Maggie May

This is a songfic based on a version of a traditional sea shanty called Maggie May by the Ants Bush Band.
It fits with the Temeraire world, and timeframe perfectly.
So, this was just begging to be written.

Oh gather round you sailor boys,
and listen to my song.
And when you've heard it through you'll pity me,
for I was a goddamn fool in the port of Liverpool,
the first time that I came home from sea.

Laurence stood at the bow of the Allegiance as they sailed away from Madeira.
Iskierka had proved impossible to sway from accompanying them to New South Wales, and was still upon the transport, currently asleep in the midday sun.
Temeraire was likewise drowsing in the midday heat, although he was also keeping a fastidious eye upon the eggs accompanying them to the colony.
'Laurence,' said Riley in a neutral tone as he came to the bow with him.
As Laurence was neither a prisoner or an aviator, and not quite a passenger either, he was allowed on the dragon deck, but it also meant he had to be under the supervision of captain Riley.
'Tom, come to check to see if I plan on diving over board again?' Asked Laurence with a small nod.
'It might've been a filthy thing to do, but you're still- you know what? Hang formality I can see why you did what you did, and I'm sorry for the whole,' said Riley in exasperation.
Suddenly, a snatch of song reached them from the deck.
'Oh, Maggie, Maggie May, they have taken you away, to slave upon that old Van Dieman's shore, for you've robbed so many sailors, and you owe so many whalers, you'll never cruise down Lang street anymore.'
Riley immediately went an interesting shade of red.
'I thought that would've died out by now,' said Riley, mortified, 'Lord Purbeck!' He called loudly.
'Captain?' Asked the man, appearing in the stairs up to the dragon deck.
'Bring me whoever is singing that song immediately!' Ordered Riley urgently.
He turned back to Laurence to find him grinning in abject amusement.
'Tom, didn't I tell you that that girl was nothing but trouble?' Asked Laurence, trying to keep his amusement in check.
'You did, and I wish to God in Heaven I had listened,' groaned Riley, pounding the railing in frustration.

I was staying at the Home, from a drift to Sierra Leone,
two-pound-ten a month was all my pay.
Then I started drinking gin and was easy taken in,
by a little girl they all called Maggie May.

Oh, Maggie, Maggie May, they have taken you away,
to slave upon that old Van Dieman's shore,
for you've robbed so many sailors,
and you owe so many whalers,
you'll never cruise down Lang street anymore.

The offending men were soon brought up, and when they saw the loom on Riley's face, and Temeraire watching on curiously, they put two and two together and came up with an answer not far from the truth.
But, being sailors of the British Navy, they were too disciplined to make a break for the rails.
'You called sir?' Asked one of the men tentatively.
'I did indeed mister Turner, pray tell, what was that you were just singing then?' Asked Riley coolly.
'Well sir, it's been with the Navy since day dot as my understanding goes, the older sailors sing it as a cautionary tale to the squeakers so they don't go getting into trouble in port,' explained Turner, wondering in bewilderment why all the blood in his Captain's face had just drained away.
And why the ex-captain Laurence was trying and failing to smother his mirth.
'Captain?' Asked Lord Purbeck with concern.
Riley was unable to speak for a couple of moments, then collapsed against the railing.
Laurence couldn't help it, he gave in and burst out laughing.
'And what do you know about this mister Laurence?' Asked Lord Purbeck, folding his arms, 'what's so funny about Maggie May, and why would the captain take such a reaction to it?'
'Well, mister Turner, Lord Purbeck, that song hasn't been around since day dot; it's been around since the first voyage after Captain Riley first came home from sea, when we served together aboard the Goliath, before the battle of the Nile.
'Laurence, for the love of God, please don't enlighten them further,' pleaded Riley in a hollow tone.

It was a damn unlucky day,
when I first met Maggie May,
she was cruising up and down Canning place.
Well she had a figure fine as a warship-of-the-line,
and me being a sailor I gave chase.

