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April 1807 Boston, Massachusetts USA
" Must you have your grubby hands on her chest, Davy? Must you? I swear you are just the dirtiest little monkey!" Davy Jones is leaning over the bow and has a grimy paw on each of the girl’s breasts.
The rogue grins hugely, but does not change his grip. "Gotta hold on to somethin’, Jacky. We wouldn’t want to drop her in the drink now, would we?"
"You drop her in, Mate, and you’re goin’ in after her. Tink, take a strain. John Thomas, swing her in and hold her. There. Good."
"She’s in place, Skipper."
"All right, pound ’er in."
Jim Tanner swings the heavy mallet and drives in the thick pegs that will hold the girl in place on the bow, under the bowsprit. Then we all step back to admire the figurehead.
My, my . . . Look at that, now . . . She is absolutely beautiful.
I had hired a master woodcarver to carve her because my ship lacked such a figurehead, and I felt we needed one to guide us on our watery way; and a real master he turned out to be. She is carved of good solid oak and positively glows in her new paint—luminous pink skin with long amber tresses that wrap around her slim body. Her back is arched to match the curve of the ship’s stem; her breasts thrust proudly forward, peeking out through the thick strands of her hair. She smiles—her red lips slightly parted, as if her voice were lifted in song—and her hands hold a small golden harp, a lyre, actually, which conveniently, and modestly, covers her lower female part. When we’d discussed the sculpture, the carver, Mr. Simms, thought it would be just the thing if the piece looked like me, and I agreed. The Lorelei Lee is my ship, after all, and so I posed for him—in my natural state, as it were. All who know me know that I am not exactly shy in that regard. Plus Master Carver Simms is an old man, so what’s the harm? I must say Mr. Simms succeeded most admirably in capturing my particular features, and I am most pleased with the result.
And, oh, I am so very pleased with all the other parts of my beautiful ship, as well.
She is called a brigantine, having two sturdy masts, square-rigged on the foremast, with three fore-and-aft sails off the front and the mainmast rigged with a fore-and-aft spanker as mainsail. She is, in dimensions and sail rig, much like my first real command, HMS Wolverine, which was a brig; but in elegance and spirit, she is much more like my beautiful Emerald, who now sleeps beneath the sea. I like saying brigantine better than brig, as it sounds more elegant. And, oh, she is elegant. I fell in love with her at first sight, lying all sleek next to Ruffles Wharf, looking as if she wanted to shake off the lines that bound her to the land and go tearing off to sea. It was from there that we did take her directly for her sea trials, and she performed most admirably, running before the wind like a greyhound, dancing over the waves and pointing up into the weather like she wanted to charge directly into the teeth of the gale itself. Glory!
I had purchased the Lorelei Lee from a Captain Ichabod Lee, who had named her after his daughter. I decided to keep the name, the mythic Lorelei being something like a mermaid who sat on a rock on the Rhine River in Germany and lured poor sailors to their doom with her singing. So it seems appropriate, somehow, my having been something of a mermaid myself in the near past, as well as my being a singer of songs, though I wish no doom on any poor sailor.
How could I afford such a splendid craft, you ask? Hmmm? Well, that’s where the mermaid bit comes in. Earlier this year I had been sent by British Naval Intelligence on a treasure hunting expedition, diving on a Spanish wreck off Key West in Florida. It was entirely against my will, but my will or wishes don’t seem to matter much in this world. The wreck was the Santa Magdalena, and she had yielded up much, much gold and silver, so much so that it didn’t seem quite fair that King Georgie should get all that loot and that I should get none. No, it did not. I, who was the one who risked life and limb and peace of mind by diving down into those horrid depths to bring up all that gold from the Santa Magdalena. No, I did not find it fair at all, not by half, so I squirreled away a few of the gold ingots—well . . . actually about fifty of them—in the hold of my bonny little schooner, replacing part of her ballast, and after the diving was done, hauled it all up to Boston.
And speaking of ballast, I have in my hold right now the selfsame diving bell we had used to get me down two hundred and fifty feet into the Caribbean Sea. I had the thing on my little schooner the Nancy B. Alsop when we were detached to return to Boston, and since no one was here to claim it, I stashed it, under cover of night, of course, deep in the hold of the Lorelei Lee. It’s as good a ballast as any dumb lead bars, and who knows, it might prove useful someday.
So anyway, we got back to Boston, revealed the golden stash to the astounded Mr. Ezra Pickering, my very good friend and lawyer, and he set about converting the gold into cash, lines of credit, and whatnot, hiding it all very cunningly in various dummy corporations and holding companies, so that King Georgie wouldn’t find out and perhaps be a bit miffed. Clever man, that Ezra.
Hammers have been pounding since the day of the Lorelei ’s purchase. We have constructed four relatively spacious cabins, two on either side, aft, on the mess deck, just under my cabin. Forward of them we have twelve regular-sized cabins (big enough for a bed, dresser, and dry sink), again on each side, making a total of twenty-four. Then we have three levels of open hammock spaces, two hundred hooks in each. The upper level, being a bit airier than the lower, will be more expensive, of course. It’s all in what one can afford. Hey, I have swung my hammock in many a dank hold, and what was good enough for me will be good enough for them. I intend to give everyone, regardless of berth, plenty of fresh air and as good food as I can manage. We can carry three hundred passengers, as well as thirty crew.
And, yes, of course, the fitting out of my beautiful cabin continues, the design of which is being directed by my very good John Higgins, second in command of Faber Shipping Worldwide. Never let it be said that Jacky Faber goes any way but first class when she can afford it, and Higgins does not spare the expense.
There will be separate facilities for families with young children and a separate dormitory for young females traveling alone. After they are established in the New World, men will be sending back for their wives and sweethearts, you may be certain of that.
"One thing is for sure, Sister," I had said to my friend Amy Trevelyne when she had come onboard several days ago to view our progress in outfitting the Lorelei. "My ship shall never become a floating brothel."
"Are you not the one, dear Sister, who once admonished me to never say never, as it has a way of coming back on you?"
"Well, it won’t happen this time, Amy," I’d answered with the sure and smug certainty of the truly stupid. "And furthermore—Hello, what’s this?" A cheer had gone up from the dock.
We looked over the rail and found that the new figurehead of the Lorelei Lee had chosen just that moment to be delivered.
"Isn’t she fine?" I exulted, drawing in a deep, satisfied breath and regarding the richly painted figure glowing in the sun and smiling up at us with what, to Amy, would be a very familiar wolfish grin.
Amy’s mouth fell open upon seeing the sculpture, unable to speak. I gave out an evil chuckle and put the backs of my fingers under her fallen chin and gently lifted it back to its proper place.
She regained the power of speech and cried despairingly,
"Oh, Jacky, no!" as she had said so many times before.
So anyway, here I am with this fine ship all outfitted and ready to go, awaiting word from my darling Jaimy, back in London, that my name has been cleared of all charges against it and that I am back in the good graces of the King, upon which word I shall immediately set sail for Merrie Olde England and— finally! —marriage to Lieutenant James Emerson Fletcher. Hooray!