Horatio and the Pirate Queen
Pellew stared steadily at the vague outline of land barely visible through the fog. He clasped his hands resolutely behind him as if somehow his gaze could bore a hole through the blanketing mist. "Damn fog," he expostulated to his young companion. "A sailor's worst enemy!"
"More so than the Spaniards, Captain?" Horatio smiled sideways, tongue in cheek. Pellew chuckled appreciatively of the young lieutenant's humor.
"Fog, like death, Mr. Hornblower, is the great leveler! Friend or foe, there is no distinction in the fog."
Horatio nodded somberly. "Aye, sir." Suddenly he brightened. "Ah, it seems to be lifting, sir!"
Pellew immediately snapped to attention. His eyes again riveted themselves on the island before them, now sparkling in the morning sun like some rare, precious jewel.
"At last, Grace, my dear, we meet again!"
"Sir. . .?" Horatio asked, puzzled. "Were you talking to me?"
"Oh no, Mr. Hornblower!" Pellew brushed him off impatiently. "It's nothing, nothing. Look sharp, now! We'll be disembarking."
Horatio mentally prepared himself to greet the delegation assembled on the dock. His demeanor changed to one of icy reserve as he preceded Captain Pellew down the gangplank. He was greeted by a handsome, elderly woman who extended her hand to him.
"Welcome to our island, Leftenant," she spoke in cultured tones belying her surroundings of humble shacks and rough-looking citizens. "It is called the Pocket because it is so well hidden. Captain Pellew!"
She joyously greeted Pellew and threw her arms about him, hugging him tightly for several minutes.
"How good it is to see you again, Edward! How is Susannah and the children? It's been a dog's age since we've seen each other!"
"They're fine, Maddie, all fine and send their love. How is Grace? She is here?" Pellew's tone turned confidential.
"Of course! And looking most forward to seeing you!"
Horatio looked perplexed. Slightly nudging Pellew, he whispered, "Wh-who is Grace, sir? I thought we were here to round up pirates, sir."
"Sh-sh!" Pellew hissed. "I never said anything about "rounding up pirates,' Mr. Hornblower."
"You, you di-didn't, sir?" Horatio was even more perplexed.
"No sir, I did not," Pellew stated matter-of-factly. "What I actually said was, we would be visting an island populated by pirates, Mr. Hornblower!"
"Ye-yes, Captain, sir." Horatio was confused but kept his counsel as Maddie led them to a local tavern called The Rook's Wing. His stomach growled hungrily as the scent of frying bacon and coffee wafted towards them as they entered the inn. Adjusting his eyes to the dim light of the room, he noticed it was filled with an array of unsavory characters who eyed them suspiciously. Immediately he was on his guard.
"Sit and make yourselves comfortable," Maddie encouraged them. "Adeline, Elizabeth," she called. "Bring breakfast for these fine gentlemen. Quickly now!"
She turned again to Pellew. "She knows you're here. She's been tracking your ship since you came into our waters."
"Who has been tracking our ship?" Horatio asked in alarm.
"Sh-sh!" Sibilated Pellew, irritated. "Be quiet, Hornblower!"
Horatio didn't like it one bit. He kept glaring sideways at Pellew as he hungrily gulped down his food. Something was in the wind. Pellew had been acting strangely ever since they caught sight of this blasted island with its stifling heat. Rivulets of sweat trickled down his sides and Horatio wished he could rip off the heavy lieutenant's jacket he wore. Damned heat! Then all at once he forgot the heat, he forgot his breakfast and he forgot Pellew. Standing at the top of a staircase leading to the inn's upper chambers stood a woman the likes of which Horatio had never seen. His fork stopped in midair halfway to his gaping mouth as his eyes took her in. Midnight hair fell in gentle waves to below her shoulders; large, azure eyes gazed unabashedly into his own and her full, reddened lips turned slightly up at the corners in impish amusement at the young lieutenant's gaze. Her hands rested self-assuredly on full, voluptuous hips.
"Gentlemen!" She spoke confidently. "Welcome to Pocket Island!"
