Women and the Sea
|Subject: Women and the Sea Mon Jun 30, 2008 3:08 am|| |
“She’s the fastest learner I have ever seen, I must admit.” Johan wiped a bit of sweat from his brow while watching Jazelle lead a work crew down on the main deck. “A darky and a female one at that; who would have thought it possible?” Johan paused a moment then added, “No offense intended of course Captain.” Cathern gave a slight grunt and a nod. “You are right of course; the sea isn’t a place for most women. But I do wonder if it is because most of us are incapable or if it is because you men don’t want us capable. Whatever the case, Jazelle has turned out to be an excellent pupil. She has learned more in a couple years than many a seaman learns in a lifetime. She can read, write, and speak several languages passably, she can do math and chart the stars, she is familiar with sword play and musketry, and she knows how to sail a ship. What I am not certain of though, is whether she can COMMAND a vessel.”
The pair walked the poop deck observing Jazelle. The crew wasn’t entirely keen on following her orders since she was a slave and a female one to boot. They knew better than to cross Jazelle when the captain of the ship was watching though. “I suppose there is one way to find out if she is ready Johan. I can lease her a small ship and see what she does with it.” Johan ran his tough hands over his face, “Sink or swim then? And what of the crew? Would you risk their lives if she wasn’t ready? You know as well as I do that one wrong move and the captain can drown the ship or the crew can mutiny.”
Cathern took off her wide brimmed had and fanned herself with it. A few beads of sweat dripped down her face, her hair damp with sweat from the heat. “Yes Johan, you are of course, quite right. What she needs then, is a good first officer.” Cathern leveled her gaze at Johan. Johan coughed a bit then sputtered, “Oh no, not me. I am not the one to babysit her. I won’t do it I tell you.” Cathern chuckled a little bit. “Won’t do it? Are you afraid?” He shook his head, “Afraid, no. I just don’t want the responsibility. And I didn’t sign up to cruise under her command. No my Captain, you’ll have to find someone else for this fool’s errand.”
Cathern laughed again. “Well, I wasn’t going to pick you anyway. As it turns out Marcelle is already itching for the sea again. His fat wife is getting even larger with child and is hen-pecking him to no end to hear him tell it. I think a few short hops would do him good and he is the best of teachers. And he always fancied Jazelle, though he best keep his pants cinched up tight.” Johan gave a sigh of relief. “Yes, Marcelle! I couldn’t think of a finer man for the task. He trained you up properly after all.” Cathern nodded in agreement then added, “Yes, Marcelle and Papa both.”
It was decided then. Assuming Marcelle was up to the task, Cathern would get a small vessel for Jazelle to try her hand at command with.
|Subject: Re: Women and the Sea Thu Jul 03, 2008 5:02 am|| |
The sound of the horse’s hooves echoed slightly in the morning air, reverberating off the vegetation. The forest grew close to the trail. Large trees covered with Spanish moss seemed to form a tunnel through which the trail ran. Cathern was in no rush. The ride was a nice change of pace from the sea. The songbirds were awake and the sun was already over the horizon, though with the forest as thick as it was, the sun itself couldn’t be seen.
The horse was a splendid creature, spirited but not overly so, much like its owner. It was dark brown in color with a few spots. Cathern rode side saddle, as was proper for a lady. She was wearing long green skirts that were quite fashionable in Paris or so she was told by her tailor. Marcelle and Simone, his bride, had settled down just a few miles away from Cathern’s estate. Marcelle had a few acres of land with some productive fields that tenant farmers tilled. While by no means as wealthy as Cathern, Marcelle had no need to tend to the fields himself, though he claimed to enjoy taking care of his animals. He had said, “All those years at sea without a horse, a cow or pig of my own. Now I can babysit them like I babysat you young lady!” His days were spent now spent fishing, tending his livestock, and of course, caring for his now pregnant wife.
The trees eventually thinned out as she got closer to Marcelle’s farm. A rooster was crowing and the lowing of cattle chimed in with the song birds, the lovely melody of country life. Approaching the house Cathern could see Marcelle was awake, splitting some wood at the side of the house. Marcelle split a short log with a few blows of sledge hammer against a wedge. “What is this I see? Marcelle? Doing real work? Surely my eyes deceive me.” Marcelle looked up from his labors and waved. “You loose your ship or did you just miss me Captain?” Cathern dismounted her horse gracefully and smiled at the old sea dog. “Yes, I missed you Marcelle. You seem to be doing quite well for yourself. I hear you have a little one on the way?” The man smiled and wiped his brow, stacking the split logs up in a neat pile.
