Twins

Chapter 9

TWINS

CHAPTER 9

 

Peggy awoke shortly before seven and dressed again in Tommy's pants and Jack's shirt. The sky was clear, although the waves were still fairly large. She had just finished putting the cabin in order when a knock came on the door. "Come in."

 

Tommy came in, carrying a large tray loaded with food. "Good morning, Ma'am. I hope you could rest last night. That was a pretty good storm. Shadow did a great job, after the Captain got knocked out."

 

"Is the Captain joining me for breakfast?"

 

"No, Ma'am. He is pretty busy right now. Shadow said he would be here soon," Tommy explained as he set the table. "Is there anything I could get you, Ma'am?"

 

"A bath would be wonderful, or at least enough water to wash myself and my dress."

 

"That should be easy enough to do. I'll see what I can find to use as a tub." Tommy left, as Shadow came into the cabin.

 

"Well, you are looking good this morning. I must say, you did better in the storm than some seasoned sailors. You are a remarkable woman." Shadow bowed to her, then sat at the table.

 

Peggy took the other chair and joined him. "It was a most interesting night. As a matter of fact, I really didn't notice the storm much after you left." She began eating.

 

"Jack tells me he made a total ass of himself." Shadow didn't even try to hide his grin.

 

Peggy gave a little giggle, then said, "He is much too easy on himself. Of course, I didn't shine, either. I'm afraid he may never speak to me again."

 

"Well, I wouldn't worry about that. You have made quite an impression on him. Now, what are your plans, today?" Shadow asked, as he finished his breakfast.

 

"Well, I think I'll have early tea with Miss Matilda Jones, and then, of course, shopping for a gown for tomorrow's ball. This afternoon, I shall go riding in the park. I mustn't forget that the mayor and his ugly wife are going to join us for dinner, and then a play." Peggy kept a straight face and all the mannerisms of the southern belle.

 

Shadow grinned; he was impressed that she had a sense of humor after the night Jack described. "That's what I like about life on a ship. All the comforts of home. However, on a serious note, only Jack, Tommy and I know you are on this ship. The crew has funny ideas about women on ships. Also, technically, we are still a U. S. Navy Coast Patrol Vessel. So until we reach Baltimore, I'm afraid this is your world. I wish I could offer you more hospitality, but circumstances make it impossible."

 

"I see. Well, with my extensive wardrobe, it may be best. So, how is our Captain this morning? He left here rather early." Peggy sat back in her chair, trying to figure how to maneuver around Jack from inside this cabin.

 

"Well, at the moment, he is sleeping like a baby, next door. Of course, a half bottle of rum would make Attila the Hun sleep like a baby." Shadow looked on puzzled, as Peggy laughed at his use of Attila, as she had. This woman was amazing, a sense of humor in the face of such adversity. Jack had better be careful. Peggy, or Agatha, or whoever, was more than his match, and he was going to lose any war he decided to start with her.

 

"In that case, I know you have work to do. Please send Tommy down when he can be spared. I would like some company."

 

"He'll be in your service for the duration of the voyage. I'll keep you informed of our good Captain's health and mental state." Shadow smiled and left her alone in the cabin. She spent the next hour pacing and going through everything in the cabin. She found the marriage certificate in a drawer of the desk. She also found a stack of letters addressed to her that had never been mailed. The ones on the bottom of the stack were years old, since they had yellowed with age. How she wished he had mailed them! She carefully opened the first letter, and sat in the desk chair and began to read.

 

 

August 1858

 

Dear Peg,

 

I am so sorry I have not written to you before. My life has been very different from home. I think about you always. Now you are fourteen and growing to be a young lady. I am now eighteen, and am a man, at least my Captain says so.

I am not very good with words, but I want you to know that I still love you and am hoping we can be together again, soon.

I have not forgotten my promise to wait for you, and to come home and marry you. Please wait for me, and remember our dreams.

Love,

Jack

 

 

Tears ran down her cheeks. If only she had received these letters, she thought. A knock at the door startled her. She quickly wiped away her tears and put the letters away. She could read more later.

 

When the door opened, Tommy came in, carrying a bundle of cloth. "Morn'n, Ma'am. I brought you some cloth I found in the sailmaker's locker. I thought that, since your trunks were lost, you might like to make yourself a dress or something." He put the bundle on the bed and spread out the material.

 

Peggy looked through the different pieces. There were two that might make a passable dress, the other pieces were fine silk and linen that would make fine undergarments. There was also a sewing kit, with needles and thread. "This is a fine selection, Tommy. I never dreamed that such fine things could be found on this ship."

 

"As I understand it, this ship was a merchantman. These are some samples of the cargo we carried last, before the war."