"Gracie!" Pellew bounded from his chair and ran to the foot of the staircase. As quick as lightening, the young vision descended from the landing and almost leaped into Pellew's arms. "Captain Pellew," she declared, "You are a welcome sight for sore eyes!" He swung her about joyously and the two laughed like giddy schoolchildren. Horatio had never seen Pellew like this. God, but the woman was truly something! Despite himself, twinges of jealousy pricked at his heart. Horatio found himself envying the Captain.
"Mr. Hornblower, meet Grace MacNamara the Terror of the Seven Seas!"
"Sir. . .?" Horatio said, perplexed. Grace
McNamara laughed heartily at
the bewildered look on the young lieutenant's face. Her laughter was light
"Perhaps you know me better as 'Grainne Mhaol,' Lieutenant."
Of course he had heard of 'Grainne Mhaol,' or 'Grace the
with Mary Read and Annie Bonny, she was one of the most feared women pirates
to ever plunder the West Indies. But never did he dream that Grainne Mhaol
was a woman of such youth and beauty. He stared at her shock of dark hair.
Grace burst into new ripples of laughter.
"I chopped it off when I was ten years old, Lieutenant"
she answered his
unspoken question and explained how as a child she tried to look like a boy
so she could stowaway on her father's ship. "I was nicknamed 'Baldy' by my
family and it's stayed with me since."
Horatio was entranced by the beautiful outlaw and grinned sheepishly.
"Grace is a distant cousin on my wife's side,"
explained Pellew. "But
make no mistake, Mr. Hornblower, 'Grainne Mhaol' is of as much value to her
Majesty as the entire fleet of the Royal Navy!"
Grace looked earnestly into Horatio's dark eyes and extended her hand.
"I'm very pleased to meet you, Lieutenant Hornblower."
Blushing shyly, Horatio accepted her hand and gently brushed
against her fingers.
"My honor, m'lady."
"Gracie is from the new country, America,"
Pellew continued. "Pocket
Island is her "
" hideout," Grace finished, her eyes twinkling devilishly.
"Er, hideout," agreed Pellew for lack of a better
description. "We will
be staying on this island awhile while on business for her Majesty."
"Aye, sir," Horatio replied. He could scarcely
keep from staring at
Grace who also felt drawn to the handsome lieutenant.
"Maddie has prepared rooms for both of you. I trust
comfortable here," she informed them.
"I'm sure we will," stated Pellew with a sideways
glance at his young
protege. Grace took her leave of them.
"She is an extraordinary woman," said Pellew.
"Most remarkable, sir," agreed Horatio, "But she seems so young!"
"Four and twenty." Pellew sighed heavily. "She
has seen more in her
young lifetime than most that's certain!"
Pellew recounted to Horatio how Grace's father had traveled
to England in 1761 to join her Majesty's Royal Navy. Merely a lad of
sixteen, he had at first encountered discrimination among the men but soon
was accepted for his bravery and skill as a seaman. "Not unlike yourself,
Mr. Hornblower," Pellew told Horatio.
When young Amos McNamara was promoted to lieutenant in
1768, he met
Grace's mother, Alice Frowde, a beautiful, young noblewoman and distant
cousin of Pellew's own dear wife, Susannah, and the two fell madly in love.
Because of his Irish background, however, Alice's family refused to accept
Amos and the couple eloped. They soon decided to relocate to the Colonies
across the Atlantic to start a new life for themselves.
Shortly after their arrival, the Revolution broke out and
himself with the infant American Navy. He became a hero among the
newly-christened Americans and was honored by George Washington, who
appointed the Irishman captain of his own ship. Amos and Alice finally
settled in Lewiston, Maine, near the Adroscoggin River not far from the
rugged Atlantic coast where his ship kept harbor. It was into this savage
and majestic land that Grace was born in 1777, the eldest of three daughters.
"Susannah and I visited the spring after she was born.
We were happy to
stand in as her godparents, although it was a Catholic baptism."
Pellew paused in his narrative, his brow knitted in thought.
curiosity was piqued.
"Go on, sir, please."
Obligingly, Pellew continued. "They spent their summers
Island. A beautiful place, Horatio, God's own country! They were a happy
lot, a tight-knit clan . . . until that terrible day . . . ."
It happened the summer Grace was seventeen. She had been
down at the
shore trawling for crabs when she sighted the galley to the left side of the
island. It was Spanish but she felt no alarm as ships of all nationalities
sailed into Maine's harbor where all were welcome.
