The Captain's ChoicebyCromagnonman©
Captain Edward Faulkner had mixed feelings as he stood once more on the deck of HMS Jupiter watching the wretches that would make up his cargo for this voyage to Port Jackson (Sydney). On one hand he was pleased to be once more in charge of this ship while on the other hand he was missing his recently deceased wife Juliette. It was while on his previous voyage that she succumbed to consumption and died shortly before his return. Her sister had taken charge of his two children, Jeremy 5 and Eliza 3 so he had no worries on that account. His shore leave, while the Jupiter was being fitted out for this voyage, was spent with his children.
It was 1789 and his cargo was one of the first shiploads of female convicts for the newly settled penal colony in New South Wales. There were a hundred and twenty of the most disreputable and slatternly women he was yet to clap eyes on, all of them sentenced to a minimum of seven years penal servitude. He knew that the best of them would become household servants for the officers whose job it was to control the hundreds of male convicts that had settled there the previous year. The rest of the women would become whores for the seamen and others and this depressed him. As they straggled up the gangplank his eye caught one who didn't fit in with the others, she was young, no more than eighteen he guessed, and her clothes were not the filthy rags that the others wore.
Several seamen tried to attract her attention with lewd and suggestive comments but she studiously ignored them. One of the women made a comment to the sailors and turned her back on them before bending at the waist and hoisting her skirts over her back revealing her bare arse to them. One of the sailors grabbed her hips and dry fucked her to the cheers of his fellow crewmen. Edward wondered how many of the women would be pregnant before they reached their destination.
Tom Ward, his first mate came up to him. "Loading is complete Sir, and the passengers are all aboard, if we call for a tow to the roads we can make the high tide."
"Very good, signal the Harbour Master and let's get this cargo of flotsam under way. Tom, would you go to that young girl in the blue dress and invite her to await me in my cabin, do it quietly."
"Very well Sir." His look was one of approval at the Captain's choice. He hurried off to carry out his duties. As the Jupiter reached the channel Edward began shouting orders. "Cast off the tow line, all aloft and set all sails, Coxswain head down wind, as soon as we reach the open sea set your course for due south." Canvas flapped until the sheets were hauled in and as the sails filled she seemed to leap forward in anticipation of the freedom of the open sea.
Edward stood and watched as the crew set about their tasks, straining their backs to haul in the sheets and fixing the ropes to the belaying pins. He admired the way that they went about their duties, many of the crew had sailed on her before and knew her well. She wasn't a large ship, a cargo ship converted for naval use that had recently been fitted out by the Admiralty for this voyage, but she had a reputation as a sturdy ship capable of handling the expected rough weather.
When all was in order and the course set Edward entered his cabin to find her looking at his charts. "Do you find them interesting?"
"Yes I do, I am impressed by the detail, whoever drew these must be proud of his work."
"Yes, Captain James Cook is highly respected by the Admiralty for his cartography. I'm Edward Faulkner, I'm the captain of the Jupiter, and you are?"
"Prunella Copley." He voice was soft but refined as if she had some learning.
Edward scanned through the passenger manifest until he found her name. "It says here that you are eighteen years of age and worked as a housemaid and that you were convicted of theft from your employer and sentenced to seven years transportation. Somehow you don't fit that description, while things are hard for all but the wealthy you do not look like a thief. Can you explain to me the circumstances that have led you to this?"
"My father was a church man and worked under patronage at Leppington Hall, the estate of Sir Richard Lennon. I ran a small school that taught the basics to the children of the tenant farmers as well as helped my father with his pastoral duties. I also helped out in the hall when Sir Richard was entertaining his friends from London."
"That much I can believe but it doesn't explain how you come to be on my ship."
"Sir Richard has a daughter, Jacqueline, who is a couple of years older than I and who was to announce her engagement to Giles Thornby at a party arranged for that occasion. While I was serving at the main table I noticed Giles watching me but thought nothing of it because he was newly engaged, but late in the evening he followed me into the kitchen and tried to kiss me. I refused his advances but he pressed on regardless, it was while he had me pinned to the wall and had his hand on my bodice that Jacqueline came in and accused me of trying to seduce her fiancé. I protested my innocence but she would hear none of it, she was very angry. She tried to get her father to dismiss me from service but he would have none of that as a mark of respect for my father so she decided that there was more than one way to skin a cat."
