Posted on 2013-10-31
"Eli- Miss Dashwood," Edward Ferrars said a little helplessly and not a little bewildered how he had ended up on a pirate ship. "I was only joking."
He watched with some trepidation as Miss Dashwood exuberantly swung along in the rigging.
"Yo ho ho and a boddle of rum," she cried and swished her cutlass threateningly through the air. "This was the best idea Margaret ever had."
"Please, Miss Dashwood, be sensible," Edward said. "Let us go home."
"Never," Miss Dashwood cried still high on freedom and rum. "I will never go back. And neither shall you, Mr Ferrars, for you are my prisoner."
"Oh?" Edward said and thought about that. "Oh."
"Indeed," said Miss Dashwood. "The ship will call at Port Elisabeth next." She threw him a fierce look. "Where we will get married come Steele or high water."
Edward thought a bit more about that. "I can live with that," he decided and was rewarded with a smile like the sunrise on his Elinor's face. "We're getting married. Come what may."
"And we'll be the scourge of the high seas," his love reminded him.
He conceded, "That, too."
(Actually, Elinor's face resembled a sunrise pretty much all the time now. Her skin hadn't taken kindly to the outdoors and the sunburn had given her face a rosy-orange tinge. The ship's cook and part-time healer had slapped some concoction on it and told her that her skin would get used to it.)
The rehearsal for A Pirates' Vows was well underway. Everyone was much pleased with the stage ship that Yates and Tom had mocked up. The minor squabbles over who played which role had been resolved to everyone's satisfaction. (Maria and Julia were exceedingly happy to flounce around in their wenches dresses and Henry Crawford was enjoying the view,)
There was one impediment to the unalloyed joy everyone derived from the production. Rushworth didn't really have the mind for learning speeches by heart and rehearsals inevitably ground to a halt when it was his turn to say his line. It usually went like this:
Rushworth would enter from left stage in a long overcoat, heavy boots and tricorne, indeed, as he had been repeatedly assured, the very picture of a pirate captain. He'd stomp to the middle of the stage, stop, stare into the distance with a frown of concentration on his face and then say, "Hang on. Dash it all. I forgot my sabre."
He'd hurry off the stage, grab his sabre and hurry back. There he'd stand again, halfheartedly waving his sabre around while desperately trying to remember his line.
"Uhm ... er ... Well, dash it all. I plain forgot," he'd say with an apologising smile, hurry off the stage, have a look at the script and hurry back on.
"The text is a little difficult to remember," he'd mumble and finally give it his best try, "Orrrrrrrrrrrrrrr?"
And they'd have to do the part all over again.
Even patient Edmund lost his calm. "ARRRRRRRRRRRRRR! That's all you have to say, Rushworth. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. It's not that difficult."
No matter what, Rushworth would inevitably fail. In the end, the group decided that 'Orrrr' really was close enough to 'Arrrr' and left it at that. Henceforth, Rushworth's pirate captain had a speech impediment (Mary Crawford's theory) or maybe a really foreign accent (Fanny Price's theory).
"I mean, there I was happily pirating on the seven seas, leading a quiet life of pillaging and plundering and before I know it, I'm walled up and dying in some cellar," the ghost of Blackbeard 'The Dagger' McCutlass said. "Not even an interesting cellar. I wouldn't have minded if those two-faced ruffians that were my crew had buried me in some tavern in a nice, lively port town. Oh no, their treachery knew no bounds. Instead I find myself on dry land far from my beloved sea in an Abbey. An Abbey! Me! That is torture. Plain and simple. Eternal torture."
When Catherine Morland had come to visit Northanger Abbey she had been hoping, nay expecting to find at least one ghost in residence. After all, it was an Abbey. A resident ghost would be just fitting and so very romantic, she had thought.
Obviously, she hadn't expected said ghost to be a chatty pirate who would keep her up all night lamenting his poor lot in after-life.
"I'm sorry to hear that, Mr McCutlass," she said timidly from under her bedcover.
The ghost waved his hand magnanimously. "Call me Dagger."
"Dagger," she correcter herself. "But I don't see what's so bad about an Abbey."
"The nuns, my dear, the nuns!" He exclaimed. "Dreadfully boring they were and the current family is not much better. So dull! If I weren't already dead, I'd die from the boredom."
"Do you have to stay here then?" she asked. "Why don't you leave the Abbey then and ... I don't know ... go and haunt some seaside town?"
Dagger looked like he was pouting. "Wish I could," he said. "I have to stay with my bones unfortunately."
"Oh but I'm sure we can work around that," Catherine said. "We could unearth your bones and send them with you."
The ghost looked touched by her offer. "You would do that? For me?"
"I will speak with Mr Tilney in the morning and I'm sure we can come up with something. He's incredibly clever," she said.
Not two days later, the bones of the late and unlamented Blackbeard 'The Dagger' McCutlass were unearthed from the Abbey's cellar where they had lain for nigh on 300 years, packed in a wooden strongbox and send with the next best ship around the world.
General Tilney was so thankful that Catherine had found a way to rid him of the tiresome, whiny ghost that he didn't bat an eye when his son informed him of his intention to marry her and allowed the union even when he found out that the girl wasn't a rich heiress.
"Do you think she'll find a way to get rid of that wailing abbess, too?" He merely inquired of his son.
"Miss Woodhouse! Miss Woodhouse! Oh, I'm so excited! I can hardly speak. You won't believe it, dear Miss Woodhouse!"
"Calm yourself, Harriet," Emma said concerned. "Whatever is the matter?"
It took a little longer and a few more cries of 'Miss Woodhouse!' before Harriet was calm enough to sit herself and tell her friend what had her all a-flutter. "I have found my father."
