out. Several strands of
his brown hair had escaped his ponytail, his forehead was stippled with
beads of sweat, and his face and leather apron were streaked with grime.
But his eyes, as deep and dark and soulful as her own, warmed as he saw
her, and made her heart skip and flutter.
He came to her, wiping his
strong hands on a rag. "Elizabeth." Two years married, and he still said
her name as if tasting a fine wine.
She nearly danced in place.
"Will, Mister Gibbs is here."
"What? Here? In the house?"
They gripped each other as her giddy excitement swept them both.
"I haven't asked. I've invited
him for tea."
Will laughed, that quiet
boyish chuckle as if he had never quite learned the way of roaring aloud.
It was one of the hundred, nay, thousand things about him she loved. But
his eyes danced and sparkled, just as she knew her own must be doing. He
looked down at himself and shook his head in chagrin.
"I'll clean up, shall I?"
"Be quick," she said, brushing
a soft kiss on his lips.
They returned to the house,
Will rushing upstairs. It was silly, she knew. Mister Gibbs had seen them
both at their soaked and bedraggled worst. He had her cheeks burned to
remember it seen her in outfits that would have made any decent lady
clutch her head and swoon in shame.
Mister Gibbs stood in the
parlor exactly as she'd left him. Perhaps he feared to move.
Once her father had finally
understood her and Will's intention to have a home of their own, he had
insisted on lavishing them with gifts. The house, yes, and decorated to
suit the style to which he thought she'd been accustomed. Little knowing
that as far as Elizabeth cared, she could have lived quite happily in the
little loft over the blacksmith's, so long as she'd had Will there with
"Please, do sit down," Elizabeth
said as Cook bustled in with the tray. "Will is just upstairs. He'll be
down in a moment."
Gibbs perched on the chair
as if afraid its delicate legs might snap under him and dump him to the
carpet. Elizabeth busied herself pouring, feeling as she did an almost
irresistible urge to hum. And she knew just the tune, oh, yes.
Will appeared, his hair
wet and slicked back, his face clean, struggling to secure the tiny pearl
buttons at the high collar of his shirt. "Mister Gibbs! It's good to see
"Not going to throw a pail
of water on me, are ye, young Mister Turner?"
"Today, I was the one more
in need of a bath." Will rubbed his chin, which was coarse. "No time for
a shave, though. When Elizabeth told me
"It's such a welcome surprise!"
Elizabeth said. She gave Gibbs a tea cup, which looked dainty and out of
place in his thick, scarred fingers.
"What news?" Will asked,
sitting forward eagerly on the edge of his chair. "Is the Black Pearl
"Ah, now," Gibbs said, scratching
the back of his neck, "much as we respect your Commodore Norrington and
all, we didn't think as it was wise to sail the Black Pearl straight
into your harbor bold as brass. No, I came alone. Booked passage out of
"Tortuga," Will said, and
smiled. That port city was now all that Port Royal had once been, and perhaps
more. The clergy called it the new Sodom and Gomorrah, and when their exhortations
for temperance and chastity fell on deaf ears, they pleaded with God Almighty
to strike it down just as he'd struck down Port Royal in 1692.
"You've never yet told me
all that went on there," Elizabeth reminded him in a sweet voice, just
to watch him fidget.
He cleared his throat, dug
a finger into his collar. "Alone, Mister Gibbs? Why?"
"Jack asked me to."
"How is Jack?" Elizabeth
asked. "He's all right, isn't he? Not ill, not hurt?"
"Not jailed?" Will added.
"Aw, you know Jack," Gibbs
said. "He's had himself slapped by a fair number of ladies since last you
saw him, but that, he's used to."
"I shouldn't wonder," murmured
"I'm sure he deserved it,"
Elizabeth said archly. "But it is good to know that our Jack Sparrow is
as much a devil as ever."
"Aye, Miss Elizabeth or
should it be Missus Turner now?"
"I am Missus Turner,
but please, Mister Gibbs, call me Elizabeth."
"Well, Miss Elizabeth, ye're
he's still Jack Sparrow, sure enough. Not so much driven as he
was, though, not now that the Pearl's his again."
"We have not heard many
tales of the Pearl," Will said. "Don't tell me, Mister Gibbs, that
you've all given up pirating?"
"Ye say that like ye miss
it, boy," Gibbs said. "Jack was right about you."
Elizabeth touched Will's
arm and smiled at him. "He's a pirate."
"Once," Will said. "I'm
back to blacksmithing now."
"Are ye? Jack's gone on
and on about those swords ye made."
Will nodded. "But what about
you? What about Jack? Surely he hasn't turned into a
a legitimate businessman."
"Bah," Gibbs scoffed. "I'll
admit there's not so much call for pillaging, not since we went back and
took all the plunder that old Barbossa had stored up."
"Oh, my," Elizabeth whispered.
She remembered that cave,
would remember it the rest of her life. Though she had been in a state
of icy terror, captive as she was of men who were not men at all but cursed
undying skeletal monsters, she had still not been immune to the wonder
of the treasure. It had been heaped all around the grotto. Gold, glittering
gold in coins and platters and chalices and necklaces. Silver. Jewels.
Long ropes of pearls. Heathen idols. Gem-studded crowns.
"All of it?" Will asked,
his tone guarded.
Gibbs snorted. "Not that,
man. We're none of us that great of fools, for God's sake."
"No, that stone chest with
its deadly accursed Aztec gold, we left untouched," Gibbs said. "T'was
a sorry scene there in the cave, I'll tell ye. Bones everywhere, and what
be left of Barbossa "
"We remember," Will said,
and Elizabeth shivered. "We were there."
Not all of Barbossa's crew
had died in the final battle, which took place partly aboard the Dauntless
and partly down in the cave. Several of them had surrendered at the end,
not wanting to throw away their restored lives once Will and Jack had released
She did not like to think
of what had come of that.
A part of her still felt
pity for them. Though they had been cruel to her, would have killed her,
in fact marooned her and left her to die on a deserted island, she had
an inkling of what their empty existence might have been like. She had
felt that way herself after pledging to marry James Norrington though it
was Will she loved. Had circumstances forced her to go through with it,
might not she have felt the world was grey, ashen, hollow?
And those who had been given
their lives back lost them a few days later.
The multiple hangings had
not been the island-wide spectacle at the fort that Jack's was meant to
be. Fearful that at any moment, the captives might revert to their unstoppable,
immortal state, Norrington had ordered them up the rope with all due speed.
Their bodies, reduced once more to bones and rags, still swung at the entrance
to the harbor as a warning.
"Aye, sorry, that ye were."
Gibbs stirred his tea. "One thing, though
d'ye happen to remember that
monkey of theirs?"
"Yes," Elizabeth said, grimacing.
"The horrid little beast."
"That horrid little beast
were waiting for us in the cave. It had gotten back into the chest, gotten
itself another coin, as Jack found out when he slashed at it. Bugger sprang
back up and went for his face, it did."
Thinking of those awful
fangs, Elizabeth shuddered. "What did you do?"
"Killed it," Gibbs said.
"Took some doing. It'd gone and hidden the coin, and that were a mighty
lot of swag to search through. All the while, we had that monkey penned
up in a barrel. Ye should have heard how it screeched and scrabbled."
"But I take it you found
the final coin," Will said. His thumb was absently rubbing the white line
of scar across his palm.
Elizabeth looked down and
saw that she was doing the same. She, Will, and Jack, all with their matching
scars, as if bound in blood to some pact or contract.
"Found it, aye." Gibbs sipped,
then set the tea aside as if the story had shrunken his appetite. "Then
we popped the lid open just enough for it to reach out, and when it did,
Jack had him. Sliced him, and back went the coin. For good measure, we
slung some chains around that chest and padlocked 'em, and sunk the works
into the deepest part of the grotto. Should anyone ever now go looking
for Isla de Muerta, they'll find naught but the bones to give it that well-deserved
"So it's over, then," Elizabeth
said. "All of it, finally and truly over."
"But for this bit." Gibbs
picked up the heavy, bulging sack at his feet. "Jack wanted ye to have
He hefted it at Will, who
caught it easily and then nearly dropped it from the weight. Metal clinked.
what is it?" Will's
dark eyes were large and wide. "Not
"See for yerself," Gibbs
Will spilled the contents
across the carpet. Elizabeth caught her breath. Gold and silver, rubies,
emeralds, pearls, diamonds, cups, bracelets and more rolled in a sparkling
river from the mouth of the sack.
"Oh, Mister Gibbs," Will
said. "We can't "
"Ye can and ye will, that's
what Jack says," Gibbs replied. "He says ye should think of it as partly
being yer share, and partly being yer inheritance."
"Yer share, boy. For a time,
ye were part of Jack's crew. Ye were Jack's only crew, before the two of
ye found me in that Tortuga pigsty. And yer inheritance as well, as a goodly
sum of this plunder should have belonged to yer father."
"Elizabeth, what should
I do?" Will asked her, his expression so dear and earnest.
"Take it, Will," she said.
He scooped up coins and
gems and let them run through his fingers. Elizabeth knew that although
he was entirely confident in her love for him, he had never fully felt
that her father approved of either his birth or his station.
Governor Swann, the man
who had helped restore order Port Royal, that man's only child marrying
a blacksmith? A boy of no family, no fortune, who had been found floating
in the debris of a fiery shipwreck? Yet here was wealth to rival any governor
in the islands, treasure enough to impress anyone.
Will let jewels cascade
into her lap. She touched his arm and would have kissed him, if not for
Gibbs looking on like some indulgent uncle.
"And there be this," Gibbs
said, squirming as he tried to extricate the bulky square parcel from his
waistcoat. He held it out to Will. It was large and flattish, wrapped in
frayed and faded cloth, and tied with a hank of twine.
"What is it?" Will asked,
accepting it. He untied the twine and unfolded the cloth to reveal a scuffed
and battered leather-bound book. It resembled a journal, a ledger, or a
"Yer father's diary," Gibbs
said. "His sea-chest and effects were long gone, but old Bootstrap had
himself a hiding place aboard the Black Pearl. Jack found the book
there and thought as how you might want to have it."
hands were trembling. She had never seen his hands tremble.
As he stared at the book,
too overcome to speak, Elizabeth looked back to Mister Gibbs.
She had heard from Will
the story of how his father had left home with the intention of becoming
a merchant sailor, and had somehow become a member of the crew of the Black
Pearl. 'A good man, a good pirate,' in the words of Jack Sparrow, and
the only one to speak out against the mutiny that had left Jack marooned.
Then, as the true and awful
implications of the curse became clear, it had been the senior William
Turner who sacrificed himself by sending away a piece of the forbidden
gold to his son. He had done this to keep the curse alive, and make sure
that Barbossa and the others suffered eternally for their wickedness.
She burned with curiosity
about the contents of that diary. Her husband's father's tale in his own
words. But she wondered, for Will's sake, if this was for the best. It
had been a hard and bitter pill for him to swallow, that initial revelation
of his father's piratical past. Her lovely Will had come to terms with
it, largely through finding out for himself that, yes indeed, some pirates
could be decent and honorable men. Had, in fact, come to be proud of it.
that there were ugly truths in that diary. Truths that Will would be unable
to deny, written as they would be in his own father's hand. He had hated
himself for a time, there aboard the stolen Interceptor. She did
not know if she could bear to see him hurt like that again.
"So, er," Mister Gibbs said,
faltering, bobbing his head at her. "I take it, Miss Elizabeth, that there
be congratulations in order?"
"Yes," she said, fondly
stroking the gentle curve of her stomach. "The sickness, I could do without,
but at least for now I am shut of those horrid corsets. It'll be a few
"Chosen a name for the little
lad or missy?"
She glanced at Will, but
he was lost in thought, his eyes far and clouded. His lips moved slightly,
soundlessly. Was he thinking what she had been? Weighing whether it might
be better to burn those yellowed pages with their secrets left unread?
"Well," she said, coloring,
"there was never any question. If we have a son, we'll call him Jack."
"That'll make him right
pleased, that will," Gibbs said.
"And for a daughter, naturally,
Will came back to himself
with a start. He clutched his father's book to his chest and took a deep,
quaking breath. "Mister Gibbs, I am in your debt, sir."
"Not mine, boy. I'm but
Jack's messenger in this."
"In Jack's debt, then."
Will laughed, a trifle weakly. "Though, in truth, that is nothing new.
We owe him more than we can ever repay."
"Ye saved him from the gallows,
restored him his ship," Gibbs said. "He might argue over who's indebted
to who. But I'll give him yer thanks."
"Please do," Will said,
once more captivated by the book. "There's something else as well I wish
him to have
I'll give it to you before you go, if you'd be so kind as
to take it to him."
Elizabeth pressed Mister
Gibbs to stay as their guest, but he demurred. It seemed that for all their
fabulous wealth Jack had divided Barbossa's treasure into equal shares
among the crew of the Black Pearl, not even taking extra for himself
they still deemed themselves but simple sailors and pirates. She did
not dare to ask how much of his fortune Mister Gibbs had already squandered
He did agree to stay for
dinner, and regaled them with tales of the past two years. Anamaria, as
it turned out, had put her share of the treasure into a ship of her own,
and had sailed with Jack for a time. The powerful Pearl and the
small, swift Kestrel had made a splendid team. But they had parted
ways in Jack's usual style
on the receiving end of a smart farewell slap
after some argument or indiscretion.
"I'll tell ye, though,"
Gibbs said at one point. "Ye'll be having no thanks from the crew, Miss
Elizabeth, for that song ye taught him. We were all fair sick of it before
the first week be out. Ye should see how well ye like it yerself after
ye've spent a little time in a longboat, hearing it incessantly. Grates
on ye, it does."
By now, according to Mister
Gibbs, Jack was more than rich enough to retire and live out his life like
a king on some lush island plantation.
"He won't, though," Elizabeth
said. "Not Jack."
Her memories were of bonfires
and rum and sprays of sand kicked up under wildly dancing feet. And singing,
and laughing. And the heartfelt longing in his voice as he spoke of his
ship. The Black Pearl was more than a vessel, more than wood and
rope and canvas and tar. It was a dream made real, a soul's yearning given
"No, not our Jack," Gibbs
agreed. "They say Jack Sparrow's blood is equal parts rum and seawater."
Later, after Mister Gibbs
had departed with promises to bear their best and fondest wishes to Jack,
Elizabeth sat at her dressing table combing out her hair with long, smooth
She could see Will in the
glass. He sat behind her, at the foot of their bed. Turning the leather-bound
volume over and over. His face was set and pensive, his eyes troubled.
He had removed his boots and vest, and unfastened his shirt so that the
sides hung away from his tanned and muscular chest, but had made no further
progress than that.
He raised his head.
"Aren't you going to read
I don't know if I quite
dare," he said.
Setting aside her comb,
her tresses falling in long loose curls around the lacy shoulders of her
nightgown, she went to him. As well as her gravid body would allow, she
folded herself to kneel in front of him.
Her hands closed over his,
still holding the book.
"You're afraid of what you
might find?" she asked gently.
"Foolish, I know. But, Elizabeth,
"What, Will?" She pried
one of his hands from the book and kissed it. The back, the knuckles, the
palm and the scar. Then she rested the curve of her cheek in it, and lifted
her eyes to his. "Do you think you'll find some truth in those pages that
will make me stop loving you?"
His eyes closed in a tight,
"William Turner," she said
in a sterner tone. "Look at me."
"Hush. Will, I told you
how it was on that island, remember? With Jack? And that if he hadn't drunk
himself senseless that night, who knows what might have happened. I gathered
my wits the next morning and set that rum afire, every last bottle of it,
and a good thing, too. I told you about it, and did it change your feelings
"No," he said, sounding
both shocked and alarmed that she could even think so. "Never, Elizabeth!
"Though I would not have
blamed you if you had fallen in love with Jack."
Now it was she who rocked
back on her heels in shock and alarm. "Will!"
"He was much bolder than
I was," Will admitted, shamefaced. "I had loved you since the moment I
opened my eyes. You were like an angel hovering over me, Elizabeth. I had
expected to drown, to die, and you saved me. How could I not love you?
All those years
yet I never spoke. I never found the courage. I would
have stood by and said nothing and watched you marry Commodore Norrington,
even as my heart was torn to pieces inside me."
"I knew you cared for me,
"But I did not speak, did
not act," he said. "You needed, no, you deserved a man who could
be bold. Who would know the opportune moment when it was in front of him."
"You are that man."
"Now. If not for Jack, I
never would have been. And so, Elizabeth, if you had fallen in love with
him, I would have died in my soul, but I would have understood."
"For heaven's sake!" she
cried. "I love Jack as I might love a brother. If there was that one night
of temptation, Will, it was the wicked and vile rum that made it so. What
I am trying to tell you is that I love you." She plucked the book
from his grasp and held it before his eyes. "And there is nothing in these
pages that will make me feel otherwise."
"But there may be "
"There may be anything,
I know. Even if there is, you are not your father. You may bear his name,
and you may be the very image of him, but his deeds are not yours. I trust
in what Jack said, that your father was a good man. If he had to do terrible
things, well, have not you and I also? It changes nothing, Will. Nothing."
He took the book from her
and set it aside.
"What are you doing?" she
"Whatever is in that diary
or not, it does not matter now. Not tonight." He drew her upright, and
gathered her into his arms. "I don't want it to matter tonight."
"Oh, Will," she sighed,
leaning her head against his chest. Between them, the child fluttered and
They retired to their bed,
where he held her and caressed her and they made a careful and tender love.
Elizabeth marveled at the sweetness of it. He had been as unsure and inexperienced
as she their first night together, yet they had somehow found their way
to an effortless and joyful completion.
After, then and now and
all the times between, she curled snugly into the warm comfort of his arm,
her head pillowed to hear the steady drumming of his heart. She sank into
a dark and soft sleep.
When she woke, Will was
already up and destroying their bedroom.
Or so she thought, seeing
every drawer pulled to its stop and every trunk opened with contents seemingly
scattered from here to Panama. He muttered to himself as he burrowed through
boxes of old clothing and other belongings.
"Will, what on earth?"
"It's here somewhere," he
said. "Just to know. Just to be sure."
"Aha!" He emerged triumphantly,
holding a browned and much-folded piece of paper. "This. When my father
sent the gold coin, he sent a letter with it."
He gingerly unfolded it.
The paper split along two of the creases. The ink had smeared and run,
but was still mostly legible.
Elizabeth bent her head
next to his as he tipped the letter toward the bright fall of sunlight
at their window.
"You think that the diary
might not be his?" she asked.
"This is his script," Will
said. He opened the cover of the book. An inscription there read This
is the journal of William Turner. Will tapped it, then pointed to the
faded smudges of the letter. At the signature. They were the same.
"It is his, then," she said.
"It must be."
"Not that I doubted Jack,"
She looked at the letter,
handling it with care so as not to further abuse the fragile paper. She
read it aloud.
March the 26th, 1707
My dearest Will,
How I hope that
this letter finds you well and happy and strong. I miss you and your mother
dreadfully, and have for these many years. I hope that my Anne forgives
me for not writing until now. And for it being so short a letter when finally
I have enclosed
something for you that I came across in my travels. Keep it well, son,
and look after it. Keep it always and never sell it, nor give it away.
This is of the utmost importance. I ask you to believe me.
I wish with all
my heart that I might see you soon but I fear it is not to be. I am under
a terrible burden that I cannot explain.
Your absent father, William Turner
"A terrible burden," Will
"Now we know."
"He sent it to me to keep
it away from them. He must have known that by doing so, he would never
be able to escape the curse."
She nodded. "But he must
have thought it an acceptable price to pay to prevent Barbossa and the
others from breaking it. He must have seen that they were evil men, who
would only grow more evil."
"I do not want to read this
"Are you certain, Will?
It is your father
perhaps it is private, and meant for your eyes alone."
"I want to keep nothing
from you. Not now, not ever."
He opened the diary and
paged to the first entry.
From the Diary of William Turner
August the 8th, 1701
I write this by candlelight
as you sleep in the next room, young Will. Tomorrow is a momentous day
for me and I would take this chance to begin a journal to chronicle my
adventures. From what I have heard of shipboard life, my opportunities
for quiet writing may be few and far between.
You may wonder as you grow
older why it was that I chose to leave. Have we not money enough? Was I
not happy with my wife, my home, my son?
