Trust and Honour, part 1 of 5
by The Stowaway
Fandom: PoTC Rating: NC-17 Pairing: Jack/Will/Elizabeth/James Full Header
Prologue, part 1: Three vignettes. Pillow talk at the Turners’, shortly after Elizabeth’s return.
“Elizabeth! What are you doing?”
“Tell me you don’t like it and I will stop.………Well?”
“So, where did you learn that?”
“A book in my cousin’s library. French. The illustrations were very… instructive.”
“Your cousin gave you the book?”
“No, indeed! He would have been scandalized to find it in my possession. His librarian rather carelessly left the locked section open one day, whilst I was there reading by the library fire. I spent an interesting hour amongst the books deemed unsuitable for the delicate eyes of ladies.”
“You shock me.”
“I thought I might.”
“Have you any other tricks gleaned from the Earl’s salacious tomes?”
“Ahhhhh, that is new.”
“What do you mean?”
“You didn’t used to bite. No, don’t stop; harder. You learnt it from Jack, I suppose.”
“What is it?”
“Why would you…. What could you possibly…”
“Darling, I am not a simpleton.”
“I never thought so, but…”
“Shhh, Will. When Father forwarded the letter you wrote me before sailing on the Pearl, I knew what was bound to happen; Jack being the thoroughgoing rogue that he is.”
“You knew? How could you know, when I had no idea of it?”
“Call it woman’s intuition. Jack can be irresistible, I imagine, when he sets out to be charming.”
“You sound as if you don’t mind.”
“Of course I mind. You are mine, Will Turner, and I do not share very willingly. However, it’s in the past, with no harm done; quite the contrary. You’ve come home to me, safe and sound. And you’ve learnt a rather delicious bit of roughness that pleases me very much. If anything, I am just a little envious.”
“Of course, envious. Surely you don’t think you are the only one to dream of running off to play at pirates with Jack Sparrow?”
“Would you really?”
“Would I really, what, Will?”
“Run off to play at pirates with Jack Sparrow.”
“He’ll not give me the opportunity, so the question will never arise.”
“Leaving Jack out of it, then, …er… would you run away to have… um… adventures?”
“No, husband, I would not. There are, as galling as it is to acknowledge, certain limitations placed on a woman that are not suffered by men.”
“To which limitations do you refer?”
“This one: I wish to bear no child not conceived under our roof.”
“You phrase that oddly, wife.”
“I phrase it precisely.”
“Meaning, I suppose, that one need not run away to have… adventures?”
“You know me too well. And, after all, ‘What is sauce for the goose….’”
“What am I to say this?”
“You need say nothing, dearest, for the occasion may never arrive. But I swear to you: as you are mine, I am yours; and I will do nothing behind your back, nor will I lie to you about my actions.”
“Then I am content.”
“Do you think you will ever wish to go home to England to live?”
“I doubt it. And you?”
“No, England is not for me. Or, rather, I am not for England.”
“Well, here’s a change of heart. I thought you longed for home; for the wider world and good society.”
“I yearned for what never was, Will; for a memory. England isn’t the wider world; this is. And ‘good society’ is stifling. Don’t laugh at me! You’ve no idea what it was like, this past year!”
“I’m not laughing, darling. Of course I’ve no idea. ‘Good society’ had nothing to say to the likes of my mother and me, remember.”
“Oh, I know! I was made acutely aware of my so-called mésalliance, you may be sure. If it weren’t for my mother’s fortune, and Father’s, I would have been placed beyond the pale; not received in polite company. To them, it matters not at all that you are the finest swordsmith in the Caribbean (you are, don’t argue!) and a good man. Only that I am the granddaughter of an Earl and you are the son of a merchant sailor.”
“Who was a good man and a good pirate.”
“Oh, hush! You will make me laugh, and this is not a laughing matter. Who one IS means nothing to them, only who one’s parents were and how great their wealth. I wouldn’t want our daughters to grow up surrounded by such notions.”
“Awkward, considering their parentage, I’d say.”
“And another thing, Will. Learning is frowned upon – for women, at any rate. I was regarded as a bluestocking. Can you imagine? I, the despair of my tutors! They seemed proud to be ignorant of anything but the plot of the latest novel. I shudder to think what they would have said if they knew I help Father run Somerset – that some of the sugar in their tea was very likely grown under my supervision.”
