It's been six long years, Johanna reflected as she combed her long dark hair, since her father consented to come to Jamaica with his lifelong friend, the newly appointed governor of the colony. She had been fifteen at the time and had relished the chance at an adventure. Johanna's expectations of the colony, however, had been too high and when she arrived at Port Royal in late August, 1679 she knew that she wouldn't be content there.
Now, in the early June humidity of 1685, Johanna arranged her hair high on top of her head, as was the fashion, with pins adorned with tiny pearls. It was nearly sundown and the light reflected in her window by the sea began to deepen in color as it danced across the walls. She screwed pearls into her ears slowly, thoughtfully as she gazed at her reflection in the mirror. Johanna was a slender girl of a simple beauty, her dark hair falling in ringlets at her waist. Many men admired her beauty, but, to her dismay, as did the Governor himself and it was to the Governor's mansion that she was to travel tonight.
Suddenly there was a sharp knock at the door, "Come in." Johanna answered softly. The door to Johanna's large bedroom opened, creaking loudly as it swung. A small woman entered and curtsied deeply before Johanna.
"M'lady, we are to leave within the half hour," said the maid tonelessly, avoiding unnecessary eye contact.
"Thank you, Dona. Tell my father I will be down momentarily." With that, Johanna turned back to the mirror and made the final adjustments to her gown and hair. The maid, Dona, backed from the lavish room as quietly as she had come. Satisfied with her appearance, Johanna glided down the hall to the grand staircase that led to a large ornately decorated foyer. Her father, Sir Charles Townsend stood at the base of the stairs waiting to take her arm. He looked regal in his red satin coat with white lace at his wrists and throat, the buckles on his shoes freshly polished.
"You look lovely this evening, my darling." Sir Charles said brightly to Johanna. She smiled, but said nothing. Johanna was not looking forward to this particular event in the least. Formal dinners at the Governor's mansion bored her; she sat about for hours listening to the droll talk of old men and the worthless gossip of their wives. Johanna's father took her arm and guided her out to the long dirt drive where the horses were stamping impatiently. As the dark sky turned ever darker and a slight rumble filled the air, he helped her up into the carriage. Once adequately settled into the dark leather cushions, Sir Charles gave the order and with the crack of a whip the horses reared into motion.
The carriage rocked and jerked in a most sickening way over the uneven road. The ride to the Governor's mansion was not a long one, but between the rough jolting and the heavy silence Johanna felt they traveled for hours.
Finally Johanna's father spoke, "Must you look so glum? We are going to be dining with all of the most important figures in the colony and I don't want you giving off a bad impression." He spoke absent-mindedly as he adjusted the lace at his throat, but he shot her a glance that told her she really mustn't carry on in this manner.
"Yes, father. I'm sorry," Johanna answered as she pulled out her most charming smile. This night was important to her father as every formal supper at the mansion was and what right did she have to ruin it? Perhaps she would not catch the governor's dark eyes roaming her body when he thought her distracted. Perhaps he wouldn't catch her hand in the ball room and steal her away to the parlor where he would speak suggestively of longing for a woman at his side as he governed the chaotic ports of Jamaica. Perhaps…, but now was not the time for pondering such things, for the coach was screeching grindingly to a halt. Looking out the window, Johanna gazed at the all too familiar sight of the Governor's large bricked manor. It rose 3 stories with white paned windows at regular intervals and a chimney that spewed deep grey smoke at either end. The horses whinnied loudly in discontent, but were abruptly hushed by the coachman's whip.
Presently the groom came about to open the doors for Johanna and her father. The groom took Johanna's hand to help her out of the carriage and then departed to water the horses in the Governor's stables. Together, Johanna and Sir Charles walked up the three small steps and onto the spacious porch where Sir Charles rang the bell. Not a minute later the door swung open and smiling servants ushered the pair inside. The entrance hall was brightly lit with candles mounted high on the walls. Colorful oil paintings hung between the candles drawing the eye as the light of the flames danced across their surfaces. The hall was crowded with people, men and women all dressed up in their finest coats and gowns gossiping about the latest scandals.
Within seconds of entering Johanna and her father were greeted by the Governor himself, "Charles!" He cried clasping his hand tightly and grinning immensely. Then, turning to Johanna, he took her hand and kissed her knuckles.
"Johanna, what a pleasure it is to see you again. I am so glad you accompanied your father this evening. There is much too discuss and this particular evening's issue I do think you will find most interesting."