 

As Peggy laid out one of the pieces of dress material, she asked, "How old are you, Tommy?"

 

"I'm fourteen. I've been at sea for five years. Capt'n Miles has been good to me. I still miss my Ma and Pa, some." A look of homesickness and grief passed over Tommy's features.

 

"Where do you come from? Where are your parents?" Peggy asked.

 

"I was raised in Norfolk. My Pa was killed in the first battle of Bull Run and my Ma died of grief, two months later. I was on my own after that. I was impressed onto a ship, and we set sail for England. Not far to sea, the ship I was on engaged Capt'n Miles. He wasn't in the Navy yet and his ship only had six cannon, and ours had fifteen. The battle lasted about thirty minutes. When it was over, our ship was dead in the water, both masts shot off and dragging in the water. 'Peggy's Dream,' (some name for a fighting ship huh?) had lost its foremast but the crew had cut it away and she still had almost full maneuverability. Capt'n miles asked for our surrender and our Captain refused.

 

"Capt'nMiles made another pass across our stern and holed us below the waterline. I grabbed a crate and jumped overboard and swam away from our sinking ship. It went down pretty quick. By the time 'Peggy's Dream' came about, she was gone with all hands except myself. Shadow fished me out and took me to the Capt'n.

 

"Capt'n Miles looked mad. I was scared, even more than when they grabbed me on the docks, tied me up and threw me on that ship. Anyway, the Capt'n was giving orders to get underway and hadn't seen me yet. When he turned to Shadow, he looked right over my head. "He said, 'Well, Shadow, no prisoner? Was the poor bloke dead in the water? I don't understand why the fight. We have been sailing the coast of Africa and then South America, far too long. I didn't even recognize the colors on that pirate.'

 

"Then I spoke up with a pride in my new country I had never really felt before, or since, 'Those were the colors of the Confederate States of America.'

 

"Miss Agatha, I thought I was going to die, when he looked at me." A blush turned his face as red as his hair. "Can I tell you something I never told no one before?" Peggy nodded. "Well, his look scared me so bad, I peed my britches. Lucky thing I was still dripping wet from my swim, so no one ever knew."

 

"Oh, I know the look very well. You just freeze and hope that his eyes don't tear you apart. I wanted to do just what you did the first time he looked at me that way. Fortunately, I had just relieved myself, or I would have done the same. I wasn't already dripping wet." They both shared a laugh, and then Tommy continued his story, deciding he could tell Miss Agatha everything.

 

"He just stared at me for the longest time. I thought he was going to flog me or something. Then he laughed, slapped me on the shoulder and led me to this cabin." Tommy was silent for a moment.

 

Peggy said, "Go on, don't leave out any detail. This is quite an interesting story. It is telling me a lot about my husband I didn't know."

 

"Well, he closed the door and told me to take off my wet clothes. I refused, of course; I had never been undressed in front of anybody, except my Ma. He told me he didn't want me to get sick. I still didn't move. He thought I was modest, and said, 'Son, we don't have no women on this ship to see you. Since you will be my cabin boy, now, you might as well get used to seeing me and my seeing you.' Then he stripped down naked and stood there waiting for me. I had never seen nothing like the Capt'n. He was big and his... Well, I still ain't seen nothin' like it, even when the crew goes swimmin buck naked over the side." Tommy blushed again.

 

"Yes, I know. His shoulders are so muscled, and other things, too." Peggy blushed herself then, feeling that tingle in her stomach again.

 

"So I stripped then and he handed me some clothes from the back of a drawer. He said they had been his at about my age and should fit. Then we both dressed in clean dry clothes, and he asked me about the war. He was real upset that Virginia and Maryland were on different sides. Then he told me about a girl he had waited years to see again. This girl was the Peggy he named the ship for. He said that she was about fifteen. He had every intention of returning home and convincing her father that he wanted to marry her and that he would be giving up the ship soon, and would never leave her again. But with the war now, that would be impossible. He said that he was a Virginian but that the Union was more important. He said that when I had seen some of the things he had, I would understand. I guess I do now. I don't like slavery. To imagine a fine man like Shadow being a piece of property like a cow or horse, is just plain crazy."

 

"Yes, it is. I don't know how slavery got started but some of us were trying to end it in our own ways. On my plantation, over half our slaves had purchased their own freedom and stayed to work for us, for wages. It was a very radical idea, but it worked, and made us one of the most profitable plantations." Peggy thought of all her friends on the plantation and how good it would be to see them again. If only this war had somehow passed over Ashbrooke. It wasn't very likely, though. Virginia was the most fought over state. She had not received any word from her father in more than a year. The ship's bell rang eight times. "Noon, already?" Tommy got up and cleared the breakfast dishes. "I'll be back with lunch." He left, and Peggy started to lay out a dress. She was glad that her aunt had taught her to sew.