“Well, beloved, there is no law that says we must return to England. I, for one, am well suited right where we are.”
Prologue, part 2: Six months later. Friday Evening, dinner with Governor Swann:
“Father, how are the improvements at Somerset progressing?”
“Not as quickly as I had hoped. The press of business has kept me here in Port Royal for some time, as you know; I have been forced to rely on reports when I would prefer that one of us see to things in person.”
“Jenkinson is a good manager, and an honest man, but perhaps he has been left too much to his own devices.”
“Indeed, I fear you may be correct.”
“How would it be, then, if Will and I went up country next week for awhile?”
“An excellent notion, Elizabeth. I am certain you will see all set to rights, in your usual fashion.”
“Thank you, Father.”
“And dare I hope that you will allow Sarah-Ann and Eliza to stay with me while you are gone? They haven’t been for a proper visit to their grandfather in ages.”
“Of course, if you wish it; they will be overjoyed. But you mustn’t spoil them too much, Father. And if they are at all troublesome, send them home with Nurse.”
“Nonsense! You know I dote upon them; they are never a trouble to me. I will send the carriage, shall we say, on Monday morning? They can play at being grand ladies with their own coach and footmen.”
Act I, Saturday Afternoon:
“Mrs. Turner is in the parlor, sir.”
Norrington set his hat on the hall table and smiled. “Thank you. I’ll announce myself.”
“Very good, sir.”
He crossed to the parlor door as the maid returned to the back of the house. Children’s laughter could be heard through the panels. He smiled again and went in, pausing on the threshold. Elizabeth was seated beside the open window, mending forgotten in her lap as she watched her daughters play. Little Eliza was clapping and giggling as her big sister acted out a story with great vigour and much noise. “…and then the pirates made them walk the plank,” Sarah-Ann said, teetering dramatically. “And when they fell into the sea….,” she lowered her voice to a stage whisper and Eliza’s eyes went perfectly round, “they were eaten up by SHARKS,” the last word emerging as a shout.
For a moment, all was still. Then several things happened at once. Eliza’s face crumpled and she drew a preparatory breath, Elizabeth reached for the child and Norrington, hoping to forestall the impending tears, cleared his throat and took a step forward.
“Uncle James!” shrieked Sarah-Ann, dashing across the room with arms out and eyes alight.
Norrington caught her as she ran to him and swung her high while she squealed with glee. Her little sister, fright forgotten, scrambled to her feet and toddled towards them as fast as she could, calling “Unca Dames! Unca Dames!”.
Setting the delighted girl back on her feet, James bowed formally. “Good afternoon, Miss Turner,” he said.
Suddenly prim, but with a sparkle in her eye, Sarah-Ann made her curtsey, just as Eliza reached them, demanding, “Up! Up! Up!” and raising her pudgy arms.
Norrington obliged, making her giggle. “Well, Miss Eliza. Good afternoon to you.”
“Children, remember your manners,” their mother admonished, rising to relieve him of a protesting Eliza. “Give Uncle James a moment to catch his breath.” She smiled up at him, settling the baby on her hip. “It’s good to see you, James. Please, be seated.”
Sarah-Ann tugged at his hand and he allowed himself to be led to the sofa. Elizabeth resumed her chair, with Eliza on her lap, but the child squirmed to get down. Elizabeth shook her head. “They are little hoydens, are they not? Their father spoils them; as do you, James.”
But James only chuckled. “It strikes me, Elizabeth, that a bit of wildness might be, er, an inherited tendency, wouldn’t you say? I seem to remember a little girl, rather older than your lovely daughters, who thought very poorly of lady-like behaviour, to the dismay of her governess.” And his eyes twinkled as she laughed.
“Touché, you wretch. I think it unconscionably rude of you to have such a good memory for my failings, when there is so little with which I can reproach you in my turn.” Catching his eye she murmured, dulcetly, “At least in front of the children,” and smiled at his arrested expression.
Eliza, having escaped her mother, chose this moment to climb into his lap, providing a welcome distraction. He placed her on his knee, and she immediately began to haul imperiously on his watch chain. He took his watch out, opened it and held it to her ear. She listened intently for a space and then held out her hands. He snapped it closed and let her have it, whereupon she busied herself turning it over and over, looking for the catch.
