This appeared first on Debra's CLFA discussion list in response to a suggestion from Anne Azel to write a story about the pirate, Jean Lafitte.Yes, it's also about two women, what did you think. <g>
I've put the disclaimer at the end because it might be a bit of a spoiler. Canadian spellings throughout, btw.
Thanks to the Academy for the opportunity to post it here.
Comments welcome: email@example.com
A Pirate Yarn
Renée Strider ©2006
Martine Laurent and Alexis Robb had been lovers since Alex had begun crewing for Martine early in the summer.
Before that, she had been crewing on another keelboat. In a regatta off Burlington, at the west end of Lake Ontario where she lived, her boat had come in second. Martine's Tartan 5100 had won that regatta but had lost a crew member—not lost as in overboard, just that other responsibilities had called him away—so she needed another.
In the crowded bar after the last race, they had all sailed the whole course again, heatedly discussing what this boat should have done while that boat did that, and why that jerk so-and-so should have been disqualified in the first race, and so on.
Suddenly Martine had asked Alex if she's like to join her crew for the rest of the summer. They'd compete in keelboat regattas on Lake Ontario, both in Canada and the U.S., and maybe sail in some individual races at various yacht clubs just for fun.
Alex hadn't had to think about it for long. A whole summer of living on a boat, sailing and racing! And with one of the best keelboat skippers on the lake in one of the biggest, fastest boats!
She had no other responsibilities that summer except to herself—nor any year following, for that matter. She had just taken early retirement from her job of almost twenty years as a professor of Canadian history at McMaster University. No longer did she have summer courses to teach nor fall classes to prepare. Perhaps later, now and then, she would teach a few courses again. For now she was working sporadically on a book with the tentative title of War of 1812: Invasion of Canada.
So of course she had said yes. Also because Martine was beautiful and had eyes like the lake on a stormy day. Not to mention her accent.
From the beginning it had been obvious that Martine wanted her, too, not just for her sailing skills. It was lust—maybe even love—at first sight for both of them. They hadn't wasted any time and had spent that very night together in Martine's bed on the boat. When she saw Martine's face in the moonlight as she cried out, and afterwards when Martine murmured endearments in French, Alex was lost and knew that she would want her every night from then on.
Fortunately, privacy hadn't been much of an issue even when the rest of the crew were staying on board—which was most of the time, and as many as three—for L'Aurore's cabin was very large with three double staterooms—not to mention galley, dinette, lounge, office, and navigation station.
It had been a glorious summer. They had sailed all over the Great Lake in every kind of weather, visiting different towns and clubs and competing in races off both shores.
Now it was the end of August. Martine and Alex had said goodbye to their shipmates after they had sailed the last race of their last regatta off Kingston that morning. Martine's boat had come in third; not too bad, considering yachts from all over compete in this annual international event.
Kingston is at the very east end of Lake Ontario where the St. Lawrence River begins its long, rolling journey toward the province of Québec. There it flows past Montréal and Québec City, and finally pours the Great Lakes into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean.
They were anchored off one of the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence, a few miles east of Kingston. It was a small, wooded island with a large cottage, and it was owned by Martine who, as it turned out, was very rich. Alex had thought early on that she must be, with such a sailboat and a paid crew. Eventually she had learned that Martine's wealth was inherited, mostly taking the form of real estate and international shipping, a conglomerate of which she was president and which could more or less run without her most of the time. Her yacht was equipped with state-of-the-art electronics and, other than a few face-to-face meetings here and there, weekly video-conferences and daily emails seemed to be sufficient for her to be able to guide her company at arm's length and to do what she really wanted to do: live on the water and sail.
It was early evening and the sun was still high. The late afternoon thermal wind had died down and the water was flat, a mirror throwing back the light and heat of the sun. Only the odd sluggish ripple marred the surface of the river. It was hot. They sat in the cockpit across from each other on the long cushioned seats, protected from the sun by a canopy while drinking ice-cold Creemore and drying off from a recent swim off the lowered transom. They were both sprawled out on the seats, leaning back against the cabin's bulkhead. Alex was going over the results of the regatta again, holding a printout about a metre long in one hand while trying to drink from the beer in her other hand. Martine was studying some kind of nautical chart which she had folded up to make it less awkward to hold, the special way that subway commuters fold newspapers. Her beer stood untasted in a holder.
