January 20th, 2012:

Melaynie’s Masquerade – a sample

In the beginning of this chapter, Melaynie has sailed from England pretending that she is a captain’s boy for Francis Drake.


As the sun rose early the next morning Drake’s ships were maneuvering rapidly over the gray-green waters of the choppy Channel. The early summer weather was unpredictable; flashes of sunlight alternated with blustery, sudden showers.  Strong winds and full sails left England but a memory and drove them into the open sea, its liquid surface waiting for them to carve their story upon it.

Life as a captain’s boy in those first weeks developed into a pattern of early rising, devotional services, meals, a great deal of fetch and carry for Drake and scarcely a minute to herself.  Melaynie found that the moments when she could look out upon the sea’s vastness, the sight of water to all horizons after a life of confinement in a small English town was awe-inspiring.

Only the weather, the shape and variety of clouds determined the look and feel of their lives now. It was frightening and at the same time opened her heart to the excitement of the uncertain future, to being part of and swept along by something that was far bigger than herself.

After the evening meal if she were on deck and Drake was properly satisfied, she loved to listen to the sailors’ music.  Several mariners played a wooden flute, a couple of them had brought a lute, and there was always someone to play an accompanying drum. The others knew how to sing popular ballads of the day.  There were some good strong voices among the crew and a few who loved to sing despite their lack of talent or decent harmony:

The roaring cannons then were plide,

And dub-a-dub went the drumme-a

The braying trumpets lowde they cride

To courage both all and some-a.


The sea ballad of John Dory, though not particularly cheerful since it concerned a traitorous Englishman revenged by a Cornishman two centuries before, seemed to suit most of the men. They gleefully sang the many verses ending:


The grappling-hooks were brought at length,

The browne bill and the sword-a,

John Dory at length, for all his strength,

Was clapt fast under board-a.


Evenings were an excellent time for relaxation except for the men on watch posted at the mainmast’s topcastle, high above the deck.  Besides the musically inclined, there were those who preferred cards and dice, and she had noticed a chess game or two.

Melaynie soon grew used to the motion of the ship as it rode the endless waves, sometimes smoothly, other times pitching and rolling, fighting the wind as the ship came about.  Melaynie’s body adjusted, automatically compensating for the ship’s tilt as she performed her duties on decks that were constantly in motion.

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