Thanks fer th'rum, mate. Aye, I'll give ye the story, if'n ye have the ears
fer it. T'was a few years back now, when I were Jack's quartermaster on the
Black Pearl, beauty of a ship she was, still is, I'm sure, but I've
not seen her in nigh on a year, now, so you never know, she may be decoratin'
a reef somewheres with her decks all asunder.
Drink up! to all the souls, lost at Sea. Ahhhh.
Right. We was sailing the Azores to Canaries run, but had been storm tossed
north of Madeira, out off o' the Spanish coast. From the topsail yard, I
hear the cry: "Boat a larboard!" and I think, Boat? Not sail? This far out
in the Atlantic? S'bad luck to find a hull adrift like that.
I use the ship's glass, and spy me a long, low oar-driven craft, no broken
mast on this one, no, and no lively movement aboard, neither. "Captain to
the Helm!" I call, and Jack arrives from belowdecks.
"What news, my dear Quartermaster?" he asks me.
"Jollyboat's been sighted, Cap'n. May be there's other, larger ships in
these waters. Boat like that, belongs with a ship o'the line, 78 guns at the
least," says I.
"Any sign of sail?"
"Nay, and there seems no movement in the boat, neither." I reply. "Hard
tellin' if there's crew aboard her. Might be a trap."
Sparrow holds his eye to the glass fer himself, and orders t'gallants and
stuns'ls reefed, shifts the yards for an intercept course. I remind him, as
is my duty, of the luck involved, and as always, he dismisses my concerns.
P'raps he'll listen to me one of these days. I doubt it, though.
So we pull alongside the jollyboat, and there in the bilges lies a gaunt,
wasted-looking lad, officer by the uniform, and either dead or half-ways
there. No, he's still breathing, and we haul him aboard. Never comes awake,
though, which is never a good sign.
So we pour some water in his lips, and strip him and rinse the worst of the
sores and the peeled, sunburnt skin. Even the captain seems unsanguine of
the feller's prospects, but no sailor would leave a man like that, pirate or
no. "Take him to my cabin, put him in my cot," says Jack, an' I hear what he
doesn't voice, that the lad might as well live his last few moments in
But this one's a right fighter, he is, and after a few more courses of water
and rum down the gullet, he rouses enough to open eyes and take in a bit of
gruel, and Cook manages to poultice him up a treat, and he looks to be back
amongst the living, if more'n a little wearied by his brush with the Sea at
And so the Cap'n n'me, we commences to take in his tale.
"I was en route to an engagement, night attack on the Papillon," says
the lad "when the fit took me, I suppose, and someone brained me to keep me
silent, retain the element of surprise. Not unreasonable, really, and I'm
grateful they didn't chose to slit my throat. Needs of the many outweigh the
needs of the few...or the one, of course."
"You could start with your name," Jack interrupts wryly. "And that of your
ship and Captain."
"Kennedy, Acting Leftenant Archie Kennedy, at your service, Captain...?"
"Sparrow," and his little smirk that he keeps for all those British Navy
types. But the boy seems not to recognize the name. Well, we are a
long way from our usual waters, I suppose. Jack holds out his hand like a
bishop waiting to be kissed, and said, "Charmed, I'm sure."
Kennedy just looks at outstretched wrist, disdainfully. "I serve on the
"What is it with you Brits?" Jack cuts him off again. "Why not just name all
your ships My Willy is Bigger Than Your Willy and have done with it?"
The boy flushes crimson, seems fit to burst with suppressed anger, but then
he surprises me by exploding into laughter. Oh, I think I like this one.
He's right pretty, too, under the sunken eyes and bony limbs.
"I serve..." and the fellow nearly giggled, "on the Indy,
under Captain Sir Edward Pellew."
Jack twitches, just then; just slightly, but I sees it.
"How long have you been adrift, then?" the Captain asks.
"I know not. What is the date?"
"I know not," Jack mimics. "I imagine we're approaching October by now,
wouldn't you say, Joshamee?"
