This handwritten manuscript was found when I was going through a trunk in the attic of our Savannah home. It was written in the late seventeen hundreds when my many-greats grandmother was sixteen.


ith my hair up in a bun, I bent over the draft table. It was illuminated by a lamp, light intensified by three convex mirrors as I worked on the map.

I still couldn't believe that I had succeeded! I was now a cartographer in the British Navy, Ensign Jennifer Brentley! Yes, it helped that my fiancÚ was the captain of the well-known four-master "Queen's Sailor" and, moreover, that my father was captain of the gunship I was stationed on, but still, in the nineteenth century it was unheard of that a female was actually allowed to serve in the British Navy.

I was working late in my enthusiasm and effort to demonstrate that my appointment was not an error. How late? Well, the only sounds around the ship was the rattling of the skeleton crew.

I made a funny!

'Skeleton', suggesting bones rattling, and --

If I need to explain it, it wasn't really funny, was it?

Abruptly my cabin door opened and a man I'd never seen stood there. Standing taller than most of the crew, clean-shaven, he looked at me, surprise on his face. "You are the new cartographer?"

Swallowing my own surprise, I nodded. "Yes, I am."

"Well, that certainly raises my low opinion of the British Navy," he said, stepping into the room -- cabin! I'm well-versed in the making of maps, but, alas, not in naval terms. When my father spoke nautical, I paid little attention as maps were my love.

Then the intruder grabbed my largest tube of maps, slung me over his shoulder, and ducked as he took us through the doorway.

"What are you doing?" I cried, kicking my legs and hitting him on the back as he crossed the floor -- deck! -- toward the rail. He clamped a hand over my mouth. My blows to his back produced about the same reaction as if I were just patting him.

Leaning over, he dropped the maps to some men below and said, "Here's the cartographer. Careful with her." "Her?" was one astonished response as I was handed overboard.

As he came over the rail, there came a shout of "Stop!" from one of my father's crewmen.

"Not likely!" the man shouted back, dropping into the boat beside me. "Shove off!"

There were eight sailors in the boat and they immediately sat and started rowing away from my father's ship. A blunderbuss fired from the railing, but hit the water beside us.

"Don't shoot!" I heard father shout. "They have my dau -- Ensign Brentley with them!"

"Stroke harder!" my captor encouraged his men. "Our hostage won't stop them!"

My eyes had adjusted to the night and I saw land ahead of us. Recalling a map, I realized it was an island we had been sailing by. That wouldn't stop them; my father would land his men there and save me. What was my captor up to? I wondered, as the grunting seamen slapped their oars deeply into the water and we moved ahead, into the wind. Then, over the sound of the oars, I heard the sound of winches from father's ship as they got ready to put a boat into the water to follow.

What was this boat I was on called? 'Longshoreman's boat'? 'Brig'? Whatever it was, they had a headstart but what good could it do when they hit land? This island wasn't very large, and it wouldn't take long for them to be found.

Then I discovered the answer. My captor let out a shrill and loud whistle. Immediately there was motion from the shore ahead which, as I watched, billowed into a ship's sails.

"Captain Beardless sir!" cried one of the sailors. "Them wot's behind us is putting up sails."

I looked back and, sure enough, the boat launched from the gunship now had a sail billowing out. "No matter," my captor -- now revealed as the infamous Captain Beardless -- said with a laugh. "They sail into the wind and will have to tack back and forth. My schooner is sailing with the wind. The schooner will reach us much sooner."

So I was in the hands of the pirate, Captain Beardless! He was known as being bold and daring, and had attacked other pirate ships as well as legitimate ships, and always got away. My father had his work cut out for him, if he were to rescue me.

A cannon boomed behind us and the ball landed in the water in front of the schooner. "We'll abandon the longboat," Captain Beardless ordered. "We can't take time to winch it aboard, and it will slow us if we try to tow it behind us." "Aye, aye sir!"

As the longboat (see? I learn quickly!) neared the schooner, my captor stood and shouted into cupped hands: "The landing net! The landing net!" In seconds, something rolled over the schooner's rail and splashed into the water. The longboat neared, and I could see that the landing net was made of ropes that formed squares of about one foot each. A sailor at the head of the longboat reached for it and, as he touched it, quickly clambered up, as did the others, except for Captain Beardless. He tossed the tube of maps to a sailor above and then, holding a rope, he motioned at me. "Up you go!"

