The silver knife slashed down, slicing through the pale onions, scattering the wrinkled potatoes. Penelope Brassington grimaced as the juice from the onion stung her eyes. She squinted, pushing the vegetables into the cast iron cooking kettle. They were lucky that the vegetables had not rotted. It had been many weeks since they had last touched land and re-provisioned their galley. The potatoes and onions were the remaining vegetables left.
The odor of the salted pork boiling on the top of the iron fireheath wafted through the spacious galley, accompanied by the sweet smell of brown beans bubbling in a cast iron kettle. Penelope placed the pot of potatoes and onions onto one of the many iron stoves, sprinkling salt onto the uncooked vegetables.
She cautiously opened the iron door to the iron box that contained the hot fire, shoving logs of wood into the dancing flames.
For a moment, Penelope rested, running a tired hand through her braided hair.
"It's almost eight bells, Penny. Is dinner ready?" A gruff voice interrupted her reverie. Penelope swung around, looking at the man tall middle-aged First Mate.
"No, it's almost ready, though. Pray tell me, how am I supposed to have dinner for thirty men ready exactly at the dinner hour, without any assistants?" Penelope responded, her tone sharp.
The First Mate, Bart Flynn crossed his muscular arms, his bushy eyebrows furrowing. "Now, Penelope, that's not the way to talk to me! I know that yer busy. Ye have a hard job, and the best way to get it done, is not to complain! And you never know, we could pick up an assistant for ye sometime soon!"
Penelope smiled. "Nay, that won't happen! Not too many pirates are eager to work in the galley. I am looking forward to St. Ninian's Isles. Hopefully we'll arrive there in a few days." She lifted the cover of the pork, poking it with a long silver fork.
Hale Botwright sniffed, his eyes on the boiling pots. "Is it ready?" He asked again.
She nodded. "Aye. Dinner's ready. Where's the cabin boy?" She glanced towards the thick reinforced door.
Suddenly the door creaked open. A boy peeked around, his eyes sparkling mischievously. "Captain was wondering when his dinner would be ready." He said, by way of explanation.
"It's all ready, Will." She grabbed bread, dumped beans, pork, and potatoes onto a wooden tray. "Give it to him with my compliments."
Will nodded. "Sure! Captain Denman wants to see you this afternoon."
Penelope paused. "He wants to see me?"
"Aye!" The boy grabbed the tray and rushed out of the galley, followed by the First Mate, who had swiped a piece of bread.
"I'll alert the Boatswain, and he will ring the eight watch!" The first mate told her, on his way to the door.
* * *
Penelope licked her lips nervously, waiting outside of the door to the Captain's cabin. She knocked timidly on the heavy oaken door, inscribed with the fearsome words: "Thou shalt not enter."
"Come in," the Captain's deep voice was faintly muffled by the door. She pushed it open, peeking into the luxurious cabin. He sat, his back towards her at his black cherry desk, his quill pen scratching on white paper. The Captain turned about, his icy blue eyes glancing at her.
"Penelope. I am glad that you arrived so promptly." Captain Denman stood up, towering over her, his short light brown hair curled neatly, and his dark blue naval coat standing out in the dark cabin.
Penelope quailed. "Aye, sir. What did you wish to see me about?"
His mouth twitched. "I wanted to tell you that we will be arriving in St.Ninian's Isles shortly. We'll have a one-day holiday and then we shall set sail for Kirkwall. I want you to dress like a normal lower class young lady; and then I realized that I had a suitable dress, plundered from one of our numerous catches this season." Captain Denman gestured to an article of clothing folded neatly on his desk.
Penelope tiptoed towards it, lifting up the plain brown dress with long sleeves and a high collar. She eyed it gingerly, touching the soft fabric. "It's nice, Captain. Possibly my nicest gown. But pray tell, do I really have to wear it?"
The Captain's eyes clouded. "I command you to wear it. You must look like an ordinary lady, my dear girl. Also, please practice on your curtsying. It would look strange if a young lady didn't know how to curtsy."
