COLORS OF THE WIND
I had the most frightening experience of my life last night. Even facing two thieves in London with robbery in mind—and perhaps more—was not so frightening.
I almost fell overboard.
The storm was horrendous—like unto one of those hurricanes that Mr. Shakespeare described. I was sure that we would be sunk, and that I would die below decks, drowning slowly as the water came to cover my head. Of course, the idea that I would be safer on deck was ridiculous, to say the least—I cannot swim a stroke. I would surely have drowned if Mr. Dawson had not come to my rescue.
Cal, of course, could not be counted upon to do anything. He saw me dangling from the railing, screaming in terror, and did nothing but stand back and watch. I don’t know if he can swim, either, but his actions were nothing short of cowardly.
I was lucky that Mr. Dawson heard my cries for help over the storm—or saw my plight—I don’t know which, but he came and pulled me back over. I dimly remember grabbing his hair in my panic and pulling—I’m lucky he didn’t drop me overboard then!
Cal was furious with me with going out on deck, though I know not whether his anger stemmed from my near death or from the fact that I disobeyed his orders. He shouted at me, berating me in spite of the fact that I had nearly been drowned, and then offered Mr. Dawson a gold piece for saving me. Why Cal had a gold piece at that hour, I don’t know. Perhaps he sleeps with his money for luck—he seems to love it more than anything else, except perhaps hunting innocent animals.
Cal has professed to love me, and yet he believes that a simple gold piece is payment enough for saving my life. Is that truly the action of a man in love? Of course, considering how well he loves his money, perhaps it was a great sacrifice for him.
Still, I was able to change his mind. He can give Mr. Dawson the gold piece for all I care, but if a man saves the life of another, more is obliged. I convinced Cal to do more, and he invited Mr. Dawson to dinner tonight, a far more acceptable reward, at least as I see it. It is a gesture of friendship to break bread with another, and what greater reason for friendship than the act of saving a life?
Rose wrapped her quill in the soft cloth that prevented it from breaking and from spilling leftover ink into her trunk and tucked her diary away. The storm had ended during the night, leaving a sea as calm as a small pond on a windless day, and a sky so bright and blue that it seemed that nothing frightening could ever have come from it.
Stretching lazily, Rose removed her nightgown and dug into her trunk for a gown to wear, finally selecting a simple yellow frock. It wasn’t the latest fashion, but here on the sea, who would care—or even notice?
Dressing quickly, Rose slipped from the small, airless cabin, heading again for the deck. She knew that Cal didn’t want her walking alone on deck, but she had skipped breakfast that morning, pleading queasiness. As Cal himself had discovered, the fresh sea air eased seasickness, so how could he condemn her for following his example?
Once up on deck, Rose walked across the still-damp wood to the railing, looking down from where she had almost fallen. Looking at the sea below, she paled, realizing just how lucky she was to be alive. If Mr. Dawson hadn’t pulled her over when he had…
Rose shook her head, trying to push the thoughts away. If there was one thing she was going to do when she reached the New World, she vowed, it would be to learn to swim. From what she had heard, there were plenty of rivers and lakes there, so surely she would have a chance to learn. Perhaps Captain Smith would be willing to teach her, if she could get enough money to pay him. Or perhaps she could learn by herself—she had seen the peasant boys swimming on the Bukater estate, and it hadn’t looked terribly difficult. If the water was calm, and not too deep, surely she could learn to stay afloat.
In the meantime, she had a task to carry out. She wanted to thank Mr. Dawson personally for saving her—after all, he had nearly gone overboard himself. It was the least she could do.
First, however, she had to find him. Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she began walking towards the stern, hoping to find him there amongst the men whose voices carried in the calm morning air.
Everyone turned to stare as Rose approached the stern, tucking her hands nervously into the sleeves of her gown. She looked around, hoping to see Mr. Dawson, but there was no sign of him. She did see Captain Smith, who nodded politely to her, smiling slightly.
Rose blushed, looking down. Cal wouldn’t be happy if he saw one of the men smiling at her—and she had to admit that Captain Smith was handsome. It wasn’t appropriate for she, the betrothed of Caledon Hockley, to be smiling at another man, no matter how handsome he was.
Still, she could ask where Mr. Dawson was. Raising her chin, Rose glided gracefully across the deck in his direction, hoping for some word on Mr. Dawson.
"Excuse me, sir, but have you seen Mr. Jack Dawson—the man who saved my life last night?" Rose reddened more, hoping that she wasn’t being too forward.
"He’s ‘a over there, on ‘a the other side," a man spoke up, gesturing to the other side of the ship. Rose looked at him, vaguely recognizing the Italian fellow she had seen the day that she had gone up on deck after insulting Governor Ratcliffe.
"Thank you, sir," Rose replied. "I wish to—to thank him for pulling me back over last night."
"Sì, he told us about that—about how he pulled the pretty lady over the railing, and how her husband invited him to dinner tonight."
"Cal…Mr. Hockley…isn’t my husband yet," Rose corrected him, wondering why she found it so important that to make that distinction. Perhaps because she had no wish to be his wife!
At that moment, Jack reappeared at the stern, his feet bare and his dark blond hair tied back, some loose strands still hanging in his face. He looked in the direction that everyone was staring in, a look of surprise crossing his face when he saw Rose.
Quickly, he walked over to her. "Rose…uh…Mistress DeWitt Bukater…what brings you here?"
Rose stared at him for a moment, at a loss for words. She didn’t know quite how to thank him.
"Please, call me Jack."
"Jack…you can call me Rose, or Lady DeWitt Bukater…the man who invited you to dinner tonight is my betrothed, not my husband."
"All right, Rose." Jack shot a quelling look to Tommy, who was grinning, not missing Rose’s emphasis on her single status.
"I…could we speak in private, please?"
