The St. Raphael's Posts
A Period Romance Story by Emmett Grey
To Joan & Mick Kavanaugh
"A glimpse of God's love starts with the welcome of a stranger, to a place called home."
A special thank you to Ed Gafney and Natalie Law. Written in New Plymouth, New Zealand.
The sea rocked and roared the tiny little wooden ship back and forth, lanterns swaying, water knocking on every plank, requesting to see inside the galley. In the dimly lit room sat six men around a large wooden table. Rough, hairy, and a face etched in place by the hard waves of wind they confronted. Debris of dinner, now being washed down by a couple of bottles of a hard whiskey, lay strewn about the place. All seemed focused on one man, who was carefully holding a hot knife. He placed it slowly under the flap of an envelope, its sealing wax melted gently till the contents were now exposed.
“Good man,” a barrel-chested man exclaimed with a formerly blue coat, now faded brownish. He was the Captain’s right-hand man, Mr. Paul. Number 2, as they customarily would call him, is long in the tooth and travel. The coat held the markings of a former Royal Marine. Stern and rough when he spoke – well, barked really. Everyone jumped.
The Captain sat at his usual head of the table seat. He wore a fine long mustard-colored coat and chewed on a pipe, long since retired of its flame. He was a larger fellow but clearly had the confidence of a man able to step into any role on this ship. A man that had worked his way to the big chair.
“Well, my dear Mr. Charles, you have once again proved your skill. We shall all continue to enjoy our employment by the company,” the Captain praised. Mr. Charles, better known as Crow, was the ship’s primary lookout and all-around assistant for all tasks like everyman on board. The Saint Raphael, a two-masted schooner, sported a tiny crew of six; all hired to make the tedious voyage back and forth from the Kingdom to New England. They’d ferried cargo and, of course, the mail between the homeland and the Colonies.
Around the table they sat, awaiting this evening’s entertainment. Mr. Nickolas, Nickers he was dubbed, was the cargo purser. Mr. Thomas, small in stature and sporting a necklace of many charms, was known as Twine. A boyhood nickname from an unfortunate incident involving knickers and the lack of a belt. And rounding out the crew was Bosh. He was an African who had found his way into the company by sheer acts of strength. And on this night, the boredom of a trans-Atlantic trip had found the crew once again reading correspondences from the mailbag.
“Well now let me see here” Crow handed the letter to the Captain who gently separated its pages from its envelope. “Now hmmm... I see... hmmm…” the crew waited with much anticipation as the Captain deciphered the handwriting.
“This is a letter from a dear Mrs. Wallace, widowed for many years, who seems to have gotten a request for assistance by a young man in the Barbary Coast,” the Captain stated.
From the household of Mrs. Wilhelmina Wallace
Dear Mr. Ward,
It troubles me greatly that those evil pirates of the Barbary Coast have taken you hostage. I only take solace in your status as a Duke that they have not done unmentionable actions to your personage. The sum you ask for might take me a few months to collect. I am many years a widow of only modest means. But with your wealth hidden as you have said, it shall be quickly repaid. It is the least I can do for a Christian under such circumstances.
I do hope I am not too late with this correspondence. And that Mr. Smith we are smuggling this letter through has not fallen to such Satanist men in his daring work. May God hold you safe till I can pay your ransom. I shall await confirmation from Mr. Smith.
In God’s good graces,
“Oh, if he is a Duke, I am a Duchess!!!” barked Mr. Paul, placing a napkin as a tiara on his head.
“The Barbary Pirates are indeed a scary bunch,” a frightened Twine said.
“You aren’t serious?” snorted Nickers.
“She is being deceived,” explained Crow as he cleared table scraps and leftovers.
“Are we certain?” Twine asked the room. They all nodded in solemn confirmation.
The Captain placed the letter back into the fold. “We shall save her from her own blunder, let’s lose this one to the sea.”
“Wait, did she send any advancement?” Nickers interjected.
“Oh...why yes, Mr. Nickolas, good of you to always think of the bottom line.” The Captain examined the letter’s contents again. “It would seem we have some more funds for our whiskey rations. We must indeed thank the Duke of much hidden treasure!” the Captain said.
“Grand, grand, love my Duke of the Barbary Prisons!” roared Mr. Paul as the group all cheered at their new earnings.
“You know of those Barbary fellows, Mr. Bosh?” inquired Crow.
“I am from another coast, eastern.” Bosh did not take the bait.
“Do they have many Princes and Dukes there? With lots of hidden treasure,” continued Crow.
“We do not have the same royal system you possess,” Bosh retorted.
“Well then, what do you call your Royals where you are from?” Nickers interjected.
“We call them dead men,” Bosh stated.
“Jesus Christ, now that is the way to treat Royals!” Crow exclaimed.
“Hold your tongue!” Mr. Paul interjected. “You will be civil on this ship, or I will lash you!”
“And with the Lord’s book only a King’s foot away from you!” Twine said to everyone’s agreement as he snatched the Bible on the table from the offense.
“Indeed. Mr. Charles, watch your language, and that is enough of interrogating our Mr. Bosh,” the Captain said in a reprimanding tone.
Sorting through the mail pouch the Captain looked at and then...sniffed another letter. This got everyone’s attention. They gathered back around as Crow reheated his knife over a candle on the table. Once again, with skill and a silenced tongue, he made quick work of the wax seal.
