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The Buccaneers ? 1
By Linda Chaikin
Moody PressCopyright © 1995 Linda Chaikin
All rights reserved.
PORT ROYAL, 1663
A ruby twilight thick with youthful promise bled into the paler sky above the miles of sugar cane stretching toward the lush Blue Mountain range of Jamaica. Emerald Harwick, sixteen, stood tensely in the narrow wagon road, staring ahead.
The tropical sun had saturated the brown earth of the Foxemoore sugar estate with the heat of the breathless day, and now the trade wind came as it did each evening, bringing sweet relief.
She heard the wind rushing through the stalks, saw their green leafy heads bend as though doing homage to the king of all the universe, and her eyes moistened as her heart joined the reverence, and she pleaded, "Please, Jesus, grant me the courage to face Mr. Pitt."
As she peered ahead, her young face was spirited and displayed a winning loveliness, yet its lines of tenderness and candor reflected a far deeper beauty than mere outward appearance. She lifted a hand to shade her eyes, listening above the sighing green waves for the dread sound of Mr. Pitt's horse trotting down the dirt road.
The tropical breeze was heady with the smell of the Caribbean and brushed her skin like cooling fingers. Today, however, she could find no pleasure in the familiar sights and smells surrounding her on this estate to which she'd been brought as a small child from the notorious pirate stronghold of Tortuga.
For Emerald, a storm was blowing across her soul, and its cruel blasts threatened to destroy those dearest to her.
Her thick dark tresses tossed in the gusts rippling against her, and she tied the faded calico ribbon on her hat beneath her chin to keep it from being carried away across the field. She turned from the road then and glanced toward an upper window in the tall, box-shaped wooden house where she lived with her fifteen-year-old half-French and half-African cousin, Minette.
Minette was staring through the window, her finely featured face—the color of amber honey—pressed against the pane. Her reflection faded into the evening shadows that fell ominously across the glass, obscuring her tearstained cheeks.
Then Emerald sped down the road to meet Foxemoore's vile overseer, Mr. Pitt. The evening shadows grew long and began to speckle the miles of acreage. She rushed on toward the cutoff at the end of the narrow road, which brought her to the main carriageway, lined with fringed palm trees.
The wind lifted the hem of her full black cotton skirt, which was looped upward over a blue petticoat, reaching to just above her bare ankles and black slippers. Her blouse was white, full-sleeved to the elbow, and she wore, according to fashion, a tight-laced black stomacher around her slim waist.
Catching her breath, she stepped out onto the carriageway and gazed up to the planter's Great House. It stood a quarter mile ahead with white walls and red tile roof, looking serenely down upon her with the superiority of aristocracy. As always, its magnificence awed her and shut her out.
Foxemoore belonged to the Harwicks and the Buckingtons, who had intermarried since before the days of Oliver Cromwell. During England's Civil War, the Harwicks fled to the West Indies, where they built a sugar estate. The titled Buckingtons followed the exiled King Charles into France and then returned with him to reclaim the Buckington earldom. The family lived now in London under the dominion of Earl Nigel Buckington, who was often called to dine with King Charles at Whitechapel.
Emerald, however, was considered the illegitimate offspring of a daughter of a French pirate on Tortuga and was rejected by both wings of the family.
The vermilion twilight lingered long across the sky as she stood to the side of the carriageway, waiting, her eyes riveted ahead. Not far away a crow cackled at her and then flew from a wooden post, becoming a dark illusive shadow that swept low over the cane field.
The crow seemed to mock her with its freedom to escape while she could not, and words from the Psalms winged their way across her heart: "How say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow."
Her eyes, the color of warm cinnamon, narrowed, and her clammy hands formed fists at the sides of her skirt. The sound of horse hooves!
Mr. Pitt emerged from the cane field astride his gray gelding and turned down the carriageway toward her. She saw the rust-colored dust rise beneath its hooves. She waited.
A minute later he rode up, reining in his horse a few feet ahead of her.
Emerald looked up at him, heart racing.
Pitt was a vicious man, and she loathed his cruelty toward the slaves, although she usually had no concern for her own safety. This indentured servant who served the Harwick family wouldn't dare accost her, not the daughter of Sir Karlton Harwick, even if she was rejected by the family and her father was in danger of losing his share in Foxemoore due to his mounting debts.
Mr. Pitt would fear to antagonize Sir Karlton. Her father, a big man, was known on the reckless streets of Port Royal to duel for the sake of honor, and he would call Mr. Pitt out by pistol or sword.
She trembled slightly though, trying to mask her apprehension, for her father was not presently in Port Royal. He had been at sea as a privateer for months now, and though she was expecting his return any day, those days came and went. And while his absence grew longer, her uncertainties mounted with the burdens and troubles that came hurling against her like a hurricane.
