Chapter 1: Diagnosis
“I am concerned with a curious case.” Stephen said quietly, walking into the cabin.
Jack looked up from a the chart he was studying. “Come in dear Doctor! Come in!” said Jack looking up cheerfully and gesturing widely for Stephen to sit. “I fear I can smell one of Killicks insideous brews astern, would you care to join me for coffee?”
Stephen nodded and took his seat with a harried, if not perplexed action. Stephen was wearing tweeds and a navy cravat, his spectacles perched on the end of his nose. Jack, a vision in a white ruffled shirt, beige wainscoat and the most flattering breeches the Navy could muster. Within moments Jack had sensed that an ill wind was gusting through the scalpel sharp brain of his friend. However, Jacks musings were heaved to one side as Killicks mutterings caused him to cock a brow.
“For all love Killick, ‘vast that muttering man!” Jack growled at his faithful servant.
“Up and down these stairs, tip, tap and I suppose you’ll be wanting a cup for the Doctor now?” Killick placed the coffee things on the table with a flourish.
Stephen relaxed in his chair under the concerned gaze of the resplendant looking Captain. “Come along my dear friend, you know that you can always unbutton yourself here!” Concern raced across Jacks face as Stephen sighed heavily, laden with care.
“There is a malady aboard. And I feel … No! I know that I am the only, if not the first to see the symptoms at close quarters.” Stephen paused for breath. Killicks stamped in with the other cup and a plate of Mrs Tweedy’s cold plum duff.
“Captial! Killick!” roared Jack, Cold plum duff! The very thing to line the belly and sweeten the heart!”
“Charmer!” Killicks muttered under his breath as he left.
“Continue, my dear, continue do.” Jack urged in a low, tone “And light along that coffee there, there’s a good man!”
“Several of the Shipmates have bidden me to call on them late in the evening. I, naturally assuming constipation or somesuch other malise in need of physic of the most basic nature. However, and herein it lies, Shipmates, having taken of shoreleave of the most sobre nature to visit upon a new and exciting phenomina known as ‘The Picture House’ and upon returning to the ship are collapsed into their hammocks with the most perplexing symptoms.” Stephen was becoming quite excitable as his narrow and learned form reached for the coffee can and a wedge of plum duff.
“Symptoms you say?” Jack said thoughtfully, dusting plum duff crumbs from his pristinely clad manly thighs. “Tell me my dear friend, how are these symptoms manifest? Be there a rash or a seeping wound perhaps?” Jack ventured tenuously.
“The symptoms are quite unusual, and I will catalogue them now, with your permission, relating them verbally in the first instance and then I plan to have them written …” Stephen was cut short by the sight of the Captains blue eyes beginning to roll in his head.
“The symptoms then ..” Stephen continued with a suggestion of a pout. “The belly of the Shipmate is painfully distended, due to the unnatural amount of Popped Corn and sundry fetid beverages needed to sustain the body during the viewing of the current spectacle on show at The Picture House.”
Jack had heard of this ‘Picture House’ but had flatly refused to try it after his last experience ashore; it was a flogging offence aboard the Reprise to mention Jack, his cutlass and ‘the ten items or less’ incident at the ‘Ye Olde Seven Eleven’ in Tobago. However, enthralled Jack urged Stephen to continue
” The legs of the Shipmates afflicted with the malady are numb as if the Mate has been confined to one sole spot for a considerable period. Moreover and this is the main cause of concern being the acute trauma that appears to afflict the gluetus maximus region. The pain and trauma being in that region seems to indicate that sufferer have been sitting …. unnecessarily long. ”
“Ahh the latin again Stephen! Speak plain I beg you sir! However I do believe I may have met this Maximus chap afore ….” Jacks handsome visage, for a moment, a study of reflection.
The inner sanctum that was Jack Aubrey’s cabin was rent by the intrusion once more of Killick who had come to clear the coffee things. “Scuse me Capt’n, sir, but there are three more awain’ for the doctor. Tis the same malady as afore sir, swollen bellies, red eyes and chronic arse ache …” Killick sighed as he flicked his cloth around the table.
“Tell me Killick my good man, in all your years at sea, have you ever seen such a malady afore?” Jack asked as he narrowly avoided a particularly deft swipe of Killicks duster-cloth.
