Chapter 1: Jack-a-Dandy
"By the Saints, Jack! Yer own mother wouldn't know you!" exclaimed Joshamee Gibbs, gaping into the gold-framed mirror that reflected back the image of the Captain of the Black Pearl.
The fair image scowled and gave a slight snort of disgust. "That's where you're out, Gibbs: she would know me! Bloody hell. I hope that wretched baggage appreciates this."
Gibbs grinned. He'd never seen Jack like this. None of them had. Clean shaven for the first time in years; painted and powdered and patched like any London exquisite; long black hair stripped of its coins and beads and other trinkets, combed out and curled with irons, and looking now for all the world like a gentleman's fine periwig; and dressed to the nines in an apricot satin coat, immaculate cream smallclothes, and quantities of lace, all lifted from the snot-nosed Frenchie Jack had dealt with two days before when they'd waylaid and boarded the Coq d'Or, a little Gallic merchant ship loaded to the scuppers with swag of the finest quality.
Monsieur Beauvais had certainly gotten the worst of Jack's gleeful vengeance that day. Beauvais had been incensed when the frog captain had accepted Jack's offer of quarter, and had made the mistake of not only refusing to hand over to Jack the pretty diamond stick pin nestled so temptingly in his modish lace cravat, but had unsheathed his sword and challenged Jack to a duel, by all the Saints! The Pearl's crew had roared with laughter, but immediately got into the spirit of the thing, placing wagers with raucous abandon, Jack being the odds on favorite of course. Still, there was a small contingent that backed the Frenchie, in spite of his effete appearance, enough to keep the contest interesting. And indeed, he'd shown game at first, striking out with an energy that left no doubt of the gravity of his intentions. But Jack took care of that, pretty much straight away.
A maniacal grin on his lips, Jack played with the fellow a bit, to get his measure as it were, then began his attack, not so fierce as to scare the fellow off, but certainly enough to wipe the smugly superior look from Beauvais' face. It was a hot day, and, though they'd both shed their coats, Beauvais' face began to redden and drip with sweat as he backed across the deck.
"Behind you!" Jack snapped.
The Frenchie paid no heed and ended up tripping on a step. A frantic look came into his eyes as he scrambled up, barely parrying Jack's blow. Jack laughed then, and Beauvais panicked.
"Aw. No guts at all," grumbled O'Brien, and handed over a gold coin to Gibbs.
The fool Frenchie had turned and run, leaping up the steps and across the deck like the devil himself was after him. Which he was, in a way. Jack gave chase, and being used to running about on a ship, which Beauvais wasn't, kept up easily and began merrily thrashing the fellow with the flat of his sword. Beauvais set up a shriek, and the crew of the Black Pearl commenced to cheering the Captain on as the two raced about the decks, Beauvais near to wetting himself with fear and Jack spending some of his pent up energy teaching the French puppy a hard lesson.
Jack had been in a fine, fey mood since the day after the Dauntless had sailed away, taking Lady Henrietta Fanshawe, Dowager Duchess of Wyndham with it, entrusted to the capable hands of Commodore James Norrington. Of course they'd left Turner and her niece, Miss Elizabeth, with him, as well, but it wasn't them Jack had been brooding about that first afternoon as the Pearl came about and began to make her way back to St. Claire Island. Right blue-deviled Jack had been at first. He'd taken the wheel of the Pearl shortly after the departure of the Dauntless, and, to his credit, had only turned to look back half a dozen times or so as the floating fortress faded into the distance behind them, on its way to Port Royal and a happy reunion with the Governor. Jack had manned the helm for many hours after that, far into the night, and had not seemed desirous of company during that time, either, preferring instead, Gibbs suspected, to turn over in his mind the events of the last week, and in particular those of the last two days, when he'd been ensconced with the lady in his cabin, getting to know her very well indeed.
