Will Ingalls leaned over the handrail on the Louisa May freight ship,
watching the turquoise waves rise over the rocky, Boston bay only to crash
down again smoothly. The year was 1774 and, for Will, the life of a sailor
was not only the simplest, most adventurous that could be lived, but it was
also the only one he had ever known. His mother had died when he was a
small child, too small to remember, leaving him to be raised on a freight
ship by his father, Captain Al Ingals. Now Will was 17 years old and fast
becoming a man.
A seagull flew overhead, his beady, black eyes searching for a discarded
fish or crab. Another cried triumphantly before swooping down and snatching
up the fish intestines that some fisherman obviously had not thought good
enough to keep. A fight broke out between the two before the bigger one got
away with most of the prize and the smaller with whatever he could snatch
Will closed his gray eyes, the salty ocean breeze blew his auburn hair
around his forehead and ears. Most boys kept their hair long and tied
behind their head with a ribbon, and though that was the style, some boys
-like Will- could get away with having it no longer than three inches and
still look incredibly handsome.
Will inhaled deeply of the crisp, ocean air and held it in for a few
moments, savoring its freshness, before blowing it all out in a big morning
sigh and turning to help the crew unload crates of British goods onto the
harbor. He bent down and lifted one of the heavy crates onto his shoulder
(something most boys his age could not do so well) and walked off the ship.
"This how ya build up them muscles o' yers, Will?" Jerry grunted
teasingly, carefully setting down the crate of British tea in his arms.
Will chuckled in response, "No more than you, Jerry."
Curly laughed behind Will, he'd obviously been listening. "Nah!" he cried,
"We all do this. Will's got some kinda secret or somut." Jerry chuckled in
agreement, whipping the perspiration from his brow with the back of his
arm, "That he has, Curly, mate! That he has."
A few days before, there had been a wrestling match on board the Louisa
May. The crew had all gathered around to watch Jerry and Will. Will had
beat Jerry big time, just as he had every other man on board. Everyone had
laughed at how ridicules it was that the youngest crewmember could beat
every one of them at wrestling. "Now that's not even funny!" Ed had called
out, his face red with laughter all the same.
"Oh yeah," Will hooted, "I've got a special li'l potion hidden away from
you lot." They were all walking back onto the ship now to get more crates,
"At night," Will continued, " while ye're all asleep and unawares, I drink
an entire mug of the stuff," he flexed his muscles, "looks like it's been
workin' alright." All the men howled at that and there were a few whistles.
Will may have been the youngest on board the Louisa May, but every
crewmember admired and respected him. The fact that he was the Captain's
son had nothing to do with it. The boy had a great sense of humor and knew
how to have fun without alcohol. Everyone knew that he was not someone to
doublecross. He avoided fights as much as possible, but when he was in
them, weather it was a fight with words of fists, he always won.
"Will, mate," Henry was jogging over to the group of men, he stopped at
Will, "Bill and Todd are at it again."
Will sighed, "Well, go tell 'em to get back to work." "You know they won't
listen to no one that ain't the Captain; 'cept you." Now the others joined
in, "Go git 'em, lad!" "Come on, Will!"
Will scratched his head in thought, "Well."
"Go'on, work yer magic," Jerry said, making everyone laugh again. Will
shrugged, "Alright. But don't you all stop yer work to watch like ya did in
Tokyo!" Their heads bobbed up and down as the men moved faster to show that
they were 'getting to work'.
Will nodded in satisfaction before jogging over to where Bill and Todd
stood, flirting with three young ladies, as always. Three young ladies who
looked less than pleased to be talking to two middle-aged, beer-bellied
sailors, but their good manners keeping them where they stood.
These two, Bill and Todd, were constantly having to be told to get back to
work when the Louisa May docked somewhere for goods. No matter what country
they were in, Todd and Bill went after the girls before seeing to their
Having been raised on a ship and away from high-class women, Will didn't
know how to act around them. And so he marched toward the group, completely
ignoring the three young ladies, something that, on it's own, was extremely
rude. "Bill, Todd!" He said firmly. The two turned and their faces split
into wide, tobacco-stained grins as they saw who had addressed them.
"Ah, Will me lad!" Bill growled, giving the boy a hearty slap on the back,
"This is Alice, Annabel, and-" "Bill!" Will interrupted, "I could care less
who these lasses are. They could jump in the ocean and drown for all I
care. They concern us no more'n the women in Tokyo did. You can have yer
fun with the villagers once every bloody piece of goods, down to the very
last button, is off of that ship. These dames ain't leavin' the country!
They'll still be here when the work is done, now go git yer beer belly on
Bill and Todd's tooth decaying smiles faded and their bushy eyebrows
lowered in mild shame.
"Sorry Will," they said almost in unison before turning and heading for the
ship. Will was about to follow them when one of the girls spoke up.
"I beg your pardon!" she cried, "I've never been so insulted!"
Will turned back, alarmed. He had never really spoken to a female before
and he almost seemed surprised that this one could talk. He got his first
good look at them now. All three looked to be about 16. The one who had
spoken was a redhead covered in freckles. Her green, silk dress and
matching hat added a touch of elegance to her figure.
The second was blond with round, brown eyes, like a doe. And the third, the
third was unlike anything he had ever seen. Of coarse, he rarely ever saw
Her rich, dark hair was the color of coffee beans and her eyes, pale, robin-
egg blue, were framed with long, mischeviouse lashes. Her skin glowed like
china. Her pastel-blue gown made her hair even darker and richer than ever
and her eyes bluer than the sky itself. Those same eyes almost seemed to
burn into Will's skin now as she glared at him in shock.
