The two older gentlemen sat in the back of the White Horse tavern and ordinary, sharing old seafaring stories of their younger days. They had been together for greater than two hours laughing at what young roguish idiots they had been and how quickly it had all passed by them.
With each round of hearty laughter, Richard tried to block the spray of bloody mucous from each hacking cough with the ragged cloth of his dingy linen shirtsleeve. The whites of his eyes were bloodshot and the rims of each lower lid were excoriated and encrusted.
Richard McCoveny suddenly became somber and quiet and the other just watched his friend and wondered what had transpired to change his mood.
"What's wrong my friend?" said Albert Godsey. "Ya seem ta be far and away some where."
"Ahh Godsey, mate, I am in a quandary about what ta do with my darlin' daughter Maura. I am in failin’ health and am so dreadfully afraid that she will have to succumb ta some bloody Englishman for her very survival, lest I can find another way ta protect her from the mean streets of this city."
"Why hasn't she yet married?" Godsey replied.
“Because I am a stubborn old fool that taught my daughter more the ways of a lad than lass, I'm afraid. She has a temper that no man could put up with for too long, I’m afraid and most men are intimidated by her intellect and her beauty." Richard stated in a woeful tone.
“Then why can she not become a school marm and support herself that way? You had educated her well, as I recall. Mayhap put aside a dowry, save some willing male to marry her in future." Godsey suggested.
"I'm afraid that ya have been away from the emerald Isle too long, Godsey. Ya see King George the III hath carried over the rulin’s of his bastard predecessor, Henry the VIII, whereby he forbade all Irish women to venture inta any such learnered knowledge. The English have been tryin’ ever since, ta force us together, ta control us and take our lands”.
“So any Irish lass not wantin’ the fate o’ the streets, has got no choice but ta wed an Englishman for her survival. I am dyin’ Godsey, I know it, and I'm afraid that my Maura will be at the mercy o’ the English. She will surely be beaten, either, into submission or ta death because she is o’ strong will and mind." Richard continued.
“I’ve asked ya here tonight, my old friend o’ the Sea, ta help me in my time of need. I usually do not like ta call in markers, but I have no other choice." The old man begged.
“Wait a minute Richard I am but a man of meager earnings, myself. I could no more afford a dowry than you. I have never even been married! How would ya expect me ta care for her?" His friend replied with terror in his eyes and in his voice.
“I don't want ya ta take care of her, Godsey. She will be able ta care for herself, once in America. I want ya ta take her with ya ta Boston, New England. I've heard that the colonists have settled in quite nicely there and are doing well. They'll be in need of governesses and teachers. Shoppe keepers will need seamstresses ta make clothin’ for the people settlin’ there. Boston, I hear, is up and comin’ and the people will pay immigrants to do their fetchin' for them. I also have a female friend that resides there. Mary Turlington. I used to give her extra for doin' my wash.”
“Yes, I'm sure ya did, ya old scallywag, heh, heh!" joked Godsey, while elbowing Richard in his side.
“No, no, 'tis nothing like that you old letch. She lives not far from the docks and has a mercantile at waters edge. I used ta stop there and purchase my pipe tobacco and whiskey for the return home. She was quite a bit older than me, as I recall. Mayhap she's not even livin' any longer, but she has a son, goes by the name of Thomas. Thomas Turlington." Richard remembers, as he thoughtfully pulls at the bestraggled hair of his chin beard. “I’m sure if I send the money planned for her dowry and ask that the lad put her ta workin’ until she can support herself, she'll be just fine.”
"And what would ya have me do? Ya know as well as I, that havin’ her board a ship with burley young men, set out ta sea for three months, would surely cost ya daughter her vanity...if ya know of what I speak, Richard. I think ya can remember what it was like for months at a time at sea. All we could do was drink ourselves ta sleep night after night, ta avoid yearnin’ for the fair maidens that awaited us at Port." recalled Godsey.
Richards eyebrows lifted in surprise at the idea that he was about to reveal to his shipmate. “I will put her in disguise. Yes, that's it, Godsey! I will disguise her as a young lad. Mayhap you could convince ya ship's Captain that he is in need of a cabin boy?" He pleaded for his friend’s acceptance of his idea.
“I don't know, Richard, ya ask much of me. I know I owe ya my very life for the thousand times ya pulled my sorry arse out o’ the fires, but shite man, ya are askin' me ta lie ta my Captain and that could mean a floggin' at sea, if found out. You really think that the ships Captain would be around a maiden for three months at sea and not know that he's really a she !?!" Godsey replied, while trying to keep his voice from being over heard by the other men that would be aboard the Arabella that next eventide.
There was a long silence between the two old shipmates. Godsey knew he owed his life to Richard, many times over. But could he risk the lash if found out that he had allowed a stowaway to board ship? And a female stowaway, at that! It would surely cause an uprising that could jeopardize the life of the girl, for one, and the ships cargo, should fights break out between the men over the maiden.
