Two years after leaving the Rogue Wave, and pledging to wait for Barbossa to return from the sea, Madeline Gray has tried to move on with her life, not knowing why it is that her pirate captain has not returned to her as he promised. Now, busy with the new hospital in Port Royal, and the excitement of the arrival of the new governor and officers at Fort Charles, she has flowers delivered unexpectedly one day to her door.
Are they from friends? A patient? Perhaps from Charles Beckett, who has had his eye on her ever since his wife, Cornelia, perished at sea. Are they from the handsome Lieutenant Groves, with whom she spends the night of the governor's ball dancing and conversing? Or is there someone else that Madeline hasn't even considered might send her flowers?
Flowers of May
I sat at the bedside of the small child, watching her take what I knew to probably be her last breaths. The fact that she was unconscious made it look as if she were sleeping, and it helped to add some measure of peace to her otherwise grim appearance.
Silken curls that once shone golden in the sunlight about her sweet little face, were now plastered darkly back from her forehead, and dark circles stained the perfect pale skin below the luxurious long lashes. I knew the eyes under the sealed lids to once be clear bright blue, a shade lighter than my own, and typically full of laughter and inquisitiveness that were a mark of the sprightly spirit and cheerful demeanor that had long since fled the little body.
A fever of sorts –one unfamiliar to me or to either of my colleagues, had ravaged the girl for a week, and now, at the end of that time, despite doing everything I could possibly think of, it was obvious there was naught else I could do.
The small room was quiet; near silence was broken only by the ragged breaths of the child and those of her mother as she sobbed quietly in the arms of her husband where they stood on the far side of the bed. They'd asked me to stay for their daughter's last hours, reluctant to leave her unattended despite the fact that they knew as well as I did, there was no hope left.
I would say by that point in the early morning, that the dark circles under my own eyes were doing their best to mirror those of my patient, as I'd slept very little over the past two days while tending my small ward.
The girl's breaths were becoming shallower and further apart, even as dawn arrived, and sunlight shown into the room through a high window, announcing the arrival of the new day that she would never see.
I saw her father glance at the shaft of sunlight shining on the floor next to the bed, and then back to his young daughter, and I could almost read his thoughts. Her fifth birthday was May third, only three days from now, and it would likely be the day we would stand at her graveside to say goodbye, rather than celebrate the anniversary of the day she was born.
I remembered well the day she arrived, as I was the one who delivered her –one of my first patients upon my arrival in Port Royal to set up my practice. Now, despite the fact that I had the availability of three physicians and a beautiful new hospital for my patients, this one had contracted a disease still beyond our capacity to treat.
Sorrow and frustration were mine in great measures, but I pushed them aside and outwardly remained stoic and compassionate. It was all I could do for her family now to try and support them, and I thanked God that there were other children at home, so the parents didn't have to return to a completely empty house.
I waited for the next rattling breath to come from the bed, and as the moments wore on, I realized there wouldn't be another one. Both mother and father watched me, already knowing what I confirmed by checking for a pulse or a heartbeat –that I would find neither, and peace, at last, had come to their daughter.
I raised my head from the frail little chest only after I was sure that I had managed to fight back the tears that were threatening to come. I knew before I checked the girl that she'd passed on, and I wanted to be strong for her family at the moment- the last thing I could do for them.
I met her father's eyes, seeing no question in them. He knew. I am sure her mother did as well, but her gaze jumped frantically from my face to her husband's to mine again, and I merely shook my head. The poor woman, despite the fact that she understood we'd been keeping a death vigil, finally came undone, and she flung herself on the bed to embrace the still little figure that lay there growing cold.
I walked around the far side of the bed, and placed a hand on the father's arm. "I'm sorry, John," I said, both of us watching his wife, Alice, sobbing brokenly on the bed. "If there was anything else that could be done…"
He gave me a weak smile and nodded. "I know," he said hoarsely. "You did all you could, Madeline…thank you."
I nodded at him and turned to leave the room, wanting to give the family a few last minutes together, and also, I confess, to escape out into the bright sunlight, anxious to be away from the despair that permeated the hospital that morning.
I found myself wandering out to the cliffs that the hospital sat on and absently walking along them, watching the sun come up over the Caribbean. Tired as I was after my ordeal with the girl, it took me a few minutes to realize that I was unconsciously scanning the horizon again for black sails.
