To: Constance: a raven-haired
The sea was an angry monster
intending to devour his ship. The blackness of night, the tide,
the very wind in its sails, or lack of it, were conspiring
against Captain Jack, betting he would not make port. A
conspiracy of nature was plotting to thwart him. He stood alone
at the helm while his mate Smee peered landward through the
spyglass, searching for the light that would point to the
entrance of the harbor.
A million darts
of rain pelted the Sirocco, and had to be wiped from the
"Well Smee, is
Captain, no sign."
It wasn't the
answer he wanted.
"Damn your eyes
Smee, keep a sharp lookout, or we'll be dashed on the
"Where is Old
Ben anyway and what about our deal?"
Captain Jack was
worried. Ben, the lighthouse keeper had made a deal and was a man
of his word. No matter the risk he would keep it. To help Jack
make the entrance and thread his way between treacherous rocks,
he would aim the light just so, at a certain angle and no other.
"Old frail Ben
is a man of his word, and he'll keep to it," he'd told Smee when
they left Nantucket, and headed home after dropping two longboats
of rum on the beach, "Or my name isn't Calico Jack."
But that was
then. Now was now, and both were worried. The seas made them
worry, the waves were all wrong, and with the new moon there was
no light at all. Even the wind was against them. What they wanted
was home, and it wasn't sure they were going to get what they
wanted. Ben's light would usually point their course in safety.
But his light refused to shine.
this stormy night was from the sunny day when Jack and Ben first
met at the Boar's Head Inn. The two would hardly compare.
at the Boar's Head
When Jack walked into the
Boar's Head he walked in with a strut, with a certain degree of
insolence, as if he owned the place. Having just moved a load of
rum from Jamaica to Nantucket he was "in the pocket" as he called
it and in fine fettle as well.
around," he shouted, and took a chair by Ben, striking a
conversation with the old man immediately, and a friendship just
as fast. Each recognized each other as seafaring men at once by
as they call it, the cut of their jib.
"So you're the
man who keeps the light out there on the point. It's saved me
more time than once, you're light has. Innkeeper, another rum
here for the man who keeps the light, we sailors owe him more
than one drink, and you may lay to that!"
Captain, my name is Ben."
Jack looked at
him closely. He was tall but frail, and had a consumptive cough.
His handkerchief, for he used a kerchief, was brown-stained, most
probably with his blood. His beard was as grey as his head, and
around the mouth, tobacco- stained. He had a beguiling smile,
considering he was missing most of his teeth, and beside him,
propped up in the corner, a stick.
after talking to him, that there was one place on him that wasn't
stained, and would never stain, and that place was his soul.
Sincerity was no stranger to old Ben, and he was all in all, a
man who could be trusted. In Jack's profession trust was a rare
jewel, and fetched high value. For these reasons, and for a
thousand others, he took to him immediately.
"Ye must come
home with me and sup, my daughter can cook wondrous things, her
mother was Portuguese, and passed her many a secret. Aye, she
knows a thing or two about a kitchen!"
for it was no secret he liked eating, though you couldn't tell by
the look of him.
He was tall and
moved with a certainty, a deliberateness which put the ladies at
their ease. He was dark, and beneath his black brows were
piercing eyes of gunmetal blue. They'd seen many a woman's bosom,
but as yet, not one of their hearts. It was the one thing he
lacked, though you wouldn't notice it from afar, 'cause he kept
that part of him hid, and being a smuggler, he was good at such
things, at hiding valuable things… like his heart.
"I will, I'll
eat with you. It will be a pleasure I'm sure it will."
"Let's cast off
then. It's getting dark and she'll be in the kitchen
The two men set
off down the cobbled street, then onto the well trod path that
led up and about, onto the point, and neither one knew just then,
though they were walking to the lighthouse, that the path they
set their feet upon in such good humor would lead them both to
At this point
dear reader, that's a secret to be kept strictly between you and
I. But remember, andkeep in mind, that all treasures are not
gold. Some are worth far more.
