FOR THOSE IN PERIL
Bournemouth, England- 1764
Kathryn Wellington sat quietly in the carriage as she was brought to the docks. She would be traveling across the Atlantic to the colonies to join her betrothed, Captain William Burckhardt, at the British post in New England. The colonies were showing a bit of upheaval in regards to the King's rulings and William had been sent over to help keep the peace, or so he told everyone. It only took three months of being stationed there before he sent a letter calling for her presence. He intended to marry her and start a family at the post, not knowing for sure when he would be returning to England. It wasn't exactly the life she had wanted for herself, being subservient to anyone and marrying a man she hardly knew, but she knew it was what was expected of her. Her father had promised William her hand on his twenty-fifth birthday. She was only thirteen years old at the time. She shouldn't have been surprised, however, seeing how her four sisters had done the same thing, as did her mother and her grandmother before her.
"Miss, we're here," whispered Mary, Kathryn's maid from across the carriage. Kathryn nodded quietly and waited for the horseman to open the door for her. The carriage shook as the man climbed down from his bench and walked over to the small door. With a loud click, the door swung open revealing the carriage boy holding his hand out for her. With a sigh, she took his hand and slowly climbed down the rickety steps to the dock ground. After helping Mary out as well, the boy grabbed the three large bags the two women had brought along and began walking towards the edge of the dock where a man, obviously a ship-hand, took them across the ramp to the ship they were destined to spend the next few months on. It was large and daunting, and the elegantly scrolled name, "The Margareta" still didn't seem to help her situation. To her, "The Margareta" would forever mean a death sentence for her.
"Miss Kathryn, you look rather ill... are you alright," Mary asked upon looking at the clammy face of her mistress.
"I'm fine, Mary," she sighed. "Just anticipating a bit of sea sickness, I suppose."
"Might I recommend staying on the ship deck for a few hours to catch your steady once we set sail?"
"I'll consider it," she replied, fixing her hat as the captain of the ship walked up to the two of them.
"Lady Wellington, I am Captain Nordstead. It is a pleasure to have you sailing with us these months," he said, removing his hat and bowing before her.
"Thank you for your hospitality, Captain," she said quietly. "I'm sure my father is just as pleased with the travel arrangements."
"Your father is a good man," the Captain said. "He trained me in all my ways."
"Then I'm sure I will feel right at home," she said with a forced smile. She had never felt at home with her father around. He was cold, distant, and she was sure everyone on the ship aside from Mary was going to treat her just the same. Her father hadn't even bid her farewell before leaving on this trip. It was almost too obvious that he was simply waiting for a chance to give her up to another family.
Captain Nordstead lifted out his elbow for Kathryn to take, and she tentatively laced her arm with his.
"Please mind your step, Miss, but don't look down," he said. "These docking ramps are a bit treacherous if you see the ocean below." Kathryn gulped back a whimper of fear and held tight to the Captain's arm as they began walking across the plank of wood to the ship. The wind blew furiously, and she struggled to keep her hat on and keep her balance at the same time. It may have only taken her a moment to cross the bridge, but it seemed like an eternity. Kathryn was never fond of high places, especially over water. Mary seemed to have absolutely no problems with it. In that sense, she envied her greatly.
"Captain," asked Mary once they reached the deck of the boat. "Might we stay above decks for a while once we set sail? I fear Miss Kathryn is not quite well."
"Normally I wouldn't permit it, but I suppose I can make an exception," he said hesitantly. "But I would suggest staying near the Captain's deck with me, and away from all of the working men. I wouldn't want the two of you to get run down."
"I'm quite alright to stay below decks, Captain," Kathryn said quietly, smoothing down her dress as she looked around at her new setting. "Mary here is just concerned for me. It has been at least three years since I had been on a ship of this size."
"Understandable," he replied kindly with a head nod. "I will show you to your quarters then." The two women slowly followed him down to the cabin docks below deck. Kathryn was led into a small, quaintly decorated room, obviously done specifically for her and she looked around tentatively while Mary was taken to the maid's residence that adjoined her room.
Kathryn slowly walked over to one of the small, circular windows and stared out at the docks she was just on. She watched as the sailors carried on the last few crates onto the ship before the departure bell began to ring throughout the entire structure. Her heart sank as she felt the ship slowly pulling away from the shoreline. The people on the shore became smaller and smaller until they could no longer be detected amongst the land's geological features. Once the rain began to fall, completely nullifying her view of the shore, Kathryn walked over to the bed, curled up on the mattress and began to sob into the pillow, not knowing when she would see her home again.
"Well, Miss Wellington," said Captain Nordstead as he looked out at the horizon, trying to make quaint conversation with her. "You will be happy to know that we received word from Captain Burckhardt today. He is anxiously awaiting your arrival at the post in America."