Crossing my arms, I said defiantly, "I'd rather stay on the longboat, thank you."

Saying "Not likely!" he slung me over his shoulder again, as easily as he had tossed the map tube. My beloved Charles was strong, but Captain Beardless made him appear a child as he climbed the landing net easily and placed me on the deck of his schooner. But how could I compare Charles with this Beardless pirate? Charles was an educated gentleman, with a sense of honor! Yet the pirate captain did know what a cartographer was.

+ + +

nce on board, the schooner began picking up speed. "Gunner!" the pirate captain called, "Can you hit their sails from here?"

"Aye, aye, sir!" was the quick response. Pleasure in his voice, the gunner continued, "Them big sheets on a four-master makes a good target."

I was standing beside the pirate. One of his hands was clamped over my wrists. "No!" I shouled, wiggling to get free. "You can't! My father's boat ship! will be --"

Beardless lifted his brows. "Your father, you say?" I kicked his shins, but he was wearing high-top boots and didn't seem to feel it. "Now, that is really interesting. Gunner!" he added. "Use the chains!"

"Already loaded, sir!"

"Fire!"

The chains made a fluttering and whistling scream as they flew through the air and hit the sails on father's gunship. "You, you scoundrel!" I screamed at the pirate captain. Then we were sailing away into the night.

The pirate took me to a polished oak door with what looked like a gold knob on it, opened the door, placed me on the floor, and closed the door behind us. "This," he said, "will be your quarters. Excuse the masculinity, but it is my, my office."

Getting my wind back, I looked around at what the two lanterns revealed. Against the far wall was a nice walnut desk with golden drawer-pulls, a roll-back cover, and many shelves filled with fine leather-bound books. There were also two mahogany planks that served to hold roll after roll of maps and charts.

How do I recognize the different woods? Such things have fascinated me almost as much as cartography for all my life. My father has many different woods in our house, and I have learned to appreciate them.

The pirate put the tube with my maps on top of the others. Looking further, I observed a fine hammock hanging to my right. "You sleep in your office?" I asked curiously.

He shrugged. "I had heard the new cartographer on the gunboat was very skilled, and there was a bit of hush -hush about it which intrigued me. I now see what the hush-hush was about. Was your skill magnified?"

"Indeed not!" I said, angrily defensive. "I have spent most of my life in the study of and reproduction of maps. Otherwise, I could never have convinced my father, the captain, to give me a chance."

He nodded. "Feminine wiles," said he. "I return to my previous low regard for the British Navy. As for the cabin," he went on with another shrug, "I admit this has been my personal quarters. Since you are a woman, however, I feel you deserve other than bunking with the crew. So," and his upturned palms took in the quarters, "here you shall stay."

"Your foray to my father's ship was solely to get me and my maps. Why?"

The pirate eyed me. "You do not properly value the product you create?"

Indignantly, I shot back, "Of course! A ship cannot maneuver without them!" Then it came to me. "That's it, isn't it? Your piracy depends on getting around in the sea. Maps are true treasures to you." Perhaps he was, after all, truly educated.

He nodded. "Maps, and the maker of maps, are priceless!"

Following this revelation, there was a knock on the cabin door. "Come," said Captain Beardless.

The door opened and a stocky, middle-aged sailor came in, a bandana wrapped around his head. He was grinning broadly. "Jes' thought you might wanna know, Captain; we have well out-distanced that gunship."

The captain nodded. "As expected, Pedro. Anything else?"

"They flicked us a message, sayin' they gonna get us an' we better give up and make it easy on ourselfs."

My captor smiled. "I hope you told 'em what they could do."

Pedro replied, still grinning, "Nope. Figgered we wouldn't waste any lamp fuel on answerin'."

"Which is a good reply in itself. Thank you, Pedro."

The sailor nodded and left, closing the door behind him.

I asked the captain, "What's your name?"

In mock surprise, he replied, "I thought you knew! I'm Captain Beardless." He stroked his smooth chin.

Impatiently I responded, "No, no! That's just silly. I mean, what's your Christian name? I can't call you 'Beardless'."

"The Caribbean trembles at my name," he said. Was there a slight smile on his face? Was it pride, or indulgent humor at my attitude?

"I'm shaking all over," I said. "What's your real name?"

He paused, then said, "John Raleigh. Satisfied?"

"That's a good, Christian name. As you captured me, I'll not show any honor by using 'Mister Raleigh'. I shall call you 'John'."