Meanwhile, Sarah-Ann, who had been standing this while at his other knee, reached the limits of her 5-year-old patience. Deeming it her turn at last, she placed a hand on his sleeve and said, seriously, “Uncle James, I have been thinking.”
“About what, my dear?”
“When I am grown, I shall marry you,” she announced, looking at him with her mother’s brown eyes. “And then we can stay together always.”
James gazed down at the earnest little face raised to his with such uncomplicated love and gently took her hand in his. Raising it to his lips he kissed it, saying softly, “I am inexpressibly honoured, Miss Turner, by your proposal. Perhaps we will speak of this again one day.”
She giggled happily, bouncing on her toes. “That means ‘Yes’, doesn’t it?”
“It means perhaps,” smiled James, and he glanced at Elizabeth, who caught her breath at the stricken look that showed, for just an instant, in his eyes. Her hands clenched and she looked down.
Following his gaze, Sarah-Ann said blithely, “Oh, don’t worry, Uncle James. Mama will allow me to marry you. She says you are a fine man.”
Just at this moment the door opened and Will entered. Eliza tumbled from James’s lap to run to her father, who scooped her up into a bear hug. James rose to greet him, returning his watch to his waistcoat pocket.
“Papa,” Sarah-Ann cried, “I am going to marry Uncle James!”
“Are you, now?” asked Will, with a chuckle, “I think I should have a say in this, don’t you?”
Will shook Norrington’s hand. “Good day to you, James. What’s all this about stealing my daughter, eh?” His eyebrow quirked. “Turned pirate, have you?” Elizabeth frowned and shook her head at him, but it was too late.
Before James could speak, Sarah-Ann clapped her hands and squealed. “Oh, yes, yes, please! Let us turn pirate, Uncle James! Please?” She took his hand in both of her own and looked up coaxingly with shining eyes. “We could go live on the Black Pearl with Uncle Jack.”
There was a moment’s dismayed silence, until Will gave a startled bark of laughter and Elizabeth gasped, “Sarah-Ann Turner! What will you say next?”
James was, surprisingly enough, the first to recover his poise. Resuming his place on the sofa, he drew the puzzled child to him and explained with aplomb. “You see, Sarah-Ann, that would never do. For who would stay at home with your Mama and Papa and be respectable?”
Sarah-Ann’s mouth turned downward and her lower lip thrust out in a scowl. “I don’t want to be respectable,” she declared, stamping her foot. “Respectable people never have any adventures.”
Then it was James’s turn to laugh. “You might be surprised, my dear.” He cocked an ironic eye at the elder Turners, who had the grace to look uncomfortable.
Sarah-Ann was not convinced and was preparing to argue her case with the dogged persistence bequeathed her by both parents, when benign Providence intervened in the shape of Nurse, who came to summon the children to their supper. In the ensuing bustle, the subject was allowed to drop.
Later, as they lingered comfortably over their own dinner, Elizabeth sat thinking. James and Will were deep in conversation, wrangling amicably over the finer points of the art of fence. They had quite forgotten her presence, she realized, with fond amusement. It was lovely to see James so animated and happy. She thought again of the pain she had seen in his eyes earlier – that one, unguarded glance – and her heart contracted. She wanted to banish that pain, for which she felt, in some measure, responsible. But how?
His first dinner with them (and she blessed Will for giving that invitation) had quickly become a standing engagement; weekly visits that were a pleasure to them all. She had come to esteem him more than ever, to love him as a friend. The girls adored their “Uncle James”, who smiled so sweetly and won their hearts when he spoke to them gravely, as if they were quite grown up. And he and Will each genuinely liked and respected the other; which was hardly a foregone conclusion, considering events of the not so distant past. (It had not taken her long to get the whole story of that night on the Pearl from Will. He had been rather shocked, the darling, at her insistence on hearing all the details, but her reaction to the tale had been ardent enough to banish his qualms.) It would have been so easy for them to avoid each other, allowing awkwardness and embarrassment to grow into antipathy, but they had chosen instead to become friends. That was Jack’s influence at work, she supposed. Jack, the other piece to this puzzle; who bent and shattered social conventions with a touch and could make the most outrageous behaviour seem just and reasonable. Well, Jack may have bent James’s convictions, she thought, but he hasn’t broken them, not yet. And that fact might still come to be the ruin of them both.
