Hope you're all following along...here come Chapter 3!
Her room was blanketed in the soft purple hue of dawn. Maura sat erect at the edge of her bed with a small satchel packed from the night before. Exhausted from little sleep, sobbing, and fear of the unknown, she silently awaited her fathers disheartening announcement that it was time to leave.
Richard entered his daughter’s room and looked upon her with tearful eyes. "Tis time lass. We must go ta meet with Godsey before the ship sets sail."
Maura silently wished that the ship had sailed early so she would not have to leave her home or her father. As she climbed onto their small horse drawn carriage she stopped to pan the frost covered landscape and realized that she will never again look upon the lush green blades of high grass that framed their tiny thatched cottage in summer. That was her home. How could she leave all that she had ever known? She took in a deep breath and forced back the tears to save her father any further heartache, and then taking in one last deep suffocating breath, she looked upon her home no more.
As they reached the alleyway leading to the back entrance of the White Horse Tavern, Richard saw Godsey waving them onward.
With a very short and hasty introduction Maura met with Godsey. He could see it in her eyes that she did not want to go with him but her father pushed her forward. With one last distressed attempt Maura begged her father.
"Father, please, do not send me alone. Come with me to America." She pleaded.
“Alas, I would that I could gel. I canna go with ya. I don't even have money for passage for you let alone myself. If I should fare well over the coming year I will find my way ta ya, if possible. But until we meet again promise me that ya will ne’er forget ya heritage and that ya will hang onta the old ways and ya language. Those are the only things in life that are worth keepin’, child.
No one can e’er take those things away from ya.” With that said Richard reached out and with both hands he took hold of Maura’s face and spoke to her in their native Gaelic for what he knew would be the last time. He told her that she has been the treasure of his life. “Mu A Thaisce mi Luran inighean.”
Then he pressed his rough, dry lips upon her forehead for one last fatherly kiss. Then with tears in his eyes he turned away from her and ran from the alleyway.
Maura stood there, frozen in place, on that cold January morn.
All control of her life was now in the hands of a complete stranger. Should she go to the ship? Should she run from Godsey and find her way back to her home?
Finally the sound of Godsey's voice broke the chaos within her head.
"C’mon gel, we'll be late and I must give ya instruction before boardin' the ship." She followed Godsey into the back of the tavern.
In a room at the end of the bar was an older woman, Jeannie.
Godsey usually spent time with her when he was in port. She agreed to help with Maura’s transformation. Jeannie had saved a few items of boys clothing that had once belonged to her beloved son Sean, who had long since passed at sea. He was a cabin boy for three sailing seasons when a giant wave toppled the ship that he was on and he was one of many died at sea that day two years ago, December.
Jeannie could see the terror of the unknown in Maura’s eyes. She tried to quell her fears with bits of false assurance. “Don’t fret none lass. Godsey is a good man. He’ll keep a close watch on ya.”
She instructed Maura to undress so she could show her how to wrap her breasts to disguise her womanly figure.
Maura was very modest. After all she never even had a mother all of her life to help her dress, so this was very difficult to have someone looking at her unclothed body. Her face immediately became heated and she blushed a bright scarlet hue when she disrobed her top in front of Jeannie.
Godsey was keeping lookout and had his back to Maura, but she feared that he could turn any moment and see her. She bade Jeannie to hurray with the wrapping.
“My goodness, lass, you’d best keep this bawdy fig’r wrapped tightly, lest one o’ those scoundrels aboard ship will have way with ya” Jeannine kept nervously jabbering away.
Finally, after Jeannie had Maura dressed in boys clothing, she went to the hearth and grabbed a handful of cooled ash and rubbed Maura’s face a tad, to give the appearance of a street waif.
“Well, Godsey my love, what ya think? I’m thinkin’ she’ll pass for a boy now, eh!” Jeannie stood beside Maura, proudly displaying her work.
Godsey turned toward Maura and took a deep breath. “Well let us hope we can fool the captain, is all, or both our backs will feel the stingin’ o’ the lash.”
Maura looked at Godsey with apologetic eyes. “I’m sorry Mr. Godsey. I shall do my best ta keep ya from the lash.”
“Awe, don’t ya be apologizin’ gel. I owe ya father more than a few scraps of skin off my back. It’ll be alright.” He tried to console Maura.
“Once I get the Captain ta acceptin’ ya as his cabin boy ya must stay in that cabin, unless I come for ya. Do ya understand me?