“Oh aye!” Killick said knowingly “Tis the Curse Of Captain Jackson and strike me blind sir if it ain’t!”
“By all thats Holy Stephen! Can you do nothing for them?” Jack implored as he strode, manfully, the length of the sickbay aboard HMS Reprise. He could barely make himself heard due to the moaning of the injured.
“They are all beyond my art.” Stephen said softly with a sigh, applying yet a further cold poultice to the swollen, bared rear of a Mate. All Mates were lying on their bellies in cots lovingly crafted for them by the Barkshire the carpenter from barrels they had found floating in the sea on the larboard side.
Treatment for the Mates included the regular application of wet sand tied up in little calico bags that Killick had run up for the very purpose; such was his attention to detail, he had even added some gold lace and a few ribbons for a final flourish. The preperation of the poultices was time consuming as the sand had to be checked for crabs and other aquatic fauna prior to application, a job which Stephen naturally relished. He lovingly placed any unusual crabs into a special tank he had fashioned from bits and bobs that he had begged from the domestically inclined and unusually helpful Killick. Killick had even offered to house the crabs in his quarters, ‘lest the vision of the sick do distress them, Doctor’. For Stephen, the crabs had formed a pleasing and restful diversion from his heartwrenching duties and he had already grown very fond of them.
“But the ravings! The ravings Stephen! I have heard nothing like it in all my days and let God be my witness!”Jack said , blue eyes ablaze with salty passion. The din in the sickbay was powerful and to the untrained ear it was complete gibberish, ‘Except for those fluent in Elvish’ Stephen had noted in his Day Book.
“I can barely determine what they are speaking of! Silence fore and aft!” cried Jack as bent his handsome head and proferred a mangled ear to the gaping mouth of a Mate. “Speak up man! This is your Captain speaking and I command you to speak English!” And as if by way of encouragment he clapped the Mate upon the gluteus maximus with a masterly thwak.
“This, sir, is a member of the fair sex ….” Stephen said in a world weary voice as he repositioned the wet-sand poultice with care.
“Beggin’ your pardon madam I’m sure! Too long at sea and all that …” Jack blushed and upon composing himself, “Well carry on Doctor, carry on. Good day to you all. I shall come below again after supper to see if there be any improvement. You are invited to dine with me naturally Doctor. Killick is preparing a particular delightful concoction, ‘Crab Suprise’ I believe he has named it.” Jack swept out of the sickbay in all his authoratative glory like a frigate in full sail.
Up on the deck, in the bright, cloudless winter sunlight, Jack watched as Mr Bertie and Mr Bassett supervised the hauling aboard of yet another mysterious barrel. This was labelled the very same as the others. “CPJ Directors Cut”.
Jack called that the barrel be brought up for a full inspection and Barkshire the carpenter was called to break it open. Again the barrel revealed nothing more exciting than endless strips of what felt like dried seaweed.
“Mr Bassett, would you ask the Doctor to kindly come up. I would value his opinion on the curious lubberly contents of this barrel.” Mr Bassett hastened off.
“I believe” Stephen said as examined the barrels contents, which had been removed to Jacks day cabin. “I believe this to be what the Shipmates call ‘film'” Stephen held a length of it toward the light.
“Film? Are you sure its not edible?” Jack ventured as he grasped a length and swiped it across his tongue. “I am sure it could be fashioned into some manner of tasy dish, soaked in milk or rum perhaps? Could it not Killick?” Jack asked as Killick, wearing his second best battle apron with gingham trim, cast a caustic look and bent down to take a closer look at the barrel. “This be a barrel belongin’ to the Rivendell” said Killick “The monogram of Captain Peter Jackson is upon it!” he added as he picked up the dustbunnies he found under the Captains chair with a ‘tut’.
Jack and Stephen rose and proceeded to the dining table. The table was heavy with silverware, plates and a decanter of crisp, white wine. A covered silver serving-dish twinkled tantilisingly in the lamp-light.
“The brute is at it again!” Jack muttered as he sat at table. “Hell bent on causing more arse-ache to my Shipmates! I tell you what Stephen, my dear friend, we may not be able to stop the present situation at The Picture House, but by picking up all the barrels we find, by God we can scupper his Extended Version DVD chances!” Jack roared, his fine features alight with nautical enthusiasm.
