The Barbary Pirates: Book One, Part Two - Original Fiction...a SelectSmart.com Flowchart
The Barbary Pirates: Book One, Part Two
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Continued from Part One.|
Chapter Seven: Buttercup Returns
He woke up to find that he had fallen asleep. He was alone, but he could hear excited voices in the outer room. He closed his eyes and turned over, his back to the door. Then, it opened and Buttercup came in. Seeing that he was asleep, she sat down on the stool and then noticed the letter. “From Jack to…” she tore it open and removed the paper. She gave a little gasp and kept reading it. When she came to the end of the letter, she looked to see that he had turned over and was looking at her. “Did—did you write this?”
“No—ahem—no, Poinsettia did. I don’t know how to write like that. I dictated it to her, and she wrote it.”
Buttercup hugged him tight. When she sat back down, she said, “Well, I have good news. Benjamin is actually the stepbrother of the man. He made up the song as a code to get to his house so that he’d remember. Actually, he told me that all of the songs that he sings are codes to remember things that oft he forgets. He is from Germany, he says, wherever that is. Anyway, he said that he’d be glad to accompany whoever is going, to act as a guide; plus, he said that he’d like to visit him since he hasn’t seen him for a long time. They will go with whoever volunteers. They will go and get some of the leaf and come back here. I really hope that they will get back soon. I will stay here. I assume that Lilie will go, although I am not sure who else.”
Jack closed his eyes to reflect upon all that he had just heard. He said, his eyes still closed, “I just hope that it will not take too long. I have begun to feel worse and worse—“ he coughed. He regained his breath and continued—“as it wears on. I just—“ he coughed again—“I just hope that I am still around to receive the leaf. I know that they will try their best, but I could not help thinking—” he coughed again, hoarsely—“what if it takes weeks, maybe months? It would be unavoidable that I would not live to see them return. That,” he coughed and caught his breath again, “is why I would be heartbroken to see you leave with them.” The room echoed with his coughing. He said, “I am so tired, Buttercup. I—I should like so have a little rest in a little while. But, I want you to know, if I live, and if you would not mind, would you—will you marry me?”
Buttercup held his hand and replied, “I would not mind at all, not if we lived back in your father’s shop, or even if we lived in a cave. Of course!”
The next day, after he had long since fallen asleep, the princess was getting information from Poinsettia. Monica had been asleep when he arrived, and had not seen him yet. When she heard that he had the fever, she took pity on him and had been trying to decide what to do for him ever since.
“So,” the princess asked Poinsettia, seemingly interested, “he has fallen in love with Buttercup? How do you know?”
“Well, your Highness, while she was away, I took care of him. When he saw that I was there, he asked me if I could write something for him. I don’t think that he can, besides writing his own name. Anyway, I started writing and was surprised to hear that it was to Buttercup, and that he, well, you know, your Majesty. Anyway, he asked me to ask her if she felt the same for him as he did for her and then tell him what her answer was. I think that she knows now, but I would guess that he’s awake now and they both know that they both know.” Poinsettia caught her breath and looked at Monica, awaiting her reply.
“Hmmm…” the princess fingered the hem of her long dress. They both started when the door to Jack’s slammed. They saw Buttercup, the very one that they had been talking about. She hurried to the room that she was sharing with Susan and knocked excitedly. “Susan, tis’ me, Buttercup!”
The door opened quietly and Buttercup saw that Rose had been sleeping. She went in the door. As Monica and Poinsettia listened, they heard a shriek and then someone hissing, “Shhhhh! We might be the only ones awake!” The princess and her lady-in-waiting suppressed giggles as they listened.
“You have got to be joking.”
“No, honestly, he really did! If you don’t believe me, go and ask him yourself!”
“All right, all right, I believe you!”
“I was so surprised to see him looking at me. I—it was almost as if he were afraid as to how I would react. But when he asked me, well, that was, I think, the happiest moment of my life!”
After that, they could no longer hear them because they were whispering. The princess turned to Poinsettia. “I think he asked her to marry him.”
Poinsettia, suddenly realizing that either Buttercup would leave the castle, or Jack would move in, said, “Well, where will they live? She is insane!”
They both decided to retire to their beds for the night, Monica to her canopy bed beside the fireplace in her own bedroom and Poinsettia to her bed in her room that she shared with Susan.
