It seems like our troubles are behind us, but that seems to be easier said than done.
“Yes, sir,” Phineas answered. He was afraid to ask any questions.
“Mr. Swede,” Lourdburton roared suddenly, “do you believe that to resemble a halyard?” He spoke more softly to Phineas, but did not look at him. “The proper phrase is ‘the captain sends his respects and asks that you join him in his cabin.’ Do you think ye can manage that?”
“Uhm, the captain sends his respects and asks that you join him in the cabin,” Phineas repeated.
“Very well then,” Lourdburton replied. “Get you out of the way so that I may pass, and we’ll see what it is our lord and master requires.”
Phineas backed down the companion ladder and headed for the ‘tween decks. Lourdburton pushed past him and strode calmly towards the aft cabin. Phineas had to scramble to keep up.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Lourdburton grumbled when they reached the cabin door.
“Me? Oh, well, I thought I was supposed to introduce you, or something… “ Phineas stammered.
“He’s the captain, not the King of Siam. Get back to work,” Lourdburton said without humor and entered the cabin, closing the door behind him.
“Feenayuse,” Louise called softly from Lourdburton’s cabin. “Come in ‘ere, quickly.”
“What can I do for you?” Phineas asked as he entered the tiny room. He’d never been inside Lourdburton’s cabin before. It was positively minute – a bunk, a small chest, and a two-drawer chest of drawers. The sullen flicker of a lantern mounted on the wall provided the only light.
“Shh,” Louise whispered. “Close the door.”
“Wha… “ Phineas began, but she shushed him again.
“I thoroughly disagree,” Uncle Neville’s voice was perfect clear on the other side of the wall. “Should we be out of wood, water, and even wind, I would not put myself into Port Royal, sir. A den of thieves, of dogs, of brigands of the first water, sir, the first water, call that evil place their home. It is no wonder it fell into the sea!”
“With all due respect, sir,” Lourdburton’s voice was calm and even. “The Royal Navy has a substantial presence… “
“I don’t care if the King of Siam has a presence in Port Royal, sir…”
Phineas snickered to hear Lourdburton’s joke handed back to him.
“… I shall never agree to dropping anchor in that wicked, wicked place.”
“Despite your fears to the contrary, Captain, it is the one place I can fish us a new main yard… “
“The mainsail seems to be drawing quite well… “
“The yard is cracked, sir, not broken. Should we come on to a right blow it will come to pieces just as sure as I’m standing here. I’m only carrying sail on it now to put distance between us and those heathens.”
“We owe a debt of gratitude to one of those heathens,” Uncle Neville replied frostily. “If Mad Pat had not shown up when he did we should all be at the bottom of the sea.”
Phineas gasped suddenly. Mad Pat. Mad Pat had been the fellow who took over the Grace, when Duffy was aboard. He was the one who had rescued them yesterday by firing on the pirate ship. Lourdburton had said Phineas’ father saved them – Father’s name was Patrick Caswell – he must be Mad Pat.
“What is the matter with you?” Louise hissed. “You look as if you ‘ave seen the ghost.”
“My father,” he whispered, “my father, isn’t dead.”
“Pish,” she replied. “I wish mine was. Now shut up and listen.”
“Main yard or no, I cannot condone a visit to Port Royal.”
“We burned through an awful lot of powder yesterday. I scarce think we have enough to face down another ship, should it come to that.”
“Indeed,” Uncle Neville replied angrily, “I can think of no better place to meet another buccaneer than Port Royal.”
“Nor any other place to acquire powder. We are nearly defenseless, low on powder, and with a sprung main yard. In my book, Captain, I would not wish to cross the Atlantic with a sprung main yard and empty powder kegs. We cannot continue our voyage, sir.”
Louise looked at Phineas during the long pause that followed.
“All right, then,” Uncle Neville said with a heavy sigh, “Port Royal it is.”
“Come with me,” Louise said abruptly. She took him roughly by the hand and dragged him out of the cabin and down the ‘tween decks. She stopped behind the companion ladder.
“Come on,” she whispered harshly.
Without waiting for him, she climbed over the ship’s rail and disappeared. Half a second later her head appeared over the rail.
“Come on,” she repeated. “It is easy.”