Gibbs and the rest of the Pearl's crew couldn't really blame Jack for his air of abstraction. Pretty as rose in May, the Dowager Duchess was, with a neat figure, hair like warm brown silk, a twinkling eye, and truly captivating ways. That she was also maddeningly mischievous and headstrong likely only added to her fascination for Jack. The lad had never had much tolerance for uninteresting females, and a woman less boring than Harry Fanshawe was hard to imagine. She'd led Jack, and perforce his crew, a merry dance, sure enough, but in the end she'd yielded to his charm, as all the ladies did. Except she was different from the others, for he'd yielded to hers as well. And after she was gone it was obvious to the crew: their Captain was fair smitten.
Oh, he'd come around, mostly, the next day. Cotton had relieved him at the wheel during the small hours of the morning, when Jack had shown signs of nodding off on his feet. The old man had roused him with a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, and he'd given Cotton a rueful smile before taking himself off to his cabin for the rest of the night. But when he'd come on deck late the next morning, the old light was back in his eye, possibly brighter than ever. He'd grinned a hearty good morning to his crew, then proceeded to set them all scurrying, with orders to ready the Pearl to receive the twelve vile miscreants they'd captured during the affair with that bloody heathen, Lucius Cray. St. Claire Island hove onto the horizon late that afternoon.
Anamaria had been surprised, but happy to see them again so soon, although she was right taken up with the ordering of things on the island, sharing that work with the well-spoken black giant, Judah, and Rachel, housekeeper at the Fanshawe's plantation house for the past twenty years.
When the two of them got a moment alone, Ana eyed the Captain and asked bluntly, "What happened, Jack?"
"Nothin'. Came to fetch those vermin is all," Jack retorted, but with a telltale smirk on his face.
"I know why you're here, ye fool. What happened with Lady Harry?"
"Didn't Gibbs just tell you? She's headed for Port Royal on the Dauntless! Plaguing the life out of Norrington instead o' me, by way of a change."
Ana gave him a look of contempt, laced with a dose of disbelief. "Oh, aye? Well, you just go on singin' that tune, while ye look as moony-eyed as a schoolboy."
"I do not!"
"Ye do. An' ye'd better watch yerself. You hurt 'is baby sister an' Swann'll have yer hide nailed to his stable door! Right before he strings you up!"
Jack scowled at her, but took himself off without bothering with further denial.
The Pearl sailed the next day, no one wanting to waste any time getting rid of Cray's minions. Ana and Judah had taken good care of them, and, sure enough, they ended up fetching a nice bit of blunt at the slave market.
"Goin' to give Lady Harry a cut, Jack?" Gibbs asked, eyes laughing.
"Bloody hell, no!" Jack exclaimed, in mock anger. "She already diddled me out of that five hundred I paid for her at the Bride's Auction! My girl. Ha!" He walked off muttering, but Gibbs had seen the smile tugging up the corners of his mouth.
They sailed to Tortuga next, where the crew blew off some steam in the accepted manner, a few coming back to the ship to sleep, but many just disappearing from sight for the duration. Jack partook of the delights available in the town as well, standing many a round to celebrate recent events, but leaving many a Barque of Frailty pining. He'd always had a reputation as a terrible flirt, but this time that's all he did, which surprised everyone but his crew. Gibbs quizzed him on it some, jesting like, but Jack only gave him an odd look and walked away, shaking his head.
And when the Pearl set sail again, it was seen that the new course would take the ship in the general direction of Jamaica. Not that Jack said as much. What he said was that, now he'd rid the ship of passengers and seen to the crew's needs, it was time to do a bit of actual pirating again. And two days out of Port Royal, he sighted the Coq d'Or through that spyglass of his. A fiendish smile lit his face.
And two hours later, Monsieur Beauvais lay gasping like a landed fish on the deck, Jack's sword at his throat.
"Mercy! Please, Monsieur!" Beauvais whined, staring, horrified, up the length of steel.
"Mercy?" repeated Jack, sounding mystified. "Thought that's what I was givin' you these last few minutes! Could've run you through a dozen times! Eh, Gibbs?" He glanced at his First Mate, seeking confirmation.
"Aye, you could indeed," agreed Gibbs, promptly.
"Y'see?" Jack said to Beauvais, patting the side of his neck with the end of the sword, "Gibbs agrees with me. Always does, of course. That's his job. Who does your hair?"