Mr. Pitt did not dismount but sat astride his Spanish leather saddle. His wide panama hat was soiled with dust and drawn low over a leathery brow that was dotted with sweat. His grizzled red hair hung limp to his wide shoulders, and his canvas shirt was torn, showing his huge muscled arms and bare chest.
The man's prominent pale eyes stared down at her without the deference he offered her spoiled young cousin Lavender Thaxton, who lived in the Great House. His wide mouth spread into a grin. He flicked his prized whip absently against a bronzed hand with squat fingers.
Emerald raised her chin, and her eyes refused to waver.
"Evenin', missy," came the syrupy voice.
She would not favor him as though she were on his level, for he was dangerous. Safety came in aloofness, as though she did not notice that he scanned her. She remained polite but distant.
"I received your message. Why did you ask to see me?" she asked with a dignity that surpassed her youth. She wanted to choke on the next words, dreading the answer. "Have you news about Ty?"
He leered. "Aye."
She noted the evil gleam that sprang like fire.
"I've found the runaway all right. Ain't an African who can flee me and my hounds. I brought him back in chains."
He must have seen her pale, for his lips turned and he appraised her again. "He needs a good lesson taught him, and I'm the man to do it. Aye, I aim to scourge the lad to an inch of his life, even if the half-breed is your cousin."
Mr. Pitt took delight in his whip, and Emerald loathed him for it.
She held her head high, refusing to acknowledge his intended slur. Both Ty and Minette had been born to her French uncle, a notorious pirate on Tortuga. The African slave who had been their mother was dead, but they had a grandfather on Foxemoore, the elderly cook—Jonah—from the boiling house.
Ty, who was nineteen, had made plans from childhood to run away and become a pirate, hoping his father's French relatives on Tortuga would take him in. And even though Emerald had warned him to wait until the day she could buy his freedom, his discontent had been too great. He took pride in his ancestry, and that was one of the reasons Mr. Pitt hated him. Pitt enjoyed making the slaves cringe and beg for his mercies, and Ty would not.
And now Ty had been caught.
Despite her inner struggle not to crumble before him, tears stung her eyes. "Touch Ty with your vicious whip, and you'll answer to my father when he returns," she whispered. "I promise you that!"
He didn't believe her, of course. His confidence remained. He slowly swung his hefty frame down from the saddle.
Emerald took a step backward in the dusty road. "And touch me, and my father will kill you."
He smirked, wiping his sweating brow on the back of his sleeve.
"Maybe your father's dead, drowned at sea. Maybe I have word he's been taken a slave by Spain. The Inquisitors will soon have him tied to a post and burned as a heretic."
No, she thought, trying to steady her nerves.
"He attacked a galleon like the pirate he is, though he denies it. And he lost to a Spanish don."
Her heart thundered in her ears. It wasn't true. Pitt was trying to frighten her, to make her cower before him. She would not beg of anyone except her heavenly Father.
"He's alive," she countered. "You'll see. And he'll soon be docking at Port Royal. And if you do anything foolish toward me or Ty, you'll live to regret it, Mr. Pitt."
"You can be glad it ain't your high and mighty ways that I'm wanting. No—" and his eyes narrowed "—I have me bigger plans, but I need you to aid me in getting them accomplished. And," he warned quietly, "aid me you will. If not, I'll see your cousin a quivering mass of bloody flesh under my whip."
Emerald wondered if the man were human. "Help you?" she breathed. "Never!"
"You're forgetting something, miss. It isn't your father who's managing Foxemoore anymore. It's me. And I have the run of the slaves. Lady Sophie trusts me—"
"And I mourn for my great-aunt's folly in ever trusting a beast like you!"
"Say what you will, it won't change things, and it won't stop my plans. Someday I aim to have land of my own. And I'll get the money and make myself a gallant gentleman. I may even have me a wife like your cousin Lavender."
"You dream. You're an indentured servant, and you always will be. And even if I could get you the treasure you lust for, I won't do it."
"No? You'll do it all right if you want to save your half-breed cousin from being flogged till his back is bloody. Think about it, Miss Emerald. You've seen such sights before. Remember how the sand flies come to cover the torn flesh in the blazing sun till the runaway slave is driven mad? You want that to happen to Ty?"
She winced and covered her ears. "You're worse than a beast—you're a fiend! If only I could convince the Harwicks of that."
"But you won't. You've no influence with your grandmother. And none with the others in the Great House. Oh, you might be called there to please the whims of your cousin Lavender, but has Lady Sophie received you as her niece?"
He read her expression. "Aye, nor will she. You're not deemed parlor fancy enough for 'em. If you're croaking-smart, girl, you'd cooperate with me. I'm the one who can spare Ty."
Unfortunately it was true, and she remained silent.
He smiled. "That's better, Miss Emerald. We can be friends. All I need is payment in them French and Spanish jewels that your wench mother left you before she died."
