Bickering and maneuvering, lecturing and cajoling, everyone wished to convince Sir Edmund Roberts they should hasten to the nearest port and further arm the already gun laden HMS Baci. And to what end? Why, to strike out again and confront that loathsome cur of a pirate, Naughty Nat; to dot his eye, to pepper his ship, to board him, crush him and avenge the lost Bacis. Sir Edmund’s opposition was simple, his argument succinct: “I charted this ship in good faith with good money to search for Sea Maidens. Had I wished to dither with guns I would have joined the Royal Navy.” There was no question of fortitude, for Sir Edmund had acquitted himself well in battle. It was he who, with balls a whizzing about like insects and the deck a sluice of blood and parts had declared, “We have not yet begun to fight” (Gnarly Dan’s muttered, “we oughta start soon,” not withstanding.)
Then later, when the full weight of Naughty Nat’s iron took a vicious toll on the HMS Baci, the Torprydro brothers, Vincent and Guido struggling at the helm petitioned their captain to luff the mainsail to allow a brief respite before reengaging their foe, but the valiant Sir Edmund would have none of it. “Dam the Torpeydors,” he cried, “full speed ahead!” Unfortunately, many were incapable if understanding his scientific resolve. “Blast your charter and your Sea Maidens, this is my ship,” Constance Daphne reminded him. And so it went. Day after day until one evening Sir Edmund strode into Constance Daphne’s cabin to pursue his case. She stood soaked in the blue glow of the moon shining though the stern lights and although Sir Edmund’s mouth launched into his practiced diatribe, his eyes absorbed his captain, the translucency of her shirt, the soft curves of the sides of her breasts outlined…no, they were not merely outlined, for she wore the thinnest of silks; clearly her nightwear. And when she drew her breath Sir Edmund’s heart stopped. He took a step toward her and then another until the days and months of proximity, the hints of perfume in the sea of musk, the glimpse of her smile, the knowledge that she bathed and dressed and slept mere feet from his own room was too much.
Their violent first embrace played a counterpoint to the crew’s gentle silence as they peered over the skylight’s rim. Bets were won and lost as whispered oaths drifted through tarred rigging toward the stars, chiding an awestruck crew to further elevate their beloved captain and the brave, quirky naturalist they considered a friend.
The sun rose on a content ship. Captain Constance Daphne coveted her morning tea and quietly ordered a new course set : west southwest and the Galapagos Islands. And yet she coolly ignored Sir Edmund Roberts when he came on deck frowsy, confused, and then dashed when her indifference turned cruel. That night he marshaled his courage and once more invaded the sanctity of her quarters and was confronted when she strode angrily across the room and transitioned effortlessly to passion before her arms were fully around him. Such was their relationship for some time: stormy days and lovely nights. Once, Sir Edmund confided to Gnarly Dan, “I do not understand women,” to which the old salt responded, “Mark me well sir, any man what says he does be either a fool or a liar.” Of course, he elaborated, Ya see, sir, a women’s heart is like this here ship; why it’s a big thing, as fulla’ cubbies and cabins and secret places as you’d never guess, an’ onst a women gets a notion, why she’ll steer the whole thing to China and back if she chooses. Not at all like yer man. No, yer man’s heart is simple like a log. It drifts about and he’s happy wherever the wind and current takes it.” Gnarly Dan smiled, scratched his briefly and added, “So, don’t go getting’ yer sails in a bunch, sir. Just lay back an’ enjoy yer log; the voyage’ll likely be short.”
A week later, Halley’s patented diving apparatus over the side, Sir Edmund witnessed a Sea Maiden cavorting with a dolphin, “Aye cap,” Gnarly Dan instructed, “They mostly gets along down here. They’s nought a creature yer Sea Maiden don’t respect and love. We could learn a bit if we paid attention.”
Sir Edmund Roberts journal reads:
Maidenus Delphinus, Una
Sea Maiden 21 and dolphin spied playing together. Strong swimmers, she the more interesting to watch.