Beauvais, a bit taken aback by this non sequitur, stammered, "Wh-what?" and looked confused.
"Your hair! That ain't a wig on yer head. An' the togs, too. Yer a right fashionable Frenchie prig. You can't tell me you dress yerself?"
Beauvais, obviously thinking Jack a bit mad at this line of questioning, replied, "M-my valet, Monsieur."
"Well, where the devil is he?" says Jack. "Produce me this valet, à l'instant! If not sooner!"
Beauvais rolled a desperate eye toward the Coq d'Or's captain, who had been watching the proceedings glumly, along with the rest of his crew and passengers. There was a little stir amongst the group of them, and then a thin, balding, middle-aged man dressed in black stepped from their midst, pushing past the Captain and then pausing, dramatically steeling himself.
"I am Monsieur's valet. I am Alphonse."
"Alphonse! Get over here, man!" Jack commanded. "Your master has need of you!"
Alphonse approached, hesitantly, exchanging a speaking glance with Beauvais, then facing the pirate captain as though Jack were his executioner.
Jack gestured to Beauvais and said to Alphonse, "He's a bit worse for wear at the moment, but I can see you put a lot of time an' effort into turnin' him up smart. Think you could do the same for me?"
Alphonse gaped. Then, thinking he'd best humor this potentially lethal madman, gave the question serious consideration. He looked Jack over, professional interest gradually overcoming his fear as he studied the pirate's face and figure. Finally he said, "The hair would be difficult…but yes, I think we could manage it."
Jack grinned. "Excellent!" He looked down at Beauvais. "Ye'll let me borrow yer man for a few weeks, as payment for today's little lesson, aye? And yer clothes too! One must dress, y'know. Alphonse! Show my good men where Monsieur's clothes are stowed."
"My clothing! But, no!" exclaimed Beauvais, moved to action at last.
But Jack set the point of his sword at the Frenchie's throat again in a manner that brooked no defiance. "Now none o' that, my lad! I'm leavin' you the clothes on your back, after all! O' course, they're all sweaty and nasty, anyway. Except the coat!" He brightened, glancing over to wear Beauvais's fine pale blue satin coat lay alongside his own old, worn one. "I'll take that as well. It's a hot clime. Ye'll do fine without it."
And so, Alphonse and two trunks of rich clothing in the latest mode were summarily loaded onto the Black Pearl, along with most of the rest of the cargo from the Coq d'Or.
Alphonse was a bit upset at first, but found solace in Anatole, the chef Jack had appropriated from another French ship a few months before. Anatole told Alphonse that 'Capitaine' Sparrow and the crew of the Black Pearl were unlike any pirates he'd ever heard of, taking plenty of spoils but making every effort to leave lives intact. He added that he'd never fed a group more appreciative of his efforts, a nice change from the careless attitude of the aristocrats he'd served before this.
"But le capitaine!" Alphonse said, in a low tone, looking around as though there were ears growing out of the bulkheads. "Is he not mad?"
Anatole chuckled. He said quietly, "Oui! Mad like a fox! He is on good terms with the Governor of Port Royal, and the Governor's sister, the Dowager Duchess of Wyndham, is his chere amie!"
Alphonse stared, his eyebrows rising into what would have been his hairline if he'd had one. "But no!" he breathed, impressed.
He was even more impressed later, when he sat down to dinner with Jack and Gibbs in the Great Cabin. Anatole had done his utmost to make his compatriot feel at home, and served up a veritable feast of Gallic delights.
"By the Saints, this is good!" Gibbs exclaimed.
Jack said to his chef, "Anatole! Your culinary expertise continues to amaze and delight. Should bring aboard a Frenchie comrade for you more often!"
"I did wish to make him welcome, Capitaine," Anatole said, demurely.
"I know ye did, an' it's most appreciated. Can't have him unhappy when he's going to be havin' the opportunity to cut me throat with a razor, or stab me with shears, eh?" Jack gave Alphonse an ingratiating smile.