The rail, gunwale, Uncle Neville called it, was wet and slippery, but not difficult to climb over. Straddling the rail and facing the back of the ship he could just reach the platform with his left shoe. Slowly, carefully, he stretched his left leg out until his foot was firmly on the platform.
“‘Urry up,” Louise whispered harshly. “We do not have all of the day.”
The platform stuck out of the ship by about three feet, and ran along the side for about six. He had to stretch out over the water to reach it, but it seemed sturdy enough once he was on it. Louise glared at him, standing with her hands on her hips, outside the ship, and below the level of the railings, so no one onboard could see her.
Enormous tar covered ropes and thick wooden blocks rose from the outside edge of the platform and stretched all the way to the top of the mast. They were evenly spaced about two feet apart, and made a nice fence between the platform and the sea. Phineas thought he could live on that platform and never fall in.
“You are such the bébé.”
He sat down carefully, with his back to the ship, his feet sticking out between the ropes. The platform was warm, but, he noticed, covered with little drops of tar that had fallen from the ropes. The natty pale blue paint was sun-bleached and stained from the tar.
“Forgive me, your majesty, but why are we out here?”
“You should call me Louise.”
“Why should I do that?”
The princess Louise laughed.
“Because, silly. It is my name.”
“Why, Louise, did you drag me out here?”
“Listen,” she whispered urgently. She knelt down next to him on the platform. “I will make you a deal.”
“Sérieusement, Feenayuse,” she said. “We are both prisoners aboard this ship, non?”
“Well, not really prisoners…”
“I am taken from the boat, but I do not wish to be. Of course I am grateful for the rescue, but I do not wish to sail with the English, non?”
“Actually, Louise, we are all Americans.”
“Was your father born in America?”
“Well, no, he wasn’t, but…”
“Then you are English, not American.”
“But I was born in Duxbury…”
“And is this your ship?”
“Well, no, I suppose not.”
“Then you, monsieur Americain, are a prisoner of the English as well as I am.”
“Well…” he paused and tried to think of a comeback, but found none. He hadn’t thought of it quite in those terms. Lourdburton, Uncle Neville, Sturgis, Wentworth, they were all British. Only he and Taylor, and Swede, and Louise…
“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” he said plainly.
“And yet it is true, non?”
“Yes, I suppose it is… “
“And you are aboard this ship because you choose to be? You are volunteer to take the voyage?”
“Well, no, actually. I was rather kidnapped.”
“There it is, non? Can you not see it? You are taken against your will aboard a ship that is not from your own country. Do you see?”
Of course he resented the kidnapping, and the manhandling when they dragged him to the coach. And of course he was terrified of the sea itself. He had been dragged aboard this ship, and forced into slavery, without so much as a by your leave.
This was all so confusing, when he really wanted to think about Father. If Father wasn’t dead, but was aboard that other ship, then, why had he stopped writing letters?
The world spun around him, and he grabbed onto the ropes to keep from falling overboard in dizziness. He stopped writing letters because he became a pirate, just like Tom Ganders and Captain Kidd and Henry Morgan. He left Phineas and his mother alone to become a common thief. Of course one wouldn’t write letters home – “Dear wife and child, I have decided to become evil.” That was why he disappeared. He went bad.
Phineas sighed sadly. Of course that was it. Father had some something terribly, terribly shameful. He looked sadly down at the platform.
“We are the same, mon ami,” Louise said softly. “I am forced aboard a ship that is foreign to my own, against my will. Do you not see it?”
“I do see it,” Phineas nodded.
“And you ‘eard your uncle and the one-‘anded man. We are not to go to France, but to Jamaica. You see? They even lie to each other!”
She certainly made sense. Lourdburton pushed Uncle Neville to go to Port Royal, there was no doubt. Lourdburton even changed his reasons for going in order to convince him. And, Louise knew that Port Royal was on the island of Jamaica, which made it clear she knew what she was talking about.
“Per’aps we can ‘elp each other, non? We can make the deal. I may ‘ave something that you need… “
“I don’t think so,” he replied. He didn’t want to think about deals or anything right now. He felt as if all of the air had rushed out of him. “Listen, this is not a very good time…”
“It is the only time, Feenayuse. Listen to me, we ‘ave an opportunity to change everything…”
“Honestly, I have just had some very bad news about my father, and I need to think about that first.”