Johanna smiled politely and replied, "I am quite sure I will Governor Colton. Any matter discussed at your table is sure to be most fascinating." Though, surely not to me. She thought as she gave a little curtsy.
"I am a fascinating man." The governor said as he swept his arms in a grand gesture toward his multitude of priceless painting as well as the other trinkets he'd accumulated from traveling, but most importantly to the many important men whose company he kept this evening.
"Indeed." Johanna remarked as she drew her hand away and glanced around the great hall in spite of herself. At this moment a short burly man came striding over to where the two stood. He nodded politely to Johanna and gave the governor a slight bow before speaking.
"M'lord, I've just heard news of yet another attack along our coasts. Port Antonio it was. It happened late yesterday in the middle of the night. All of the ships in the harbor were plundered and their night guards killed," declared the burly man, looking rather more annoyed than truly worried.
"Sir Enders, do you forget that we are in the presence of a woman? We shall speak of these matters in private, if you will excuse us Miss Townsend." The Governor replied quickly, taking Sir Enders by the arm and pushing through the crowd in search of somewhere quiet. Johanna smiled in consent to the Governors wishes, but inside she cursed him. This would be the most interesting talk all evening and she wouldn't get to hear it. There had been rumor of a rogue ship plaguing the coasts, but to witness its confirm was unsettling and this was precisely why she wished to hear more.
Making a snap decision she was sure she'd somehow regret later, Johanna made her way after the two men craning her neck to see above the many heads that blocked her line of sight.
"Miss Townsend," a middle-aged woman called, "Why, Miss Townsend, how wonderful to see you it is! How have you been, dear?" It was Lady Lawrence, a sweet gossipy woman who had some new details to share with Johanna about her husband, no doubt.
"Well, M'lady. But, if you shall excuse me…" Johanna paused only a moment to greet Lady Lawrence in the whirl of gowns and jacket tails, before pressing on once more. Just ahead she saw that down a dim hallway a door had just been shut; she made for that door. Only stopped once more by the wife of the court judge, Johanna broke out of the throng of people and glided down the barely lit hallway to the ornately carved door way. She glanced around to be sure no one observed her before she pressed her ear to the polished wood.
"-cove, you say?" Governor Colton had been asking.
"By God, yes! I was just as horrified as he was, and to make matters worse every single rudder was disabled on each and every ship. The nerve of those traitors!" Sir Enders exclaimed loudly.
"Well, did any of your men see the ship take sail? You must have some idea which direction she was headed." The governor demanded.
"Now, Sir Howard," Enders said, taking a more familiar tone. "She will not attack Port Royal. There is not a ship at sea that could bring siege to our port. My soldiers are stationed at every possible outpost and we have, at present, two warships in out docks."
"I am not worried about an attack on Port Royal; I am worried about the affect this whole situation will have on our exports. You said yourself that she was a ship of English make."
"Yes, yes, she is indeed." Sir Enders sighed.
Before he could continue, Governor Colton interjected, "This is precisely the reason this matter must be discussed tonight whilst all are present."
"Not all," Sir Enders commented, "Commodore Northrup has not yet returned from London, M'lord."
"Ah, yes, but we are most fortunate he is to be returning shortly. As for the time being, I trust you can handle everything adequately." There followed the distinct scraping of chairs, Johanna moved quickly from the door and back into the crowd. So, this new menace of the sea was even frightening Governor Colton, his obvious dread of a less than new subject was quite apparent in his voice. And with the Commodore away, what little Navy was possessed by the colony became a degree less than efficient.
As Johanna once again navigated her way through the mingling people, she contemplated the meaning of this surprising news. She'd had no former knowledge of attacks on Jamaican ports, but this was certainly one of many. Would Port Royal indeed be targeted eventually? But, Johanna had no time to ponder this new thought, for Governor Colton took up his place behind the chair at the head of the long dining table and rang a small crystal bell to call attention towards himself. He announced grandly that the first course of their meal was to be served and that everyone should be seated. Cheerily, the beautifully dressed members of the colony of Jamaica's court, began to gather around the gorgeous table. Each place was arranged with utmost precision, each dish hand-painted with utmost care; the table was centered around a crystal vase filled to the brim with flowers of every shade and hue.
Every man pulled out a chair for their ladies and then was seated themselves. It was her father, Sir Charles Townsend, which pulled out Johanna's chair. She was seated two places down from the head of the table where the governor sat. Excited in spite of the terror it caused, Johanna leaned in to catch the words of Governor Colton as he began to discuss the situation at hand with those seated around him.