"That is good to hear," she replied quietly as she twisted her fingers together.
"Are you looking forward to living over there," he asked with a curious smile. "From what I hear, despite the colonist's low regard for the crown, the area is quite suitable. It is said to be far sunnier than our home."
"You and I have heard the same things," she said, head still down and avoiding eye contact. The captain noticed her uneasiness with the situation and decided to pry further.
"Surely you are excited about the prospect of marriage," he insisted. "It is every young woman's dream to have a man waiting for her as anxiously as he is for you, am I right?"
"Well I'm sure I don't know," Kathryn replied coldly. "I never got out much to hear other girls' dreams and aspirations." Captain Nordstead nodded, understanding that she had absolutely no desire to talk of her future with William, least of all with him. He kindly nodded his head and held his hand out to her.
"I will leave you to the sunset then," he said quietly as she placed her hand in his. He lifted it up to his lips, gently kissed her knuckles and the old man finally left to tend to his crew. She felt bad for treating the man with such sourness, but she simply couldn't even feign the kindness she was forced to have with every acquaintance her father forced her to meet.
The sun had hidden itself behind the ocean-covered horizon, and despite Mary's many requests for her to retire for the night, she still refused. She couldn't help but look away at the ocean and ponder how long it would take her to swim back home. She didn't have to go back to her old house. No, she would much rather live in London, perhaps in a small house, where her family would never find her. The captain walked around the ship after the sails were lowered for the evening, making sure everything was situated before his retiring. She could hear him calling up to the bird's nest to the soldier stationed there for the rest of the night until the crew returned at sunrise to take over.
"Miss Kathryn," called Captain Nordstead. "Are you sure you're alright out here in the dark?"
"Yes, Captain. Thank you for your concern," she sighed, forcing herself to give him a soft smile in recognition of his hospitality.
"Alright then," he replied, motioning to the bird's nest. "Please let the crewmen up there know if there's anything you need."
"I will," she said, slightly disappointed in the fact that the only place she could be alone was in the stuffy cabin she had been reserved. She couldn't jump off the deck from her room, and if she tried tonight, the crewmen in the bird's nest would stop her. She looked longingly over the side, wishing she could muster up the courage to do what she so desperately wanted. It was the only way she could escape becoming the broken woman her mother and older sisters had already become. Their spirits were dead, and to Kathryn, that was far more terrible than any death her body could endure.
Her hands tightened on the side of the ship as she felt her audacity beginning to flow through her veins. She bit her lip and looked up to the bird's nest. The crewman had disappeared for the moment, perhaps lacing his boot. If she was going to go through with this, she needed to do it now while she had the chance. She turned back around and slowly began lifting her body to sit on the edge. Before she could get one leg over, she spotted a shadowy void in the moon's reflections on the waves. Her eyes squinted, and she immediately recognized the shadow as the shape of a small boat. It was far off, but she could definitely see at least ten men rowing towards the ship.
Should she jump now? No. If these men meant the ship harm, she would have to warn the crew so they could prepare for a fray. Mary had taken care of Kathryn since they were children. It was the least she could do for her: make sure she was safe before she took her own life. Kathryn stared at the boat for a few minutes as it became clearer and decided to shout up to the bird's nest.
"Sir! Sir, there is a boat out there!" She waited a moment and heard no answer. "I beg your pardon," she called out, rather irritated now for being ignored. "I said there is a bo..." Her words were cut off by the feeling of something dripping on her. She grimaced and wiped what she thought was early-forming dew off of her face but shuddered when she saw a smear of crimson on her fingers. She looked down at her dress and saw the same color dotted down the white fabric. When she looked up, she saw the fast-approaching silhouette of a man falling through the air. She scrambled to the side just in time for a man to hit the mast and flip down onto the deck right in front of her. Upon seeing the lifeless body of the crewman who was supposed to be watching her, she drew in a deep breath and screamed. His throat had been cut and his eyes practically screamed as loud as she was. She backed away as she continued to shriek in fear, but a large hand clasped over her gaping mouth as a burly arm wrapped around her body and lifted her into the air.
"Quiet now," said a sour voice into her ear. "You wouldn't want me to cut that throat of yours as well, would ya?" She gasped and shook with trepidation as the man threatened her. The captain's deck door burst open to reveal Captain Nordstead flying out with his sword unsheathed, pointing it threateningly at the man who held her captive.
"Put her down, sir... or you will surely regret ever boarding this ship," he snarled at the unidentified man. Kathryn's eyes begged the captain to do something, but she knew as well as he did that unless these men were afraid of a fifty-year-old man, he couldn't do anything. A man landed next to Kathryn's captor with a loud thud on the wooden deck. His shirt was drenched with blood, and he held a dripping knife to Captain Nordstead. She quietly assumed that this was the man who had just sliced the neck of the crewman.