She stared at him in surprise for a long, silent moment.
“Pish,” she said eventually. “Fathers. I ‘ave ‘ad enough of the fathers, non?”
“Believe me, your father could not be nearly as heartless as mine. I just can’t believe it.”
“What did ‘e do?”
“He abandoned us – just plain sailed off without so much as a fare-thee-well, and left us all these years thinking he was dead. But he isn’t dead. He’s been living the high life as a buccaneer. He’s in command of one of those two pirate ships we fought yesterday. He left us to become a sea rover.”
“I am very sorry,” Louise said softly. She looked out to sea, her eyes welling with tears.
“My father is the Duc D’Orleans, and ‘e is French and as lily white as you. My mother was born on Saint Dominique in the West Indies – a beautiful, black, brilliant Caribe woman. I am born on Saint Dominique, too.”
She swallowed hard.
“I was sold into slavery.”
“It is true. Because our skin is black, we… we ‘ad a grand sugar plantation, upon which we all lived. My father made some bad business deal, and all of the money went away. So ‘e sold my mother into slavery to pay off ‘is debts.”
“I’m so sorry,” Phineas gasped.
“And ‘e and I were to return to France together, but at the last moment ‘e realized he did not ‘ave the money for the passage ‘ome.”
“So he stayed behind?”
“Non. ‘E sold me as a slave and sailed away.”
They sat in silence for a long time. Phineas couldn’t think of anything at all to say. Tears rolled down Louise’s cheeks. Her bright eyes looked out to sea.
“I, uh, I’m sorry,” Phineas said at last.
“‘E did not even look back,” she sobbed. “‘E just walked away, counting the money ‘e got for me.”
“Well, good heavens,” Phineas said, feeling his anger rise. “That is positively diabolical…”
“My mother, she always told me that you should not just sit and wait for things to ‘appen to you. You will grow old and die away. Non, non, non, she would say. You must go out in the world and make the things ‘appen. You ‘ave control of your life, not the things that ‘appen to you. So, I am run away from the awful man ‘oo buys me before ‘e can put on the chains.”
“Heavens,” Phineas replied.
“I am run into Port Royal, and am ‘iding in the shadows of a livery stable, wondering what I will do. A fine gentleman rides in on ‘is ‘orse, dismounts not three feet from me, and ‘ands the reins to a stable boy. The boy does not see me, but the man does.
“’You are ‘iding’ says ‘e. We talk a little bit, and I introduce. ‘E says ‘is name is Alejandro Diaz, and that ‘e will protect me and get me ‘ome to France.” She snorted. “I thought he would take me ‘ome, so that I could face my father and spit in ‘is face. Mait non, what ‘e wants is to use me as the bargaining chip for the king of Spain to use.”
“So, you were a hostage?”
“Oui, a prisoner, just like you. That is why I steal away in the boat while they battle with the English.”
“What did you plan to do?”
“Die. I did not care any more. I had ‘oped to go ‘ome. To France,” she said bitterly. “My father ‘as a great estate outside of Paris. ‘E promised to send for me someday.” She snarled. “I am decide when that day will be, not to wait for ‘im.”
“My father made the same kind of promises,” Phineas answered distantly.
She humphed and nodded.
“Promises are easy to make,” she said, “but ‘ard to keep.”
They sat in silence for a moment. Louise sniffed softly. Phineas fought the urge to cry, but was only mostly successful. He fought back the lump in his throat, sniffled, and turned to face her.
“So,” he asked, “what was this deal you were talking about?”
“I must get ‘ome to France. This ship is not to take me there.”
“Why don’t you ask Lourdburton?” Phineas asked. “I’m certain he will help you. I mean, he’s heartless to me, but he might be willing to help you.”
“Non, non,” she answered quickly. “Now that I ‘ave been sold as property, ‘e will treat me the same. I ‘ave no value to ‘im, except as the slave.”
“Heavens,” Phineas said softly.
“I ‘ave to get off of this ship.” The young princess’ bright black eyes sought out his. She looked at him forcefully.
“We are to arrive in Port Royal in two days. There you are creating a diversion, and I will make good my escape.”
“What kind of diversion am I creating?”
“This I do not care about,” she replied with a toss of her head. “But you must do it.”
“So,” Phineas said suddenly. “So, when you get back to France, will you live in a palace?”
