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RosewoodThe Early Years
By William Garrett Rochelle Fischer
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 William Garrett and Rochelle Fischer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe year was 1814 and the war had been going on for two years. James Darcy reasoned it was mostly a war between America and Britain. A blockade of the American coast had virtually stopped all trade between the two countries but a few daring privateers managed to earn a good living by providing transportation to whoever wanted to go to America at a steep price of course. Captain Thomas Boyle's ship, the Chasseur was new and she was very fast.
Captain Boyle had declared the Atlantic his own personal domain and sent word to the British Admiralty a blockade was in effect for all shipping. This of course did not set well with Lloyds Of London. James and Marianne had recently married and they loved each other very much. Both of them were eager to move to America and get away from the smells and hardships associated with war and they also wanted their children to be born on American soil. John had acquired passage for the two of them aboard the Chasseur and was scheduled for departure in two weeks.
Marianne was all excited as she directed the servants as they packed their steamer trunks and bags. Naturally she wanted to take everything including a very heavy cedar chest that had been handed down by her mother but the sheer size of the thing prohibited it.
"James, I think it is simply outrageous we are not allowed to take the cedar chest with us," said Marianne, as she looked up from a piece of fine, white, silk lace she had been folding into a small leather bag.
"Yes, my dear I totally agree but the ship's Captain said personal storage space aboard the ship was limited because of the nature of the ship's cargo which the Captain was not at liberty to divulge."
"But most of everything that was given to us by mother and father will not be allowed to go," argued Marianne.
"I will speak to the Captain," said James as he leaned over and gently kissed his wife of three months on her cheek. Then on a sudden impulse he took her in his arms and gently held her. She knew he was not a violent man but beneath his calm demeanor laid the heart of a lion. Their courtship had lasted two years and of course her parents were dutifully shocked when she announced their engagement. Her father was very traditional in his beliefs.
"What do you know of the man?" asked her father sternly. "Is he a businessman?"
"Father, really. You introduced us. Remember at the dance social that was held to commemorate the merger between your bank and Sir Smyth's?"
A look of puzzlement crossed her father's face as he thought about what his daughter had told him. "The young gentleman that was standing behind Sir Smyth was his son?" "Yes, father, remember?"
"But that wasn't an introduction. I merely acknowledged his presence and asked if he was enjoying the dance."
"Yes father but this is a new century. Times are changing every day, every hour it seems. Exciting things! Customs that you and mother experienced will soon be old fashioned."
"Yes, well, perhaps you're right but I will never agree with it. We have to have standards."
"Father, it will be all right. You have taught me well," said Marianne as she reassuringly patted him on the arm. Marianne smiled as she recalled the earlier conversation and continued to busy herself with directing the servants in the packing of their belongings.
The two weeks passed quickly and she could hardly believe she was actually standing on the dock and looking up at the tall twin masts of the clipper ship, Chasseur. Even though the ship's white canvas sails were tied securely to the yardarms high overhead Marianne could feel a sense of speed as she looked at the sleek smooth sides of the wooden ship. She had asked several of her friends about crossing the Atlantic and they had told her a normal voyage took six weeks but as she gazed at the Chasseur she knew it wouldn't take nearly that long for them to make the voyage. She was a little nervous that morning but it wasn't because of the upcoming voyage. For two mornings in a row Marianne had been sick and she knew she was with child.
Her friends had also told her about life aboard a ship at sea and Marianne hoped she could manage. Telling James about him being a father wasn't a major concern as they both wanted children so she decided to wait until the proper time. Perhaps, in a private moment she could tell her husband about the blessed event, after they had left port and settled in their quarters aboard ship?
Aboard the Chasseur a young man who did not look more than ten or twelve escorted James and Marianne to their cabin below deck. Inside the cabin the two stood facing each other and then James took Marianne in his arms and held her for a moment.
"We will soon be on our way to a new start in America," he said then he felt a slight tremble go through her body. "Are you frightened at the thought of leaving your parents? It will be quite a challenge you know. Different people and customs from what we have been familiar with."
"No, it isn't the thought of leaving everything behind," she assured him," It's just the closeness of the cabin and it smells terribly. It badly needs to be aired out but there is no window or porthole I believe they are called."
James chuckled at her observation. "You are quite right my dear. It does smell of dust and stale sweat. Perhaps it was occasionally used by a crew member or a passenger who did not bathe regularly?"
In her husband's strong arms Marianne felt reassured by the explanation. "James have you spoken to the Captain about our baggage and the cedar chest?"
"Not yet dear. I will attend to it now."
