do you, Elizabeth Emily Swann, take this man to be your Lawfully Wedded
Husband..." The priest's voice droned and the flies swirled in lazy
figure-eights above the heads of the congregation. Commodore James
Norrington could not absent himself from the proceedings, of course. His
presence was requested and required by the Governor. No crisis of piracy nor
war drew him away from Jamaica's shores in time, much as he would have
Watching one's former finaceť marry the fetching stripling who didn't
deserve her, was not on the commodore's list of "favorite ways to spend the
afternoon of the sabbath."
The oppressive heat certainly did not add to the pleasure of the situation.
His only consolation was that the bride and groom looked even more
uncomfortable than he felt. William was unaccustomed to formal clothing in
his profession, which explained his evident physical distress. The sweat
stood in beads upon the lad's forehead. And that wig. Who thought it would
be a good idea to put him in that?
Most likely Elizabeth's obvious discomfort was due to her wardrobe as well.
Norrington's adam's apple bobbed, and his skin flushed, as the couple kissed
to seal their vows. Should have looked away...
He managed to duck out, avoiding the reception line, and the obligatory kiss
on the newly-minted bride's cheek. Elizabeth's gaze followed his shoulders,
as he sidestepped between the others in the crowd, making for the archway
and the escape beyond it.
She nearly called to him. Will's revelation of the previous evening had
shaken her, but it was too late for regrets. No, the time to have turned
back was already past. She had made her choice; now she would have to live
And really, Will would be the most marvellous husband, she was sure of it.
It was only one small thing. Such a little thing.
"Thank you for inviting me to supper, Governor." James took refuge behind a
formal manner and an impeccable uniform.
"James, James, when are you going to remember to call me Weatherby?" the
older man laughed.
"When you cease being the Governor, I suppose." James smiled a little, and
very nearly lowered his guard, when Elizabeth... No, must now think of
her as Mrs. Turner ...swept into the room. Her eyes flew wide, and her
head turned back and forth between the governor and the commodore.
"Father! You didn't mention that the commodore was joining us!"
"Oh? Did I not?" Swann was all innocence. "Must have slipped my mind to say
so, I surely intended to apprise you both of the pleasant prospect of each
Elizabeth smiled wryly at her father. The clock in the foyer continued to
mark off the seconds with disturbingly audible precision. "Well," said
Swann, "let us go in and take the soup. I understand it's turtle. Quite
delicious. Cook's speciality. James, take her arm, and we'll go in."
Hesitantly, the commodore reached for her elbow. A rush of blood to
Elizabeth's face when he touched the pale skin of her elbow with his
work-calloused fingertips gave evidence that James did not struggle alone in
controlling his emotions. This knowledge made his efforts no easier. Rather,
her equal discomfiture made hiding his own more difficult.
Elizabeth's lips parted slightly, and the pink tip of her tongue moistened
them as if to speak...but no sound emerged from her.
"Such a pity, that Will had to travel to Kingston with the farrier, and
could not join us this evening," the Governor said, as they passed into the
large dining hall. "It would have been a pity to waste the opportunity to
have you here, however, so I thought we might raise a toast in his honor,
and then enjoy ourselves as best we can in his absence." The governor
continued to babble on, saying, "I hope you don't mind me adding poor
Elizabeth to our evening, James? This is the first time since she wed, six
weeks ago, that she's had to spend the night separated from her dear
William. I thought you might suffice as a reasonable substitute, for the
purposes of this night's social intercourse." Was there a bit of a gleam in
the older man's face?
Norrington's virescent eyes searched for escape, but found none. An
excruciating evening lay ahead, to be sure. Finally, his gaze fell on
Elizabeth's, coffee-brown in the dim of the dining hall's lamps. She had
been watching him. I need no woman's pity.
Supper had been cleared, and the governor retired with his guests to the
veranda, where the slight evening breeze made more pleasant environs for
sipping the port, on this hot July night. The humidity promised more
thundershowers on the morrow, but for now, the night sky was merely hazed
and sticky. The heady aroma of mahoe flowers made the air redolent with a
spicy sweetness, subduing their senses.