“What?” she replied sharply.
“I mean, isn’t that what you want to do?”
“My grandmother was a lady of the court who ‘ad a liaison with the king, from which my father, the duc d’Orleans comes. My grandmother was also a Bourbon, so I am of the king’s family. As my father is a Bourbon and son of the king, which means that my grandfather is the king of France. But will I, or my father, ever sit on the throne of France? Non. It is not what I seek anyway. I want to look my father in the eye and ask ‘im ‘ow dare ‘e sell me like a common slave? And then I will spit on ‘im. I do not care what ‘appens after that.”
“Wow,” Phineas whispered.
“I must go,” she said quickly. “We ‘ave the agreement, yes? In Port Royal you must make the distraction so that I am to escape, non?”
“No,” Phineas replied. “I mean, yes. You may count upon it.”
“Merci,” she said with a small smile. She scrambled over the gunwale and was gone.
Phineas sat on the platform and stared out to sea. Louise and her diversion, whatever that was, seemed small compared to the enormity of the story she’d told him.
Father had run away, too. He had turned his back on Mother and him, had simply run away to sea. Phineas thought about Alfred Townsend, and how easy it would have been to run away rather than face him. But Phineas stayed and faced him down with a pistol. Father wasn’t even that brave. Skulking about with men who behaved like depraved dogs, murdering honest sailormen and stealing their hard-earned goods. What a cowardly thing to do. What a coward. Father was a coward.
Phineas squirmed uncomfortably. He didn’t actually pull the trigger on Alfred. He did whatever Alfred made him do, more afraid of “something bad” than doing something bad. He had let Nigel die. Let him drift away to sea without raising a finger. Talk about cowardly. He sighed. Just like his father.
“Well, there you are,” Taylor called and flopped casually onto the platform next to him. Phineas jumped in surprise.
“Where did you…”
“Over the quarterdeck rail, ninny,” Taylor replied and jerked his thumb behind. Phineas looked – the ship’s rail was no more than four feet above him.
“I saw the princess climb into the waist. Isn’t she dreamy?”
“I wouldn’t say she was dreamy…”
“Well of course not. You sailors don’t use words like that. Those are the words of poets,” Taylor sighed. “I think she’s the very spring of heaven. Did you see her eyes? Like shining black opals, and her skin, oh, the finest teak. And her smile so dazzles the eye…”
“You make her sound like a piece of furniture.”
“I think that perhaps she is the loveliest creature God ever put on this earth,” Taylor sighed.
Phineas snorted and turned away. He couldn’t think about things like that now.
“How old are you?” Taylor asked.
“Me? Twelve, but I’ll be thirteen on my next birthday.”
“That stands to reason, doesn’t it? I shall be fifteen on the second of September.”
“I will try to remember that…” Phineas answered. He really did not want to talk, but to think.
“There is a world of difference between your simple youth and my learned experience,” Taylor interrupted. “But, in spite of that, I need your help, old man.”
The way he said “old man” instantly reminded him of Nigel. Old bean. Old pickle. Old tooth. Good old Nigel. His shame at having let Nigel die burned anew, like a knife, twisting in his gut.
“Listen, old chap,” Taylor said so cheerfully it was as if they were standing in the town square. “I have every intention of abandoning ship once we reach Port Royal, and you stand in the perfect position to create a diversion.”
“What?” Phineas asked in surprise.
“Well, I mean, you are the emotional one. An outburst from you wouldn’t seem terribly out of place.”
“What?” The surprise quickly turned to anger.
“You know, a tantrummy sort of thing might just draw attention to you long enough for me to rather slip over the side.”
“Listen, Taylor,” Phineas snapped, “I don’t throw tantrums. Got that? And I am surely not going to pretend to throw one to help you!“
“All right, all right,” Taylor replied with his hands up. “I understand. I was going to make it worth your while…”
“You don’t have anything I need,” Phineas replied curtly.
“I was going to show you how to shoot,” Taylor said smoothly.
“Well you can just forget…” Phineas stopped himself, thinking about this opportunity. If he could shoot, he might have pulled the trigger on Alfred Townsend – perhaps he could win a duel with him. He could be known as a crack shot – a very useful skill for a gentleman.
“How do I know you can shoot?” he asked suddenly.
