The Rowankind books, Winterwood, Silverwolf, and Rowankind, are narrated by Rossalinde (Ross) Tremayne, but every now and then one of the other characters likes to have his say. You can find Corwen’s piece here. And pirate captain Gentleman Jim’s piece here.
This time it’s the turn of Hookey Garrity, barely reformed pirate, and Ross’ faithful crewman and occasional sidekick.
I never had a mother, though I guess I was squeezed out from between some woman’s legs. I don’t know who she was or what happened to her. She might have been a princess or a portside doxy. All I can say is I never knew her. First thing I remember is Missis Garrity sending me out on to the street to be a distraction so that Henry, a big grown up boy of at least ten, could part a gentleman from whatever was in his pocket. I ran away from the Missis when I was big enough to join His Majesty’s Navy. Yes, the Navy’s a hard life, but at least it’s a life. That was the year Henry was hanged at Newgate, and I could see my fate written on the wind that whistled round the gallows.
So there I was, a powder monkey to begin with, and then eventually part of a gun crew on the frigate Antigone. I learned my trade, and how to walk a rolling deck, and how to cowtow to the officers, and how to make sure no one messed with me and mine without the bo’sun noticing. I was doing all right for myself until we went into action against a Yankee ship off Port au Prince and I came out of it minus one hand. The least said about that experience, the better. The sawbones took it off at the wrist, what was left of it, and that was it. Next time we made port I was turned off, unfit for duty, and left on Antigua, where I took up with a dusky widow woman, name of Marguerite. A fine figure of a woman, she was.
I was twenty one, near as I could figure, and the sea was all I knew, so I got me a hook fitted in place of my hand and I worked it until I was damn near as good with it as I was with a full set o’ fingers. Then I looked for a crew to join. Captain Tree of the Orca took me on and for three years I sailed with as decent a captain as you could find anywhere, carrying cargo around the Caribbean and to the Americas. I saw Marguerite whenever I could, but there’s a reason that sailors have a woman in every port, and that’s because a woman has a sailor on every ship. Marguerite didn’t lack for company when I was gone and I didn’t begrudge her that.
I might have gone on like that forever but the Orca was took by pirates off Bermuda. I was one of the lucky ones, offered the choice of joining the pirate crew or going overboard with the captain and first mate. I liked the captain, but not enough to die with him, so that’s how I became a pirate. The ship was the Black Hawk, then captained by Edgar Ransome. He was a hard man and sometimes a cruel one. His favourite sport was to pit two crewman against each other, to fight to the death for a silver piece. I was picked six times. You learn a lot of dirty tricks when your life’s on the line. All I can say is that I’m still alive and I have six silver pieces, lucky pieces, not for spending.
I’d been on the Hawk for three years when young Jim Mayo joined the crew. You could tell right from the start that he was ambitious. I treat men like that with caution. They might not mean to, but they can get you killed if you follow them into whatever scheme they cook up. It took him six years to become first mate, and then one night it happened. There was some kind of scuffle, but it was all over by the time all the crew was up on deck. Ransome was overboard and Mayo, cool as you please, was on the quarterdeck with Ransome’s tricorn hat, and Tarpot Robbie at his back. “Men,” says he, “I claim the right of captaincy if you will but vote me in.” Half the crew cheered instantly as if they’d been in on this new venture from the off, and the rest of us, seeing no other obvious successor to Ransome, came around to it before violence was offered.
I didn’t much like Mayo. He was a hard man like his predecessor, though he stopped the death matches in favour of training with weapons, and gun drills. All came to a head when instead of chasing down merchantmen we took an island, Auvienne, by landing in a sheltered bay and attacking Ravenscraig, its only town, from the landward side. Mayo fortified the town, used it as a base from which to attack shipping and drew other pirates to his stronghold. I’ll give him this, he was a clever man. Then one day we had an altercation with a British privateer, the Heart of Oak, captained by Redbeard Tremayne, a hulk of a man with a fearsome reputation. The Black Hawk and the Heart of Oak were both set on the same French merchantmen. I figured Mayo would fight for the prize, but the two captains agreed that Mayo would take the cargo and Tremayne would take the ship for the bounty paid by the English. I didn’t realise that the deciding factor was Tremayne’s wife, a slip of a thing who wielded a blade and a pistol as fierce as any man. Mayo was smitten by her.
A year later there was a conclave in Ravenscraig between pirate captains and privateers, to determine how we should deal with each other. I heard that Mayo gave more concessions than he intended, partly due to Tremayne’s woman. I liked the cut of Tremayne’s jib and figured that sailing aboard a privateer was less likely to get me hanged if King George’s navy came chasing pirates as they sometimes did. My mind was made up when I heard from Tarpot Robbie that we were to see that Tremayne had an accident. I might have been a pirate, but I didn’t figure that was right, especially on account of a bit of skirt. I made up my mind and that night the Heart of Oak sailed from Ravenscraig, with me on board, before any damage could be done to either Tremayne or the treaty. To this day I’m not sure whether Mayo instigated the plan or whether Tarpot Robbie decided to do his captain a favour.
When I came to know the Tremaynes, I realised that had Robbie succeeded that night it would certainly not have thrown Rossalinde Tremayne into the arms of James Mayo. They were truly bonded to each other. They must have seen something in me because Tremayne insisted I learned my letters from Mr Rafiq, the quartermaster, and the art of navigation from Mr Sharpner, the sailing master. Sad to say, Tremayne died one stormy night, a random accident with a falling spar, and though you could see the grief in her eyes, Ross steadied the crew and promised nothing would change. From now on she was her husband, and she would lead us into skirmishes against the French in his name. I think some didn’t believe her, but we took our next merchantman with Ross, dressed in man’s attire, leading the boarding party. Mr Sharpner, was on one side of her, and me on the other.
Her side became my new place, and my new mission in life was to see her safe. Not that she was weak or fragile, far from it, but any captain needs someone to watch their back, even if she is a witch who can control wind and weather. (No one ever speaks about that. She might be a witch, but she’s our witch.) So it was that I was in Plymouth with her when she made a last fateful visit to her dying mother which started off the trouble with that thrice-damned Walsingham, the Fae, and the rowankind bondservants. We ended up chased by Redcoats, fleeing overland on horseback—Ross, her new brother she hadn’t even known about until that night, and me. You should know that it isn’t right to put a sailor on a horse. I proved that by falling off the damn thing more than once. We met with outlaws in the Okewood. I learned later they were fairy folk under some kind of glamour, but I’m glad I didn’t know it at the time. I was a bit puzzled when a wolf led us to safety, but I was so busy trying to stay in the saddle that I didn’t have time to question anything.
Do I love Ross Tremayne? Yes, with all my heart, but not that way. Ross has Corwen, and I have a woman of my own. No, not Marguerite, I heard she married a merchant and had six children. I’m not sure how a man like me deserved the attention of Lady Henrietta Rothcliffe, but I have it all the same. Ross will always be the family I never had, though. She gave me her trust, she gave me her friendship, and she made me captain of her ship when her path took her elsewhere. Wherever she goes, I’ll stand by her to the end.