"So she arranged for something to disappear and for the blame to fall on you?"
"Yes, a silver platter went missing from the dining hall and she insisted that my room should be searched and it was found there. Her father was the local Magistrate and he expressed disappointment that I should stoop to stealing from him and sentenced me to transportation for seven years. Now you know my sorry tale."
"I would like to make the journey a little easier for you, I want you to stay in my cabin and to see to it that it is kept ship shape and that my meals are prepared for me. Do you think that you could do that?"
"With ease Sir, but what will the other women think?"
"Do you care what they think? On this ship my word is law. I am in command and am to be obeyed by all."
"Including me. It would appear that I have little option but to bow to your command."
"Was it a command? If you wish to be with the other poor wretches then I will respect your wishes though I would wish it otherwise."
"I would willingly accept your kind offer but for one reason."
"And what might that be?"
"I have as yet not known a man in the Biblical sense and I fear that I might be tempted to forego my vows of chastity if you should press yourself on me."
"You need have no fear on that account although under different circumstances I would not hesitate in my attempt to win your affections. I don't mean that your convict status is an impediment, for I do not see myself as superior in any way to you, in fact in many ways you are my superior."
"You puzzle me Sir, how am I superior to you?"
"You have been raised in a loving environment, of that I am certain, you have had more schooling than I, your manners are without doubt better than mine for I am little more than a rough sailor. I was apprenticed at thirteen and have served on ships these twenty years, I know little other than the ways of the sea. Speaking of which, I must attend to my duties." Edward touched his forelock in taking his leave of Prunella. She watched from the poop deck as he strolled around the decks, stopping to chat to the crew. She noticed the lack of formality in his manner and the way that the crew responded with smiles and laughter.
"All well Tom?" He stood by the First Mate.
"Yes Sir, she's making fair and the weather looks good for now but the glass is falling so I expect some rough weather ahead."
"Keep a weather eye and if it looks bad make sure that the hatches are battened down and I think canvas over them will keep most of the water from the lower decks. They might be convicts but it is our responsibility to provide safe passage."
"Aye, aye Sir."
Edward used his sextant to set his position before returning to his cabin. He took down a chart and the ship's log entering his co-ordinates into the log before plotting their position on the chart. Prunella watched the ease with which he carried out this task. "Is all well?"
"For now it is but I'm afraid we may be in for rough weather, a storm is brewing. Have you been to sea before?"
"Some people do not have the stomach for the sea and spend most of their time being sick. I will have a pail brought in for you so that if you feel the need you can be sick. How do you feel now?"
"I am fine, I seem to be unaffected by the motion of the ship. I mean to ask you Sir, what are the sleeping arrangements, I notice only one narrow bunk."
"Prunella, in the confines of this cabin you must call me Edward, and as for the sleeping arrangements, the bunk is yours when I am on watch and if this storm blows up you may find yourself spending a lot of time in it for I shall be with my men ensuring the safety of this ship. If you do not have your own night attire you may borrow a nightshirt from my chest, it will be much too large for you but will keep your modesty intact."
"You are a kind man Edward and you can be assured that I will not take advantage of that kindness."
There was a knock on the door and Doctor McCauley entered, "I have had a quick look at our passengers Edward and apart from the odd sniffle they seem a healthy lot." He stopped when he saw Prunella. "I wondered where this young lady was until Tom told me that you had invited her to join you, if you don't mind I'll give her the once over just in case."
"Go ahead, do you want some privacy?"
"No, that won't be necessary." He looked into her eyes, got her to open her mouth and poke out her tongue, looked at her hands, "Not used to hard work are you my dear?"
"She's healthy Edward." He accepted the proffered brandy before leaving them.
"How long will this voyage take?" Prunella asked.
"All going well it will be ninety days or thereabouts."