“Phineas, my friend, you are a shrewd and careful young fellow. However, in this circumstance, you may rest completely assured that I know everything there is to know about firearms.”
Phineas looked at him carefully.
“Could I shoot that Swedish musket?”
“Swedish muskets, French wheel-lock pistols, perhaps even a blunderbuss, although any simpleton that can pull a trigger can shoot one of those.”
“At Oak Glen I have fired them all,” Taylor replied nonchalantly. When Phineas didn’t respond he cleared his throat. “You, uh, haven’t heard of Oak Glen?”
“Uh, no,” Phineas replied. Taylor said the name the way everybody says Boston, or London. He’d never heard of it.
“It’s our three hundred acre estate outside of Boston,” Taylor explained airily. “Nothing much, really.”
“I didn’t truly mind being carried away to sea at first,” Taylor said quietly. “When you are a poet the world is awash in experiences that you have to try.”
“Truly. There is not a moon setting upon the moor that doesn’t set my heart aflame.”
“Really? Why would you want to write poems, for goodness sake?”
“My friend, there is no nobler calling. A poet is a translator for all the world. His job is to experience everything that life has to offer, everything wonderful and sad, and exciting and dreary, and put it into words that will stir your soul and fire your imagination. That is what a poet does.”
“Hmph…” Phineas snorted. He looked for a long moment at the shaggy, but elegant Taylor. His eyes looked dreamy, all right, and his thin frame certainly fit the part of a poet. “I can see how you ended up here.”
“Well,” Taylor replied with a sigh, “not everyone in my family thinks that being a poet is a worthwhile endeavor.”
“Hmph,” Phineas grunted. “Gentlemen aren’t too welcome in my family, either.”
“It is a sad world for the truly elegant,” Taylor sighed.
“Why did they kidnap you?”
“I had just finished my fencing class for the day when I was accosted by mother and Mr. Sturgis, who is my step-uncle. As to why they sent me to sea, I’m afraid I shall never know. I certainly won’t wait about for them to tell me. My plan is to get off this ship just as soon as I can.”
“I rather imagine my plan is to get off the ship, too.”
“You imagine? One would think you would be seething to go ashore and get away from that awful Loudbuttons fellow.”
“Loudbuttons,” Phineas barked. “That’s a good one!”
Taylor laughed and held out his hand.
“So, it is a deal, then? You will create a diversion… of your choice, of course… and I will teach you to shoot.”
“Wait a moment,” Phineas said. “We arrive in Port Royal in two days. You can’t teach me to shoot in two days.”
“Consider it a gentleman’s debt,” Taylor said. “When you’ve got your land you can come visit me in Oak Glen. Then we shall have all the time in the world.”
“But what will you do when you get off the ship?”
“Oh, who cares about that?” Taylor answered quickly. “I’ll find some way home. I’ve decided I can’t stay on this ship another minute. The food is dreadful. That Lourdburton is abominable. The ship is filthy. One can’t bathe. One can’t even relieve one’s self without there being witnesses. The only bright spot in this whole wooden universe is Louise, and she’s running away in Port Royal.”
“I thought that was a secret.”
“That’s another thing about this ship. It’s so tiny there’s no way you can sneeze without somebody blessing you!”
“I didn’t think anyone could hear Louise and I talking,” Phineas replied sheepishly.
“What? Out here on the channel?”
“The channel,” Taylor answered and spread his heads to indicate Phineas’ platform. “It’s spelled chainwale, but they pronounce it channel.”
“Surprise, surprise,” Phineas replied in a small voice. “Gunnel is spelled gunwale, channel is spelled chainwale. I’m surprised the rain barrel isn’t actually the rain barwale.”
Taylor held out his hand.
“Do we have a deal?”
“Do you swear you’ll teach me how to shoot?” Phineas asked seriously.
“The word of a gentleman – one to another, eh?”
Phineas shook Taylor’s hand with a sigh. Perhaps he could use the same diversion for both Louise and Taylor. But he certainly wasn’t going to throw a tantrum.
Phineas watched the sailors cluck and fret over the cold, strong wind that surged in from the Caribbean off the coast of Jamaica. He heard a couple of them mutter about being “in for a blow” as they ate their dinners from the wooden trays he had filled for them.