Yes, we had money saved
up. Some, at least. Enough to buy a new fishing boat, once mine had been
foundered on the rocks and dashed to ruin. I was lucky to escape that disaster
with my life. But with our debts steadily mounting, and the fishing being
so poor of late, I came to another decision.
The money that we had saved
could either buy that new boat and give me a means to go on fishing
it could keep you and your mother in relative comfort for some years while
I sought a new way to earn a living.
Your mother, as you must
know, is a genteel and learned woman. T'was she who taught me to read and
write and do sums, all skills not often found in a man of such humble beginnings
as am I. She can take in a modest wage inscribing letters or teaching the
French should need arise. The spare room might also be leased to a lodger
for a few extra shillings. So it is that I feel confident that you and
she shall not go hungry in my absence.
A stout man can earn good
pay as a sailor, or so I am told. I am no stranger to the wind and the
waves, though seldom have I ventured far from the sight of land. I am deft
with my hands, adept at wood-working and cooperage as well as fishing,
and those skills are prized aboard most ships.
And, too, there is the call
of the open sea. Your mother, bless her, knows and understands this. I
was never, she says, meant for a life entirely on dry land.
I have signed on with a
ship called the Dolphin, a fine merchantman bound for the New World.
It will carry a cargo of cloth and cut wood, and return laden with the
exotic goods of those tropical seas. Sugar, fruit, spices, perhaps slaves,
perhaps even silver and gold. There is much gold to be had in the New World,
most of it being greedily taken by the Spanish.
The journey will be long.
Months, likely even years. I undertake this diary so that when I return,
or if I do not, you will have some record of my travels.
Be well, my son, and know
that I am
Your father, William Turner
August the 13th, 1701
At last, a moment to take
up pen and ink.
We are now five days out
from port, and I am coming to realize that my perceptions of a sailor's
life had not been altogether accurate.
The living conditions are
abominable, and promise only to get worse. Seen moored in a harbor, the
looks an immense and impressive ship with her tall masts and furled sails
and the graceful wooden planks that curve to form her hull. It seems that
there would be ample room for the crew to lodge in comfort.
That is far from the truth.
The Dolphin is large,
yes, but most of her holds are taken up by cargo and supplies. We cannot
count upon purchasing more provisions, and must therefore take with us
enough to feed the entire crew for many months. Of premium importance is
fresh water, casks of it by the ton.
Also there are spare sails,
rope, planks of wood, tools, tar, paint, nails, pots and pans, gunpowder,
cannon shot in several varieties, the cannons themselves and all the gear
of their use, and the countless other items vital to the keeping of a ship.
Add to this the tonnage of cargo and how quickly the Dolphin becomes
The crew, of which there
are one hundred and seventy men, must crowd themselves in wherever they
can. In the sleeping hold which is shared also with pens of goats, pigs,
and chickens that the officers might enjoy milk, fresh meat, and eggs
swing row upon row of canvas hammocks. These are always in use, for the
men are divided into two watches and take their turns at scant four-hour
stretches of sleep. One's hammock is therefore always warm, as the man
before has just vacated it. Warm, and more often than not acrawl with verminous
August the 14th, 1701
I had been describing
the conditions in which we common sailors must abide, and already it is
sheerest misery. When one sleeps, one's hammock is in constant sway, and
when the sea is rough one will bump into one's neighbors on either side.
The hold where we sleep
is dark and cramped, and ripe with stench not even a week into the voyage.
The men are told to relieve themselves in the head, at the forefront of
the ship, or over the side. Many ignore this and choose to make use of
the lower holds instead. Those laid low by seasickness are often unable
even to reach the rail, and spew their stomachs onto the floor. Too, there
is the smell of the animal pens, and in the galley stores, some of the
foodstuffs have already begun to rot.
Many a time when I partook
of a drink in some tavern by the docks, I would hear sailors-in-port bemoaning
their rations. I took them to be whiners, for it was widely known that
sailors were comparatively well-fed, and that shipboard life was, for all
its discomforts, still preferable to a poor man's life on land.
Now, having sampled for
myself the rations, I cannot fault those sailors for their complaints.
True, the meals are generous in portions, but the quality and variety are
I pray, Will, that you shall
never know such meals as these. I think of your mother serving you a hearty
supper, and wish I could be there with you.
The staple of our diet is
hardtack, an unleavened bread tough as bricks and prone to infestation
by weevils. Those men who eat these biscuits at table have the habit of
rapping them smartly on the boards to cause the creatures to scurry out.
Others take them to their hammocks, to gnaw them in the dark that they
might not have to witness what it is that they consume.
Our meat is mainly dried
and salted beef and pork. It must be soaked in water to leach out the salt,
else it would be flatly inedible. Often it is served in a stew with onions
and root vegetables, dried peas, and beans. We drink beer, and each man
is afforded a daily measure of grog, a watered rum.
Meanwhile, the officers
on the Dolphin, these consist of the captain, a lieutenant, a
first mate, an officer o' the watch, a quartermaster, a bo'sun, a carpenter,
a navigator, and the ship's surgeon fare relatively better in all ways.
They bunk four to a room, with the captain having small but private quarters
of his own. They often eat the same stew and hardtack, but supplemented
with roast chicken, hard cheese, and hot tea.
August the 17th, 1701
We are well and truly out
to sea now, with nothing on all sides but rolling water that spans to the
horizon. Our lives are regulated not by the turning of the sun, but the
tolling of the ship's bell.
What I should give for an
uninterrupted night of sleep! To be rousted from one's hammock when it
barely seems that one's eyes have closed is a hardship indeed.
I have learned that many
of my companions are not here by choice. Some were pressed, seized from
their homes and held bound and blindfold until the Dolphin was too
far from shore to allow them to escape. Others are petty criminals and
debtors who opted for a term of service as a sailor rather than prison.
And I, who am here by choice,
have had cause to wonder at my decision. I had been beguiled, Will, by
the love of the sea and the belief that all sailors would be good and honest
men, bound by a common purpose.
I witnessed a man flogged
He had shirked his duties.
Our waking hours are full to the very minute with the countless constant
tasks that must be done to keep the Dolphin shipshape. There are
always sails or clothing or ropes to be mended, wood to sand and paint,
weapons to tend, rigging to adjust. But this man had simply given up. He
sat with his back to the mainmast and his arms 'round his knees, and refused
to get up.
It was a ghastly thing.
After thrice mutely shaking his head when the lieutenant gave him orders,
and once refusing Captain Hollister himself, this man was hauled bodily
to his feet and tied so that his arms stretched above his head to a hook
that had been suspended from a spar. Then the bo'sun's mate a wretched
bastard of a man, though I suppose I risk discipline myself for daring
to write such a thing took up the cat-o-nine-tails.
This is a terrible weapon,
Will, terrible. It is knotted lengths of coarse rope sprouting from a leather-wrapped
handle. I am told that upon some ships, the rope is braided with barbs
of metal wire. Not so on the Dolphin, I was similarly told by an
old salt whose grin was sickly and strained. On the Dolphin, he
said, the officers deemed themselves merciful.
Merciful! The first stroke
shredded the man's shirt from his back. The second laid open his skin in
long scarlet welts. How he screamed, Will! I had never heard the like.
By the time the lieutenant had counted off twenty lashes, the man merely
hung by his wrists with his head drooped and his back a sheet of blood.
We might have thought him dead if not for the ragged gasps that heaved
They cut him down and he
reeled, nearly falling unconscious. To revive him and this cruelest of
all! the bo'sun dashed a bucket of sea water over him. The pain of the
salt in those wounds makes me flinch and shudder to think of it.
Still, they would not let
him rest. He was ordered to take up his tasks and did so, his eyes as wide
and wild as those of a frantic beast, but he worked with a fierce diligence.
So did we all, after what we had witnessed.
August the 28th, 1701
Such a storm, Will! For
ten days it tossed and rocked our ship. Lightning split the sky in stitches
of fire, the thunder was a cannonade. The wind whipped the waves into such
a frenzy that they smashed over our decks.
Two men were carried overboard
and lost, and a third would have followed but for a rope that ensnared
him. Alas for him, it wrapped 'round his neck and he strangled to death
even as he was saved from drowning.
Ten days, and the living
quarters are now unbearable from the stink of vomit. We are all weak and
shaken from hunger, and the state of our clothing is shameful.
Each man has but a change
or two of shirt and britches, you see, and some not even that. When our
garments become filthy from sweat, we attempt to wash them, but fresh water
is too precious for laundry and the salt of the sea water crusts in the
cloth. When it dries not that our clothing ever wholly dries, with the
dampness in the air the crusts of salt scrape and itch and sting our
flesh. The clothing and scant personal effects of the dead men were auctioned
off to others in the crew.
The officers dress in uniforms,
with striking red waistcoats and buff-colored breeches, stockings and buckled
shoes, belts and plumed hats. The common sailors wear whatever they like.
Most of them choose to go barefoot for ease of climbing about, though this
leads to them treading on unsanded splinters or errant nails.
One man got such a gangrene
of the foot that the surgeon and carpenter together had him held down and
sawed it off. Their efforts might be to no good; that man is feverish from
the infection and now they are saying he is apt to die.
Though it is an affectation
that bewilders and amuses my shipmates by turns, I, Will, persist in wearing
good leather boots. The ones your mother gave me, the knee-high ones with
the straps across the front. They have held up wondrous well thus far,
protecting me from those splinters and nails. However, they do make my
feet swelter, that I must admit.
August the 31st, 1701
Clear skies at last!
The storm had largely blown itself out but the clouds had remained threatening.
This morning they parted like a benediction, shining down rays of blessed
The ship looks like a washerwoman's
alley, all strung with drying clothes. Because the sea is also calm, the
captain has struck the sails and allowed us to try fishing. We are powerfully
weary of salt beef, and the promise of white and flaky fishmeat is more
tempting even than gold.
Some few have gone swimming,
but it was a surprise to me to learn how many of them lack this skill.
I suppose it is sensible
why waste their time and strength in learning
to swim? Any man who falls overboard from an ocean-going vessel such as
this will only prolong his suffering if he seeks to battle the waves.
September the 1st, 1701
I am in high regard today,
Will. After writing to you yesterday, I tried my hand at fishing and landed
three. Two of middling size, but one the likes of which I had never seen,
and which was enough to ensure us all a fish dinner.
September the 20th, 1701
We passed another
ship today. Close enough to hail. A Dutchman, bound for home. How we envied
It has only been some ten
weeks, but it seems so much longer. One's world shrinks until it is the
ship, only the ship. We are beginning to see the signs of wear and tear
on our bodies and our minds.
The diet leads our teeth
to rattle in their sockets. Sores chafe us and are slow to heal. Three
men have been injured in falls, one of them so severely that the surgeon's
only recourse was to put him out of his pain.
Two more men have been flogged,
one for stealing, and one for striking the lieutenant. This latter man
could have, by the laws of the navy, been put to death for his offense.
Had he not been nephew to the quartermaster, I do not doubt that another
auction would have been held at the foot of the mainmast. We are all called
out to witness any sort of punishment, and it is grim.
Not all of the officers
have become tyrants, but it seems that as the days go on, and the blue
water rolls endlessly past, they are more demanding and short-tempered
Two men were in fact shot
dead. Their crime was one that I'm told is more common than many might
think aboard these long and lonely journeys. They were caught together
in an act of buggery, and summarily executed.
October the 15th, 1701
For six days now.
Not a breath of wind to
so much as flap the sails. Not a drop of rain. We are short of water, too,
and our lips grow parched and crack. The sun is merciless. By the calendar
it is autumn, but it seems not so here.
I swear that steam rises
from the deck, steam born of the humid sweat of our bodies. Now and then,
someone will seek to rouse us with a song, a pipe, or a fiddle, but the
melody soon falters and dies.
A man went mad from the
heat. He began raving at people who were not there, calling for his mother
and his sweetheart. We bound him to his hammock, yet somehow still he managed
to sink his teeth into his wrists and so let out his blood and die.
I think of Anne, my lovely
Anne. What I would give to see her face, her smile. To touch her and hold
October the 19th, 1701
A brisk and cool breeze
out of the north has swept the deck clean of the malaise that had gripped
us. The sails snap full and brisk, white bells overhead. Our flags flap
gaily and every man goes about his duties with renewed vigor.
October the 27th, 1701
Land, a port, a town, at
This is St. Augustine, Florida,
currently under English control. The New World, Will, the Americas!
This is a frantic and bustling
place, and to see so many strange faces after nearly three months of having
only my fellow sailors to look upon is dizzying. The voices chatter at
us in a variety of languages. Merchants wave goods and shout prices. Children
swarm about us, offering to show us to a good tavern or brothel.
We fled ashore as if we
had not set foot on land in a year. Each of us had some small amount of
money to spend, out of the pay we shall be due at the end of the voyage.
We bore straight for the taverns to slake and stuff ourselves, and to gamble
a practice forbidden aboard the Dolphin for the bad blood it can
cause among the men. Some swiftly availed themselves of the company of
What a place this is! A
mingling of nationalities, a mingling of peoples of all colors. We took
on six able-bodied sailors here and replenished our water casks, and when
all too soon it was time to sail, we trudged back aboard with our pockets
bulging with fruits and sweets and what little items we had purchased in
Port Royal, 1718
Will stopped reading and
leaned back, stretching his neck and rubbing his eyes. Elizabeth did the
Though William Turner had
been possessed of a neat penmanship, an oceangoing vessel never did provide
for the steadiest of surfaces. In places, the inked letters skidded and
looped across the paper in drunkard's scrawls.
"Was it like that when you
crossed?" she asked, frowning as she tried to remember her own impressions
of the voyage from England.
In 1707, that had been,
years later than the times William Turner was describing. Her father's
duty and honor was to raise Port Royal from the rubble. It had once been
the most notorious nest of pirates, nominally under English rule that could
not be enforced until it was rebuilt after an earthquake had smote it to
ruins in 1692.
She and her father had been
appointed a luxurious cabin, a tad small perhaps but nicely furnished,
and their meals had been served on covered silver dishes. She had never
seen the galley, or the midshipmen's quarters, and whenever she had gone
on deck, an officer had preceded her so that the sailors made an effort
to straighten up and look presentable and mind their language.
Had belowdecks been as William
Turner's diary described? Had the crew dined on hardtack and stew of salted
beef, and slept in hammocks so close that they jostled their neighbors
with each crest and trough of the waves?
"Mine was a working passage,"
Will said. "I had not the money for a cabin of my own, just a narrow berth
off the galley. I earned my keep by being small and spry enough to fit
into places where grown men could not reach. I fetched water, and gunpowder,
and ran messages from one end of the ship to the other."
"And you only ten! Was it
dark, and cramped, and terrible?"
He nodded. "I saw men flogged,
too. A dozen lashes apiece for drunkenness."
"My poor Will." She caressed
his head when he leaned it to her shoulder. "How glad I am that times have
His silence somehow changed,
and she had the clear certainty that he was refraining from speaking.
"Will? They have
changed, haven't they?"
"I wouldn't know, Elizabeth."
"But you do. You hear the
sailors' talk, I know that you do. Your swords have become the very thing
among the officers. What have you heard?"
"That discipline is a vital
component of the royal navy," he said, drawing slightly away from her and
running his fingers through his disheveled hair. "And even our own Commodore
Norrington has been known to order men lashed for their offenses."
She sat blinking, trying
to imagine Norrington giving such an order. Punishing pirates for their
crimes, yes, she knew he had done that. Her father the governor had denied
her pleas to attend the hangings until she was fifteen, but she had heard
of them. Had seen for herself the final fate of Barbossa's crew.
"He had his own men flogged?"
she asked, incredulous. "Norrington?"
"He knows his duty, and
follows it without fail," Will said.
Elizabeth supposed that
was true. The Commodore had always seemed to her to be a gentle man of
manners and polite humor. As a girl, she had thought him jesting when he
declared that all pirates deserved 'a short drop and a sudden stop.' His
behavior toward her had never been anything but kind.
Yet, as she thought of it,
she had heard him speak sharply to his men now and again, and he certainly
had not balked even at trying to have Jack hanged. He would have put Will
to the rope, too, and never mind Elizabeth's pleas, had not the governor
bid him otherwise. Duty first, duty above all else. That was James Norrington.
Will turned again to the
diary. She read over his shoulder. The entries became more sporadic, sometimes
weeks going by without so much as a note, then several days in a row covering
It went on in much the same
vein. The food, the living conditions, the tyranny of the officers, the
ports, the discipline, the weather. The dismayed realization that his meager
earnings would never be the substantial sum he had expected. Half the crew
being laid low with the bloody flux, a dozen men dead of it. Storms that
snapped the yardarms, men mangled by flying ropes and wood.
William Turner wrote of
how he had become apprentice to the ship's carpenter. He was awarded not
much greater pay, but was treated to the addition of a slab of hard cheese
with his breakfast and a mug of tinned cocoa or sometimes coffee with his
He was called upon to assist
in amputations, sawing through the shattered bones of men whose limbs had
been crushed. He also helped to keep the ship's books, which included the
daily muster and the cook's log.
Once, he saw a man named
Barry, with whom he had forged a friendship, be struck by lightning atop
the highest mast, saw Barry's smoldering body tumble away into the sea.
Another entry told of the
crew fancying they saw mermaids leaping in the waves, and heard their sweet
and mournful songs. There, too, was the time that nine men swore on their
mother's names that they had seen the coils of a finned serpent thrashing
off the starboard side, a serpent of gigantic proportions.
And there were skirmishes
with pirates. These, Elizabeth and Will read most attentively. A crippled
ship flying Dutch colors had turned out to be a trick, when all of a once
a hoard of savage men erupted from hiding and attacked those unfortunates
of the Dolphin, William Turner among them, who had gone to render
Turner had escaped that
battle with a single cut to the thigh, thanks to the captain's foresight
in arming the boarding party. As it happened, that was the day that William
Turner discovered he was that rarest of creatures a true natural and
untrained marksman. He had scarcely ever fired a pistol before, but found
that his shots unerringly hit their targets.
Reading this seemed to please
Will, and Elizabeth kissed him and knew that he was thinking of his own
skill with a blade. It had come to him so easily, even with all of his
diligence. More than one member of the garrison envied him deeply that
On another occasion, the
was engaged with cannons by a 20-gun French vessel. It was a shaken William
Turner who inscribed that day's entry, as he fought to accurately describe
the din and smoky horror of the battle.
He wrote of how the ship's
gunners stuffed their ears with wads of cotton, and it was still to not
much avail because the boom of the cannons soon had them bleeding in trickles
down the sides of their necks.
And how a single twelve-pound
ball could punch through a hull or a rail, sending a deadly hail of splinters
to shred sails and sailors alike. Or chain shot, two iron weights connected
by a chain, spinning to shear through masts and bring down rigging. Or
grapeshot, the deck-clearer.
The Dolphin was saved
that day by the timely arrival of another English ship, the Westminster,
a massive 74-gun man-o-war that sent the French fleeing for their lives.
The Westminster had lent what help it could to the foundering Dolphin
and its men, and shepherded them all to a safe port in St. Kitts. They
had then been months ashore as the damage to the hull and masts was repaired.
"Listen to this," Will said
in sudden excitement. "Here, as we languished in St. Kitts awaiting
the day we would be able to take to the seas how odd it is that while
one is at sea, one yearns for land, yet no sooner has the salt spray dried
from one's cheeks that one begins to hunger once more for the waves we
have heard fearful rumors of a new pirate scourge of the islands.
"It had been said that
the age of piracy was passing, thanks to the presence and diligence of
His Majesty's fleet, but perhaps that is wishful fancy on the part of the
navy. This new ship is held to be painted black as night, with black sails.
Her captain is said to be very young for the rank, but canny as a fox.
These rumors do little to appease the wounded morale of my shipmates. Having
twice escaped falling into pirate clutches, we all wonder if our luck would
hold a third time."
"Canny as a fox," Elizabeth
said. "A fox who'd near drowned in a rum barrel."
"They say he wasn't like
that until after Barbossa marooned him," Will said. "Not completely."
"I find it hard to imagine
Jack Sparrow any other way. Read on, Will."