“Is it from a young lady?” Nickers asked as the Captain unfolded the envelope contents. Out fell a small, dried lilac colored flower.
“Well, we now know the source of such sweet aroma” the Captain examined the letter, setting it down on the table with much interest.
“It must be a young lady,” Nickers stated.
“I think it is not,” Bosh challenged.
“Clearly it is of much interest,” Mr. Paul chimed in.
“Captain?” Crow pleaded.
“You are indeed looking for a lashing!!” Mr. Paul bellowed at Crow.
After a few more moments, the Captain looked up from the letter. “Gentlemen, Mr. Bosh is correct. It is from a young man who has met a young lady from our own home port, Cork. And she is someone familiar to our own Mr. Paul.”
Sitting down, Mr. Paul queried, “Do tell?”
“This letter is intended for our own Miss Wentworth, eldest daughter of the Commodore,” the Captain explained. “Shall I read it aloud?”
“From a Colonist?” Mr. Paul asked, his Captain nodding yes. “A young man, you say?” Again, the same nod. “That is some sand. Clearly reaching above his shelf. I will smack him down myself. The gall... but sometimes that is how boys learn to be men, by trying to grab the moon.”
“True,” the Captain said. “Shall I read his letter aloud?”
The crew looked to their enforcer for his acceptance. They truly wanted to hear the letter but knew the importance of loyalty on the seas. With much thought, Mr. Paul said, “The Commodore is a good man. A true Captain of His Majesty’s service. If this young man has designs above his station, I feel it is my duty to Commodore to make sure nothing untoward is sent to his daughter. By all means, please read it aloud.”
The Captain nodded and flattened the parchment on the table.
A vision of a young man, barely in his twenties, sporting dimples and impossible to tame locks of hair, came into focus as his words came forth.
From the desk of Master Andrews
I debated with much anguish in how I shall pursue you, finally gaining the courage to write this letter. My hope is not to remind you of the distance between us, but rather to take you back to the time of our brief encounter. I have included a lilac flower as a token of remembrance of the walk in the garden after the dance. It is a night that every day fills me with joy. I see your face in my mind at the most inappropriate times, it seems. Recently, my Parish Vicar did not believe me when he queried during Sunday lessons as I daydreamed about you. I am not sure I could hide my feelings for you if pressed by any mild interrogator.
Indeed, I have talked to my classmates, and they all agree that I should pursue you even if our lives are very different, as you had stated. That night at the dance was a true enchantment. I remember every moment, from the time our eyes locked across the room, to the wry smile of your acceptance of my dance request. I know I was not very good at the proper steps of the dance, but I take comfort in your desire to be by my side that evening. The smell of your hair was heaven. I wish there was a flower that I could grow in a garden that could compare.
As you said that evening, we are worlds apart. I know you are being practical. But I do have much to offer here in the Colony. Once my studies are done, my family has settled on deeded land just out of town with a good deal of livestock, maple syrup trees, and several acres of fresh timber. With only one older brother, my share shall be half one day. It might not be the life suited for a Royal, but money will not be your worry. I am doing well in my studies and fully intend to complete a degree in law. With the income from both the family assets and hopefully as a gainfully employed barrister, we can be rather comfortable.
This correspondence is forward in tone, I know. It might not be prudent, and I do not wish to offend you. I hope that you felt the same way I did that night at the dance. When we embraced and kissed under the moonlight in the garden, I knew we were meant to be together for life. It was a night that I cannot compare with any I have ever had before. I await your answer with much hope for our future together.
Master Mathew Andrews
The Captain folded the letter and placed it into the envelope. He sniffed the small purple lilac again and then placed it too into the envelope. Sitting in the middle of the table, he looked to Mr. Paul. A reflective quiet came over the crew.
“That was beautiful,” Twine exclaimed with a teary eye to the startlement of the men.
“It is not how I would pursue a woman,” Mr. Bosh put his two cents in.
“Hopefully this Master Andrews won’t have to kill a lion to prove his worth,” Crow retorted to Bosh.
“He may need to,” the Captain cutting off Crow. Placing his gaze upon Mr. Paul, who was deep in thought. Taking their Captain’s cue, the crew awaited his answer.
Mr. Paul looked up at his mates. Looking around, he said, “Let’s reseal it. We must deliver this letter. That was love.”
“Really? I get it Master Andrews is clearly over the moon, but he is a Colonist and she is... well not,” Nickers challenged.
“Gentlemen, this is Mr. Paul’s decision. And I agree with him,” said the Captain before there was more descending discussion.
“Mr. Nickolas, that was love,” Mr. Paul wanted to explain. “Look, I have known Miss Eileen Wentworth from the time she was just a little flower bud. She is precocious, quick tongued, and very sensible. But she wouldn’t go around just kissing any old bloke. No, this was love. Love at first sight. I am very aware of my duty. The Commodore saved many of our lives that day, including mine. This young man might be a colonist, but God has a plan. And it is for her to decide if Master Andrews will be worthy of her attention. She is not one to just accept her first invitation of marriage. He will still have to face the Commodore for the right to her hand. And that is a task unto itself, one this young man must face alone.”
“But I will also say this, if I hear of a rumor in port saying that she had kissed a young Colonist in any form I will lash all of you. Is that clear?!” Mr. Paul glared at everyone, including the Captain.
“As always, mums the word, gentleman,” the Captain nodded to the crew.