"Well, with that settled, I believe it is bedtime," John told me. "It has been a very late night. But first," he said, crossing to a small door to the right of the bookshelves and opening it, "here is where you, ah, you take care of necessary bodily functions."

I looked inside. It was a bathroom, complete with commode, a table in front of a mirror with a ceramic bowl and pitcher of water on the table, with soap beside it. "Nice to know," I said.

Returning to the front door, he said, "Have a good night."

"Where will you sleep?"

John smiled. "I sleep easily, and there are plenty of places on my schooner."

After he closed the cabin door, I decided the hammock did look inviting. I used the bathroom and then considered a problem: I only had my uniform to sleep in! I was so tired that it proved no problem. With the gentle swinging of the hammock, I quickly fell asleep.

A rap at the door awakened me to morning. My mind reaches full awareness when I wake. Pushing the coverlet aside, I swung my legs over the side of the hammock, stood, and went to the door.

Captain Beardless ('John') stood there. I wasn't the only one who had slept in their clothes. Then I saw a blanket beside the door. "You slept at my door!" I accused. "Did you think I was stupid enough to jump overboard?"

John shook his head. "You are more intelligent than that. We are far from shore, and you have no idea where your father's gunship is. No, it's because you are the only woman on board. I trust my men on all other things, but fear that is just too much to ask of them.

"I need to shave," he added.

I stepped aside. "This is your room, 'quarters'," I corrected myself. "Come in."

When he had completed his toiletry, I asked, "Now what?" John indicated the rolls of maps and charts. "There's your work."

"Just like that? Suppose I don't wish to?"

He shrugged his big shoulders. "Look at it as a way to pass your time whilst awaiting rescue." His grey eyes studied me and he added, lightly, "This is your skill, is it not?"

I considered it for a few seconds, then matched his shrug. "It is better than trying to sleep the time away." After all, cartography is my passion.

"I will bring you a drafting board and the usual tools of your trade."

John, 'Captain Beardless', again surprised me. They were far and above 'the usual tools'. Possibly they were even better than those on father's ship. After arranging things to my satisfaction, I got to work.

+ + +

everal days went by. One was highlighted by an attack on another pirate ship. In what I suspected was a well-practiced maneuver, while the schooner was still out of range of cannons, a harpoon gun with a short fuse was mounted on the bow (isn't what they call the pointed front of a ship?) and then they turned and headed straight for the pirates! The first volley of cannon balls fell short and then, at what he must have judged the appropriate time, Captain Beardless shouted (more loudly than I thought necessary) "Fire!"

The short-fused harpoon gun boomed in only a second and the harpoon went unerringly to its target, which was one of the other ship's cannons! There was an answering series of 'booms' from the other ship, and one was very large as the targeted cannon exploded, setting off gunpowder that was in readiness. The pilot of the schooner swung the ship alongside the other one, which was now burning. Captain Beardless led his men aboard with much shouting. There was a short battle, but then the other pirate surrendered, cursing. John and his crew helped control the fire still burning on the other ship and returned.

Two treasure chests were brought aboard the schooner, along with two rolls of maps.

Later, John explained it to me. "They are always nervous and fire prematurely," he said with satisfaction. "When the wind and the sea are right, it works. When I shouted to fire, the other crew heard me and took it as an order for them. Our harpoon entered the cannon just as their fuse burned down, setting everything off. The fact my schooner is narrow also helps. A harpoon is more accurate than a cannonball."

Seemed to me that luck had a lot to do with it, to, but hasn't it been said that the bold and the daring create their own good luck?

No matter; it worked. Being long and straight, it made sense a harpoon would be more accurate than a round cannonball.

Then John added, "Don't think I am weak just because I helped them with their fire. My schooner doesn't have room for many prisoners."

Oh, sure! My esteem for 'Captain Beardless'/John, rose again.

I felt like a traitor, living on a pirate ship, actually beginning to feel a certain fondness for John, my captor. I needed to escape, but shore was too distant for a swim; usually, shore wasn't even in sight. How could I escape? Then an oppurtunity arose, in a strange way.

"The next big island," John said, "has an inn that is quite popular with pirates. It's called the Bets and Thistle, a takeoff on 'Bells and Whistles', but there's a reason: There is betting there, and the owner is a Scotsman who admires his country's thistles."

"Why is this supposed to interest me?"