James, she thought, wanted shaking up. He was becoming too set in his ways. This didn’t prevent him from being a formidable naval tactician, when the need arose, or from being a most able and respected leader of men, of course. But it kept him from looking at the world with quite the sense of possibility required of a man in his situation. What was it the philosophers said? Ah yes, question your assumptions. James needed to question his assumptions; to take stock of his life and give thought to the future. She believed she saw a way to help him do just that.
Smiling, she took a sip of wine and the motion caught Will’s eye. He broke off in mid-sentence to smile back, saying, “Elizabeth, I forgot all about you.” James burst out laughing as she shook her head and sighed dolefully.
“The fate of all wives, I believe, sooner or later. But hardly tactful of you to say so, Will. What will James think?” She chuckled as she rose, shaking out her skirts and they stood with her. “Shall we have tea in the parlor? You two bloodthirsty ghouls can talk about the baiser de la mort and other nasty tricks in comfort.”
Seated behind the tea tray, she made the first step in her plan. “James,” she said, “did Will tell you? We are going up to Somerset for a few days. Father has no time at present and someone must see to the improvements that are in hand. Would you care to join us? A chance to get away from town for a little. Do say you will.”
James smiled. “An opportunity to get up into the hills is tempting, I must admit. When are you leaving?”
“Monday morning,” Will said, “Riding up from Kingston. We’ll be there in time for tea.”
“Ah, Monday is a busy day for me. But the rest of the week is free of any pressing engagements. Would it be acceptable for me to join you on Tuesday; say, before dinner?”
“Tuesday would be lovely, James. We shall look for you then.”
Shortly afterwards, James took his leave and the Turners retired. As they were preparing for bed, Will glanced over at his wife, seated at her dressing table, brushing her hair and humming softly. “Elizabeth, that’s the Pirate Song,” he said.
She smiled at him in the mirror. “Why, so it is. I hadn’t noticed.”
“You always hum that song when you are up to mischief,” he said, a look of deep foreboding on his face. “Does this have anything to do with James visiting Somerset? And do I really want to know?”
At that she laughed softly. “All in good time, my love. I think I see a way to make James a happier man.” She rose and went to him, slipping her arms round his waist and raising her face for a kiss. “But I shall do nothing without your approval. Does that satisfy you?”
“Considering that you can talk me into anything,” he replied, lowering his mouth to hers, “it shouldn’t, but let’s pretend that it does.”
Shortly after breakfast on Monday morning, the Governor’s carriage drew up before the door and two very excited little girls watched impatiently as the footmen, overseen by Nurse, carefully bestowed their boxes in the boot. Elizabeth, dressed already in her burgundy riding habit, hugged them tightly. “Be good girls for Grandfather, now. Remember your manners.”
“We will, Mama! Good bye!” cried Sarah-Ann, as they scampered down the walk to hug their father, who waited to hand them into the carriage.
“Bye-bye, Mama! Bye-bye, Papa!” shouted little Eliza, jumping up and down on the seat, until called to order by Nurse.
As the footman raised the steps and closed the door, Will spoke softly to John Coachman. “Take the long way ‘round, will you? They so love the ride.”
Old John touched his whip to his hat with a smile. “Oh aye, to be sure I will, Sir. His Excellency give me orders a’ready, plain as plain. ‘John Coachman,’ sez he, ‘you take the young ladies for a proper ride,’ he sez. And so I shall, Mr. Turner, never fear.” And he gave the horses the office to start as the footmen swung up behind, and Will stepped back to wave good-bye.
Elizabeth joined him just as the coach and its ecstatic occupants turned the corner. “I hope they don’t drive Father quite distracted with their noise.”
Will grinned. “Not likely. Your father is no fool, Elizabeth. He did declare his library off-limits to children, remember. When he has had his fill, he will retreat in good order and let Nurse deal with our imps. Now then, are you ready to set out?”
“Nearly so. Let me go see what Cook has put up for our nuncheon, and I will be with you directly.”
A few minutes later the Turners - Will carrying a leather satchel with provisions - walked briskly down to the quay and engaged a waterman to ferry them over to Kingston, whither their horses had been sent round the day before to await them. Shortly after midday, they were on the road into the hills.