From the Diary of William Turner
April the 19th, 1704
We are quit of St. Kitts,
finally. Delays at the last minute. A good number of men have abandoned
the Dolphin, a matter which causes the new captain much apoplexy.
He has found it necessary to hire on nearly a dozen sailors, and some of
them not at all what we would call able-bodied.
It is the tales and worries
that have done this, I think. Before seeing it with our own eyes, many
of us had not truly known how ferocious and terrifying a pirate attack
I have heard such tales
from old salts in the taverns of St. Kitts. They say that the goal of any
pirate is to inspire such fear by his mere presence that his victim ship
will surrender without a single shot fired. If this is done, the pirates
are said to be lenient with the crew. They will loot, but will in general
leave the ship and its men intact.
If, however, a ship chooses
to resist, the pirates will show no mercy. They commit hideous atrocities
upon captains who refuse to surrender. I was told of one defiant captain
whose belly was slit that a section of his gut be drawn out through the
hole, said section then nailed to the mast. This captain was then made
to dance a jolly hornpipe about the mast while the pirates clapped and
chanted and played tunes, and his gut unspooled and his feet slid in his
own blood, until at last he was dead.
Other horrors, too
I stop myself to recall that I had originally meant this journal to be
a keepsake for my son. Do I wish to subject him to these gruesome tales?
My poor, dear Will, who must be a fine tall lad by now. Yet I have resolved
to myself that I must be honest, else this account has no meaning.
The purpose of these atrocities
men stuck chest-deep in barrels full of gunpowder and made to hold matches
in their teeth, unlucky female passengers and officers' wives abused so
severely that they died of it was to inspire all other ships with a sense
of terror, and thus encourage them to be quick to surrender.
This sense of terror now
well and truly holds the Dolphin in its grasp. Our new captain,
who had been lieutenant until Hollister was caught by grapeshot, will tolerate
none of it. Captain Danvers is determined to prove himself and thus be
promoted to the rank he now holds by default.
He has stressed his authority
by ordering floggings for infractions so small as to have passed by unpunished
under Hollister's tenure. Fully half the crew have tasted of the cat, most
of these the new men. It was Danvers' belief that he must well and strongly
prove to them that he is in command.
We will sail, he tells us,
on toward Kingdon. It is, he says, by-God-and-thunder an English holding,
and he will not shirk from our course no matter how many reports he hears
of pirates in that area.
April the 26th, 1704
We are nearing Kingdon,
and there is a grim surety among the crew that we shall not live to see
Even some of the other officers
have pled with Captain Danvers, begging him to rethink his plan of action.
He scoffs at them and reminds them that the Dolphin was completely
refitted and resupplied in St. Kitts, and that any man who would turn tail
at the merest whisper of danger should have stayed home with his mother.
He will lead us to doom,
I fear. Because of my peculiar status, somewhere between crewman and officer,
I hear all the talk of both. It is the widely-held belief that Danvers
will never surrender.
John Parsons, my master
in carpentry, is in a particular fright. He was near paralytic with it
in the prior attacks, and is now working himself to a froth at the very
notion of more pirates. He tells me that it is custom for pirates who seize
a ship to seize also any men of skill.
"Be warned, William," he
told me. "They take carpenters, even apprentices. Any man who knows one
end of a hammer from the other is good enough for them."
April the 27th, 1704
I have seen the Black
We came upon the scene of
a battle, and the very sight left us slack-jawed. Our old friend the Winchester
was ablaze. Flames scurried up her rigging like quick and able sailors,
and her deck was awash in fire.
Near the dying Winchester
was a ship the likes of which I had never seen. I had discounted the rumors
but now saw them to be true. It was black, black as a ship carved from
midnight. Only the stark white of its skull-and-crossbones stood out.
Longboats had set off from
the Black Pearl to board the Winchester. Many man-to-man
fights took place on the fire-swept deck. Pistols spat smoke, cutlasses
clashed with swords. The screams of the injured and the yells of the pirates
reached us across the waves.
And Captain Danvers stood
still as stone, and wide-eyed as a child. His officers asked him if we
would go to the aid of the Winchester, if we should attack the Black
Pearl now, while her crew was scattered in the longboats.
I thought that he must surely
have grasped at this chance for glory. What a prize it would have been,
to take this renowned pirate ship, and to save the Winchester!
But Danvers gave the order
instead to make speed away from the battle. Without so much as firing a
single cannon. He claimed that it was to see us all to safety before the
powder magazine blew; such an explosion would tear us to pieces if we were
Not a man aboard gave argument.
We counted ourselves lucky to have come across the Black Pearl while
she was engaged, and unable to give chase.
I took up a spyglass and
scanned the decks, my curiosity leading me to wonder about this canny young
captain. I saw that the pirates were typical of their ilk, dressed all
in a hodgepodge of colors and patterns, some of them having gone to great
lengths to make themselves look all the more vicious.
It has been my observation,
Will, that the stories one hears of daring and heroic feats are more often
legend than fact. Yet believe me when I tell you that I saw with my own
eyes two men dueling on the Winchester's yardarm. They balanced
upon it like spiders on a web as they went back and forth, blades flashing
in the fire that crawled up the rigging toward them.
One of these combatants,
I knew from our rescue before. He was an officer of the Winchester,
a tall and cold-featured blond man who wielded a sword as though it was
a part of his own arm. Yet he was evenly matched by his foe, a slim figure
with wild black hair that flew about his tanned face in a welter of braids.
With the spyglass, I could see the wink of gold as he grinned grinned,
Will, for he was clearly having the very time of his life.
This, I am certain, was
the Black Pearl's captain. He seemed almost to dance on the yardarm,
heedless of the occasional pistol-shot, his lips moving as he no doubt
taunted his opponent.
And then it was over. In
the blink of an eye. One moment they fought, the next this dark young man
darted in and smashed the hilt of his sword into the blond officer's mouth.
The Winchester's man teetered and fell. I followed his body with
the spyglass and watched it strike the deck, imagined the snapping of his
When I swung the glass high
again, I was struck with a chill. The pirate captain still stood upon the
yardarm, as carefree on that precarious perch as I might have been on a
London cobblestone street.
And he was staring directly
It gave me a jolt, Will,
that it did. I knew almost at once that he was looking at the Dolphin,
but it seemed that our eyes met and he was not marking the ship in his
mind, but marking me. His eyes were wide and clear, unsquinting
despite the sun. Uncommon eyes. Lined and dark.
Then he doffed his hat and
waved it in a gallant bow, and leaped down and twisted his body and thrust
his sword into the Winchester's heavy mainsail. This carried him
down in a swift descent, the blade ripping a long split in the burning
sailcloth as he went.
I saw him catch a rope and
swing wide over the teeming deck, and then he dropped and was lost from
my sight in the melee. By this time, the Dolphin had caught a brisk
wind and the bo'sun smote me angrily on the back so that I nearly lost
the spyglass overboard, and shouted at me to look alive and haul lines,
damn-yer-eyes, haul lines.
We soon left the doomed
and the victorious Black Pearl far behind, and every man aboard
is thankful for our luck. Yet I think of the look in that young captain's
marking our ship, marking me
and I cannot quite share their good
May the 14th, 1704
After spending a great deal
of time in soul-searching, I have decided to take up this diary again.
I nearly did not, Will, because I hoped that you might always remember
your father as a good and honest man.
Not as a pirate.
I am now a crewman aboard
the Black Pearl. I have been such for nigh three weeks now, under
some duress because I chose to join them and sign their Articles rather
than let them shoot me.
It was perhaps not the most
honorable choice a man could ever make. I do not expect absolution or forgiveness.
I hope only for your understanding, Will, for it was my only thought that
if I should die, I would lose all chance at seeing you and your dear mother
So it was that I chose life,
thinking that in life there was hope, and when a pistol was thrust into
my face and I was asked if I was a carpenter, and would I care to join
their crew, I said 'aye.' This I did with a searing sense of anger and
betrayal that I cannot write of even now.
They took aboard the Black
Pearl myself and Daniel O'Malley, the Irish lad who was apprentice
to our surgeon, and Jim Burrock because Jim begged leave to join the pirate
We were allowed to bring
our belongings, and were further laden down with goods from the Dolphin.
As I had been in the habit of keeping this diary among my meager store
of carpentry tools, I brought it, though I do wonder if it might have been
best to leave it behind.
Thus far, we have been well-treated.
Daniel is distraught, and I sometimes fear he may try something foolish
and get himself killed
he is a comely lad and has drawn some unwelcome
looks from a few of this scurvy band. Jim is already quite at home among
the crew, even claiming to know some of them from taverns in Tortuga.
May the 16th, 1704
I will write now of the
taking of the Dolphin while it remains fresh in my mind. Not, I
suspect, that the memory will ever leave me.
Our fears of the pirates
proved very well-founded indeed. The pirate captain Jack Sparrow is his
name, the selfsame dark young man I had seen sparring so acrobatically
with the Winchester's officer high on the yardarm had seen enough
of the Dolphin to remember it, and guessed at her most likely course.
They set upon us in the
moonless late of the night, their black sails serving them well in this
endeavor and their sweeps, long oars cutting the water, serving them even
better. The officer o' the watch did not notice the large ship, did not
notice the longboats rowing silently toward us.
Something of a celebration
was in order at the time. Captain Danvers had ordered each man to be given
a pint of rum. Not grog, which is watered, but the straight stuff. And
the mood was merry, though also wary under Danvers' eye
no one had forgotten
the rash of floggings that had marked his ascension to the captaincy. No
man dared make quite too merry.
The pirates must have scaled
the sides of the Dolphin, agile as monkeys and quiet as cats. Before
any man of us knew what was about, they leapt among us with shattering
crashes of pistol shots and fierce war-cries. One, a small and fiendishly
laughing man, rolled a fuse-spitting ball packed with gunpowder into the
stack of rum bottles, and the explosion sent flaming gouts spraying over
We were thrown into a confusion,
Will. Many of my shipmates were befuddled by rum, and of those who were
armed, no one thought to get off a shot until it was too late. This was
perhaps just as well, as I have previously mentioned the ways of pirates
with those who resist.
They brought us to bay smartly,
we a cluster of frightened sailors as these savage monsters leaned close
and leered and jeered with many a cloud of fetid stinking breath. They
brandished knives and cutlasses in our faces.
One great brute of a man,
black-skinned as a Moor, towered above the rest, and the lanterns struck
bright spots of light from the silver studs he wore embedded in the skin
around his eyes and over much of his exposed flesh. Another, thin and scrawny,
wore a bandage tied slantwise around his head, and padding filled a freshly
blinded eyesocket. A result, I suppose, of the fight with the Winchester.
When we were all disarmed
and held helpless at swords' and pistol's point, the man leading this boarding
party strode to the rail and fired a shot into the air. He was an older
man than one usually meets at sea, gruff and coarse in appearance, with
a greying beard. This, I would later learn, was Barbossa, the first mate
of the Black Pearl.
Shortly thereafter, a final
longboat arrived and the pirate captain came aboard with a grin and a swagger.
Upon close inspection, I saw that he was indeed quite young, and knew that
to have command of a ship at his age, he must be competent indeed.
Though the deck was steady
and the sea calm, he strolled among us in a rolling and amiable stagger.
Gold flashed in his smile, and cunning flashed in his dark eyes. He singled
out Danvers and chided him, telling him that he would forever remember
the day he had almost escaped Captain Jack Sparrow.
Then he turned to the men
and, with as somber a look as his mischievous face seemed able to muster,
asked in all seriousness whether Danvers was a fair and decent captain,
whether he was kind or cruel to the men in his charge.
Feet shuffled and eyes averted
as Danvers blustered. Then John Fallon spoke up, saying that Danvers did
show a heavy hand with the cat o' nine tails, and as if his words had broken
a dam, a torrent of like complaints poured forth. Some men shed their shirts
to show still-healing welts. They averred that Danvers was both a bully
and a coward, which to the mind of any sailing man is a despicable combination.
Jack Sparrow, with his brows
lowered dangerously and the boozy goodwill entirely gone from his voice
now, stated that any man so in love with the lash should have a taste of
it himself. In a trice, the glowering Moor had stripped Danvers of his
fine red coat and bound him to the mast. Barbossa walked among us with
the cat swinging from his hand, inviting us in a sneering tone to step
up, lads, step up and have some of our own back.
To our shock, Jim Burrock
did so eagerly. When he had striped two strokes across Danvers' back
and Danvers shrieked like a banshee, then wept like a girl he turned
to Sparrow and Barbossa and asked to be taken on as a crewman.
Others shouted at him and
called him a vile traitor, but Burrock only spat to show his disgust with
us, and went to stand among the pirates.
When no one else would step
forward to lash Danvers, Barbossa gave the Moor a nod and that black giant
set about with such brutal efficiency that Danvers fainted three times
and was revived by dashes of cold, salty water before Sparrow intervened,
and said that enough was enough.
At this point, he regarded
the rest of us. His pirates had been busy elsewhere on the ship, and men
ran to and fro with casks, bolts of cloth, weapons, spices, food, the navigation
instruments, and whatever else they could carry. Jack Sparrow ambled along
the line of us and asked idly which of us was the ship's surgeon. Some
of his men had been scuffed about in the last battle, he explained, and
needed seeing-to. At this, the scrawny youth with the bandage nodded and
rubbed fitfully at the spot where his eye had been.
It happened that our former
surgeon had been one of those who jumped ship in St. Kitts, leaving poor
young Daniel O'Malley to care for the rest of us. But too many men had
already looked his way, and Sparrow stopped before him, a braid plaited
with red and white beads swaying beside his cheek.
He was surprisingly mild
in his questioning, his expression all the while as if he and young Daniel
shared the most amusing of secrets. The boy was pitiably earnest as he
told Sparrow that he was but an apprentice, an unschooled one at that,
hardly a true man of medicine.
But that was good enough
as far as Jack Sparrow minded. He took Daniel aside with the others.
And as he turned back, of
a sudden and to my immense shock, my carpenter-master John Parsons cried
out to me in a loud voice, "Beware, Will, beware, they will take you, too,
they will take a carpenter!"
Now, Will, a dabbler at
hammer and nails and whittling I was, but I would no more call myself a
full carpenter than the poor O'Malley boy might have called himself the
Surgeon Royal. And I was astounded that Parsons should blurt forth such
a thing, until I saw the crafty glint in his eye and knew that he meant
the pirates to take me, thereby sparing himself.
Yet I was too stunned to
speak. Henry Farrington did, in honest puzzlement, saying that he had thought
Parsons to be the carpenter. To this, Parsons stamped quickly upon his
foot. But by then, the deed was done, and a playful little smile capered
about the lips of Jack Sparrow as he looked from one of us to the other.
Of me, he asked my name.
I replied truthfully William Turner. And he asked my place on the ship.
Parsons shouted that I was
the carpenter, curse them the stupid pirates, the carpenter, take him,
take him away for pity's sake and leave the rest of us be.
I swear that I never saw
Sparrow move. One instant he stood before me, as jovial and at his ease
as a man going for a Sunday afternoon stroll. The next, his sword was leveled
at Parsons with the point prodding the man's adam-apple, and his eyes had
tightened into a narrow look of dislike.
His voice was deceptively
soft. "I don't much care for liars on my ship, Mister Parsons," he said.
"Thieves, aye, and murderers, and the odd rapist or two. We are pirates
after all. But I have some standards, savvy? Now speak me honestly, or
I'll have out your voicebox and see if it can do the talking for you."
He gave a little poke with
the sword for emphasis, enough to draw a bead of blood. Parsons quailed,
and admitted that yes, he was the carpenter and I only his apprentice.
"Was that so hard, mate?"
Jack Sparrow asked, and was all smiles again. He glanced my way. "Now,
gather your tools and kit and all, William Turner. You're coming with us."
My mouth opened, though
God help me, Will, I had no notion as to what I might say. I had no desire
to go with them, but neither did I have a desire to feel that sharp sword's
tip tickling under my chin.
Parsons collapsed, bawling
in relief, and this was his undoing. The sight of his grateful tears must
filled the pirates with disgust and they set to kicking and pummeling him
until his howls were in earnest pain.
"I can't stand a weaseling
coward," Jack Sparrow confided to me. "A man who'd stab his own mates in
the back would do the same to me, and we can't have that, can we?"
"I suppose not," I said,
as evenly as I could.
And so it was that when
the Black Pearl's longboats made their way back to the ominous shadow
of the ship, they went riding low in the water loaded down with goods from
the Dolphin, as well as myself, young O'Malley, and Burrock.
May the 18th, 1704
I must confess that I am
finding life aboard the Black Pearl to be quite different form that
on the Dolphin
and in many ways, far more pleasant.
Even my limited experience
tells me that this is an uncommonly fine vessel. She carries no cargo,
only men and guns and provisions, and what loot has been plundered from
her victims. This makes for ample space, and as the crew is smaller, we
all have much more elbow room.
Also, there are three watches
as opposed to the Dolphin's two, which means that we enjoy longer
hours of sleep. I have a hammock that is solely my own, that I need not
share with another and in that, Will, I am exceedingly glad.
The matter of discipline
differs as well. There is no flogging, as I believe I may have heretofore
mentioned, but what punishments there are tend to be swift and decisive.
Jack Sparrow, for all his apparent good nature, runs a strict ship.
His men are required to
keep their weapons cleaned and ready for use at all times. If they disagree
among themselves, they are forbidden to fight aboard ship but expected
to take swords and pistols ashore at the next landfall and settle their
argument in a duel.
Gambling is permitted, but
to be caught cheating at it is a dire thing
if such a man is not killed
outright, he is often scarred about the face so that all others will be
warned of his propensities with cards or dice. The men are allowed a generous
ration of real rum each day, though should a man repeatedly be so drunk
as to become ineffective in battle, he shall be denied this ration.
It is curious how readily
they accept new men into the crew. Of course, it would be folly for me
to attempt any sort of rebellion, given that I am surrounded at any given
time by a dozen or more hardy pirates. But in their minds, that I have
signed their Articles makes me one of them, bound by their laws and their
So it is that I am not seen
as a prisoner or hostage, but am treated as a full member of the crew.
I have been assigned duties along with the rest of them, I dine with them.
And I find that, while some of them are devils just this side of Hell,
most are in their way as loyal and fair-minded of men as I have ever known.
They know that I keep this
diary. That I am a man of letters is considered rather impressive, for
many of these pirates read and write only enough to make their marks on
the Articles as agreed. I have taken some ribbing for it, they call me
'clerk' and 'headmaster' and the like. But I take more ribbing for my boots,
which I steadfastly refuse to give up.
These are the same ones
that were upon my feet when I left home so many years ago. I've had to
have them repaired in a port or three, but they have held up well despite
So many years, indeed
it is nearly beyond belief, Will. You must be so grown now, so tall. You
were but a tot of only almost four years when I left. Your mother always
said that you resembled me, in the eyes and the features of the face.
I wonder if she was right,
and that if I saw you, I would recognize a younger image of myself. Or
has the time changed you, and given you more the look of your mother? I
am sure she is seeing to your education. It was always our hope that you
should be more than a humble fisherman.
May the 23rd, 1704
Took a quick little brig
yesterday. More of a sloop, Jack says, and it was a shame that she had
to be scuttled. The crew's own fault for resisting.
So they say, but the blood
and smoke and stink of battle still chokes me. Their screams still ring
in my ears.
She was called the Alejandra,
and was bound for Santiago from Cartagena. One might have thought that
a small ship like that would not have been carrying enough cargo to make
a fight worth their lives, but once we had taken her, we saw differently.
The Alejandra had
been carrying the news that a mine had been discovered up in the hills,
and a chest of pure silver. Her captain had hoped that by running swift
with no escort, he might be able to elude capture and bring this treasure
safely to the governor in Santiago, to thence be taken to Spain.
It was with the utmost joy
that Jack launched our attack. I was in his longboat without fully knowing
how I had come to be there; he had coaxed me against all better judgment
when I sooner would have stayed behind.
I asked him why it was that
he, the captain, should risk himself in a boarding party. I recalled the
and he laughed when I told him that I had been the man with the spyglass.
"Barbossa led the attack
on your ship, right enough," he said. "But I can't let him have all the
fun, now, can I?"
He seems, oddly, to have
taken a liking to me. And odder still, I find that I like him as well.
