A Penchant For Pirates

Chapter 11

An insistent pounding on my door roused from me an erotic dream.  To say I was annoyed earlier today would be an understatement.  For weeks now we have followed the same routine, but with a slight twist.  All meals were being looked forward too by the Officers and the crew.  Little Ray, as I have come to call him, has made a favorable impression on almost everyone. 

Despite the intrusion into my dream this morning, all has gone well as of late.  I have not written in my journal for I have not been inspired to do so.  I am content to sail with my crew and watch over them. 

At this very moment, I stand on deck, at the helm, watching my crew tack the sails.  The wind is strong and blows us towards home.  The wind cuts through my hair and I breathe the freshness in.  I can feel crisp coolness of it.  My mind tumbles over the last few weeks as the crew busily works around me.  A diversion for the crew has been planned to dock in Kingston before we sail back up to Norfolk.  From Norfolk, I will finish my business and head back to my own home. 

“Cap’n!”  Sir Howard called my name and pointed to the stern.  My head bobs up and down as recognition that I have seen what he wanted me to see.  I smile as my eyes focus on the three people sitting on the deck. 

A small circle had been formed and Little Ray was in the center.  Sir Alex had taken it upon himself to teach Ray some of the more intricate knots.  Alex had frowned when Ray had served him a poorly trussed up chicken.  “You need to learn how to do proper knots.”  A.J. lightheartedly scolded the little one.

“You should be quiet and eat.  Be happy that I haven’t found the raisins,” he turned his back to him and began to fill my plate.  I could see the young one’s hand tremble as he dished my supper.

I then laughed at he boy’s remark.  Quartermaster or not he did not fear the others as he did me.  “Lad, I am the one who is not fond of those dreadful things.  It would be good for you if they did not find their way into my meals.”

The lad frowned at me, as he had at every occurrence that I had addressed him.  At first, I took the reaction as fear; now I take offense since I can see that the boy dislikes me intensely.  Yet I still take great pleasure in tormenting the small creature since he is the one who stowed away on my ship.

We’ve yet to find a ship to prey upon but I trust Sir Alex’s instincts beyond a measure of a doubt.  Our rations are holding out thanks to Little Ray and rainwater has been collected.  I am awestruck as to the fact that critters or other vermin have not contaminated our supplies.  I will need to find out from this boy how he is accomplishing this great feat.  Many a sailor have passed on due to retched illnesses that spread rampantly on a ship.  We thank those who sailed before us for ridding us of scurvy by having sailors eat citrus.

My eyes are now focused on the three bodies in front of me that sit on the main deck.  The other men on the deck are watching them.  It bothers me to a degree that they are being scrutinized so closely, but I cannot fathom why.   My eyes dart around to the others as I hear Ray laugh; the laugh is high-pitched almost like a woman.  I see Nick glare at the boy and Ray ceases immediately. 

Little things such as this have been happening for days.  Nick and Ray are inseparable both day and night.  Two days ago I informed my Officers that Ray was to be with one of them at all times if Nick were not present.  “If the boy is to learn, then he will learn from us,” I announced at a gathering in my quarters.  Nick was present at the time and eagerly agreed with me that it might be best.

“Ray doesn’t mind his tongue and he may say something that a person might take offense too.”  Nick added to the conversation.  Nick had heard the scuttlebutt on the ship and more than one of the crew fancied men over women.  If someone, anyone were to find out the secret that Ray and he were keeping, his world would end that instant.  Kevin would have his head, or at least have him hung in chains. 

Brian seemed to agree rather quickly as well, Alexander and Howard fussed slightly but in the end came around to understanding why, after I informed them of what I had heard earlier that day.  Of course, this had been well after Nick had left my quarters. 

I heard rumblings that some the men on board were starting to find the young one attractive.  Men who have sailed for long periods of time have heard and seen things that wouldn’t be seen in normal society, not openly at least.   “Nothing will happen to an innocent, not my ship,” I spoke loud enough for the ones gathered in the room to understand me clearly.

“RAY!”  I shouted and waved the boy up to the Quarter Deck with me.

I watched him scramble to his feet and trip doing so.  Nick grabbed him quickly and righted the child. 

Howard, who was still beside me laughed, “That boy is ungraceful.”

Turning, I smiled, “Remember Nick at that age.”

Howard burst out laughing as he nodded at me, “Yes I do.”

Turning, I smiled at my cousin and Howard, “He’ll grow out of it too.”

Ray approached me with slight hesitation; it was Nick who gave him a shove towards me.  The look that the lad had given Nick would have forced a man to take note that the young one didn’t not appreciate the action.

I thrust my hands in my pockets, for now I was getting annoyed once again.  “I do not understand your fear of me,” I looked the boy in the face again.  The boys face was the most exotic I had ever seen, I could stare into his eyes endlessly.  Those eyes, wasted on a boy, I thought to myself.

I watched the youth again thrust his chest out and chin out.  “I’m not afraid of you.”

“Do you think you should be?”  I flashed him a devilish grin.  Something peculiar struck me about the face suddenly, I had seen it before.

“NO!”  The boy barked back.

“I don’t like your tone, you’re confined to your quarters.  Nick, go with him.”