The ride up to the plateau where lay Somerset Plantation was a pleasant one. The road climbed the steep, tree-clad slope in leisurely fashion, switchbacks laid back and forth across the hillside, making the grade an easy one for the horses to manage. As they climbed, they caught glimpses through the trees of the whole of Royal Harbour laid out below them; Kingston in the foreground, with Port Royal and the fort beyond. They set an easy pace to spare the horses in the heat. There was no reason to hurry. After about two hours, they stopped to eat. Seated on a log at the edge of the road, they shared the cold meat, rolls and apples, while admiring the view, which, at this altitude, comprised nearly 180 degrees of shimmering, blue horizon. Will reached into the bag for the wine and discovered they had no cups. Elizabeth raised her eyebrows and took a swig from the bottle, before handing it back to her husband with a grin. “Drink up, me hearties, yo ho,” she murmured and he laughed.
A short rest, and they set out again. After an hour or a little more, they came in sight of Somerset. The plantation lay on a gently sloping plateau, backed by the Blue Mountains and open on the south to a view of the ocean. The Hope River ran down through it, neatly bisecting the property. The house, a handsome structure of local stone with a wide verandah, was set at the back of the plateau, on a shady knoll not far from the river bank. Leaving the road, they crossed the bridge above the mill-pond and cantered up to the house.
Before Will could call out, a little boy who had been on the watch dashed up to hold their horses, grinning with pleasure at being the first to welcome them. As they dismounted, the housekeeper bustled out of the front door, beaming and bobbing curtsies. “Welcome to Somerset, Miss Elizabeth,” she cried, with the freedom of an old retainer, “or Mrs. Turner, I should say. And to you, Mr. Turner, sir. I declare, I was saying to Ward just the other day, ‘You mark my words, we’ll be seeing Miss Elizabeth before long, now that she’s home again.’ And here you are!”
Elizabeth laughed and took the old woman’s hands in both of hers. “Here I am, indeed, Mrs. Ward. How have you been? And your husband is well?”
“Oh, I am as spry as ever, bless you for asking, Miss Elizabeth. But Ward does suffer a bit with the rheumatism; some days is worse than others.”
“Not too quiet for you up here after all those years in town?”
Mrs. Ward laughed merrily. “No indeed, Miss! Ward and I are both country-bred, you know. It just suits us. Now then, the cart with your trunk arrived at midday. Your room is all prepared for you. Would you be wanting to rest yourself a bit after your ride, or would you like your tea?”
“You are very kind, Mrs. Ward,” Elizabeth smiled, “but I am not at all tired.’ She glanced at Will, who smiled. “I think I shall take a walk, to stretch my legs. Shall we say, tea in an hour?”
“Very good, Miss Elizabeth,” Mrs. Ward bobbed another curtsey. “Tea on the verandah in an hour.” And she bustled off, still beaming, to chivvy the cook.
Leaving her gloves, hat, and whip on the hall table, and looping the train of her habit over one arm, Elizabeth took Will’s arm and together they walked slowly down the drive to the river. Turning left before the bridge, they wandered downstream, past the mill and through a narrow band of trees, until they had an unobstructed view south and west. They stood for a while in silence. From this height, the sea shone like watered silk, crinkled and motionless.
“I wish I’d thought to bring a spy-glass,” she said at last. “One can see forever up here. I had forgotten how lovely it is.”
“They will have one in the house, surely. Mrs. Ward will know.”
Turning back toward the house, they strolled back up the bank of the stream, pausing below the mill. They stood for awhile, watching the ducks that bobbed in the overflow from the mill dam and guddled about the margins of the pool.
Out of the corner of her eye, Elizabeth watched her husband’s face in the light of the westering sun. The bronze he had acquired at sea had faded somewhat, but enough remained to remind her of their long separation and the changes it had wrought. He had grown, her sweet Will. The rather boyish diffidence that had upon occasion exasperated her in the past was gone, replaced by a quiet and unassuming confidence. There was an air of self-knowledge about him now. And, as with his character, his person had changed as well. Gone was the sometimes coltish awkwardness. He moved with an assured grace entirely unconscious; his beauty was settling into classic lines. She felt herself a very fortunate woman indeed.