He has a certain daring charm, this pirate, and he has not yet asked anything
of his men that he is not willing to do himself. I have often found myself
wondering that a man like Barbossa older, rougher, and with a narrow
look to him should be willing to serve as first mate to a man like Jack.
Still and all, no one can
deny that Jack's plans are often brilliant, and cleverly executed. He seems
the sort of pirate that one does hear of in the tales. I had begun to think
that those were only legend, as are the dashing highwaymen of England.
Yet put Jack Sparrow atop a great black horse instead of a great black
ship, give him a mask and a cape instead of a hat and coat, and he would
be as equally at home.
As I was pressed into the
boarding party, after the Black Pearl's guns had so holed the side
of the Alejandra that she resembled a Swiss cheese, I was persuaded
to arm myself to the teeth. I had four pistols stuck around my belt, a
cutlass, and a knife. And, knowing that my hitherto unknown but uncanny
marksmanship would be of more use to me than my indifferent skill with
a blade, I took up two more pistols and thrust them through the straps
on my boots.
This drew roaring laughter.
It was a deadly-serious business we were embarked upon; the survivors on
the listing deck of the Alejandra were peppering the water with
shots all around us and if they managed to get their deck-guns working
we would likely be blasted to pieces. But even as we rowed, a balding yellow-eyed
man named Pintel called to the others to "take a look at old Bootstrap,
Their mirth aside, I found
those last two pistols to be the dividing line between my own life and
death. And perhaps Jack Sparrow's as well. He was interrogating the Alejandra's
captain, a difficult matter as Jack's command of Spanish was not much better
than my own, and if the Spaniard spoke English he was hiding it well.
Jack had bade me stand nearby
and 'keep a weather eye out,' which I did as the others savagely cut down
the remaining crew and amused themselves by taking shots at the ones who
floundered desperately in the water.
It was then that a man burst
from hiding, some Spanish giant with tattoos covering his chest. How a
man of that size he rivaled Simbakka, our Moor could have concealed
himself on a ship so small remains a mystery to me.
He charged at Jack, a cutlass
in each hand. The swinging curved blades made me think of farmers scything
their fields. Jack whirled. He was startled by the shout, and startled
moreso when he beheld the giant bearing down on him, but a cat could not
have smarter reflexes than Jack Sparrow. He somersaulted over backwards
and came up with his sword drawn.
By then, I had snatched
the pistols from my bootstraps. I fired on the giant, praying that my powder
was dry and that the gun would not misfire. It boomed obligingly in my
hand and spat its deadly ball between the giant's eyes.
The shot killed him, but
he had been running full-tilt down the sloped deck of the sinking ship,
and his body became a loose tumble of heavy flesh and thick limbs. One
madly waving cutlass would have bisected me had I not jumped back. As it
was, it scored a line through my shirt and the skin of my belly.
While I had been thus engaged,
the Spanish captain had seized Jack in a strong grip and they were fighting
for possession of Jack's sword. I saw, which Jack did not, that the captain
was also creeping a hand to the small of his back, where I spied the hilt
of a dagger. He freed this, and was about to plunge it into Jack, when
I fired my second shot.
The ball tore into the captain's
side and knocked him off Jack, who was on his feet quicker than quick.
He finished it with a jab to the Spaniard's heart.
"Nicely done, William Turner,"
he said to me.
We returned to the Black
Pearl with our plunder. I will say this for the Spanish they are
fancy dressers, second perhaps only to the French. The pirates have adorned
themselves well in their mismatched finery.
May the 29th, 1704
They have taken to calling
me Bootstrap, or Bootstrap Bill.
It began with Pintel, who
had witnessed my final actions aboard the Alejandra. Ragetti, he
of the glass eye, apes him like a speaking shadow and took it up. Before
two days had gone by, they were all doing it. All but Jack, except on occasions
when he seemed particularly amused.
I am, I cannot deny, now
a fully accepted member of the crew. Would that I could say the same for
poor Daniel O'Malley, my former shipmate from the Dolphin. He did
his best, did young Daniel, brought aboard as he was to see to the men
of the Black Pearl that had been injured in the battle with the
I, having assisted Mister
Parsons the carpenter in a few amputations sawing bones is more a job
for carpenters than for surgeons, as it requires considerable strength
especially should the amputation be taking place above the knee where the
thigh bone is very thick helped young Daniel to the best of my abilities.
But some of the men were far beyond his meager skill.
Although it is small of
me, I cannot help being glad that one of them was Burrock, who had so readily
turned from the Dolphin. He had lost most of an arm near the shoulder,
and though we got it off him and closed the stump, he had lost too much
blood to survive.
All of this, Jack accepted
with equanimity. Such losses are a known risk of the pirate trade.
They do look after their
dead and maimed far better than the navies, I have found. A dead man's
nearest known kin will receive any shares owed him at the time of his death,
with the additional sum of a hundred guineas. A man who loses the use of
a limb or an eye will be awarded fifty guineas, and be welcome to keep
his place aboard the ship if he is willing and able to do so. It is very
regular to find men missing a leg or an arm serving as a ship's cook.
But the battle with the
brought more injuries, one of them severe. This unfortunate, known as Bald
Tom for reasons perhaps obvious, had been riddled with splinters and nails.
One such nail had buried itself deep in him.
Young Daniel did his very
best to dig it out but he had not the surgeon's knowledge or touch for
such delicate work, and Bald Tom died three days later. That he would have
died anyway had the nail not come out did not matter to Bald Tom's brother,
who blamed Daniel for the death.
He beat the lad rather severely, and this added to the injuries the
poor youth had sustained in trying vainly to fend off the attentions of
two pirates whose tastes ran more toward slim young men than women, nearly
did him in.
Jack was livid when he heard
of the beating and other offenses. It was the first time I had seen him
well and truly show his temper. Those who had done the violent buggery,
he ordered keelhauled.
This is a terrible punishment,
Will, in which a man is bound by ropes and submerged, then dragged along
the underside of the ship the keel so that his body is scraped raw
by the rough shells of the barnacles and if said man cannot hold his breath,
he will drown.
The blood in the water,
too, is a summons to sharks. They are without question the most dreadful
of beasts. One of them caught the second keelhauled man and had his foot
clean off before any of us knew what had happened.
As for the man who had killed
poor Daniel, he dared to strike out at Jack, and Jack shot him and had
his body thrown to the sharks. They had by then flocked around the ship
eager as hens to a farm girl's seed-scattering hand.
And Daniel? Jack promised
to relieve him of his duties when we reach Kingdon, and provide him with
money enough to either seek passage home to Ireland, or begin a new life.
June the 1st, 1704
As I recall, the Dolphin
had been bound for Kingdon. I asked the harbor master whether she had ever
appeared, and he told me that he knew of no such ship having put into Kingdon
this half-year past, even when I put silver into his hand.
Captain Danvers, I believe,
must have lost his nerve. Or befallen some other misfortune.
Kingdon is large and clean.
The streets and buildings are well-kept, and the people are of all classes
and go their way without fear. But, for a hefty enough bribe, the blackest
of pirates will be welcomed here so long as they keep to a relatively good
It is here that I again
pause, Will, wondering what you might someday make of this diary.
Not only did I agree to
become a pirate to save myself, but I have found that I've quite a knack
for it. With some exceptions, I like my crewmates better than those of
the Dolphin. The quarters are better, the food is better, the conditions
are better, and once Jack portioned out the contents of that chest of Cartagena
silver, I can say with assurance that the pay is vastly better.
But silver runs like water
through the hands of these men. Even the best-intentioned pirate, thinking
to save his money to someday retire to an island plantation or return to
his homeland, succumbs to a sort of frenzy when he finally sets foot ashore.
We are here for six days,
while minor repairs are done to the Black Pearl and her men celebrate
their freedom after the long weeks at sea. Jack posted a rotation of watch
to keep an eye on the ship he cares for the Black Pearl with a
devotion that I have not seen in any other captain or sailor of my acquaintance
and it is during my turn at the watch that I write this.
I can hear the noise of
the city from here. Music and laughter, shouts, the occasional shot into
the air or the ruckus of a fistfight. Women stroll the docks, calling out
invitations I want you and your mother to know, however, that I turn
a blind eye to their charms
though the others mock me for this.
Jack even went so far as
to ask me once, in all seriousness, if I were a eunuch. I replied that
no, I was married. To which he snorted and said, "The one's as bad as the
June the 5th, 1704
Still in Kingdon, and it
is truly amazing how a fortune can be reduced to pennies in so short a
span of days.
I speak not of myself, for
with but a few exceptional forays into the marketplace I was in dire
need of new clothing, and yielded to the temptation poised by a brace of
brass-trimmed pistols of my very own I have spent little of my shares
of the Cartagena silver.
No, I speak of my shipmates.
They are men of enormous appetite, and firm in their belief that they may
as well enjoy their earnings while they can. It is a hard and sad fact
that a pirate's life is often short. We have cruised past many a spit of
land where the crow-picked corpses of buccaneers creak at the ends of their
The law is harsh. In some
places, a pirate may be let off with a warning, but even then said warning
is branded into his flesh. Jack showed me his pirate brand, which was situated
on his arm just near a blue tattoo of a wingspread sparrow, his namesake.
But here in Kingdon, a pirate
is generally treated as any other man. And a man with good silver in his
pockets can live well and heartily. My shipmates have gorged themselves
on suckling pigs, roast chickens, real bread that does not split the teeth
as hardtack does, sweets from the abundant sugar cane, and whatever else
Barbossa in particular has
a weakness for apples. It is a strange habit, and a hard one to fulfill
in the Caribbean. Bananas, mango, and papaya seem far more the available
fruit. But he lucked into a case of them, of a ripe green variety, and
has been eating them thrice a day. I wonder at the state of his bowels,
but would never dream of asking. The first mate and I are not on the friendliest
of terms. He seems to resent my friendship with Jack, and for my part I
think he is a foul-tempered whoreson who will likely come to a bad end.
No fewer than six of the
men have been caught trying to slyly smuggle women aboard. Jack, who is
by the way a great favorite of the ladies if I may use that term of
Kingdon, gave the men a light scolding and dispatched each woman with a
kiss on the cheek, a pat on the bottom, a "sorry, luv," and a guinea tucked
down her blouse.
Well, but for one of them
she evidently remembered Jack all too well from a previous visit, and
most keenly recalled some promises he had pledged while in the throes of
rum and lust. This chestnut-haired beauty upon seeing him went crimson
and delivered Jack a furious slap that made his beaded plait fly out from
his head like a flag.
This did not deter him long,
I must add. I saw him later in the town, with one arm about a buxom curly-haired
brunette and the other around a shy little grey-eyed blonde, and all of
them seemed to be having the finest of times. Jack hailed me as his women
giggled, and he bade me join them, but I once again politely declined.
We did not see him again
until late the next morning, when he reeled aboard covered with love-bites
that no doubt matched the contours of the brunette's lush red mouth.
Port Royal, 1718
Elizabeth covered her mouth
but it did no good; she burst out laughing all the same. "Oh, that is our
"None other," Will said,
and he sounded most relieved that she laughed, because he had evidently
been struggling to hold his back. It was that same soft merriment, but
his shoulders shook from it.
how many times did
you see him slapped?" she asked when she could speak again.
"At least thrice." He paused.
"You know, though
by the way my father's diary reads, it seems as if
Jack was always
" Here, Will swayed in his seat and rolled his eyes and
grinned in a drunken manner.
"It does," she agreed. "What
"I had the impression from
Mister Gibbs that it was the three days marooned on the island that left
Jack in that state."
"You also had the impression
from Mister Gibbs that Jack escaped that island by roping sea turtles and
riding his way to freedom, my darling," she said.
"True. Jack also, at least
in my father's mind, seems more forthright than the man we know."
"That was before he learned
some hard lessons of betrayal," she said. "It certainly seems as though
Barbossa has always been of the same stripe."
Will flinched. "I am sorry
for the language, Elizabeth."
"You didn't write it," she
said, kissing him. "And there's not been anything so awful, has there?
Just a 'bastard' and a 'whoreson,' after all."
She laughed again at his
scandalized tone. "My poor, dear Will."
"And it wasn't only that,"
he said, riffling the pages with his callused thumb. "Some of the
"Well, yes," she said, a
faint blush tinting her cheeks. "Not quite proper reading for a governor's
"I can put it away if you
"Will Turner, don't you
They bent to the book again.
The following entries continued
to describe the voyage of the Black Pearl through the various islands,
while Jack gathered information and devised the most cunning plot that
any of his men had ever heard of. He wanted nothing less than to ally with
several other pirate captains, a dozen ships and more than a thousand hardened
sailors, and attack the Spanish treasure fleet.
"The fleet?" Elizabeth murmured.
"If we did not know for ourselves that Jack had survived, I'd say for certain
he had gone in over his head."
"Here," Will said, pointing
to a page. His laughter was gone now, and his tone had turned grim. "Here
is where it all begins."
From the Diary of William Turner
November the15th, 1706
Our victory has not been
what I should call an unqualified success.
Jack's plan for all its
fellowship and grandeur was perhaps doomed in some ways to fail. That he
kept them working as one for so long as he did is nothing short of a miracle.
But in the end, pirates will be pirates, and I have seen that there are
those among them whose hearts are black as any.
We did take the fleet.
It was a coup unprecedented in pirate history, even in the annals of Black
Bart or Henry Morgan. Never before have so many pirate ships sailed under
one banner and one cause.
Our armada, as some of the
lads took to calling it, came to a final number of eighty-seven. Imagine
that if you can, Will
eighty-seven vessels, which ranged from small and
quick sloops to monstrous 60-gunners. Each packed to the topsails with
gold-hungry and blood-thirsty cutthroats. I did not ever hear the exact
count, but a fair estimation would have three thousand of us.
Three thousand pirates.
It beggars the mind. The brothels and taverns of Tortuga, and any of a
hundred other towns must have been empty indeed.
Three thousand men, all
of them armed with as much steel, shot, and black powder as they could
carry. And all of them answering to their captains, all of whom answered
to our own Jack.
He had promised every man
an equal share of any taken treasure. The other pirate captains objected,
but even they were too lured by the siren song of Spanish silver.
No pirate had ever before
dared attack the entire treasure fleet head-on. From time to time, a ship
or two might stray from the pack and be lost, or be taken by opportunists
who lurked like sharks at the periphery. And no wonder, in truth, for the
Spanish fleet we faced was made up of twenty merchantmen, guarded by eighteen
majestic galleons. These latter bristled with cannons, swivel guns, and
The fleet left the mainland
in late August, passed Hispaniola near the end of September, and was well
out to sea bound for Spain on the 30th of October, when we made our move.
Jack's ruse was to have
the Black Pearl seemingly in pitched battle with two other known
pirate ships, the Lady Macbeth and the Sea Devil. Ingenious
packets of powder had been rigged here and there about the decks, masts,
and sails. These would detonate in a flash and a gout of smoke, to coincide
with the blank-firing of empty cannons.
The Spaniards, seeing three
of their greatest enemies thus engaged, were unable to resist the chance
to sweep the sea clean all at once. Several of the galleons cut off from
the fleet and made toward us. When they had come near, the signal was given
and the guns of the three ships were turned in earnest on the galleons.
At the same time, the other pirates swept in from all points of the compass,
some under sail, some heaving at the oars of long dartlike Algerian ships.
The battle raged for three
days and was the most horrific of all that I have seen. I hope that I shall
never again witness its like.
Although they quickly realized
themselves outnumbered and outgunned, the Spaniards rallied famously. Of
our eighty-seven ships, fourteen were sent to the bottom and six others
set afire. None escaped undamaged.
I do not know how many men
all told died. I do know that a full score of the Black Pearl's
men were either killed outright, or injured so severely that the kindest
thing to be done for them was a pistol shot to the heart. I myself sustained
a deep cut to the upper arm a splinter fully the size of a sword, burst
from the hull by an eighteen-pounder cannonball and a burn to the hand
when I became careless while wadding the cannon, and when we boarded the
Guadalupe, I took a musket shot to the high upper and inner thigh.
It came within two fingerwidths of ensuring that you would remain my only
The Black Pearl withstood
a heavy battering. Her mainmast was shattered, her sails and rigging destroyed,
her hull pierced many times both above and below the waterline. All of
this left us unable to pursue when the merchantmen of the treasure fleet
broke away and fled.
Because of this, our crew
and captain lost out on most of the glory. And though 'twas all Jack's
devising, I am already hearing the tale told to put the captain of the
Lady Macbeth as having orchestrated this brilliant assault.
Jack is rather disheartened
by this. He prides himself much on being a captain, an accomplishment for
a man so young. Too often, he has been made to remind others of his proper
title, sometimes aggrievedly.
But, wheresoever the credit
is put, the attack was triumphant. Only three galleons and two merchantmen
escaped. Two galleons were sunk and one erupted in a fireball when her
powder magazine went up. The others, though sorely damaged for the most
part, were intact enough to loot.
That was when the trouble
began, but I am called to my watch and must attend.
November the 16th, 1706
Lest I forget, I must note
that none of my injuries were severe. We had obtained a new surgeon, a
skilled man who had lost his position due to a weakness for drink. Though
it is disconcerting to be tended by a man who reeks of strong whiskey,
I must acknowledge that he knows his craft.
The cut on my arm, he stitched
up. A salve took care of the burn to my hand. 'Twas only the musket-shot
that was of true concern. I am ashamed to admit that I lost consciousness
from the pain as the surgeon sought to dig out the ball, which had become
lodged in bone near my groin. As he then cauterized the hole, I am all
things considered glad to have been unconscious.
But I am recovering well.
I was bedridden for seven days and only heard of the events following the
battle at second-hand. I am now walking well, albeit with a slight limp,
and have returned fully to my duties.
Pirates, as I said, will
be pirates. No sooner had the fleet been taken than the arguments began.
I think that more men killed each other over the treasure than the Spaniards
had killed altogether. The captains sought to maintain order, but they
were helpless against the frenzy of greed.
In the end, it became a
riot. Ships scattered, each with as much plunder as her crew could carry.
An enterprising few thought to vent their spleens by attacking the Black
Pearl, as Jack was held muchly to task for the disastrous failure of
his 'equal shares per man' idea.
We came away with a fraction
of what might and should have been ours. And one unexpected item, which
I feel will only bring further trouble upon us.
Her name is Delicia. Her
father was commodore of the Guadalupe, and she is a dusky, comely
lass of seventeen. Jack found her hiding in her cabin, and told me that
as he pulled her from concealment, this little Spanish spitfire rocked
him back on his heels with a roundhouse slap.
I pale to think of her fate
had she fallen into the hands of another pirate. Even Barbossa would have
been merciless with her. But not so, Jack Sparrow. He has no taste for
such acts. Instead, he so charmed the girl his face still reddened by
her slap, no doubt that she accepted his pledge of safe conduct and came
aboard willingly as his hostage.
This nearly sparked a new
riot, I must say. The men saw her as plunder rather than prisoner, and
expected equal shares. Jack had to set his pistol to the center of one
man's forehead to make certain he was understood. No harm is to befall
Delicia, she is to remain untouched and unabused, and anyone thinking contrarily
shall with all due haste answer to Jack.
He has promised her passage
back to Hispaniola, where she has family. I have seen her, and can only
hope that our crippled ship makes the voyage speedily. Her eyes alone,
dark as plums and fringed in long lashes, would be enough to tempt a pious
man into sin.
She has been primarily kept
locked in Jack's cabin ever since, more for her own safety than to hold
her captive. It is better for the crew as well. Bad enough to know she
is aboard; the men mutter and grumble and cast narrow looks Jack's way.
He has been sleeping in a hammock strung outside the cabin door and swears
that he has not laid a finger on her
but even I, friend of his though
I am, find that a trifle hard to believe.
It is obvious in her daily
walks about the deck for air that she is quite enamoured of our daring
captain, whose exploits aboard the Guadalupe are what I am coming
to believe are elemental of Jack Sparrow. These walks concern me. Whenever
she appears, the men neglect their duties to stare after her, and then
the mutterings and grumblings take on new menace.
Too, she brought something
aboard with her, something that resembled a small box or coffer wrapped
in cloth. Barbossa, who holds forth the loudest and longest, believes that
it contains jewels, which Jack must have either told her she could keep,
or means to keep for himself.