“I am no nautical man Jack but I am at a loss to know why cargo of the Rivendell is floating about in the sea?” Stephens face a vision of questioning, as he picked up his napkin and draped it across his lap.
Jack smiled a knowing smile “The Pirates, Stephen! The Pirates!” beamed Jack as he raised his glass.
“Crab Surprise, Doctor?” asked Killick as he whipped the lid from the silver dish with a leer.
Chapter 2: Lust
Jack smiled sweetly as he dozed. He was having his favourite dream. The Mrs Tweedy Dream. He, dressed in a fine white shirt, best breeches and boots, lay upon an elegant chaise-longue in a fine dining room, the evening sunlight flooding in through tall windows which overlooked Portsmouth Harbour. His head lay upon the ample lap of the perpetually florid and marvellously rotund Mrs Tweedy, the gunner-wife, as she fed him spoonfuls of home-made custard and apple crumble.
“Oh again, again Mrs Tweedy! I beg of you! For all love, do not spare a morsel!” he murmured.
Mrs Tweedy would always smile indulgently and say “Oooh there be plenty more where that came from, Jacky my sweet!” Mrs Tweedy would giggle, her ample bosom undulating. She gestured towards a dining table that groaned under the weight of rice puddings, scones, treacle roly-poly, plum-duff ….
Jack sighed and snuggled into his pillow. Mrs Tweedy was not the sort of woman a man would call comely, nomatter how long he’d been at sea, but damn it all she knew her way around a kitchen.
Suddenly a cry of “Sail ho!” caused him to spring from his bed, rubbing his eyes he headed towards the doorway wearing only his nightshirt.
“Sir?” Killick was barring his way.
“Stand aside Killick!” Jack implored, weaving madly in an attempt to get passed Killick.
“Sir, your slippers” Killick said firmly.
“Slippers?” Jack gasped, he was quite desperate to see what was going on aloft. “Slippers? Damn your eyes Killick! Stand aside or by God ….”
“Now there’s no need to take that tone, now is there sir?” Killick handed Jack a pair of home-made, knitted blue slippers; they were obviously knitted with care and the little blue sailing ships that had been embroidered upon them bore all the hallmarks of Killicks’ deft hand.
“You know what happened the last time you went gallivanting aloft in your bare feet sir and it took me a month of Sundays to winkle that splinter out of your big toe and well you know it!”
Jack tutted and pulled on the slippers as he raced to the stairway.
Arriving on the quarterdeck Jack was handed the glass. “Tell me Mr Barnes, Mr Noble, what do you see?” Jack asked as he proceeded to squint into the horizon.
“Well, sir.” Mr Barnes said with a lisp, “We think its pirates, do we not Mr Noble?” Mr Noble nodding in agreement. Mr Barnes and Mr Noble were twins and quite the novelty aboard the Reprise.
Jack looked aghast at the pair of unsightly, twin midshipmen. “Have you not a more elegant way of telling me than that?” Jack was stunned, but recovered quickly and said “Listen, Mr Barnes, Mr Noble, hows about saying … something like … erm … ” Jack padded up and down quarterdeck thinking hard, his nightshirt flapping in the stiff breeze. “What about this, ‘Captain! Its thirty-two gun xebec frigate, an elegant ship, but she can’t be anything else other than Spanish or Algerian pirates and her starboard broadside has no less than sixteen gunports! Godamn me eyes sir, She’s a fox and no mistake!” Jack stood back, looking for a reaction from the midshipmen “Now thats how to describe a ship! Not, ‘we think its pirates’, sir! Do ya hear me?”
“Sorry sir” said the midshipmen in unison, with a shrug.
“Skimp on such details again Mr Barnes and Mr Noble and I’ll give you a taste of the cat!” Jack growled as the teary eyed midshipmen scuttled off. Jack sighed and clapped the glass to his eye. “Mr Macy, make the private signal, Mr Harrods have all hands piped below for breakfast, and it goes without saying, we have not a moment to lose!”
Jack sipped his coffee as Killick buffed up the windows of the Day cabin. “So whats afoot then sir?” asked Killick as he spat onto his window-cloth.
“Pirates” said Jack between munches of toast and swigs of coffee.
“Tell me Killick, any word from the dear doctor today? That was a nasty crack he caught when he collapsed like that. I did not think the mere act of clapping eyes on seafood could turn a man in that way.” Jack mused.