Drawn by her scrutiny, Will turned to her and smiled. “A penny for them,” he said, as he drew her close.
Nestling a bit, she replied, “I love you.”
“Do you, now?” His smile became a grin. “That’s convenient.”
Suspicious, she asked, “Convenient? In what way?”
His eyes sparkled and one arm swung wide and loose, fingers flickering, in strangely familiar gesture. “I was just thinking to myself ‘Will, you lucky dog! Here you are, all alone with a right tasty armful. But are you clever enough to get under her skirts?’” The grin became a leer. “And now I find my work’s done for me.”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes; pulled away from the distraction of hands teasing her nipples through her riding habit. “You… you insolent pirate! How dare you?” And she drew back her arm.
He caught her wrist, holding it firm as she struggled. His voice shook with laughter, but he managed to sound suitably fierce as he drew her to him. “And you’ve a taste for pirates, don’t you, missy?” he growled. “It’ll go easier if you don’t fight me. Come, give me a kiss.”
“Never,” she spat, “I’d as soon kiss Jack.” A gasp. “Jack the monkey!”
At that, Will did laugh. “Either can be arranged, if you insist,” he said, scooping her up and throwing her over his shoulder, “but for now you’ll have to make do with me.” And he strode up the slope to the mill door.
She shrieked, kicking her legs and swatting at his back with ineffectual hands. “Will, put me down! Put me down this instant, you fiend!”
“Quiet, wench.” He swatted her backside, ignoring her outraged yelp and her wriggling as he opened the door to the silent mill, and maneuvered his burden though the opening. Laughing breathlessly, Elizabeth hindered him as best she could by clinging to the door post, but it was a fruitless effort. Will kicked the door closed and deposited her onto a convenient heap of sacking. As she struggled to rise, tangled in her voluminous skirts, he stripped off his coat and dropped lightly down to pin her beneath him.
Panting, she glared up at him. His teethed flashed in the half-light as he grinned. “Now, sweeting, how about that kiss?” And he lowered his mouth to hers.
A moment she lay still; let him take it for surrender, she thought. As her mouth opened to his, he ran his tongue along her teeth, sucking on her upper lip, nibbling. She responded, tongue teasing and retreating. She sighed into his mouth and felt him smile. He relaxed his hold on her, shifted to bring a hand to her breast. Seizing the moment, she boxed his ears.
He reared back in astonishment, chuckling and shaking his head to clear the ringing. “You little vixen!” Moving up to pin her arms with his knees, he swiftly removed his neckcloth. “Drastic measures, darling.” Grasping her wrists, he bound them firmly together. Stretching her arms above her head, he tied the other end to a nearby post and sat back, kneeling astride her thighs, to admire his captive.
She lay, taut and trembling, her pulse pounding so that it shook her body. When he licked his lips, she fought to stifle a whimper. And then he smiled, a lazy and lascivious curling of that delicious mouth. Insolence sat well on him, she thought.
He reached back and grasped the hem of her skirts. “Now then, to business, shall we?”
Some time later, walking back to the house with her hair tumbled down her back and Will’s arm snug about her waist, she giggled. “Ravished by a pirate; three whole hours’ ride from the sea, and in broad daylight,” she said. “And Sarah-Ann says that respectable people don’t have adventures.”
Will snorted. “Wife of my heart,” he said, nibbling on her neck, “you are many things.” He nipped at her earlobe and she gasped. “Beautiful,” another nip, “intelligent,” he kissed her temple, “brave,” brought his free hand up to cup her face, “and oh-so-determined.” He smiled into her eyes. “But you are not respectable.”
“Wretch,” she chuckled. “That makes two of us, then.”
“And so it does,” he smiled.
Act II, Tuesday:
“I think I shall take the mare over to the smithy this morning, Elizabeth, to see about that loose shoe on her off fore.”
Elizabeth sipped her tea. “Can’t the stable boy do it? Jenkinson will be here within the hour to go over the accounts and I’d hoped you would hear his report with me.”
But Will just smiled and shook his head. “Best not, my dear.”