Equal shares, he tells us
again and again, pinning each man with a gaze like nails. Equal shares
in all things, lads
and so many of them agree with him
I wish that I could speak
of this to Jack, but Barbossa keeps a hawk's eye on me.
November the 19th, 1706
We have rid ourselves of
Delicia. Not a moment too soon, I daresay. The temper of the ship had become
most dark and violent. I was to the point of fearing for Jack Sparrow's
life. One grin too many when the girl was mentioned, and it may well have
been the end of him.
But she was put ashore near
Santo Domingo. Jack himself, and those of his most trusted men among
which I was pleased and surprised to find myself numbered conveyed her
in a longboat under cover of darkness. She was still some miles from the
town, for as much as the Black Pearl needs repair, we dared not
sail boldly into a Spanish port. Oh, no. Since word of the strike on the
fleet has spread, every Spanish ship in these waters is running with all
sails, hot to spill pirate blood.
The girl bade Jack a tearful
farewell, kissed him soundly, and stood watching with her shawl around
her lovely shoulders as we rowed out to the Black Pearl.
I saw that she did not have with her the mysterious item.
Barbossa was aware of this,
too. We had no sooner set foot on the deck than Barbossa confronted Jack.
He threw Jack's words back at him. Equal shares, and perhaps they could
see fit to exclude the girl from that, but it was only fair that Jack confess
what it was she'd had in that box.
I saw with dismay that Barbossa
seemed to have put his time to good use while we were away. The men stood
with him, solid and resolute as a wall. Jack's jokes fell on deaf ears.
At last, he told them that on the morrow, he would reveal the contents
of the box. He said he had been saving it for a surprise.
November the 20th, 1706
This morning, the crew assembled.
There was an ugly mood in the air. During the night, I had overheard many
a low conversation, and by sunrise even most of those who had gone with
us in the longboat were staunchly sided with Barbossa.
If Jack noticed, he paid
it no mind. He only brought forth the object, still wrapped in its cloth,
and presented it to us.
The girl had been carrying
nothing less than the key to a fortune. A chest of pure gold coins hidden
on an island known as Isla de Muerta.
The Island of Death. Many
legends surrounded this treasure. It had belonged to an Aztec god-king,
it had been seized by Cortez, it was under a curse that turned men into
cannibals, it was blessed with good luck so that no one possessing a coin
could ever be defeated in battle, and other such tales.
Coming as it did on the
heels of our disappointing raid of the treasure fleet, the thought of so
much gold inflamed the crew. They had but a few handfuls of silver each
to their names equal shares and those had come high in a cost of blood
and the lives of friends and shipmates.
Gold. Gold to ease our wounded
pride. To make envious the other pirates who had so cheated us. And Jack
swore that this, too, would be divided equally among us. He would lead
us to the island, for he alone knew the secret of its location, and then
we would have wealth beyond our wildest dreams.
November the 25th, 1706
Put into Tortuga this morning.
The Black Pearl is in sorry shape. She will need many days' worth
of carpentry and refitting. It hurts Jack more to see the tattered sails
and holed hull than it would to take the damage upon himself.
The spirits of the men are
high. Those who were going to die have done so, and those of us who were
going to heal have likewise done so. We have some silver in our pockets,
and pirates are more welcome than ever in Tortuga.
To hear it told now, there
were five hundred pirate ships against a Spanish fleet of nearly twice
that number. But the name of Jack Sparrow is only mentioned in passing.
Some even profess astonishment to see the Black Pearl, for a tale
had gone 'round that she had been sunk.
December the 8th, 1706
Repairs are complete. A
plenty of hardy men sought to join our crew, but those who had survived
thus far were not willing to welcome newcomers who might claim a share
of the gold.
Jack and Barbossa are for
once in agreement as to this. We will sail short-handed, at least until
the treasure is ours.
I have, I think, had my
fill of this life. My thoughts turn to England. To my dear wife Anne, and
to you, Will. When I have my share of the gold even if the stingiest
estimation of its worth is true it will be more than enough to keep us
handsomely for the rest of our lives.
I am not alone in this.
Some of the others have talked, more seriously than ever, of giving up
the life. "Swallowing the anchor" is how the old salts put it. Most who
do so find that they cannot give up the sea entirely, and will open an
inn or tavern in some hospitable port. A man going inland, though this
may be more legend than fact, is said to put an oar over his shoulder and
travel until he finds the first person who asks him what that thing is
that he carries. Only there and then will such men settle.
December the 12th, 1706
Storms kept us two days
longer in port than anticipated, but at last we are underway. Spirits are
very high indeed. All save Barbossa, who is more dour than ever.
December the 14th, 1706
I am worried for Jack. He
takes the helm himself, all through the day and all through the night,
in the hottest sun and the fiercest squalls. He has a maniac look about
him, perhaps from lack of sleep, perhaps from excitement.
This excitement is not so
much shared among the crew anymore. These are dangerous and unfamiliar
waters, and no good sailor is happy not knowing where he is bound. The
last two islands we have seen were uninhabited, desolate stretches of sand
Jack keeps with him at all
times a compass that I have never seen before. I chanced a look at it,
and my eyes must have deceived me for it did not seem to point in a northerly
bearing. When Jack caught me at this, he snapped it shut and ticked a finger
at me. He was drenched at the time, a veritable drowned rat with his hair
pasted to his face and a river streaming from the corners of his hat whenever
he happened to move his head. Everyone else had sought what shelter they
could from the elements, but not Jack Sparrow.
There is talk among the
crew that he uses some witchcraft to hold to this course. To this, Barbossa
scoffs and says that it is something other than witchcraft, of that he
is sure, and he means to find out what.
December the 21st, 1706
The worst has happened.
We are surely damned for
this, damned to Hell.
I should have done something
to stop them. I should have done more. Why did I let Jack convince me otherwise?
I know why I did. So
did Jack. He knew precisely where to hit me, where I was weakest. And he
was right. When all was said and done, he was right.
Barbossa has led a mutiny.
It came but a few hours
after he finally persuaded Jack to tell us the secret of the hidden island.
The compass, of course. The compass did not point north, but pointed instead
to Isla de Muerta, where the chest of gold is believed to be kept, deep
in a cavern grotto.
And, knowing this, Barbossa
felt that Jack Sparrow was no longer needed, nor wanted, as captain of
the Black Pearl.
He had nigh all the crew
with him, as well. Despite his cruelty, or perhaps because of it, he won
their loyalty away from Jack.
This morning, we sighted
the island. Before we could begin preparations to go ashore, the mutiny
was sprung. Barbossa had Jack surrounded by a shining hedge of cutlasses
and knives in the wink of an eye.
I had known they intended
something, but had I known it was this, I would have spoken, would have
acted. Mutiny? Of all the crimes that pirates commit, this one is deemed
by far the worst.
Those few of us not trusted
enough to be let in on the plan were taken completely off guard. Most,
seeing the way the tide was turning, hastily joined Barbossa.
I forced my way through
to Jack. He hissed at me not to be a fool, William Turner, not to do anything
stupid. But I set myself face to face with Barbossa and demanded what he
meant to do.
He told me that it was quite
simple now that we knew where the island was, we could be rid of Jack.
The Black Pearl, Barbossa claimed, was in need of a new captain.
A strong, sure captain who kept his word to his men.
"When it comes to keeping
your word, mate," Jack said, mildly enough for one ringed on all sides
with steel, "you're not getting off to a very good start."
The Black Pearl came
about, and retraced her course to a small island we had recently passed.
It was not much of a thing, verdant but isolated, and Jack's eyes switched
rapidly back and forth from it to Barbossa.
I saw then that they meant
to maroon him. Of all the punishments a man could suffer, marooning was
acknowledged the worst. To be left alone with only what food and water
one could find, and what shelter from the elements one could make, was
a slow and terrible fate.
They stripped Jack of most
of his belongings, leaving him only his clothes and a belt of personal
effects including his sword, and the now-useless compass. Barbossa laughed
as he added this latter, telling Jack that even should he by some miracle
get off the island, the compass would be of no use to him, because the
Black Pearl and the treasure would be long gone 'ere he could do
a thing about it.
And, finally, they gave
him a pistol with a single shot. The purpose of this was the only kindness
to be shown. If starvation or despair became too great, that single shot
would bring an end that by then might well seem a blessing.
I cried out that this was
wrong, and exhorted the crew to come to their senses. I was buffeted, jeered
at. Koehler and Twiggs made leering remarks as to Bootstrap's unseemly
fondness for the captain, was there something I wished to confess? Barbossa
snarled and told me that if I was so eager to be by Jack's side, there
was room for more than one on that island.
Jack then clutched me by
the arm, as well as he was able with his hands bound. He told me again
not to be a fool, and reminded me that I had my family to think of. This
drew laughter from the men, but Jack was right.
"You have to go with them,
William," he said. "Go along with them, and don't you worry about me. They're
forgetting one very important thing."
"Oh, are we?" sneered Barbossa.
"And what's that?"
He had a monkey on his shoulder,
a monkey he had won in a Tortuga dice game, and it chattered and shrieked
in what sounded like defiance. It is a mangy, nasty-smelling creature,
that monkey. Its sharp little teeth looked capable of biting off a man's
nose, or through his throat, with hardly an effort.
But Jack, undeterred, smiled
his devilish smile and said, "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow!" as if that explained
all. "You haven't seen the last of me, Barbossa."
"Oh, I think I have," Barbossa
said, and gestured.
The Moor, Pintel, and Ragtti
bundled Jack to the rail. They tossed his effects overboard.
Jack turned to survey the
crew one last time. Or perhaps it was the Black Pearl he surveyed;
his expression was almost like what I imagine mine to have been when I
waved farewell to my family and wondered if I would ever see their dear
and beloved faces again.
Then he plunged into the
water. The last I saw of him, he was swimming toward the island, which
was becoming a distant speck as the Black Pearl sailed away.
December the 22nd, 1706
Once more, we are at Isla
de Muerta and making ready to go ashore. The Black Pearl will be
left anchored but abandoned for the time being, as there is not a man among
the crew willing to sit out the discovery of the chest filled with gold.
Barbossa took me aside last
night. It had the appearance of a private conversation, but as it was on
the quarterdeck, and within ready earshot of half a dozen men, I knew that
anything said between us would be common knowledge very shortly.
I feared more for my life
in those moments than I have at any other time. If Barbossa took it into
his head to run be through, or shoot me on the spot, or throw me to the
sharks, I knew that nothing and no one would stop him.
He explained to me, in great
and seeming earnestness, how vital I and my skills were to the continued
health and well-being of the Black Pearl and her crew. He would,
he said, hate to lose me. And what good was it, really, in being stubborn
over Jack? All I could do would be to share in his fate.
"Equal shares," I said,
perhaps unwisely, for Barbossa's glare could have ignited gunpowder.
But he made himself chuckle
then, and clapped me on the back, and told me that I would do fine so long
as I remembered that the Black Pearl had a new captain now and there
was no use crying over spilt milk.
Will, I did not want to
agree with him. I wanted to spit in his face and dare him to do his worst.
But the urge for self-preservation is fearfully strong. I knew that if
I crossed Barbossa, I would not live to see another sundown. And he was
right, it would do Jack no good.
So I agreed, and forced
a smile onto my lips, and went about my duties as briskly as I could. All
the while, I reminded myself that once the gold was in my pocket, I would
desert the Black Pearl and make for England.
Barbossa knows, too, of
this diary. But not, thank God, where it is customarily hidden. Only Jack
December the 23rd, 1706
A truly momentous day, and
my heart should be gladdened by it. Yet I feel no pleasure in the gold.
I feel only an emptiness, an ache.
Yes, we are rich now beyond
the dreams of avarice. The caves were as we had been told, and atop a rocky
rise sat a stone chest carved all about with markings and symbols. When
Barbossa and the Moor, Simbakka, lifted the lid away, our torchlight fell
on a heap of gold coins.
Each is of a size with its
brothers, and all struck with the same emblem. It is a leering skull. Pirates,
I have found, are a more superstitious lot even than most sailors, and
that design should have stirred dread in us. Just as the skull-and-crossbones
is designed to stir dread in our victims. But appearing as it did in the
rich and mellow gleam of a reddish but solid gold, it was taken instead
as a good omen.
So Barbossa claims. A good
omen. Clearly, these coins are meant for the likes of us. He dug
his hands deep into them, and raised cupped palms high, and let the wealth
rain down in a musical shower.
And, seeing that no harm
befell him, the crew crowded eagerly around, each man clutching at the
gold. Even I, though I waited my turn until the feverish tide of men abated,
reached into the stone chest and withdrew a coin.
Eight hundred and eighty-two
of them in all.
A fortune in gold, Will.
The future of our family. As I sit and write this, I tell myself that I
should be overcome with thoughts and joys of going home. Yet that, too,
is lost in the same emptiness. What good a fortune, when it comes at the
price of a man's conscience?
I believe I am the only
one to feel thusly. Barbossa of a certain has no qualms nor regrets for
his conduct. He, in fact, opened a bottle of French wine he had kept saved
for just such an occasion, and poured it 'round, and offered up sarcastic
toast to our absent and erstwhile captain.
In his jolly mood, he even
went so far as to christen the monkey, his loathsome familiar, by the name
of Jack. This met with enormous laughter from many of the men, and they
drank deeply. I, so as not to set myself apart, dutifully did the same.
But the wine was weak and
sour in my mouth.
December the 28th, 1706
Steady rains and sluggish
winds have made our journey slow and dismal. A miasma has settled over
the Black Pearl. The men sit glum and humorless at their stations.
From time to time, I see them take out their gold coins and study them,
as if contemplating all the rum and women they shall have when next we
come to a port, but the usual anticipatory hunger is curiously absent.
I share their disinterest.
It is a dark weight on our souls, the knowledge that we are mutineers.
Barbossa has decreed that
we will say Jack Sparrow is dead. As for the exact means, he rejected numerous
suggestions from the crew. Drowned? Not Jack
unlike many a sailor, Jack
Sparrow swam like a fish. Sickness? Why, then, had it not taken the rest
of us? No, Barbossa settled on having Jack's fate be to have been shot
by a jealous husband. That, I fear, is too possible not to be believed.
Even he, though, even Barbossa,
is lackluster. I witnessed him yesterday pluck the last apple from his
prized store, and turn it in his hand as if 'twere a jewel of improbable
size and splendor. Then he bit into it, and got a queer look, and cast
it from him into the sea. It must have been wormy, but that has never stopped
Barbossa before. I have seen him eat, and with relish, apples so brown
and shriveled that they more resembled figs.
We must have passed the
island where we marooned Jack. I could see nothing through the slashing,
sheeting rain. At least he will have fresh water, if he has not already
so wearied and despaired of his plight that he has taken the pistol's way
January the 2nd, 1707
The worst of the rain and
wind are done for now, though the clouds yet hang heavy in the sky. We
have seen neither the sun nor moon since the island. It is as though a
dismal fog follows the ship wherever she goes.
January the 3rd, 1707
Sailed into the little French
port of Toussaint today. Though it is said to be no haven for pirates,
both the harbormaster and the governor are corrupt, and a few well-placed
gold coins won the Black Pearl space in the harbor, and made her
crew welcome in town.
It is here that I should
part company with Barbossa and the others. I have my share of the wealth,
and could wait until a likely ship arrives upon which I could book passage
Yet I find that the desire
which only weeks ago burned so brightly in my heart has turned to ashes.
I conjure up my dear wife's visage in my mind
my son's bright eyes and
and I feel
nothing. As if Will and Anne are strangers to me now.
It is as if the best part
of me is marooned somewhere beyond all hope and caring.
Once, when coming to a new
port such as this, I would go lively about the marketplace, adding to a
chest of trinkets and gifts for my family. I imagined their exclamations
of delight as they uncovered each new item.
But they are only things.
Meaningless things in a sea chest.
January the 4th, 1707
Despite Barbossa's bribes,
we were very nearly turned out of Toussaint last night. Six of the men
got into a brawl at a tavern, claiming that the rum they were served was
watered, and the food bland and overcooked. Four others were violently
ejected from a brothel for laying rough hands upon the women
they protested, only trying to encourage the lazy strumpets to do their
Barbossa himself, who had
brought three girls two of them, I could not help thinking, bore an uncanny
resemblance to the Spanish girl, Delicia back to properly celebrate his
moving into Jack's cabin, was in a black mood as he dismissed them this
morning. The girls whispered to each other as they descended the gangway,
and though my command of Spanish remains sketchy at best, it seemed to
me that they giggled over the failure of the captain's cannon to fire.
More coins were handed around
the town to smooth the matters over. We leave with the evening tide.
January the 6th, 1707
I cannot write
of this yet.
January the 9th, 1707
We are dead men.
January the 11th, 1707
A terrible thing has happened.
Perhaps not undeserved. Perhaps rightly so. God's punishment for what we
have done. No men on earth will suffer the torments that we shall.
Will, my dear son
I loved you once. I love you still, and your mother, inasmuch as I am able.
The best of my emotions have been wrung from me like water from a rag.
There was a curse on the
treasure. We know it now. We are living it.
Six nights ago, on the evening
of the 5th of January, the clouds finally parted enough to let moonlight
through. And what the moon's white eye revealed was so horrible, Will
I was below at the time,
in my hammock, my stomach churning with hunger for I had not been able
to eat much of my supper. I was not alone though we had a roast of beef
seared crisp on the outside and tender-pink within, though we had real
bread bought in Toussaint rather than bricklike hardtack, none of us had
mustered much of an appetite. No matter how tantalizing the food looked,
its aroma was dull and its taste and texture unappealing.
And then, as the portholes
brightened, a terrific shriek came from on deck.
We tumbled from our hammocks,
grabbing for weapons in the dark, and charged up. The men in the lead came
to an abrupt halt, blurting obscenities and other such shocked outbursts,
forcing those of us in the rear to crane to see.
Would that we had not. Would
that our eyes had been shut blind.
The deck was bathed in pale
blue-white light from the moon, and in its strong glow the ghastly shapes
were clear. Skeletal figures ran madly about, tearing at each other, recoiling,
They wore the clothes of
our crewmates, of the night-duty watch, and as the first hammer-blow of
horror subsided, a second and more insidious one, like a slim dagger to
the back, sank in.
These were our crewmates.
They wailed and gibbered and howled with human voices. Familiar voices.
Barbossa's cabin door banged
open and he stormed on deck. We saw him clearly, those of us jammed in
the hatch. As he passed from the shadow overhang of the quarterdeck, and
came into the moonlight, the flesh was stripped from his bones. It was
as a dead thing he advanced, patches of skin and hair clinging to his skull,
his eyes round orbs glaring from their sockets.
The ship swung about her
helm was unmanned and her sails flapping wildly and a shaft of moonlight
pierced the hatchway where we all stood thunderstruck. Wherever that white
light touched, it revealed rotting cloth and bare bones. A tumult of outcries
and shoves exploded among us.
I saw my arm go out, to
what end I do not know, and enter the moonlight. At once it was not my
arm at all, but a pair of ivory sticks loosely held in sinew and spongy
meat, and at the end of it a clittering bundle of twigs like the legs of
some fantastic albino spider.
When I snatched it back
to myself, and cradled it, I felt and saw only solid flesh. But when I
turned my arm over and pressed my fingers to my wrist, I could not find
the throbbing of my pulse. Nor could I find it in my neck, and it occurred
to me that my skin felt waxy, clammy, and cool.
I was a dead man, as were
the rest of them.
Panic reigned until a cloud
slid over the moon, and all seemed restored to their normal selves. Barbossa
shouted for order, and we crowded onto the deck. It was uneasy, no man
wishing to touch his neighbor. A few had broken down completely, sobbing
like women and wringing their hands.
Then, as we stood there
waiting for Barbossa to speak what in the world he could have said, I
have no idea the cloud moved on and we were one and all doused in moonlight.
A shipload of ghouls, specters, skeletons, undead. Even the repugnant little
monkey, which had bounded from Barbossa's cabin and taken its usual perch
on his shoulder, was revealed as a patchy-furred revenant.
A madness swept us then,
Will. A sheer, unadulterated madness. Men raced every which way, clawing
at themselves, screeching in utter mindlessness.
