Disclaimer: Standard –I own nothing and the Code of the Brethren compels me to return everything I have borrowed. (eventually)
The year 1662 bore witness to a number of notable events throughout Europe and the expanding borders of the New World.
Christopher Wren, the great English architect saw his Sheldonian theatre in Oxford completed, and the natural philosopher, Robert Boyle enunciated his law of gas behavior and would become known as one of the fathers of modern chemistry.
This year saw the birth of Mary II who would eventually rule England with her husband William III, and the deaths of the mathematician Blaise Pascal, and Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria. The great Master, Rembrandt van Rijn was still painting, although it was late in his career.
France was under the rule of Louis the XIV, known as "The Sun King," and in Spain Philip IV sat on the throne. In Rome, Leopold I was Holy Roman Emperor, and Alexander VII was the presiding pope. In England, Oliver Cromwell was now dead and Charles II had been reinstated as king.
Charles II was in part responsible for the foundation of the Royal Society that year, along with other notable men of science such as the previously mentioned Robert Boyle, and Robert Cooke.
One of the most significant things Charles II accomplished, especially for the purposes of this story, was to have a marriage arranged to the Princess Catherine of Braganza, daughter of the king of Portugal. His marriage to Catherine is not of central importance here, but the repercussions of her arrival in England would eventually be felt throughout Great Britain and the farthest reaches of her empire. It is said that Catherine brought with her the custom of drinking tea and introduced it to England for the first time. Also arriving with Catherine were the components of her substantial dowry including 300,000 pounds and the gifts of the cities of Mumbai (Bombay) and Tangiers.
It was by these acquisitions that the East India Trading Company would be able to establish its permanent base in India and therefore greatly broaden its assets, allowing it to amass a great deal of power and influence in both the old world and the new for decades to come.
Curiously, in that same year, another person of Portuguese descent, (although of considerably meaner lineage than Princess Catherine) decided also to emigrate from his home in Lisbon, and seek his fortune elsewhere.
Wishing to leave behind a life of poverty in exchange for one full of danger and adventure, the young Mateus managed to secure himself a position on board a ship called the San Pedro under command of Manuel Pardal Rivero, a pirate of some small notoriety.
Mateus sailed with Rivero for several years, becoming a skilled seaman and amassing a small amount of personal wealth. Eventually tiring of the hard life at sea, Mateus decided after a few years that he had enough money to start anew, and left the San Pedro along with an Irishman he'd befriended his last voyage. Together they headed for Ireland, paying for passage to Fowry on the southern coast of Cornwall in England.
The two men, knowing full well the dangers of encountering pirates that frequented the waters around Land's End, opted to follow The Saints' Way overland to Padstow. Here they parted company, the one continuing for Ireland, and Mateus opting to stay in some of the most beautiful country he had ever encountered in his life.
Using his small fortune, Mateus set himself up comfortably in a home with rolling fields, an orchard and a view of the sea. He enjoyed the quiet life for a time, and eventually took a wife, the fair Beryan, daughter of a poor local fisherman who was happy to see her wed to someone who could provide a better life for her.
Alas, the fisherman's hopes were short-lived, for although it was not long before Beryan was with child, it was also not long before Mateus' small fortune began to dwindle. He was forced to sell off some of his land, keeping the small orchard and a few acres for himself and his pregnant wife.
As Beryan grew larger, so did Mateus' fears that his child would be born into poverty like he himself had been. With no skills other than those he had learned on a ship, Mateus made the difficult decision of leaving his wife to fend for herself for a short time so that he might be able to earn enough to support his growing family. He bid an emotional good-bye to his bride and made his way to Penwith (Penzance) to see about finding a berth, eventually ending up on a ship bound for Spain.