When I realized the senseless and irrational thing I was doing, I grew angry with myself for wasting time, and berating myself silently for hoping for something that I knew was never going to happen, I turned away from the sea quickly and hurried back indoors. I needed to get word to the minister, and to make a few arrangements for the body, and then I desperately needed to get some sleep.
I looked pretty much like death myself, and I wanted to be rested for the ball that night. The new governor had arrived two weeks before, and that evening was to be the celebration commemorating his arrival. I looked forward to going, as it would be my first chance to meet Governor Weatherby Swann.
Even though it was just after dawn, the town was bustling with activity as last minute preparations were being made for the event, and it wouldn't be long before the upper crust of society would begin to arrive both by carriage and by ship. Indeed, the little harbor was already fairly crowded with small vessels that had arrived from other parts of the island, and from several others in the Caribbean.
I made the rest of the arrangements that needed to be made, and after saying a few last words to John and Alice, I managed to escape down the hill to my small house, not far from the impressive villa that belonged to the Beckett family.
Several hours of badly needed sleep later, I arose refreshed, and began my preparations for the ball by choosing a deep blue dress that I had bought for the occasion. When I finally finished dressing, I prepared myself to walk the short distance to the governor's mansion, and was surprised when the carriage arrived at my door, as it was certainly not mine.
I did, however, know whom the pair of elegant matched bays pulling it belonged to, and I wasn't surprised when Charles Beckett opened the door and leaned out. "Dear me, Madeline," he said, charming smile already fixed firmly in place, "you weren't going to walk, were you?"
Charles knew very well that I didn't have a carriage, and that I was going to have to walk. I wanted to kick him for the underlying reminder in his tone that let me know, once again, that I wasn't as well to do as he was.
"Good evening, Charles," I said, as pleasantly as I could, and I gave him my most charming smile in return. "It's such a lovely evening for walking...and for the ball, don't you think?"
He rolled his eyes and huffed at me a little. "Don't be absurd, Madeline. It's hot and sticky and that poor dress of your will be ruined by the time you even get there. Besides, there are gentlemen coming from all over Jamaica for this. It wouldn't do to have our lovely doctor be seen walking, now would it?"
I gave a contrived light little laugh. "Oh, Charles," I said, " you worry about my appearance so much more than I do."
What I knew was that he wanted to make sure I was seen arriving with him in order to avoid any unattached gentlemen possibly taking notice of me at the ball. It had been more than once over the past two years that I'd had to decline invitations to dine with him or go riding in the countryside.
While I typically accepted invitations to his home if it was for some sort of dinner party or other festive gathering, as I wished not to insult my neighbor, I refused to accept any invitation that might leave me alone with him. Besides the fact that I thought him dangerous, and a pompous ass, what I knew and he didn't was that I was aware of the amount of trouble he'd caused years before for another man that I thought entirely better of.
Strange to think that I held a ruthless pirate in higher regard than the man that leaned out of the carriage in front of me. Or at least I had…two years before.
"Well, are you coming?" Charles asked, obviously assuming I understood his invitation even though he hadn't bothered to voice it.
"It's going to be so crowded with carriages," I said pleasantly in return, "I think I prefer walking, thank you." Feeling a bit mean spirited toward him, I made him an offer I knew he would refuse. "You could join me, Charles," I offered, sweetly. "It would be lovely to have some company on the walk."
I knew he couldn't possibly miss being seen arriving in his extravagant carriage with the precisely matched pair.
"You are quite contrary at times, Madeline," Charles said, smile still in place, but tone not quite so pleasant. "Walk if you wish, but don't blame me if you arrive looking nothing like a doctor should." He shut the door and his driver called to the horses.
I gritted my teeth and picked up my skirts, being careful to keep them from dragging. I knew Charles well enough to know that he'd implied that it was more because I was a woman than the fact that I might get my dress dusty, that would cause me not to look like a doctor should.
I had to pick my way carefully through all the carriages and people that were arriving, and seeing Charles already conversing with some of the local magistrates as he saw me arrive, I tried to quickly enter the mansion.
Unfortunately, that meant that I nearly ran smack into James Norrington.
"Oh! Pardon me, Lieutenant," I said, embarrassed that I'd nearly banged into him. I'd previously met him after his arrival with the governor nearly two weeks earlier, when he'd arrived at the hospital to find out just what sort of medical support he could expect for his men at the fort.