Alex wrestled with the paper, trying to keep it away from her wet swimsuit. As she put her beer down she glanced over at Martine. Race results were forgotten as she saw Martine's hand resting on a bare inner thigh while she was reading, not exactly stroking it but unconsciously moving her fingers slowly back and forth. A swirl of arousal tightened Alex's stomach and her breath caught. It was as if Martine's hand were hers. She knew exactly how that smooth patch of skin felt and tasted.
Alex must have made some noise, for Martine looked up and noticed immediately where her lover was looking. She dropped the chart on the floor. Their eyes met, and Alex saw her throat undulate as she swallowed. Martine moved her hand away, and sat up.
"Chérie, don't look at me like that." Her voice was husky.
Alex moved across the cockpit to kneel in front of her and placed her hand where Martine's had been.
"Like what?" Alex stroked her there, deliberately moving her fingers closer to the thin fabric of the still-damp bikini Martine was wearing. She smiled and looked up at Martine whose breathing had picked up considerably.
Martine caressed her shoulders, then gripped them gently.
"I can't concentrate when you do that, at least not on what I want to discuss with you. Come up here."
"Okay, I can wait…for a while." Alex took a couple of deep breaths to calm her ardour, and sat cross-legged on the seat beside Martine, facing her.
Martine lifted Alex's hands to her mouth, brushed her lips against them, then caressed them with her cheek before she lowered them. Alex thought she saw uncertainty in the grey eyes and wondered what was coming.
"What is it, sweetheart?" she asked a little anxiously.
"I want to ask you something." Uncharacteristically, Martine sounded hesitant, then the words tumbled out in a rush.
"How would you like to sail down along the eastern seaboard to Louisiana and Texas next spring? We could take our time. Maybe take in an offshore race on the way, like the Annapolis to Newport in early June. You could even work on the boat, just plug in your computer. I know you'll love the sea as much as I do."
Alex closed her mouth which had fallen open in dumb surprise, mixed in with relief. She glanced down at the chart on the floor and realized that it wasn't a lake or river chart but an ocean chart.
"Nobody could love it as much as you do," she managed. All she could think of to say next was, "Why spring?"
Martine let go of Alex's hands. With her own she gestured in the air, nervously punctuating her words.
"It'll be hurricane season down there soon, and after that too cold to start out. We could winter at my place in Québec. We can sail Aurore there by ourselves, on motor when we have to. You could work on your book over the winter and I could get some business done. And I'll need to find some crew, at least four, because we'll need more for ocean sailing than we had this summer. But at least Marc and Jamie would probably come along again. We could also do some fun things in Montréal and—"
"Whoa, wait a minute." Alex grinned at the animation in Martine's voice and the flush on cheeks already ruddy from the sun and wind. Her heart sped up as she realized that Martine was essentially asking her to live with her. Being apart was by now unthinkable for either of them but they had never spoken of it before. She needed to know more, though.
"Wait," she said again. "It sounds wonderful, and of course I want to be with you, but why down there?"
"Oh, thank God!" Martine hugged her and kissed her hard on the mouth, then drew away again.
"I'm getting to that," she said. "Grab your beer and I'll tell you a story."
They leaned back companionably, each with a beer in hand. For a moment Alex buried her face in the warm hollow between Martine's neck and shoulder and kissed her there, then settled back again contentedly.
"All right, tell."
"This is history and you're a historian, so I'm sure you'll like it. Have you ever heard of Jean Lafitte?"
As soon as Alex heard the word "history" she was intrigued. This sounded promising.
"Only a little. I know that he was an early 19th century pirate in the southern U.S.—around The Gulf of Mexico, I think. Then he mysteriously disappeared."
"Maybe not. This is what I know about him."
Jean Lafitte was born around 1780. Nobody knows exactly where. Maybe in France, maybe in what's now Haiti.
