The bays were not big enough for the ship to come in close so the long boats were manned. The islands, they had chosen to visit, were astonishing to Rhiannan who had never seen anything like them. Unlike England the vegetation was amazing with plants, so dark green and flowers that were so colourful and even the birds seemed to be made from rainbow feathers. There was only a village of grass huts and ground pit fires and the people dressed in clothes that were so brightly coloured off set by skin so shining black much darker than any Rhiannan had ever seen! once when she had to place some boxes of cakes into a carriage she had glimpsed sight of a small black boy dressed in a gold and blue livery sitting in the coach beside a gracious lady.
Michael bartered with the village elders, promising his men could help them with repairs around the village if they could then take on water and fruit and fresh meat; mainly wild pig but some chickens and eggs. They expected to stay overnight at most, they stayed for a week. While the men worked Rhiannan spent the days playing with the women and the totally naked children. Her eyes and ears observed what was going on around her but she had no idea of what they were saying nor could she make them understand her. Her mind raced to take it all in and, when the children ran off and left her alone for a moment, her thoughts retreated to the familiarity of her memories to process it all.
Until the moment she saw these people from the long boat she hadn’t even thought that this voyage would take her to places along the way where she would see people and things she’d never even dreamed existed. The fisherman, she helped as a girl, had never told her of anything and the men her mother knew also said nothing to her or her mother about what they’d seen on their travels. Her body gave an involuntary shudder at the memory of what they all did instead. George had only been to Glasgow and the highlands. He knew nothing of other places or he would have told her, she was certain. In the Urquhart homes or even in London she had never contemplated further than her boundaries, set by her ability to walk in a morning or afternoon. She was a lower maid, she never even saw inside the main house, never knew what their rooms contained. Never spoke with the family about anything. Her time in the patisserie had given her a little broader insight but she was too scared to really venture further than the known. Her work, her room and church with Cookie then an afternoon walk in the park before running home to have a small bowl of broth and bread for tea.
Only Grant who briefly showed her his books; the pirate one, one about knights and castles and damsels, the one about nursery rhymes had given her any inkling of the great wonders of the big world beyond her small part of it. there had been one more about poems that had no pictures but he wouldn’t read them so she didn’t understand. But there was that paper he showed her once, that was full of lines and dots and squiggles. She thought it looked like someone had allowed ants to run over it after running through ink. He had laughed and said he was meant to know how to play it by Christmas. She had absolutely no idea what he’d meant by that. How did you play a piece of paper? And what was Christmas?
Not long after that Cookie had come in and taken her away and she never did get to ask. But she found out what Christmas was; hard work preparing a very special feast that lasted all week and ended with Hogmanay. The house was full of people who brought staff with them creating chaos in the under-house areas. Tempers frayed and tiredness ruled as work started before dawn and ended well into the wee small hours. More often than not they were snowed in and then the men were under foot also. Bored they would chase the maids and annoy Cookie with pinching food as they passed.
Cookie did splendidly feeding them all. She had it planned for months beforehand. Ordering more than she’d need which sometimes just made it. They filled the larders with sides of lamb and pork and legs of ham and dozens of whole chickens, also venison, duck, rabbit, grouse, and all manner of other small fowls. There were crates and crates of vegetables to be peeled and baked or steamed or pickled. Their efforts produced boxes and boxes of sweetmeats, shortbread, and mince tarts, and more shortbread, and cakes of all shapes sizes and design and even more shortbread, and enough berries and cheese and other delicacies to fill the larder twice over. And there were special puddings made and steamed and hung and steamed again and then eventually, to serve, set upon the white china plate, covered in special brandy from the continent boiled and set alight and a sprig of heather rammed in the top. And every year, feeling so very special, she had helped Cookie work nights on the secret large fruit cake covered in white sugar and served traditionally with holly and a string of pearls around the edge.
They had worked tirelessly for weeks and in return the family came down and handed out a gift to each staff member including Rhiannan. Grant had given her her first, a small lace square with some of those strange black squiggles embroidered in the corners. He had grinned at her and although she still had no concept of the adornment, she had treasured it for the representation of their bond.
For her last Christmas she had received a beautiful hat-pin that resembled a purple Scotch thistle. She had been fascinated by the purple coloured glass and the tiny bubbles trapped inside it. When you hold it up to the light you could see them glistening white in the purple, looking like tiny evening stars coming out at dusk after a storm when the clouds were still angry and purple. She never wore it as a hat pin she was too scared to loose it and so she kept it safe wrapped in the square from Grant, in her money pouch beneath her skirts with the last of her saved coins.
She still wore that pouch, stunned that neither Grouse nor anyone else, who may have handled her between Grouse’s office and the ship, had discovered it. But it had not been tampered with and her money was safe; as were her other things, safely stored in Maloney’s cabin where they had been while she lay unconscious on the deck above.
True to their word they had taken everything from the room she’d leased and had brought them with her. In the trunk that had been supplied in the room, and was now apparently hers, was all her personal belongings as well as all the bedding, drapes from the two windows, cushions off the armchair, rugs off the floor and all the nick-knacks and trinkets, lanterns and pictures from the room itself. They must have left the room totally empty but for the bed itself and the other furniture; the arm chair, table and chair, bed, side cabinet wardrobe and chest of drawers. The landlady would not have been happy about that. And she still had the week’s rent in her pouch also.