Lighthouse on the Point
They walked over the last
rise and saw the lighthouse below. It was white-washed brick with
a Spanish tile roof and though cleared on the side for the light,
the other end had an oak tree nearby, and hanging from it, a
swing. Behind that was a vegetable garden. It didn't seem much
from the outside, and wasn't pre-possessing. Smoke was streaming
from the chimney and when they approached they noticed the smell
of cinnamon and dough in the air.
"Ah," said Ben,
his eyes brightening, "Smell that? That would be our
through a wide oak door, where red geraniums were growing in a
"She's all about
color, my daughter is," Ben explained, "see here."
The room was
well lit from the windows that let in the sun with no squabble.
Bright hand-painted plates decorated the walls, all in a pattern.
Others graced the mantel piece. Jack saw at once that it showed a
woman's touch. There were seafaring things about to be sure.
Shiny brass ships' lanterns hung from the beams overhead, and
here was a compass, or there on the wall, a harpoon from a
whaler. Bits of lacquered rope wound round the stairway banisters
that led up to the light. It was bright and comfortable and it
felt like home. That's what Jack liked about.
Ben, "sit ye by the fire. And have a spot of Drambuie. It will
warm you up."
So they sat and
they drank and got comfortable. For a stranger's house it was the
most comfortable house Jack had ever been in. Everything seemed
to be in its place, even him.
Just as he was
getting lost in his thoughts, a bell rang and shook him from his
"Ah, that will
be our supper I reckon. It's the ship's bell from the Mary Dear
announcing supper. When she went down near Cape Hatterus, I
bought her bell and mounted it in the kitchen! I'm a bit hard of
hearing you know, but that bell, I can hear from anywhere around.
It will do us no good to be late now, and would make my Constance
cross if we were. Let's away at once!"
A Dutch door led
to the kitchen, and when Ben flung the top portion open, a woman
was revealed placing cutlery on the table. By the time Ben opened
the bottom half, our captain had taken her measure.
She was a small but well
built craft. She had wild dark hair, tied back, and beneath her
dark brows, even darker eyes, that flashed when she looked up and
beheld him. He understood at once that they were dangerously
engaging eyes, as dark and explosive as the black powered that
primed the silver mounted pistols he used in his work and they
were aimed straight at him.
Calico Jack," he offered, "and your father has invited me to
"Ah yes. It
seems every man he invites here is either a Captain or a sea dog.
Which one you are, I'll be deciding."
"Pay her no
mind,' said Ben, "It's the Portuguese in her. I married her
mother, God rest her soul, when I was on leave in the Azores. The
Portuguese speak their mind."
"Yes Father and
I'll be speaking my mind to you in a minute if you
both don't sit down immediately to your supper!"
"Aye aye,' he
answered, and took his seat. What could Jack do but
The table, when
he noticed the table, was set like no other.
looked to be crystal, the cutlery all neat in a row, and linen
napkins were folded into shapes like pyramids or cones. It was
unlike any table he had ever seen, and the food!
The food was a
story in itself.
For a sailor
used to eating rotten beef and hard tack, it looked a treat. What
lay before him and looked so good was a Portuguese sopa or stew
that was a red soupy sauce with a green mint leaf floating on top
like a boat. She handed him some bread and broke off a
offered, "it's to sop up the juice."
She filled his
glass with deep dark red homemade wine, and watched his
expression. She saw he was pleased with its taste.
at Jack. When he was addressing her she'd often look down, and
pretend she'd missed his remark. He wasn't saying much anyway, so
that was no loss. But when addressing her father, she'd steal a
glance her and there.
She noticed at
first the color of his eyes. They were innocent and blue, yet
they were calculating eyes, the kind that took a girl's measure
without her consent. She didn't know if she liked that or not.
She couldn't gauge his height either, as she'd missed it at
first, and now he was sitting down.
