Here is chapter 1 of the edited version or THE ROSE.
The bustle and noise of Port Saint James swirled around me. Shirtless black slaves swarmed over the dock. Their bodies glistened with sweat while they lifted and hauled heavy freight. Their calls to one another joined with the cacophony of other sounds filling the air. Others grunted as they heaved on thick ropes attached to winches to pull heavier boxes aboard the British East India Company’s Anne. Passengers mingled with families and friends while screeching and laughing children played all hid amongst the stacked crates. Dust plumed above Harbor Road, kicked up by latecomers’ horses and wagons as they hurried along.
A tall, severe man doffed his tricorn hat and waved it about, in his usual manner, emphasizing whatever he was saying to father. It was the Puritan minister, Mr. Jenkins. He wore all black clothing except for the white shirt beneath his waistcoat.
Farther down the jetty, a British man-of-war was also being prepared to leave. Anne was well armed, as were all East Indiamen, but she merited a special escort due to her precious cargo. When I queried Father about what the precious cargo might be, he merely smiled and said, “Don’t worry yourself over such. Try to enjoy your trip.”
I walked ahead of my parents, fascinated by the hustle of the common people who surrounded me. The adults mostly wore what I took for their best clothes, although patches were apparent on some, and the children ran about barefoot.
“Lady Katherine . . .”
When I glanced back to determine who had called, a gust of wind tugged at my bonnet. I pushed down firmly to keep it on my head.
Roderick Cash III ran toward me with a package in his hand. Halfway to me, he threw it to the ground and continued running.
“Hi Roddy!” I waved, completely bewildered that he didn’t slow down. His sweaty brow and wild eyes unsettled me. “Roddy, what in the world—”
He slammed into me with the energy of a rampaging horse, then wrapped his arms around me. We flew through the air. I landed on my bottom and screeched.
A large crate crashed to the spot where I had stood.
My eyes widened and my heart raced. I gasped to catch my breath.
After my near brush with death, only a single, muted word escaped my lips. “Oh.”
I took a great gulp of air as terror brought on by the incident faded. “I’m surprised you came, but quite glad you did.”
He stood and brushed himself off, then clasped my hand and pulled me to my feet. “Yes, well so am I,” he said, then added in a lower voice, “Katherine.”
I brushed away some of the grit from my skirt. “Are you all right?”
“Of course, why wouldn’t I be?”
“You do seem a bit off, and—”
“Wait.” He ran back, picked up the package, then hurried back to me.
When he returned, he shoved it into my hand. The package had fallen into a puddle and the paper it was wrapped in was wet and torn. “Mother insisted I bring you a departing gift since I missed your bon voyage party last night.”
I scrunched my face at the package’s condition. Peeking out through the tear was a slightly soiled, from the accident, green, silk handkerchief. I tore open the package the rest of the way. It was beautiful. “Thank you, it’s—quite nice of you—”
The clang of the ship’s bell, calling everyone to board, interrupted me. “Oh, I must get aboard. You’re my hero.” I kissed him on the cheek, and his face flushed.
By this time, a large crowd surrounded us. All were talking at once. Father’s voice sounded over the din. “Move aside, let us through.
“Are you alright?” he asked as the tide parted before him and Mother.
“Yes, Father, I’m fine. Roddy saved my life.” I took my friend’s hand and his face turned even redder.
“Good job, Master Cash, we shall talk about a reward later.” Father turned to me before Roderick could speak. “Come, we must get you aboard. She’s set to sail, and I don’t believe you want to miss her.”
“On no, Father, I simply would die if I weren’t able to reach London in time for school.” Our Lady of the River School for Young Ladies took only thirteen to sixteen-year-old ladies of peerage and royalty, and this was to be my first year there. Actually, my first trip back to England since my family left when I was a small child. If I were to miss the ship I would have to wait another year, until 1675, and miss my first year. That would be entirely unacceptable.
Mother, a tall, slender woman with long, red hair, smiled at me. Her emerald eyes twinkled in the bright Caribbean sun, which gave her smile an extra sparkle. She put her arm around my shoulders and gave me a gentle squeeze. “Don’t worry, dear, they wouldn’t dare leave without you.”
Father, the Duke of Saint James and Lord Governor of Saint James Island, was a sharp contrast to her with his rotund figure and nearly bald head.
I bid Roderick good-bye, then skipped ahead of my parents to board the ship. The aptly named Miss Winifred Grimmer of Suffolk, England met me at the gangplank with her usual disapproving frown. She would be my paid chaperone for the trip. “You should not run so near the water. You might fall in, and I do believe your father would be quite displeased.”
And if I drowned, you wouldn’t get paid to go back home, Mother Grim. I’m only thirteen years and soon to be received in court, where I’ll meet all those gorgeous and most brilliant young men of my class. I’m the happiest girl in the world. So stuff that in your common heart, you old witch.
What I actually said was, “Yes, ma’am,” and curtsied slightly. No need to give away my adventurous, tomboyish manner, as Mother refers to my behavior—not yet.
We waited for Mother and Father at the boarding ramp. They climbed aboard first, followed by me, then Mother Grim.
I stopped halfway up and looked over the side of the gangplank’s rope banister. Water sloshed gently against the ship’s hull. Although early in the day, the humidity glued my chemise to my skin. I yearned to dive into the clear bay water and swim with the large fish.