 

After taking the dirty dishes to the galley, Tommy went up on deck for some fresh air.

 

"Tommy! Up here, and be quick about it, lad!" Jack's mood was as black as the storm clouds of the day before.

 

Tommy climbed the stairway at a full run, to stand before his captain. "Yes, sir, Capt'n." Tommy had seen that expression only once before, and then he had peed his pants, an action he was fighting against at the moment.

 

"Where the Hell have you been all morning? I've searched this whole damn ship for you." Jack was scowling, and had placed his hands on his hips and spread his legs.

 

A more fearsome sight would be hard to find. Tommy was losing his battle to keep dry pants. "I was in your cabin, Sir. I was taking care of... things there, Sir." Tommy couldn't stop the trembling in his knees. Jacks scowl darkened. Tommy knew his pants were about to get wet. For the first time, he really thought the Capt'n was going to strike him, and he didn't have the slightest idea why. Just as he lost his battle for dry pants, Shadow appeared.

 

"Captain, a word with you." He leaned down and whispered to Tommy, "Get your ass out of here. Take care of Mrs. Miles, and I'll take care of him."

 

Tommy took off like a shot, hoping the crew didn't see his wet pants. When Tommy had cleared the deck, Shadow turned to face Jack. Jack was totally shocked when Shadow doubled over in laughter. "Damn, I haven't seen you like this since the day we fished that boy out of the water. You made the poor lad wet his pants this time." Shadow had to lean on the rail for support.

 

"This isn't funny at all. I feel like Hell! Tommy disappears all morning, and now you laugh at me. By the way, he peed himself last time, too." A little smile did touch the corners of his mouth.

 

"My friend, your problem isn't Tommy, isn't me, and isn't your hangover. Your problem is your wife. Only the absolutely right woman could affect you like this. You better be careful. I think she has you outgunned, and is far better in maneuvering. You have met your match in Agatha."

 

"No, no, no! My match is waiting for me at home. I made a promise and I aim to keep it. God, how did I get myself into this. Why didn't you or Father Ramon stop me? I thought you were my friends."

 

"Maybe, that is exactly why we didn't stop you. Think on that. I'm heading to my cabin for some sleep. I hope your mood improves. You are the only man I know that can find himself married to the perfect woman, and still manage to get out of the wrong side of the bed, twice, all in the same day. Wake me when you want to face the music below." Shadow left his friend to stew in his own juices.

 

Poor Jack didn't even understand what his problem was.

 

Tommy shot into the cabin without knocking, he stripped off his pants and drawers, and then bumped into a startled Agatha. He wanted to die. "I sort of forgot you were here, Ma'am." Then he realized he was exposed and tried to cover himself.

 

Agatha took pity on him and turned her back, so he could get his clothes on. She glanced at the discarded drawers by the door and knew why he was so flustered. "I take it, the Captain is not in a pleasant mood."

 

"No Ma'am, not the least bit pleasant. I don't know why he is so mad at me."

 

"Tommy, he is not mad at you. It's me, I'm afraid." Agatha turned around when she heard Tommy pull his pants up. "You see, I have managed to spoil some plans he has been working on for the last ten years."

 

"You mean his Peggy? Well, Shadow explained your wedding. I don't see how that would spoil his plans. After all, with an annulment in Baltimore, you are both free again."

 

"But you see, Tommy, by the time we reach Baltimore, he isn't going to want that. I am sure that by then, he will realize he is in love with me."

 

"I'm sorry, Ma'am, but he is in love with Peggy, too. He made her some promises, and he is a man of his word."

 

"Yes, that he is, and that is exactly why he is acting the way he is now. It will get worse, if my guess is right."

 

Tommy and Agatha spent the rest of the afternoon talking, and at five, Tommy went to get dinner. It was a bit early, but, since they missed lunch hunger drove Tommy out. He avoided any area he thought the Capt'n might be.

 

Jack stayed on deck, making sure all possible speed was made. His orders were sharp, and the crew stayed as far away from him as possible. His mood managed to become even blacker. Prayers could be heard, asking the Lord to awaken Shadow and let the Captain sleep off whatever was causing his mood.

 

Tommy got the food and skulked back to the cabin. He couldn't answer the questions crewmen asked. He did feel that a mutiny might be possible, if this went on too long.

 

He stopped at Shadow's cabin first. After knocking, and getting a muffled reply, he said, "Shadow, I have some food here. Why not join us for dinner?" There was a mumbled reply. Tommy set three places at the table.

 

Peggy wasn't surprised when it was Shadow that joined them.

 

"Good evening, Agatha, I trust your shopping went well." Shadow was all smiles after a very contented sleep.