"Miss Gray," he said pleasantly, acknowledging my arrival, " or should I say, Doctor Gray?" He gave me a kind if not reserved smile.
"Miss Gray, is fine, Lieutenant," I replied. Norrington had seem to take in stride the fact that the most experienced surgeon in that part of the Caribbean was a woman, and he'd been pleasant and respectful when dealing with me to that point.
We made small talk as we walked into the ballroom together, and he nodded toward where the governor was greeting his guests across the room, even as he took two glasses of champagne from a tray offered by a passing servant. He offered me one and I took it with thanks.
"Have you met the governor, yet, Miss Gray?" he asked, surveying the gathering crowd.
"No, I admit I haven't had the pleasure." I looked at the daunting line waiting to rub shoulders with the man. "I wonder if I might even get the chance with that mob," I said, barely refraining from rolling my eyes at the group nearly fawning on the new governor.
Norrington didn't smile, but he raised one eyebrow at my comment, and I had the sense that he was amused at my assessment. "Would you care to?" he asked casually.
"That would be lovely, but…"
He handed me his champagne and strode boldly through the crowd to the governor's side.
"A word, if you please, Governor Swann," he said. "A matter of security and utmost importance that I must bring to your attention immediately."
Swann nodded and excused himself graciously, following Norrington to where I stood. "Thank you for rescuing me, James," I heard him say in an undertone.
"Whatever are you talking about, sir?" Norrington asked him, as he retrieved his glass of champagne from me. "Governor, allow me to introduce you to the hospital's medical director, Doctor Madeline Gray."
Governor Swann smiled warmly at me and shook my hand. "So lovely to meet you, Doctor Gray. I believe I knew your grandfather. Ethan Gray, was it?"
I smiled with pleasant surprise. "Yes. How did you know him, Governor?"
"Oh, that's a rather long story," he said, pleasantly. "Perhaps you would come to dine with my daughter and myself some evening so that I could share it with you?"
"That would be lovely," I said, sincerely, liking the man already.
"Good." He looked about the room, frowning a little. "Now, where has that girl gotten to?" he asked, a bit impatiently.
"Here I am, Father," the young girl said as she appeared by his side.
"Ah, Elizabeth, have you met the doctor yet?" he asked her, glancing back where I was standing.
Young Elizabeth looked about us for a moment, and then realized her father meant me. Her expressive eyes widened and she smiled brightly.
"Elizabeth, this is Doctor Gray," the governor said to her and then he turned to me. "Doctor Gray, my daughter, Elizabeth."
"How very nice to make your acquaintance," Elizabeth said politely, and she dropped a sweet little curtsey.
"Thank you, Miss Swann," I said, noting how her father was beaming at her manners. "It's a pleasure meeting you this lovely evening."
"Is it true that you're a doctor…a real doctor?" she asked, her sense of propriety slipping in her eagerness to ask the question.
"Yes," I said, trying not to smile too much.
"That's ever so exciting!" she said. "I've never met a doctor who was a woman before. I'll bet you're just as good as the men!"
"Even better," I said to her in a conspiratorial whisper, eliciting a giggle from her.
A fair bit of the evening I spent speaking with the governor and James Norrington, as well as several of the officers that served at the fort.
I was listening politely to a story one of them was telling of an adventure at sea, not really paying close attention as I was on the lookout for Charles Beckett, hoping to avoid dancing with him altogether if possible.
"…and of course no one ever saw hide nor hair of her again. Shame 'bout the crew. Families never did find out what became of the Valiant."
I nearly spat out the sip of champagne I'd just taken.
"Are you quite alright, Miss Gray?" Norrington asked as I coughed several times.
I nodded, and finally managed to get the cough under control. I knew I was the only one in the room that knew the fate of the HMS Valiant and her crew, and I thought it wise not to say anything.
One of the officers, a lieutenant named Groves, a quiet, observant and pleasant young officer, spoke up. "It's been rumored that she was sunk by pirates," he said, "but no one's ever confirmed it for sure."
I was feeling quite uneasy about the fact that I could certainly have confirmed that story for my companions.
