Chapter 27: Partings
It was full dark when the Captain, crew and passengers of the Black Pearl were ready to make weigh again, timing their departure to take advantage of the ebbing tide.
Harry had asked Anamaria and Judah to see to the dismantling and cleaning of the portions of the smithy that Cray had built for his particular uses, and to the care of the twelve prisoners, Cray's former henchmen. She and Rachel had found pen and paper in the house and had made out a long list of items that needed to be imported to the island, and Harry told her to start a new list while she was gone, as things came to light in the cleaning and rebuilding of the plantation workers' housing.
"I wish to free all the slaves here," Harry said, "and if they wish to be returned to Africa, to their villages, I'll arrange it. But I do hope most will stay."
"Oh, I think they might, most of 'em," replied Rachel, fixing a fond eye on the Dowager Duchess. "Time will tell, though."
Two chests of gold had been taken aboard the ship, one somewhat lighter than the other.
"And which is mine?" asked Jack, eyeing her narrowly, a smile tugging at his lips.
"The lighter one, of course," said Harry, airily. "I've changed my mind about paying you back for the Bride's Auction. I'll just be 'your girl', instead, eh?"
"Is that right?" said Jack. "Well, we'll have to discuss that presently, love. Savvy?"
Harry only grinned.
Finally, goodbyes having been said and promises of quick returns made, all were back on board the Black Pearl. The moon, only one evening off the full, shone down golden as Harry, Elizabeth and Will joined some of the crew in waving goodbye to those left on the beach before Island House, as the ship made its way out of the bay, Jack's hand on the helm. Once out of sight of the bay, however, Jack gave the wheel to Cotton and joined his friends.
"Ah, thank God for the open sea," Jack said breathing deeply, savoring the moment. Then he looked at Harry, standing beside him. She smiled up at him, but her smile began to slip as his expression changed. "Gibbs," he said to his henchman, who stood close at hand, "you have the command. Lady Fanshawe and I have some…ah…unfinished business to take care of in my cabin. And don't disturb us unless I call, savvy?"
He had taken Harry's hand in a firm grasp and, ignoring her slight resistance, pulled her over to the companionway steps. He stepped down onto the first one, but turned and said, looking at Harry, "Oh, and Will, Gibbs? Hide all the knives, will you please?"
"But…Jack!" Harry protested as she was pulled out of sight down the steps. "Jack! Wait! Jack!"
Her protests and their footsteps faded down the passageway, and then the others heard the door of the Captain's Cabin close with a decided bang. Elizabeth looked at Will, a little alarmed. "You don't think…" she began hesitantly.
"No, I don't," said Will.
Gibbs agreed. "Don't you worry, Miss Elizabeth. The Captain wouldn't hurt a hair on her pretty head. Or any other bit of her, either. More's the pity," he added, with a speaking look at the pair.
"It's the Dauntless, Gibbs," said Will to the first mate, a bit grimly, his eye to the spyglass.
He lowered it, and he and Gibbs stared out at the ship, which appeared so deceptively small at such a distance. That Norrington was looking for the Black Pearl was almost certain, but, in the ordinary course of things, the bigger ship could not catch them up. Unless they let it.
"We'd better tell the Captain," Gibbs commented, making no move to do so.
Will, too, considered this in silence. Finally he said: "We'll send Owens."
"Good notion," Gibbs agreed. He turned and called loudly, "Owens! Report!"
Owens, still as pitiful-looking a cabin boy as ever sailed, scurried over. "Aye, Mr. Gibbs?"
"Owens, ye'll go down to his cabin and inform the Captain that the Dauntless has been sighted on the horizon."
Owens goggled at him. "The…the Captain? But he said he didn't want to be disturbed unless he called, sir."
"I know what he said. And haven't we done just that these two days past?"
Indeed, only once had the door of the Captain's Cabin opened since the evening before last when they'd set sail. Yesterday morning, Gibbs had caught his name being called sharply, and, having expected something of this nature, he'd gone quickly down the steps of the companionway, stopping at their foot to grin at Jack, whose face peered at him from around the door. "Would ye be wantin' somethin' then, Captain?"
"Breakfast. Tell cook to leave a tray by the door, aye? And lunch, and dinner, later."
"Aye, I'll do that, but…"
The door was closed and the bolt on the inside set.
Gibbs had raised his shaggy brows. Ah. Like that, is it?
"The thing is," Gibbs went on to Owens, "this is something he'll be wantin' to know. Now you get down there and tell 'im." When the boy still hesitated, Gibbs added, "Go on lad—he won't eat you."
Owens looked unconvinced, but turned away, stiffening his shoulders as he crossed the deck. Gibbs and Will watched with some sympathy as he disappeared down the companionway.
Owens approached the Captain's cabin door on cat feet and, steeling himself, knocked very softly. He waited, his heart thumping, for what seemed a very long time. Then, just as he was thinking of trying once more, the door was jerked open slightly and the Captain's rather bleary eye peered out. It took him a half-second to lower his gaze enough to spot the lad, who peered up at him nervously. The brow above the eye lifted slightly.
"Owens. What is it, lad?"
"B-beggin' the Captain's pardon the Dauntless is on the horizon and Mr. Gibbs and Mr. Turner thought you'd like to know," blurted Owens, taking his fence in a rush. "Beggin' your pardon, " he added, again.
"It is, is it?" Jack said slowly. He seemed to frown, though Owens couldn't be sure, and then he sighed. "All right. Tell them to let her come up slowly, say by midday."
"Aye, Captain!" Owens squeaked, saluting, and turned to escape.
Owens froze, then turned back.
"Tell 'em late midday," Jack said.