"Now captain," the knife-bearing man said with a nearly toothless grin, "surely you don't want to make this more complicated than it has to be." The Captain took another step towards the men, catching the moonlight with his blade. Kathryn had never seen him look so menacing, and she was thankful he was on her side.
"I will repeat myself," he said slowly. "Put... her... down..."
"Oh come on, Captain," sneered the man holding Kathryn. "Be reasonable now. We only need one thing from ya, and we'll leave you be." Captain Nordstead tightened his grip on the handle of his rapier, still refusing to back down. "Just one... insignificant prize," he whispered against her neck. Kathryn held back her stomach's urge to vomit and closed her eyes, trying to take her mind to a different place. Suddenly, a pair of large hooks flew over the edge of the ship and clattered on the ground. Captain Nordstead jumped to knock them off the ledge, knowing it only signaled more men boarding his ship, but knew he couldn't let his guard down. He simply eyed the hooks out of his peripheral vision as they were jerked and jammed themselves into the wood on the side of the ship.
"I said PUT HER DOWN," he bellowed, charging at the man with the blood-drenched knife. The man ducked and tossed Captain Nordstead over his back and chuckled evilly as he watched him try and scramble to his feet.
"Would you like to try that again," he asked mockingly as he flipped the knife around in his hand. Nordstead finally regained his stature and charged at the man again, this time holding his ground as the two blades hit each other repeatedly. The man holding Kathryn seemed overly enthralled in the fight, and she saw that as an opportunity to try and escape. Gritting her teeth and slowly counting down in her head, she lifted out her leg and swung back with all of her might, hitting the man right between the legs. He choked out a yelp of agony as his hands released her to try and ease the pain she had just caused. She ran around the fighting men to the hooks that were imbedded into the side of the ship. If she had the strength to dislodge them and prevent other men from boarding, she was going to. When she finally made it, however, she came face to face with the coldest eyes she had ever encountered. They were as grey as a storm, and as hollow as a cave. She fell backwards, landing on the ground as she stared up in terror at the man climbing over the deck. A smug grin tugged at his lips as he swung his legs up and around the ledge, standing to tower over her. She heard a cry of pain before Captain Nordstead fell to the ground, clutching his stomach. Her eyes tore away from the man who had just climbed aboard and she crawled over to the Captain.
"You fight quite gallantly, Captain Nordstead," said the man with the devilish eyes. Kathryn could feel his footsteps as they got closer and closer to her. She lifted his arm away from his stomach and saw his shirt drenched with blood from where the man with the knife had slashed through his skin. "Unfortunately, I don't believe this is your night."
"Get away from him, you monster," Kathryn hissed when she saw the ice-eyed man drawing nearer to them.
"Miss Wellington," choked out Captain Nordstead. "Run..."
"Wellington, eh," asked the man. "You wouldn't happen to be Kathryn, would you?" She glared up at him with the utmost hate, but still trying to hide her shock at his knowledge of her identity. He could see right through her. With amuse, he turned to his men who boarded behind him with a triumphant smile. "Boys, I do believe we've commandeered the right boat." Kathryn furrowed her brows at him as Nordstead continued urging her to run. To where, she wasn't sure. She was still trying to understand exactly why these men had attacked the boat and why they seemed to be focusing on her. With a nod to the men standing behind her, Kathryn felt her arms jerked upward as the attackers picked her up.
"Let go of me," she shrieked, kicking and trying her best to pry the man's arm off of her. She was smaller than him, but she wasn't going to let that stop her from getting away. She jabbed him in the stomach with her elbow and fell to the ground when the same man whom she had kicked earlier lost his gripping. She scrambled to her feet and began running past the evil-eyed man, but fell into darkness when the butt of his pistol made contact with the back of her head.
Kathryn's eyes fluttered open only to find herself completely blinded by a piece of dark fabric tied around her face. Her arms all the way up to her shoulders were numbed by pain, having slept with them bound together for God knew how long. She tried to sit up, but without the use of her arms, she was helpless to move herself. To the best of her abilities, she dragged her body over her bound wrists until she was able to swing them under her feet and up to her front.
She ripped down the blindfold from her eyes and found herself in a small room, furnished only with the rickety bed she had previously lain in and a mirror that dangled from the wooden wallboards. This was definitely not the Margareta. The Margareta could not be as cold as this room was if it's crew even tried. As soon as she spotted the door she ran towards it and pulled the handle with all her might. The door would not budge, but she heard the creaking of the nails against wood, signaling it's old age. Assuming it was just as feeble as the bed was, she backed up and ran into it with her shoulder, certain she could break it down. After the door did not budge, she walked to the other side of the room again and hurled herself at the door. This time, when her shoulder made contact with the unstable, yet surprisingly sturdy wood, a shooting pain radiated through her body, sending her falling to the floor.
