Chapter Twelve

Later that night, Jack walked Rose back to the entranceway to her quarters. She was beaming, having enjoyed the evening far more than she enjoyed any of the stiff, formal dinners with the other members of the nobility. To be sure, many of the men had looked at her as though imagining what she might look like unclothed, but in that they were no different from some of the noblemen aboard the ship, who looked at her and her mother in the same way—but were more subtle about it.

When they reached the entrance, they stopped, leaning against the railing and looking out over the dark sea and the night sky, lit only by a quarter moon and a vast number of stars—far more than Rose had ever seen in the night sky over London, where the smoke from thousands of fires and the rickety buildings tilting over the alleyways obscured the sky.

"I had a lovely time, Jack," Rose told him. "You certainly do know how to hold a real party."

"It wouldn't have been the same without you," he assured her. "Usually we men just drink, play music, dance with each other, and tell bawdy stories—most of them lies."

"I noticed."

"We were actually much more civilized tonight…it's not often there's a lady around. You're prettier than any of them any day."

"Even in the candlelight?"

He laughed. Rose could be rather bawdy herself.

"Oh, look!" Rose pointed towards the sky. "A shooting star!"

"That was a long one. My father used to say that a shooting star was a soul going to heaven."

"I like that…though I do hope it is not a soul from this ship." Rose crossed herself quickly. "We should wish on it."

Jack smiled. "What would you wish for?"

Rose started to reply, then stopped. "Something I cannot have."

He started to ask again, but thinking twice, he changed the subject, telling her, "You would make a great actor if women were allowed on the stage."

Rose turned, looking at him in surprise. "My thanks, Jack." She turned back to looking out over the ocean. "Women should be on the stage. It would be easy for us. So much of our lives are nothing but acting, pretending to be something we are not. Perhaps that is why men will not allow women on the stage…we would overshadow them."

Jack nodded, sensing that she was talking about herself more than anyone else. "You don't belong with them."

"Pardon me?"

"You don't belong with them, with the nobility. You make me think of a changeling, a baby left in the place of the noble child your parents expected."

Rose laughed a little, acknowledging the truth of his words, then looked sad. "Changeling or not, I was brought up to be a noblewoman, and that is my life, whether I wish it so or not."

Changing the subject again, Jack said, "We should reach Virginia in a fortnight, perhaps less if the winds are with us. What are you hoping to find there?"

Rose shrugged, glancing at his face in the darkness before looking back out over the sea. "Cal has mentioned gold. He believes there are great riches to be found there."

"Perhaps there are. The Spanish explorers had many tales and brought great riches to their land."

"What d'you hope to find there, Jack?"

"I don't know. Adventure, I hope. It is a new world, filled with strange people, mysterious beasts, and landscapes that even the great explorers have not seen. I would like to draw them, to show the people in England what the New World is like. I have heard tales of what has been found there…I would like to see it for myself."

Rose listened longingly, picturing the strange and amazing things a person might see in the New World—if they were free to explore.

"I would like to see those things, too…the people, the animals, the mysterious landscapes and beautiful flowers. I am certain there is ugliness, too, for there always is…but I still wish to see it."

"You will."

"A little bit of it, perhaps…I know that I will not be allowed to explore as I wish, and Cal does not believe a lady should accompany men on their explorations. But perhaps I can see your drawings, and you can tell me about what you've seen. In that way, I might see it, too, even if we only ever just talk about it."

"We will both see them, Rose—I promise. If you truly wish to explore, you will find a way—and I will help you if I can."

Rose smiled sadly at him in the darkness. "It is a lovely thought, but—make no promises you cannot keep, Jack. I know Cal and the other members of the nobility. You do not."

Jack leaned closer to her. "I will—"

They stepped away from each other, startled, as the shadowy figure of a man with a candle approached.

"It is Wiggins," Rose whispered. "Cal must have sent him to find me. Good night, Jack."

Before Jack could say another word, she hurried inside, leaving him looking after her. After a moment, he turned and looked back over the sea, lost in thought.