“‘Crab Surprise’ can have that effect sir, ‘specially on those of a sensitive nature” said Killick buffing with all his might.
“Excuse me sir” came a call from the door.
“Well? What is it?” Jack cried in a goodnatured voice, as he pulled on his jacket.
“Sir, the xebec signalled that they were ‘friend’, how would you like us to proceed?” asked Mr Tiffany, another midship man, the son of a merchant family.
“Come in Mr Tiffany and take the weight off your feet for a moment whilst I finish dressing.” Jack said happily – he could smell a prize on its way and it pleased him mightily, he gave his cutlass a loving caress, his eyes gleaming.
“One of the men, Roebuck, the carpenters mate, was a captive aboard the xebec a year or so ago and its seems that although they are pirates, they are akin to us in some mad ‘fanfic’ way and it seems we may be obliged to have them on board as our guests. It also seems that these pirates are the ones hell-bent on blowing the Rivendell out of the water and they’re on our side, as it were. Their Captain being a gentleman by the name of Jack Sparrow.” Mr Tiffany looked at the deck, afraid to make eye contact with Jack.
“You mean there’s to be no fighting? No cannon? No grape or shot? No derring do? None of me swinging from the rigging, waving my cutlass with my blond hair escaping from its leather tie in an alluring manner?” Jack cried aghast as he sat deflated on his chair.
“Exactly sir. Well, not with the pirates anyway.” Mr Tiffany replied mournfully.
“There’s a damnable waste if ever there was one” Jack pouted. “Are there any women aboard the xebec? Perhaps ….” Jack enquired hopefully with a raised eyebrow.
“No chance of that either sir, I’m afraid.” Mr Tiffany look very downcast. “The writer’s dead against you having ‘knowledge’ of women, at least until chapter four, as she feels it would lower the ‘moral’ tone, as it were, sir”.
“When are they coming to visit then?” Jack said quietly, his seablue eyes dimmed and dewy.
“All evidence seems to point to Afternoon Tea, sir” said Mr Tiffany as he got up to leave.
“Then make it so Mr Tiffany. ” Jack sighed “Make it so ….”
“Damn it Jack! For all love, stop fussing man!” Stephen moaned as he pushed away the plate of toasted cheese that Jack had prepared for his friend. The bump on Stephen’s head as an impressive a bump as Jack had ever seen in all his long years at sea. Stephen’s cot was set up in Jack’s day cabin and Jack was doing his best to get his old friend back on his feet in time for the pirate visitors later in the day.
“Twas an odd thing, a very odd thing indeed Stephen, swooning like a girl at the sight of a dish of crabs. It just doesn’t figure at all …” Jack muttered as he set the plate down on a low side table.
“Doesn’t figure?”Stephen spat angrily “Doesn’t figure? They were my pets! My own dear, sweet pets and your servant covered them in some confounded cheese sauce and baked them!” Stephen cried sitting up with a start and staring wildly over the rim of his spectacles. As usual Stephen was completely naked except for a fine linen sheet to cover his modesty. Although Jack could never totally agree with Stephen’s love of the stripped form, he humoured his friend’s enthusiasm for letting his skin breath nonetheless.
“Excuse me sir, but there’s someone here to see you” Killick hissed from the doorway. Killick was in his best utility apron, with lemon piping and applique patch pocket and both he and it were covered in flour.
“Very well, send them in!” Jack replied as he poured Stephen a draught of a colourless but potent smelling liquid from a brown bottle. A teasing stray lock of Jack’s long blond hair caressed his square and rugged jaw.
“Pssssst! Sir!” Killick hissed again.
“Now what?” Jack roared “Just send ’em in, damn your eyes man!”
“Tis a female, sir and the Doctor, he do be in a state of undress sir, I don’t want to be responsible for arousing any un-natural passions, God strike me dead if I do, sir!”
“Ooooh! Don’t you mind me sir! I’m used to gentlemen in the ‘altogether’, am I not Killick?” Mrs Tweedy’s bawdy laughter filled the normally genteel cabin. Killick beat a hasty retreat. Stephen pulled his linen sheet tightly up under his chin and Jack blushed as he cleared his throat. Killick fussed around Stephen swathing him in various knitted items and a rather fetching hand-made, lace trimmed, sailcloth modesty protector.
