Chapter Twelve:: To London
We reach England's shores two days later and dock quietly at the wharf in Brighton. I've not seen Jared since our fight. I haven't mentioned him, not asked after him when Higgins comes to me, but he's always on my mind. I am still angry with him but I miss him more than anything. I want to apologize for my words but I can't bring myself to ask about him. Higgins is attentive to me but John Leroy is distant. His loyalty is to Jared of course, as Captain. No matter, I have things to worry about now that we are in England.
The afternoon after we dock, Higgins and I set out into Brighton to get the clothes we will need. That day I buy three new gowns for formal occasions. Higgins spares no details and soon I am being poked and prodded by seamstresses. I do not know what I am to do when I meet King George but I must be properly attired, mustn't I? I ask Higgins, since the King want's to meet Jacky Faber, Lieutenant, pirate, spy and solider... if it would not be appropriate to give him her, exactly as she is, but he refuses.
"It will be proper Miss. Your love of the scandalous and exotic will not be permitted."
I pout. Ok. Fine. But I don't care much for these corsets. My guts hurt too much. Higgins only shakes his head at my complaints. He does not relent. Fine. I will be proper and fashionable. I do like to be beautiful but I'd rather be scandalous.
We return to the ship, much in the same shape we left it in. The men, not on liberty, are working at what jobs need to be completed before the HMS Royal Arms arrives and we journey to London. This time though, when we step back onto the ship, laden with parcels, I spy Jared on the quarterdeck, overseeing things. Immediately I feel my anger rise at the sight of him. I resent him walking there, unaffected and bold as ever. I frown and quickly make for my cabin. I lock the door behind me. I do not let him or anyone else in.
The next day, the HMS Royal Arms arrives and docks at the wharf alongside us. It's still a nervous feelin', being so close to an English Man of War, considering my history with the Navy of late. The men feel it too, them never being such exemplary citizens and all but they hold steady and manage to show some decorum when Captain Eaton graces us with a visit soon after arriving.
I am out to greet him, in my blue skirt and tight fitting jacket, looking much more like the lady I must be on this visit. Yes, I am not wearing my Lieutenant's jacket, but Higgins has woven some gold lace into the lapels so it makes it fell special. I feel smart, being strapped into my rig again but as Jared leaves the quarterdeck to come and greet the Captain as well, I stiffen. He doesn't stand next to me but even standing near him makes me uneasy. I don't know what's happened between us, but Jared doesn't even look at me. I frown. My stomach knots, but I don't have enough time to think of it, for Captain Eaton arrives on deck.
"Welcome Captain, to the Lorelei Lee" I smile, dropping to a low curtsy. I rise to notice two Officers and two Midshipmen behind him. Jaimy's one of 'em. I hold my breath and force my smile to remain, delicate and refined. Just as Mistress Primm would want me to.
"Ah, Captain Faber, a fine ship. A fine ship indeed." The Captain smiles, apparently over his qualms about a woman Captain, and looks over the ship. I take this opportunity to cut my eyes to Jared and see what he thinks about the Captain giving me his actual position. Jared doesn't say a word, he only looks straight ahead. Fine, so be it, the Captain I shall be then.
I brighten my smile for the Captain's benefit, and to Jared's detriment. I know, that although he isn't lookin' at me he's paying attention. Very well. I will sell it. See how you like it, you tight mouthed sod.
"And, I see you have brought your charming Officers Fletcher and Redcliff. Welcome to the Lorelei Lee gentlemen."
Jaimy smiles at me but then furrows his brow, looking at the large gap between me and Jared no doubt. I don't pay much attention to it though, I cast my eyes over a civil Redcliff to the young Midshipmen.
"Welcome gentlemen." I smile charmingly at them. The younger blushes but the older manages to only nod to me in reply. Such charming, handsome young men. I purr as I turn back to the Captain.
"We have prepared a glorious feast for you and your men, Captain. If you would just follow me." I sweep my arm towards the cabin.
The Captain smiles and rubs his hand together in anticipation then heads in, with his men behind. I turn to Jared and Leroy, apparently about to follow suit but I stop then, my jaw clenched but a smile on my lips.
"Mr. Leroy you have the con. See that we are not disturbed for any reason." I say, my eyes firmly locked upon his face and ignoring Jared all together but it does no good for he only turns away and returns to the quarterdeck. Fine, don't' play the game.