Chapter Eight: Jack’s Dream
They woke up the next morning to find that they had all overslept. Buttercup hastily dressed and put her hair up and then hurried to watch over Jack. He was still asleep, his long, overgrown hair hanging in his eyes. Even in his sleep, he kept pushing it back, but it always slipped back down. Buttercup tried to keep from laughing as she felt his forehead. It was very hot. She felt his arms, and he was shivering! He turned over in his sleep so that he was facing her, and then she saw that his teeth were chattering. He had grasped the blanket so tightly that his fingertips were red and his knuckles were white. Buttercup was worried, but she knew that he wouldn’t be like this for long. She decided to lean against the wall until he woke up.
She dozed off almost immediately, since she had not slept very well the night before. Jack had been muttering in his sleep for a long time, well, ever since his illness. His cheeks were pale, which was what happened when the victim of the fever was cold, and he had goosebumps. Then, slowly he spoke louder and more clearly, as if he were miles away, but as if he were shouting, “No, don’t, please, don’t, don’t take me—don’t leave me here—take me—don’t go—please, no—please—don’t kill—let her be—take me, no, no, don’t, don’t even—Ah!” he cried out in pain and held his arm. He groped about, his dream seeming more real than it would have been if he had not been ill. He gasped for breath, and then said, quite understandably, but with extreme emotion, “Buttercup!”
He sat straight up, his breath coming in short gasps as he stared around the room, fear in his wide open eyes. Seeing that Buttercup had fallen asleep, he shook her gently and said, quietly, “Buttercup?”
She yawned briefly, and then said, “Oh, hello, Jack. Have you been awake long?”
“No,” he answered, “I’ve only just woken up. I say, have you had any strange dreams lately?”
“No, no; I can’t say that I have. Have you?”
“Yes, in fact, er, I just woke up from one… Er, Buttercup?”
“Er… is—is dragons real?”
“I don’t exactly know, Jack. Why do you ask?”
“Well, er, you see, er, well, er…”
“Well, I dreamt of a dragon,” he said, leaning forward, for he was still sitting up, “It was—it was, well, to make a long story short; terrifying. It was like at the world’s end. Fires were everywhere. I saw a group of people, and the sky was cloudy, the clouds were red and black with smoke. The people could hardly breathe through all of the smoke. Buildings were broken down, and we were all running to get out of the wreck. Then, we saw a gap in the blazing fires and ran for it; but then we fell through a hole in the ground. We fell down on ice and snow; it was like being in an underground world that was all ice, snow, and sleet. We then saw the dragon.
“It was red on its back and orange on its stomach, and it had great dark, dark red bat-like wings on it back. It was flying straight toward them faster than I thought anything could go. It flew over their heads and landed on the ice. It spun around, and then, noticing, seemingly for the first time, the group of people, it ran towards them and breathed out fire. We all fell down. One boy had been carrying a girl that must have sprained her ankle, and when he fell he hit his head and blacked out. Smoke came out of the dragon’s nostrils; he opened his mouth and showed his teeth, his front fangs white against his reddish-brown gums. The rest of the company except the boy and the girl were already running. The dragon ran and snatched for someone, and missed. It hissed and breathed fire into the air. We all ran as fast as we could. Then, it grabbed the girl! It picked her up in the air; the man had a sword or a spear or something and stabbed it again and again in the foot. He was screaming at it! It was so terrifying that I was shaking, all over. The beast, seeing the man, reached down and, momentarily forgetting about the girl and letting you drop, he picked me up. He was about to eat him when I woke up. I—I just—I just want to forget it all!”
He put his head in his hands, caught his breath and said, “But—t’was only a dream. I feel so foolish; t’was only a dream. I needn’t fear a nightmare.”
Buttercup smiled, and said, “Why, do you think, did you dream this? For more oft than not a dream means something. I do not mean that you dream would happen in reality, but it might mean that you are thinking too much about dragons, or—or even about me. I think that the latter is true. If it the former—that you were thinking about dragons—than I think that you would have told me, or otherwise had similar dreams in the past.”
Jack nodded his head, and replied, “Yes, maybe I have been thinking too much of that. I know that they will do well on their Journey; why do I doubt it?” He pondered these Questions and thought to himself: ‘If any of these dreams actually come true, surely it would be merely coincidence.’
He then said to Buttercup, “I—do you—well... May I have a bit of breakfast? I feel pretty well famished!”
Buttercup laughed and told him she would bring him some breakfast on a tray. She then left and said that she would come back with his breakfast as soon as she could. Jack fell asleep for a moment until she came. He then ate and slept.