As fate would have it, Mateus had heard of a venture being undertaken by his former captain, Manuel Rivero, Portuguese pirate now turned privateer. Spain was being plagued by pirates in the New World, and by none more than the infamous Captain Henry Morgan. Morgan's plundering of Portobello had enraged Spain, who "sanctioned the governors of its colonies in the procurement of privateers and disbursement of letters of marque."1
Mateus was welcomed enthusiastically by Rivero, and signed on to sail to the Caribbean to hunt pirates. The voyage unfortunately would be the death of both men. Rivero was eventually killed by Morgan himself, and it was thought that Mateus may have suffered the same fate, although it was never confirmed.
Either way, Beryan never saw her husband again and when the warmer summer months arrived, she gave birth to a boy child, alone at the small homestead in Padstow. Left without a husband to support her, Beryan was forced to sell more land, leaving only the house and small orchard for her and her son. She made ends meet as best she could as a seamstress for a few years, and when her young son was old enough, he earned a little money helping the local fishermen.
It was a hard life for them both, but Beryan did whatever she could to make life a little better for her son. She cooked and cleaned for an aged priest who lived in the village, and in return for her kindness, the priest taught the boy reading, writing, sums and a little Latin. Although the boy was bright and enjoyed learning whatever he could from the old man, his favorite times were spent running through the orchard hunting rabbit for dinner, or sitting amongst the fishermen of the village as they repaired their nets and told stories of their days at sea.
It was not many years before the boy started to ask his mother questions about his father, and not many more before her offhand answers were not enough. Eventually, Beryan had to face the fact that like it or not, her son deserved the truth.
Her explanation that Mateus had left them to seek his fortune again at sea confused and angered the young boy at first. He wanted to believe that his father had indeed meant to return home to care for him and his mother, but it was difficult not to buy into the notion that Mateus had deserted them so that he might find adventure and glory.
Was the man a deserting coward, or a devoted husband who braved the dangers of the sea to try to make a better life for his new family? Beryan's son told himself that when he was old enough he'd go and seek his father and find out the truth.
Just what sort of man was Mateus Eduardo Santos Barbossa?
"Hector where 'ave ye gotten to now?" Beryan climbed the hill into the orchard and shouted in mild exasperation again for her twelve-year-old son. "Hector!"
A small noise caused her to look overhead to find the boy scurrying down the apple tree he'd been perched in, staring at the ocean off in the distance. Beryan shook her head but couldn't help smiling as she scolded the boy. "Did ye get the conies for dinner?"
Hector jumped the last few feet to the ground and caught up the pair of rabbits he'd killed earlier to present to his mother.
Beryan nodded. "Aye, well they won't be quick to cook themselves if ye don't bring them home to the pot, now will they?"
Hector smiled charmingly at his mother, knowing it would soften her. "Nay, Mother, leastwise not this pair," he said wryly, reaching for the gun where he'd leaned it against the base of the tree.
Beryan smiled more brightly and then frowned a little. "Were ye watching the ships in the distance again?" she asked, knowing full well what Hector would say.
The boy slung the rifle across his shoulder, nodding as he walked past his mother to descend the hill. He said nothing else, knowing already how this conversation would play out. They'd had it enough times already.
Beryan sighed resignedly and followed her son down the hill in silence. She too knew the way the conversation would go and opted to let the subject drop for now. Protest as she might, she knew in her heart that it was only a matter of time before she was unable to sway the lad from his course. He'd long been determined to find out what had happened to his father and reckon with the man for deserting his mother if he was still alive.
No matter how much she told him his father must be dead, and that it was no fault of Mateus for not returning as he'd promised, he knew her too well. She might be able to hide the shred of doubt she possessed from herself, but not from Hector.
"Besides, I want to know what happened even if he be yet dead," the boy would say. It was an argument she had no good answer for, and usually it would only be her tears beginning to well up that would cause the look of steely gray-blue determination to soften in her son's expression. At these moments he would say nothing and reach for her hand, or perhaps smile a little and say "someday". Then he'd wink at her, and she'd laugh, letting him think he'd disarmed her and that she'd stop worrying about it for the moment.
It was a lie they played out more and more frequently now that his thirteenth birthday was nigh. Each time he said "someday," all she heard now was "soon."