I remember reeling to the
mast and holding onto it, feeling the wood scrape not against skin but
ribs, and when I put my forehead against it, I heard not a muffled, padded
thud but the clack of bone on wood.
I could not close my eyes.
My eyelids were gone, leaving the eyes beneath wide and naked and defenseless.
I could only turn my face to the mast, and even that was not enough to
prevent me seeing.
The men were crazed. Some
tried to kill each other, some tried to kill themselves. I saw pistols
set to temples, triggers pulled. I saw knives hack uselessly at wrists,
for there were no veins to cut. I saw Scarus gripping Ketchum by the neck-bones,
but how could someone be throttled who did not breathe?
Whatever they tried, they
could not die.
All that long and hellish
night, the crew of the Black Pearl sought their complete deaths.
And all that long and hellish night, we failed. Yes, we, Will. Even I,
seeing what I had become, yearned to end it.
When the moon sank, the
bony apparitions were replaced once more by men who looked in all ways
alive, whole, hale, and hearty. But we soon found that we still could not
be hurt. The stab of a dagger drew no blood and caused only a brief pain
that soon faded. Pistol shots went harmlessly through our bodies.
Dawn arose to a gruesome
scene, the decks of the Black Pearl littered with men whose clothing
was torn and burnt from gunpowder, men who had knives jammed into their
backs, men dangling from nooses. A few had jumped overboard, only to find
that they did not drown, and could walk on the sea bed nearly with the
ease of a man strolling along a sandy beach. One enterprising fellow, Nippalkin,
dug into the surgeon's kit and swallowed poison, but even that might have
been grog for all the harm it showed him.
We could no longer deny
that we were under a most fearful curse. No wonder that our hungers went
unassuaged. The dead had no need of nourishment, could not be made drunk,
could not sate their lusts. The food we consume is tasted with dead tongues,
dead mouths. We might as well eat wet paper.
January the 12th, 1707
I could not finish last
night my recounting of the events of our discovery. I was too in despair.
I do not expect now that I will ever return to England, ever see Anne and
What would I do, a living
dead man? Where would I go? I could not bear to see my dear wife behold
me by moonlight. I would never wish to pollute her with my cold touch.
There is nothing for me
now but to remain with the Black Pearl. We are all of us bound more
closely than ever by this awful curse. Until the Judgment Day, or until
we can find some means to end it.
Barbossa tells us to make
the best of things. We are immortal now, he says. We cannot be hurt, cannot
be killed. Has there ever been a more fearsome band of pirates? He bids
us imagine what we can do, the battles we can win when there is no chance
of losing men, or having good men lose their limbs.
And he tells us that all
pirates rely on their ability to cow and terrorize their victims into surrender
how much more would they be cowed and terrorized if we came upon them
in the eerie light of a full white moon?
Slowly, as these days have
gone by with the Black Pearl moored in a concealed inlet of an uninhabited
dot of land, he has begun to sway most of the others to his way of thinking.
They find that there is something to be said for an inability to be injured
or killed. They dream of the plunder we could take, and fancy that enough
gold, silver, and jewels will more than make up for what we have lost.
I am not so sure of that.
Perhaps initially, yes
but in time I would think that such wealth would
bring no delight. What is the good of it, when the pleasures of the senses
are leaden and dead?
January the 29th, 1707
Kingdon again, though with
care. Should the sky pose clear as sunset approaches, all the men make
haste to return to the ship before moonrise. Barbossa does not want word
to get out.
He has added more guns to
the Black Pearl. It is a curious thing that the ship herself seems
to have taken on some aspects of our curse. Her sails by moonlight turn
tattered and ragged, yet still somehow catch the wind. The planking is
slick with a black-green decay that never quite erodes the wood. All in
all, she seems some derelict dredged up from the sea bottom.
How Jack Sparrow would hate
to see her in this shameful state. Yet now, I cannot help but consider
Jack the lucky one. Had Barbossa chosen to maroon him after, he might have
found himself stuck on that island without even the release of the single
pistol shot to promise him peace. He must be dead now, and I envy him.
We did him a great wrong.
I am sure of so little these days, but I am sure of that.
February the 15th, 1707
As I expected, already the
flush of immortality is wearing thin. The Black Pearl has taken
six ships in the past two weeks, and though these were accomplished with
hardly a loss or risk to us, what is the point of looting ships' stores
of their rum and spice?
Some of the men have wondered
if perhaps the curse is carried in the coins themselves. That, perhaps,
once the gold were no longer with us, we might be returned to our former
condition. They spend freely, in a desperate desire to be rid of the coins.
Might they be right?
If each stolen coin were
spent, would that lift the curse?
Or does it bring the same
curse down upon anyone who handles the forbidden gold? Have we left a trail
of undead merchants, tavern-keepers, and whores in our wake?
February the 19th, 1707
He is the very Devil himself!
What was the good of it,
except to cause harm? Black-hearted bastard, oh, if I could kill him I
would, and damn the consequences.
We seized a Frenchman today,
a tiny nothing of a barque, bound for Martinique. The captain had his mother,
sister, and wife aboard. Too, there was a female member of the crew, and
a whore that one man had smuggled into the hold.
There was no need of it,
no need, blast his eyes!
Barbossa led the men on
a brutal rampage. All but four of the male sailors of the Belle
were butchered. The captain and the three others were beaten severely and
taken ashore, where they were buried to the chin in the sand of a sheltered
The atrocities committed
upon those women
And for what? The men could
derive no physical satisfaction from the act, could not attain completion,
and yet they went
Port Royal, 1718
Will shut the book. He had
gone pallid beneath his tan. "No more."
"I'm all right," Elizabeth
assured him, covering his hands with her own. "We're near the end."
"It is too terrible."
"I know. You cannot protect
me from all the world, my darling Will."
" He shuddered.
She did, too, knowing what
he must be thinking. When she had been Barbossa's prisoner, some of his
unholy lust had been directed at her. It was plain that, had he wished,
he could have forced her into his bed. He had threatened to make her dine
naked among the crew, and she was sure that if she had been made to do
so, they would have had their sport with her. Not because it sated their
desires, no, but to shatter her spirit.
"Read on, Will," she said
quietly. "Remember, there can be nothing in this book so horrible as to
change anything between us."
From the Diary of William Turner
and yet and yet they went
one after another in vicious assaults, until the women could no longer
even find the breath to scream. Until they only whimpered, cries better
suited to dying animals than to human beings.
The captain, they made to
watch. When he shut his eyes, they slit off his eyelids, and I felt a sudden
kinship with him, recalling my own futile efforts to close my eyes to the
horrors on the deck of the Black Pearl that first moonlit night.
Two of the women died of
it. The female sailor managed oh, brave woman! to take her own life
by biting out the glass eye in Ragetti's head, cracking it between her
teeth, and swallowing the jagged pieces so that her throat was cut from
The others were left bleeding
on the beach as we returned to our ship.
I took no part in this,
beyond my usual efforts in the shipboard battle. Yet neither did I act
to stop it. I tell myself that it would have been futile, but my inaction
March the 23rd, 1707
it is not carried
in the coins themselves. It cannot be passed like a sickness from one to
the other. Those with whom we've had trade are fine and well, unhampered
by the ills of the soul which plague us.
Nor do I believe that being
rid of the coins will help us. The curse is in us, in our very bones
and blood we do bleed, by the way, though rarely more than a trickle
and the flesh always closes up in a very short time. The ship, too, though
now always looking somewhat worn, slowly mends up any damage done her.
This is our damnation.
And we deserve it.
Far from repenting their
evil ways, the men following Barbossa have only grown all the more ruthless.
Where once they tortured only when necessary to learn the location of
valuables aboard a burning and sinking ship, say they now take a grim
joy in it.
We are a ship of the damned.
The Black Pearl, one our home, has become our hell on earth.
March the 30th, 1707
I am sending one of the
coins away. To you, Will. As far from here as I can.
The circle must remain unbroken.
The curse cannot be undone until all the coins are returned to the selfsame
stone chest. That is the power, that is the answer.
This I learned from a tribal
shaman I met in Cartagena. He recognized the coin, which I had taken to
wearing on a chain around my neck as a reminder of my wretchedness.
He shied from me at first,
and forked me the sign of the Evil Eye. I persuaded him I meant no harm
and he told me that the curse would fall on all those who removed a piece
of the gold from the chest. It could not be lifted until each offender
had returned that which he had stolen, and 'paid the price.'
I am therefore resolved
to see to it that the curse is never undone.
It seems an odd choice
if I am so miserable, and would so gladly welcome true death, why then
should I not endeavor to the best of my abilities to be rid of this hideous
burden? Why condemn myself to it?
Because, in condemning myself,
I condemn the others.
Though many of them still
revel in their immortality, and the fright their skeletal visages impose,
most have grown desperate for a taste of good food, a drink of potent rum,
and lustful release. They have realized that their wealth means nothing
when it cannot be enjoyed. They truly consider themselves the most tormented
creatures of all.
And I would keep it so.
Let them be forever damned,
forever suffering in the emptiness of this half-life. I will happily endure
it myself for a thousand years if only to see Barbossa's agony each time
he bites into an apple that is no better than a clod of dirt.
They deserve this, and perhaps
I do, too. For turning against our rightful captain. Them for what they
did to Jack Sparrow, and me for failing to stop them. I knew it was wrong.
I knew, and I hate myself more for my acquiescence with every passing day.
So, even should my shipmates
learn of the means to break the curse, even should they regain every other
coin from that chest, let there be one that is forever beyond their reach.
Care for it well, my son.
Port Royal, 1718
They had come to the end,
if not of the book, of the written pages. Will ran a fingertip lightly
over the final sentence.
Elizabeth put her arms around him. She held him in silence, letting
her love flow into him like a clean light. She glanced at the letter again,
that old and oft-folded thing.
"What did you make of it
when you received this?" she asked.
Will sighed. "I was angry
at first. He had been gone so long, and I did not even know him except
through my mother's tales. She kept saying that he would return any day
now. She waited. She pined for him. The money he had left us was soon gone,
and we had to make do on what she could earn as a tutor. I took odd jobs,
anyone who would hire a boy my age. Years went by and still she waited,
and still there was nothing. Then, this. A gold coin he importuned us not
to spend, and no word of his coming home."
"Your poor mother."
"It took the heart from
her," Will said. "She lost hope, grew weak and ill, and died within the
month. Then I was alone, turned out of the house with hardly anything but
the clothes on my back and a few possessions. And a gold coin on a neck-chain."
"So you decided to try and
find your father," Elizabeth said. "Working passage on a ship to the Caribbean."
He nodded. "And then the
"The gold called to them.
That's what they told me," she said. "They could sense it, were drawn to
it like moths to a flame."
"I was small enough to hide
when they boarded the ship," Will said. "I heard them shouting, demanding
answers of the captain and officers. I never dreamed that they were looking
for my coin, for me. Then a fire started, and there was a great explosion.
Next I knew, I was gazing up at an angel."
"And it took them nine years
more to find it again," she said.
"My father wanted them to
"They did. I saw Barbossa.
I spoke to him. The look, the longing look when he wanted me to eat that
"But my father still had
to die. Barbossa murdered him." Will's face darkened. "Bound him to a cannon
and threw him into the deep."
" she said, slow
realization breaking over her like a wave. "Your father couldn't
His brows knit quizzically,
then the horror of it dawned on him. "He couldn't die," he said. "That's
right. He did not breathe, so he could not have drowned. Oh, Elizabeth
Barbossa sent him to a waking, watery-black hell! For so many years!
How it must have come as a relief when the curse finally did end,
and snuff the life from him! But that would mean that I ... that I killed
him. His own son."
"Unless," she said carefully,
"unless, Will, unless he got free."
He looked at her, utterly
Elizabeth hated to ignite
false hope in him, but the idea captivated her mind with a simple, singular
perfection. "He would have been alive, as alive as they could be. The water
couldn't finish him, nor could the sharks, or anything else. Given enough
time, Will, he might have worked his way free from that cannon. We know
that they could walk along the sea floor. And that they did not need to
eat or drink to survive. It might have taken an ungodly long while, but
mightn't he have finally come ashore somewhere?"
Will looked as though the
blood had drained from him.
"The curse, though
said in a faint whispering voice.
"Would have been on him,
yes," she said, the thoughts still spinning rapidly through her mind. "Until
you broke it. You paid his blood debt, Will. You might not have
killed him. You might have set him free."
"This is madness!" he cried,
leaping up and clutching his head as if he feared it might burst. "Could
he be alive, Elizabeth? Could he?"
The Black Pearl, March 30th, 1707
The sunlight was the color
of lemons, diffused by the humidity that hung in the still, warm air of
the early tropical spring. The ocean, nearly as calm as a mirror, was a
serene and faded blue. No clouds dotted the sky, but all of them knew that
there would be rain before dusk.
William Turner emerged onto
the deck, having stashed his diary with its latest entry in its secure
hiding place. His hand kept stealing to his chest, exploring the unaccustomed
absence where the coin on its chain had been.
That coin was gone now,
on its way to England. He felt as if a weight had been lifted from him.
With not so much as a breath
of wind for the sails, the Black Pearl lolled as a dark blot on
the sea. Men lazed on her steamy decks. They had an air of hopelessness
about them. Despite the ropes of pearls, gold earrings, and other jewelry
that they wore prizes taken from other ships they were melancholy.
As the long day droned on,
the sticky heat muffling them and sapping what energy they had, someone
on the foredeck commenced a low, doleful dirge. The others picked it up,
man by man, their voices rising. Then they spoke of meals they craved,
and of how good it would be to get roaring drunk and take apart a tavern.
They spoke of women.
The monkey swung listlessly
from the rigging. No other sails were in sight, no distractions to take
their minds from their woes.
At last, it was too much
for William Turner. He rounded on them ferociously.
"Cursed, yes, we're cursed!
We know! Life is a misery, this endless hell of it. But we brought it on
ourselves, never forget. We deserve our fate."
This brought them up on
their feet, angry. "Deserve it?" Twiggs cried. "How was we to know them
coins was cursed? Eh? How was we to know?"
"The legends didn't say
nothing like this," Nippalkin chimed in.
"Didn't they?" William said.
"Said we'd become cannibals,"
Koehler muttered. "That hasn't happened."
"D'ye means that if we eats
each other, mebbe we'll be cured?" asked Ketchum. He looked dubiously at
his neighbors, all of whom stepped aside, and out of reach.
"Blessed with good luck,
"Blessed, yes. I seem to
remember," said William, "that the coins would make those who held them
undefeated in battle. Look around you, gents. Have we suffered a defeat
"That's 'cause we're immortal,"
Pintel said. "Can't die, can't be defeated."
"Immortal," said Ragetti.
"Unaging, too, I hope. Not like Tithonus. I think it was Tithonus. Or maybe
Tithonius. He got immortality, but kept getting older so that he couldn't
ever die "
Pintel shot him an elbow,
which made his head jerk so that the eye William had whittled for him popped
out. Ragetti caught it, fumbled it, and finally stuck it back in his head.
It didn't quite fit the socket, that eye, and William had purposefully
not bothered to do his best work on the whittling.
"Me, I'd rather risk that
and be able to enjoy a spot of rum," came a grumble from Hawksmoor, which
was answered by a chorus of ayes.
"Well, no chance of that,
is there?" William shrugged. "It's what we get for mutiny, true enough."
In the midst of the uproar
of protests, the monkey leaped with a scolding screech at William. Its
skinny limbs dug in as its teeth closed on the rim of his ear. Its matted
fur was in his face. He tore it away, holding it by the scruff and meaning
to kick the damned little beast into the mainmast, when all at once Barbossa
was in front of him. The shade of his hat couldn't hide his glower, or
the way his eyes fixed with smoking hatred on William.
"Ye go too far, Bootstrap,"
William dropped the monkey.
It spat on his boot and scrambled up Barbossa's great-coat to the shoulder.
"I'm only speaking my mind,"
he said evenly.
"Ye've been spouting off
about Jack Sparrow ever since we gave him his sunny island vacation," Barbossa
said. "I should've sent ye with him."
"It was wrong and we all
know it," William said. "Mutiny? And for what? For greed? Hah! Jack Sparrow
was the most even and generous of captains when it came to doling out shares
"Except for that girl,"
Pintel said. "Tasty little poppet, she was."
"Tasty," echoed Ragetti,
and leered. His eye rolled in his head with an unpleasant sucking sound.
"Jack would have shared
out the treasure equally," William said.
"Are ye saying that I didn't?"
There was a dangerous tone to Barbossa's voice now, a soft and deadly one.
William plunged on regardless.
"I'm saying that it wasn't greed that made you want to be rid of Jack.
You couldn't abide him in the least."
"That be not true," Barbossa
said. "Jack Sparrow made a fine clown. He was just no fit captain."
"You hated him, you were
jealous of him, and when you saw your chance, you were glad to be rid of
"I'm warning ye, Bootstrap.
I've put up with yer guff for nigh long enough now."
"What are you going to do,
Barbossa?" He glanced deliberately to Barbossa's side, where the older
man's hand was resting on the butt of his pistol. "Kill me?"
The rest followed William's
glance. Clubba tittered his shrill giggle and choked the sound off quickly.
The monkey squealed.
Barbossa's eyes tightened.
"No more out of ye, says I. Consider it an order, Mister Turner."
William inclined his head.
As Barbossa made to turn away, he spoke.
"You may be immortal, Barbossa,
but if you live five hundred years you'll still never be half the captain
Jack Sparrow was."
"That does it!" Barbossa
wheeled, drawing the pistol. He leveled it at William's face. "Lads, I
think we're done with him. Grab hold of him if ye please."
They closed in. William
retreated and reached for his own guns, but Simbakka's massive hands settled
on his wrists with bone-grinding force before he could draw them. Even
if he had, what good would his marksmanship do against men who would not
die? He struggled, thinking that if he could break away and run for the
rail, he could swim for it. Few of the rest of them swam, they couldn't
follow him under sail, and by the time they could get out the sweeps or
ready and man the longboats, he'd be
Six pirates wrestled him
down. He heard, above their grunts of effort and his own, Barbossa barking
orders. Something about one of the cannons, one of the eight-pounders,
dear God, were they going to shoot him with a cannon? Did they expect that
would kill him, when nothing else apparently could?
But then Barbossa called
for several lengths of rope. William Turner was lifted and lashed to the
round brass barrel of the cannon. Barbossa even threaded the rope through
his bootstraps, after divesting him of the pistols he customarily carried
The eight-pounder fired
eight-pound balls, but the cannon itself weighed most of a ton. Barbossa
"This be a fine gun and
'tis sorry I am to see her go," he said, "But let's just be making sure
we've heard the last of ye, Bootstrap Bill."
"Bastard!" William spat,
as the men behind him bent and heaved and the cannon trundled over the
deck toward a gap in the rails.
"Give my regards to Davey
Jones," Barbossa said.
They pushed him over the
Cannon and all, he struck
the water with a colossal splash and was pulled down so fast that his hair
and clothing streamed up in wavering whips and straggles. A stream of bubbles
shot up from the end of the cannon.
He saw the keel of the Black
Pearl, and the jeering faces lined up along her rails. A few startled
fish flicked by in quicksilver winks.
The water went from balmy
turquoise to emerald. The surface was a shifting sparkle of sunlight that
dimmed as he sank deeper and deeper still. The water was dark blue, then
How deep was the
ocean? How many fathoms had he already fallen? Beyond any reach of weighted
chain and line? Would he sink forever into its depths, its darkness?
The surface was no longer
discernible. He was blind in a sightless black, blind and deaf, conscious
only of the hard curve of the cannon, the ropes digging into him, and a
peculiar groaning sensation that seemed to be coming from his very head.
As if the bones there were in the grasp of some enormous crushing fist.
Then William began to perceive
tiny flitting streaks of light and color. This was it
of a dying mind
perhaps even the dreadful immortality of the curse could
only withstand so much.
He had one moment of bright
hope that this would indeed prove to be so, and then one of the streaks
flickered directly above his face and he saw it to be a fish. No longer
than a man's finger, it had flesh like milky translucent glass and two
stripes along its sides. These stripes, one red and one a vivid blue, glowed
with their own living light.
More of them passed. Schools
of them. Lit from within by colors he had never seen even in the tropical
flowers of the upper world. They darted around him curiously. Some nipped
at his trailing hair, or brushed his skin with scales like cold silk.