Penelope groaned, crossing her slender arms. "Why must I act like a stupid insipid young lady, who doesn't know anything about ships and sailing?"
Captain Denman held a hand over his mouth, as if hiding a smile. "Penelope Mable Brassington, you know it well enough."
Penelope nodded, glancing down at her grey ragged dress which barely covered her ankles. "Yes, you're right, Captain. I know that we have to look like normal merchants, or else we might be thrown into jail."
He opened the door of the cabin, motioning for her to go out. "Absolutely. Well, I shall see you later, Penelope."
* * *
The breeze whipped Penelope's curls across her face, showering her with salt spray. She beamed, watching the distant shore line slowly come into view. She couldn't wait to set foot on St. Ninian's Isle again. It was her favorite place besides the brig Skeleton of course.
"You look like a little child on her birthday, Penny!"
Penelope turned towards the speaker, a young pirate who looked down at her amused.
He pushed his scraggly black locks out of his face, his grey eyes watching her.
She cleared her throat, uncomfortably. "Uh, yes. I must get going to the galley, I'm afraid. G'bye!" She hurried away, hearing the man's soft chuckles. He had joined the crew a few months back, and she didn't trust him. He had no right to call her Penny! Penelope fumed inwardly.
She stared at the wooden planks, craftily made into the floor of the ship, not paying attention to where she was going.
Bang! She crashed into a tall pirate, falling onto the ground. The pirate lifted her up with a hand, his ice-blue eyes coolly gazing at her.
Penelope gasped. She'd crashed into the captain!
"Well, well. What were you thinking of, Cook?" Captain Denman referred to her station, his mouth tightening.
Penelope lowered her eyes and bowed her head, a perfect picture of servile obedience. "I'm sorry, Captain. I wasn't looking where I was going." Her cheeks flushed a bright pink.
"I really hope you won't make a habit of that. It's only an hour to eight bells, Penelope! I'm sure you've made something for our dinner." He nodded to her, then strode off, his dark blue naval coat, and white trousers glinting in the sunlight.
Penelope swallowed. She had prepared nothing! And there was only one hour left to make dinner for the huge crew!
She rushed towards the hatch, that led to the hull, or the bottom of the brig. Lifting the heavy wooden flat door, she lowered herself carefully onto the rope ladder. She climbed down effortlessly, balancing herself.
Penelope hurried through the dark below-decks, past the cargo rooms, sailors' quarters and the gun-hold. She stopped before the galley, pushing the door open.
Clenching her fists together, she breathed heavily, trying to think of something to cook. It was no use. Her mind was blank.
Penelope had eventually thought of something to cook: baked beans and salted cod stew. It hadn't tasted as good as her other meals, and the Captain wasn't too pleased with it.
They'd arrived at St. Ninian's Isle, and after spending a much needed break at the beautiful sandy island, the crew left for Kirkwall. Now they were tied to one of the piers of the busy port, and were preparing to disembark and go to the market.
Penelope eagerly brushed her hair with her rosewood brush, ignoring the tangles.
"I wonder what I should do with my hair. . ."
She gazed into her glass mirror. She was pretty. Her turquoise blue eyes stared at her, sparkling mischief. Her slightly plump cheeks were a soft pink, implying her excitement. She touched her perfect grecian nose, grinning at the sight of freckles lightly sprinkled over it.
` Oh, yes, she was pretty. Especially with her wavy golden blonde hair.
No wonder men whistled when she walked into the mess room. And the new brown dress was a perfect touch! It complemented her tanned skin, showing the brightness of her hair. It was well made, with little stitches here and there. The high neckline set off her slender neck, and the long sleeves almost hid her strong calloused hands.
With a little laugh of embarrassment, Penelope turned away from the mirror. She was wasting time admiring herself. And what would her fellow pirates think if they knew she was so vain! She pulled her hair into a tight little knot at the back her head, not glancing at the mirror.
Striding somewhat unlady-likely towards the door that led out of her cabin, she tossed it open, moving quickly out.