Maine had first been settled by the Irish, followed by
the Welsh and
English, then the French and Spanish. Grace was used to the various cultures
and grew up accepting them all, especially the natives indigenous to the
land. Some of the more peace-loving tribes had helped to welcome the
pale-skinned newcomers to the land. The Indians taught Grace and her sisters
how to spearfish and start a fire by rubbing sticks or striking stones
together. They also taught them the skills of tracking and what to do if
ever they were lost in the wilderness. Using some of those skills now, Grace
prepared to spear a large fish with a sharp-pointed stick she had fashioned
when her attention was suddenly jolted by a piercing scream coming from the
main house. Tossing the stick from her, she quickly ran up the steep hill
leading to the house.
"There goes another one," someone shouted to
her right. "Don't let her
From out of nowhere a group of rough-looking men fell
upon Grace. She
screamed and tried to flee but they ruthlessly held her down. She was raped
repeatedly as each one took their turn. Finally, believing her dead, they
flung her limp body against some rocks and left the island.
When she awakened several hours later, all was dark and
and bruised, Grace managed to crawl the distance to her house. There she
discovered the bodies of her parents and sisters. They had been savagely
murdered by the pirate marauders and all their valuables plundered.
"How horrifying!" Horatio exclaimed, as he visualized
scenario Pellew had drawn.
"Yes," agreed Pellew. "She buried them
herself the next day, though God
knows how she managed."
Once more he fell silent until at the lieutenant's prompting
the sad chronicle. Grace's Aunt Maddie and her father's men found her a
couple of days later and took her back to Lewiston. Grace survived but she
was filled with a rage born of hate and grief. Bent on revenge, together
with her father's faithful followers, she sailed the ship that had been her
father's. She was determined to kill those who had murdered her family and
so viciously violated her body.
"They were Spaniards but bore no allegiance to flag
or country," stated
"Did she overtake them, sir?"
"No although she and her men attacked many a
Spanish galley and claimed
the spoils of victory!" Pellew laughed in bitter irony. "She has become a
feared and hated menace to the Spanish and a large bounty placed on her head
dead or alive! Even so, Grace has become an ally for England because of
her quest to rid these waters of the bloody devils!"
Pellew sighed. "Life can at times take on a strange
Horatio decided to walk around and study the island. Although
mistrustful of its inhabitants and he disliked the muggy weather, the island
intrigued him. Like its pirate mistress it possessed a surreal beauty. He
could not stop thinking about Grace and what Pellew had told him. Wandering
down to the beach, he stopped to contemplate the shoreline. The fog that had
greeted them that morning was beginning to roll in again from the east.
"It's called The Pocket because much of the time it's
hidden by the fog,"
a soft voice spoke from behind.
Whirling about, Horatio beheld Grace sitting on some rocks
hundred yards from where he stood. She was dressed in a lavender Eugenie
gown, her long, dark hair tucked under a matching bonnet. Some strands had
escaped from underneath and framed her flushed cheeks in wispy tendrils. She
held up a dainty hand against the late afternoon sun as she gazed up at him,
her eyes made violet by the color of her dress. Once again Horatio was
struck by her loveliness.
"It's a phenomenon they say is caused by the atmosphere,"
"One never could find it unless they knew the way."
"Sort of a Shambhala," Horatio remarked,
finding his voice. Grace
smiled at the reference.
"Yes, I suppose, in a way," she replied as she
looked out across the
water. "Except here there are no wishing trees or speaking stones. And the
people are not so wise and they grow old. May I walk with you, Lieutenant,"
she asked abruptly.
"I would be honored," Horatio happily replied.
"I'm afraid only outlaws live here," she continued,
"except when an
English ship occasionally comes into harbor." She smiled up at him.
"Do you ever long to see your home, m'lady?"
Grace took a long time before she answered him.
"Of course I miss my home, Lieutenant,"she finally
autumn when the leaves turn. Oh, you can't imagine the colors! The reds and
golds! Father used to rake the leaves in great piles and burn them, then
we'd have a feast roasting fish and baking clams!"
Her countenance reflected sadness and she once again lapsed
as they walked. The pounding surf and the sand scrunching beneath Horatio's
boots were all that was heard. Finally, her mood brightening, she spoke
"You may call me Grace. May I call you Horatio?"