It would be very dangerous for ya ta go about the ship unattended. Should ya be found out, the lash will be the least o’ ya worries. Ya get my meanin’ gel?” Godsey continued with his fatherly warning.
“Those hooligans would be all over ya before ya could say jack rabbit. I will make certain that ya get out o’ the cabin at least once a day, topside, for fresh air and exercise. The Captain spends a fair amount of time in his cabin going over his logs and maps and such, so ya will have ta be very clever not ta be found out by him or we’ll both be in the gravest o’ danger, I canna stress that point enough lass.”
With those instructions given and some quick nods from Maura, they were off for the biggest adventure of Maura McCoveny’s life…America.
Maura’s fears temporarily turned to excitement. As a child, she had dreamed of traveling to America. However she thought that she would experience such a journey with her father, or maybe her future husband.
With thoughts of her father running from the alleyway still reeling in her head, she began to breath heavy once again.
But now there was little time to dwell as Godsey grabbed onto Maura by her demure wrist and then sped off toward the docks.
Godsey feared that he'd wasted too much time and would be listed as missing from the crew’s roster. There were punishments for latecomers and he didn't intend to be late!
As they approached the great vessel, that was the Arabella, Maura's eyes grew wide and her breathing quicken from the fusion of intrepidation and exhileration. At that very moment she realized that she had never truly been alive with such intensity.
The noise down on the docks was incredible. There were hundreds of bodies, mostly men, scurrying from one end of the dock to the other, preparing to shove off for various ports around the world. Maura had briefly lost track of Godsey within the crowds of people. She was being bumped around within the crowd like so many marbles in a sac, tripping over her own feet in unreserved awe. Maura was fast becoming dizzy from whirling about at each new sight and sound her senses came in contact with. The loud thud of wood on wood and the scraping sounds that the steamer trunks made as the deck hands dragged each one up the gangplanks. The clanging of the toll bells alerting the hands that it was nearly time to depart.
Maura instantly became startled when out of masses Godsey appeared grabbing hold of Maura’s wrist a second time and about startled her out of her skin.
“Where in hell’s bells did ya disappear to, gel? I thought that I’d lost ya already and we ain’t even shoved off yet. Now, please Maura, stay close ta me, or ya could be in serious danger!” With worried agitation in his tone Godsey instructed her to walk up the gangplank and wait at the top for him.
She stood nervously pulling away at her fingers and looked on as Godsey walked towards the tall figure at the starboard end of the ship.
Maura did not know it, yet, but she is now looking upon the man that she'll be sharing a cabin with for the next three months. He is tall, about six feet in height, shoulder length black hair, and weathered tan skin. Even though he wore a heavy calf length leather highwayman’s coat, she could tell that he had a very thick broad chest and arms to match. She breifly took her eyes from the men and found a pane of glass in one of the cabin windows. With her finger tips she brushed away the dust from the glass. She could not believe her eyes when she viewed her image.
Jeannie had hidden her thick dark raven tresses under an Irish scaly cap. She donned very oversized boys trousers and an extra large flannel shirt. She was most uncomfortable with the binding of her breasts. She didn't know how she would manage to keep them in these bindings for three months, but knew she must. It was too late to turn back now. Or was it? She thought for a brief moment, “I could run away right now and no one would be the wiser. I could bargain my way home to my father. I could...”
“You, there cabin boy! Take my trunks below deck.” Daniel shouted to her from across deck.
“And mind ya, boy, I tolerate no stealin'. Any pilferin’ from me will find ya thrown overboard. Understand?" The Captain bellowed in Maura’s direction. "Y-y-yes, Captain, sir. I understand" Maura replied in a weak boyish tone. Godsey looked at her, rolled his eyes and whispered to himself..."Mother of God, be praised."
Maura struggled to drag the heavy trunks to the Captains quarters. Godsey waited for the Captain to be out of sight and came up behind Maura. "Here, lass, let me help ya, lest ya be here all damn day with this trunk. Have ya no muscles a’tall gel? I suggest that ya be findin’ some. I won't be here ta help ya every time." As he wiped his brow with the sleeve of his soon to filthy crisp linen shirt, Godsey stepped back away from Maura.
"Thank you Mr. Godsey, sir." she said clumsily with eyes pointed downward.