* * *
The market was very busy. People swarmed in and out, bumping into her with barely an apology. The air was filled with the sound of sellors shouting out their wares, and buyers haggling loudly with them. She held her nose tightly, not willing to breath in the disgusting smell of horse manure, people who had not bathed in months, and various baked goods.
She watched the pirates in their booths proudly sell their merchandise, grinning as people bought the exotic goods.
"Look what we got here!" Penelope looked up at a man with scraggled black hair and shifting grey eyes, accompanied by a slim red haired man, both staggering drunkenly. The black-haired man was the pirate she had distrusted.
The tall pirate grinned down at her, showing a mouth full of yellowed teeth, and a strange green light glittering in his eyes. He reached for her, but she moved too quickly, bumping into a stone wall behind her. She was surrounded by the men and wouldn't be able to dodge the men, or move further back.
Penelope swallowed, wishing she could reach down to her dirk hidden in her stocking. Unfortunately that would cause quite a scandal in the market place.
"Excuse me gentlemen. This young lady be my neice! Come, Eliza!" A voice broke in, and a middle aged man dressed like the other civilians of the town shoved the men aside, authority in his stance. He placed a rather worn gloved hand on her arm, firmly clasping it, leading her away from the stunned men. "Come Eliza." He said again.
She followed him dumbly, her mind trying to grasp the confusing event. "Why did you call me Eliza?" She asked, her voice high. She eyed the well built form in front of her. He definitely was a sailor, his rolling gait gave that away. The man looked back at her, a kind face illuminated by white whiskers. He stopped walking, and turned to her.
"My dear girl, what, pray tell me were you thinking of! For aught I know, alone by yourself, in the midst of men well over the bay!" The man exclaimed, his arms crossed.
Penelope lowered her eyes. "My folks were in the crowd, and I'm not quite certain where they went." She had no wish to tell this stranger that she was a pirate.
"Thank you for saving me from those drunken men." She curtsied, turning away, preparing herself for the bustle of the market.
"Wait!" It was a command.
Penelope looked back fleetingly over her shoulder. "Yes?"
His eyes were narrowed. "You look like an old friend of mine. She passed away many years ago, leaving behind a heartbroken husband and baby daughter. . ."
Penelope nodded, doing her best to look sympathetic. I must go! My comrades might have left for the ship or the taverns already!
"How sad. What happened to her daughter and husband?"
"Her husband married again, later dying at sea. I'm not sure what happened to the daughter. I haven't seen them since the husband was alive. He was my captain." There was a soft smile on his weather beaten face, and his eyes looked off into the distance. Then he looked at Penelope again. "Ye sure do look like his first wife! I almost thought she had appeared to me!"
Penelope grimaced. She knew all about superstitious sailors. She gazed up at the sky, trying to judge the time. It was past midday. The booths would be emptying now for the day and the market would be closed, to open again on the morrow.
"I really must to go now. Thank you, again!" Penelope smiled and curtsied again, rushing away far too quickly for a young lady of her age.
Moving into the crowd, she fought against a wave of nausea, holding her hand to her nose, dodging elbows and shoulders. An overweight man frowned at her as she tried to squeeze by him, gingerly stepping over piles of horse manure that stained the grey cobblestones.
"Out of the way! Out of the way!" A hoarse shout broke through the hustle, and a gold worked carriage drove past, pulled by shining black horses. The finely dressed coachman, seated at the dickey box in the front of the carriage wrinkled his nose, his kid gloved hands on the taut reins directing the high-spirited horses.
A rouged fat face with large brown eyes stared disdainfully out of the glass window, a wide brimmed bonnet trimmed with bright coloured feathers on her head. She gazed at Penelope for a long time, her eyes narrowed. Penelope crossed her arms a bit defiantly wondering why the woman looked slightly familiar.
The people around Penelope stood back, making a pathway for the carriage. They glared at the rich woman, whispering threats against her and all the wealthy citizens of Kirkwall.
"My look at her, all superior! An' to think, her grandparents were like da rest of us!" One woman muttered angrily to her companion.