"Of course, m'la Grace," Horatio replied
shyly, blushing yet elated at
Grace took his hand and slid her arm through his. He was
"You must dine with us this evening, Horatio. Cookie
has fixed the most
delicious meal! She really is the best cook in all Jamaica quite the most
valuable spoil a pirate ever plundered," she stated with a mischievous
giggle. Her sad demeanor had vanished. Horatio tried to look disapproving
but his face melted into a wide grin.
"'Grainne Mhaol,' indeed!"
They both laughed and Grace momentarily forgot her painful
caught up in the pleasure of the handsome lieutenant's company. Horatio,
too, no longer felt that sense of solitariness that usually pervaded his
being. For the first time he was filled with an expectant gladness.
"Why did you decide to become a seaman, Horatio?"
Horatio reflected before answering. "I suppose I
wanted to impress my
father," he answered carefully. "I wanted him to be proud of me."
"And did you succeed?"
Grace sensed she had hit a tender spot when he failed to
"I'm sure he's very proud of you, Horatio."
She squeezed his hand.
"It's not every young sailor who can move up the ranks as quickly as you have
done. Oh, Uncle Edward I mean, Captain Pellew told me all about you."
Horatio was pleased that Grace had been interested enough
to ask Captain
Pellew about him. His spirits once again buoyed as they made their way back
"Do you have a wife?" Grace continued to probe.
"Uh, no," answered Horatio. She certainly was
blunt and to the point, he
"I was married," Grace volunteered. The remark caught Horatio off-guard.
"I-I Captain Pellew didn't indicate that you were. . ."
"He was killed three years ago by the Spanish after
they attacked his
ship. He was to join me here." Grace could not disguise the acrimony in her
"The arrogant pigs! They destroy everything in their
path with no regard
for anyone anyone!"
Her delicate jaw clenched tightly.
Horatio felt a sudden urge to hold her but he feared he
would alarm her
if he did so. Instead, he gave in to his natural reserve and resisted the
"I'm so sorry, Grace. You must have loved him very much."
"I didn't love him at all."
Horatio was baffled. The woman was certainly a paradox!
"I'm sorry, Lieutenant Horatio," Grace
quickly responded to the look of
surprise on his face. "I was very young . . . and Michael . . . he was so
kind to me after. . . ."
She paused, uncertain whether she should confide in this
but he seemed so honest and forthright with no trace of deception about him
unlike most of the men she had known. Grace instinctively trusted Horatio.
"When I was seventeen," she began and related
to Horatio the story he
"Michael was my father's age. He helped to take
care of me. I felt
safe with him. When he asked me to marry him, I agreed."
"But your name . . ."
"When Michael was killed, I decided to carry on my
father's name. I'm
very proud of it."
"Yes, I'm sure."
Horatio reflected a moment.
"If it's any comfort to you, I - I think I know how you must feel."
Grace flashed at him angrily.
"How could you - a man -possibly know how it feels
to be raped,
Lieutenant," she spat at him. Her scorn quickly turned to compassion when
she saw the stricken look in his eyes.
"F-forgive me, Horatio," she stammered awkwardly.
"I-it's just that how
could you possibly understand . . . ." Her voice broke slightly as her eyes
Slowly, with great difficulty, Horatio began to confide
to her an
experience he had underwent while yet a green seventeen-year-old boy on his
first sailing ship.
"I was under the supervision of a sadistic and manipulative
named Simpson who would force us to submit to the most vile and reprehensible
acts. He took great pleasure in torturing us. If we complained the least
bit we were beaten or tied to the rigging as punishment. One night, he - he
came to where I was sleeping . . . ."
Horatio paused, momentarily overcome by the painful remembrance.
"I was already much weakened from lack of nourishment
and sick from being
at sea . . . It is not an easy thing to remember . . . . " He hung his head
as his voice trailed off.
Grace was familiar with the tales of young boys at sea
and the perverted
scandals that sometimes went on in the dark at the hands of monsters like
Simpson. She clasped Horatio's hand tightly.
"It would seem we bear the same secret," she
Horatio bathed from a large bucket of water he had installed
in his room.