"Aye, thereabouts. Not November yet, that's for certain. And it's been a
long time since spring. I'd say October'd just about do it."
"You're privateers aren't you?" Oooh, the scorn in the lad.
Jack puffs himself up. "I'll have no talk like that on my ship, thank
you young sir! We are no such poxy scallawags here. We are respectable,
upstanding, honest Pirates."
"Pirates!" and the lad looks in fear of being raped and pillaged on the
"Aye," I puts in, "and your saviors and rescuers to boot, ye ungrateful
wretch! Took your bad luck aboard with you; t'was against my advice, that's
fer sure." Jack knows I'm just settin' him up to be th'Kind n'Generous
Captain, and me the Evil Pirate Quartermaster. Though this one's pretty
enough...ah, he's half dead anyways. Not as much fun that way.
"So tell me more about this Captain Pellew of yours," says Jack all
casual-like. But I can hear the tension in him. He's wanting this news bad.
"The Captain is a fair and just commander, and a good leader of men," says
"Goes in for flogging much?" Sparrow asks. "Runs a tight, disciplined ship
that way, aye?"
"Nay, not much need for the lash on the Indy, um, sir," Kennedy manages to
choke out the honorific, even to a pirate captain. "Captain Pellew makes
sure every man knows his duty, and follows it to the letter, most times
without resort to the need for the harsher reminders. The officers and crew,
to a man, are proud to serve under him."
Jack sits back and contemplates this for a moment. So I takes the next line
of questioning. "And what waters were you patrolling before the engagement
with the Papillon?"
"Ah, now that would be telling, wouldn't it?" The lad is canny, I'll grant
him. Oh, Jack's not pleased, though it's hard to say which has displeased
him more, my question or Kennedy's answer.
"Enough!" Sparrow declaims, "You are to rest and regain your strength. Then
we shall see if you prefer to sign the articles, or to take your chances in
your little boat again." And with that he rose and swept from the cabin,
only to pause in the doorway. "Gibbs. Get him to a hammock below. He's
sturdy enough to vacate the captain's quarters, I'll warrant."
Later that evening, I was on deck, taking in the breeze, and doin' a bit of
wash, since I've suffered from the dropsy since that last bit of whale we
ate. I said at the time that it were bad luck to be pullin in any thing for
victuals what were found floating alongside the ship. But Cook is a
waste-not sort of fellow, and it did go down a treat. Trouble is, it didn't
seem to know when to stop.
At any rate, there I am, scrubbing my spare smalls, and Jack comes to me and
he says, "Joshamee? Have you any old friends? Mates from times long past?"
an' I notice he's askin' all quiet-like. Not our usual captain, then.
"What, old pirate mates?" I chuckle. "There's old pirates, an' there's bold
Jack interrupts the old saw, "No, I mean further back than that, back
twenty, even thirty years."
"Aye, I reckon," I replies "though I've not seen them in many a year, I
imagine if I ran across any of the fellows I served with on my first
commission, I'd count them as mates and stand 'em a round, and know they'd
do the same for me."
"And that would be your Naval Commission, aye?"
"What are you getting at, Jack?"
"Would you still say they'd stand you a round, even if they were made aware
of your piratical tendencies?" Jack appeared to be examining the rigging
which almost always meant something was troubling him. He knows every line
on the Pearl, down to her last thread of hemp, an' can hear each one
individual, I swear to heaven. If he's lookin' at the rig, he's thinking
deep on something other than the state of the ship.
"Aye, Cap'n. A friend is a friend, and a mate is a mate. If you doubt the
friendship, then that's the thing. If not?" Jack doesn't come for asking
advice much, and I does my best to be the ear and the eye he needs in the
few instances he has need of me. "A little bit o'piracy won't stand in the
way of true friends, says I."
"Ah, but we're not exactly talking about just a little bit of piracy,
are we?" Jack mumbles to himself, and he wanders off to the take the helm.