"Just where do you come off, treating ladies in such a manner?" the blond
"I- uh-" Will muttered, unable to understand what he had done wrong, he had
never unintentualy offended anyone in his life.
"Did you hear, Elizabeth," the redhead said, "Did you hear what he called
us? Lasses! Dames!" She looked at Will as though he were covered in
The young lady with the dark hair shook her head back and forth in amazed
anger, "The boy surely has no manners," she replied.
Will folded his arms across his chest in amusement, "Well you lot ain't so
decent yerselves," he said, his voice challenging, "where do you come off,
flitin' about the harbor in your nice things and distractin' me crew!"
The maiden with the dark hair's jaw dropped and her eyebrows lowered,
"Distracting your crew? We never! Can't someone go for a morning walk in
their own town nowadays?! "
Will didn't want to waist his time with these girls, "Ah, go jump off a
cliff," he said, waving them off as though they were flies, "Do the world a
The brunet's mouth was opening and closing in wordless furry, "I-" she
finally cried, "Never have I been so- Ooh!" She linked arms with her two
friends, "Come away dears," she said, "It appears to me that someone
doesn't want us to 'flit about the harbor'." And with that they stormed
"Well good riddance!" Will called after them, cousing the one with the dark
hair to look over shoulder and glare at him one last time, her eyes like
icy blades piercing into his flesh. He returned the glare with a venom of
his own and than walked back to the Louisa May.
As expected, the crew had all slowed the work down considerably to watch.
Curly patted Will on the back, his eyes on the retreating backs of the
three ladies. "Will me lad," he said, "never spoken to a lady in yer life,
"How could you tell?" Will asked, still a bit flustered. Jerry piped in a
few words as he passed, "Ye're not s'posed to treat 'em like that, lad."
Will opened his mouth to reply to that, but was interrupted by Ed on deck,
"Will me lad," he called, "Captain wants a word!"
Will nodded, "We'll talk about this later," he promised before heading for
the Captain's cabin.
He knocked firmly on the door and opened it after he heard a voice from
inside telling him to "come in".
As he entered, Captain Al Ingals looked up in surprise. "Ah! Will! Come in
lad, have a seat! I'll be right with you." He was studying a map that lay
across his desk. Will obeyed and took a seat in the chair facing his
Besides the small resemblance between the two, one would never guess that
they were father and son. Will had called him nothing more intimate than
'Sir' or 'Captain' since he was a small child. He had always been treated
by his father like another crewmember.
The Captain set the map aside after a moment and looked at his son. "Will,"
he said, "you like the sea, don't you?" That caught Will off guard. What
was this all about?
"Y-yes," he replied, "I love it."
The Captain nodded, thought for a few moments, then asked his next
question, "And you like the freight business, don't you?" It was more a
statement then it was a question.
Will didn't see where this was going, but he answered anyway, "Yes, sir."
The Captain nodded again.
"Why do you ask?" Will wondered aloud, his curiosity getting the better of
"Will," the Captain said, "I think it's about time for you to move on."
Will's head shot up, "What do you mean, Sir?" he asked, hoping it was not
what he thought.
His father shrugged, "Settle down somewhere. Here, in Boston, perhaps. Find
a good job that pays well, maybe start courting."
"But, Sir-" The Captain put up his hand to silence Will, then opened a
drawer and pulled out a thick, yellowish envelope. "I received a letter a
few days ago from Samuel T. Wellington."
Will didn't need to ask who that was. Mr. Wellington and Captain Ingalls
had been friends since boyhood, and would often visit each other, until
Will's mother had died. But the two still wrote each other often.
The Captain looked at the envelope for a few seconds, then went on. "He
says that you can stay with him, and become his apprentice if you're
interested in what he does."
"But I want to stay in the freight business."
"Will, you want to stay in the freight business because it's all you've
ever known. I want you to try life away from the sea. You're never going to
get a wife out here; you're never going to discover your talents out here."
Here he looked down at his hands in his lap, his face showing a sign of
the regret he was feeling, "I know I haven't exactly treated you like a son
these past thirteen years," he said, looking back up, "but I have always
loved you as one. You are my son and I want what's best for you."
Will stood suddenly and began pacing around the room, trying to keep his
anger in check. There were so many things that he wanted to yell at his
father, but he bit his tongue.
"Will, listen to me. Tomorrow morning I want you to get off of this ship
with all of your belongings, and I don't want you to get back on. I want
you to find the home of Samuel T. Wellington. And you're going to stay
there 'till you have a job and a house. Do you hear?"
For most boys of seventeen, a situation like this would easily have lead to
a fight. Will felt a strong urge to pound his fist on his fathers desk and
make it quite clear that he was not leaving the ship or the freight
business, that he didn't believe that the Captain was doing this for his
own good. But living on a ship, one is taught to obey or be whipped, and
Will, having lived his entire life on a ship, knew nothing else.
There was silence for a few minutes as Will paced, a war raging in his
head, the Captain waiting impatiently. "Do you hear?" he repeated,
irritation clear in his voice.
Will stopped pacing at the window and looked out at the sea, his home.
"Yes, sir." he finally said, his jaw tight.
"Good." The Captain was silent for a moment, than added, "Look Will, this
is for your own good. You know that."
Living on a ship, Will was also taught honesty. He looked his father in the
eyes, not trying to hide his anger, "No," he replied, "I don't think that
this is for my own good. I think this ship won't run properly if I leave. I
think you know that as well. But I'll go." And then, not looking at his
father, he asked, "Is that all, Sir?" His father nodded, "You are excused