"Sure." Jack looked back at the others as he followed Rose away from the stern. Smith looked thoughtful, Thomas and Fabrizio were openly staring, and Tommy grinned again, calling to Jack as he walked away.
"Watch out fer those angels!"
Rose heard the comment, too, and gave Jack a puzzled look. He just shook his head, looking slightly sheepish. "It’s nothing. Just a joke."
"Tell me. I love jokes."
"Well…ah…the Irishman there, Tommy, he was saying that I was as likely to have angels fly out of my arse as get next to you."
Rose looked at him, wide-eyed, for a moment before her face broke into a smile. "Hmm…those angels must have been helping you pull me back last night."
Jack laughed appreciatively, not expecting her to have that bawdy sense of humor. Women of his class often did, to be sure, but he had never thought that a well-brought-up lady would.
Rose looked at him, her laughter forgotten as she considered how to thank him for saving her life. It had seemed simple enough when she had thought of it, but now…what was she to say?
"So, tell me about yourself, Mr. Dawson. What brings you on board this ship?"
"Well…uh…I’ve been on my own since I was fifteen, when my parents died in a fire…"
"Oh, I’m sorry!"
"It’s all right…it’s been five years now. Anyway, I was from Cornwall—"
"My mother was from there, too, originally."
"Really? What is her family’s name?"
"Ah, yes. We were tenants on the DeWitt estate."
"Really? How amazing! But why did you leave? Surely there was someplace you could have stayed, work you could have done."
He shrugged. "I didn’t have any reason to stay. I didn’t have any family left there, and I wanted to see the world. I’d been lucky enough to learn to read and write, so I knew that there was more to the world than just Cornwall, and I wanted to see it. So I left, and haven’t been back since."
"Where did you go when you left?"
"Lots of places. All over England, including London—"
"My family had a house there until we were forced to sell it to pay off our debts after my father died."
Jack thought for a moment. "Was your father’s name Bukater?"
Rose nodded. "Yes."
"He was a part of that plot, wasn’t he? The one to blow up Parliament."
"Yes, but he wasn’t executed like the others. He simply had everything he owned taken from him."
"Leaving all of you in debt."
"Yes…though Mother and I didn’t know it then." Rose stopped, uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was taking. "And where else did you go?"
"To Scotland and Ireland, of course, and I stowed away on board a ship to France, but I didn’t stay long. Englishmen aren’t terribly welcome there."
"So I’m told. Cal hates the French—even though the DeWitts are suspected of being connected to them."
Jack laughed slightly. "Anyway, I went back to London, and became involved in the theater—not so much as an actor, but as an artist. William Shakespeare’s work was wonderful—are you familiar with him? And so was the Commedia D’ell Arte. Fabrizio’s family was in Commedia D’ell Arte—it’s an Italian theater form, you know—but he preferred going to the New World."
Rose’s eyes sparkled. "I met Mr. Shakespeare on several occasions—I loved his work. I wish that I could be plays…but of course only men are allowed to do that. I enjoy Commedia D’ell Arte, too—but Mother thinks it’s obscene."
"It is obscene—that’s half the fun."
Rose laughed. "I always wanted to be a part of that—to be an actor, to dance and have people watch me—of course, it would have been quite scandalous. Imagine, a woman on the stage—and a noblewoman at that! I was always expected to be a proper young lady, to attend the court, and to find a suitable husband—though I really don’t see why. Queen Elizabeth never married, and she brought England to glory like no man ever has."
Jack looked at her. "If you don’t want to marry, then why are you betrothed? Do you love him?"
"What?" Rose looked at him incredulously.
"Do you love him?"
"That is not an appropriate question! Love—whoever heard of the nobility marrying for love. Except for Mr. Shakespeare, of course."
"Well, why are you betrothed to him, then?"
"I…this is not a suitable conversation! You’re being rude."
"Why can’t you just answer the question? Do you love him or not?"
"Jack…Mr. Dawson…your questions are rude and inappropriate. I sought you out to thank you for saving my life." She shook his hand, taking on a formal tone. "Thank you, Mr. Dawson, for pulling me over. I’m glad to be alive. Now, I am leaving."
Jack was still shaking her hand, a grin playing about his lips. "I thought you were leaving."
Rose pulled away. "I am!" She turned to walk away. "Wait! I don’t have to leave! I’m nobility. You leave!"
"Oh, now who’s being rude?"
Rose glared at him, indignant. No man had ever dared to talk to her that way! Spying his leather-bound portfolio, she snatched it, perching on a barrel to look at it.
"What is this—your art?"
"Yeah. What do you think?"
"I think…" Rose paged through the portfolio, her eyes widening. "These are rather good. In fact, they’re very good. Jack, this is exquisite work."
"Well, it didn’t go over too well in London."
"They’re fools, then. This is wonderful." She came to a series of nude drawings. "Well, well, well. And these were…drawn from life?"
Jack grinned. "I drew them in St. Giles."
Rose gave him a startled look at the name of the notorious slum. He shrugged.
"That’s the nice thing about St. Giles—plenty of girls willing to take their clothes off."
Rose turned another page, her eyes taking in the exquisite details. "You liked this woman. You used her several times."
"Well, she had beautiful hands, see."
Rose smirked. "I think you must have had a love affair with this woman."
Jack shook his head vehemently. "No, no. Just with her hands. She was a one-legged prostitute. See?" He showed her another drawing.
Rose’s eyes widened. "Oh…oh, my." She closed the portfolio, handing it back to him. "You have a gift, Jack. You do. You see people."
"I see you."
"And?" Rose tossed her head, expecting the same comment on her beauty that she had heard from portrait painters before.
"You’re smarter than your betrothed gives you credit for. You’ve got more depth, too."
Rose just stared at him, startled beyond response.