He was a pirate and a smuggler, although he called himself a privateer. He was considered a master mariner and an excellent swordsman. He was also a natural, charismatic leader who, by the time he was 30, commanded more than a thousand men in Louisiana—mostly Cajuns and Creoles—in the bayous around New Orleans. He called his base of operations his "Kingdom of Barataria".
Louisiana territory was a new American acquisition at that time, recently purchased from France. For a long time Lafitte was ignored, as was the region around New Orleans, and what kept the depressed area alive was this pirate whose trade in smuggled and pirated goods was the mainstay of the economy there.
But a new governor had it in for him. He wanted to clean up the region and harassed Lafitte continually. Finally he had American gunboats destroy Barataria from the water while troops burnt the settlements around it. Lafitte was even jailed for a time, but he was impossible to keep down and continued doing what he did best
Strangely, he didn't blame America, or Americans in general, for the destruction of his home and headquarters. He actually identified with the young nation, believing that it needed men like him. Not so surprising, then, that he offered his services in what came to be known as the Battle of New Orleans. And if he wasn't already a hero to the people before, he was after that, at least for a while.
Alex couldn't help interrupting, and sat up.
"That battle was kind of pointless," she said, frowning. "It was the last one in the War of 1812. Trouble is, a few weeks before that they'd already signed the treaty ending the war."
"I knew you'd enjoy this story," Martine said happily, putting her arm around Alex's shoulder and pulling her in close against her.
The British attacked the New Orleans area in January, 1815. They far outnumbered the Americans but General Andrew Jackson beat them anyway, with the help of Lafitte who supplied him with marksmen and guns and powder. Needless to say, they were both heroes afterwards, the general nationally and the pirate locally.
For about a year the authorities kept out of Lafitte's hair, but at last they couldn't ignore his illegal activities any longer and ran him out of New Orleans.
By now he was about 37. He sailed away with his ships and, along with many loyal followers, established a new "kingdom" called Campeche further west along the Gulf of Mexico shore, on deserted Galveston Island off Texas. The huge mansion he lived in was also a fortress, with cannons protecting the harbour and the settlement around it.
Texas at that time was a province of Mexico which was fighting for its independence from Spain. Lafitte agreed to attack as many Spanish ships as possible—keeping the booty, of course—in return for being allowed to stay on Galveston and carry out his activities without interference from Mexico. Just as he had done in New Orleans, he sold the contraband from his smuggling and pirating operations to the growing towns in the area, contributing to the economy and making himself ever richer.
And he married MadelineRegaud. She was young and lovely and adventurous; he could be a charmer when he wanted to be. She fell hard for the powerful and dashing buccaneer with eyes as blue as the sky and hair as dark as midnight.
"Eyes just like yours," Martine said softly, momentarily distracted by Alex's which were staring at her with keen intensity, so absorbed was she in the story.
"Blue eyes maybe, but not the hair. That would be you," Alex murmured, still half in the story. She blinked, forcing herself back to the present.
"Mmm," Martine brushed the sun-bleached tendrils back from Alex's brow and kissed her eyes.
"Hey! Back to the story. Please?" Alex grinned, placing a finger on Martine's lips, then removing it quickly when her lover started to draw it into her mouth.
Martine sighed. "Yes. Well…"
Madeline preferred to be called by her surname, Regaud, even after she married Lafitte. She was unusual in other ways, too. She loved the sea as much as Lafitte did. It was in her blood. She had always wanted to go to sea like her father, a retired French naval officer who had joined Lafitte's men and now commanded one of his ships. As Lafitte's wife, Regaud got her chance. Often she would dress in men's clothing and join her husband as his cabin boy on the Pride, the flagship schooner he loved almost as much as he loved her. Regaud was as wild as he was, and enjoyed going out on raids with him.
The Pride was a fast ship, and with Lafitte in command, no other ship could catch them, not even a navy ship, whether British, American, or Spanish. His sailing prowess was legendary even in his own lifetime. One story told of him being caught in a tropical storm off Galveston and riding a giant wave that surged over the island right into his own harbour.