“It's Godsey, lass, or Albert as my mum was fond of. My father was Mr. Godsey and he's long since dead. I've got ta go topside ta get ready ta shove off. Ya wait here and the Captain will come down soon and tell ya of his needs. I told him that ya was Jeannie's nephew and that ya had never sailed afore, so ya was kinda green an' all. He said that was fine and that he'd show ya the ropes, so ta speak. Remember, he's ya toughest audience, if ya can fool him you've got clear sailin' lass. Oh, and don't forget Maura, never leave this cabin without me." He bobbed his cap to her and set off to topside.
Maura's heart sank, as soon as she heard the heavy cabin door slam shut behind her. She knew her life from here on would never be the same. She forced her feelings of dread and doom way down inside of her and vowed to make the best of a bad situation.
Maura walked to the Captain's bunk and climbed up onto the ledge seat of the great bay window. Several panes were open and she could feel the icy January winds biting at her cheeks, as they blew in hard off the Atlantic. The smell of salty sea air filled her senses. She sat for a long while watching the dock workers and deck hands finish the last of their duties before shoving off, as Godsey had put it to her.
Maura finally turned her attention back to the cabin that was to be her home for the next three months. With a thud Maura jumped from the window’s ledge and began to explore the cabin for things that would be of interest to her so as to busy herself and while away the hours, when at sea, not realizing that a Captain's cabin boy would have very little time to while away hours.
She began to take in the many different scents of the room. She noted, first off, the smell of cherry tobacco and a heavy scent of sandalwood that was imbedded in the linens on the Captain's bunk. That, mixed with a weathered leather scent, told her that a man's presence was definitely about. The combination of the woodstove embers and the cherry tobacco reminded her of her father. That familiar lump in her throat began to resurface and Maura had to fight to swallow hard to keep from crying again. She shook her head in an attempt to pull herself together.
Maura walked to the desk, and with her slender index finger, she traced the back frame of the Captain's leather chair. She walked around to the seat of the chair and sat down in it and realized that her small woman's frame was lost in its greatness. The chair was obviously made for the stature of a large man’s frame. She swiveled the chair slightly to the left and noted the Captain's log book and some maps strewn about. In an attempt to tidy the desk she came upon a hand painted portrait of a young woman that she guessed was approximately her own age, or perhaps a year or two older. The picture was of Mallory Gilmore. The Captain's betrothed.
Maura picked up the portrait and ran her fingers over Mallory's face in admiration of such a great beauty.
The woman's overall looks were much different than that of her own. Mallory was pale of skin, with just a hint of pink to her cheeks. Her lips were thin and colored a dark shade of berry. Her eyes were a deep shade of amber and her hair was a mixture of strawberry and flaxen tresses that stretched down her back with a few strands playfully adorning her shoulders and across her ample breasts that swelled invitingly over the top of her pale green and lace bodice.
Maura was thinking that the woman’s waistline was small but adequate for her buxom frame. She then turned herself to face the lengthwise mirror on the back of the cabin door and examined her own frame. She wrinkled her nose at her own reflection, while turning herself this way and that.
Maura turned her attention back to the portrait, and again ran her fingers across the whole of the picture. Maura was so absorbed in her appraisal of the woman in the portrait that she did not hear the cabin door open.
Daniel looked upon his cabin boy and noticed that he had Mallory's portrait in hand and was intently studying it. "Ah lad, I see that ya have an eye for the fairer sexes, even at your tender age." He laughed heartily. "What be ya given name lad?" Daniel asked.
Maura hadn't even given a thought that he might ask for a name.
What was her name, now? Her heart was about to burst out of her chest. This was it, she thought. I have not even made it out of the harbor, and I am already found out!
"Davy, sir" she blurted out at once.
Daniel had not even noticed the delay in her response.
“I like ya already, Davy," Daniel said as he slapped her full on her back and sent her soaring forward, knocking her to her knees, face down into his oversized leather chair.
Maura was still with her back to Daniel, so he could not see that her eyes were as big and round as medallions or that her cheeks flushed brightly. She finally pulled herself up off of her knees to face her Captain, while holding her scaly cap atop her head, so as not to give away her secret.
Daniel was walking about the cabin while talking to her, not really noticing her awkwardness. "They'll be time a plenty ta teach ya the ways of women lad. And I'll be only too happy ta school ya on their wiles.” His gorgeous white teeth flashed against the backdrop of his rugged tanned and weathered skin. Her heart was fluttering. This was odd to her, she thought, as she quietly continued listening to him and became lost in the shape of his mouth as he formed each new word.