He wanted to be fresh for the evening's festivities and the muggy weather
of the island made him feel dirty. Dipping a course sponge into the bucket,
he squeezed the cool water over his lean, muscular frame. He had borrowed
some cologne from his friend, Archie Kennedy, and splashed it onto his face.
It tingled against his clean-shaven skin. Next he smoothed the unruly curls
of his dark thatch of hair and pulled them back into a tight queue. Then he
put on his newly brushed uniform and stepped back to survey himself in the
long mirror next to his bed. Critically he studied his features and sighed
in resignation. He realized he may not be as handsome as Archie his nose
was too big on his angular face and his mouth too wide but he consoled
himself that loyalty and honor meant more than good looks. At least, to him
they did. And to Grace, too, he felt. Grace! Horatio's heart skipped a
beat at the thought of her. He could scarcely wait for the evening to begin.
As Grace had promised, the dinner proved to be an epicurean
featuring roasted pig, broiled fish and many exotic fruits indigenous to the
island. Spirits, liquid and ethereal, flowed freely as all those present
laughed and engaged in gay repartee. They later gathered in the drawing room
to listen to a new composition from the young German composer, Ludwig van
Beethoven, performed by Maddie on the pianoforte. Grace's ebony curls shone
in the candlelight as Horatio covertly studied her Madonna-like beauty. If
she was aware of his scrutiny, she gave no indication.
"We'll now have a dance," one of the men announced
as he furiously began
playing an Irish jig on the fiddle. The men began pulling the ladies onto
the floor. One of Grace's men approached her.
"Shall we, Gracie?"
He extended his arm to her. Grace acquiesced and the two
others as the room thumped with the pounding of feet to the lively music.
Horatio watched them disconcertedly. Captain Pellew, who was standing
nearby, noted the look on his young protege's face.
"Why do you just stand there? Go over and take the initiative, man!"
"I-I'm afraid I don't dance, sir," Horatio replied
"Nonsense! All you have to do is move your feet! You know, that
Muldoon," Pellew lowered his voice confidentially referring to the man
dancing with Grace, "has plain designs on Grace. And he is a devilishly
handsome son of an Irishman!"
That did it. Horatio pulled himself up straight and wended his way
across the floor. He tapped gingerly on Muldoon's shoulder. The man ignored
"Ahem," Horatio cleared his throat. Still Muldoon
refused to take
notice. Horatio deliberately stepped in front of him.
"What do ye think yer doin,' ye son of a "
"Mr. Muldoon! Your manners, sir!"
Grace stepped between them and smiled brightly at the incensed Irishman.
"Let's be cordial, shall we? After all, Lieutenant Hornblower
is our guest."
Muldoon glowered at Horatio and grudgingly stepped aside as Grace began
circling the floor with the lieutenant in tow. When the dance was through,
the men moved into the library to talk of the business Pellew had alluded to
earlier. Grace and Maddie joined them.
"Some of the men think they sighted a ship a couple
of miles offshore,
sir," Lieutenant Kennedy informed Pellew.
"Think or did, Lieutenant," asked Pellew impatiently.
"They either saw
it or they did not!"
"With respect, sir, the fog has a tendency to play
tricks on one's eyes,"
volunteered Horatio in defense of his friend, "and sometimes what might
appear to be "
"I am perfectly aware of how fog plays tricks on one's
Pellew impatiently interrupted him. He paced back and forth in agitation.
"Of course, it could have been simply a mirage, but
we won't know
anything until morning when this blasted fog clears!"
"It could merely be a ship passing in the night," suggested Grace. "No
one can find this island unless they have a map."
Even as she spoke, Grace knew that betrayal was always
loyalty a transitory virtue at best. One of her own men could have turned
Judas and betrayed her location. She could trust no one. Pellew looked
pensively at her.
"Hmmm," he reflected. "You could be right. . . ."
Still, he adjured the men, they must be ready at all costs.
If the ship
proved to be Spanish, they must fight to protect Pocket Island and the spoils
Grace had laid up for England and America valuables that were the price she
paid for protection against her enemies.
As the men made plans, Grace stepped outside onto the balcony
the ocean. Restless by nature details bored her. Horatio followed closely
behind. They spoke softly into the night until a sudden explosion resounded
loudly and rocked the inn.