They stood about the galley at noonday, in from the cold wind, with their square trays, poking at the gray mixture of old potatoes and peas lying next to their boiled salt beef.
“We’em in for a right blow,” the big fellow called Lawson told Swede.
“You tink so?” Swede replied with genuine curiosity.
“Sure as I be standin’ ‘ere,” Lawson answered. He shook his great shaggy head. Phineas watched him pick daintily through his potatoes with his enormous, grubby fingers and marveled at the truly giant man’s ability to not just find, but pluck out and fling to the deck little pieces of his potato mash that had gone rotten. “I wars in a blow back in ’98. Four days o’ cold weather, right in the middle o’ summer, just like ‘is. Oh, that was a prodigious right blow, that one in ’98.”
Phineas could hardly wait for the “right blow” to come along just so he would know what they were talking about. Duffy had kept him busy in the galley since long before the sun came up.
Taylor gave him knowing winks throughout the morning, obviously trying to remind him that he had promised to create a diversion when they got to Port Royal. Louise came in just after the hands had finished their dinner.
“Today is the day, non?” she whispered hoarsely.
Phineas nodded. He hadn’t thought about the diversion for two days, even though Taylor and Louise were counting on him.
“Today is the day you must ‘elp me,” Louise said urgently. “Lourdburton will trade me for information. ‘E is desperate for something, even though ‘e does not know what it is.”
“How did you know that?”
“I just know. I ‘ave over’eard things. There is a reason ‘e is force us to go to Port Royal – something ‘e is seeking, and ‘e will do anything for it. I do not in the slightest think for the moment that he would ‘esitate to sell me. I should fetch a good price.”
“What do you suppose it is?”
“I do not know, but I tell you, I am in grave danger.” She leaned close to him and looked earnestly into his eyes. “You must ‘elp me.”
“All right, I’ll see what I can do.”
She kissed him on the cheek.
“Merci, Feenayuse, merci,” she cried and dashed out of the galley and back into the waist.
Phineas’ heart felt like lead. He had no idea what he would do to help Louise and Taylor. He had thought about doing nothing, maybe hiding somewhere.
“Look,” someone called from up in the rigging, “I sees the Grace!”
“Three cheers, lads!” Lourdburton bellowed from the quarterdeck.
“Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!” the crew thundered in response.
Phineas hurried out of the waist for a look at Father’s ship, but he couldn’t pick it out of the dozens and dozens of ships that gathered around the green island like a white-clad forest.
“Typical,” he muttered. “Hiding like a common sneak-thief.
He sighed and leaned against the rail.
“Now, be careful with that keg, there, Willits,” Uncle Neville said nervously. “I have a fortune invested in that rum.”
Willits nodded without saying anything and shoved the keg carefully into the bottom of the Kathryn B’s boat, which still sat on top of the grating in the middle of the waist.
Phineas watched quietly from the shadow of the quarterdeck as Sturgis and Lourdburton walked down the companion ladder, one after the other, deep in conversation.
“My business is on Potters Way,” Lourdburton said. “At the edge of Old Town.”
“I thought Old Town sank back in ’91,” Sturgis croaked.
“1692,” Lourdburton corrected. “An earthquake shook the entire city and sank the nastiest part right into the bay. Potter’s way runs behind the cemetery at the edge of Old Town.”
“That don’t seem like the kind o’ place you’ll be finding us a main yard, Arthur.”
“I’ll worry about the main yard,” Lourdburton answered gruffly. “You make sure our captain gets his hands on fresh powder…”
“Coarse grain, I know.”
“And we’ll rendezvous at three o’clock at the wharf. Agreed?”
“Aye, sir,” the old man nodded. “Three it be.”
“Phineas,” Lourdburton barked. “A word.”
Phineas recognized the tone – he had done something new to make the sailing master angry.
“Easy with that line, Swede,” Lourdburton burst out suddenly. “You’ll bring down the main yard.”
“Sorry,” Swede said sheepishly. He hauled more gingerly on a long rope that ran up to the main yard and down to one of the enormous kegs Phineas had seen at the start of the voyage.
“What’s in there?” Phineas asked out loud. He watched the keg lift off the deck as Swede and two more sailors pulled on the rope.
“Eh?” Uncle Neville said. “Oh, hello, Phineas. Why that there is the finest rum ever to come out of Boston. It should be bringing us a pretty penny, if them devils here in Port Royal drink half as much as everyone says they do!”