But Lafitte's success couldn't last. The United States was becoming increasingly impatient with the lawlessness in the Gulf region, and especially with piracy and the harassment of Spanish ships which got in the way of the good relations the U.S. was trying to build with Spain.
A few weeks into the year 1821, the brig-of-war USS Enterprise, escorted by gunboats, sailed into the harbour of Campeche and ordered Lafitte to leave or be blown to bits.
He had no choice but to go, and one night his ships sailed away from Campeche. Lafitte commanded the Pride, taking with him Regaud, his most trusted men, and chests of gold and jewellery. But before they left, he and his men set fire to his fortress and the warehouses. And at the entrance to the harbour Lafitte trained the Pride's cannons on his kingdom and destroyed what was left of it.
Lafitte continued his pirating activities for a month or two. He and Regaud lived mostly on the Pride. Again she dressed in men's clothing, but no longer was she just a cabin boy. They went on stealthy, lightning-fast raids and Regaud was included. They would attack merchant ships, preferably at night by moonlight, and they were almost always gone before the other ship could properly react. Usually no-one was killed except the occasional watch. Typically, the crew would be locked in their own brig, though sometimes a few had to be thrown overboard.
Lafitte knew his days as a pirate were numbered, though, after a raid on an American merchant ship left the captain and first mate dead. Both the Americans and the Spaniards put a price on his head, so he made contingency plans with a Captain Douglas MacGregor.
Captain Mac owed Lafitte. He had been one of Lafitte's best captains. Lafitte had made him rich and had allowed him to leave to become a more or less legitimate trader. He had even staked him so that he could buy a better ship, more suited to commerce. That one ship had grown to more ships. The contacts each had in their respective activities were very useful to each other, and sometimes they provided each other with goods—no questions asked—to be sold or traded.
Lafitte trusted and respected the Captain. He was probably the best sailor he knew, after the pirate himself. He made arrangements with him that, when the time came, Captain Mac would take him and Regaud and his treasure on board and transport them to somewhere safe, where the governments of the U.S. and Spain would never find him.
It was a very good thing that he had made arrangements with the Captain, for soon after that an American naval gunboat hidden behind a point of land surprised the Pride as the schooner sailed by. After a brief, close-up skirmish, Lafitte's ship managed to sail away and outrun the other ship as usual, but not before a ball from a flintlock pistol got him in the shoulder. It seemed that the time had come to call it a day.
The next morning in a concealed cove just at first light, everybody transferred to Captain Mac's ship, the Rob Roy, an immense commercial barque. The treasure chests, too, which were hidden well and had a guard placed on them. On Lafitte's orders, the Pride was scuttled.
Lafitte and Regaud and Captain Mac and the rest stood at the railing and looked on sadly as the pirate's beloved flagship went down. When the first rays of dawn came over the horizon and moved across the water, as if reaching for the sinking ship, the pirate collapsed on the deck, unconscious.
"Oh, no!" Alex clutched Martine's upper arm, completely engrossed in the tale. "He can't die yet!"
Martine started as she was brought back to reality. She had been gazing out at the hazy outline of an island in the distance. She had put herself in the story she was telling, and was in the Captain's sailing vessel, looking out at one of the Gulf islands.
"Die? Who said anything about dying?" Somewhat dazed, she turned to Alex who was looking at her beseechingly.
"He got shot! He's out cold! If he dies, I'll never forgive you."
Martine snorted. "What happened, happened. He's a criminal, in case you've forgotten. Anyway, it's not my story, my love, it's a true story."
She looked at her lover mockingly, but with such tenderness that a sudden wave of longing coursed through Alex. She placed one hand on Martine's breast and one hand behind her head, pulling her closer. Then she kissed Martine's mouth, pushing her tongue in gently. Martine whimpered a little, the story momentarily forgotten. When they were both breathing quickly, Alex pulled away and grinned.
"I know. Go on, then," she urged.