"Aye! An' I knew her grandpapa! He was aloof as she is! But now dey have everyt'ing!" The other woman murmured back, a basket of laundry clasped in her arms.
Penelope hid her laughter behind a cough. These people were very jealous!
Penelope had once been a rich little girl. But that had all changed when her naval captain father decided to take his darling little girl on a little trip across the sea. They had been thrown off course because of a huge storm. Pirates came and attacked the naval ship.
Penelope shivered, remembering the smoke and fire, the booming of the guns and cannons, the screams of the dying. Her father had hugged her, whispering quick words of love in her ear, hiding her in his cabin.
But the pirates came. They grabbed her father out of the cabin. . . Penelope clenched her fists, striving to blot out the memory. But it was no use. She could remember it vividly, like it had taken place the day before.
They had forced her father to walk the gauntlet, flogged with a horrid whip called cat-o-nine-tails. He had forced an encouraging smile on his bleeding lips as he looked at her. She had been too frightened to even cry. Then. . . then they'd hung him on the broken mast of their old ship, surrounded by his faithful sailors, and put it on fire.
Penelope choked down a sob. She had never figured why the pirates kept and not sold her. She had been much too young to do that much work, though she remembered working in the galley alongside their old cook.
Then, years later, the previous captain, the one that had commanded the pirates to hang her father fell overboard in a storm. She had not shed any tears at his passing, remembering how he had treated her, and killed her dear father. His capable nephew was elected captain, and the old cook also died, making her the head cook.
She didn't hate the pirates for what they did, knowing that it was the cruel captain who had ordered them to kill the naval officer and his sailors.
Penelope wiped her nose with the back her of hand. She didn't envy the young lady one bit. Her life had once been as comfortable as the lady's. But she prefered it now. She would never exchange her free pirate life for the life of a rich lady.
* * *
The market was done for the week. The pirates bragged of the money they had, the items they'd sold and the taverns they'd visited. Penelope smiled when they bragged to her, thinking of the boring week she had.
She'd also gotten another present from the captain, and this time he had seemed like he wanted to say more. Penelope was in no hurry to hear it.
Penelope leaned against the counter in the galley, breathing in the sweet smell of baked beans simmering. It's so nice to be back at sea again.
The galley door banged open, and a flustered captain and first mate dashed in.
She grinned. "You sure gave me a fright, Captain Denman."
He didn't smile. "The navy is coming after us."
Nodding solemnly he said, "A wealthy lady saw you and thought you looked somewhat like her stepdaughter. She ran into a sailor who had sailed on her husband's ship. He also told her that he'd seen a young lady who looked similar to her birth mother. They both decided that it might be her stepdaughter, and the women had someone track you down. The person was able to hear us calling you Penelope, which was her stepdaughter's name, and saw you leaving with us on The Skeleton!"
Penelope gasped. "I think I might've seen her! She looked at me for a long time. . . The lady also looked familiar, though I couldn't remember where I'd seen her. I met the man and he said that I looked like a woman who'd died a long time ago. Where did you learn this?"
He smoothed his blue coat. "The navy's behind us. A whole group of battleships! Your stepmother must be really famous to have gotten them to help her. I received the news from an old friend of mine, who'd sailed after us, when we left the harbour. What are we to do?"
She shook her head slowly. "I don't know! What are we to do!"
His jaw hardened. "I won't let them get you, Penny." He touched a strand of hair hanging down her cheek.
Penelope swallowed, moving back. "But they'll kill you! I must go with them. Then, maybe they'll spare the ship."
Captain Denman sighed, his face weary. "I can't just let you leave. . . You're special." He whispered the last words.
She shook her head. "You don't understand. I must go."
He put a hand to restrain her. Someone ran into the room, the cabin boy. "They've boarded our ship!" His voice was high from fear.
Captain Denman took his pistol calmly out of his pocket. "We won't surrender without a fight." His hands were shaking, even though his voice was calm and matter-of-fact.