The cold wind blew under Phineas’ coattails and rattled around the sailors hoisting kegs of Uncle Neville’s rum into the boat.
“Caswell!” Lourdburton exploded. “Get your scurvy carcass over here now!”
Phineas jumped and ran straight over to him, wondering what he’d done to make Lourdburton so mad.
“Come here,” the sailing master said quietly and dragged him into the galley.
“Understand me, boyo. I’ll have no diversions, do ye ken? If I hear that you’ve played some sort of trick, made some sort of disturbance, distracted any one of my men from their tasks, just so that your friends can jump ship, I will personally keel haul you. Is that clear?”
“Wha – what is a keel haul?”
“One rope goes around your wrists. The other goes around your ankles. You go over the bows. We haul you out over the stern. Sometimes it is the just the wrists that come up.”
Phineas swallowed audibly, and sweat poured from his forehead. He absent-mindedly rubbed his wrists.
“Is that clear?” Lourdburton demanded.
“Yes, I mean, aye sir.”
“In truth, you are confined to the aft cabin. If I hear you’ve stirred from there, I will have you flogged until I see you backbone. Is that clear?”
Phineas nodded, his thoughts clouded by the thought of his backbone showing.
“Very well. Now get you aft. I’ll not have a mutiny aboard my ship, do you understand?”
“Anything contrary to my orders is a mutiny, mister. You and your friends think it would be a lark to jump over the side and run away. That’s both mutiny and desertion. If your friends go over the side and I catch them, they will hang. Hang, Phineas.”
The sailing master glared at him, his stern gray eyes narrowed into thin slits.
“Now get aft with you. GO!” He barked the last word so loud that Phineas both jumped and ducked at the same time.
He scrambled down the deck as fast as his feet would carry him, thundering across the waist. Taylor waved at him from behind the companion ladder, but Phineas ignored him and dashed into the shadowy ‘tween decks.
In truth, scared thought he was of Lourdburton’s threats, the aft cabin didn’t seem like such a bad idea. There was no way he would have to create a diversion if he was confined to the cabin.
He burst into the cabin and slammed the door behind him, thankful to be away from that awful man and his threats. He had no doubt that Lourdburton would haul his keel and flog him, and laugh while he was hanging poor Taylor. He pressed his back against the closed door, his eyes closed.
“Hoist away all,” Mr. Lourdburton roared. The squeal of ropes through the pulleys meant that they were hoisting out the boat.
“Feenayuse,” Louise shrieked from the other side of the cabin. “What are you doing in here?”
Phineas looked up in surprise.
“Me? I, uh, I…” he stammered.
She scowled at him in the bright sunlight pouring in through the broad stern windows. Her lips curled as she placed her hands on her hips.
“You must go out on the deck and create the diversion! We are almost out of time! The boat is about to leave!”
“Well, I, uh…” he stammered.
“Do not stand there, stammering like a fool,” she said sharply and grabbed him by the sleeve. She was surprisingly strong for a girl. In a flash she whipped him around and faced him towards the cabin door.
“Go,” she whispered harshly. “The time is almost up!”
“No!” Phineas roared and dug his feet into the deck.
He jerked himself backwards and out of her grip, bumping against Uncle Neville’s desk. Charts rolled to the floor.
“I’m not going back out there,” Phineas said firmly. “Lourdburton said he will flog me if I go out there!”
“You are such the bébé!” Louise roared and lunged at him. She caught him by the lapels of his coat and dragged him towards the cabin door. “Go… out… there… now!” she panted.
“You can’t make me,” Phineas gasped as he struggled to get out of her grip. He tried to dodge side-to-side to break her hold. But she was stronger than him, and dragged him bodily back up to the door. He saw his chance when she let go with one hand to open the door.
“NO!” Phineas roared and threw himself backwards with one final burst of all of his strength. His jacket snapped out of her fingers, and he flew across the cabin. The backs of his knees crashed into the bench below the window. His head crashed against the mullioned windows, which had been left open to allow the fresh air in. The window tilted out and over the harbor. He unwittingly performed a perfect somersault backwards over the sill.
He cannonballed into the water before he could even open his mouth to shriek, making a prodigious splash directly in front a rowboat.