He's done with speaking to me, then, and needs to speak to the Pearl,
find her temper on the subject.
Whatever that subject was. I was surely fog-bound at this point. But the
clouds lifted for me shortly, and will become clearer to you, as I relay my
My tankard seems a bit dry, don't ye think?
Ah, tha's better. Thank ye. Now, where was I? Aye, so the Kennedy lad is
berthing with the crew, and seems to be making the best of his situation.
He's a handsome and personable sort, aye, and seems to have a bit less of
the rod-up-the-arse trouble that most Navy suffer from.
He's puttin' on weight, too, since cook seems to have taken a special shine
to 'im. Hardly blame Cook, really. He seems to get prettier every day. Well,
but Cook's not likely to get none from the likes of a Lieutenant of His
Majesty's Service. Still, a feller can dream, I s'pose.
An' I imagine well near a third of the crew did, judgin' by the amount of
subtle wrigglin' goin' on in the off-watch hammocks. But as long as it
weren't bein' a matter for jealousy nor favoritism, all was well. The lad
was bright enough to be impartial with his conversation and stood distant
enough to please your Great Aunt Fanny.
That is, until Jack began to lavish his attentions on the boy.
Now, I knew, the captain were just testing the waters, as it were, finding
the lad's humor and seein' if he were ready for the signing of the Articles,
and joining the crew of the Pearl on a more permanent basis. Be a
right coup if we had more'n just two of us aboard who could cypher, and
chances are he could do the maths, help us with the cannon ranges as well.
So of course the captain would be spending a good deal of time with Kennedy.
In the captain's quarters.
Now, tongues never wagged, when I done so in previous circumstances,
leastwise never in my earshot. I'm not as pretty as Kennedy, but as they
say, pretty is as pretty does. Heh. What the crew don't know won't hurt 'em
none, in that instance. Voyages are long. But the ship's complement fairly
resembled a flower market on May Day, so much did they buzz over the blondie-boy
and Jack. Captain's taking on a catamite, they said. Nothing good'll come of
I catch a whiff of mutiny in the air. Rank smell, mutiny. Once you've gotten
a nose-full, there's no chance you'll ever mistake it again. And I wonder
that Jack's not sensed it even sooner than I.
So I goes to discuss the temper of the crew with him, in 'is cabin. An' he's
in there with Kennedy, so I waits a moment and listens at the door before
knockin'. I'm not dim enough to risk interruptin' things all flagrantay, no,
But they're talking, chattin' conversationally, it seems. So I knocks.
"Come in, Gibbs," Captain calls, as he knows my usual rap.
"Sir," says I, "if ye have a moment, there's a little matter of crew
business I'd like to bend yer ear over." I gives a pointed glance in the
direction of Kennedy. "Discreet crew business, if ye take my meaning,
"Crew gettin' antsy about my lovely little laddie, here?" Jack turns and
addresses the boy himself. "This is just what I was trying to illustrate.
From time to time, it's just no use trying to reason with a crew, and a firm
show of discipline is the only recourse. They've been overdue for a reminder
for some time."
"And sometimes the discipline has to be directed at the wrong man." Kennedy
replied. "The sacrificial lamb. The scape-goat."
"That's just how dear Lieutenant Teddy put it to me, those exact words,"
Jack dipped and tilted in agreement. "Scape-goat. Though I always felt I
smelled a right deal better than a goat! Especially as a lad of only 13!
Aye, so you do see what I'm getting at." Jack said. "I've an
excellent complement at the moment. Not one of them I'd care to dispose of.
So you see, I'm going to have to hang you."
"I'd still rather take my chances in the jollyboat, captain."
"Can't do it. Not dramatic enough. Some question as to my motives, there. Do
I really intend to kill ye, or not?"
"I see." Kennedy seems remarkably calm for one discussing his own execution.
"How long would you say I have? A day or two?"