"But-" Leroy looks at Joseph, walking away.
"Do it Leroy. My orders are still above Mr. Jared's." I retort, quietly.
His chest rises but he only nods. He will obey, he has to. I turn back for the cabin to find Jaimy waiting by the door, looking concerned.
"Jacky..?" He asks, quietly as I reach him.
I smile and him and take his arm. "Come, Jaimy, let us eat and drink. This is a joyous time for all."
Jaimy is stiff as he glances behind but he soon relaxes as we head into my cabin to meet with the others and the lavish feast Higgins has planned. I want to impress them. I want to put on a good show. And indeed I do.
Within two hours we have feasted and made our plans for London. We leave in the morning and will take two coaches to London. Our party will total only ten, mostly Captain Eaton's men, but we will be well cared for. We will reach London in two days, staying at selected Inns along the way. Once we reach London, we will spend the night at one of the finer Inns and then go to the Palace the next morning, where I will be introduced to King George. I confess, I am giddy now that we are here, but as I lay here and try to sleep I cannot help but feel a mixture of guilt and anxiety.
Captain Eaton has allowed four men to accompany me. One of his Officers will be included in my party just to be safe, and that ironically has been chosen to be Jaimy. Higgins will be the second. Leroy the third and it has been decided that young George Thomas will be the fourth. I bite my lip and turn onto my side. Jared is not included in the party. I know he should have been included, I should have insisted but I did not. Jaimy frowned, no doubt wondering about my choice, but I am still angry with Jared. Now, I am only nervous. I want us to make up and be each forgiven but I fear, since I cannot go back on this decision, that this will only make it worse.
I close my eyes and try to sleep but it doesn't come. I only toss and turn. Why can't this be easy?
The next morning we leave the Lorelei Lee in high style. I'm dressed in a fine new dress and jacket. Higgins, Leroy and George are in their new black suits as well and follow close behind me. They don't look it but they're armed to the teeth. I don't know if Captain Eaton expects it, but when Jaimy arrives at the gangplank and casts a wary eye over my men, I know he knows the truth. Who wouldn't when you've, for years, dealt with a girl who hides a knife up her sleeve. I'm a trusting girl sometimes, but most often I'm smarter than I look.
I cast my eyes over the ship. I don't see Jared anywhere. I wanted to explain... to apologize but I can't keep the Captain waiting. I meet Smyth's eyes and I can feel the tears comin'. Why Jared?
"Where is he?" I ask, I hear my voice crack.
Smyth's chest rises and falls but he only shakes his head sympathetically.
"Sorry Miss." is all he says and I understand.
They have affection for me but they are loyal to their Captain, and he doesn't want to be found. He doesn't want to talk to me. I lower my chin and bit my tongue. I don't cry, though I want to, I lift my chin again and look at Smyth. I force a weak smile.
Smyth gives me an encouraging look. "Good luck, Miss." He says. "We'll be here, waiting to hear the tale."
I take a deep breath, my tears threatenin', and I nod. I can't bear to speak now. I turn and leave the ship without another word, meet Jaimy on the wharf and walk with him and Higgins to the carriage. Deep down, somewhere, it feels like old times.
I get seated into the carriage with Higgins at my side. Jaimy and George sits across while Leroy sits up top with the driver... just in case. I arrange the folds of my dress and fold my glove bound hands on my lap, gazing out the window. I look over the Lorelei Lee and frown. There's a crack of the whip and we lurch forward. Onto London. I keep my eyes on the ship. I watch her, scanning the deck for Jared, but I see no one. I pull my eyes away but quickly they move back, my heart sinks, I see a lone figure standing atop the for'scale. My throat grows dry and I feel the tears again... that Black Cloud looming on the horizon in my mind.
I know it's him right off, even though I can't see him clear. Just a shadow really but that was his place so long ago, up in those sails. I felt a stab at my heart thinkin' about it and watch, with each pound of the horses hooves, his silhouette grow smaller. I keep my eyes fixed on him anyway, then the carriage turns a corner, and I see him no more.
I put my back against the seat again and close my eyes tight. Oh Jared.
We are off to London. I am off to London to meet the King of England... without my husband.