"Look! Over there!" Grace pointed to a bright
flash on the water
visible through a break in the mist. "They're shelling the island!"
"Quickly men! To your posts!" Pellew bellowed
loudly as he directed the
"Hornblower, I have need of you!"
Quickly, Horatio responded.
"Get down there with the men, Lieutenant. They'll need organization!"
"Aye, sir, right away!"
Horatio glanced back at Grace who produced a musket from
petticoat. She brandished it in her right hand as she moved in the direction
of the men. With a show of bravado, he tried to prevent her from leaving the
drawing room, assuring her that his men would take care of things. Grace,
however, would have none of it.
"If you don't mind, Lieutenant, this is my island,
and my men and I will
fight for it!"
Horatio saw that it was useless to try and argue. With
Irish pride, he realized, one may as well try to reason with a brick wall.
Compliantly, he accompanied her down to the dock.
The men, who had rallied valiantly against the sneak ambush,
in furious fighting with the Spanish. Archie tossed a sword to Horatio who
nimbly caught it with one hand and quickly joined the fray. He called to his
"Don't let them escape!"
They began beating the Spaniards back as they tried to
retreat to their
ship which nestled against the island between two tall promontories. Horatio
leaped onto the deck followed closely by Grace who would not let him out of
her sight. A Spaniard crept towards him from behind.
"Horatio, look out!"
Grace fired several rounds from her musket. Blood spurted
Spaniard's body as he fell hard against Horatio momentarily immobilizing him.
Rough hands grabbed Grace. She was spun around and thrown down onto the
deck by several Spaniards who began tearing at her dress. One cupped his
hand over her mouth as he pulled from his boot a long blade and prepared to
slit her throat.
"Ye bitch-cat! I'll cut the head off ye!"
He cursed her in Spanish. The foul stench of his breath so close to her
face enraged Grace. She bit through his fingers managing to kick him in the
groin. She screamed loudly.
The man struck the side of her head and poised the knife
Quickly Horatio lunged forward and ran his sword through him but not before
the Spaniard had taken a menacing swipe with his blade at the lieutenant's
arm. The other men started moving in on Horatio. A loud explosion suddenly
ripped through the prow toppling the rigging. Not knowing that Horatio and
Grace were on the ship, Archie had ordered that the cannon be fired. Grace
slowly got up and dazedly became aware that they had now drifted far out to
sea. All around her men were screaming and flinging themselves into the
water as the ship began to sink. Grabbing her, Horatio leaped with her into
the water. He held her tightly as he managed to hoist her onto a large plank
floating nearby. Farther and farther they drifted away from the carnage
until only the lapping of the water was heard against the wood. Grace
noticed Horatio's bleeding arm and became alarmed at his increasing struggle
to stay afloat.
"It's the jacket that's weighing you down. You have
to get rid of the
jacket, Horatio," she insisted.
With much difficulty, Horatio finally managed to free himself
water-logged lieutenant's jacket. Forlornly, he watched it drift away into
"Never mind," Grace spoke gently. "You'll
get a new one decorated with
Horatio smiled appreciatively but his strength was waning
fast after so
much furious fighting and now having to brave the ocean's current. His body
quickly grew heavy with exhaustion. Grace persuaded him to let her take over
in the water while he spelled himself on the plank. After much resistance,
he finally relented.
As the hours passed, Grace sang to keep her mind off the
of the water and the ever-encroaching fatigue assailing her body. She
crooned a song she had learned while a girl on Peak's Island:
"Oh, where have you been, Billie Boy, Billie Boy,
"Oh, where have you been, charmin' Billie.
"I have been to see my wife,
"She's the charmin' of my life,
"But she's so young, she cannot leave her mother."
Her soothing voice caused Horatio to doze off into a half
sleeping state. When she could not sing she prayed that they would somehow
As dawn broke over the horizon she felt something hard
scrape against her
foot. Alarmed, she thought it might be a shark. At least their troubles
would be over if it was, she thought resignedly. But no! Grace happily
realized they were floating above a reef!
"Horatio! Horatio!" She gently shook Horatio's
shoulder. "We're close
Just then a huge wave pushed them forward washing them
managed to drag themselves safely away from the reach of the waves where they
collapsed exhausted onto the sandy beach.
TO BE CONTINUED :)