"I don't have them. They were stolen when I was a child. I've already told you that. You're mad, Mr. Pitt. Even if I did own them, do you think I'd turn them over to you to buy land with? I'd have paid my father's debts to the Harwicks long ago. My French cousin stole them from me before my father ever brought me to Foxemoore. If you want the jewels, then ask Captain Rafael Levasseur for them, if you dare! He has them!"
"Aye, I know as much. But he ain't likely to listen to me. And he's vicious with his rapier. He's as cold-blooded a pirate as any in Port Royal. No, you'll go to him, all right. You'll get them. I've heard from Jamie that Captain Levasseur asked your father if he could marry you."
At the mention of Jamie, she grew uneasy. James Bradford worked under Mr. Pitt as boss man in the sweltering boiling house that turned the cane into sugar. But Jamie's indentured service would end in months. He would be free, and they had made secret plans to marry and sail to the Massachusetts colony to establish a farm of their own.
"I won't go to Captain Levasseur!"
"You will if you want to save Ty. I've the authority to do with him as I fancy."
"The damnable result of slavery. It is a curse and a plague among men."
"The twitter of your preacher uncle. You want Ty in one piece? Then you'll get those jewels for me."
"Oh, don't you see? What you ask of me is impossible! I haven't seen Rafael Levasseur in a year, and I wish to keep it that way."
"I've news the buccaneers are arriving from the raid on Gran Granada. Old Captain Henry Morgan and Mansfield be leading his pirates into Port Royal in a few days. Your French cousin is with him, and he'll have booty enough and to spare. How you talk him into generosity is your problem, Miss Emerald. Just see you do. And don't be foolish enough to tell him about me, or why you want it. Remember, I'll have Ty—and Jamie Bradford—at my mercy."
Her heart lurched. "What does Jamie have to do with this?"
Mr. Pitt stood looking at her with a satisfied smile, like a fox who has trapped the hens.
"Jamie was fool enough to try to help Ty run away. For that, Miss Emerald, I can hang him if it pleases me. It's the law. You want your Jamie to hang in the public square?"
Devastation swept through her. Hopelessly she let out a cry, lunging at him, beating her small fists against his chest.
He laughed and seized her wrists. "A little minx, eh? Runs in that blood of yours from Tortuga, maybe? Well, you just go to your cousin Levasseur for the jewels. Jamie and Ty are both being held in Bridewell Jail."
He released her, and she stepped back, eyes stinging with tears.
"Pull yourself together, Miss Emerald. It ain't the end, if you do as I say." He tipped his floppy hat with its turkey feather and mounted his horse to ride back to his bungalow near the slave huts.
He looked down at her, his brown face unsmiling now. "You got two days."
"Two days isn't enough time!"
"It's time enough. I hear the buccaneers are bringing their ships into Port Royal now. You best go there, Miss Emerald. In two days I'll have the magistrate put Ty and Jamie in the town pillory to be flogged. Then I'll have 'em branded on the forehead—Jamie as a political enemy of His Majesty and Ty as a runaway."
"Oh, no, Mr. Pitt. Don't, please!"
"Then you get the jewels. After their branding—if you don't come up with them—I'll go so far as to see em' hanged."
Speechless and shaken, she watched until he had ridden down the carriageway and taken the cutoff into the fields.
Two days.CHAPTER 2
ON THE SPANISH MAIN
The deck of the Santiago smoldered. Spanish soldiers lay dying among the smashed bulkheads and broken mizzenmast. Sagging sail burst into flame. A ten pounder crashed through the overhead rigging, and the Spanish flag toppled to the deck below. Another projectile ripped the blue waters of the Caribbean and brought it splashing over the stern. The proud galleon from Madrid creaked and listed heavily.
From the quarterdeck, Captain Valdez shouted orders to his lieutenant, who raced down the companion steps into the waist.
Soldiers waited there in steel breastplates, gripping their fine Toledo blades. Their black eyes looked gravely toward the sea where their nemesis, the twenty-gun pirate ship under the command of the ruthless English Captain Foxworth, came steadily on, her Union Jack billowing arrogantly at her mainmast head.
The soldiers knew the battle would end in hand-to-hand fighting, for few of the pirates from Port Royal and Tortuga were known to give quarter to their enemy. The Spaniards told themselves they were not afraid. The priest was walking up and down with the crucifix and rosary, blessing each brave soldier who fought to destroy the heretics. What chance could these English buccaneers have against them, brave and bull-headed though they be? And who could undo a Spanish swordsman trained in Madrid?
The English captain had kept beyond the range of the Santiago's cannons, while bombarding them with longer guns. But now the Regale drew closer. The soldiers could see her billowing white sails through the gun ports below deck where they waited. They would defeat the boucaniers.
Excerpted from Port Royal by Linda Chaikin. Copyright © 1995 Linda Chaikin. Excerpted by permission of Moody Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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