The journey goes by in a blur. The men talk a little to each other but I only look out the window. We break several times, to eat at roadhouse or change horses at a depot but I only walk as Higgins' silent shadow. I rouse myself when in the company of the Captain, faking smiles and exchanging witty small talk but it's all empty. I feel Jaimy's anxious eyes on me almost always and Higgins' concerned gaze but I only brush off their concern. I am fine, really, only a little tired. With the Captain and his Officers I fake my excitement well, inside my carriage I don't even bother. As we near London, and I am silent once more in the carriage, I feel I have no excitement at all anymore. I do not care to meet the King, not at all. I only want to see Jared. I want to apologize, I want him to hold me again and everything to be safe and secure like it was before.
We stop at a clean Inn the first night, only a moments ride off the main road. It is pleasant and well maintained. The men all meet in one of the great rooms to supper together and talk, but I beg their pardon and escape to my room. I tell Higgins that I am tired, which I am, and disappear. I climb into my bed and lay in the darkness, staring at the ceiling. I miss Joseph. I do not feel well. I don't know if I am nervous or anxious without him but I close my eyes and try to sleep. The day after tomorrow we arrive in London. I lay there for a time before there is a knock at my door.
It is Higgins. "Come in." I say, but remain where I am. I didn't even lock my door. Show's how much my mind is working.
Higgins comes in with a small tray. Immediately I smell hot bread and my stomach growls, the betrayer. Higgins comes around my bedside and places the tray next to my face. It is a good sized chunk of fresh bread, buttered and a dish of jam, and a cup of tea. I sigh and sit up. Higgins smiles and pulls up a chair.
"May I?" He asks.
"You needn't ask Higgins." I say and nod. He sits and regards me carefully.
"I do hope you will not take offense but I do wish to speak of something with you." he says gently.
"I do not know what has come between you and Captain Jared, Miss, but I would like to express my concern. Back on the ship, many of the crew expressed their concern over the Captain's unusual behaviour and you Miss..." Higgins watches me carefully.
I tear off a piece of bread and pick at it, not daring to meet Higgins eyes. "What kind of behaviour?" I ask, quietly.
"The Captain has been very short tempered since your argument. He has always been a cheerful and charming kind of man but now..." Higgins frowns. "...Mr Leroy and Smyth have been able to keep control of the crew and direct attention away from him for the most part but he is not well Miss."
I pick at the bread a moment longer before ripping off an even smaller piece from it and slipping it between my lips. It melts in my mouth. It is heavenly but I feel the tears prick my eyes. I look at Higgins and my chin begins to quiver. I cannot stop them this time.
"He said I was spoilt and self absorbed." I sob. I hide my face in my hands.
"You Miss, are a very unique woman. Allow me to be frank. You enjoy the sensation of attention, you feel valued. Every human enjoys attention to a degree, you at times however, extend that limit of propriety."
I sob into my hands. Higgins believes it too! Higgins lets me wail a moment then pats my leg.
"Come now Miss. Let's have none of that. I am not excusing the Captain's words, nor am I agreeing or refuting them. I am only saying, neither you or he are fully at fault for this disagreement. Marriage is not an easy task." He tells me. "The Captain knows he should not have spoken to you in the way he did. He is heartily repentant of his words."
I wipe my face on my nightgown and look at him. My eyes are red and puffy, not doubt I look a sight but I don't care.
"But why didn't he come back?" I sniff. "Why didn't he come to me?"
"I say this in the most respectful way Miss but, you do not make it easy for him to. When your back is up it is very hard to get around it." Higgins smiles gently. "...And the Captain, although he loves you very much, is a proud man. In time he will come to you again. He adores you."
I feel another sob coming but I manage to get this out before it comes. "And I love him."
"I know you do." he assures me.
"I just... I haven't felt myself." I confess, and wipe away my tears again.
"You are under a great deal of stress, with the long journey from the Caribbean, being only recently married and then on this journey to London to meet our Sovereign." Higgins says, handing me my tea to calm my nerves.
"... but I only want Jared. I was excited at first to meet the King but not anymore... not without him. I'd be fine if Jared was here. I'm sure I would." I say, then sip my tea.
"I am sure you would Miss, however we can only do so much." Higgins says kindly then stands. "Now, finish your tea and try to sleep. It is another big day tomorrow."
I sigh and watch him go. I feel a little better but I still miss Jared. I still wish he was here. But now, at least I know he misses me too. That makes me feel a little better.
...but not much.