Another officer, a bit of a know it all second in seniority to Norrington, named Gillette, had to offer his two shillings on the matter. "Pirates!" he scoffed. "That's absurd. The Valiant carried two hundred marines and a full compliment of guns. What pirate ship would win an engagement with a fifth rate frigate with a crew like that and experienced officers aboard her?"
"The Black Pearl?" Groves offered in reply, mostly to make his point.
"The Black Pearl! Come now, surely you can't believe that?" Gillette said to Groves. "Besides, at the time of the Valiant's disappearance, the Pearl was supposedly halfway across the Caribbean."
Gillette took a sip of champagne and went on. "No, I say she ran into bad luck –perhaps an uncharted reef."
"Then why were there no survivors, I wonder?" Groves asked thoughtfully.
"Gentlemen," Norrington interrupted at that point. "As fascinating as this topic is, I am sure that Miss Gray is entirely weary of your discussion by this point. Perhaps she might like to discuss something other than your speculations about recent naval history?"
"It's quite alright, Lieutenant," I said pleasantly, " I certainly don't mind."
"Well, that's rather refreshing," Gillette said, giving me what he thought was a charming smile. He seemed a bit too smug for my taste. "Nice to see a woman that actually doesn't mind discussing weighty matters."
If I hadn't been in the middle of the governor's ball, I would have kicked him in the shin.
"Well," Norrington replied, raising his glass. "I propose a toast…to our new governor."
The governor smiled and raised his own glass, as did all of us standing in the group. "To the governor."
"I hope that I may do as well overseeing the colony as all of my predecessors did," Swann said, graciously. "Quite the set of shoes to walk in, with the reputations of the last few."
Gillette smiled knowingly. "Especially if you count Henry Morgan," he said. "You're not a pirate, by any chance, are you, Governor Swann?"
"Pirate? Good heavens, no," Swann replied, amused. "Is that what they say about Morgan in these parts? It seems hard to believe that a man knighted by the king could earn such a tarnished reputation."
"That's what they say," Gillette replied. "The king himself sent him a beautiful ship to protect the colonies with, a frigate called the Oxford, and the scoundrel made her the flagship of his pirate fleet."
"That's outrageous," the governor replied.
"Shame that was," Gillette continued. "Waste of a perfectly good ship when she was burned."
"Burned?" I asked, puzzled by why he thought so.
"Yes, Doctor Gray, burned…set on fire and sunk from what I've heard," Gillette replied in a pompous manner.
I frowned, and irritated by the man's somewhat condescending manner, I spoke up. "The Oxford was neither sunk, nor burned by Morgan, sir, " I replied, quite confidently.
Gillette smiled at me the way an adult smiles while indulging a small child. "I think I probably am better informed of what happens to military vessels in these waters than yourself, Doctor. No offense intended."
"None taken, thank you, but I must insist that in this matter you are quite mistaken," I said, giving him the most charming smile I could muster.
Norrington looked curious as to why I was so adamant about Gillette being wrong. "You seemed to be quite convinced, Doctor Gray. Won't you enlighten us as to why?"
"Certainly," I said, giving Gillette another brief glance. "The Oxford was given by Henry Morgan to Hector Barbossa, not sunk."
The officers I was standing with were all much too well mannered to laugh, but I could tell they shared looks and were amused at my theory.
"The pirate who captains the Black Pearl?" Groves asked, seeming more curious than condescending.
Norrington chimed in at that point. "I don't seem to ever remember having heard that Barbossa sailed the Oxford, Doctor Gray."
"You wouldn't have…because he renamed her the Rogue Wave," I informed him.
Gillette actually snickered a bit. "So, you're saying the Rogue Wave, the ship that ravaged the Caribbean for a decade, was actually the ship sent from England to the governor of Jamaica?"
"Acting lieutenant governor," I corrected him, "and yes, the Oxford became the Rogue Wave for certain, of that I have no doubt whatsoever."
"Why, Doctor Gray, you seem to be quite the expert on the subject," Gillette said in that annoyingly indulgent manner again. "Care to share why you would think such a fantastic thing?"
"Well, that's simple," I said, slightly irritated, "Captain Barbossa told me."
A/N: I am making the assumption that officers in the Royal Navy know that the Black Pearl is a real ship, but don't necessarily buy into the legends about her. I would leave it to the common sailors and marines like Mullroy and Murtogg to be more superstitious and believe such tales. Of course, just because they happen to be true...;)