“Rule number one lad, don't ever let ya self become too enchanted with their beauty or it'll be the death o' ya boy. Enjoy what ya can from the wenches, but always hold ya own against their trickery. Ah but I've ta teach ya the ways of a cabin boy, first." Daniel laughed out loud again while slapping Maura forward into the desk, this time.
As she was pushing herself up off of the desk, she thought, if this keeps up I’ll have ta add paddin’ ta my backside, as well.
Daniel was busying himself at his desk going over the ship's manifest. Maura finally looked upon him from the side view. His profile was strong and striking. The skin of his arms and chest were as weathered and tan as his ruggedly appealing facial features. His overall look was hardened. She could easily see that he was more than capable of handling himself in the heat of battle. No, this man is not like any of the boys that she knew from her village. Maura, still unaware of her sudden interest in Daniel, continued with her silent appraisal.
She noted that his hair was long to the shoulder and raven black with flecks of blue highlights that shone through when the sunlight was upon him. His shoulders were broad, and she could see from the way his shirt was half way unbuttoned, that his chest was smooth and muscular, unlike her father's that was pale and covered with a thick matt of corse silver hair.
She found herself drawn to his waist area and began to blush when she caught herself noticing his solid muscular legs, buttocks, and hips.
She quickly forced herself to look away and placed her hands to her cheeks to try and cool her blush.
She was startled out of her trance by the tone of Daniel's deep masculine voice. "So, lad, Jeannie is your aunt?"
"Y’yes, sir, cap'n, sir. Maura stammered, forgetting to mask her voice. "Ah, I see ya voice has not yet changed, lad. Ya must be very young, what say, thirteen-fourteen summers? Come, come, boy, speak up ta me. You'll be very close with me o'er the next three months and will have ta get used ta my ways. I am a stern Captain, but a fair one. If you do ya work and cause me no ire, you'll escape the lash and mayhap I'll hire you on again in future." Daniel had realized that he'd not properly appraised this young lad. He reached out and squeezed Maura's upper arms and remarked, "Ya are kind o’ scrawny lad, aren't ya? Haven't worked much in your life, I can see that."
Maura furrowed her brow as if he had just hurled the greatest of insults at her. Why she could do things that most lads could not, or at least just as well. She could shoot, ride a horse, hunt, fish, cook, sew, read, write and a whole lot more. How dare he make such remarks ta me, she thought. She also had to remind herself that she needed to hold her tongue...for now anyway.
Daniel had not even noticed that Maura was agitated with his appraisal of her and continued on with his laundry list of chores that he expected would be done daily.
..."Well I'll see to it that ya get ya fair share o’ hard labor aboard my vessel. First thing each morn, upon rising, you'll empty the chamber pots, put up a pot of water to heat, to be ready for the days shave and bath. Short ones in the morn, I like ta save my soaks in the tub for at night, before bed. It helps ta relax ya after a hard day of laborin'. Second, you'll fetch my breakfast, as well as ya own. You'll be expected ta keep my quarters clean, in addition to ya other duties."
Maura's eyes widened. Other duties! Wasn't that enough? She thought. He took notice of her reaction, this time, and with a half grin he continued with his list of duties.
"Other duties include making sure that my weapons are kept clean and accessible and ready ta do battle should we be attacked by enemy ships lookin’ ta steal my cargo. You will be expected ta be at my side ta have my pistols loaded and at the ready. Each night you'll go ta the galley and fetch my supp, as well as ya own, of course. After we supp, you'll bring in the great copper tub, from the next cabin, and have my bath drawn. You will heat the kettles on the woodstove and fill the tub. My clothes, ya will lay out daily. Ya can take that bunk, over by the woodstove. Do I make my self clear, lad?" His voice was stern, but she could see a telling glint in his eyes that told her he was a kind and fair man.
Maura was standing in front of him, wide eyed, and just shook her head in the affirmative.
"Blast it boy! Have ya no tongue in ya head? How did it come ta be that ya wanted ta sail aboard a trade ship, after all?"
Nervously shaking at first, finally Maura spoke.
"Well ya see, C-cap'n, my Fa...ther's sister, Jeannie, could no longer care for me and thought it would be good for me ta have some male influence in my young life, and that it would help me ta grow up." She caught herself, as she almost gave away her secret.
Daniel looked upon her suspiciously. Something was amiss with this lad, he did not know what, but it would surely rear its head before too long, of that he was sure.
