Curse of the Blue Tatt**, Part 1
Mr. L.A. Meyer is acknowledged as the creator of the Bloody Jack characters and story.
Forward: This is a sequel to Bl**dy Jack and is an abridged, modern-era version of the original Curse of the Blue Tattoo story. The challenge for me is not to simply rewrite Mr. Meyer's excellent story with new dates, but to weave a few extra 21st Century sub-plots into the story.
It's 28 August 2007 and here I am dumped in a strange city in a foreign country; Boston, Massachusetts, USA. I'm not even 17 yet and my career in the Royal Navy is over. I suppose I should be grateful I've not been discharged in England, as I'd be hauled off to a Young Offenders Institution and locked up until I'm 18. The law there seems to think I've been a very wicked girl; and now the Royal Navy thinks so too.
Well, the law may be right in their assessment, but I think the navy has over-reacted a bit. I only told a little lie to get my posting with a male-only crew on one of Her Majesty's warships. I was qualified in all other respects. Captain Locke must have been satisfied with my work, otherwise he wouldn't have arranged for my promotion to Midshipman.
Lieutenant Tilden is escorting me to his cousin's "exclusive educational establishment", which is to be my new home for the immediate future. We find a taxi, or cab, as he insists on calling it, and take the short ride from Long Wharf to Beacon Street, where we stop outside an impressive four storey brick building. The ground floor of the building is covered with ivy which has been carefully trimmed to frame the sign announcing this is The Lawson Peabody Academy for Young Ladies. It looks an impressive sort of place with stone steps leading up to a pair of great wooden doors.
A maid answers the door and escorts us to a small room to wait for Lieutenant Tilden's cousin. I realise the maid is dressed in the same period fashion as my academy uniform. Turn of the century style; 19th century that is. Well, perhaps not that old. I fidget nervously.
"Sit still, Jacky. You'll do very well here, I'm sure. This academy has the highest reputation. You are very fortunate," says Lieutenant Tilden.
Easy for him to say, but I've never worn a full length skirt before. Our wait is soon over and a stern looking woman, slightly older than Lieutenant Tilden, comes in and guides us to her office.
"Cousin Finn. So good to see you again," says the woman. "Is this the girl you told me about?"
"Hello, Miranda. May I present Miss Jacky Faber, formerly of the British Royal Navy, whom you've kindly agreed to take on as your new student. Jacky, this is Mistress Pimm."
"Hmmm. How do you do, Miss Faber. … I believe you have discharged your duty, cousin," she says indicating the maid should escort Lieutenant Tilden to the door.
I barely have time to say thank you and goodbye.
"Now, Miss Faber. Do you see that white line on the floor in front of my desk."
"Each time you are called to this office you shall stand so your toes touch that line. If you are here for punishment; and I can think of no other reason why you would be here; you shall bend over the desk. Is that clear, Miss Faber?"
"Yes, ma'am. But ..."
"The rules, Miss Faber. Firstly, you must always call me Mistress, not ma'am or any other name. Secondly, I will stand no argument. If I tell you to do something, you do it without question. ... Now, I understand you have been the only female on board a ship full of rough sailors. Are you innocent?"
Innocent? Of what? What on earth is she talking about? She sees I don't understand from my puzzled look.
"Are you a maiden?" she says with growing frustration.
Oh that! I blush. "Yes, ma'am ... Mistress." Well, only just.
"Hmmm ... I find that hard to believe, but I choose to take you at your word. You are at least capable of blushing."
I risk a quick look around her office as she scribbles a few notes in her book. I notice there is no computer in here and everything is just as though we are in a museum.
"This is an exclusive academy for refined young ladies whose parents appreciate the value of what we teach their daughters. Put simply, we teach young ladies how to become good wives. An art all but disappeared from modern society. Some may regard this establishment as archaic, but our student role is always full.
"There are many successful up and coming young businessmen, lawyers and politicians who look for a wife who can manage a large house; who knows etiquette; and comfortable being hostess to all sorts of social gatherings while at the same time bring up and care for the children. I'm proud to say all the young ladies who graduate from this academy soon find suitable husbands and enjoy long and successful marriages.
"Make no mistake, Miss Faber. Despite the name, this academy is mine, and I won't tolerate anything that brings my establishment or my young ladies into disrepute. I have grave reservations about your suitability for this academy, but we shall see. Come."
Without further ado, she escorts me up two flights of stairs to a large dormitory. There I see a group of about thirty girls gathered, most of whom are about my age.
"Good morning, ladies. I've called you together to introduce you to a new student. Please welcome Miss Faber. Be so good as to show her what to do."
Mistress Pimm promptly turns and leaves. The girls all just stand there and look at me. I put on my best smile.
"Hello. I'm Mary. But you can call me Jacky. Everyone does."