James left the cabin and went topside to find the Captain. He wasn't hard to spot standing at the rail by the gangway giving orders to the line of men coming aboard carrying heavy looking wooden crates and boxes on their shoulders. James watched as the Captain directed the men and he had to admit he liked the cut of the man. He didn't wear anything that signified his rank as most English Captains had a fondness of doing. He wore a simple black jacket of broadcloth to the waist over a thick sweater of knitted material, probably twill or cotton and dark pants that came down almost to the wooden deck. His shoes were also simple black leather with a large brass buckle. Even with his simple clothing he was a commanding figure.
"Captain Boyle my wife Marianne would like to have a large cedar chest brought aboard along with our goods on the trip to America. She was informed this is not possible. Is that correct, Sir" asked James as he stood with his hands folded behind his back and his legs slightly bent as he adjusted to the slight roll of the ship's deck?
"That is correct Mr. Darcy. For reasons I am not at liberty to disclose at this time space aboard the Chasseur is very limited. Even my personal cabin is almost filled with cargo. I am a businessman, cargo and passengers are my business."
"Yes, I understand completely Captain. Then as a businessman I ask if it would be possible to buy some additional space to accommodate my wife's cedar chest and perhaps a few other smaller items for the passage to America?"
"Of course Mr. Darcy. The nature of the Chasseur's cargo is of a sensitive nature, government regulations you understand, but I am sure we can come to an agreement."
"Thank you Captain Boyle. Marianne will be most pleased," said James as he turned and started to go down the gangway to leave the ship.
"Mr. Darcy, I could not help but notice as you were standing on the deck. Were you perhaps a seaman aboard ship?"
"I was. Why do you ask, Sir"
"My apologies for my brunt nature earlier. As I explained, I am a businessman, a privateer if you please but gentlemen of the sea share a love that goes beyond avarice so because of our shared interest you may bring all of your goods with you. Government regulations be damned."
James sensing a confidential nature in the Captain's voice stepped closer and asked, "I have heard rumors of a blockade for ships going to America. Will this be a problem?"
"You are well informed, Sir, and you are correct the blockade is mostly for ships going to America. However, the route for this crossing will be a southern route for the port at New Orleans."
"And pirates, Captain?"
"Oh, I forgot to mention about a personal friend of mine, Jean Lafitte the privateer. We also share a common interest," said Captain Boyle as he smiled broadly.
Once at sea Marianne quickly adjusted to a life at sea. Even the continuous slow roll of the ship as it navigated through the sea did not affect her that much. She did prefer to spend a considerable amount of time topside on deck in the fresh air and even the smirks and whispered remarks of the seasoned sailors as they watched her leaning over the rail because of her condition did not bother her. She reasoned they thought she was seasick instead of being with-child.
On several occasions as she walked around the ship's deck Marianne watched as the sailors went about their daily tasks of repairing the many hemp lines, rigging and working with needle and palm sewing canvas. Several of the sailors were naked to the waist and as they worked their muscles flexed and she blushed as she remembered the many times she had felt her husband's muscles as they lay together at night. She was thankful the sailors chose to pretty much ignore her as she walked on the deck. The exercise was good for her and after a few minutes she returned to the stuffiness of the cabin.
The Captain had been most gracious in allowing them the extra storage space for their belongings. It would be difficult enough with moving to a new country and starting a new life but with the few things they had brought with them now stored below in the cargo space it wouldn't be so dreadful. James was in his element and spent most of his time topside talking with Captain Boyle.
"Captain Boyle I noticed you are carrying eight twenty-four pound cannons but I am not fully familiar with their design."
"You have a keen eye, Mr. Darcy. You are familiar with cannons? Have you seen action aboard ship, perhaps as a Captain or seaman?"
"Yes, but limited. I served aboard several ships as a young man and advanced myself to leader of a gun crew but they were twelve pounder's."
"What was your best time for getting out a round, Sir?
"We could consistently get a round out in a little less than three minutes but that was for a twelve pound solid shot."
"Very impressive, Sir. The best time for my crew in getting a round out with the twenty-four pounder's is four minutes. If you wish I could put you in charge of the topside cannons. We have a few weeks before port call to get them in shape."
"Six weeks for the crossing and allowing one week for bad weather ..."
"The Chasseur can make the crossing in five weeks," interjected Captain Boyle.
"Five weeks to train, four with bad weather, yes, Captain Boyle I will take the job but understand it is only for the one crossing and not a permanent arrangement. In addition I will need only one fired round to get a feel of the cannons range."