"When I go, I would like to take you along."

"To show off your prize?" I asked archly.

John shook his head. "Not at all. There is another ancient trade that is active there and, if I have you with me, the madam will not try to foist one of her girls off on me."

I lifted an eyebrow. "As if you don't have enough girls already?" Even as I said it, the chance to escape rose in my mind.

John winced gently. "Captain Beardless does not have a reputation as a lady's man," he said. "A pirate and a bon vivant don't coincide. But I do need to go there to see if I have any messages. There are times when good information comes that way."

I looked down at my clothes. To allow me a change, John had produced a pair of seaman's breeches and two shirts. "Like this?" I asked.

"No, no! I believe I can find you something more ladylike. There is a leather-bound chest beyond your hammock. Let's take a look."

I had seen the chest but, as it was padlocked, had never opened it. Producing a key, John pulled out the trunk and opened it. Inside were several dresses. Looking at John, I said, "Seems to me you really are a lady's man after all!"

He fought a look of embarrassment but didn't win. "These are dresses of ladies we've kidnapped and held for ransom," he finally said.

"All of them?" I asked, spitefully.

"Well, well, uh, most of them," he said. Then he took a deep breath. "Select one. I need you with me when I go to Bets and Thistles." He turned and left.

As this would give me a chance to escape, I looked through the dresses and chose one that, with minor alteration, would do. It was long-sleeved, black, and had vertical rows of white beads on the front. I got a needle and some thread I had located earlier and got to work.

+ + +

ohn was dressed in his usual pantaloons, but with a white shirt and, over it all, a lightweight coat that hung below his knees. "A coat?" I asked.

He pulled his coat open, revealing a cutlass slipped into his belt. I couldn't help asking, "Expecting trouble?"

"I find trouble isn't so bad when you're prepared for it. Not expecting, just ready."

When I nodded acceptance, he led me to an opening in the ship rail and handed me down to a waiting boat.

I found myself uncomfortable in a dress, and it surprised me. I had worn men's cloths for too long!

They landed the longboat at a big pier at the base of a large building. It was night, and the building was well-lit inside, while a full moon shone on the water. "I'll have them send you some grog," Captain Beardless told his crew, then added, "Pedro, see that no one goes too far in their enjoyment of the beverage. We might be in a hurry to depart."

"Aye, aye, sir," said the grinning Pedro. "Yer crew will not get drunk." The pirate captain stepped up onto the planks of the pier and gave me his hand to help me join him.

John opened double doors to reveal a cavernous interior. To our left was a long bar with a few sailors standing there. John went to the bartender to order grog delivered to the longboat, then took me to one of the many tables scattered on our right. To the back, a band was playing and a few couples were dancing on the small dance floor the band faced.

After seating me at a small table, John returned to the bar.

I was startled when a whiskery voice said, "Hello, pretty thing."

Two puffy cheeks and a beard were looking down at me. "Excuse me?" I said.

"I said yer pretty," he slurred, inebriation obvious on his breath. "Could I buy ya a drink?"

"I think not," I said, pulling back away from his pungent aroma. "I'm with that man at the bar," I added. "The one wearing a coat."

"Ain' never seed no man I'd --" he began, then John happened to look around. "Oh!" Puffy Cheeks exclaimed. "I be goin' now." He turned and stumbled off.

"I see you met Parrot," John said, returning to the table.

"Parrot?" I asked. "Why is he called Parrot?"

John smiled. "Because he does lots of squawking but little else." He remained standing. "I received three messages," he continued. "One of particular interest. Let us return," he finished, helping me to my feet.

When John opened the double doors, I stepped outside, then quickly stopped. Three men were standing there, one holding a pirate pistol. Calmly, John closed the doors and faced the trio. "Three to one," he said in appraisal. "Doesn't seem like fair odds." His left had rested on the edge of his coat.

"That's the way I like it," sneered the one with the pistol. "Especially when dealing with Captain Beardless."

"That isn't the way I meant it," John said smoothly. "There are only three of you!" More quickly than I can relate it, he pulled back the front of his coat, extracted his cutlass and sliced off the hand holding the gun. He slapped the side of the cutlass blade against the head of the next man and brought the hilt of his sword down on the head of the third. Two collapsed, while the gunman stared uncomprehendingly at his stub of an arm.

"You, you cut off my hand!"