The cannon struck with a
jolt that shook William's body to the bone. The fish scattered, but in
their fading light he saw a cloud of silt whirl up from the sea bottom
to swallow him. The feeling of movement stopped.
there was a
limit to the ocean depth.
William lay motionless.
His ribcage creaked. It felt as though a sea chest full of solid bricks
of gold was settled upon his chest. That iron grip still held his skull.
The silt cleared and, gradually,
the fish returned. Some larger ones moved among them now, their organs
aglow like pulsing sacks of light. He witnessed one of the finger-length
fish with the red and blue stripes skim the sandy bottom to investigate
a dancing ball of light. All at once, the sand surged as something quick
and toothy lunged up from it and snatched the fish into its maw.
The fish sampled him again.
He shifted his shoulders and snapped his head side to side, sending them
zipping away. Clearly, they were not used to dead men still being quite
Craning his neck as best
he was able, he surveyed what he could see of his surroundings. The St.
Elmo's fire of the fish-lights only offered him glimpses of a dark and
silent world. He saw pure white crabs scuttling past ghostly starfish whose
thick limbs could have spanned a wagon wheel. No vegetation
grew down here, except for some lichen-like crusts on debris from above.
Cannonballs. The waterlogged wreckage of ships. Crockery here a plate
with delicate gold edging half-buried in the sand, there a wide-mouthed
the bones of
men, barely recognizable by the growths that covered them. He saw a grinning
jawbone, with the hoop of an earring nearby. He saw pistols and cutlasses
and pipes and coins.
That he was evidently not
the first sailor to come to rest in these deep waters hardly comforted
him. Those others had already been dead when they fell, and did not face
the prospect of an eternity of awareness.
William did not know how
long he stayed like that. It was impossible to tell night or day or any
passage of time. The tides and the weather could not touch him.
He heard the occasional
hooting cries of whalesong and once saw the creatures, or at least the
bulky shadows of them, passing above.
No mermaids came to rescue
or taunt him. No sea serpents hove into view and swallowed him whole.
Eventually he quit thrashing
when the fish came by. They could do no real harm to him, and after a few
nibbles they always swam away. Perhaps he was not to their liking.
His clothing deteriorated
in the salt water. His bound hands could feel corrosion pitting the brass
of the cannon. But his treasured boots, those still held up well.
And the ropes
they were, the ropes softened and weakened.
Until it finally happened
that he gave an experimental kick with both legs and felt them fray and
He strained against the
rest of them and they went, one by one. When his hands were free, he was
able to pull and squirm himself entirely out of their coils. He slid sideways
off the cannon and sent more silt billowing when he landed on all fours
on the ocean floor.
The fish, surprised by this
much movement, vanished. William groped about in the utter blackness. He
got to his feet. It was a grueling chore in the unimaginable weight of
the water. He wondered how it was that such fragile-seeming things as the
fish and crabs could bear it.
Each step was as slow and
cautious as any blind man seeking to navigate an unfamiliar place. He shuffled
his feet, stirring up more silt. Whenever his toes struck something, he
bent to examine it with his fingers. Rocks
a length of wood that might
have been the rail of a ship
a cannonball, a twelve-pounder by the feel,
though it was as impossible to gauge weight as it was depth down here
the prick of a pin as he found something that felt like a brooch.
His attempts at swimming
upward met with failure. He hadn't the air in his lungs, the buoyancy,
to rise toward the surface. All he could do was trudge and hope that he
was bearing in a steady direction.
He stumbled over the blade
of a cutlass, would have severed his toes if not for his boots. Here was
a heap of perfectly round pebbles grapeshot. There was a broken bottle
that had perhaps once held rum or wine. He found an unbroken bowl or basin
of some sort, and used it in his slow shuffle to hold anything that felt
like coins or jewels.
Doing this made him admit
to himself that he must have some hope left, after all. If he was gathering
money, surely that meant that some part of his mind could envision a future
in which he'd be able to spend it.
Another eternity passed
as he made his way on, collecting what he could. He needed no sleep, and
so never paused to rest.
His feet sent the sand-dwelling
predators speeding away in a flurry. Once, a vast shape loomed and swept
over him, a manta like some cloaked angel of death, its underbelly a pale
blur as the luminous fish scattered, its mouth a needle-ringed cavern.
A crab the size of a dog challenged him, rearing up and scissoring its
The immense carcass of a
whale blocked him and he went around it, awed by the curves of ribs that
could have encompassed the keel of a ship.
He found shipwrecks, exploring
them by feeling his way through their hatches and cabins and holds. Most
showed the devastating signs of cannonballs through their hulls. Others
were charred almost beyond recognition. In one, he found a cloth bag that
fell apart as he touched it, leaving behind a pile of coins.
The slope of the sea bed
was so gradual that he did not know he had been rising until he realized
that he could see. The inky dark had taken on a quality more like that
of a late twilight, letting him discern shapes and shadows.
The undersea landscape changed
around him as he continued on his way. He began to see shells littering
the sand, and plant life. Long supple blades of kelp caressed him as he
passed. Shelves of coral and spiny sea urchins covered the wrecked ships.
A greater abundance of fish
teemed all around him. Eels shot from holes in the rocky ledges to snap
at his legs. Giant turtles paddled by him without so much as a glance.
their flat black eyes regarding him with cool calculation.
These changes gladdened
him greatly he was coming to shallower waters! Coming, perhaps, to land!
But, perversely, now that he could see and was inspired to travel faster,
he was slowed by the sea-grasses that tangled his legs and hampered by
the increased numbers of fish who got in his way or tried to take bites
out of him.
He saw a ship pass by on
the surface, a dark and rippling form high above him.
Brighter and clearer still,
a clean turquoise around a wild riot of colors. The fish were
brilliant in reds, yellows, blues, greens. Anemones waved their tendrils,
sometimes catching hapless fish in their stinging net. Jellyfish bobbed
with the tides, tentacles dangling.
The most challenging part
of his journey came when he began to feel the tides, and the waves surging
toward land. He was pushed, sometimes violently thrown, at the mercy of
the power of the water. It was all he could do to hang onto the few things
he had collected, and hold a silver tray atop the basin for a lid.
At last, he saw the mountain
of an island rising before him. Though it meant more battering from the
waves, William fought toward shore. His head broke the surface, and the
undiluted sunlight was so strong that the world was initially nothing but
a searing white dazzle.
When his sight returned,
he was overjoyed to behold swaying palms, a pristine beach, and rocky cliffs
where sea birds nested and swooped. He struggled through the final coral
reefs, sure that by the time he got a look at his legs he would find them
shredded from the sharp edges, and waded through the churning surf.
Such a sight he must have
emerging from the sea clad only in the few remaining rags of
his clothes and the leathery scraps of boots and belt. His skin, blue-grey
and wrinkled, looked like that of a long-drowned corpse. Then again, was
that not what he was?
The wet brown beach indented
under his feet. Foam curds dried to scales higher up, at the tide line
where a marker of broken bits of shell and snarled brown kelp divided the
damp from the dry.
He fell to his knees in
loose, hot white sand. With the covered basin set aside, he flopped full-length
and rolled onto his back, splaying his arms and gazing up at the blameless
Everything was different.
The buildings and faces unfamiliar, the air cold and foreboding and grey.
His steps slowed as he neared
the little house. What would he say to her? After all this time, almost
fifteen years, what would he possibly say? How could he explain to her
the disturbing fact that he did not look all of his age? He had not aged
a day, seemingly, since the curse had set upon him. But he was more weathered
than she would remember
and that might make up for the rest of it.
He was well-dressed, rather
dashing in fact in velvet breeches and a waistcoat, and new high black
boots. No pistols tucked through the straps in the front; Bootstrap Bill
was no more.
A trio of boys raced down
the street, released from their schoolwork for the day and reveling in
their freedom. William looked searchingly at them, but of course his Will
would be far older than this. His Will would be nearly a man by now, hard
as that was to believe.
He had come from the sea
with a modest fortune in gold, silver, and jewels. Not that such things
had mattered on the island, where he made his own shelter by hewing palm
fronds with his cutlass. He had been there through torrid rainy seasons
and blistering heat waves, through a hurricane that bent the palms and
made their fronds spin and whir in the force of the wind.
From time to time, ships
came by. Most commonly, pirate vessels. Whenever he sighted such a ship
making for his cove, he dismantled his crude shelter and hid himself away,
where he could see but not be seen, hear without being heard.
The cove was an ideal spot
for careering a ship, to scrape and repair the hull. Parties went out into
the jungle for coconuts and fruit, climbed the cliffs to rob nests of their
eggs, shot down birds for food. William never begrudged them this, for
it was not as if he needed those provisions for himself.
His only concern was that
they might, while tramping along with their water-buckets toward the stream,
find his footprints and realize that the island was not so deserted as
it seemed. He did not worry that they would find his cache of treasure,
which he had carefully buried.
Whenever he was visited
by these unknowing intruders, he listened to their talk with all eagerness.
Any news was welcome, but what interested him most was news of the Black
She was still out there,
and even these hardened pirates crossed themselves or spat between their
fingers at the mention of her name. Barbossa had gone far beyond
mere piracy and become a figure of terrible legend. The ship of the damned,
they said. The black ship, faster than the wind. Crewed by the dead and
captained by a man more wicked than Old Scratch himself.
Still out there, still raiding,
amassing a king's fortune and leaving forts, ships, and towns ruined in
William had never dared
approach any of these pirates. Even if he could have gone unrecognized,
passing himself off as a shipwrecked sailor, what would he have done when
the moon rose?
One day, to his incredulity,
he had heard mentioned the name of Jack Sparrow. Jack had survived being
though the exact method was the cause of some argument.
Some men maintained that Jack Sparrow had tamed a friendly dolphin and
ridden it away. Others stoutly held that the island had been the secret
home of a race of warrior-women ruled by a golden queen, and Jack had so
won her heart that she very nearly was unwilling to let him go. Still others
claimed that they had heard it on good authority that Jack had built himself
a ship that did not sail on the sea, but on the very air, and had flown
But all agreed that Jack
Sparrow was alive. Not the captain he had been; indeed, they made him seem
a cheery but ineffectual prankster whose luck with ships was well nigh
abominable. They sank under him, blew up around him, or were lost in foolhardy
wagers as readily as they had been won.
William Turner who had
called himself Bill Carpenter when he had finally needed a new name stood
across the street from the house running these thoughts through his mind
like beads on a string.
So many years, and here
he was, home at last.
A youth strode toward him,
a dark-haired and tall young man, and William called out before he was
certain he should. "Will?"
The youth, seeing William's
attention on him, looked back as if he thought this man might be hailing
someone coming along behind. Seeing nobody, he shrugged. "Sorry, sir? My
name's Jim, if you please."
my apologies," William
said. He indicated the little house. "I'm here for the Turners. Anne, and
Will, do you know them?"
"The Turners, sir? Can't
say that I do. It's Missus Babbington as lives there."
"Thank you," William said,
and watched the youth go on his way. He studied the house again, with more
trepidation than ever.
his Anne remarried? Had she given up on him? As well she should, really.
He was here, but what kind of fit husband to her could he be? Ageless,
undying, and revealed as a monster by moonlight's silver gleam. It had
been a mistake to come here. Would be a worse one to stay.
Yet he had to know. Had
to see her, at least, and see his son.
His island refuge had lost
its solitary splendor a few years later when a shipload of settlers had
arrived, and commenced building a town. He had presented himself to them
as the sole survivor of a ship lost in a terrible storm, bought clothes,
and arranged passage in a private cabin on the very next ship.
During the long voyage,
he had taken great pains to never go out on deck by night unless he knew
for a certainty that there would be no moon, and to stay well away from
portholes when those cool beams reached into the darkened rooms lest anyone
should come in and catch him by surprise.
And now, almost fifteen
years after bidding farewell to his wife and son, he had returned.
The door of the house opened
as if in response to his scrutiny, and a woman emerged. She was quite plump
and white-haired, her face a rosy pink with shining eyes. She waddled down
the short flight of steps with a basket on her arm, and glanced at him.
"Anne Turner," he said.
The woman's eyes were the wrong color, not Anne, not his Anne at all. "Is
"My word," she said, and
clucked her tongue. "She's been gone years, m'lord. Passed on, she did.
I remember her well. She taught my girls their letters."
The street pitched and rolled
under him like the deck of a storm-tossed ship. He barely kept his footing.
"Are you well, m'lord?"
Her round, merry face drooped. "Oh, I am sorry for telling you such sad
"Anne is dead?"
"Must be seven years ago,"
and the boy?
"Little Will Turner," she
said, and smiled again. "Oh, he was a dear chap. My girls were quite taken
with him, that they were."
Whatever heart had been
left in him after the curse now seemed ready to shrivel into dust. "When
did he die?"
"Lawd, I don't know as he
did," the woman said, crossing herself. "I would have taken him in, poor
orphaned lad. His father had run off to sea, you know."
"Yes, I know."
"And him and his mother
left all alone. Well, they did fine by themselves, and when dear Anne fell
so sick, there wasn't a one of her neighbors who wouldn't have cared for
the boy. But he'd have none of it. Left, he did, and said he was going
to become a merchant sailor like his father. My girls cried themselves
to sleep for months after, he was such a charmer."
"He went to sea? Will did?
"Right after his mother
died, poor chap. Packed him a satchel and off he went. He couldn't have
been more than ten. That was the last we saw of him. But my manners, m'lord
I'm Alice Babbington. We used to live just over there."
"Carpenter," he said, coming
too close to forgetting and saying his real name. "Bill Carpenter. I
I was a friend of the family, but as you might guess, it's been a long
She clucked again. "And
to then hear this, oh, I am sorry. Would you come in for some tea?"
"Thank you, but no, I must
be on my way."
He left as hastily as he
could, and once he was well out of sight of the house, he sat on a stoop
and put his head in his hands.
dead. And Will, his
son, gone off to sea. Searching for a father who even then had been lost
to him, lost to the curse of the gold coins.
The gold coins! His head
shot up again, eyes wide. Had Will taken the coin with him? He must have
done, perhaps thinking it the only way his father might recognize him.
By now, thanks to the tales
he had heard while listening to the pirates as they worked and sweated
in the blazing sun, smearing hot tar on the hulls of their ships, there
was more to do with the curse than just the coins. The curse demanded a
blood-price, the return of the gold and an offering of blood from everyone
who had stolen from the carved stone chest. Only when every last coin had
been replaced and every last guilty party had shed of their blood would
the curse be lifted.
He had done Barbossa a better
hitch than he'd known, for with the coin in England and Bootstrap Bill
lost to the bottom of the sea with all his blood still in him, there would
have been no way for them ever to break the curse.
But they had been trying,
according to the tales. Some said that the crew of the Black Pearl
could sense the coins when they were near, and sought to reclaim each and
every one. Surely such a sense could not reach as far as England, but the
coin was likely no longer in England.
Suppose that Will fell into
their hands? Was it possible that they could extract from the son the blood
of the father, and free themselves that way?
He was seized in a greater
pain than any he had known in years. In trying to condemn Barbossa and
the others for their crimes, he might have lost his only son.
"And what do you think you're
Her brother's voice was
like a whipcrack, and Emily Fletcher jumped halfway out of her skin. The
pie she had been holding popped into the air and she juggled for it, catching
it again before it could fall and burst its crust and splatter its filling
all over the kitchen.
She spun to face him, trying
to interpose her body between his eyes and the basket, but of course that
was no use. It was a large basket, and she was a thin woman.
"For pity's sake, what are
you creeping up on me like that for?"
"Planning a picnic, Emily?
It's a trifle late." He tipped his head toward the window, where the sunset
turned the sky between the chimney-pots to red-streaked gold.
"What I plan and what I
do is none of your concern, John. I'm not a child."
"No, but you are living
under my roof. You should count yourself lucky for that. It's not many
men who'd support "
"A plain old spinster of
a sister," she finished with him, in a sigh. "Yes, John. I know what a
burden I am on you, Margaret, and the children. I know what a kindness
you're showing me. And I am very grateful."
"Funny way of showing it,
robbing the larders," he huffed. "Meaning to give it to that wastrel, Carpenter,
are you? I hardly see the need. He's got money enough. He doesnt need
"I only thought that a home-cooked
meal might do him some good "
"Or is there something else
you've in mind?" John asked, his face suddenly sly. "Set your sights on
him, have you?"
"It's nothing of the sort.
I merely feel sorry for him, all alone in that big house."
"You would say that. Here
I was hoping you might marry the man. A wealthy husband, ah, now, that
would more than make up for the years I've had to take care of you. But
if it's only neighborly interest on your part, save it for church and quit
taking food from the mouths of my children."
"Yes, John," she said, head
"Put those things back in
the pantry. Haven't you a pile of mending you should be seeing to?"
He waited until she began
removing the items from the basket, and scoffing more loudly with each
a pot of chicken stew swaddled in cloth to keep the heat, bread, sausages,
paper-wrapped pieces of fried fish. Only then did he shake his head at
her, and mutter something under his breath, and leave the kitchen.
Emily returned the basket
to the high shelf. She looked at the pile of mending with another sigh.
John's boys, her nephews, were the very devil on their clothes. If it wasn't
the mending, it was the laundry, and Margaret no help with either lest
it damage her pretty white hands.
When their parents had died,
first Mother and then Father not a year later as if he couldn't bear living
without her, John had grumbled ferociously about having to take his unmarried
sister into his household. But he had soon seen advantages aplenty, dismissing
the cook and the maid so that Emily could take over their duties and he'd
have more money to spend on jewelry and gifts and other foolishness for
his elegant young wife.
She worked at her chores
until the rest of the household was asleep, and then sought her narrow
bed by the light of a single candle. After changing into her nightgown
she unbraided her hair. Her one vanity, it fell to her hips in waves of
auburn. John told her she would do better cutting it short and selling
the length to a wigmaker; that having such hair as her crowning glory was
like putting a tiara on a toad.
A single small looking glass
showed her the same reflection. Thin face with a mouth too wide
did not think she was all that homely. Compared to Margaret, certainly;
Venus herself would look the drab beside Margaret Fletcher's pale golden
Putting the glass aside,
she blew out the candle and was on the verge of getting into bed when she
saw a light burning in the house on the hill. Mister Carpenter, then, and
up late as usual. It was as if the man never slept.
He rattled around those
big rooms like the last bean in the bin, and it really was a shame. A nice-looking
man like him, a bit weather-worn perhaps, but with just that appealing
touch of sadness around his dark eyes that made a woman want to comfort
She grabbed her dressing-gown
and flew on quick, silent feet back to the kitchen. Damn John, anyway.
There was no shortage of food in the larder. Margaret ate like a bird.
What harm would it do to show a friendly gesture to their neighbor? Not
because he was wealthy, not because she fancied him, but because it was
the decent thing to do.
The basket was refilled
in a trice, even by the dim light of the kitchen fire's embers. Without
once stopping to think how dreadfully inappropriate it was to be paying
a call at this hour, unchaperoned and in her night-clothes, Emily hurried
out the door and through the gate, and up the path that led to the rear
garden of Carpenter's house.
The night was brisk and
cool, the moon beaming down full and round. She slipped through the garden
like a sprite, if anyone had ever heard of a sprite of mid-thirties, and
was approaching the back door when her skin set to crawling as if someone
was watching her.
A quick glance showed her
nothing. She set one bare foot on the step, and that was when she saw the
ghastly apparition in the window.
Emily froze in place, her heart stuttering, her breath snagged like
a thorn in her throat.
It was gone.
Only a drapery
trick of light and shadow in the folds of the drapery. A trick of the moonlight.
Still, what a shiver it
done her. It occurred to her how mad a mission this was. How furious John
would be when he found out. And what might Mister Carpenter think, having
her skulking about his garden like a sneak-thief in the night?
Then, from within the house,
there came a cry. A shocked and horrible cry, as of someone being murdered.
She never gave it a thought
but threw open the door and dashed in. The basket, she shoved heedlessly
onto a table, and had it gone crashing to the floor she might not have
Mister Carpenter was halfway
up the main stairs, sprawled there, gasping terribly. She flew to his side,
dressing-gown billowing, sure that he was dying. But even as she reached
him, he sat up, and his look was one of utter disbelief. He looked down
at his hands as if not sure they truly belonged to him, then up at her.
