It pleases me greatly to inform you, Reader, that Dr Samuel Maitland married Esperanza. They managed to escape the burning wreck of the Mercy, just as I had, and they moved to London. The doctor had become gravely injured following the attack on the ship; losing his sight and part of his leg as a result. Esperanza, thankfully, had not suffered any such gravity. I had feared them to be dead, and they too had thought I had perished that day, and had been lost to the waves of the Atlantic. Esperanza, according to her husband, had grieved like a mother who had lost her child. He told me he could not wait to return home and offer her the wonderful news that I had survived.
I told the doctor of my travels. He listened intently as I hovered over the subject of Rodos for longer than I had intended.
"And now I see why you chose 'Rhodes' as your pseudonym. You know Jac, Esperanza read two of your books to me last year and I thought how much they reminded me of my days at sea. If only I had known that John Rhodes was in fact Jacob Derrar."
I smiled. "I was very fond of Rodos…however I only used it as a name because it was how Lord Byron would address me. He called me The Childe Rhodes."
"Lord Byron? You met Lord Byron?"
"Yes, after Athina's father sent me away to Albania for appropriating his daughter."
"And he called you The Childe Rhodes?"
"Just like…in his novel, The Childe Harold? Yes…yes that novel was read to me recently. He wrote it immediately following his journeys around the Mediterranean. I had always thought he meant the main character to mirror his own personality and experiences…but now…yes, yes I think The Childe Harold must be Jacob Derrar."
"Perhaps. Although, why he would dedicate a whole novel to a servant boy, I cannot fathom."
"Jac, he certainly didn't consider you to be a mere servant boy if he christened you The Childe Rhodes."
I smiled modestly.
"And what of Athina?" he continued. "Is she in Lindos still?"
"I know not where she is. Lord Byron put it rather well when I told him of my sentiments toward her…he said I would ruin her. So I never went searching for her."
"Perhaps you would have ruined her then, Jac…but certainly not now. Just look at you…a fine, outstanding gentleman of intelligence, wealth and quiet virtue."
"She would be married by now, surely."
"You will never know unless you investigate. You are one and thirty, wealthy and handsome...yet you remain a bachelor."
It took me many months before I finally summoned the courage to board a boat to Greece. The doctor and Esperanza would not relent.
The warmth caressed my skin as I disembarked at Lindos, and the familiar aroma of the Mediterranean nearly swept me from my feet. I did not expect Athina to be living at her childhood home; but it was the only destination I wished to see immediately upon my arrival.
I traced the narrow streets I had known as a boy. It had barely changed. The whitewashed villas still bore their bright halos from reflected sunshine; and I frequently happened across local folk whom I recognised from years earlier; although they had aged. None recognised me in return.
The former townhouse of the Stefanakis family still remained outwardly identical to how it had done the last time I had seen it. But the family of strangers that emerged from the main entrance reminded me that much had changed.
I wandered leisurely out of the town. I felt sure I would not find her. She would be married; she would be settled elsewhere in a large house, with beautiful ebony-haired children and a faithful husband. Such a lucky rogue he would be.
I climbed the hills that surrounded Lindos, and I weaved through the rows of lemon trees and olive trees. I did not wish to visit the pistachio yard. Instead, I found myself heading in the direction of the vineyard; the vineyard where I had first met Athina. I expected that the vines had perhaps become neglected; or that the farmer had decided to plant olives there in their place. But they were, to my pleasant surprise, in the exact same condition as they had been the day we had met. Rows and rows of rich, tall vines; juicy grapes growing ripe upon them. It was a wondrous sight, and I felt as though I had been catapulted backwards to the age of twelve again. It was tremendous.
I found the exact place where I had first seen her peering at me through the vines, and I sat down. I watched the crickets as they hopped across my shoes.
Then, I heard a laugh. A sweet, sweet laugh that sounded so familiar to me. I turned swiftly, to see a pair of green eyes mischievously teasing me from behind the vines. A girl of perhaps eight or nine; younger than Athina had been; but she resembled Athina in such an uncanny manner, I thought God had sent her to torment me. Her black hair caressed her shoulders and her smile wrinkled the corners of her eyes.
"Hello," I said in Greek. "My name is Giacoppe." I had not uttered my Greek name in years; it felt bizarre to be using it once more. "What's your name?"
"Thalia," she blurted quickly, before running away down the hill toward the town.
I followed her to a bustling market in the centre of the town, where she wound her way between the many bodies in the crowd. I lost sight of her momentarily, before I saw her standing before a market stall. She held the hand of a woman facing away from me; and she addressed her as 'Mama'. Little Thalia's mother was tall, slender and elegant; with thick, ebony hair tied behind her ears. Her dainty fingers curled around those of her daughter as she browsed the stall.
The stall owner held out a dish of his produce to the mother.
"No, thank you," she said. "I don't like pistachios."
I knew the voice was that of my darling Athina. It sang to me like the song of a beautiful nightingale. I think my heart must have stopped when she turned to see me. Her emerald eyes widened as her mind registered my presence before her. I had feared she would not remember me; and that all the thoughts of her which had swirled relentlessly around my consciousness throughout the years were in vain. I tried not to descend into panic from being aware she had a child; from the possibility of her being married. But as I was later to find out, Reader, she was now a widow; to a Greek soldier who had died of consumption; just as Ekaterina had.
She did remember me, Reader. She embraced me.
We married, Reader; to church bells and hymns in Lindos; with a Taff and an old, blind doctor for witnesses. Esperanza sang a love song at the meal following the ceremony; and our daughter, Thalia, was a flower girl. Athina's father was also present to proudly witness the marriage of her daughter to the esteemed novelist, John Rhodes. He never did recognise me as the fisher boy who had almost ruined his daughter at thirteen. He was also present when I was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1838. Any father would be delighted at their daughter being married to a gentleman with a title.
And thus began my favourite and last adventure of all; that of married life and children. Although, Reader, I doubt that adventure would be as exciting to read as those adventures I experienced throughout my earlier life; so I think perhaps I will leave that to your boundless imagination.
I will tell you that I sit now upon my terrace in Rodos; a copy of The Childe Harold in my hand; watching the twilight sun fall upon my grandchildren as they run about the garden below. I feel nothing except comfort and happiness. I bear the marks of my lively and eventful existence upon my body and my mind; and every now and then, I look to them and allow myself to drift away and re-visit my past with contented nostalgia.
My name is Jacob Derrar.
I am a pirate; I am a soldier; an acrobat; and a dancer. I am a novelist; and a scientist.
I am a husband and a father.
And I am sixty years old.