Beryan followed her son toward the small house, noting with pride and with dread that he almost seemed taller to her this evening then when she'd last seen him this morning. He'd probably be like his father, six feet or slightly better, and even if he wasn't the handsomest boy in the village, he was at least one of the healthiest. She'd done her best to see to that.
Hector set about skinning the rabbits for his mother as she began peeling a handful of apples and slicing them across the table from him. They worked in silence for a few moments, but Beryan smiled to herself as she waited for the boy to comment on what she was doing. It was another little game they played.
Hector pretended as if what she was doing held little interest for him, and adopting a detached air, glance at her work. "Cutting apples, are ye?"
Beryan stayed focused on the firm green beauty she was peeling. "Aye."
"I see." He continued with the rabbit in his hands for a few moments and glanced in a disinterested way at her work. "What are ye using the apples fer, Mother?"
"Pie," was all she would say, now a little smile wending its way across her lips.
"I see," he said, "so apple pie it is, is it?"
"Aye," was her reply, along with a grin. She started to pile the slices of apple in the pastry on the table.
Hector waited until he had started on the entrails of the rabbit. "How long might it be before the pie be ready?" he asked casually.
"Six hours," Beryan replied firmly.
"Six hours!" Hector firmly stuck the knife in the center of the rabbit and clutched at his heart. "Six hours!" he repeated with mock drama.
"Aye." Beryan couldn't say it without laughing.
"But, why so long?" he asked, glancing longingly at the pastry she was working with.
"This be a special birthday pie, and ye cannot rush such a dish," Beryan replied knowingly.
Hector returned deflated to his work, glancing periodically at his mother, waiting for her to tell him the pie would really be ready in an hour or so. She caught him looking and raised an eyebrow in question at him. He shrugged and returned to his work, waiting and waiting for her to say something. Finally he looked up when he realized she was watching him expectantly, completed pie sitting on the table in front of her.
"Are ye going to put the pie in the oven, woman, or do ye expect it to bake itself?" he asked, laughing.
"Nay, leastwise not this one," she said with a wink, putting the pie in to bake while Hector made exaggerated gestures of relief across the kitchen.
It was a lovely meal of stew and bread that his mother made for the two of them and Father Connor to celebrate Hector's thirteenth birthday. It was all he could do not to burn his mouth on the first slice of pie his mother handed him. It had cooled plenty by the time he put away his third piece, reluctantly admitting that even the stomach of a growing teenager couldn't fit another bite. Even old Father Connor, who normally picked like a bird managed a second piece. Nobody made apple pie the way Beryan did.
Stuffed to the gills, Hector normally would have slept until dawn when he would be expected on the docks, but tonight he anxiously anticipated the moment when Father Connor would take his leave. He wanted to get the conversation ahead over with.
Although it seemed that the gregarious Padre would never say goodnight, he eventually did, blessing the fine meal, the house and its occupants as he left. Beryan sat down and eyed the piles of dishes as Hector sat across from her, wondering how to even begin.
It was his mother's voice that broke the silence. "So, when's it to be, a week?" she asked quietly.
Hector wasn't sure whether he felt more relief or guilt at that moment. He continued to stare at the table. "Three days."
Beryan's eyes widened even as the tears began tracing their way down her cheeks. "Three days?" she gasped in a barely audible voice.
"Aye," he replied in the same hushed voice. He dared not look at her. She'd never think him old enough to go if she saw the tears in his own eyes threatening to brim over.
"Could ye not wait a little longer?" she asked, knowing that he couldn't.
She knew argument would be useless, but her maternal instincts reflexively opened her mouth. "Hector, you really don't have to do this…"
"Nay, I do, Mother," he replied as steadily as he could. "There's naught for me here."
He saw the look of pain in his mother's eyes and was kneeling at her side with her hand in his in an instant. "I….I did not mean that…"he started.
Beryan nodded, knowing that he didn't mean exactly what he had said. She knew he loved her.