Chapter Nine: A Firelight Rendezvous
He awoke with a start. The room was dark; the lamp must have run out of oil. He sat up, but immediately lay down again, for his head felt light. He propped himself up by his elbows, and tried to penetrate the darkness; but he could see nothing. He slowly sat up, and then swung his legs around the bed. His feet touched the stone floor; it was as cold as ice. He gasped and groped about in the darkness for the light. His head struck something; he felt it and found that it was the lamp. He groped around in the dark for the flask of oil on the bedside table. Finding it, he poured it in the lamp and its flame lit up the corner at once. The room was still and quiet. He looked around, still sitting on the bed with his feet hanging over the sides. He ventured to stand, but sat back down. He held the light up higher so that he could see the door. He had been sleeping on the right side of the bed that was closer to the wall. He touched the cold, brick surface with his fingertips. He then, slowly and steadily, stood up for the first time in days. He steadied himself against the wall and walked towards the door. The doorknob was cold to the touch; he wrapped his cloak around his hand and opened it. It was warmer outside of his chamber. There was a light coming from around the corner.
He felt his way along the wall to the corner. A large fire was lit in the hearth. He saw Princess Monica with Dahlia, Buttercup, Clover, and Lilie. Dahlia was still recovering from her wound in her head, but she could walk around. All five of them were seated on the couches around the fire and were conversing in hushed tones. Jack sat down and Buttercup exclaimed in surprise, “Oh, Jack! What are you doing up? Are you feeling all right?”
Jack, seeing that he had caught the attention of the others and feeling a bit nervous, cleared his throat and said, “I feel a bit better than yesterday, not as nauseous. I was just wondering what was happening outside of my room. What were you talking about?”
All five of them suddenly looked down and Clover said, “We are running out of food. Lilie, Poinsettia, and Rose have decided to go on the journey with Old Benjamin. Oliver will go to protect them. We’re going to need to go and look for food. But,” she cleared her throat, “we have no idea how long it will take. There is still a possibility that there are pirates about. I do not think that it would be a good idea for us to go together to find food; they would spot us more easily. We need another man to go. But you are too ill,
Oliver is young, and Old Benjamin is, well, old. Do you know anyone that is honorable, just, and willing to risk his life for ours?”
Jack thought. After thinking for a moment or two, he replied, “Mark, son of Theo, the butcher. He has gone hunting with me many times. He owns arrows and a bow, and he has terrible good aim. I know him to be a good man. He would be the man for the job.”
The princess looked at Clover, and Clover looked at Lilie. Lilie said to Jack, “All right, then we will tell Benjamin to go and tell this Mark of yours to find enough food for at least a week.”
Jack smiled and said, “So… who is going where when to tell Old Benjamin to get Mark to get food?”
It took a moment for them to process this. When they had, Dahlia said, “I feel that Lilie ought to go. She is more familiar with the village of Calisborough than any of us. If anyone must, Lilie would be the best choice.”
The princess, Clover, Dahlia, Buttercup, and Jack all turned to Lilie. Fingering her sash, she said, “Could not Rose accompany me? What I mean is: I do not feel that it would be especially safe for me to be out alone.”
“On the contrary;” the princess replied, quoting the poet, “‘two are more easily caught then one’; if only Lilie goes then she will be less noticeable than if both of you went. Of course, if she went, she would have to go under a disguise. We have a few plain dresses that we have stored up for such a case.”
Dahlia looked at Lilie and said, “Well then, when shall she leave?”
“I think that it would be best if I went early; five-thirty would suffice,” Lilie said, always the practical one.
“So, it’ll be sunrise?” Jack assumed.
“Yes. Sunrise. My favorite time of day,” Lilie murmured.
The discussion finished, each of them stood and went to his or her quarters, with Buttercup helping Jack back to his room.
In his room, Jack lay back down as Buttercup dabbed at his wounds on his arm. He winced as the medicine worked its way into his skin.
“Does it sting?” Buttercup asked.
“N—yes—” he winced again—“yes, it does. What—what is in it?”
Buttercup dipped the cloth in a bowl and then resumed treating his cut arm. “Mint leaf, greenwort, young, dried huckleberry leaves, and beech bark.”
Jack looked at the ceiling and sighed. “I—ow!—I really wish that somehow get someone to help us more…well, I know that Mark is getting food, but…could he not go on the Journey also?”
Buttercup looked at Jack with an expression on her face that portrayed that she wished that she’d thought of it herself and said, “That is a spectacular idea, Jack! I will tell her Majesty at once when I leave this room.” Buttercup smiled and then looked sad and said, “It seems as if you’ve had this sickness forever. I just cannot help thinking—what if this is not the cure—what if we never find the valley—what if there is no real power in the leaf, even if there is any—what if Old Benjamin is just an eccentric old gentleman? I just have to trust God that this will help to heal you. I cannot give up hope. But still I doubt.”
