Name: Kathleen S. Allen
Genre: YA historical
Title: PIRATE JENNY
Boar’s Head Tavern
The ship stole into the harbor just after dark. I happened to be looking out the upstairs window at the full moon reflected on the blue black water. I liked how the image wavered back and forth as the waves moved. Was the ship a reflection of the light?
I blinked and the image vanished. Thinking I had imagined it, I turned back to the room with the cleaning rag in my hand, I jumped. Meg watched me from the doorway.
“Girl? You dreaming again? Get to work before I whip you.” Meg flew at me with her hand raised.
I ducked and scurried out of her way. I ran down the stairs taking two at a time.
“Get back here, girl.”
Meg was old and had a substantial girth so I knew she would not be able to catch me. I giggled as I rounded the corner and ran smack into Thomas, who carried a full tray of goblets filled to the brim with ale. Of course they spilled all over him, me and the floor. I landed on my bottom, my dress soaked.
He glared at me.
“Fetch me six goblets of ale and take them to the table by the window.”
Thomas shook himself like a dog would, sending more droplets of the nasty smelling brew all over me.
“I smell like ale,” I wailed as I wrung out a handful of hair dripping with the stuff. I stood and tried to get around him but he caught my arm.
“You would not want me to tell Meg you were daydreaming again.”
No, I did not.
“No,” I said followed by a huge sigh.
I went to the barrel where the ale was kept and filled six more goblets halfway then added barley water to fill them up all the way. It was Thomas’ way of keeping the costs down. It felt like cheating to me. Many times I simply forgot to add the barley water but this time Thomas stood watch over me. I balanced the now full goblets on a tray and headed back out to the main tavern room. I heard them before I saw them.
The men in the corner yelled for their drink.
“Bring our ale!”
I carried them to the table near the window managing to spill only a little. One of the soldiers grabbed two of the goblets drinking from one and passing the other one to the soldier next to him. Hands grabbed the others before I could set them down.
“Looks like Jenny has been tipping the ale herself,” one said. He yanked me to his lap and sniffed my hair. “Smells good, I like the new scent, Jenny, better than what my wife uses.” I jerked away as the others guffawed.
“Leave be,” I said smacking his hands which tended to roam. “Or I will tell your wife on you that you are drinking here instead of tending to your duties.”
He frowned at me. “Now, Jenny, be a good girl. I was only teasing you. Give us a song and I will forgive you.”
“Song, song, song,” they began chanting.
I put my hands over my ears and stamped my foot to make them stop but they kept on. All six of them stood and smacked their goblets on the table splashing themselves with ale and making a horrendous noise. The rest of the room got in on the fun. Everyone shouted at once and stamped their feet or pounded the table.
“Jenny, Jenny, song, song,” they all yelled.
I shook my head and frowned at the soldiers. What if Thomas hears? I glanced to the kitchen and Thomas came out wiping his hands on his apron. He glowered at me.
“All right, all right. Be quiet the lot of you,” he said in a loud booming voice that silenced the room. “What’s this all about?”
“We want Jenny to sing,” said one of the men. “If she sings we’ll stay and order another round, maybe two,” he said watching Thomas.
Thomas considered it for a moment then nodded and went back into the kitchen.
The room exploded with cheers.
Lifting my still damp skirts, I climbed on the only unoccupied table, kicked empty goblets and bits of food out of the way with my boot tips. My dress was ruined anyway what did it matter if I got more mess on it?
I held up my hands and the room quieted. I opened my mouth and began to sing a song about the sea. The room was silent as I sang. When I was done I jumped down and began picking up the fallen goblets so I could wash them. The men shouted for me to sing again. Stomping their feet and hitting their goblets on the tables.
“That is enough,” Thomas said coming over to where I stood. “She is not singing anymore tonight. Drink up lads and lasses, ‘tis closing hour.”
Using my skirt as a pouch, I carried the empty dishes and trays to the kitchen and dumped them in a tub. I made four trips to get more goblets and plates. By the time I finished I was exhausted. I still had to swab the tables, sweep the floor and lay sweet smelling rushes down, wash and dry the dishes but first heat up the water in the cauldron hanging over the fire.
