Log 30 August 2011
Afternoon Watch, about 7 bells
I grow weary of counting obligations.
This is the reason I captain my own ship, why I am of the Brotherhood of the Coast, a rover, a pirate: because I have no wish to be a tallyman, to count what I owe and what is owed. I owe my shipmates my loyalty, my mother my life, and the English eternal vengeance. That is all. Yet it seems, since my arrival on these far distant shores, that I have found myself again and again in need of some assistance, and thus in another’s debt. Even the difficulty we find ourselves now facing is due to a debt from which we have run away; a usurious and appalling debt, but even if the accountman demands a king’s ransom to fill his coffers, even though I will not pay what he asks, still and all there is a genuine debt: surely St. Vincent’s deserves some recompense for saving our lives, and sheltering us through the storm, as they say.
Today we have made a small start, merely a first step, in balancing the scales. Last night Bucky played host for us following our acquaintance and conversation, offering a supper prepared in his establishment; something he called “frahd catfish an’ hushpuppies,” which at first drove us back from our trenchers in disgust, until Meredith explained that it was a fish named for a cat, and simply a sort of biscuit made of corn – grain, in other words, though it was coarser and sweeter than bread from wheat. Yellow, as well, though perhaps that was somewhat else in the receipt. It was hearty and savory fare, any road.
Then once more, at Meredith’s insistence, we bedded down at Lady Margaret’s domicile. Another debt owed, though practically speaking, an unavoidable one, as Meredith pointed out: the hospital and la policia surely seek us still, and we are too weak to sleep on hard ground without shelter, while keeping watch for our enemies. But though we must needs take shelter, Meredith and Margaret need not offer it us, and thus. once more, we owe.
This morning, though– after a surreptitious and entirely sublime observation, as Echo loved Narcissus from afar, of Meredith at her dawn Yoga – we made good on at least our debt to this house and its kind mistresses for the roof o’er our heads. Meredith departed this day to her employment, leaving us unaccompanied in the home; I was curious as to her occupation, as her hands are too soft for a washerwoman’s work or a maid’s, and she is too untrammeled a spirit, too bold and forward to be a lady’s maid; but I did not wish to pry into her personal matters and did not inquire. She went to work – and then so did we.
The first and most obvious task was Lynch’s: this house, untenanted by its owner for some days, required a good dusting, and as Lynch recovers his strength, he is the most agile and dextrous among we three. The youngest, also, and lowest-ranked, for which reason I also set him to polishing the silver, once I discovered a container labeled as efficacious to that purpose.
MacManus’s task is to hone all the blades in the house – kitchen, gardens, any others we come across. I discovered a whetstone with a handle of wood, much like a marlinspike, a dull-tipped rod about a foot in length and the circumference of a man’s smallest finger, and set MacManus to work: not only does it allow him to remain seated and thus rest his injury, but the task is sorely needed, as well, and MacManus, the former soldier, well-suited to it. If there’s one thing that man is familiar with, it is a sharp edge on a blade.
For myself, as the most hale and ambulatory, I took the most physically daunting task: the gardens. The grounds are, once we knew what we saw, quite battered by “that bitch Irene,” as Bucky called it; tree limbs broken, leaves stripped and strewn in piles and damp streaks, debris caught in shaggy, untrimmed hedges. I spent my day in the sunlight, making it ship-shape. By midmorning, I had an audience of two: Lynch and MacManus moved their labors out to the parapet – Meredith names it a porch, as Pompey’s in Rome – as the vapors from Lynch’s silver polish had dizzied them both, enclosed within, and MacManus joined him in chastising and harassing me at my work, pointing out places I had missed and berating me for my sloth and clumsiness, calling my stone-clad arm an “excuse for puling.”
‘Twas a most pleasant day.
Last dog watch
We are still becalmed and alone. Though not hopeless – not yet.
We returned to Bucky’s Bait Shop well before sunset, and dined once more on “cats and dogs,” as MacManus termed it, to much jolly laughter –this time Meredith provided for us all, as thanks for our work at her grand-mother’s home, the which we protested was but fair payment for her kind hospitality; but she expressed outrage that we would so insult her or her grandmother, implying that we were incurring a debt simply by accepting the generous gifts of friendship freely offered. We were chagrined and silent, myself particularly (Glad I am that she has not clapped eyes on this log!), until Meredith calmly thanked us for our own kind and generous gift of friendship, namely our labors on her grand-mother’s behalf.
But apart from filling our bellies, the excursion was for naught; the telephone did not ring.