'Well captain, this Maggie May, she was an actual person?' Asked Lord Purbeck with some surprise.
'She was a whore from the depths of Hell sent to prey upon unsuspecting sailors, if you've heard that damn song, you know what happened.' Answered Riley with a look of mortal anguish.
'If you're wondering, when the rest of the crew found out, they made that song up about the thrice damned affair as a joke, I cannot believe the bloody thing spread throughout the Navy to such an extent,' said Riley, rubbing his brow.
'Um…begging your pardon Captain, but I first heard it when I was sailing with the East India Company, although a different version,' confessed Turner with a guilty look.
Riley sagged against the railing.
'This song, it sounds very interesting, you wouldn't be able to sing it for me would you?' Enquired Temeraire curiously.
'You mean you haven't heard it? I'm surprised Laurence didn't tell you it in revenge over Reverend Erasmus,' Confessed Riley with some surprise.
'No, I haven't heard it, but do you mind singing it, mister Turner?' Asked Temeraire of the sailor, who'd gone as pale as a sheet from being addressed by the dragon.
Turner glanced guiltily at Riley.
'Go ahead mister Turner, what's one more hearing? I rather thought I'd become immune to the damn thing, so pray, enlighten Temeraire.' Ordered Riley, with a look of evident vindictive satisfaction.
'Wait!' Said one of the other crewmen, before dashing off, and returning a couple of minutes later with an accordion, a banjo and a guitar.
'And what, mister Sparrow is all this?' Asked Riley with an odd look on his face.
'Begging your pardon Captain, but it's a much better shanty with the musical accompaniment,' explained Sparrow, handing the banjo to Turner, and pressing the accordion on the third member of the group, before handing the guitar to Lord Purbeck.
'Right, sir, lads, I hope you know the accompaniment,' said Sparrow, receiving nods from the third man, Purbeck and Turner, although Purbeck's nod was a guilty one.
'Alright, one, two, three!' And with that, Purbeck, Turner and the third man began to play, and a few moments later, Sparrow began to sing:

'Oh gather round you sailor boys,
and listen to my song.
and when you've heard it through you'll pity me,
for I was a goddamn fool in the port of Liverpool,
the first time that I came home from sea.

I was staying at the Home, from a drift to Sierra Leone,
two-pound-ten a month was all my pay.
Then I started drinking gin and was easy taken in,
by a little girl they all called Maggie May.'

'Here we go!' Called Laurence, tapping along to the tune.

'Oh, Maggie, Maggie May, they have taken you away,
to slave upon that old Van Dieman's shore,
for you've robbed so many sailors,
and you owe so many whalers,
you'll never cruise down Lang street anymore.

It was a damn unlucky day,
when I first met Maggie May,
She was cruising up and down Canning place.
Well she had a figure fine as a warship-of-the-line,
and me being a sailor I gave chase.

In the morning when I woke,
stiff and sore and stony broke,
no trousers, shoes or shirt could I find.
And the landlady said:
Sir, I can tell you where they are,
down at Stanley's Op shop, number nine!'

'Woohoo!' Whooped Purbeck, Turner and Laurence.

'Oh, Maggie, Maggie May, they have taken you away,
to slave upon that old Van Dieman's shore,
for you've robbed so many sailors,
and you owe so many whalers,
you'll never cruise down Lang street anymore.'

Riley stood stony faced as he was reliving memories from that day, years before, that'd he'd buried deep a long, long time ago.

'To a bobby on his beat, at the corner of the street,
to him I went, to him I told my tale.
And he said as if in doubt:
Does your mother know you're out?
And agreed the lady ought to be in jail.

To the Op shop I applied,
but no trousers there I spied,
the bobby came and took the girl away.
The jury, (guilty!) found her,
of robbing the homeward bounder,
and paid her passage out to Botany Bay!'

'Here we go again!' Called Laurence, after catching his breath from laughing at Riley, who seemed to have turned to stone.

'Oh, Maggie, Maggie May, they have taken you away,
to slave upon that old Van Dieman's shore,
for you've robbed so many sailors,
and you owe so many whalers,
you'll never cruise down Lang street anymore.'

'One more time!' Called Temeraire, bobbing his head along to the tune, to which Sparrow and his impromptu band complied.

'Oh, Maggie, Maggie May, they have taken you away,
to slave upon that old Van Dieman's shore,
for you've robbed so many sailors,
and you owe so many whalers,
you'll never cruise down Lang street anymore.'

The make-shift band finished the song and lowered their instruments, waiting for their Captain's reaction.
Finally, Riley stirred.
'You four, your grog is stopped for the next three days,-yes, you too mister Purbeck,- and I'd like you all to do an encore performance tonight for the passengers, aviators and Temeraire and Iskierka,' Ordered Riley stonily, then quit the deck.

Well, that was fun, my first ever songfic.

The Temeraire series is the property of Naomi Novik.

This version of the shanty Maggie May is the property of the Ants Bush Band.

'til next time!