"Help me," she shouted. "Let me out of here!" She lowered her head to the floor and felt the beginnings of a sob crawl up her throat. Refusing to let anyone see her in a weakened state, she gulped down her anxiety and fear before lifting herself to her feet and placing her ear to the door. "Hello," she called out again when no one answered her.
The walls began to close in around her. She felt her heart rate rising. Her lungs felt constricted as if she were being smothered. There were no windows, she now noticed. This made her predicament even more horrific. She had to get out of that room. In a cold sweat, she threw herself at the door again and pounded furiously on the weakening wood.
"Let me out of here," she screamed, her panic overcoming her. When she realized she was not even close to freeing herself, she gave one powerful and ineffective kick to the door before crawling into the corner of the room and hugging her knees to her chest. "Please," she cried in one final attempt to receive succor. "Help me!"
"Will you shut the hell up," bellowed a sour, cockney roughened voice from behind the door before it swung open, nearly hitting Kathryn. The man who had killed the crewman in the Margareta's bird's nest stormed in her room, picked her up by her arms and jammed her against the wall. "I ought to slit your throat right here and now, you know that, bird?" Kathryn grimaced and let out a whimper of pain as her head began pounding from being slammed into the wall.
"Arthur," came a stern voice from the door. The man who held Kathryn turned his head to address the man who was just joining them. "I'd put her down if I were you." Kathryn gulped when she saw who had just entered. Arthur gradually let Kathryn slide down the wall and the man with the stormy, hollow eyes slowly strolled into the room with a smirk of victory on his lips.
"Why have you brought me here," she suddenly blurted, seeing the man who had frightened her so the previous night. The intimidating man chuckled and lowered himself down to her level to examine her. "Answer me! Why am I here?"
"I really don't think you're privy to such knowledge at this juncture, milady," he said smugly.
"I'm not privy," she hissed. "How am I not privileged to this information, sir? It is MY being that has been taken against its will!"
"I'd prefer waiting until you've become a little more compliant," he said simply.
"How do you expect me to be compliant," she screeched.
"Trust me," he chuckled evilly. "You'll learn to be compliant. But I suggest you learn sooner rather than later." Kathryn grit her teeth together to keep herself from yelling at him once more for his blithe attitude towards her situation.
"Then what of Captain Nordstead," she asked more quietly this time. "What have you done with him?"
"Well I'm sure I don't know," he said smugly. "Although he was still alive when we left that ship of yours."
"You mean you left him there for DEAD!?"
"The well-being of an old man is hardly my concern, miss," he exhaled, irritated, "and it shouldn't be yours either."
"And why is that," she sneered. The man let a grin tug on his lips as he leaned in towards her.
"Because, Miss Wellington… you have far worse to concern yourself with."
"Has word been sent to Burckhardt yet?"
"Just calm down, Morgan," the stormy-eyed Corin Ward said to his first mate, Morgan. "I have no doubts the captain knows of his woman's capture. Someone on the Margareta is bound to have sent some form of message."
"Are you sure he will pursue? The man seems to have no cares except for his responsibility to the crown. It would be easy enough for him just to let her go."
"Although I have my doubts, considering the nature of the woman," he added grumpily, "Burckhardt cares for his line as much as the crown." Morgan looked at his commander with a skeptical eye. Ward cleared his throat and continued to explain. "The man has had a hand in her upbringing since she was a child. She's practically been trained and conditioned to be a wife and rear children since the day she was born. A man who would put that much effort and patience into a future mother for his children would hardly wish to let her go so easily. Especially to a ship of colony-sympathetic heathens."
"So what do we do if Burckhardt refuses to leave the colonies? You've killed men for un-met demands, but a woman?"
"There's always a first time for everything, Morgan," Ward said nonchalantly as he flipped through some maps on his table.
Kathryn sat in the corner of her cell, her knees drawn up to her chest. Her eyes were closed, and she drew in slow, deep, controlled breaths. Every part of her brain was trying to picture a large, open field with fresh air and space to stretch out, but her body still trembled with the memories of her suffocating past experience.
It had been four days since she had been kidnapped from the Margareta and she was becoming more and more frightened regarding her fate. She still had no fathomable idea as to why she had been taken.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. She lifted her head from her folded arms and looked at the door questioningly as an old man, perhaps in his sixties, walked into her small room. His graying hair was neatly braided and tied behind his head. His clothes were meticulously tailored, however they looked worn as if they were nearly two decades old. Despite the fact this man was clearly in company with the men who kidnapped her, she found something comforting in his eyes, something warm… something fatherly.