A bump from behind awoke me from my reverie. I glared at the sight of Miss Grimmer’s downturned mouth.
“My apologies, Lady Katherine. Perhaps we should actually board the ship. We might arrive in England faster.”
“Apologies my . . .” My hands curled into fists so tight my nails pierced the gloves, I reluctantly pasted on a false smile. “Goodness yes, what a brilliant idea.”
But once at sea, curbing my tongue would be the last thing I intend to do.
When I boarded, Father conversed with a tall, thin man. He waved me over to where they stood. “Katherine, I want you to meet Captain Browne.
“This is my daughter, Katherine, and her chaperone, Miss Grimmer.”
The captain nodded his head slightly. “Lady Katherine.”
“Zachary Browne is one of the best men in the East India Company’s fleet, so I have no concerns about your trip,” Father said.
The captain hunched his shoulders slightly and smiled. “Thank you, your lordship. I’ll keep the young lady safe. Now I don’t like to rush things, but if we’re going to catch the tide and the strong breeze out of this bay, we best be pushing off.”
“Yes, yes, my good man, as you say.” Father gave me a hug and said his good-byes.
“Mother leaned down and hugged me. She then kissed my cheek. I noticed, for the first time, she wore the cameo pendant with my profile on it that Father had recently commissioned. The pendant made me smile. Mother had sworn she would wear it until I came home.
I love you Mother and Father. And I so dearly want to go to England, yet I don’t want to leave you. My eyes moistened and threatened to cause a cascade of tears.
As I waved good-bye to Mother and Father, my brother, Robert, charged up the gangway. He was two years older than me and my parents were actually his guardians. Mother’s sister, Aunt Eithne, and her husband, Uncle Derry, died in an accident about the same time as my birth, and my parents took him in and raised him as their own. He has always been brother to me.
“Katherine,” he called before he got to me. “I heard you almost got killed.” He came to a sliding stop. “Sorry I missed it.”
I frowned. “Where have you been?”
“Playing marbles. Look what I won.” He withdrew a beautiful cat’s eye marble from his pocket and offered it to me. “Keep it. I’m sure it will bring you luck.”
“You need to de-board young man, or you will be on your way to England,” Captain Browne said.
Robert shook his head, then gave me a hug. “Have fun, Katherine, England is a magical place.”
As he left, the tears did finally flow. I wiped them away with my kerchief. I waved as a multitude of well-wishers waved back at those of us on board. I remained at the rail until the last sight of Port Saint James dropped over the horizon.
“Lady Katherine.” It was Captain Browne. “Come with me. I shall show you and Miss Grimmer to your cabins.” He took my satchel and headed off without ordering someone to carry Miss Grimmer’s. I smiled as her frown deepened.
As we climbed down the stairs to the second deck, the ship’s master said, “Although the cabins may be small compared to what you’re used to, at your father’s request, I’ve had three roundhouse cabins joined to make a small apartment.” We headed toward the back of the ship. “To accomplish that I had doorways cut between the three cabins. You will have separate sleeping areas with a sitting area between.”
He stopped at the last door on the left. “Here we are. This is your cabin, Lady Katherine.” He opened the door and we stepped inside.
It was small, but well appointed. Three large windows covered the upper half of the back wall. They were open and allowed fresh air in. A bed for one lay along the left wall with a bureau at the foot and chamber pot beneath. A washstand, and a set of shelves with some of my favorite books occupied another wall. Below the shelves were two of my trunks. A mirrored table sat alongside the entrance door. A beautiful rug embroidered with red roses covered most of the plank floor. In the middle of the room was a comfortable looking chair.
He opened a door between the washstand and the bookshelves. We walked into the next room. It contained two chairs and a lounge. A writing desk and chair sat next to the wall with the three large windows. Three more of my trunks lined another wall. And a small dining table sat in the middle of the room. The third room, Miss Grimmer’s, was furnished similar to mine. She actually had a tear in her eye and murmured something about traveling in such comfort.
This is better than I expected. I thought I would be constantly under Miss Grim’s stern eye. “Thank you, Captain, it appears quite suitable.”
“Ye need not thank me Lady Katherine. It was your father who paid for the furnishings. I only had my men put them together.”
He started to walk away, so I called for him to wait a minute.
I searched frantically through a trunk and found what I was looking for, then hurried to the door. “Captain, do you think we’ll be attacked by pirates?”
He took off his hat and scratched his head. “I don’t believe so, Lady Katherine.”
“Well, if we do, you don’t need to worry.”
I waved a piece of paper. His brow pushed together in a question.
“This is a Letter of Marque. Father gave it to me for my birthday. If we run into any pirates, I’ll show this to them, and they’ll think I’m a pirate, too.”
He lifted his hands as if he didn’t understand me.
I grimaced. Adults can be so ignorant. “Then they’ll let us be on our way.”
He belted out a hearty laugh. “I’ll keep that in mind. Don’t you worry; no pirate’s dumb enough to attack us. We have 36 big guns to protect ourselves, and with that man-o’-war accompanying us . . . Well, let them come and we’ll blow ‘em to hell.”
Laughing, he continued down the passage. Whatever for, I had no idea. Hasn’t he heard of Black Jack?