He held her hand and continued softly. "It's just that he left you nothin'" he said, "he left me nothin'…nobbut a name," he said, trailing off.
"Aye, and Barbossa be a right fine name too, Hector," Beryan said, gripping his hand tightly.
"That's what I need to find out."
Three days later, after a tearful goodbye from his mother, Hector had taken a small satchel of his belongings and wound his way steadily down the path that led to the Padstow docks. There the small crew of the caravel he'd be leaving on looked as if they were finished offloading the cargo they were trading, and were in the process of re-stocking supplies and the cargo they were taking with them to Bristol.
Mr. Bretton, the merchant who owned the vessel spotted him and called out. "Boy! Get yer arse down 'ere and help wit 't last of this shit!" He indicated the pile of barrels on the docks.
"Aye." Hector dropped his satchel and struggled to lift one of the small kegs onto his shoulder. He nearly dropped it again as Bretton grabbed him by the ear.
"That'd be 'aye, Sir, ' Mr. Barbossa," Bretton growled into the lad's face. "If yer going to be a proper sailor, ye'd best be learnin' proper dis'plin startin' righ' now." He tore his hand away from Hector's ear.
Hector winced and nodded briefly. "Aye, Sir," he replied, and then turned to carry the barrel up the gangplank past the handful of crew that obviously found the encounter amusing. One of them, a stout, weathered-looking man with dark hair and a short beard motioned to the boy. His accent took Hector by surprise. "Mae, but you are slow!"
Hector looked up sharply from under the barrel on his shoulder, but found the man grinning at him.
"Here. Down here. I show you where that goes," the man said, beckoning Hector to follow him into the small ship's hold. Hector followed, struggling not to drop the barrel, which was getting heavier by the moment.
"There." The bearded man pointed to a stack of barrels at one end of the already crowded hold. He stood by with his arms folded and watched for several moments as Hector labored to get the barrel up on the stack, smiling to himself as the boy panted and heaved, and finally was able to situate the keg in place. Hector, somewhat breathless, turned to the man as he spoke again.
"Excelente. Very good. Now, get up top. You saw there are more barrels, yes?" He was grinning again.
"Aye, that I did, sir," Hector replied, heading for the stairs. He was stopped by one of the man's large callused hands on his arm, gripping him firmly. It was, however a kind expression the man wore when Hector looked at him.
"You learn quick enough, but it is not …ah, how do you say…needed? Yes, it is not needed that you call me 'sir'."
"Necessary?" Hector offered helpfully.
"Yes, that either. Not necessary." The man released his arm and clapped Hector on the shoulder in a gesture of camaraderie. "Cezar Tavares da Silva a seu sevico." He offered his hand to Hector. "You may call me Cezar."
Hector shook the man's outstretched hand. "Hector Barbossa."
The man's eyebrows shot up as he continued to grip the boy's hand. "Ah, Compatriota!"
Hector looked questioningly at Cezar.
"Barbossa is Portuguese, no?"
"Aye, well, me father was Portuguese. Me mother be a native of Padstow all her years," Hector replied, at last freeing his hand from the man's firm grip.
"We will Portuguese sailors together then, Hector! Yes?" Cezar laughed aloud.
"Aye." Hector found himself smiling back.
"Say 'sim'," Cezar replied, offering the Portuguese affirmative.
"Good, but there are more barrels to load, yes?" Silva asked with a wink.
"Sim," the boy replied.
"They are not going to load themselves, I fear," Cezar said, turning to head up the stairs.
"Nay, leastwise not that bunch," Hector returned, and he followed the older man back to where the remaining barrels sat on the dock.
A/N: The idea for the beginning of this story comes from an interview with Geoffrey Rush, who said that he imagined Hector Barbossa as being from a poor family and running away from home at age 13. Mateus Eduardo Santos Barbossa is a completely fictional character. I picture a young John Rhys-Davies as Cezar, recalling him as Vasco Rodrigues in Shogun.