“Please help my daughter, Godsey, for I know I will be dead by spring. The pain in my chest gets bigger and bigger as time pushes on and I need ta know that my Maura is well off for the future."
Godsey took one last long drag off the ale in his mug and then ordered the strongest whiskey the barkeep had in his stock. He looked into Richards’s eyes and could see that his friend was very ill. His pallor was ashen grey and his eyes were careworn from many nights up worrying about his daughter's fate. He held up his tankard and slammed it into Richard's glass.
“Don’t worry, my friend, I will see ta ya last wishes. But I can tell ya this, it will not be easy keepin’ her identity a secret, but I will do my best ta keep her safe o'er the long journey ta America."
Richard breathed a great sigh of relief and hugged his friend, slapping him several times on the back, as men do.
The deal was struck. Now the difficult part would be to convince Maura that this was in her best interest.
"No, Father I willna go!" Maura cried out in utter outrage at her father’s plans for her future.
"Now Listen ta reason, lass. Ya must heed what I say. This is the only logical way for ya ta survive those vile English bastards. Would ya be put upon by one o’ them?" Richard shouted back at his daughter.
"If ya stay here and I should pass on, what will become o’ ya’? Use your head gel! I raised ya ta be more intelligent than this childish display that ya be exhibitin'. I'll hear no more o’ this foolishness. The deal has been struck for ya safe passage ta America. Ya will meet with my good friend Albert Godsey, behind the White Horse Tavern, just before dawn. There ya will be given a disguise as the Captain's cabin boy."
"Cabin boy?!" she exclaimed in disbelief. "Father I have hardly looked the boy in many a summer. How do ya suppose I manage that, now, at my age and obvious development." she looked down upon her womanly curves.
"Ya will don the cabin boy garb that ya are given by Godsey and tape ya breasts down as tightly to ya frame as possible. It would be very dangerous for ya ta be found out. This will be the toughest part o’ the whole of it, Maura. After ya reach the ports of Boston you will be met by some other good friends o’ mine, The Turlingtons, and then it will be clear sailin’ for ya from then on gel."
With tears welling up in her eyes, she pleaded with her father not to send her away. "Please father, who will tend ta ya in ya final days? I would be the one to do those final things for ya, not some stranger." Her tears were flowing freely now, she could not stop them from falling.
Richard held his arms out to his beloved daughter and she fell into them and wept for what seemed like an eternity.
"There, there child, cry no more. I can no longer care for ya in my condition, even though it has been you who has, more often than naught, cared for me these past two years. As ya father I must know before I die that I have done everythin’ in my power ta assure that ya are well off and protected. This is the best I can do. Everyday I look upon your beautiful face and see ya mother, Maureen, in ya child. 'Tis harder and harder ta let go of ya, my wee bairn, more than ya know. But let go I must, for ya own good. Ya are much too good for the likes o’ some English rogue bastard. I'd rather ya take ya chances, gel, on that rough ship knowin’ that when ya reach the shores o’ the Shawmut Peninsula, at Boston harbor, ya just might meet up with one o’ ya own kind. A strappin’ Irish lad and have a chance at a better life than one o’ serf to some bloody English soldier, or worse, forced to make ya way in the whore houses of this filthy city.
I know for sure that ya mother, Maureen, would have agreed with me. On this ya must trust me, gel. Up and until now I have taught ya well the ways ta protect ya self against danger. Ya know how ta hunt, shoot, and ride a horse better than most young lads. And what little schoolin' that I did managed ta sneak inta ya, without the English blackhearts finding out about, ya also know how ta stitch, cook, manage a home, and are very well read. Ya will make a fine governess for someone's family or a wonderful school teacher."
Maura brushed at the corners of her eyes and listened to what her father had to say, knowing that there would be no changing his mind on this. She stiffened her back against his words and sat stoically while he continued with his last bit of fatherly advice.
"Remember one thing my child, never ever give ya heart ta some rogue not worthy o’ your regalness. Ya are truly very special, Maura. I would rather see ya never marry than ta be bound ta an unhappy union of convenience or abuse. That is why I am sendin’ ya away. I want ta make certain that ya have every opportunity ta put forth your greatness.” Richard fell silent awaiting a reply from his daughter. But none came.
Maura rose up from her chair, placed a long kiss on her father’s forehead, hugged him and then ascended the stairs to her bedchamber.
As she laid her head down on her pillow she knew that this would be the last night that she would sleep in her own bed. And that after the morrow morning’s sunrise she would never again see her father alive.
She buried her face into the pillows for one last long exhausting cry and then fell off to sleep with her final thoughts being the fear of the unknown and having to face a new world on her own.