“Madam! Doctor, this lady is Mrs Tweedy, she be the Gunner’s wife.” Jack coughed again, making his leg, his colour rose as he recalled his all too frequent dream-time encounters with Mrs Tweedy and her jam roly-poly. “Madam, I am your servant. What can I do for you?”
“Tis more, what I can do you for, sir” Mrs Tweedy said in a low and conspiring tone. Jack felt dizzy and sat down.
“Killick tells me that you are entertaining a Piratical gentleman this very afternoon and I just happen to have about my person the makings of a fine plum tart and a ‘Queen of Puddings’.”
“Really?” Jack said, his voice had dropped several octaves and his eyes had taken on a curious glassy look, a fine misting of sweat veiling his beautiful brow.
“Would there be custard with that?” Stephen enquired, he was beginning to look quite his old self again, as he flung down the heavier of the three sweaters Killick had dressed him in. “I ask this, my good woman, in a purely professional capacity you understand.”
“Oh aye sir! Custard aplenty!” Mrs Tweedy breathed, her heavy bosom only just confined by the thinnest covering of sprigged cotton and her bright eyes twinkling with saucy mischief. “Oh aye .. it be a luscious confection of vanilla from the East, fresh, golden egg yolks from my very own hen, beaten and whisked with the sweetest sugar I could acquire from the Merchant in Port Mahon and then whipped together with milk tugged from the goat this very morn’ …. But beggin’ your pardon Doctor, but I fear for the Captain … Captain Aubrey do appear to ‘ave fainted!”
Chapter 3: Pirates
“He will be alright won’t he, sir?” Killick whispered, his red rimmed eyes riveted on the Captain who was out cold on the deck of his Day cabin. Mrs Tweedy’s lap provided a neat cushion for Jack’s head as Stephen called for some feathers and a noggin of brandy. Stephen set light to a feather and then instantly doused it, wafting the smoking, acrid feather under Jack’s nose.
“Pudding! …. Wha’? No cream? Fie! ” Jack moaned.
“There, there Captain” Mrs Tweedy soothed as she stroked his hair
“There, there, as soon as you are recovered I shall make ‘e a fine puddin’ and as much cream as your little tummy can ‘old! God strike me dead if I don’t Captain!” Mrs Tweedy simpered. Suddenly she flashed a look of indignation in Stephen’s direction “He be half starved the poor lamb! Half starved!” Big, fat salt tears rained onto Jack’s handsome, battlescared face. “Oooh forgive me Captain, but ‘e do look just the ticket when you’re wet, sir, if you don’t mind my sayin’ so!”
“Jack!” Stephen implored “Jack rouse thyself sir! My dear, rouse
yourself, a sipeen or two of this brandy will right you in no time! Captain Sparrow will be aboard as soon as the sun is no more than a handsbreadth from the horizon! Do you want to be found in this state by a Pirate, Jack?” and turning to Killick, who had his apron over his head and was bawling loudly “Stop snivelling man!” Killick stopped snivelling and blew his nose loudly into a lacy hankie.
With a splutter and a mouthful of brandy Jacks ocean deep blue eyes opened to the sight of Mrs Tweedy cooing and comforting him, her apron smelt of sponge cake. His fire had returned.
“Pirates? Stephen! Killick! Ahoy there!” Jack leapt to his feet. “Fetch me my best cut breeches, the finest shirt and the waistcoat that makes me look really broad shouldered! Mrs Tweedy muster yourself and create your puddings, you adorable creature you! We must make the best possible impression! Killick! Quicks the word and sharps the action! Move your lubberly arse sir! Move it!
Jack looked at Captain Sparrow over the great dining table that was laid in the Day cabin, with the sort of eye that knew men. Ashore, Jack was the proverbial fish out of water, but on the sea, Jack knew his onions, by God. Sparrow was unshaven, his long, raven, hair was adorned with beads and his fingers were home to other trinkets and his eye held a look of a man who relied too much on luck, grog and that fetid cigarillo he smoked.
“You see, your problem Jack” Captain Sparrow, inhaled deeply ” Is that you just don’t know how to relax man!” Sparrow said as he exhaled throatily. The fumes of his oddly perfumed cigarillo hung heavy in the air.