“But.. Why?  I didn’t... “ Nick gave up after looking at the rage that was showing on my face.  He grabbed Ray by the arm and dragged him down the steps of the quarterdeck to the Officers quarters.

Not long after that Alexander joined me as well as Brian.  Alexander was the first one to pose a question.  “Would you like to explain to us what you just did and why?”

Brian looked at me wryly, “The consent of two?”

“It’s my vessel, I will run it the way I see fit.  That boy has a problem and I’m hoping by him sitting with Nick for an entire afternoon will rid him of his petulance." 

Sir Alexander cackled as he stood next to me.

“Rather brave aren’t you,” I quipped as I watched the men below us who now were wondering what had transpired that had made Ray and Nick head below so quickly.  Not to mention the urchin had actually barked at me, his Captain.   “I also need to speak to you freely without either one of them about.  Meet me in my quarters at a half past the next hour.”

I stomped off the deck in a foul mood.  I have done nothing to deserve the treatment and ill temper from this child.  I paused at Nick’s door on my way to my own quarters; I stopped to listen when I heard Ray speaking.  I was lulled as I listened to the voice; it was no longer a deep, false type of voice, it’s sound not so deep but intriguing just the same.  The ship listed and I took the opportunity to lean closer.  I was stunned as I heard the words come from Ray’s mouth.  Peaking in the peg hole, I could see that the boy sat on the floor and Nick on the bunk.  My brow crinkled as I watched the waif read from a written page.  Noises behind me made me move hastily to my own spacious place. 

I sat and mulled over what I had just learned while I waited for the others to arrive.  The others arrived a scant fifteen minutes later.  All of them sat at the table that I had in my cabin for private dining.  “You all have spent time with Ray over the last weeks.  I want to know what you have learned.” 

As I leaned back in my chair, my gaze fell on three of my Officers who looked from one to another and did not speak.  “I’m not going to hurt the boy.  But I have just recently found out that the boy can read.  Street Orphans don’t read, they are not schooled.”

“The boy is not a waif, he worked under his uncle,” Howie reminded Kevin.

“Yes, he did and he also knows arithmetic,” A.J. offered his sparse piece of information. 

I turned to Brian who seemed sullen and waited for his words.  “You have spent the most time with them.”

Brian was walking a fine line with his cousin.  He had learned only one thing, that Ray did not in actuality have a sister that had picked his pocket but that it had been Ray who had done the deed.  It was also Ray who was at the tavern, and that Ray was truly Raina, the cook.  It hadn’t taken long to figure out who Ray really was.  Now Brian needed to make a decision as to whether to keep her secret and his best friend’s trust, even though he hadn’t revealed what he had figured out to either of them yet.  If he did this, he would also be betraying blood. 

Lifting his head, he studied his cousin.  Kevin could be ruthless if he wanted to be, but never to a child nor a woman.  However, Raina had snuck onto this ship, she was falsely mimicking a boy, and disrespecting the only man that the entire crew would take orders from.  This brought him to another bend in his decision.  What would happen to Raina if the entire crew found out that she was a woman?  Woman aboard were bad luck and created havoc in general.  The crew might mutiny just to join with her.  If she happened to be raped or killed, it was not something that he wanted on his conscious.

“Brian do you have anything to offer to this conversation?”  I study my cousin for a brief moment, he seemed tormented suddenly.  I watched his Adam’s Apple bob up and down as he opened his mouth to speak.

“Ray’s sister is the one who stole my money and it was the lad who returned it by way of Nick.”  Brian prayed to the Lord for forgiveness for lying but it was the best that he could come up with at the moment.

“The boy has honor,” A.J. smiled.  “He’s doing well on Star Knots and Monkey Fists.”

I closed my eyes, none of what was being said made sense.  I had watched this boy for days and something was not natural about him.  It was different things at different times.  Sometimes it was the way he walked or talked or the way he carried himself.  “Do none of you think that the boy is a little off?”

“As in crazy?”  Howard looked at me as if I were insane.

“No, just different... strange,” I laced my fingers together and placed my hands behind my head.

“Is that why you keep your eyes on that boy at all times?  The crew has been prattling about the Captain taking a liking to the boy, but we didn’t think it was that kind of liking.”  A.J. was smirking at me. 

It didn’t last long as I hauled the little monkey out of his chair by his shirt.   “Are you inferring something Sir Alex?  Are you questioning my manhood?”

“Let him go,” Brian barked at me.

I did and I watched him fall to the floor and land with a thud. 

Standing up he was still smiling at me, “Sensitive question for you?”

My hand shot out but was knocked away from its intended target by Brian. 

Brian began to holler at me, “All you do is stare at that child.  You are obsessed with knowing everything about him.  Would you like to tell us why?  Why at dinner do we see you looking at the boy’s behind?  Why do you spend your time on deck with your eyes locked on him?  Why did you move the boy up here closer to the Officers?  Can you not just be happy that we are eating well and getting home safely?”

“I do not like being disrespected by a stowaway on my ship.  All of you out of here!”  I yelled not caring who heard my bellows.

They left as quickly as they had come.  My sleep was disturbed by visions of Ray in them.  My Officers and crew leering at me and laughing, oh the humiliation, if they truly thought that.  I know my Officers didn’t but the crew must have doubts or they wouldn’t be gossiping amongst themselves.

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