After I was done in the kitchen, I had to go upstairs to make sure the guests all had fresh rushes. In the morning, I would scrub the floors upstairs after I made breakfast. I wiped an arm over my forehead pushing a strand of wayward hair out of my eyes. I bundled my hair under a mob cap but it always escaped.
As a child I dreamt whoever dropped me here at this tavern would come back and rescue me from this life of drudgery. I gave up that dream. Now my only hope of getting out from under Meg and Thomas’ tavern would be to marry and who would have a poor, orphaned servant? I stared into the now cool water wishing I could be anywhere but here.
“The pigs need to get the scraps,” Thomas said coming into the kitchen with the last of the dishes.
He was stout and round. His beady blue eyes sunk deep into his face gave me a cold look.“The tavern is empty. Go do the tables and sweep. Feed the pigs and finish up here. I am going to bed.” He dumped the dirty dishes into the clean water I just put the washed dishes into to rinse. “Meg?” he called. “Bedtime, my dear.”
He left me alone in the kitchen like he did every night. I sighed. Going out into the tavern I made sure everyone had gone. I opened the door to get a breeze going as I cleaned. Glancing out of the door at the sea, I saw the shadow of the ship again. This time it drifted further out past the shoals so only the tip of the front of the ship could be seen. I wonder what ship that is. Why do they not come ashore? Shrugging, I went back to the task at hand making up a song as I cleaned in order to pass the time.
Once I was done I went upstairs. The guests were all asleep and it was only a few hours before the dawn when I would have to be ready to start the day again.
Too weary to climb the stairs, I sat down and cradled my head in my hands letting a few tears leak through my fingers. A change in the light made me open my eyes again. With renewed energy I climbed the last of the stairs and made my way to the window.
There was the ship sitting in the harbor again. The three masts held large sails. Tonight there was no moon so I could only see the ship as an outline against the water. Why did they not come ashore? I yanked open the shutter and leaned out to see better but a fog settled in and the ship disappeared in the mist. I heard a faint snatch of a song sung by a woman and it made me smile. I made my way to my bed.
By dawn I was up again, cooking breakfast for the soldiers who had come for meals while they had their yearly practices nearby.
I hoped I’d see James again.
Meg came into the kitchen interrupting my musings and smelled the pot where the porridge cooked. She took a bowl and dipped it into the porridge pouring it into her mouth.
“Needs salt,” she said putting the bowl back into the pot to scoop more of it out. “Did you feed the pigs?”
“I forgot, I will as soon as the breakfast is done,” I said stirring the pot so the porridge would not be lumpy.
“Go do it now. First the pigs, then the floors. Make the beds and put on fresh rushes in the rooms. Stoke the fires. Then get down here and help clean up from breakfast.”
It was the same routine day in and day out. I went to bed tired and I woke up tired. My future stood out before me and I sighed.
Sometimes the soldiers gave me coins for a song and I pocketed those, hiding them in my room under a loose bit of stone in the far wall. Once I had enough I would run away to London and seek my fortune there. So far I only had three coins. At this rate I’d be able to leave when I was old and gray like Meg.
With a loud sigh I gathered up the scraps and took them out to the pigs’ trough dumping it in. The four of them snorted and grunted when they saw they had food. One in particular, a small one I called, “Little Pink” came over nosing my boot. I laughed. “Here you go, Little Pink. Eat up now.” The sight of the baby pig lightened my mood considerably.
After they were done, I knelt on the ground next to them and held Little Pink in my lap. “I feel there is a change coming soon,” I said as I stroked his head. He grunted and snorted at me seeming to like the attention. I wrinkled my nose as a strand of my hair blew out of the cap I wore. I still smelled like ale. Perhaps I could borrow some of Meg’s flower water she dumped onto herself. I laughed at Little Pink who tried to eat the strand. I put him down and he scrambled back to the food trough pushing his way through to get at the last bits.