The door burst open again, and a blue coated naval officer strode into the room, followed by a few other navy men with their guns and sword ready.
The tall officer looked at them, then he looked at Penelope. "Miss? Could you tell me your middle and last name, just to make sure you are the one we're looking for." His hand was on his long ceremonial sword.
"She's no one important!" Rolf Denman broke in, his eyes challenging them.
The officer smiled grimly. "Really. Well, she has to obey my orders, young man."
"I'm the captain!" Captain Denman set his jaw, trying to maintain an icy countenance.
The naval officer looked at him with a little bit more respect. "Indeed. You're quite young to be a captain." He looked around the room, sniffing the delightful aroma coming from the stove appreciatively. "This ship looks like it used to belong to the navy." He remarked.
Captain Denman swallowed. "They sold it to us."
"And what's your trade?" He asked evenly.
The captain squared his shoulders. "Merchant."
"I see. And that is why you were at the Kirkwall market?"
"Yes. We sell a lot of things."
"Interesting. But your crew doesn't really look like merchant sailors." The officer raised an eyebrow.
"Well, we try our best to warn off pirates." Captain Denman looked at him.
"Good luck with that. I would like to have a tour of the ship." The officer smiled pleasantly.
"Uh, absolutely! May I tell my crew to prepare?" Captain Denman strode towards the door.
"No, you may not. We'll look around the ship now." The officer blocked his way, his fixed smile not reaching his eyes.
Captain Denman nodded, his adam's apple bobbing up and down as he swallowed nervously. "Uh, fine. Then let's get on with it."
"Alright then. The lady has to come with us, and I'll have my sailors with us too." The officer looked at Captain Denman closer. "What would your name be?"
Captain Denman stared at the floor, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "Um, William. That's it! William Roof! I mean William Rolf."
"Respectable name." The officer nodded, then turned towards the door, motioning for Penelope to go first.
She walked by him nervously, into the hall of the below-decks of The Skeleton. The British naval officer gazed carefully around, followed by his silent sailors, each hoisting a rifle. Captain Denman walked beside the officer, having regained his ice-cold countenance. The naval officer stopped at the cargo room, going into the gloomy place. One of his sailors had lit a match and held it aloft, moving the light around. Their commander opened a trunk, touching the goods. He lifted up a sparkling ruby and diamond jeweled mirror. "My wife would love this." He chuckled, setting it back carefully.
Captain Denman smiled. "It's for sale, if you want it."
The officer shook his head, still chuckling. "Oh no, I bought her a delightful little home on the coast not long ago!"
"Sounds nice. I'd love to retire on the coast eventually." The captain watched him rummage through another trunk.
Then he stood up briskly. "This seems fine. Could we continue on?"
* * *
They had almost reached the gunroom. Penelope grew more and more nervous as they approached it. She could tell by her captain's slow walk, that he wasn't looking forward to it either.
The officer had seen nothing that had anything to really do with pirates, though he had been rather mystified with the pirate sailors' belongings. But now the moment had come. The naval men would immediately know that they were pirates. The penalty for being a pirate was to hang, and Penelope certainly wasn't excited for that.
The sailors' commander opened the door of the gun room, motioning for his torch bearing sailor to go in. Captain Denman watched them, pursing his lips. If a little flame so much as blew onto the powder barrels, the whole ship would blow up.
The officer sniffed around the room. "Is this your gun room?" His eyes squinted.
Captain nodded. "Yes. We need guns and all, because the pirates of the west and the east would capture our ship. As successful merchantmen, the best way is to defend yourself."
The british officer suddenly smiled. "We need a man like you in the navy, captain! Most of the boneheads don't know a thing about that!" Here he glanced at his sailors. They ignored his teasing look.
Then he looked at Penelope. "Now that this is over, I'd like it if you could tell me your name. We're looking for a young woman of your first name and appearance."
"My name is Penelope Mable Brassington." She said anxiously. Captain Rolf Denman placed a kind hand on her shoulder.
The naval officer nodded, satisfied. "Excellent. We're here to take you home."
