“I knew something was brewing in that head of yours” her mother said. “I could see from the beginning that job didn’t suit you; you’re just too independent. But child … to run away to sea; it’s a hard and dangerous life.”
“I need to get out of here mum” Mary pleaded. They were seated at the old table where, just a year ago her mother had told her that she had to find work and had shown her the dress. “It’s like something is swelling up inside of me threatening to burst if I stay here. I need to be where I can breathe, where I can be myself.”
“But do you know who you are Mary luv?” her mother asked quietly, placing her hand over Mary’s.
“I got to find that out and I can’t do it here … you understand, don’t you mum?” In the dim light from the lamp her mother looked older than her forty-five years; her face thin and drawn, the once thick brown hair now gray and brittle and her eyes, once laughing and full of life now lusterless and tired. How could I have missed it? she thought sadly. She felt the past year had gone so quickly; there had been so little time for visits. Or maybe there had just been other things which seemed more important at the time.
“If that’s what you want” her mother sighed, “then I think it’s a good idea. I hear that it’s possible to make a better life for one’s self in the colonies.” Then seeming to lose her-self in thought she sat staring down at her thin, wrinkled hands. “But Mary child, you’re a girl, how will you ever be able to hold your own among sea-faring men?” she finally asked.
“It will be ok mum. I’m used to doing hard work and nobody has suspected the truth yet, she said blushing a bit remembering that Abeo had guessed it. I promise I’ll send you money when I can and when I get settled over there I’ll send for you. You’ll see; it will be a better life for us both. There’s just something I have to do first.”
“It’s Jack, isn’t it?”
“I have to try to find him mum. He was my best friend and I have to know what happened to him.”
Abigail looked long at Mary then smiling she said: “When do you expect to be going?”
The Bonny Lass sails on the morning tide.”
“You know me mum” Mary said smiling. “Strike while the iron is hot.”
Rising suddenly from the table where they had been talking, her mother hurried into the other room. “Mum, don’t be angry” Mary called after her.
“I’m not angry, child” she said coming back. In her hands was a little wooden box which she placed on the table saying: “Mary you know you’re adopted.”
“I never could have wanted a better daughter than you.” Something seemed to catch in her throat and it took a moment before she could continue: “You’re a head-strong girl and it won’t be easy for you to find your way in this world.” Opening the box, she took out a golden pendant about the size of a large coin “Edward brought this back from one of his voyages and I want you to have it Mary.” Mary took it from her mother and found it to be surprisingly heavy for its size. Turning it over in her hand she saw ornate engravings on both the front and back.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Edward said it was a good luck charm. He won it off an old rummy in Port Royal who had killed the Aztec Indian wearing it”
“Wasn’t very lucky for them” said Mary.
“So it would appear, but it’s the only thing I have left from him” she added sighing. “I want you to have it. Who knows? It might bring you some good fortune.”
Mary hung the pendant around her neck and said: “I’ll give it back to you when you join me in the Colonies. I’ve got to go now mum, the ship’s sailing soon” Mary stood up from the table and moved to the door.
“Mary” her mother said taking her arm. “There’s one more thing I think you should know before you go. You have a brother.”
“I know, he’s dead, that’s why I dress like a boy.”
“Not my son … a twin brother.”
Mary could only stare at her with her mouth open. Finally she said: “What? First now you tell me this? Where is he?”
“That I don’t know, the midwife said he was adopted by another family at birth. She also told me that he has a birthmark like yours. It’s probably a family trait.”
“Mum I really got to go” she said after a moment. “Abeo is waiting. Giving her mother a hug she kissed her lightly on the cheek and hurried out the door.
Outside in the alley Abeo saw the dark expression on Mary’s face and damp cheeks as she hurried past. “Everything alright?” she asked.
“Fine, let’s go”
Dawn was seeping onto the Thames by the time they found the Bonny Lass. Gray mists swirled among the docks where spectral beings busied themselves, flowing and ebbing like ghostly tides, with the sounds of men and animals.
“How’re we going to get onboard?” asked Abeo looking up at the ship.
“Hoy, you two. Lookin’ for work?” a voice shouted from behind.
“Aye that we are” said Mary turning. From the style of his hat he was apparently the first mate.
“How much experience you two … lads have?” They looked younger than he had hoped but what was important was how hard they could work.
“Not much” said Abeo, “but we’re strong and willing to learn.”
Typical, what he needed was experienced seamen but those didn’t hang on trees … at least the good, honest ones didn’t … so he was obliged to take what he could get. After a moment of sizing them up he said: “What’re your names?”
“I’m Marty, and this is my mate … Abe.”
“Right, we sail straight away. Your pay be half ours while you’re learning” he said.
“Aye, aye” said Mary and they hurried onboard.
Chapter 5 begins next week.