"You are the worst tease. Just wait till tonight," Martine groaned, but couldn't help smiling. "Let's see, where was I…"
The Pride didn't take long to slip under the waves. By the time they had carried Lafitte into the Captain's cabin, the schooner was gone. Captain Mac, Regaud, and Lafitte's most loyal lieutenant, William Cochrane, crowded around the insensible pirate. They soon saw that his shoulder was swollen and badly infected, and that the pistol ball hadn't been removed. Lafitte knew better but he hadn't let anyone near him to perform the operation for he had been too busy organizing their escape.
At this point Cochrane took over as he was experienced in such matters. He cut out the bullet with a knife cleaned with rum, then poured more rum into the wound. They were all very thankful that Lafitte was unconscious throughout.
Regaud knew that she would need help tending Lafitte while he was recovering, and a protector if he didn't recover. Lafitte's men were free to go where they wished now—indeed, most would leave Captain Mac's ship—but she asked Cochrane to stay with them. Cochrane agreed without hesitation. He had already felt reluctant about leaving the man who had been his friend and mentor since they had fought together at the Battle of New Orleans. He was American, then a young officer serving under Andrew Jackson. He had been fascinated by the pirate who had helped win the battle, and one day he simply left his uniform behind and disappeared into the swamps to find Barataria and adventure.
When Captain Mac found out that Cochrane would be staying with Lafitte and Regaud, he was pleased and quickly filled the pirate's lieutenant in on the plans. He intended to take them all the way to Canada, to Québec. They would sail east out of the Gulf of Mexico, round Florida, navigate north along the east coast of America to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, then sail up the St. Lawrence River into Canada to Québec City. Nobody would ever look for Lafitte so far away, least of all in British territory.
Cochrane was thunderstruck. He could hardly imagine the distance and the bodies of water involved. He was only vaguely aware of another country north of his. He would be leaving his own forever. Not that he had a country, he reminded himself, for he had given that up when he had cast his lot in with the pirate. There was no doubt he was a wanted man, too. But what if Lafitte died, what then? Where would he and the pirate's widow go? Still, whatever happened, he had committed himself. At least they wouldn't be destitute. And there was enough treasure to take them anywhere.
Captain Mac explained further that during the passage they would simply travel as crew members of the Rob Roy. His own crew were all loyal to a man and would keep their mouths shut. In any case, they knew that if they didn't, they were as good as dead. The Captain further assured Cochrane that he had made the same journey many times, even if most commercial skippers wouldn't. He always loved the challenge of sailing the North Atlantic Ocean—the different wind and weather systems. And when they finally got to Québec, he had business contacts that would be useful.
Before they left the Gulf, the Rob Roy paid a visit to Lafitte's old stomping grounds. In New Orleans the ship was filled with rum and sugar and bales of cotton to sell up north. Captain MacGregor intended to visit a few other ports along the way, too, to sell his wares—New York, Boston—before continuing on to the final destination.
Lafitte was unaware that they had docked at New Orleans. He regained some kind of consciousness after a few days, but was still delirious for a week, and then so weak that he was barely aware of his surroundings. He seemed to recognize Regaud but no-one else. She and Cochrane took turns nursing him, all three living in the Captain's cabin while the Captain took other quarters. It was crowded and necessarily intimate. But any early awkwardness was soon dispelled in their efforts to keep Lafitte alive.
During these anxious weeks the two became close in their common purpose, and a bond was forged among the three that would never be broken. Especially on the day that Cochrane happened to glance at Regaud as she was changing her clothing. With a shock he noticed her swollen belly and realized that she was with child. At that moment he felt a great surge of protectiveness and prayed even harder for Lafitte's recovery, vowing to himself that he would stay with them as long as they needed and wanted him.
It was around the Carolinas that the pirate first ventured up on deck, supported by both Regaud and Cochrane. By now he had regained his full faculties, if not his physical strength, and he knew where they were. His face was drawn and pale, but his blue eyes blazed with his usual optimism and humour.
"When I was feverish I think I knew all along that I was on a ship, and I felt safe. I kept imagining the keel below slicing through the water, fast and silent, like a great dark fish," he said, gazing out at the lead-grey sea.