Elizabeth put down her tea cup with a hint of a snap. Time to have this out. Will was just being stubborn; refusing to have anything to do with the management of the estate. “Father has trusted me to assist him with business since I emerged from the schoolroom. As my husband, I would expect you to help me with those duties, Will. Father…” She stopped as Will took her hand and placed a finger to her lips.
“Your father is the owner of Somerset Plantation; not you, and most especially not me,” he said gently, smiling to take the sting from his words. “Its management and disposition is his alone. He has never sought my help by word or deed. And he has chosen to set up a trust so that our children will inherit it from him, with you and his solicitor as trustees. His meaning is tolerably clear, don’t you agree?”
She shook her head. “Will, Father doesn’t distrust you. It’s just that he…”
“…that he is a man of his class,” Will finished for her. “And he cannot quite rid himself of the notion that blood will tell. I do understand, darling, and, far from resenting his actions, I approve. He will never forget that my father was a pirate and has taken steps to assure that our children will not suffer if I should turn pirate as well.”
Elizabeth caught her breath. It almost sounded as if Will meant to turn pirate. She felt a little shiver of fear brush her spine. She knew he loved her and their girls, but what if… what if someday the attraction of Jack and the Pearl became too much to resist?
Will kissed her fingers and played with her wedding band, turning it this way and that, watching it flash in the sunlight from the open window.
“Indeed, Elizabeth, your father has been kind to me. He has never shown me the least coldness or discourtesy. And yet, I often think how it must have galled him to see you ‘throw yourself away’ on a mere blacksmith.”
At that, Elizabeth’s chin came up and her eyes narrowed dangerously. “He could hardly have stopped me.”
“Not forever,” Will chuckled, “and not comfortably. But he could have made us wait until you were of age, you know, or caused difficulties about your income.”
Elizabeth was silent. She knew he was right. Her father had hoped, up to the very day of the wedding, that she would change her mind; but he had countenanced her marriage and done his part to still the murmurs and gossip by being seen to approve his daughter’s choice. And he had allowed her the full income from her mother’s fortune during the three years until she had come of age and inherited outright. Not that Will would use the full income, she thought. Each quarter he would draw only a sum equivalent to his own earnings for the period; insisting that the balance was hers to spend as she would on herself and the children, but that the household expenses must be shared equally. Stubborn, stubborn man. And proud. And honourable. She sighed and smiled.
“Well, I think you are being over-scrupulous. But, despite what you may think, I know defeat when it kisses my fingers. Go along to the smithy and leave me to be bored half to death by the worthy Jenkinson. Will you be back in time to ride out with me this afternoon?”
He winked. “Indeed, why do you think I am so eager to fix the mare’s shoe this morning?” Rising from the table, he leaned over to kiss her cheek. “At luncheon, then.” And he strode out into the sunlight toward the stables.
James Norrington rode at a walking pace up the hill road. The bay gelding beneath him had a smooth gait that made the journey a pleasure. It was kind of Elizabeth, he thought, to arrange for him to use one of their horses instead of being forced to rely on the rather seedy hacks available for hire at the Rose and Crown. She had shown him nothing but kindness, indeed, since her return from England, as had Will.
He enjoyed his visits to the Turner home; had come to look forward to them as the high point of his week. The unaffected warmth and friendliness he found there was a balm to his sometimes melancholy spirit. And the children had quite won his heart with their prattle and their enthusiastic affection. He’d never known what to say to children to put them at their ease, but that was not a problem with Sarah-Ann or Eliza. Shyness was a thing unknown in their happy little world – every new acquaintance was seized upon with delight. But for all their liveliness, they were well brought up; he thought he could see the young ladies they would someday become and it was a charming picture.
Elizabeth and Will had a sure hand with their daughters. And that sureness sprang from their obvious love and respect for one another. They had weathered the crucial first years of their marriage in fine style (better, indeed, than he had expected) and were as much in love as ever. Endearing youngsters, they were, both of them. He sighed. For all he was only ten years their senior, he often felt three times that.