But when he
passed her a plate, she noticed he was well mannered and always
said please and thank you. She liked that.
One other thing
she noticed while they were passing plates and that was his
hands. They were well shaped, and she noticed they were not
course or rough. They were not the hands of a common
a captain after all."
She imagined, if
only for a second, what those hands might feel like should they
happen to brush against her cheek. The thought made her tingle.
Then she drew back and hardened her heart. It would never do to
think of such things. The men she knew weren't like that; it was
more than just a brush against a cheek they were after. So she
withdrew her feeling and hardened her heart like that of Damascus
All this time,
when she was looking away, and talking to her father, Jack was
making note of her.
attentively to what she said and how she said it.
"This girl is
fast, that she is, as fast running as quicksilver."
He liked a
person who thought well and quick. Thinking fast was something he
admired in a woman.
For desert, and
the Captain loved desert, she'd made an amazing bread pudding and
served it with a layer of lemon pudding on top. He'd never had
In the end, he
was satisfied with the meal, but unsatisfied with the woman. He
wanted to know more and would have asked her directly, but she
disappeared as quickly as she appeared saying she had sewing to
attend to. When she walked from the room he noticed something
about her gait, a kind of a limp that disturbed him.
"Let's sit by
the fire and talk," Ben suggested.
"Oh, yes, that
would be good."
He planned to
find out everything he needed to know from Ben. After they sat
down, before he could utter a single word, Ben said,
"I see you
noticed she's lame. I spied that look when you saw her walk away.
She has her problems. She wasn't always that way you know, poor
girl. Here's how it happened."
Ben pulled his
chair closer and lowered his voice.
"Two years ago
she was courted by an English officer stationed nearby at the
fort. He was a slick one he was, and she fell for him hard and
heavy as an anchor. I saw right through the lad and objected. She
ran off one night in December, to meet him at the inn. They
planned to elope to Jamaica, then leave for England together.
That's what he told her his plans were.
She arrived at
the inn, and he wasn't there. So she waited in a chair by the
fire. Hours later he hadn't shown up, still she waited, thinking
if she moved she'd miss him. The fire grew smaller but she
waited. It grew cold in the room but she refused to move.
Earlier that day
he'd shipped out with his company on the return ship to Bristol,
and went back to his wife. He never even left her a note…the
A man from his
company happened to go by the inn, and when he saw her he
recognized her from when she'd visited him in the officer's
quarters. He took pity on her and told her the truth.
shattered. It broke her heart it did. She cried for hours, and
when she finally got up she couldn't walk the same, and never has
since. The doctor has seen her, but doesn't seem to be able to
He pulled his
chair even closer and looked at Jack closely. A tear shown in his
"They don't know
whether the problem is here," and he pointed at his ankle, "or
there," he said motioning to his head, "maybe a little of
Neither of them
said anything then, they just stared into the fire and shared the
When Constance entered her
room she decided to block all thought from her mind of the
stranger who was in her house. She picked up some embroidery and
worked on a scene that was not quite finished. It was the point
of land with the lighthouse and the clouds and ocean beyond, all
done up in silken colors. Now it was time to stitch a saying of
some sort. Outside it was starting to sprinkle. Raindrops tapped
softly on the window pane. She worked a minute unconsciously as
she watched the leaves from the oak tree outside drift by, and
felt for some reason, even though her life was stable, and she
prized her stability she did, that somehow she had something in
common with the leaves.
Snapping out of
reverie, she looked down to check her spelling, there was a C and
an A and a L and an I and a C and a what was this? An O? She
threw down the circle of embroidery and burst into tears. It
rolled along the floor like a child's hoop and came to rest in
the corner. The sun in its wisdom broke through the clouds and
made patterns of the running raindrops on the window pane match
the ones her salty tears had etched on her face. Both ran
together, like two children playing in the rain hand in hand.
Only when the tears and children were exhausted, she fell back on
her pillow and drifted off to sleep.