"Oh, I think we can speed that up quite a bit." Jack reassured. "What's our
"41' 8" N, and nearly to 10' W, sir." I answers, "an' the Iberian current is
with us and the winds are favorable. I'd say we'll catch sight of o' Porto
"How can you tell your position, without knowing the date?" Kennedy was
"You were actually snookered by that lot of malarkey?" Jack laughed. "Ah,
well, it was bound to trip up someone, one of these days. Still, no one's
yet before assumed pirates are so dim, they can't even tell the
"I wasn't exactly at my best, at the time," Kennedy defended himself.
"Well, you're as healthy as we can make ye, aboard the Pearl, and
we're going to have to kill ye before we can make landfall." said Jack. "Get
yourself gone now. I do have a few things to say to my quartermaster that
are not for the ears of one sworn to the Royal Navy. And I'll have that
letter for you, later."
Kennedy took a solemn, slight bow in the captain's direction, and left us.
"What's this about hangin', Jack?" says I. "Do we really need to go so far?
I agree he's become naught but trouble, with this crew in their current
choler, but couldn't we find a way to just release him?"
"Pour me a beverage, if you would be so kind, Joshamee, and one for yourself
as well." Jack replied. "And let me tell you a little story. All's well on
deck I trust? Helm in good hands?"
"Clear to the horizon, but for a wisp or two of cirrus to the southwest,
bearing away." I rifle through Jack's stash of liquor, rum and gin and
scotch and bourbon. Aye, and he even keeps a drop of mescal in here,
generous fellow, when he detests the flavor of it himself. "May I?" and I
wave the flask in his direction.
"It's up to you, but I'll warn you, I'm not your bunk-mate this night, man."
Jack replies. He knows what sort of mood the mescal puts me in, from
experience. Ah well. Perhaps with Cotton gone and Jack unavailable...I pour
myself a gin instead, and a rum for Jack as well.
"Now then; what yarn have ye for me, Jack? An' has it something to do with
the Kennedy fellow?"
"Only in the sense that what goes around, comes around. This tale's not much
of an entertainment, I warn you. Nor much of an embellishment, neither. I've
never told you how I turned to piracy, have I?"
My eyes widen a little, as there's not been a day gone by that I haven't
wondered the roots of Jack's adventures. "If I've not heard every single one
of your tales, Jack, I'm unaware of it. This is something you've always kept
rather close to the vest, is that it?"
"I always thought I was doing so to protect Lieutenant Teddy. Although now
that task seems to be unnecessary, I find it difficult to lose the habit.
Perhaps there's a bit of protecting my own self, involved here." Jack's
showing far more of his cards than his usual wont, and this concerns me a
bit. Jack, in a mood to share confidence? I sip my gin some more.
"It was back about '93, perhaps '94, when I was first aboard a ship as boy
to the Captain," Jack continued on, chuckling at my startlement. "Yes, I
served in His Majesty's Navy in some of the same years you were before the
mast, my dear Josh. Though not nearly for so long. In that time, I made the
acquaintance of two very handsome leftenants. One was a devil, the scourge
of my existence. Fellow by the name of Nelson. He was the sort of chap they
were intending to curb when they made sodomy a hanging offense. And the
other was an angel, my savior and protector. Lieutenant Edward Pellew.
"Kennedy's Captain on the Indewhatsis?" Well, this made for a pretty
turn, I reckon. "And now he's Captain of his own ship, and unlikely to lose
career over minor indiscretions carried out 30 years past?"
"Nay. Now he's the only one, save me, to have witnessed the events of that
summer, and thus cannot be charged for the crime I committed." Jack smiled,
satisfied. "I've worried about that for three decades, and guilt's not a
pleasant dish, nor one I care to dine on often Even old cabbage tastes
"I happen to enjoy a nice, aged cabbage, cap'n."
"You would, you odd bird. Listen to me story, now; I don't tell tales like
this often," Jack remonstrated.
"Nelson wanted me, but not just for bedplay. That I probably could have
stomached, to keep the peace," said Jack. "Nay, he wanted a whipping post,
an outlet for his need to harm and damage. The previous cabin boy had died
under mysterious circumstances, ribs punctured a lung somehow, lad drowned
in his own blood."
