"Is it not a glorious day to be alive, Higgins?" I ask, sitting on the hatch of my fleet little schooner with my back to the aftermast and my legs sprawled out before me, looking up at the trim of the sails. I’m clad in my usual sailing gear of light cotton shirt, short buckskin skirt, bare of lower limbs and bare of feet. The breeze ruffles through the stubble of hair that is regrowing itself on my head and the sun feels good on my face.
"It is indeed, Miss," says my very, very good John Higgins, Confidant, Personal Assistant, and Highest-Paid Employee of Faber Shipping, Worldwide. Highest-paid, that is, when Faber Shipping has any money at all to pay anything to anybody. Right now, my corporation consists of two small boats, the Evening Star and the Morning Star, and the Nancy B. Alsop, my beautiful little Gloucester schooner and current flagship of Faber Shipping, Worldwide, on which my bottom now rests.
"However," continues Higgins, nudging, once again, my ankles back together and pulling the hem of my buckskin skirt back down over my knees, over which knees it had crawled up a bit, "you really should stay out of the sun as it is not good for your complexion. I assume you’ll be taking your lunch up here on the hatch?"
I nod and smile up at my good friend and protector. "You spoil me too much, Higgins."
"Well, Miss, we must keep you tidy, mustn’t we?" says Higgins. He reaches over and runs his hand through my hair, which is now about three inches long. "Soon we’ll be able to comb this, which will be a relief. I will be back directly."
I had lost my long, sandy locks in a not-very-pleasant incident on my way down the Mississippi River this summer. To make up for my loss of coiffure, I have purchased, in various ports, a collection of wigs, some rather fancy, some very plain, and I must admit I enjoy prancing about in some of the gaudier ones when we are in foreign ports—I have one especially outrageous long, curly red one festooned with yellow ribbons, which comes all the way down to my bum. Higgins, upon seeing me wearing it for the first time, visibly recoiled and said, "God, that’s ghastly," this being the only time I think I have ever moved him to taking the Lord’s name in vain, which is something, considering what I have done in the past to offend both his sensibilities and his sense of propriety.
Ah, yes, that was all in good fun, but here, in the sun and amongst my friends who all know me for my eccentricities, I wear no wig at all.
The Nancy B is headed south to pick up more sugar in Jamaica—that’s what we’ve been doing during the past few months since we left New Orleans. We haul granite down from New England—it doesn’t bring much, but it’s good ballast and from what else are they gonna make fine buildings and tombstones down there in Jamaica? Sand? Coral?—and so after we off-load and sell that, we buy sugar and haul it north from the Caribbean to Boston to be made into rum by the many distilleries there. Then we turn around and do it again. And yet again.
Nice and safe and calm—running the Nancy B as a coaster, seldom out of sight of land. That’s the new levelheaded Jacky Faber; no more impulsive plunging into awful situations and then desperately struggling to get myself out of them. Nay, I am doing what I have always said I wanted to do, which is to have a fine ship like this one and haul stuff from a place that’s got a lot of that stuff, and take it to another place that ain’t got a lot of that stuff and is willing to pay for it, and so prosper. I had thought about sailing across the Big Pond to set up a smuggling operation running the British blockade of France, and maybe after Jaimy gets back to London next year and we are wed, we might give it a try—after all, the stores of Fletcher Wine Company must be getting mighty lean. Maybe I’ll write to Jaimy’s father and see what he thinks about participating in a little mischief—and tell him about how his son looked when last I saw him on the deck of HMS Mercury, all decked out in his new lieutenant’s uniform and looking oh-so fine. Maybe I’ll write and say . . . Nay, I won’t write to him at all, I know I will not, for I also realize that most of the Family Fletcher has very little use for one Jacky Faber, former privateer, who stole from them not only the affection of their beloved son, but also a good deal of their fortune, at least in wine, that is. Besides, running a blockade ain’t nice and safe and calm, which is what I have resolved to be. Jaimy and I will work out what our lives are to be like when he gets back from Japan and we are united and . . .
Ahem. Back to business. This is the state of Faber Shipping, Worldwide, on this early September day in 1806:
Holdings: The aforementioned two small boats and the Nancy B. Alsop, a two-masted schooner, sixty-five feet in length and named after my mother. We’ve also got nets, traps, and other rigging, plus various armaments. Since acquiring her, we have fitted her with swivel guns fore and aft—I learned about the usefulness of those little pepper pots this past summer when sailing down the Mississippi River on my keelboat, the Belle of the Golden West. We’ve added two standard nine-pound cannons mounted on either side. Sure it’s extra weight that could be better used for cargo, but the piece of mind the guns afford outweighs the loss of freight tonnage, for there are pirates abroad in these waters, some of whom I know by name, and many of them do not hold me in the highest regard. After all, I did spend the summer before this one cruising and carousing around the Caribbean on my lovely Emerald.
Miss Jacky Mary Faber, President
Mr. John Higgins, Vice President and Chief Consultant
Mr. Ezra Pickering, Esquire, Clerk, Secretary, and Treasurer. From his law office on Union Street in Boston, he manages the books, bails me out of jail (when he can), and makes sure that all is neat and tidy, legalwise.
Miss Chloe Abyssinia Cantrell, Freeborn Person of Color, Accountant, toiling in Mr. Pickering’s office and under his kind tutelage. She also gives harpsichord lessons to the sons and daughters of the local gentry.
Mr. James Tanner, Seaman, Coxswain to the President, and First Mate of the Nancy B, where he now stands at the helm.
Mrs. Clementine Amaryllis Tanner, wife to Mr. Tanner, newly installed in comfortable lodgings on State Street and employed at the Lawson Peabody School as serving girl and assistant cook to Mrs. Peg Mooney to help pay for said lodgings, till such time as she learns to read and write well enough to be of use to Faber Shipping. Hey, if being a chambermaid was good enough for me, it’s good enough for her. Peg reports that she is cheerful, does her job well, and goes about her tasks singing, which is good.
Mr. Solomon J. Freeman, newly freed Person of Color, in charge of the Evening Star and the Morning Star, and the staffing and manning thereof for the purpose of setting and hauling fish and lobster traps in Boston Harbor. He has shown himself to be very good at that. He takes instruction in Language and the Classics from Miss Cantrell, which I think will be to his benefit. Furthermore, he has found outside employment with Messieurs Fennel and Bean in their theatrical productions as both musician ...