"Now child, what are you doing over there," he asked with a curious smile. "I'm sure there are more comfortable places to sit than in that dank corner." When Kathryn did not reply, the man walked around the small bed and closer to her. However, when he came too close to her, she cowered. After being locked in her room, the only other human contact she had was when a crewman would throw a bowl of water and loaf of bread on the small table by the door. When he saw her fear, the man stopped instantly, took a few steps back and held his hands up as if to show he meant no harm. "Alright then," he said kindly. "I won't come any closer. But would you mind if I sat on the bed? I just need to speak with you, if that's alright." Kathryn gulped and stared with a furrowed brow at the man. He chuckled softly and took a seat on the furthest side of the bed.
"Whatever ransom you're asking from my father, he won't pay it," came her small voice from the corner of the room. The old man looked up and his brow formed a line above his eyes.
"What makes you say that?"
"He won't pay it," she repeated, rather than answer his question to his satisfaction. It scared her that her father would rather put a gun into his own mouth than to pay her ransom, but she knew it was closer to the truth than anything else she could fathom up. Kathryn was the least favorite daughter in her father's eyes. After putting her on that ship to the colonies, she was no longer his problem, and she was sure the chances of her being killed for her father's apathy toward her were becoming more of a reality with every passing hour.
"I'm going to be honest with you," he said, scooting closer to her, but still keeping his distance. Kathryn lifted her teary eyes and watched him warily. He folded his hands on his lap and looked hard into her dark brown orbs for eyes. "We are not doing this to ransom you to your father. We need to know exactly why your fiancé is in New England." She frowned and shook her head.
"I know nothing about his affairs there," she said, shaking her head. "Only that I was intended to join him."
"I know that's not true." Kathryn glared at the man at his response. "I know you know more than you are letting on."
"Just leave me alone," she said in finality.
"Miss Wellington, things are only going to get worse from here," he warned, his fatherly-like warmth slowly turning. She did not reply, only turned her head further away from him. "I will not be the last one to question you."
"I don't care."
"You should care," he said. "The captain is not a patient man."
"That's a shame," she said, turning her head to him now with a glare that could freeze beer. "Because I'm a very patient woman."
The old man nodded his head and walked out of her room. He walked down the corridor to the captain's quarters and nervously knocked on the door to deliver the news he dreaded to give the captain.
"What do you mean, 'she's not talking,'" growled Captain Ward when Morgan came back with his interrogation results.
"Exactly what it sounds like," he said simply. "She won't tell me anything."
"She's just… a girl," he snarled.
"That, she may be," Morgan agreed, "but she's strong."
"Everyone has their breaking point," he said quietly, but fiercely. "And soon… I'm going to find hers."
Captain Ward stormed down to the living quarters and walked directly to his prisoner's cell. Without knocking to announce his entrance, he knocked the door open, finding the girl sitting in the corner with her knees drawn up to her chin.
"Oh," she curtly snarled. "You're the captain. He told me you were impatient."
"You're going to tell me what I need to know," he quickly demanded, "or I'm going to make things very unpleasant for you."
"And you think it isn't already," she questioned, irritated. The captain smiled wickedly and slowly walked up to her, kneeling down to her level.
"I know this room is more than unpleasant to you," he whispered. "In fact… it terrifies you."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, I think you do," he chuckled, nodding his head to her. "I know this trick: sitting curled up in the corner."
"Oh really," she asked skeptically.
"Oh yes," he replied. "Curling up in the corner makes you feel smaller. Therefore, it makes the room seem bigger. At times, you can almost breathe normally… though it's never enough." It was then, Kathryn knew he could see straight through her. "You tell me what I need to know… I might be inclined to move you to a less confining area. Perhaps a room with a window. And then maybe I can arrange for you to have more to eat than just bread and water as well."
"I'm not telling you anything," she said almost too swiftly. Suddenly, the captain picked up the small table by the door and hurled it at the wall, sending splinters of wood flying around the room.
"What is William Burckhardt doing in the colonies," he roared. "TELL ME!"
"I don't know," she retorted.
"You're lying," he accused. Kathryn kept her mouth pursed shut. Realizing the small girl was not going to speak, Captain Ward let out a long breath and rubbed his temples. "Fine," he hissed. "I think you can manage staying in here for another week or so." With that, he walked toward the door, took one last glance at his troublesome captive, and slammed the door behind him, making sure to lock it back up.
"No one opens that door until I say… am I clear?" The shaky Arthur nodded his head quickly after his captain's order was shouted at him.
"She does not eat or drink until she's ready to talk. That ought to give her plenty of time to think my proposition over."
Captain Ward sat in his cabin plotting the crew's next coordinates when a light, courteous knock rang through his room.