Penelope clenched her fingers together, trying to stop her hands from shaking. She blinked, several times, her mouth dry with nervousness.
The officer smiled kindly at her. "Miss? Are you alright?"
Penelope nodded. "Yes, sir. I am fine. . ." She finally managed. "When must I leave?"
Captain Denman stepped between them. "Sir, does she have to go? I can pay you some coins to leave her with us."
The officer shook his head firmly. "Miss Brassington is coming with me. No matter what. I will not accept a bribe, Captain Rolf. Her mother would be very disappointed with me, if I did not bring her back."
Penelope shifted, uneasily. "What is she like? My stepmother?"
"The madam is a wonderful lady. I'm sure you will get along fine with her. Are you sure you don't remember her?" The officer asked.
Penelope placed her hand on her forehead. She remembered a woman, a pretty woman who wasn't her birth mother, hugging her goodbye. Other than that, it was all she could remember of her stepmother. "I do remember something, now."
* * *
Penelope sighed, her arms leaning on the wooden railing of the gigantic battleship. She gazed, far off into the distance, watching the grey-blue waves of the endless ocean. Aimlessly, she watched white sea gulls swoop down over the water.
Penelope pulled her brittle curly mane back with an old ribbon. She had said goodbye to her old crew, her friends, many days before. There'd been no choice whether she could stay with The Skeleton, or travel back to England with the navy. The Royal Navy would've took her by force, and left a mark on the pirate ship anyway.
Penelope had bantered with her old friends, trying to swallow a very large lump in her throat. She'd said that she definitely would be going back to The Skeleton. They had agreed wholeheartedly, exclaiming that if she didn't come back, they would all die of hunger!
Penelope smiled momentarily at the thought. She missed the pirates. And, and she missed Rolf. Rolf had squeezed her hand, his face pleading.
"Penny. . . I cannot let you go. But what must I do to keep you here?" His eyes, his ice-cold eyes had mirrored the misery in her very soul.
"I have to go." She had whispered, clenching his strong hands in hers.
"I know. . . I shall come looking for you. I will call on you!"
Penelope'd nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She knew better. A captain of a scraggled ship and crew would never be able to call on her. Her stepmother would never allow that.
The British officer, who she later learned was a Lieutenant, had brusquely separated them, leading her away towards the other ship.
Peneleope rested her chin on her knuckles. The ocean breeze playfully whispered, blowing through her curls. She had not met anyone who was too friendly on this enormous and bustling battleship. Well, she had met the Lieutenant who'd escorted her to the ship, he seemed friendly, and a Second Lieutenant. Second Lieutenant Outterridge.
Penelope flushed. He was VERY friendly. He was about Rolf's age, and unmarried.
"Miss Brassington?" Penelope started, staring about. It was Second Lieutenant Outterridge.
"Yes, Second Lieutenant?" Her cheeks were a bright red.
He grinned, bowing elegantly, his white powdered wig shining. "And how are you today, Miss?"
Penelope smiled wryly. "Excellent, sir. Are we nearing the coast of England?"
He nodded, gazing out at the sea. "Aye. We only have one more day to sail, then we shall be there. Pray tell me, are you excited to go back to England, after so long?" His hazel eyes gazed earnestly into hers. Penelope looked away quickly.
"Oh yes! It shall be nice to see my dear stepmother again." Penelope faked another smile.
Second Lieutenant Outterridge straightened his smart unbuttoned navy-blue frock coat, over his immaculate white waist coat. He fiddled with the gold epaulette sewn on the right shoulder of his frock coat. "I wonder if your mother will be having a ball to celebrate your return?"
Penelope shrugged, then realized that that action wasn't very lady-like. "I don't know."
He grinned again. "Oh, I'm certain she will. She enjoys hosting parties and the like."
Penelope looked at him interested. "You have met her, Second Lieutenant Outterridge?"
He bobbed his head. "Indeed. My mother is a great friend of hers."
"Ah. That's interesting! What is she like?"