Alphonse choked slightly at the idea of trying to harm the pirate captain, who, however questionable his sanity, was clearly held in very high regard by his crew. No matter what Anatole had told him, Alphonse had no doubt Jack's crew would avenge any harm to their captain in a swift, extremely uncomfortable manner. He smiled back at Jack, a sheen of nervous perspiration appearing on his brow.
After dinner, Jack poured out brandy for the three of them and sat down again, swirling the deep amber liquid in his glass and taking an appreciative sniff, before taking a sip.
"Ah! That's almost good enough to bring a tear to me eye!" he said. "And five cases of it taken from the Coq d'Or! I believe we'll have to keep it for our own use, eh Gibbs?"
"It'd fetch a good bit on the market, but I reckon we've enough other swag to sell off to make this day's efforts worthwhile."
"That we do. But best of all is our guest here." He raised his glass in a salute to the valet, and went on. "I'll tell you what I want from you, Alphonse. I've a wedding I'd like to attend in two days, in Port Royal. The Governor's niece, and a good friend of mine, one William Turner, are tyin' the knot. Now, without going into a lot of tedious explanation, what I need you to do is pretty me up so I can attend this affair without appearin' too out of place. Savvy?"
"You wish to…to disguise yourself, no?" suggested Alphonse.
"No. I mean, yes!" said Jack. "The thing of it is, we're friends, but some friends of those friends might not take my presence in so friendly a light. I'm thinkin' if you can fix it so I look like that bloody French puppy you call master, I'll blend in enough so I can be there to wish me friends happy, eh?"
Alphonse studied Jack thoughtfully, then said, "Two days only, hein? We will need to begin immediately. The hair alone will be very difficult."
Jack sighed a little at the thought of dismantling the elaborate arrangement he'd spent so long creating, but he'd set his course and would not veer from it. He said, stoically, "Right, then. We can start tonight. After we've sampled a bit more o' this brandy."
He sampled a bit more than a bit more, himself, and imbibed pretty freely for the remainder of the evening, as Alphonse set to work.
It took all of the two days they had left to them as the Pearl made its way toward Jamaica and Port Royal. This was pretty much all due to Jack's hair, and Alphonse came close to giving up on it at a couple of points.
"Voyons! This is impossible! Cannot you wear a wig, Monsieur…er…Capitaine Sparrow? I can then cut your hair short and save us both a great deal of pain."
"No," said Jack, stubbornly. "If I can bear it, you can. Just don't pull it all out, savvy? When this wedding's over I want to resume me usual façade, an' short hair ain't part of it."
So Alphonse persevered, and in the end both he and Jack were satisfied with the result.
"It is miraculeux!" exclaimed Alphonse, with a happy smile. "You were right, Capitaine! The hair is most beautiful!"
Jack rolled his eyes a bit. "Let's just get on with it, shall we?"
Alphonse had now got into the spirit of the thing, and did his utmost to groom Jack to within an inch of his life, bathing, shaving, plucking, cutting, and polishing with great enthusiasm, while Jack set his teeth, drank quantities of the good brandy, and thought of Harry. And on the morning of the wedding, the image that stared back at Jack from the mirror was not that of a pirate.
He grinned, then quickly set his lips together. "Lord, I'd almost forgot the teeth. Have to keep that in mind," he mused, somewhat annoyed at this added inconvenience.
That was when Gibbs had come in, exclaiming gleefully about Jack's mother not knowing him.
"Jack, I'd give a bloody fortune to see Lady Harry's face when you come ridin' up, an' that's the truth. The horse is here, by the by. You'd best get started. Wedding starts at ten sharp."
"Aye. Good thing it's only a few miles. Haven't been on a horse in years. If it was farther it'd probably lame me."
But there was no sign of inexperience as Jack mounted the fine animal, purloined in the night from a plantation a few miles distant, and brought to Fuller's Cove, where the Black Pearl now lay at rest. The crew, who had been stunned when he'd emerged from his cabin, bid Jack a fond farewell, wondering, not for the first time, what kind of life their Captain had come from that he took to the trappings and ways of a gentleman with such ease. And Alphonse, looking on with a satisfied smile, prepared to enjoy the beautiful day, secure in the knowledge of a job well done.