“Is it now?” Jack said as he passed Sparrow another plate of the daintiest sandwiches known on a ship-of-the-line. Sparrow waived the plate away and attempted to stub his joint out into Mrs Tweedy’s Queen of Pudding before Jack whisked it out of harms way.
“Indulge me, sir, but how can a man relax when a clear and present threat, such as the Rivendell, is putting the comfort of my Mates at risk?” Jack leaned forward as if to emphasise his point, before filling crystal glasses with claret.
“Have you seen the crew of the Rivendell?” Sparrow said a cackle, downing his claret in one go. “Their crew chiefly comprises of very small people, some blonds that would put even you to shame and some geezers that could do with a shave.” Sparrow threw back his head and laughed “We ran into some of them at the Golden Globe …”
“Golden Globe? What is that? A brothel or bawdy house of some sort I should imagine” mused Jack. “Ahh! Captain Sparrow, this is my most particular friend Stephen Maturin!” Jack gestured to Stephen who had just called by. “Stephen, sit down! Captain Sparrow was just telling me about a likely hovel called the Golden Globe! Seems like the crew of the Rivendell use it on occasion.”
“I am actually familiar with it Jack, I was truffle hunting in Porto Ventura and came upon the place. Its run by some odd looking coves, but its popular with many sea-men in those parts. Tell me Captain Sparrow, and by the way, I believe the claret lies with you, that tobacco you use, is it easy come by?” Stephen liked drugs, in a professional capacity, and was always keen to increase his supply of medicines.
“This stuff?” Sparrow smiled a lazy, hazy smile “You can get it anywhere man … You can get it in the Golden Globe if you know who to ask. If we went together Captain, to the Golden Globe, the combined forces of Lucky Jack Aubrey and Captain Jack Sparrow, I think we could get whatever we wanted.” Sparrow said quietly as he poured Stephen a glass of wine.
“I am most anxious to meet this Captain Peter Jackson and his crew. I have read he presses wizards, distorted humans and even women into his service! I am keen to study these people as I believe they have a vest which is impervious to sword or shot.” Stephen said with a smile as he sipped his wine.
“Women aboard eh? Sounds like a odd cove to me.” Jack rubbed his chin, deep in thought “I am more than convinced Captain Sparrow that a visit from us would indeed set the cat amongst the frying pans. I admit we have not had a run ashore this past year or more … and to mention my last time ashore is actually a flogging offence on this barky! However, gentlemen at first light shall set a course for Porto Ventura and I also suggest we take a trip ashore!” Jack’s nautical brain was seething with possibility, he raised his glass to Sparrow and Stephen, “Here’s to a trip to the Golden Globe gentlemen! Huzzah! And ‘bonne chance’ three times three!” Jack roared with a smile.
To celebrate their unity Jack suggested a musical soiree. Sparrow sent back to his ship for his instrument whilst Stephen cleared the decks to make way for the delicate music stands and small chairs. Jack leafed through his copies of sheet-music for a suitable piece; the Mozart perhaps or maybe a touch of Beethoven to soothe the soul of the savage. The cabin was lit by lamps and the evening sun was dipping her toes into the sea on the westward side. All hands were happy and the ship was running as smoothly as a well oiled pocket-watch.
“My baby!” Sparrow crooned as he saw the case which contained his instrument arrive. “Tell me Sparrow, its not another cello is it? Stephen plays a delightful cello, I torture a violin myself, but Stephen plays exceptional well, does he not Killick?” Jack said idly as Killick cleared the remains of the meal.
“This claret stain won’t come out, you realise that don’t you?” Killick was jabbing a small stain on the table cloth with vehemence. “And who does it fall to to clean this, dab that …. I’m fairly vexed sir and there’s no use sayin’ otherwise!” Killick threw a haughty glance at Sparrow who had his booted and spurred feet on the table and stamped out of the cabin muttering to himself. Being all matey with Pirates? Heaven preserve us and here’s talk of going ashore! Where will all that lead? Trouble and no mistake.
Poor Killick, he didn’t get much sleep that night, the last thing he remembered before blessed sleep finally took him was the screeching sound that emanated from Sparrow’s ‘gee-tar’, the smell of the pirate tobacco and the voices of Stephen and and Jack bawling ” I just wan’ your extra time and your ….. KISS!”