"Acceptable and quite right, Mr. Darcy. The cannons were specially modified for me by Colonel Sam Hughes of the Cecil Iron Works and he assures me they will get an additional two hundred yards than the standard of twelve hundred."
For the next few weeks there was a high level of activity aboard the Chasseur as James directed the topside gun crews in loading and mock firing the cannons. Powder and shot were expensive and even a single cannon ball could mean the difference between surviving and death should they encounter a pirate ship. As a final task, he told the gun crews to replace and shorten the thick hemp ropes used to keep the cannons from sliding backwards across the deck when they were fired. Every second was important and even Captain Boyle, a hardened seaman, was impressed with their time of consistently simulating getting a round out in slightly less than three minutes.
From his observation post aft at the helm, Captain Boyle watched as Mr. Darcy directed and drilled the gun crews. Each crew and man moved as a single unit until their actions were smooth and no mistakes were made even using the larger cannon ball of twenty-four pounds instead of twelve. Captain Boyle was satisfied.
"Mr. Darcy, my congratulations, Sir. You do indeed know about cannons," said the Captain as he pulled him aside and the two of them stood alongside the Chasseur's railing. "If agreeable you and your crews have well earned a day of rest."
"Thank you Captain. You have some excellent seaman and they learn quickly. I must say the young African on gun number two seems to be extraordinarily intelligent. Perhaps he could be given advancement to leader of that gun after we are in port?"
"I will take it into advisement, Mr. Darcy."
The gun crews were a little surprised when James informed them they had earned a day of rest even though it was Tuesday instead of Sunday. Marianne was also glad when her husband came below to be with her. She had missed him and was even a little lonely because he had spent so much time away from her while training the men.
"Hello my husband," she said mischievously as she kissed him on the cheek when he opened the cabin door and came inside.
"Thank you, love of my life. I am well pleased with the men and their training. Hopefully it won't be needed and we will have a safe and uneventful crossing."
"I am sure they will do well. They had a wonderful teacher," said Marianne as she looked into her husband's eyes. There seemed to be tiredness in his body about the way his shoulders slumped slightly as he sat down onto a chair next to the only table in the cabin. The day of rest was not to be, however. Topside in the crow's nest the lookout yelled, " Sail on the horizon!"
"Where away?" asked the Captain.
"Port side bow, five degrees," answered the lookout as he looked through his long glass.
"Does she fly a flag?"
"No flag Captain."
Very well. Clear the decks! Stand by for action!" commanded the Captain.
"Well, so much for the day of rest," said James as he gave his new wife a big embrace on his way out the cabin door to go topside.
"I love you," said Marianne as she returned his embrace. "Please be careful. I wouldn't want our son to grow up without a father to guide him."
A look of astonishment crossed his face as he stood there with his wife in his arms. "A son? Are you sure?" he asked as he looked down and very gently put his hand on her abdomen.
"Yes, quite sure," she answered as she placed one of her hands over his. " I wanted to wait until the right moment when we were alone and had a moment of privacy." Marianne's eyes filled with tears as she asked, " I guess this is the right moment. Can we name him William after your Grandfather?"
"That would be wonderful, he would be honored."
"You had better hurry. You don't want to be late, even if it is to war."
After her husband left their cabin she could hear the scurry of feet above deck as the sailors prepared to meet the pirates in the other ship. Topside Captain Boyle commanded the men as they manned the guns and prepared to meet the other ship, friendly or not they should have been flying some flag of recognition.
"Mr. Darcy, you have permission to fire as soon as your guns come to bear." James knew it would be necessary to turn the ship to allow the guns to fire a broadside. It took only a few seconds to add the powder and solid shot in preparation for the heavy cannons to fire. "Fire!" he yelled and four cannons went off at once. The ship's decks quickly flooded with smoke from the gunpowder but just as quickly cleared away because of the strong wind that morning.
With smooth precision the gun crews ran a brush down the cannon to clean it out and then put fresher powder and a solid shot down the cannon barrel. Then a ramrod was used to push the cannon ball and powder further into the barrel until they were seated firmly. A corded fuse was stuck in the small hole at one end of the barrel and the cannon was ready to fire again. Then the cannon was rolled back into firing position with its barrel sticking through the portal in the wooden bulwark of the ship. "Fire!" commanded James. The time from the firing of the first shot until the firing of the second shot was an unbelievable two and a half minutes. The entire battle only lasted twenty minutes.
Excerpted from Rosewood by William Garrett Rochelle Fischer Copyright © 2011 by William Garrett and Rochelle Fischer. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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