"Beautiful and charming. Almost as beautiful as you," He said smoothly.
Penelope's face heated again. "Um. . . thanks."
"You're welcome. Ah, she's a wonderful lady, and I know you will enjoy living with her!" He glanced away, looking at the sailors who sprawled on the deck. "I had best be going, my lady. Thanks for such an enjoyable chat." He tipped his cap at her and strode purposefully towards the sailors, who immediately straightened up.
* * *
Her journey was over. They had arrived in England, and she had been brought to a carriage that was sent down from her stepmother's mansion.
Second Lieutenant Outteridge had told her that he'd never met such a clever and beautiful girl as her. He'd said that he would be traveling to Penelope's stepmother's home in no time at all. His parent's mansion was quite close. And he had even mentioned Calling on her!
Penelope wondered what her stepmother would think of it all. She dozed off, leaning back on the comfortable leather seat inside the carriage.
* * *
"Miss Brassington?" She was being gently tapped on the shoulder. Penelope yawned, squinting at the person beside her. It was the coachman.
"We're here, at the Kingsley manor." The coachman said.
"My new house?" Penelope asked, rubbing her eyes with a hand.
"Yes." He led the way out.
Penelope gasped. She hadn't expected this!
Tall lush green trees surrounded them, leaving a white cobblestone road between them. Right in front of her was a marble fountain carved with intricate flower designs with crystal-clear water gushing out onto the marble stoned bath. The road curved around the sides of the fountain, leading towards a majestic manor.
It rose high above the tallest trees, almost as if it hit the heavens. Bright and well-tended flowers surrounded the manor alongside in neat gardens .
It was glorious. Penelope breathed in the sweet summery flower scents that wafted from the gardens. She walked cautiously forward, her eyes staring at everything.
The manor was beautiful. To Penelope it looked like a castle with its turrets and flags, and made with marble and other expensive stones. The roof of the manor was a light grey, making the cone-shaped turrets and chimneys stand out against the blue sky. The rest of the gigantic manor was an elegant cream white.
They walked toward the door, Penelope lingering, and the coachman hurrying.
Then they went in. Penelope's breath was caught in a gasp again. The walls of the front foyer were painted a sunny yellow with white plaster decorations shaped in the forms of fairy-light flowers sprinkled artfully on the yellow paint. The shining floorboards were made out of smooth ash wood.
A staircase made of pine wood swirled upwards from the shining floor, was dramatically carved with delicate forget-me-nots, roses, and grasses.
She had Never seen such a wealthy home. Penelope couldn't even imagine what the upstairs would look like.
She looked around, wanting to say something to the silent coachman behind her.
To her surprise and disappointment, he had completely disappeared. She squeezed her hands together, perspiration dripping down her forehead. Where had he gone?
Her stomach shifted uneasily, then she noticed that behind her, right across from the main door, there was a smaller door almost hidden in the plastered yellow wall.
"Ah. That must be the servants' door." Penelope said to herself. Suddenly the door opened and a white-aproned woman bustled out. She nodded apologetically to Penelope.
"Welcome to the Kingsley manor, Miss. Brassington. I'm sorry about not coming out to greet you immediately, there was a bit of a catastrophe in the kitchen with one of our new maids. I'm Mrs. Elizabeth Rhys, the housekeeper." The woman curtsied, keys jangling from her belt.
Penelope smiled. "That's fine, Mrs. Rhys. I was just admiring the beautiful stairs."
The housekeeper's hard mouth creased up in a smile. "It is a beautiful manor. One of the best in this part of the country!" She motioned for Penelope to follow her, as she began to walk heavily up the stairs.
They walked up the stairs, through a beautiful oak hallway and into a large room with a richly painted carpet, pale pink walls decorated with plaster, a marble fireplace with an intricate mantelpiece and beautiful floral covered sofas. Penelope was so busy looking at the furniture and the room that she didn't notice the woman.
"Penelope." A woman regally glided across the room towards her. The woman straightened her white gauze shawl that covered her shoulders, over a stunning low-necked bright pink gown, with a lace neckline, and a gold sash.