He thought of the dispatches that arrived recently from the Admiralty and sighed again. Despite his most persuasive arguments to the contrary, they were adamant: two of his five ships were to be decommissioned and his forces cut accordingly. War with Spain was over, France was once again an ally, and the pirate threat had been reduced to almost nothing. There was no longer a need, in these financially straitened times, they said, to maintain such a large contingent in the Eastern Caribbean, whither he was to remain with his diminished command. Request for re-assignment, he was told, would not be considered. The implication was clear. If he chose to resign his commission, that resignation would be accepted. He, once considered a rising star, destined for great things, was in semi-disgrace. Although the Court of Inquiry convened after the loss of the Interceptor had exonerated him of all guilt in the matter, it was evident that somewhere in the naval bureaucracy someone still held him responsible. It was the only black mark on an otherwise exemplary record in a career that now spanned over 20 years’ service. Were it not for the fact that his father’s second cousin had been First Lord of the Admiralty at the time of the inquiry, he doubted he would have any career at all.
Meanwhile, his orders were explicit. To complete the extermination of the pirates; sink the last of their ships, capture and hang the crews. Having now no war to distract him, the writer went on, with thinly veiled sarcasm, it ought to be a simple matter for him to take the Black Pearl and its Captain at last.
“This,” James said to himself, with rather bitter irony, “sets me a difficult problem.”
For more than five years he had lived a lie, his honour but a shell and semblance. On the day he had first put love before duty, he had become a sham. It was mere quibbling to argue that the crimes for which Jack was wanted were old. The law cared not for that.
And now, he would be forced to redemption and damnation in one act. And that act: the hanging of Jack Sparrow. Watching the body he knew as well as his own twitch and jerk at the end of a rope; hanging it up to rot at Deadman’s Cay. He shuddered. Surely that would damn his soul even as it restored his honour. But the alternative was shame and public disgrace; the loss of even the appearance of honour. In truth, there was no escape from this trap; he was damned indeed.
He rode for some time quite oblivious to his surroundings, letting the horse set its own pace. The sunshine of the plateau, as he emerged from the trees, was a shock. He had not realized they had climbed so high. He sat straighter and urged the horse to a trot, eager to reach Somerset; to be among friends and escape his own thoughts for awhile.
As James neared the house from the East, he caught sight of two riders approaching from the West. Drawing closer, he saw them to be Elizabeth and Will who hallooed cheerfully and waved to him to meet them at the stables. Elizabeth, he noted with amusement but little surprise, was riding astride.
Elizabeth hailed him as he rode into the stable yard. “Ah, my friend! You are come in the perfect hour; I need your assistance. Help me to convince my stubborn husband that it is as I say: there is nothing improper in this style of riding when out in the country.” She laughed gaily and the mare, catching her mood, danced a little and arched her neck. “See? Juno here agrees with me; now, say you do as well.”
James smiled at her mischievous expression and shook his head. “Elizabeth,” he said, with a chuckle, “you have been out in the sun too long, I fear; it has affected your mind. Surely you cannot believe that I am quite such a fool as to step between a man and his wife?” He looked at Will, who grinned, shrugged and rolled his eyes wryly. “You must settle this dispute without me, if you please.”
“Oh, unfair!” Elizabeth cried, tossing her head. “Is chivalry quite dead, then? A fine, courteous way to begin your visit, James. Refusing aid to a lady in distress is conduct most unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, you know. What would the Navy think?”
James winced a little at that, but rallied. “Ah, but the Navy is compounded entirely of men, my dear; many of whom have wives of their own to contend with – er – cherish.” Will burst out laughing. “And so,” James concluded, “would commend my good judgment and discretion.”
“I bow to superior numbers, Master Rudesby, but concede nothing,” Elizabeth chuckled. “You will not change my mind.”
They dismounted and the grooms took charge of the horses. Walking up to the house, Elizabeth saw that James was troubled, but he wouldn’t thank her for taking notice of what he clearly wanted to hide. Time enough, she thought.
Later, after dinner, as they strolled along the knoll in front of the house, watching the last of the light fade from the distant sea, Elizabeth said, “I should never tire, I think, of this view. So wide and so peaceful as it is.”
Will assented but James was silent.
“You do not find it beautiful, James?” she asked.
“Incomparably lovely, Elizabeth,” he replied, “but rather too much like a painting, don’t you think? More a memory of the Sea, than the Sea herself. From up here you miss the essentials: the sound of the waves and the wind, the smell of salt, and, most of all, the constant movement.” They walked on. “As if it were the world breathing beneath one,” he added softly, to himself.
looked curiously at him, but was silent. Shortly afterward, they parted for
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