Gods, let my Grace be well. Let my friends be safe.
By Danu and the Morrigan hag, by Hera and Aphrodite and Pallas Athene, by Saint Bridget and Mary, the mother of God – what a woman!
At Meredith’s urging, as I was waking and gave her good-morning as she passed through my chamber on her way out of doors for her daily dance of beauty, I did join her in her Yoga this morn. And to my utter amazement, her beauty, already grand and enchanting, did increase with every stance, every pose, ever moment that she instructed me to watch her carefully, and every time – and there were many indeed – when she placed her gentle hands on my limbs, on my shoulders, on my waist (Gods! Mere writing of it further inflames my passion!), to move me into proper position. Ah, what glory, what magnificence! What grace and poise! And what strength – I found I simply could not perform many of the movements, lacking sufficiently flexible joints and strength enough, as well, though my balance is fine and more than adequate to the task. Fortunately, my failures earned me no mockery, while my successes won effusive praise from my lady, as noble as she is beautiful. Beauty-full, in truth. God’s truth.
But even that, perhaps the most enchanting and uplifting time I have ever known, was not the last of my joy in loving this wondrous creature. As we retired within to refresh ourselves with cool water, Meredith spoke of her employment, making some comment to the effect that she was glad she did not have any long flights – the which, I confess, befuddles me still. But when I inquired as to her meaning, she told me – she is a pilot! Aye! She sails! She is Poseidon’s daughter even as I am his son. I know not whether she guides ships into harbor here, or if she navigates aboard a single vessel, the which she may be currently helping to outfit for departure – oh, thank the fates that she was not gone a-voyaging when we came to Charleston, else I would never have met her. But – just think – if I could win her! She could come with me, aboard my beloved Grace – I need not abandon my love, my heart, my family ashore, as I have watched so many men do when ships depart.
My heart is full. My mind races – too far, too far; too fast! One matter at a time is all men can achieve. We must make contact with Vaughn and the Grace, or we must find the means to track them and follow in their wake. We must know the fate of our shipmates.
But oh: I will woo her. As I have never wooed before. My Siren. My Calypso. My Aphrodite.
Later – Last dog watch
SHE LIVES! The Grace of Ireland, by the mercy of the gods and the swift minds and ready hands of her loyal crew – and despite the storm named Irene, called the bitch – is still afloat, and overall well.
She is damaged, though, and trapped in a harbor in this place called New York; she sprung leaks and lost an entire mast, and the rudder was badly cracked and wants replacing. They strapped a sail ’round her middle to slow the leaks, and then received the gift of a tarp, I think he said, which appears an improvement over canvas for the temporary sealing of leaks; thus they are afloat but cannot sail. But she lives, and all my men, as well.
Ah, yes: I write out of joint. Of course, we have made contact with Vaughn, whereby we ascertained the condition and circumstances of the Grace. Our own situation is materially improved thereby, as well. But I should record it proper, if at all.
This day, our second in Lady Margaret’s home without Meredith present, found Lynch and I atop tall ladders, replacing wooden shingles that Irene tore from the house’s walls, as well as a few rotted by wind and rain; MacManus, it obtains, is a dab hand with a needle and thread: thus he has sealed several tears in the screens about the porch and put a stop to the fraying of the curtains in the parlor by adding a new hem. The magnificent Meredith returned from her pilot’s duties – I cannot imagine how she manages to preserve the ivory whiteness of her skin aboard ship; every tar I have ever known has been burned nearly black by the sun’s glare – though alas, too soon, as I had not yet completed the sonnet that I had attempted to compose for her. (I have rhymed “Meredith Vance” with “veriest chance,” but I could not find a word to accompany “dance” in the line about her wondrous morning Yoga. The search continues.) We made our way once more to Bucky’s Bait Shop, where we lingered over a new treat – Bucky acquired what he called ham-burghers for us, which were supremely savory and satisfying, though, strangely, not comprised of ham. Why these people call their fish “cat” and their beef “ham” and their corn “puppies,” I cannot fathom.
But as we lingered over our repast, we were all frozen in surprise when the telephone rang. This momentary tableau lasted but a moment, however, before we leapt up and raced, pell-mell, around the corner of Bucky’s establishment to the telephone. Being more mobile than my fellows, I reached the device first (Methinks Meredith allowed me to best her) and seize it I did, and with such vigor that I nearly detached the handpiece – which would have been a terrible irony, in truth.
But I broke it not: I put it to my ear and my lips and spake, “Llewellyn? Llewellyn, is’t thee?”