"What news from the countryside, Governor?" Norrington sought refuge in the
business of the colony. "Are the plantations producing well this season?"
"Indeed they are, James. But come, can we not leave aside our cares for an
evening?" Weatherby was jolly and well on his way into his cups. He had
quite a fondness for the red that had arrived on the latest merchant ship
out of La Rochelle, carrying a cargo from coastal Bordeaux. "I would have a
bit of lighthearted converse, or else some musical distraction. Will you
sing for us, my heart?"
"Oh, father, you know I despise performing before guests." Elizabeth
demurred with a blush. "Besides, I feel a bit breathless, this night."
"Oh?" Weatherby's smile held a hint of lasciviousness. "Could perhaps there
be a reason for this mild case of the vapors which you've developed?" He
turned to James. "I'll not deny it, if placed under oath, that I'm anxious
to see my future grandchildren! What hey? What HO!" The Governor's laugh was
rather too hearty, and ended with a bit of a hiccough. He tipped back his
glass, draining it.
"Well," Swann continued, "if my Little Bets won't grace us with her
nightingale's song, and you, my dear sir, are notoriously unmusical, then it
must needs fall to the host to provide the divertimento! One moment only,
and I shall return with my violincello, my dears." Weatherby rose, a little
unsteadily, and then very nearly capered back into the gubernatorial manse,
in search of his instrument.
Leaving James and Elizabeth, alone in the muzzy moonlit garden, with only
crickets for their chaperones.
As soon as her father was through the french doors, Elizabeth laid a hand on
James' knee. "James, I must speak to you, on a matter of gravest
import." Her earnest manner and urgent tone caught his attention fully, even
when it threatened to fly away to the tiny circles of pressure, the blazing
touch of each of her fingers on the skin beneath his white canvas breeches.
"It's about Will." Elizabeth, seemingly rushed to spill all her words at
once a moment earlier, drew breath and paused. "It's...difficult to say..."
"Has he hurt you?" Norrington's protective instincts simmered up from the
depths of his passion for her. "I'll see him rot in a cell!"
"No, no no! It's nothing like that. It's nothing he can help. It's not his
fault!" Tears began a little course down each of her cheeks. "Years ago,
only a few years after we arrived in Port Royal on the Dauntless. It
was an accident, Master Brown was drunk, as usual, the sot, and didn't watch
where the hammer was swinging..." she broke off in a sob.
"Will was injured by Master Brown? Yet he was well enough to travel?" James
was no more enlightened than when she began.
Red rimmed eyes met his own. "Would you attempt this boon for me, James?
Please? No one need ever know. I can be absolutely discreet, I swear to you!
Will understands. He doesn't mind in the least, not for this one thing.
"What would you have me do, lady? I confess to perplexity and confoundment,
as to your meaning!"
Elizabeth drew a deep breath, and exhaling thoroughly, whispered into his
ear, "Lie with me, James, as a man does with a woman."
Norrington leapt out of his seat as if shot from one of his long nines.
"I am very happy in my marriage, James, and Will is almost everything
I could ever want in a husband. My father has his heart so set on having
grandchildren..." Elizabeth's eyes pricked with more moisture in the moon's
glimmer. "...but you see...Will is a eunuch."
James stood and considered for nearly three heartbeats.
And he turned and walked away into the night, past the gardens, the stables
and outbuildings and back to his cool stony quarters in the Fort.
Behind wispy breeze-tossed curtains, inside the mansion, Weatherby Swann
uttered an oath into the gloom. His best chance to drive a wedge in that
unsuitable match, find a way to end his daughter's involvement with a common
tradesman...all for naught.
Alone in the garden, Elizabeth hung her elegantly coiffed head and sobbed.
There was no one else she would consider for this. No one else in all of
Jamaica posessed the necessary integrity that she required for the respect
of her marriage despite her apparent cuckoldry.
Unfortunately, it was now apparent that James' keen sense of honor was
imperfectly suited to the task of adultery.