Up until this time she had her hand rested on the bedside. When she had finished speaking, Jack reached over and held her hand. Both of them felt a strange sense of hope; a bit of peace; as if some wonderful smell had just floated through the air on a breeze from heaven. They waited, as still as statues, just waiting.
Chapter Ten: Talk of the Journey
Elsewhere, in the village of Calisborough, Lilie was hurrying down dark alleyways and narrow streets, trying to remember where Old Ben lived. She stopped and asked an old lady sitting on a porch, knitting, for directions. She pointed down the street and muttered hoarsely, “Down the road a ways, then yill’ get to a barn. Turn rights a ways an’ yill’ see the ole Jekson’s place. He is on ‘is porch an’ talk loud, he’s hard o’ hearin’.”
Translating each phrase silently in her head, she nodded to the old woman and walked down the street. The skies opened up and sprinkled water upon the thirsty ground, but also practically drenched her. Turning right at the barn, she saw the old house. How often had she walked past and not even given a thought to whom lived there? Shaking off this thought, she walked up to the porch and, for the first time, saw an old man sitting in a chair dressed in a variety of brown, blending perfectly with the weather-beaten house. She stopped in her tracks, looking at the man and wondering if he was looking at her. He turned his head, slowly, as if he were tired of being quick and fast, and said in a low, heavy German accent, “Hello, there, and who might you be? Let me guess: another of the princesses’ ladies-in-waiting?”
Lilie smiled and replied, “Yes, I am. Sir, do you happen to know Theo, the butcher?”
He looked up suddenly, as if remembering something, and said, “Yes, is he butcher after his father already? I thought that Hubert was butcher. Oh, yes, he’s probably older by now, little Theo’s got to be thirty, thirty five… Oh, dear, please, do come in, please do. I’ve clean forgotten my manners!”
She followed him into the little shack. It was surprisingly clean, when taking into consideration that he had to be at least ninety. He pulled a chair out for her and took off his coat. He sat down across from her at the small round table in the middle of the room. He folded his hands together, cleared his throat, and began speaking in a business-like manner.
“Yes, I do happen to know Theo. Why do you ask?”
Lilie swallowed and said, “His son—”
“He has a son?” Benjamin interrupted.
“Yes. His son, Mark—”
“What a wonderful name. Oh, and who did he marry? Who was it, Maria or Josephina?”
“I think that it was Maria… anyway, his son, Mark…Mark…—Oh! I am so confused!” she sighed, rubbed her eyes with one hand, and cracked her knuckles with the other. She then regained her composure and said, “Do you know where he lives?”
The old man thought about this for a moment, and then replied, “If he lives in his father’s house, yes. But, if not, I can ask around. I have friends.”
He then leaned forward and whispered, “But you mustn’t tell them about the man in the valley, or about the leaf. If they knew, they would be off to the mountains as quick as anything and I’d have such a hard time getting them back. These people of Calisborough are so excitable, it’s shocking. It would have been so much better if he’d just let me bring back the seeds and plant them! Oh, but do tell me, why do you need to know where he lives?”
So Lilie leaned forward and told him about how they needed food and how they didn’t have anyone that could do it, and how Jack had suggested Mark, the butcher’s son. When she had finished, Old Benjamin said, with a twinkle in his eye, “When you have a reference of preference, you tend to prefer the referred, don’t you?”
Lilie laughed and then leaned forward again and said, “So, will you go and ask him to help us?”
“Yes, I will do what I can to help you in this noble cause. I will go and see him as soon as you are finished visiting me. Now then; we should be going. You—I may accompany me, may I not?”
Lilie replied thankfully, “Oh, yes. Could you go with me as far as the castle grounds and then go on your own to Theo’s house?”
“Yes, that is an excellent plan. We should leave at once.”
As they walked along the muddy road, Benjamin also told her many words of advice that would help her on her travels. She looked at him and asked, “Will not you come with us when we go?”
“No, I am sorry, but I was not thinking right when I told Buttercup that I wished to go also. I am too old. If I went I would just be a burden to you. I would undoubtedly slow you down. I cannot tell you how sorry I am. But, I will tell you the way to go before you leave. I will leave you here and send Mark when he is ready. He will accompany you on your journey. May the peace of God follow you in your Journey for the cure of crimson fever!”