"Come," he called simply, still paying full attention to the work at hand. Morgan walked through the door and stood patiently at the foot of the desk where Ward sat. "What do you need?"
"Are you sure you're not being too hard on the girl?" The hard captain furrowed his brow and lifted his eyes to the old man.
"What are you saying?"
"No food or water," he questioned.
"She needs to know who is in charge here," Ward argued. "Her will's too strong."
"Exactly," Morgan whispered. "Her will is too strong. I would not be surprised if she refused food or water until it was too late. Do you understand what I'm telling you?"
"No, Morgan," he hissed irritably. "I don't think I do."
"What I am saying," he continued, "is that she is too much like you. Think about it, son," Morgan pleaded. "What would you do if you were in her situation?" Ward leaned back in his chair and furiously rubbed at the bridge of his nose.
"How long has it been," he asked quietly, still trying to ward off the headache he was quickly developing.
"Three days," Morgan replied. The captain drew in a deep breath shook his head.
"Give her some water and bread," he finally conceded. "And for God's sake, try to talk some sense into her." The captain's first mate chuckled and left the cabin.
The old man tipped his head to several men who passed him in the corridor, receiving numerous kind greetings as he went. Morgan Townsend was by far the most revered man on the ship… even more so than Captain Ward. The captain was feared. Morgan was respected. Whatever he lacked in strength from old age, he made up for with sheer intelligence and whit. Together, he and Ward made the crew a functional machine with only the occasional, but expected, human flaws.
Once he encountered Arthur, biting his nails in front of the girl's door, he stopped and stared at the neurotic man, waiting for him to let him through.
"The um… Captain told me not to let anyone…"
"…Don't worry about the captain," Morgan interrupted with a smile. "Why don't you go get something to eat right quick?" The gaunt crewman nodded quickly.
"Yes sir," he stammered before quickly making his way down the hallway. With his shaky hand, showing the first signs of arthritis, Morgan knocked quietly on the doorframe before letting himself in. At first glance, he saw nothing to indicate that there was anyone even in the room. Then, he noticed the white tail of the girl's gown being tugged back behind the bed. She was hiding again.
With a smile, he very gently pulled out a loaf of bread from behind his back, and a bag of water from his belt.
"I've got something you want," he tempted as he set the two items down on the bed. He saw the top of her head turn to view the food and water she had been denied for three days and scooted away from the bed and into the corner.
"I am not telling you anything," she said in a tired voice.
"And I didn't ask you to," the old man chuckled. "I just want you to have something to fill your stomach." He leaned over just enough to see the girl stare at him skeptically. Her brown hair was tied back in an attempt to hide the fact it was dirty. Her skin was pale from her lack of any real nutrition, and her lips were cracked from dehydration. "Please," he asked kindly. "Just drink something at least." She tilted her head and looked longingly at the bread and water before shaking her head and curling back up in her ball. "I'll leave them there then," he sighed as he stood up and walked to the door.
"Why do you want to know about William," came her small voice from the corner. Morgan paused and looked back to her. "What is your captain planning?" Seeing this as an opportunity, the old man sat down once again in the chair.
"He is trying his best to prevent more British troops from posting in the colonies," he quietly explained.
"Why," she asked. "They are British colonies."
"Miss Wellington," he exhaled, "The King has already sent many of his most trusted over to the colonies to collect taxes and enforce English rule. Those who do not follow these laws to the upmost standard are harshly punished."
"That is how any law works," she stated. "That happens in England as well. Are you unaware of this?"
"That is true," he agreed, "but have you heard the nature of these laws?"
"I have not been told much about colonial policy, sir," she said angrily.
"Imagine if you will, miss, trying to create a new life for yourself. You are given a wonderful opportunity to do just that in a new land. In your former homeland, you were ridiculed for things like your faith or your profession. It takes a while to earn enough money, but you finally can afford to move your family to this new land of opportunities." Kathryn listened to the old man as if he were telling a story. "When you reach this new land, everything you purchase, every inch of land you own, just short of every breath you take is charged a duty to the country you escaped. How free is this new life of yours?"
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Do you know what it is like to be governed through every thing you do?" Kathryn clenched her teeth, feeling something hit a little too close to home. "Where you cannot take a single step without another person telling you to do so?"
"I don't want to hear anymore," she whispered, simply not wanting to answer his question.
"Miss Wellington, most of the people who have made a new life for themselves in the colonies cannot afford these duties," he continued. "For those who cannot, they are put in jail, or put into servitude. Unfortunately, for one region in particular, the debtors are even put to death if the fine is high enough."
"I said I don't want to hear anymore. Please leave me."
"The man who is putting innocent people to death is your fiancé, Miss Wellington," he finally said.