Emma clasped her hands in front of her chest. "Oh, Harriet! That is splendid news. Who is he? Tell me!"
"His name is Peg-Leg Johnny," Harriet said with all the relish and pride a previously orphaned girl would have upon finding family.
Emma's hands sank into her lap. "Peg-Leg? Johnny? That is ... well, forgive me, Harriet, but that is an unusual name, don't you agree?"
"Not for a pirate," stout Harriet said.
Emma's hands fluttered back up to her a chest. "A pirate!"
"Yes, isn't it marvelous? He wrote me a letter. He'll be in England soon and wants to meet me. He wrote he'll teach me all that he knows and that in no time at all I'll be a proper wench. I wish we could talk about it longer but I promised Mrs Goddard I would come back straight away. I just wanted to tell you my good news and I simply couldn't wait. But I must hurry now."
With a hasty hug, some more cries of 'Oh, Miss Woodhouse!' and a cheery 'Arrrr!' thrown in for good measure, Harriet took her leave and left a stunned Emma in her wake.
"Ship starboard ahead," came the cry from the crows nest of the Laconia. "She's flying our colours."
Captain Wentworth raised his spy-glass and focused on the ship. The ship seemed to be English but one could never be too careful. These waters were infested with pirates. In fact, in the last port, he'd been told of a pirate wench by the name of Bloody Anne hunting in these territories. He'd just glumly gulped his beer and mumbled, "Yeah, Annes. They are all bloody."
"Stations everyone," he barked to his crew.
Captain Wentworth proved in the right to be distrustful. The other ship had hardly drawn up to them when she took down her flag and instead of the English colour the Jolly Roger was suddenly fluttering in the wind.
The battle was short but fierce. In the end, the Laconia won due to a lucky shot from the second starboard canon that took out a rather large piece of the pirate ship's hull. She may have won but she had taken a heavy beating. The Laconia limped into the next port for direly needed repairs and her captain as well as her crew found themselves laid ashore.
Sailors being sailors, they soon found themselves in taverns enjoying the drinks and wenches of the port.
Given that Frederick, too, had succumbed to the siren call of alcohol, he may be excused to have thought he was fantasizing when Anne Elliot came to sit at his table. He squinted at his tankard. "Never had a mirage from the past. Must be potent stuff in their ale."
"Don't be ridiculous, Captain," the mirage said in a no-nonsense tone of voice. "I'm quite real."
"Sorry, but I think that can't be. My Anne is in England probably getting married to someone with pedigree. We're in the Carribean. There's miles and miles and miles in between those places."
"And yet I am here," Anne said. "In fact, I've been here for a while now."
"Have you? Why?" he asked.
She smiled thinly. "Piracy."
"Piracy? You? Now I know you're not real," he said. "My Anne doesn't do things like that."
Her smile grew broader. "And yet, I do. It was the only option. My father had ruined us by investing unwisely. In Gowland's in fact. To be quite truthful, in pirated shipments of Gowland's. It didn't quite work out the way he intended. It opened my eyes to a new kind of carriere though."
She looked at him thoughtfully. "But I have grown weary of pirating. It's lost quite its appeal. I have been thinking about marriage. And the way you have laid claim to me with all your 'my Anne' this and 'my Anne' that, makes me believe you might not be entirely averse either."
"Will you change your mind again?"
"Can I sober up before we get married?"
"I'd welcome that."
"Then I'm all for it."
"Did you know that there's a printing press in the hayloft," said Lydia Bennet to her sisters one day.
Her sisters replied that they had not.
"But there is," she insisted. "I've seen it myself."
"Shouldn't there be hay in the hayloft? What's a printing press doing there?" asked Kitty.
Elizabeth frowned. "What were you doing up in the hayloft anyway? What kind of press?"
"One has the best view of the lower fields from the window up there. I was painting a landscape," said Lydia loftily. "But never mind that now. The press is all shoved into the back corner and it looks like nobody has touched it in ages. No, Lizzy, I have no idea what kind it is. I've not looked at it closely. It's dusty. There's also a box with books but they're all in a foreign language and books are not my forte anyway."
She dropped an old battered volume into Mary's lap. "Here. I brought one. What's it about?"
Mary obligingly opened the book and read a few pages. "It's a romance novel, I'd say. Not very well written either," she said.
"Brilliant," exclaimed Lydia. "Will you translate it for me?"
"It could be a good exercise for me," said Mary primly. "I've been neglecting my French studies lately."
"While Mary's translating the book for you," said Lizzy, "you can show me the press. Maybe I can get it working again."
"You and your machines," sighed Jane but smiled fondly as Lizzy tugged her youngest sister out of the room.
"I still want to know why there's a press in the hayloft." Kitty thought a bit and then shrugged. "I'll ask Papa. He may know."
Kitty was very good at wheedling information out of anybody and thus the sisters learned that their grandfather had intended to save as many French manuscripts during la révolution as possible. He'd intended to have them translated and distributed to a wider English readership. Unfortunately, he had died before managing to implement the final steps of his plan.
"Well, it's our heritage," said Lydia. "We can't ignore the dreams of our forefathers. We have to finish grandfather's work."
"The story is a little risky in places," said Mary.
"Oh pish-posh," exclaimed Lydia. "They're old manuscripts. There's nothing risky about classical literature. Lizzy even got the press working again and she so wants to try printing something. Are you going to deny her that?"
"That is emotional blackmail, Lydia Bennet!" protested Mary but returned rather quickly to the translation of the French volume. After all, she hadn't yet found out if Colonel Stifflance would ever find his way out of the Sultan's harem.
Thus it came to be that the Bennet sisters built Five Junos Press whose publications would take England by storm upon their grandfather's long dead dream.The End