Lilie saw the castle before her, and thanked Benjamin. “Thank you so much, Benjamin, for escorting me thus far. I hope that you will find Theo’s house without too much trouble. Farewell!”
She ran the whole way back.
Chapter Eleven: The Journey
When Lilie returned to the underground refuge that afternoon, she saw Buttercup sitting in a chair by the fireplace and Dahlia writing a letter at the table. They both looked up when Lilie entered. She caught her breath and asked, “How is he?”
Buttercup and Dahlia looked at each other, and then Dahlia spoke, “Not well, I’m afraid. He fell asleep about two hours ago, but when I went to check on him, he was delirious. He kept calling hoarsely for Buttercup, but she was sleeping. He would cry out whenever one of us would go near him. He was pale and his eyes were… he looked very bad. He was clutching at his arm and breathing heavily, as if he had just run a very long way, or if he had just had a very bad fright. His arm was turning blue, but the wounds from the whip were bright, bright red. I fear that he shall not live very much longer. We have delayed the journey far too long—I feel that we must begin now or forever regret this day. Lilie, you must go.
“You may take Rose and Poinsettia and perhaps Susan if she wishes, and also Oliver and Mark with you, and anyone else that you can find in the village that wishes to go. But you must go quickly. I do not know how long Jack will live in his present condition. I will stay behind because of the wound I took to my head. Clover must stay to see to it that the rest of us have food, and Buttercup shall stay to help Jack. What did Old Benjamin say?”
Lilie looked at Dahlia and Buttercup and said, “He said that he cannot accompany us on our Journey for the leaf, but that he can tell us how to get there before we leave. He also thought that Mark should go. He advised me to leave as soon as possible, and to take as much warm clothing along with me as I possibly can. I suppose that it gets cold in the mountains. We must all go under disguise. Anyway, are we prepared to depart?”
Buttercup looked to the others and said, “Yes. We thought that the ones going would need disguises, so we sent Clover out to ask some of the villagers if they had any extra clothing that we could borrow. We gave them some of our dresses and they were quite surprised. They all agreed that when we return we would give them back their dresses and that they could keep ours. We have enough to last us a month without washing. Anyhow, I think that we should get ready at once.”
With that said Lilie told Rose, Poinsettia, and Oliver about the arrangement and that they were to leave as soon as they were ready. Then, they all went to their rooms to pack up their necessary belongings and to try on their new masquerades. They came out and laughed at the sight of each other. Lilie had let her hair down and tangled it. Oliver wore an old smock with stains on it and his old shoes that had fallen into the well three years ago that he had found last month. Poinsettia wore her hair in an untidy ponytail tied with twine along with a raggedy old dress with a stained and tattered apron. Rose, the most creative of the four, came out with rags tied with vines around her feet for shoes and a bandanna in her hair made of rough crimson fabric that was stained and ripped in several places. Her dress was so stained, torn, wrinkled, and muddy that it made up for her hair being in fine condition. All of them thought that she looked splendid, considering the things that she had to work with. They packed good food that would not go to waste or get ruined during its life in a sack. Among these were potatoes, cheeses, thick loaves of bread, and jugs of water. Then, all of them, Dahlia, Buttercup, Rose, Susan, Poinsettia, Clover, Lilie, Oliver, and the princess Monica, met in the main room. Jack could not see them off because he was so ill, but Poinsettia was kind and went into his room before they left. He was very cold; he was only delirious when hot. She walked in quietly and closed the door behind her.
“Buttercup?” Jack murmured, but then sighed and said, “Oh, Poinsettia. Hello.”
Poinsettia sat down on the stool and said quietly, “We are all leaving to go search for the leaf. Rose, Lilie, Oliver, and I are going. It is my fervent hope that we succeed in our Journey for the cure of this dreadful disease. How are you feeling?”
Jack breathed haltingly, and replied, “I—I am so cold. I do not think that I shall be able to stand if I get any worse. Well—please tell the rest of them that I hope them the best of luck.”
“Luck? Luck shall do no good; we must pray to Almighty God to help us now. Luck. That is nothing. Pray for us, Jack, when you are in doubt. Pray.” Poinsettia sighed and smiled sadly. “I must leave now. Jack, I will pray for you that you will not get too sick before we return. We will all pray for you. I—I must go.”
She waved farewell before she closed the door quietly. Jack, from inside his room, could hear shouts of ‘Good bye!’ and ‘God bless you!’ and ‘Come back soon!’ He closed his eyes and began to feel hot. But then he suddenly shivered, but not from cold. He was afraid.
To be continued...
first book of three