The Captain was on deck with his crew, Will, and Elizabeth when the Dauntless came alongside late in the afternoon. Norrington boarded with a small compliment of the King's finest.
"Commodore. We meet again," Jack said smiling, but wary.
"Yes," Norrington said, looking down his nose at the pirate. He turned to Elizabeth. "Miss Swann…Elizabeth: is all well with you?"
"Perfectly," Elizabeth assured him. "We have had an exciting adventure and have done some excellent work, with the aid of Captain Sparrow and his crew."
Norrington looked skeptical, but did not dispute her word. "It is my understanding that the Dowager Duchess of Wyndham is also on this vessel."
"Indeed I am, Norrington," came a voice.
They all turned and watched appreciatively as Harry emerged from the companionway. She was dressed in the finest of her Spanish gowns, the high-necked gold brocade, her dark hair, carefully done up in the elaborate style she favored, shining like silk. She smiled at Jack as he came over to help her onto the deck, and colored a little.
"My lady," he murmured, and lifted her hand to his lips. Then he straightened and studied her face for a moment, a warm look in his eyes.
"Lady Fanshawe!" said Norrington, patent disapproval in his tone.
Jack let her go, and moved a little away from the group.
"Auntie!" exclaimed Elizabeth, coming over to her and taking her hands, "I…are you…all right?" she asked in a low voice, trying to conceal the anxiety under which she had been laboring for the last two days.
Lady Henrietta smiled and said, "Never better, my dear, I assure you!" She gave Elizabeth's hands a little squeeze to emphasize the sincerity of the sentiment. Then she looked around at the assembled company, her eyes sparkling with pleasure, and took in the beauty of the scene, the tidy ships, the varying blues of ocean and sky, the slight cooling breeze and golden, westering sun. "What a lovely day it is! Commodore Norrington! It's been almost twelve years now, hasn't it? Twelve years March 15th, I believe."
Norrington blinked, momentarily stunned, then noticed Jack eying him curiously and collected himself. "Yes. Your memory does you credit, Lady Fanshawe," he managed, stiffly.
"My memory is always excellent," she agreed, smiling. "I must congratulate you on your elevation to the rank of Commodore—this uniform certainly becomes you more than the last one in which I saw you." She smiled serenely at his very evident consternation. "It is so good of you to bring the Dauntless and her crew to take the three of us back to Port Royal," she continued. "We have imposed on Captain Sparrow's hospitality long enough, I vow."
Norrington straightened and said severely, "Lady Fanshawe, Captain Sparrow…"
She cut him off. "We owe such a great debt to the Captain. You will excuse me, for a moment, while I take my leave of him."
She turned away from Norrington and went over to Jack. As she approached him, her smile faded a little. He held out his hands as she approached, and she took them in hers. Feeling tears behind her eyes, she looked up at him and said, in a husky voice, "Don't forget me!"
He gave a bark of genuinely astonished laughter, and replied, "Not bloody likely!"
She grinned at that, and, tears forgotten, tossed decorous behavior to the winds and threw her arms around him and kissed him once more. Jack responded with gratifying alacrity, but he was unable to resist glancing up at Norrington in the midst of it, just to see the look of outrage on the Commodore's face.
Jack ended the kiss before Norrington was goaded into action, pushed her a little away, but set his hands on her arms in a warm, firm clasp. "I'll come to you when you get back to St. Claire," he assured her.
"That's like to be at least a month!" she complained. "I do wish you were coming to the wedding!"
He gave a snort of amusement. "I imagine Norrington would have something to say about that! Provided he don't try to hang me out of hand."
"Norrington!" exclaimed Harry. "Oh, but you need not be quite so concerned about him, any more!" She smiled at his puzzled look, and turned. "Commodore!" she called. "Please join us for a moment!"
The tall officer approached the pair, stiff with disapproval, but Jack took note of the slightly wary look on his face. "Your ladyship?" Norrington inquired, very formal.
"Commodore," said Lady Henrietta, in brisk tones, "It has been brought to my attention that you are considered the…er…Scourge of Piracy in these waters, am I correct?"
"I have endeavored to carry out my appointed duties with efficiency and dedication, my lady," he replied, eyeing Jack speculatively.
"I am sure of it, Commodore," she said kindly. "However, although I am loathe to throw your…youthful indiscretions, shall we say?…in your face, I must inform you that if you ever again harass, or cause to be harassed, Captain Sparrow and his crew, I will be forced to inform Admiral Greenway, the Naval Office, and your mother of the events which transpired on March 15th, twelve years ago. Do I make myself clear?" The Commodore stared at her, stunned. "Excellent!" she smiled. She turned to Jack, twinkling at his look of bemused admiration. "Captain Sparrow, it has been a great pleasure. I very much look forward to our next meeting!"
"As do I, ma'am," said Jack , smiling back at her. He erased the smile after she turned away, looking blandly up at Norrington, who stared after the departing Dowager Duchess, still speechless.
"Elizabeth! Will!" said Lady Henrietta. "Come my loves! Your nuptials await!" She added with an ironic little smile, "How happy your father will be to see me!"
"Indeed he will, Aunt!" Elizabeth assured her warmly.
The three moved off toward the gangplank that had been set between the ships, but stopped again when Norrington finally regained his voice.
"But…but Lady Fanshawe!" The man was nearly sputtering. The three turned back to him, and Lady Henrietta cocked an enquiring brow. Norrington looked in growing outrage from the Dowager Duchess to Sparrow and back again. "Lady Fanshawe, he…he's a pirate!"
Lady Harry smiled warmly at Jack. "Yes, indeed!" she agreed, adding in a voice pregnant with meaning, "He's my pirate!"
- - Finis - -