"If I'm to spend the next ninety days with you I should know a little about you. Do you have a wife and children?" She immediately saw the look of sadness pass over his face and regretted her question.
"I have no wife, she died when I was at sea and I missed her final days. I have two children, a boy Jeremy who is but five years old and Emma who is three. My sister-in-law is looking after them for me."
"I'm sorry that I asked."
"Don't be, I must get over my loss and doing the job that I know and love will help me." The way that he said it gave her the impression that he didn't have a lot of confidence in that happening.
"I will try not to mention it again, but if you need to speak of it I'll be here for you." She had reached out and placed her hand on his before realising it and quickly withdrew it.
"I was right about you, you are a caring young woman and I'm convinced now that you are innocent of the charge laid against you. I will do whatever is within my power to see that you receive justice."
"You do not need to do this for me for I am prepared to bear my lot with fortitude."
They talked for some time and he offered her a brandy which she declined and, deciding that he didn't need a drink, he put the stopper back on the bottle. "I must leave you for a while, it's time for the changing of the watch." As he walked by her chair his hand brushed her shoulder sending a shiver down her spine, a new experience for her, and after he had left her alone her thoughts were racing, thoughts of what might be.
All went well for the next two days but Edward was becoming concerned as the barometer slipped lower and lower. Although the wind was still a gentle breeze there were dark clouds looming ahead of them and the swell was getting higher by the hour. He slipped into his cabin to find Prunella on the bunk, her head over the side and the pail close to hand. She had been sick and didn't look at all well. He crouched beside her. "How are you feeling?"
"Please tell me that this sea sickness doesn't kill you for I fear that I shall die." She mumbled.
"I have never heard of it." He took the water jug from the basin and poured some water over the wash cloth, wringing the excess out he wiped the sweat from her brow.
"That feels nice." She was just about to say something else when she lunged at the pail and brought up food that she couldn't remember eating. "Oh I feel awful."
Shouts from the deck signalled that there was a change in the weather. "All hands aloft! Set the sails for foul weather! Coxswain point her into the wind, another man to the wheel!" Sailors scrambled aloft and the mainsails were furled leaving the reefed top gallants the only sails in use. The Jupiter shuddered as the first of the storm swells crashed into her bows, pouring over the rails and tumbling down the decks, she shook free of the water in time for the next swell. It was going to be a rough ride and there were cries of fear from the passengers below decks.
The clouds blotted out the sun and it became dark before time and the crew were on alert. Edward stood on the poop deck watching his crew at work, they were an experienced and disciplined crew and apart from one moment when her bows weren't pointing directly into the waves and she heeled over dramatically before being straightened in time for the next wave, the Jupiter proved to be everything that he knew her to be.
Some twenty long hours later the seas had calmed and the sun shone and Edward was once more back in his cabin. Prunella stirred as he entered. "Is it over?"
"I'm afraid not, we are in the eye of the storm and it will be relatively calm for a while before the next onslaught."
"Then you had better get some rest." As she climbed from the bunk Edward caught a glimpse of her thigh as the night shirt rose up her legs and a breast as the neckline gaped. His thoughts disturbed him, could he be having lustful thoughts about this young and innocent woman? She helped him out of his oilskins and boots and another glimpse of breast greeted him as she knelt at his feet. He felt his cock stirring and was certain that she had noticed his arousal but she said nothing.
It was late afternoon when he felt her lips on his forehead. "Edward, wake up. Your dinner is here and Tom asked me to tell you that it looks as if the next blow will be on us soon."
"I must be dreaming, I swore that an angel just kissed my forehead, wait it's true, it was an angel." Her face was inches from his and he reached for her and kissed her willing lips. "I fear that I shall be harbouring lustful thoughts that will not be reciprocated."
Prunella answered him in the best possible way, hungrily kissing him. "Your dinner will be getting cold."
"To hell with food, I want you."
"Please, you must eat. I will still be here when this is over, the storm that is."
He hungrily devoured the food and a steaming mug of tea. "I must leave you, duty calls you know." He stopped just inside the cabin door. "Prunella, I fear that I am falling in love with you and if you do not share my love now is the time to speak before I make a fool of myself."