Jack slugged down the last of his rum. "He was the first man I ever killed,
and I did it in cold blood. Garroted him in his hammock, with a sharpened
wire." He held out his cup for a resupply. "Pellew saw me do it. "
I stood and returned to the sideboard, to fill his cup again, and asked,
"Sure you wouldn't like something stronger?"
"Nelson took a long time to die, thrashed terribly, fell out of the hammock
to the floor, blood everywhere. Strangely silent, though, as I'd hit the
vocal cords as well as the veins," Jack continued. "Just a lot of wheezing.
And thumping. And the blood."
I unstoppered the Mescal, and filled his cup to the brim, and passed it to
him. Time and a place, even for the Captain.
"He took me to into custody, took me straight to our captain, and explained
the circumstances to him. Pellew even had the temerity to blame the
captain for both the former cabin boy's death, and Nelson's. Ballsy,
Pellew was, imagine he still is, actually." Jack paused and breathed for a
"I think he really did care for me."
Jack took his cup, sucked it down without tasting it. Didn't even bat an eye
at the change in flavor, and I know he detests it.
"So they hanged me. Pellew tied the noose himself. He also sewed my bag
afterwards, the one they dropped me in the sea inside. See that?" Jack
pointed to a little scar-nick on the bridge of his nose. "He caught me with
the needle, right there. Never got a chance to ask him if it was done
a-purpose. I remember 'im every time it itches."
Jack stood, and crossed the room to his trunk. Drawing a length of line from
within, he said, "Pay close mind, here. This is the way Pellew taught me to
tie the noose; he called it justice with mercy built right into it."
I put down my gin. If I were to get Jack really liquored up, I needed my
full wits to manage this one.
T'was a lovely sunset that eve, golds and lavenders and that line of green
between the two that I've only ever seen at Sea. We were close enough in
that the shorebirds flocked landward overhead, and the low cloudbank
obscured the neardistant shoreline. I stood at the rail, watchin' the light
fade from the edges of this world.
A good night for a hangin'. Full dark was on us. It wouldn't be long now.
Even though I knew to expect it, the crash and the curse that followed it
caught me, and made me jump. The door to to his quarters flew open to
violently as to crack the hinges on one side, and through the opening
hurtled a tousled blond head and a handsome lad only half-clothed. Jack's
bellow of anger wasn't something one can stand calm near, and the crew fair
barreled their way towards the Captain's cabin, to rally to his call.
"He's a SPY!" Jack's rage coursed through the air. "Refuses to sign the
bloody articles! Refuses a DIRECT ORDER from the CAPTAIN."
"KEELHAUL 'IM!" went up the cry from the men.
Kennedy's lip was bloodied, and though I knew it to be a shallow cut made
with his own knife, it still looked to be a painful one. It bled in a
suitably dramatic fashion, which was the intention, after all.
Jack swaggered out onto the main deck, and smoldered like a peat fire. He's
a choleric fellow when provoked. He was also in somewhat a state of undress
himself, no unusual thing for our captain, but usually if he unbuttons the
breeches, he shucks them off as well, rather than leaving them to just hang
on 'is body like that. Nice lascivious touch there, Jack.
"CASTRATE 'IM!" an' I made note of which voice called for that
particular bit of business. Bears watching, one who thinks along those lines
in the heat of the moment.
Jack turns his eyes to the crew, and they fall silent.
"Hang him." Jack's voice is quiet, ice-cold and deadly.
This stuns the crew. Jack was right, they need me to lead them to this. I
pull out the line I've been fiddlin' with, and shout "AYE, Captain!"
The chorus of Ayes behind mine is heartening. This crew still wants to
follow Jack, and the rot of mutiny hasn't hit the heartwood yet.