“Had I known you were coming I would have had Simone make some extra breakfast.” Cathern looked about the farmstead for Simone but didn’t see her outside. “She’s in the barn collecting up the eggs and feeding the chickens.” Cathern smiled and nodded. “I have a task for you if you are interested. It would mean going back to sea for a month or two. Jazelle has learned enough to try a command of her own but, she needs a steady hand to rely on. And I need to make sure I am not making a mistake and setting her free too early. You did such a wonderful job with me dear Marcelle; I can think of no one better to watch over her for a couple short voyages. I know you miss…” Cathern’s words trailed off as Simone walked over, dressed in the garb of a typical farmer’s wife.
Simone had lovely, long, black hair flowing freely over her shoulders. She carried a basket with a number of eggs inside. She was a plump woman to be sure, the pregnancy hard to notice under the simple clothes. “Good morning Mlle. Flowers. What brings you here at such an early hour? Come to steal my husband away from me?” Though Simone meant the comment lightheartedly, the look in Cathern and Marcelle’s eyes revealed the truth of it. “So you did come to take him back to sea didn’t you? You can’t have him. He’s mine now!” There was a flash of anger and jealousy in her eyes. “He’s going to be a father soon and you would take him and risk his life yet again before his child is even born?” Cathern thought this might happen. “It would only be a few short voyages; nothing too dangerous. I would…” Simone raised her voice, “Nothing too dangerous! Anything beyond leaving the harbor is dangerous!” Marcelle took the egg basket from his wife and tried to calm her down, to at least listen to what his former captain had to say. Cathern cleared her throat a bit and continued after Simone settled down a bit. “As I was saying, I would make it worth your while Simone. I will arrange you a visit with my tailor and you can get some of the latest fashions. I’ll also pay to have a maid servant tend to you while he is gone and for a year after your child’s birth.”
Marcelle and Cathern both could see that Simone was being sorely tempted. “How long would he be gone again?” “Just a couple months, I need him to break in a new captain. He is the finest first officer and teacher around. I give my solemn oath that if he goes to sea this time, I’ll never ask him again.” Simone thought a few more seconds, imagining how the other farm wives would be jealous of her finery at church and social gatherings. A maidservant to take care of things for over a year’s time. Marcelle was getting cranky anyway, obviously missing the sea though he tried to hide it from her. Would it be so bad to let him go one more time? Simone gave a wide smile, “Agreed! Would you like some fried or boiled eggs?”
|Subject: Re: Women and the Sea Mon Jul 28, 2008 1:53 am|| |
Cathern set her silver tipped quill down and blew a few breaths across the document she had just written, as if that would speed the ink drying. In this heat and humidity the paper would soon fall apart, no doubt about it. She would have to wax the documents to make sure they withstood this humidity, and of course the sea. There were three copies of the document. One copy was for her records, one for the hall of records and one for Jazelle. She could have had a scribe do up the documents of course but it was something she wanted to do herself.
Be it known that on this Twenty-eighth day of our Lord, July 1720, the negress slave known as Jazelle Flowers is hereby freed from bondage in accordance with Article LV of The Code Noir. From this day forth she is to be considered a free citizen of the Realm with all the rights and privileges as guaranteed by Article LIX of the aforementioned code. Copies of this document may found at the Hall of Records in the Tampa colony or in the personal records of Cathern La Fluers, ship captain and resident of the Tampa colony.
Cathern la Fleurs
28 July 1720
All she had to do now was file a copy with the hall of records and present the manumission paper to Jazelle. The voyages with Marcelle had gone well enough. Though Jazelle was no expert yet, Marcelle had seen worse captains. As long as Jazelle didn’t attempt anything foolish like a cross ocean expedition, she would be fine. Well, Cathern would keep her promise. When Cathern next seen the girl, Jazelle would be free in fact as well as in practice.
|Subject: Re: Women and the Sea || |
Women and the Sea