"Get out," she cried, pulling her knees to her chest once again. She knew that if these men compromised his plans, William would know it was her who had told them. There would be no telling what he would be willing to do to her as punishment. She was not going to risk that.
"I am begging you," he pleaded.
"NO!" Morgan straightened up and nodded his head before promptly walking to the door.
"I just don't want the captain doing his worst to you," he whispered before shutting the door behind him.
"Michael, where are we going," called a teenage Kathryn Wellington as she followed her best friend across the field behind her father's manor.
"We're running away," he said eagerly, grabbing her hand and hurrying her along.
"But we can't," she insisted. "All of Bournemouth will be looking for us!"
"It doesn't matter," he said with determination. "I'm not going to let you spend the rest of your life with that man."
"But I don't have any choice in the matter," she said, her eyes almost filling with tears. Michael paused and pulled her behind one of the larger trees at the beginning of the forest.
"You think you don't because you've never have one," he said, almost out of breath from running so far. "We can go to London… just like you've always wanted. I have enough money. I've finished my apprenticeship! We can start a new life there, just you and me." Images of a life with Michael in London flashed before her eyes. She saw a small wedding, a little cottage in a field somewhere, perhaps a pair of children… and she liked that vision. A small smile tugged at the corner of her lips, and she lifted her tearing eyes to him.
"Alright," she whispered, nodding her head. "I will go with you." Michael smiled and dipped his head down, giving Kathryn her first, sweet kiss.
"What a sickly sweet sight." Every muscle in Kathryn's body tensed at the scowling voice behind her. Michael slowly lifted his head from hers and glared at the man standing by them.
"She is not going back to you, Burckhardt," he said through his teeth.
"I think we should let the lady decide," William said smugly as he bent over, placing his chin on her trembling shoulder. Her eyes closed, and she bit her bottom lip, trying to block out the images of what this man behind her was capable of. "How shall it go, Kathryn," he hissed into her ear. "You decide. Either you run back to your father's house right now, or your friend here gets a bullet in the head. And then afterwards, I drag you back." A loud click jarred Kathryn's eyes open to see a pistol in William's hand, pointing straight at Michael. A gasp escaped her lungs, and she tried her best to cover her gaping jaw with her hand.
"Don't imprison yourself again, Kathryn," Michael pleaded quietly. Upon hearing his, William's grip grew dangerously tight on her shoulder and she gulped back a cry of pain.
"Think very carefully, child," he warned.
"I'll go back," she finally gave up.
"Kathryn, no," Michael pleaded, his voice tightening with tears.
"Please, just don't hurt him," she begged.
"Very well." With that, William lifted his gun to the air before putting it back into his holster. "Now get back home quickly before I give you a beating you will never forget." Holding back a sob, she took one last look at Michael before turning back to where the manor was. Before she got more than five steps from William, a loud shot rang through the open field. Kathryn turned to see the body of her friend collapse to the ground.
"NO," she cried, running towards Michael's lifeless form. Before she could get to him, William's strong arms wrapped around her, dragging her kicking and screaming back to the house.
Kathryn shot up in bed, her face red with tears. Her chest panted heavily with the horrible memories of her past before she fell back to the pillows, and covered her face with her hands.
"Oh, Michael," she whispered. With her memories revisited, she found a new strength inside of her. She rose to her feet, fixed her hair the best she could without a mirror, and walked to the door. Not knowing if she would be answered, she knocked on the door three sturdy times. When no one replied, she repeated her knocks and waited, arms crossed over her chest.
"What the hell do you want," came that sour cockney voice belonging to Arthur on the other side of the door.
"I want to speak to the captain," she said sternly.
"Well he's busy at the moment."
"Tell him to make time for me. I have some information he wants."
It took nearly an hour, but before she knew it, Kathryn was taking her first trip outside of her prison of a room. Morgan was on one side while Arthur was on the other, making sure she didn't try to run. Finally, after her short walk down the hallway, Morgan knocked on the door before the Captain's voice was heard on the other side, permitting them to enter. Arthur pushed open the door and helped his older crew-mate to lead the stone silent girl into the captain's quarters.
"Morgan, Arthur, I'd like to speak to Miss Wellington alone," said the captain with finality. With two small nods, the men left the cabin and closed the door behind them. Then, the daunting man sitting at the desk turned his storm-blue eyes to her. "You have something you wanted to tell me," he prompted. "I suggest you get on with it."
"He thinks the colonists are trying to start a war," she said simply.
"Is that so," he exhaled, leaning back and looking more intently at the girl.
"They are sending British troops to his posts just in case they do."
"When do they get there," he pressed.