 

"Why, thank you, Sir. I had a most pleasant day. I have selected material for two gowns and, of course, accessories and undergarments. And the company of my escort was charming and enlightening." Peggy noticed Tommy puff out his chest with pride at her praise. "If Captain Miles isn't very careful, I am going to keep his staff for my own."

 

"We would be delighted. However, what you would do with this whole motley crew is beyond me," Shadow replied, while Tommy served the plates and filled the glasses with wine.

 

"I'm sure that after stranding the Captain on a desert island, we would find some useful pursuit, China trade, or pirating? How would I look with a peg leg and black eye patch?"

 

Tommy giggled, and Shadow shook his head and said, "Those would be absolutely sensational. The beard, however, is another matter." Now all three of them were laughing. The rest of the meal passed with light conversation, no one mentioning Jack until they had finished.

 

Then Tommy said, "Shadow, sir, I need to talk to you. Capt'n Miles is acting strange. He has been up on deck all day, pushing the crew hard. There is a lot of talk, and, if he doesn't change his mood, there will be trouble. I don't like the change, myself."

 

"I know he came down on you pretty hard, Tommy. You have to understand that his real conflict is with himself. Right now, he can't face what is happening to him emotionally. So he takes out his frustrations on the closest person, you, me, the crew..."

 

Peggy stood and started to pace. "Shadow, how much have you told Tommy?"

 

"Only about the wedding."

 

"Tommy, what do you know about Peggy?" Peggy asked.

 

Tommy blushed a little. "Well, Miss Agatha, the Capt'n talks about her right much. He has her dreamed up to be a real prim and proper Southern Belle. He talks about how she has grown up on his plantation, and how wonderful and delicate she will be, when he sees her again."

 

"Oh, so he thinks he knows all about her? Is he ever in for a shock!" Peggy seethed at this description of herself, prim, proper, that is, a frail and helpless female! Her mind began to form a plan; Jack had to see that 'Peggy' was not what he wanted.

 

"Yes Ma'am, he even knows about her scar in the shape of his initial on her left thigh." Tommy added helpfully.

 

"He told about that? Why, that no good, loose tongued son of a bitch."

 

Tommy looked at Shadow in shock. "Why was Agatha talking like she knew Peggy, and where did she learn to talk like that?"

 

Shadow almost fell out of his chair with laughter. "It's all right, Tommy, I think the lady has something to show you."

 

"I most certainly have not! Tommy, I happen to know this Peggy your Captain is so set on. I wouldn't wish that selfish, shallow, self-centered, simpering, silly... person on my worst enemy."

 

Tommy was bewildered. "Is she that bad?"

 

Shadow had guessed the direction of his childhood friend's thoughts. "I would assume by Mrs. Miles' reaction that Miss Peggy will be even worse."

 

After a time Peggy said, "We can't let this continue. I have to deal with him. He will not come here again of his own free will, and I cannot leave."

 

Shadow added, "He will leave as soon as he can, if I force him in here."

 

They sat silently. Then Tommy's face lit up. "We could impress him, like I was. Tie him up and..."

 

Shadow broke in, "Yes, lad, that's it! We force him to stay here. The crew will be told he has come down with a fever, so any screaming he does will not be noticed. Tommy you stay in my cabin, so everyone will think you are staying with him."

 

"Shadow, I still like the way you think. I do believe your mind is as devious as mine ever was," Peggy smiled.

 

"It had to be, with you and the Capt'n ganging up on me."

 

Some time later, Shadow came up on deck whistling. He was carrying two mugs. "Capt'n, thought you might enjoy some coffee."

 

Jack spun around. It was obvious to Shadow, that Jack was in bad shape. The devil had had fun with him today. Well, it was Shadow's turn to have fun.

 

"It's about time you woke up," Jack scowled, as he took the mug Shadow offered. He took a large swallow. "I want you to keep us under full sail tonight. I must get to Baltimore with all possible speed!" He took another swallow of the bitter coffee. He began to feel a bit shaky; he must be more tired than he thought. "Shadow, I am worn out, I think I better..." Jack slowly sank to the deck, his empty mug still in his hand.

 

Shadow knelt down to feel his pulse and then his forehead. He then picked the Captain up over his shoulder and said to the helmsman, "Steady as she goes. Stow away half of that canvas. I'll not have this ship moving like this at night in these waters. The Capt'n has come down with a fever. I wish I had noticed that this morning. I'm taking him below. I'll return soon."

 

Shadow's act was perfect, his comments to the helmsman just loud enough for the deck crew to hear. As soon as he started to carry the Captain below, sailors swarmed into the rigging to lower sails. Everyone would sleep better tonight, except the Captain, of course.