She eyed Penelope, taking in her high-necked plain brown dress, new green cape and yellow bonnet. Penelope had been proud of her outfit before, but now she wasn't so sure.
The corners of the lady's bright mouth turned up, forming a dimple on her left cheek. Her eyes were a lovely brown, the same color as her curled hair, that was piled on top of her head, with little ringlets that fell down her plump rouged cheeks. Her arched neatly plucked eyebrows rose, and she blinked slowly. "I'm assuming you're my stepdaughter?"
Penelope bobbed her head, tripping over her curtsy. "Aye, ma'am. Tis a pleasure to meet ye." Now she was slipping back into the way that some of the pirates spoke.
Her stepmother's fair face blanched. "Goodness! You talk like a peasant!" Her voice rose with her words.
Penelope sighed, staring down at the carpet. Behind her, she thought she could hear Mrs. Rhys giggle softly.
Her stepmother frowned at the housekeeper. "You may leave us, Mrs. Rhys." She narrowed her eyes, her voice as cold as a winter day.
The housekeeper curtsied, her mouth pressed in a thin line. "Yes, Mrs. Kingsley." She whirled away, striding out of the room.
"Kingsley? I thought your last husband was a Brassington?" Penelope faced her stepmother, a bit defiantly.
Her stepmother laughed, a tinkling lady-like laugh. "Didn't they tell you that I remarried?"
"Oh. When did you remarry?" Penelope couldn't help but feel a bit ashamed.
Her stepmother smiled again, her long fingers idly playing with a perfectly formed ringlet. "Just a few years ago. He's a Commodore in the Royal navy. George owns all this." She gestured to the fancy room. "We met at balls and parties, and then we fell in love. It seemed perfectly sensible if we marry, so we did. Of course, he's been knighted and a commodore, so that helped me make up my mind."
Penelope had mixed feelings about it. "She married him just because he was a knight and had a fancy house?" She thought.
"That's a wonderful story." Penelope said.
"Oh yes. I'm one lucky girl." Her stepmother chuckled.
"Does she even remember my father?" Penelope thought to herself.
Suddenly her stepmother looked at her. "I heard that a certain young second lieutenant is interested in you. Second Lieutenant Outterridge is a wonderful boy. His mother and I are best friends. I couldn't approve the match more."
"But, we're not courting!" Penelope broke in. She wasn't even sure if she wanted to court him.
"He sent a letter to me, by our coachman. Edmund Outterridge wrote that he is serious about calling on you. And that boy takes everything that he considers serious, seriously. We'll have to throw a Welcome Home ball for you, my dear. Invite Edmund and all my dear friends and even dearer enemies." She laughed again.
"It'll all be so very fun. But we'll NEED to buy you a new wardrobe. Couldn't have my friends seeing you in such rags."
"Stop fretting, Penny! You don't want to mess up your veil!" Penelope's stepmother fixed her long lace veil, pushing back a curled strand of blonde hair. Penelope squeezed her hands together, looking down at her beautiful empire-waist cream-colored satin and lace dress. The wedding would start in just a few minutes. She ran a hand over her curls piled on the top of her head. Edmund loved her bouncy, un-tamed curls. She was going to marry the lieutenant who had first met her on the battleship. Penelope had eventually fallen in love with him, even though she had thought that she would never marry anyone but Rolf Denman. Four years had passed, and with them, her memories of living on the pirate ship called The Skeleton. Rolf had never come for her, writing to her in a secret letter, that he had met a norwegian girl. Penelope smiled, remembering how she had been heartbroken at those words. "Penelope! It's time to go, darling!" Her stepmother kissed her cheek, trembling with happiness as she handed Penelope her beautiful bouquet. Penelope nodded, holding bouquet carefully. She glided slowly towards the door, realizing that she would never again be the merry pirate lass called 'Penelope Brassington' or sometimes shortened to 'Penny'. From now on, she would be 'Mrs. Penelope Outteridge." A respectable married woman.