I fear we bruised young Kennedy a bit, getting him hustled to the fo'ard
yard. But when the lads began to get a bit to bloodthirsty, and a jagged
blade was drawn, I managed to stop them with an appeal to the Captain's
authority. "Nay, Let's do as he said lads, let 'im feel the rope, instead of
the easy road of the knife."
Mary an' Joseph an all the saints, let me have tied this knot the right
way, I thought as I tossed the line over the yard.
The lads brought empty barrels and casks up from below, to make a platform
to knock 'im off of, give 'im a fighting chance of breakin' 'is neck on the
drop. But Jack placed his hand on the first one lifted into the stack, and
said simply, "No. Haul 'im up slow."
The most dangerous Pirate in the Spanish Main. They don't call Jack Sparrow
that for nothin'. Only a handful of us know the man well enough, to know
it's an act he plays, a mask he wears to keep from having to kill.
He's really, he's just a lily-livered lad, when it comes to hurtin' anyone.
But he hides it well.
Jack tosses me Kennedy's shirt, and I slip it over his head. It's vital that
he be wearing a longish tunic for this, to hide the knot at his waist. I'm
not the deft hand that Jack is, though, with the slight of hand, so the
Captain declares he'll be the one to put the noose on the lad.
Jack's the best actor I know. He manages to make even me believe that he's
still in a violent rage, and yet is starting to have second thoughts about
his rash call to action. The way he puts the hemp around Kennedy's neck,
almost tenderly. Stroking the jawline as he does so.
Then he grabbed the lad by the hair at the nape of his neck, and pulled him
in for a deep, battling kiss, the boy fighting it all the way, but Jack
predatorily ravishing his mouth.
I nearly laughed outloud when I realized it was all part of the slight of
hand. Realized it just in time, too, so I could just barely see the motion
of Jack's hand, in the small of Kennedy's back, tying the noose's dangling
end to the harness hidden beneath his breeches.
Jack pulled back, and the blood from Kennedy's cut besmirched the Captain's
lips as well. "Tell the Ferryman I send my greetings, boy."
"I'm sure you can pass them on yourself, before long." said Kennedy, and he
spat on the deck contemptuously.
"Still, you'll be seeing 'im first." Jack smiled.
We hauled on the rope then, and damned if it didn't look like a realistic
hanging, his face all purple and tongue lolling and legs a-thrash every
which way. To be honest, I was in fear something had gone wrong with my
knot, and we really had killed the lad. But Jack's face stayed impassive,
and when we finally cut 'im down, after nearly half an hour's passing, I was
the one to check for a pulse.
Damn, sure enough, strong and steady, there it was. So I declared him well
and truly hanged, o'course. But I suspected we'd put Kennedy into one of
those fits of his'n, as boneless as he was when we were sewing 'im into the
bag. I slipped in the knife when none was lookin', setting it in the lad's
slack hand. I was careful not to give 'im a nick with the needle, as I'd
rather he had no cause to remember me. I managed to quietly mention the
possibility of his unconsciousness to the Captain; Jack then declared to the
crew that we'd be waiting 'til sunrise to dispose of the body.
When the sun first crested its edge over the horizon, I doubt Jack had slept
in the past three days. But wide awake he was, with that glittering edge to
'im, that he gets sometimes. He's like a fire, a forge, a cannon blast at
Sometimes I feel my luck, havin' found him to crew under, at least for that
while. Never should have left the Pearl.
Anyhow, I'd been keepin' watch beside the body bag, and had seen a tiny stir
in it, an hour ago. I figgered it was safe enough to give the word.
Jack said nothing as we slid the body from the board, into the waves. We
were in as close as was practical, and there were dozens of little rocks and
jutted outcroppings, rising from the sea between us and the shore. Kennedy
stood more than a fair chance of making it to shore. The British Navy's
enemy territory, to be sure, but the lad wasn't dressed as Navy, and could
probably seek shelter in a nearby village as a castaway.
I wondered what was in Jack's head, as we sailed away from that coast.
We never heard anymore of what happened to him. But Jack's always referred
to 'im since as "Acting Pirate Kennedy."