"I don't know," she admitted quietly. "He has only told my father of his plans as far as I know. That could very well change, however, once he learns of this," she said, holding her arms out, mentioning her predicament. The captain leaned forward in his seat, crossing his fingers on top of his desk. She could tell he was intrigued, but he still had another question.
"Miss Wellington, would you be willing to tell me where he is stationed," he asked clear as a bell. She drew in a deep breath and gulped back her fear.
"Yes," she whispered, her hands now beginning to tremble. The captain lifted his eyebrows, waiting for her to give him the information he wanted. "I was being taken to the Long Island, just south of Connecticut," she replied. "I am sure that is where his estate is." The captain nodded understandingly, but still had an unanswered question in his eye.
"Why have you decided to tell me this," he finally asked. Captain Ward was not prepared for the strength in the way this small, frail girl answered him.
"Because the colonists are not the only people who have suffered at the hands of William Burckhardt." He furrowed his brow, wanting to question her further, but could see it was something she didn't want to go into. It was her past, she should be able to keep it for herself. "I know, Captain," she continued, "that you are using me to get him out of the colonies permanently. Unfortunately, I cannot guarantee this. As a matter of fact, I am more likely to believe he will completely disregard my disappearance altogether and go on with his plans." Corin now began to worry. Could he have possibly overestimated Burckhardt's affection for the girl? "But I have told you what I know. And now I ask something in return."
"I will see what I can do," he said hesitantly. "What is it?"
"Regardless of whether luring him away is successful or not… you have to promise never to return me to William, or my family in Bournemouth."
"And whereabouts did you have in mind," he questioned.
"I don't care," she insisted.
"You do realize that if we do succeed in luring him away from his post, and you are not returned, there WILL be a war," he explained. "Only the colonists will not be starting it." Kathryn's eyes lowered, and she tried her best not to let him see her chin trembling. "Do you understand why I might not be able to oblige your request, Miss Wellington?" Finally, the girl lifted her eyes back to him, only this time, they were quickly filling with tears.
"I cannot go back to him," she said defiantly. "You've already kidnapped me, and starved me for God knows how long. You know I am as innocent as anyone can be in this situation. The least you could do is grant me this." What could have happened to this girl, that she would not want to return to her future husband OR her family? It was truly a mystery that he would have to learn. But in the meantime, he had to agree with her.
"I will see what I can do," he said before calling to his first mate. "Morgan, will you come in here, please?"
"Yes, Captain," the old man said in his withered voice.
"Please move Miss Wellington into a more appropriate room… one with windows," he specified. "And make sure she has a good meal."
"I will, sir," he replied with a smile to the girl.
Four months later, Captain William Burckhardt stood on the balcony of his manor, looking out across the training fields that would soon quarter several of the crown's troops. His heart swelled with pride as he imagined the day the king would knight him for all of his accomplishments to date and in the future.
"Captain?" Burckhardt turned to see the tired face of an unknown sailor, escorted by two of his solders.
"Who is this," he asked his men.
"This is Lt. Bernard Stratton from the Margareta."
"Ah," William said with a smile. "Welcome to America, Lieutenant." Then, he turned to his men. "I assume you have placed Lady Wellington in her quarters for the night," he asked. Both of the soldiers looked worriedly at each other and slowly shook their heads. Burckhardt eyed all of them and sensed something was amiss. "What is going on here," he demanded. "What has happened?"
"My Lord," the shaky Stratton addressed, "We were attacked seven days into our voyage."
"Corin Ward," he whispered. William felt a growl rumble deep in his chest. He knew this man very well. Ward had been his first mate on a voyage with the East India Trading Company five years before. Though he had never favored the young man, it came as a shock to him when he received news of Ward's fleeting from the British Navy and turn to piracy in support of the colonists who were beginning to demand their own rule. He knew he would run into the man sooner or later, being stationed in America, but he never thought it would be under these circumstances.
"Ward," he said, testing the name out on his tongue for the first time in three years. "Where is your Captain Nordstead?"
"Captain Nordstead was injured in the attack," the man said. "He died of fever three days later."
"Were you his first mate?"
"Yes sir," he replied. "Although I am now the captain." Burckhardt lifted his chin in the air, thinking hard to himself.
"Mister… Stratton… is it?"
"There is a reason why my fiancée is not here… standing before me… isn't there?"
"I'm afraid so," he admitted, lowering his face to the ground. "They took her."
"And did you do anything to prevent it?"
"We tried sir," he defended. "But his crew took us by surprise. They were too many."
"Well obviously you did not try hard enough," he grumbled. With a wave of his hand he dismissed them. "Put him in the barracks. Hang him for treason in the morning."
"But my Lord," begged the man. "Please, we did everything in our power!"
"I said get him out of my quarters," William bellowed. With that, Captain William Burckhardt put another innocent life to an end.