"Oh, Mister Carpenter, what's
happened? Are you ill? Should I send for the doctor? My brother has a pony-trap,
and it wouldn't take but half an hour "
"The curse," he said, in
a strange and shaky way. "I
I feel it. Miss Fletcher, I
To her shock, he suddenly
reached out and cupped her cheek in his palm. Then, a wild fever in his
eyes, he flung himself upright and ran to the nearest window. He raked
back the drapes and stood in a shaft of moonlight, whirling to face her.
"What do you see?" he demanded.
"Only you," she stammered.
what should I see?"
"But if it is so
then they must have found him. Ah, Will!"
And he crumpled to his knees
Emily had not the first
idea what to do. He did not seem sick, but neither did he seem well. And
if she did send for the doctor, what would the town make of that? Miss
Fletcher, in a gentleman's house well past dark, her in her night-dress
and him raving mad? John would have her in a convent before she could blink.
But she could not leave
him here alone in his anguish. She went to him, touched his shoulder. "Hush,
now, Mister Carpenter. It can't be that bad, can it?"
Apparently it was, for he
clung to her like a man drowning. In the midst of his sobs, she made out
words Anne, Will, Barbossa, gold, curse, pirates until at last she
patted him and soothed him and spoke to him the way she would have to one
of her nephews who'd fallen and scraped a knee.
It worked, and she was able
to persuade him into the kitchen, where she found the kettle and put it
on for tea. As she was doing this, he wiped tears from his cheeks and stared
at the basket she had left upon the table.
I smell chicken," he
said, sounding as if this was the most remarkable thing in the world.
"Chicken stew," she said.
"Though it's no longer very warm. I thought, pardon me if I'm out of turn,
but I thought you might do with a good meal. From what I hear, no one's
ever seen you eat so much as a speck." She looked around the kitchen, which
was clean but plainly unused, its pantry empty. There weren't even crumbs
to sustain a single mouse.
"Chicken stew!" He lifted
off the basket's cover. "And bread, fresh bread? Have you any idea how
long it's been since I've had fresh-baked bread?"
She was amused despite herself.
This was all so passing strange that she wondered if she might be dreaming.
Could she really be here, in his house, with the collar of her dressing-gown
damp from his weeping, while he held up a loaf of perfectly ordinary bread
like he'd found the Holy Grail?
"Well, tuck in, then," she
said, unable not to giggle. "There's a crock of butter and pot of jam in
there as well."
By the time the kettle boiled
and she found that there was no tea in the kitchen anyway Mister Carpenter
had demolished the loaf and was starting on the stew. She'd never seen
anyone eat with such appetite, or so savor a humble chicken stew.
"My word," she said. "What,
may I ask, is the matter?"
"It's wrong of me, I know,"
he said. "To eat so heartily under the circumstances. But it's been so
long, Miss Fletcher. And
and perhaps I'm mistaken. Perhaps it has nothing
to do with Will. After all, what do I know about curses? Except how to
suffer one, of course. What I should say is, what do I know of breaking
"I'm afraid I don't follow,
"My name is Turner," he
said. "William Turner. If you'll indulge me, Miss Fletcher, I will tell
you my tale. I doubt you'll believe it, but after all these years it will
be a relief just to have it told."
The Caribbean, 1719
The Jolly Nell plied
her way over the sparkling blue sea. She was running ahead of a strong
breeze with a vigorous corkscrewing motion, her sails full and her decks
busy with active sailors in white britches cut off below the knee, and
red-and-white striped shirts.
Her commanding officer stood
stiff and tall upon the quarterdeck, a spyglass planted firmly to his eye.
Above, in the rigging, the top-men scanned the horizons.
"A lovely day, sir," the
The man beside him only
nodded. His gut felt knotted, sweat slicked his brow and the palms of his
Ahead, a school of flying
fish erupted from the water, skimming its surface. The sailors cheered
and pointed them out to one another. Good omens, such fish, good omens
It had been an uneventful
crossing thus far. The spirits of the crew had brightened along with the
sun, warmed along with the weather.
As the sun tracked westward,
it burned into a fiery red-orange ball in the west. The sky was painted
in broad strokes of scarlet, gold, violet and blue. The wind shifted, freshened.
The masts and yards creaked and men scrambled to adjust the rigging.
"You may as well go below,
sir," the officer said. "You've been there all the day. Do you not care
for sailing? Pardon me if I presume, but I have noticed that you know your
way around as might one of my best men, and so it is passing strange to
me that you seem so ill at ease."
William Turner smiled slightly.
"My memories of the sea and of sailing are both good and bad, Lieutenant.
They do not balance well within me."
"Sail ahoy! Off the stern!"
came a cry from above.
The lieutenant, florid uncomfortable
in his starched shirt and uniform coat with its gold frogging, turned and
raised his spyglass again. It dropped from his eye almost immediately,
and his jaw fell open.
"Rouse the captain, Mister
Phillips!" he shouted.
"But the captain's sick,
sir, confined to his bed!"
"Rouse him and I don't care
if he's vomited up blood!"
William Turner looked back.
Behind the Jolly Nell and bearing down at what seemed an impossible
speed was a sleek and glorious black ship. He was rooted to the spot as
all around him pandemonium reigned, the other men having caught sight of
their pursuer now.
"All hands to quarters!
Starboard gunners! Ready a broadside!"
"The Black Pearl,"
"We're done for if we fight!"
the bo'sun yelled at the lieutenant. "They'll kill us to a man!"
"They'll kill us anyway,"
the lieutenant replied. "If we fight, we might at least have the mercy
of a quicker and more honorable death. Check your weapons, men!"
The captain, green as old
cheese, staggered up the companionway. The ship's doctor, a fussy little
man whose balding pate would never be loved by the tropical sun, trotted
at his side telling him that he was being a fool, he was sick, he had to
rest. The captain's only answer was to shove him bodily aside, then reel
and vomit and drop to his knees in the puddle.
Oblivious to all this, William
only watched her come, slicing the water cleanly and throwing back sprays
of it from beneath her plunging prow. Her sails were taut and full, her
black paint shining like sealskin. Gone were the signs of decay wrought
by the curse. Sunset light flashed blood-sparks from the poking snouts
of her many cannons.
"Do you shoot, sir?" the
William nodded, and a pistol
was thrust into his hands. He returned it. "I have my own."
The lieutenant broke off,
eyebrows raised as a woman stepped up beside William with a leather case
in her hands. She flicked its brass catches and opened the lid, revealing
a row of loaded pistols snugged neatly down into a velvet bed.
"I expected you might want
these," she said, with enviable calm.
"Thank you, my dear." He
tucked them all about his person, and noted with wry amusement that the
lieutenant gaped as the woman took two for herself.
She was lean and trim, not
buxom, not precisely pretty, but there was a strikingly handsome quality
to her features. Her auburn hair was twisted up in a knot, and she wore
a split-skirt for ease of movement on deck.
care for a sword, Mister Turner? Or, indeed, Missus Turner?" the lieutenant
said, clearly flummoxed.
Before either of them could
answer, the top of the forward mast burst apart in a shower of splinters.
A half-second later, the boom of the shot reached their ears. One of the
"Run out the starboard guns!"
Port flaps came open all
along the Jolly Nell's starboard side. Men grunted as they heaved
the cannons into place. The ship heeled over. William steadied his wife,
who was not yet so sure of her footing, and guided her to a place where
she could hold on. Her face was set, but he had told her in too great a
detail of these pirates and fear lurked behind her eyes.
A popping volley of muskets
went off, followed by the simultaneous bellow of the starboard cannons.
White plumes splashed up between the Jolly Nell and the advancing
Black Pearl, but all fell short of striking. The Black Pearl's
return shot holed the hull at the stern. She still flew the flag calling
for their surrender, the skull and crossbones rippling on a field of black.
It had not yet been replaced by the unmarked sheet of blood-red that would
declare no mercy.
The captain, still green
and choking, asked the lieutenant if they could outrun her. The lieutenant,
grim as a man already hearing his coffin closing, shook his head and said
that no ship had ever matched the Black Pearl for speed, even before
the very breath of the Devil himself had filled her sails.
One of the sailors had gone
mad from terror, and ran about the ship screaming how these pirates could
not be killed, they might shoot and shoot and slash them to ribbons and
blow cannonballs clean through them but they would still walk. The bo'sun's
mate gave him such a slap that William saw, even from the quarterdeck,
a tooth jump from the man's mouth.
and fire!" the gunner's
voice rang out.
Again, the starboard cannons
went off. This was not so synchronous a volley, as the men were clumsy
and shaking in their fear. One of them was not quick enough getting out
of the way, and as the heavy cannon slammed backward in its recoil, its
truck went over his foot. He fell on the deck, howling, as blood pumped
from the mangled flesh.
But, uneven though it may
have been, more than half of the cannonballs found their mark. Holes appeared
as if by magic in the Black Pearl's sails. A yardarm was sheared
off, pulling a slew of loose rigging. One shot struck the cast-iron of
the ship's bell with a toll like doomsday, and caromed straight up in the
air. A section of the Black Pearl's railing vanished in a wooden
hurricane. The pained cries and curses from the pirates brought a ragged
cheer from the throats of the Jolly Nell's men.
"Port!" piped the high and
piercing voice of one of the young lads near the topmasts. "To the port,
a longboat, they're boarding us!"
Hardly anyone seemed to
hear him amid the general din. William Turner spun about, and sure enough
grappling hooks bit into the Jolly Nell's rail, and pirates were
already swarming up their ropes and leaping onto the deck.
"William?" Emily asked,
"Steady on, my dear."
The space between the quarterdeck
and the pirates was roiling with smoke. Men dashed through it. William
raised his guns, and then saw a man in a long coat and a tri-cornered hat
vault over the rail. His cuffed boots struck the planking.
"Barbossa," William breathed.
He aimed at the man's head,
which was dipped so that the hat concealed his features. William made himself
wait. He wanted to see Barbossa's face before he fired, he wanted to watch
the bastard's head burst like an overripe melon.
The dipped brim of the hat
came up. William's finger tightened. He was already seeing the place for
his shot in his mind's eye. The low center of the forehead, just above
the bridge of the nose
Keen and alert, the pirate
looked about. A mass of dark braids flew around his head, some of them
beaded and hung all with silvery bangles. Smaller beaded braids hung from
his chin. Gold flashed quick in his white grin, the grin of a man enjoying
He saw William, and his
own pistol was up and pointed, and for one timeless moment they stared
at each other over the guns. William was so shocked he could not move,
could not ease the pressure on the trigger.
Jack Sparrow blinked and
looked at him again. Then his grin broadened in amazement, and his laughter
rolled through the sounds of battle. He actually threw back his head and
slapped his thigh. While William was still stunned motionless, Jack put
his pistol away. He sauntered toward the quarterdeck through the seething
smoke, shouting in a slurred but commanding voice for his men to cease.
The bewildered sailors of
the Jolly Nell struck a few more blows that the pirates easily deflected.
They looked first to their captain, but that worthy was slumped over the
rail with the doctor bustling uselessly at his side, and then to their
The lieutenant, equally
bewildered, looked at William Turner.
"It's all right," he said,
fervently hoping that it was. Pirates were, after all, still pirates, and
the Jolly Nell was a rich little prize. "Tell your men to lay down
their arms. No harm will come to them."
The order was given, and
moments later, Jack Sparrow swayed to a halt at the bottom of the short
flight of steps leading up to the quarterdeck. Though he had been largely
unimpeded in his progress, and though the Jolly Nell was fairly
steady, he had crossed as though trying to make his way through a great
crowd of people on a tossing deck.
When he stopped, he rocked
from one boot to the other, nearly fell, and caught himself.
"Jack Sparrow," William
"That's Captain Jack
Sparrow, Mister Turner," Jack said. "Captain, captain, why is it so hard
for them to remember?"
know this man?" the
lieutenant asked, aghast.
Both William and Jack ignored
"You're alive," William
"I could say the same of
"And you've regained the
Jack's gaze went to the
ship, where a crew of pirates all unfamiliar to William lined the rails,
peering curiously through the smoke and asking each other what was going
"Aye," he said, his expression
that of a man viewing the one woman he adores above all others. "That I
have, and it's quite a story. You'll want to hear it. Perhaps over a pint
or three of rum?"
"You'll let these good sailors
"It'd hardly be gentlemanly
of me to go and sack their ship, now, would it? Not when they've brought
old friends together again." He swiveled drunkenly around by the looks
of it, he'd had a pint or three, or six, of rum already and did an elaborate
leg to the lieutenant, sweeping off his hat as he did so. "Congratulations,
you'll always remember this as the day you were let go free by Captain
"Thank you," William said,
when the poor lieutenant was too thunderstruck to speak.
"No, thank you, William
Turner. If not for you, in a way, I'd not be here today. Funny that you'd
go and turn up, just when I'd finally delivered that diary of yours." Jack's
shrug was a liquid, expressive thing, and he stumbled a step or two until
he slouched against the rail.
"Found it still hidden away
where you always used to keep it," Jack said. "Not that I read it, though."
He leaned conspiratorially close to the bo'sun. "I've the utmost respect
for the personal property of others, you see."
Quite clearly, William heard
one of the Jolly Nell's midshipmen mutter to another, "He's got
to be the strangest pirate I've ever seen."
"Right!" Jack clapped his
hands. "Will you come aboard, Mister Turner? We've a lot of catching up
"This makes the second time
you've taken me from an English ship," William said, smiling.
"Funny how that works, isn't
"May my wife accompany me?"
"Your wife!" Jack made another
leg, another sweep of the hat. "Madam, at your service. So long, that is,
as you don't slap me. I've gotten quite enough of that lately, and most
unfairly undeserved." A pirate snorted. Jack reeled around to wag a warning
finger at him, then reeled back to William and Emily. "It's so hard finding
good help these days."
"Captain Sparrow," Emily
said, "thank you for your courtesy."
"If you'd be so kind as
to have our things brought up," William said to the quartermaster, "I believe
we'll be leaving the Jolly Nell."
Emily went down to pack, while the activity on the deck got back to
something approximating normal. Luckily, no one had been killed or seriously
hurt in the exchange, and the doctor soon had his hands full with pulling
splinters and tending burns and other minor injuries. The sailor who'd
had his foot run over by the cannon was the worst of them, and the ship's
carpenter soon reported no irreparable damage to the ship, either.
Jack negotiated the short
flight of steps like he was walking a high wire, and bumped William with
his elbow. His whisper carried to the entire quarterdeck. "I say, William,
are you sure she's your wife?"
"I know who I wake
up with in the mornings," William said.
"Fifteen years later and
he dredges that up." Jack rolled his eyes heavenward. "I had it close enough.
Roberta, Rowena, what's the difference? All right, a difference to her,
maybe, but since I was impersonating her husband darkness is a
man's best friend sometimes I think we were even. What I meant was, my
compliments, she hardly looks old enough to be your wife."
"My second wife."
"Ah," Jack said. "Well,
no wonder, then. I'd been asking myself how she could possibly be a grandmother,
a lady so young."
what did you
Jack covered his mouth with
the tips of his fingers and looked suddenly like a schoolboy caught at
mischief. "Did I spoil the surprise?"
"What did you say?"
"Of course, you don't exactly
look the part of a grandfather," Jack said, inclining to and fro as if
caught by a high wind. "You hardly look changed at all. I should have recognized
him right off, really. Uncanny, the resemblance."
With heroic restraint, William
did not seize Jack by the shoulders and shake him until the beads in his
braid beat the sense back into his head. This was the Jack Sparrow he knew,
and yet it wasn't
as if the intervening years had so soused him in rum
that he was pickled with it.
"I've met your son," Jack
confided, that impish grin returning. "He's a fine fellow, your Will. Saved
my life more than once, and got me my ship back. What with all that, I
suppose I can forgive him for getting the girl."
"You know Will? You've seen
him? He's alive?"
"Like I said, it's a long
"But he's all right?" Then
the rest of it hit him, and William passed a trembling hand over his face.
has a family?"
"A lovely girl, his wife
Elizabeth. I quite could have fancied her myself, you know, but it never
would have worked. A pirate like me, and a governor's daughter? No, mate,
it wasn't in the stars. And she and Will had all that pining, unspoken,
unrequited romance going on. Do you know, she really would have married
Norrington if Will hadn't finally spoken up? I don't know how many opportune
moments he let pass him by." He frowned a little, somehow still keeping
his grin. "Never got to the wedding either way, though."
"My son married a governor's
daughter." He had to hear himself say the words before they would feel
real, and even then, they didn't. "Is he a sailor?"
"And a ruddy good one, but
not by trade. He's a blacksmith. As I understand it, her father had a bit
to say about that. Here." Jack drew his sword and held it across the flats
of his palms. "Your boy's work."
William took it, his hand
slipping comfortably around the hilt. The blade was perfectly balanced,
light but strong. "It's exquisite." He noticed a design worked into the
crosspiece, inlaid in blue lapis. It was a wingspread sparrow, the same
as on Jack's tattoo.
"You'll be pleased to know
that he's almost as good using them as making them. But he's no marksman,
mate. I've heard talent skips a generation. If that's the case, though,
then we'd best get my young namesake started with a pistol straightaway."
"I have a grandson?"
"A fine bouncing boy. We'll
have to take you for a visit. Care for a trip to Port Royal? I swear you'll
hardly recognize the place."
Port Royal, 1719
"Come on, Jacky. Walk to
Mama. There's a good boy, walk to Mama." Elizabeth held out her arms.
He gazed yearningly at her,
then dubiously at the distance between where she sat, on a blanket spread
in their flowering, green yard, and the upended half-barrel to which he
clung. He swayed side to side, then back, and nearly overbalanced onto
his nappy-padded bottom.
Will, seated near her and
polishing the blade of his latest creation with an oiled cloth, laughed
his soft laugh. "By the look of him, we did right to name him after Jack.
All he needs is a hat."
"He's only learning," Elizabeth
said. "I'm sure he'll be running in no time. Come on, Jacky. I'm right
here. Just a few steps."
His eyes were huge, dark,
and soulful. Like hers, like Will's. His plump pink lip pooched out and
his chin quivered as he seemed to measure the stretch of ground.
One hand let go its death-grip
on the barrel where he'd pulled himself from a crawl to a stand. He wobbled
again. Then, leaning at a slant, his pudgy little legs carried him at a
barely controlled fall toward her.
He almost made it, and when
she saw him start to tumble, Elizabeth darted for him, caught him under
the arms, and swept him into her lap.
Jack Sparrow's boots thudded
as he jumped from the top of the wall to the grass. "I walk nothing like
that," he said indignantly.
Will, who had sprung up
with the sword in a fighting grip, jabbed it point-first into the earth.
"Jack!" He seized him in a hearty bear-hug, so that Jack's eyes like to
have popped from their sockets. Will slammed him vigorously on the back.
Jack writhed, and fought
his way free. He straightened his hat and wheezed. "Good to see you, as
well, but you'll crack me like an egg. If I'm to have that sort of greeting,
mate, I'd rather it come from Elizabeth."
"Hello, Jack," she said,
and he had to settle for a kiss on the cheek instead. The baby in her arms
crowed happily and snatched the beads dangling from Jack's beard.
"Ow, let me go," cried Jack.
When he had escaped the little fingers, he backed up a step nearly tripping
over the upended half-barrel the way he had once gone off the high sea
wall of the fortress and rubbed his chin. "You've just reminded me yet
again why I never want to get married," he said to the baby.
"What are you doing here?"
Will asked. "We thought you didn't dare come to Port Royal these days."
"Now, you didn't think I'd
let our old friend the commodore keep me away forever," chided Jack. "Besides,
I have something for you."
"Something else?" Elizabeth
asked. "Oh, no, Jack
you've been so generous already."
"And you sent me my father's
diary," Will said. "I cannot tell you what that meant to me. I never really
had the chance to know him when I was a boy."
Jack's grin was craftier
than ever. "I've brought you something better."
"Better?" Elizabeth and
Will glanced at each other. "What --?"
A second figure jumped down
from the wall and straightened up. His face was a bit more careworn, and
his eyes a bit more shadowed, but there was no mistaking him.
"Father," Will breathed.