"The only reason I allowed ya aboard my ship ta serve me is because ya are Jeannie's kin. Jeannie had always shown me a rippin' time and treated my men well. I feel that I owe her some debt o' thanks. Otherwise, I would not have accepted ya aboard. The last cabin boy I had allowed aboard was more trouble than he was worth. Never got a blasted thing straight and then he committed the gravest of sins against me...he stole from me. I will not abide any of that, ya hear me boy? Stealin' is the worst of all sins, to my mind. So just a warnin' to ya, lest ya want ta end up on the bottom o’ the sea."
Now her stomach was jumping with angst. Maura was so fearful of the consequences of displeasing him.
"Godsey will come for ya, soon, and show ya the lay of the ship. But for now ya can start by cleanin' up this pig sty. Daniel turned quick on his heels and went out the cabin door.
When the door slammed, she immediately began to think of escaping and running home to her father.
Maura thought to herself, Oh what a dreadful mistake this be. Fooling him for a day or even a week, perhaps she could get away with, but for three months? She just couldn't imagine that she could manage that, not for three months.
Maura looked about the cabin. She placed her hands to her hips and spoke aloud, “well I had better get started.”
Maura began by stripping the Captain's bunk. When she pulled the sheets to her body in a bunch, she could smell the scent of sandalwood and spices. His smell, she thought.
She took in the heady scent and felt a little ashamed at what she was thinking in her head. She closed her eyes for a brief moment and wrapped the sheets around her shoulders and breathed in his scent and wondered for just a slight moment what it would be like to be in his arms. Some how she knew there would be safety in those strong arms. The spell was broken immediately, when Godsey entered the room.
"Maura...Maura. Ya must be under some kind o’ spell, eh?" Godsey interrupted her lovely daydream. When she scrambled to unravel her self from the bed sheets, her cap had fallen to the floor.
Godsey smiled and then laughed, obviously catching her dreaming about the Captain, as most women did.
"You listen ta me, gel, ya keep that cap atop ya pretty little head or we'll both be losin' ours, if ya get my meanin'." Godsey joked, while tousling the top of Maura’s head.
Maura dropped the sheets and picked up her scaly and stuffed her thick black tresses underneath the cap. A few thin strands hung down around the sides to frame her face. With her smudged nose and cheeks and those teasing strands hanging down, Godsey began to realize that it would take an act of God to pull this off, because Maura looked as beautiful as if she were in regal garb. She was a natural beauty...soot and all.
He walked over to her, helped her stuff the rest of her hair under her cap. He felt very protective of her, like a father.
"C'mon then, I've got a lot ta show ya about the ship. I'll show ya where the galley be, and where the powder stores are kept, and where to draw water. Never drink the sea water or you're sure ta be sick to ya stomach, lass. We start every journey with enough water for most of the trip, but sometimes there's not enough so we leave barrels out on deck ta catch the rain water and we use those ta replenish our stores for the rest o’ the journey. Always make sure ya boil the water afore ya drink it." He went on and on for the longest time, as they made their whirlwind tour of the ship.
Maura tried to listen and to remember all that he had to tell her but she knew that would be impossible. Besides it was very difficult to hear Godsey over the deck hands hollering orders at each other and the crashing of the waves hitting the sides of the ship. One other thing that she hadn't counted on was the fierceness of the waves and how they tossed the ship about as if it were a toy.
The ship was wavering to and fro and it made her start to feel sick. Godsey caught on right quickly.
"Lass, lass, Ya are goin' ta hafta get ya sea legs about ya. That's one thing for sure. You'll get used to it after a bit." He could see that she was turning pale. He escorted Maura back below deck.
"Try and rest if ya can, gel. You'll be up early with the gulls." He warned.
Maura shook her head and up it came. "Oh my goodness Godsey, I'm terribly ashamed. I'd better clean up." Her face was gray and ashen.
Godsey just stood at the door, cap in his hand, scratching his half balding pate. "Aye...I don't know what I've gotten myself inta this time." With a deep sigh he turned to go back up topside.
Unbeknownst to Maura and Godsey, two doors down where the water stores were kept, just inside the door was the Captain's quartermaster, James Kilern. He had been hiding back away from the entry of the adjoining cabin. As soon as he heard the words "Lass, Lass" his ears perked up and he crouched back so that Godsey could not see him there. He had been listening to them and decided that he would keep an eye on this so called cabin boy.
After a while he heard the Captain's cabin door slam. When he was certain that Godsey was well past him, he made his way from his hiding place and went back up topside.