I heard a laugh of joy, a familiar laugh, and then my good friend Llewellyn Vaughn said, “Captain! O, my dear friend, it is so very wonderful to hear your voice!” Through the telephone I heard a cheer, as Vaughn told our shipmates that it was I; the cheer was echoed, and reiterated by my companions when I turned to them with a smile and a nod. Even stout Bucky and the lovely Meredith joined in the huzzah.
When Vaughn returned to the telephone, he asked the question I had been expecting. “Captain, since you found your way to this – rendezvous, I suppose it is – I surmise your companions survived. Do you have the word given to them as well?”
“Aye,” I replied, “’tis Clio.” From behind me, I heard Bucky say, “Clio? Like that teevee psychic? What the hell kind of magic word is that?”
“Splendid,” Vaughn said with a sigh. “Forgive me for asking, sir, but I had to be sure. I did not realize I would so readily know your voice. I thought, too, that were you under some duress, you could withhold that word, or give me incorrect answer, as a signal. I suppose now it was somewhat foolish.”
“Nay, man, I know the purpose of the cipher. And we are not under any duress, but are hale and free, in the main. But now I have a question for you.
“Why, by Danu’s alabaster tits, did you give us ‘setting’ and not ‘sunset?’ Or ‘dusk?’ Whatever is wrong with the word ‘dusk?’ ‘Tis a lovely and efficient word, is it not?”
Vaughn spluttered for a moment. “I – but, Captain, that is, I wanted . . . the words needed to be, well, somewhat secret. ‘Dusk’ seemed too simple, and I thought that ‘setting’ would be ambivalent enough, but still could – did – steer you to the proper course.”
I heaved a sigh overboard and shook my head. “Aye, Llewellyn, I thought as much. ‘Twas a fine choice, made no doubt in hot circumstances. ‘Tis only that – fah, ’tis nothing.”
It made me look a fool before the woman I have grown to love. But I cannot blame Vaughn for my folly.
We exchanged information, then, he telling me (and through me Lynch and MacManus, as well as our two friends) of the Grace’s escape from Hobbes, who had not been sighted since the battle that wounded us, and then the terrible storm that so shook and shivered my lovely ship. “Had we not been close to shore, Captain, close to a good harbor such as this, well – we would not be speaking.” They had run up the coast to the north, with Vaughn making landfall each evening to call the telephone he had marked out for our communication; they had had no difficulty – beyond being undermanned and thus reduced in their top speed and challenged in facing adverse seas or winds – until Irene. The last three days had been spent seeking a dock, then halting the leaks (Assistance had been offered to the other ships in need, who had come to the Grace’s aid as well – so those who sail the sea ever guard one another against the assaults of Dame Fortune and Lord Neptune, alike; we know the best hope for a stranded or damaged vessel is the kind intercession of a passing ship; thus we cultivate good will when we can) and then in an attempt to locate a working telephone.
“And now, Captain,” Vaughn concluded, “We await your orders. Should we come retrieve you, once repairs are made? It will take some time, particularly the mast.”
I confess to temptation. Time spent here would allow us to complete our recovery, and would grant me more time with Meredith. Perhaps enough time to win her.
But it was too dangerous to remain. La policia and agents of the accountman sought, and could find us at any time. Too, I could not impose on the kind hospitality of Meredith and Margaret when there was not need.
“Nay,” I said, “we will come to you. Though we lack resources, at present.”
“In truth, Captain, you do not. At the termination of the pier where you now stand, and across the road that lies athwart it, you will find a small garden, with a bench painted white and green. Beside it is a metal barrel, used to collect refuse. Dig beneath that barrel – no more than a foot down.”
I felt a wide grin spread across my face then. “Ah, my dear friend – did ye leave me buried treasure?”
Vaughn laughed. “Aye, Captain. That I did.”
We followed his instructions once more; Bucky accompanied us, to assuage his curiosity, bringing a large metal spoon to serve as digging tool. “Buried treasure, Irishmen and ships, secret meetings and passwords – it’s like I’m in a pirate story!” Bucky exclaimed, and laughed. Lynch, MacManus and I merely exchanged knowing glances.
We found the park, the bench, the barrel; we dug beneath it, and unearthed a small wooden box, which contained five thousand dollar-papers and my trusty wheel-gun. Methinks Bucky was happier to see this revealed than we were, judging by his shout of joy.
Now: we have returned to Lady Margaret’s home, having said a friend’s farewell to the doughty Bucky, to rest and plan. We will need maps, supplies, proper attire, and information.
We are off to New York.