But what had happened to her? The last she remembered was drinking at Grouse’s house. Maloney said they’d found her slumped against her door with the landlady going great guns against her. Had that silly little man drugged her? And if so why? He’d not taken anything from her. He’d not given her anything that she could ascertain either. She can only surmise that he’d given her too much or perhaps not found on her what he’d wanted and had had her returned to her address, for she doubted he’d have had the strength to carry her himself. And was there a connection with Jake? There was no way Jake could carry her, not with one wooden leg. Could the two have done so between them? She didn’t believe so but perhaps.
If the captain had not locked Jake up and made the funny little man too angry to talk to her perhaps she could have asked him but not at present. The man, even freed again, wouldn’t even look at her let alone speak to her.
She was sitting on a grassy knoll above the sandy beach and the sun shone on her, passing beyond the longest leaf of the strange large tree bending its long trunk to shelter her with its cluster of foliage way above her. It was warm, something she was still coming to terms with, and she leant back on her elbows and dropped her head back to stretch her back and chest and feel the warmth on her.
Suddenly she sat up and looked about. No one had apparently taken any notice of her but she had this strange tingling sensation like she had been watched, or she was suddenly cold. She wrapped her arms across her chest and was stunned to feel that her breasts felt tender. She looked about again but still no one seemed to be paying her any mind. She decided to move anyway. The sun felt too hot on her skin even through the fine linen of her clothing. How she envied the natives who wore next to nothing. In comparison she felt so hot and clammy and seemed to have become always clumsy and as if her head was full of dough. George had laughed and called the simpleton of their village a Dougheid, as if his head was full of dough. Had she become a Dougheid, a simpleton?
At night they slept on the shore. On the sixth night the natives had made a large feast for them building the first large fire in the new pit in the centre of the floor of the almost completed large hut the men had been helping to make. There had been multitudes of food and local drink and then dancing to the strange drums and music the native people made. And then they all seemed to collapse around the fire where they’d sat, all seeming to melt onto each other and just sleep.
When Rhiannan woke it was to find she had been cradled by the captain who now still lay behind her, one arm under her head the other over her and his own head comically on the thigh of the large native woman that had sat on her other side. Feeling relaxed and comfortable she lay happily looking through a gap in people on the other side of the now cold fireplace and out across the sand to the bay.
She remembered the captain had been merry the night before, happy to dance with the woman he now slept on and then getting Rhiannan to come dance with him too. It was dancing she’d never seen before. Not even in the inn when the servants had all danced jigs and the likes. This had been more like jumping, but jumping together and then he was holding her in the crush of all the people still jumping, their bodies pressed together. And when she thought she’d feel repulsed like she had when Kieran had grabbed her, she felt relaxed like she did now.
But as she lay there she felt the bilious rising like it had every morning aboard ship. She had just put it down to seasickness. Some days it was just a quick bout in the morning other days when the seas were rough it was all day with her head in a pail wishing she were dead, much to the funny little leprechaun’s amusement as he tended to her continuously offering her ship’s biscuit and totes of rum that the mere thought sent her back to the pail.
It would not stay down and so reluctantly she had to rise trying desperately not to rouse the captain. Hastily winding her hair up she thought she’d managed it but only made it to the outer edge of the hut’s perimeter before she brought up the contents of her stomach, more bile and mucus than anything else.
‘Are you all right?’ he asked softly reaching her so as not to rouse the others from their slumber, his hand gentle on her back slowly rubbing the strained muscles to ease her.
‘Yes thank you.’ She smiled and taking a deep breath reluctantly moved away, breaking his touch, and looked up at him. ‘I suppose something I had last night didn’t agree with me.’
‘I think a lot of us will have that complaint this morning.’ He grinned ‘It was a good night though.’
‘Yes.’ She agreed. ‘This is such a happy place.’ She indicated, with a wave of her arm, the bay and the village of grass huts and strange tall trees all nestled under the shelter of a steep mountain range. ‘You could almost forget the rest of the world existed and just stay here, happy forever.’
She looked at him and saw his frown.
‘Don’t speak too soon we may just be doing that.’ He said and his tone was not happy.
She followed the direction of his frown but could see nothing to frown at. That was it there was nothing out there but water. Where was the “Mary-Lou”?
He pressed against her and then turned back to the mass of bodies on the hut floor. She turned to look also. Maloney was there as were a few others but most of the crew and a few of the younger natives were missing.
‘Damn!’ he hissed and walked from her back to the hut to raise the alarm. ‘Maloney!’ he bellowed and instantly the man was awake and to his feet crouching, dagger in hand, ready for attack. ‘Where did that bloody Grouse get that damned ground hog, Jake?’
For my NaNoWriMo challenge
One Part of a three part novel.
A spin off from my Daintree Daughter’s Book
Beware: this is a realistic Adult book & not a pretty tale like my poetry
It tells of the fight to become free and happy, with the leading characters first facing the trials of the ugly side of life, and the shackles of their pasts dragging at them as they carve their own standard of living.
Who knew what really happens in the mystical Tropical Islands of South America? Who knows what went on the the dens of iniquity encouraged by the tropical heat and scantily clad people.
Back in the mid 1800s there was still a strong pull for Piracy if for nothing else than the immoral indulgences and the black market trade the world over.
I do wish to apologise if this fictitious re-enactment offends anyone – my intention was to put my leading characters through extraordinary experiences, not offend.
So all that aside I hope you can enjoy the story! ☼