"You'll be another pirate with a hook," John said. He wasn't even breathing hard. The handless pirate tried to edge away, but tripped over one of his companions and tumbled to the floor. Taking my arm, John said, "Let's go."

At last I remembered to breathe. "You," I began, then stammered, "H-how did you, did you move so quickly?"

"Preservation," John said, as Pedro approached from the longboat.

"Them three, they just suddenly appeared, Cap'n! I, we didn't have a chance to, to," Then he grinned. "A'course, ye didn't need any help."

"Of course," John agreed in a matter-of-fact manner. "Let's return to the schooner."

As the sailors rowed us back, I finally remembered something John had said and asked, "You said there was a message that would of interest, didn't you? What was it?"

"When we return to my, your quarters."

Aboard ship, in 'my' quarters, I said, "Well? What was the message?"

"In two days, you will need to wear that black dress again."

"Why?"

"You'll see," John said, and closed the door as he left.

+ + +

wo days later, still uncomfortable wearing the black dress, I was back in the longboat, John beside me. The dress didn't cause me to regret being a woman; I simply enjoyed the freedom of men's wear.

"I must ask a favor," John said. "Please trust me on this." He handed me some black material. "I would appreciate it if you would wear this over your head for some time, Jennifer." He seldom used my name. I knew this was important. Curiosity was burning in my mind, but I silently accepted the bag and slipped it over my head. It seemed as if hours passed, but I felt my anxiousness was causing the time to drag. At last, I felt the longboat grounding.

"Now?" I asked, anxiously.

"Yes," John replied, and pulled the sack off my head.

The first thing I saw was a massive cliff beyond the beach. A long spit of the beach, only a foot or two above sea level, extended to my right --

--And there was Charles, not thirty feet away!

"What? Charles? But, but, what is going on?"

Leaping out of the boat, striding away, John said: "He left me a message to meet him in a gentleman's duel. His rapier against my cutlass."

Charles was quite athletic, and had won many contests with his rapier. But this, this was beyond belief. I was quickly out of the boat and running after John, who stopped six feet in front of Charles. Darting between them, I held up my hands and screamed, "Gentlemen? You are both silly ninnies!"

Charles said, "Hello, Jennifer."

John, for the first time since I had met him, seemed startled, possibly insulted, and quite puzzled. "Ninnies?" he asked. "We are doing this for you!"

Losing all attempts to be ladylike, I shouted, "Like hell you are! This is nothing more than man's pride! You are treating me as if I were a trophy!" I looked at Charles. "Just because we're engaged doesn't mean you have the right to use me as excuse to fight!" Then I switched to John. "Just because you've captured me is no reason that I'm your pawn! In fact," I added, catching my breath, "you're missing the opportunity to be a privateer for His Majesty!

His jaw actually dropped. "What?"

"You could be a privateer! You wouldn't need to turn treasure over to His Majesty, unless, that is, His Majesty decides to knight you. At that point, a gift would be acceptable. Otherwise, all you need do is stay away from His Majesty's ships."

John quickly recovered, and even had a smile on his face. "So now you speak for the king?"

Charles said, "Yes, Jennifer! You are assuming too much!"

"I am?" I asked, cocking my head. "Am I not an ensign in the British Navy, the only female to do so?"

John chuckled. "She does make a point."

"Will you do it?" I quickly asked.

He looked at Charles. "What do you think, Captain Charles?"

He shook his head. "My fiancee is marvelous, Captain Beardless," he said in wonderment. "For that matter, so are you, John, I'll freely admit I'd rather fight beside you than against you. Does that mean you will return Jennifer to me?" "Wait!" I interrupted. "You're doing it again. How do you know, Charles, that I don't want to stay with John? He is very dependable, attractive, and quite capable."

It was Charles who dropped his jaw this time. "Jennifer! What do you mean?"

"I mean, never take me for granted!" I looked at John and smiled. "You won't mind if I return to Charles, will you? You may keep my maps."

"He will get the best of the deal. However, I find it only proper."


So another forgotten page of history ends with 'Happily ever after'.

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When I was eighteen, I found some pulp magazines at a yard sale. There were Argosys, some westerns, as well as an assortment of detective magazines.

I was hooked. Like they say, 'Love at first sight!'

Later, thanks to Google, I found pulp sf and fantasy pulps to go with my growing collection. Even though I have written a lot, this is the first story I have dared submit.

Excuse the lousy photo. Unlike my friends, I have no cellphone or digital camera.