She moved to him and took his hand in hers. "Edward, I know nothing of love, but if this feeling that I get whenever you are close to me is love then I must be in love with you." She kissed him and he left.
The night of storms slowly dissipated as the Jupiter slipped into the doldrums, that area of dead calm near the Equator where ships made little way for days at a time. Edward slipped quietly into his cabin to find Prunella asleep still. He paused for a few seconds when he noticed that the nightshirt that she had been wearing was now on top of the bed covers. He knelt beside the bunk and kissed her awake. She stirred and smiled at him, removing the bedclothes to reveal her nakedness to him. Without hesitation he bent to kiss her pink nipple.
"Please darling Edward, be gentle with me." He stripped off his clothes and lowered himself onto the bunk and her. As gentle as he was she still cried out as his cock broke down the barrier and he felt for the first time in over a year the full intimate contact with a woman that he loved.
Prunella clung to him. "That was nothing like I had been led to believe."
"Then you've been listening to the wrong people."
"You must remember that while I lived on a country estate most of my contacts were with farm workers who have a very down to earth attitude to sex and procreation and those women at the manor house, not the servants, seem to use sex to get what they want."
"There is a difference between having sex and making love. I can honestly say that I have only ever made love to someone that I truly loved. You are only the second woman to whom I have made love."
"Do you truly love me?"
"Yes, I can say with honesty that I do, and when we get to Sydney Town I will apply to the Governor for permission to marry you, that is of course if you'll have me."
"Edward, I want nothing more than to be your wife." She kissed him passionately. "Now my Edward you must rest, you've been up all night and must be tired."
"I should be, but somehow I don't feel tired, I feel as if I could live like this forever." He returned her kiss with the same passion. They somehow managed to get comfortable in his narrow bunk and he was soon asleep.
Prunella lay beside him and watched as he slept. She couldn't believe that her life that had been so turbulent these past six months, what with the false accusations and the trial and her time in the cells when despair almost destroyed her life, and then the prospect of the dreadful sea voyage to an uncertain future. All of that changed when Edward extracted her from the line of other women to be his companion. At first she was in dread of what that would mean for her, having overheard some of the other women talking about using their sex to gain some sort of privilege from the crew and what she was expected to give to the Captain. Her fears were not realised when she made the decision that, if and when he asked, she would willingly give all to him. She couldn't believe that she had slept naked in an open invitation to him, or her joy when he accepted it.
As he slept she took in every feature of his face, the skin turning leathery from long exposure to the elements, the stubble on his unshaved chin, the fine lines around his closed eyes. To her he was the most handsome man she knew, but then she was biased. She lifted the sheet and took in his hairy chest, rising and falling with each breath and further down she could make out his limp cock. She was tempted to stroke it into life but knew that he needed all the rest he could get, so she left it limp.
It was just after mid-day when he was awakened by a knock on the cabin door. Tom entered. "Edward, you are required on deck, it's time for the ceremony."
"What ceremony?" Prunella asked.
"It's something that's done each time a ship crosses the Equator, any crew that have not yet crossed the line have to appear before King Neptune, that's me, and suffer the consequences. I want you with me as my consort."
"Do you really think that it's a good idea for me to be there with you?"
"I can't think of a better way to tell the crew that you are now off limits to them."
"I think by the way that Tom treats me that they already know that."
"I want you to be there with me." He looked at her and put on his most intimidating gruff voice. "And that's an order."
Prunella picked the laughter in his voice and responded in her best imitation of a crew member. "Aye aye Sir! Anything you say Sir!"
They scrambled from the bunk and, using the wash cloth, Edward cleaned the dried sperm from her belly. Once dressed they left the cabin and Edward took his place on the throne with Prunella at his side. "Bring forth the first Pollywog!" The first new seaman was ushered forward and on hearing the list of charges Edward pronounced his punishment. "To the stocks with him, shellbacks arm yourselves with fruit and show this miscreant what it is like to be at sea!" The experienced sailors pelted the victim with mushy soft fruit for several minutes before he was released. This process was repeated several times until all new sailors had suffered through the mild indignities.