Alex had been feeling slightly agitated for some time, and now she jumped up from her seat and looked down at Martine.
"Okay, you can't possibly know all those details! You made that part up."
The sun was behind her. Martine squinted up at her, admiring the golden corona around her head formed by her hair with the light behind it.
"Yes, I can. No, I didn't." It was Martine's turn to tease. She reached out and with her hands on her lover's buttocks, pulled Alex toward her and kissed her bare belly button, licking a circle around it. Alex gasped.
"Oh god," she said faintly, "Not right now, sweetheart," and held Martine's head to keep her still.
She moved away very deliberately and sat down again, a safe distance away. "Finish the story first, and tell me how you know all that," she demanded.
"Just wait, all in good time," Martine said soothingly, pulling Alex closer.
After two months at sea without mishap, which included visits to various ports along the northeast U.S. and a formidable upriver sail on the St. Lawrence River, the Rob Roy docked at Québec City. It was early June and already warm. As the Captain had expected, they had fortunately encountered no ice in the river.
Cochrane and his two charges, as he had come to think of them, kept to themselves while the barque was being unloaded. When officials had come aboard to check Captain Mac's credentials and to give the ship a cursory once-over, the three passengers had easily mingled with the crew, dressed just like them.
During the voyage, after Lafitte had recovered sufficiently, there had been many discussions among the four friends as to what the choices would be once they arrived in Québec. Where would the three live, what would be their future? The captain had some ideas. While the ship was being unloaded, he went ashore to search out his contacts. He was gone for two days. Just as the fugitives were starting to become a little anxious, he returned with interesting news.
West of Québec City, a little more that half a day's travel by horse and carriage, was an abandoned seigneury on the north shore of the river. It was theirs for the taking—and payment of a considerable amount of gold, of course. The three understood that this was probably very good news but they looked at the Captain rather blankly. He explained.
In the 17th century in New France, huge estates along the shores of the St. Lawrence River were given by the King of France to nobles, military officers, clerics, and so on, with the understanding that parcels of the land would be rented out to tenant farmers to develop. Even after New France fell to the British in the next century (and was henceforth called Québec), the system continued with not only French but also British seigneurs.
The last lord of this particular seigneury had died recently with no heirs. The great stone manor and its outbuildings on the river shore had been standing empty for about two years. Captain MacGregor had already arranged ahead for servants and supplies to travel there by carriage and wagon in order to prepare the house for their arrival. He had only to visit his contact again with the payment. In a few days, after all of the Rob Roy's remaining cargo had been transferred to the Québec City docks, the ship would take Lafitte and Regaud and Cochrane upriver to their estate.
And that's what happened. Captain Mac anchored the Rob Roy offshore, and the crew rowed the four of them ashore in the longboat. There were many more trips between ship and shore, and shore and house as the Captain's men transported the belongings, provisions, and chests of treasure belonging to the fugitives.
The next day, Captain MacGregor said his goodbyes and cast off to sail back to the sea and down to the Gulf of Mexico. There was no time to waste if he wanted to avoid the hurricane season. Thankfully, this time the long river voyage would be shorter for he would be navigating downstream. He left four strong men behind who would be loyal to the former pirate. Next year when the captain returned, they could rejoin him if they wished.
Before the winter snows came, when the three friends had come to think of the seigneury as home, the new seigneur named it Le Repos, Rest. It would be his third and last kingdom. At this time, the couple also took a new name, "Laurent".
"After le fleuve Saint-Laurent, comprends-tu? St. Lawrence River," Martine explained.
"Yeah, I get it, honey," Alex said absently. For a moment she was stunned, then grabbed Martine's shoulders.
"My god! Laurent! Your ancestors! How do you know all this?"
Martine looked pensively out at the blue water shot with gold and pink as it reflected the evening sky. The river was even flatter now except for some lazy swells from a distant motorboat that rocked the Aurore gently from side to side.
"There were rumours about a pirate in the family but never a name, or anything else. In the seigneury graveyard are some old stones with the names Jean Laurent and Regaud Laurent, but I never knew their real names till we found a diary. It was written by Cochrane. Not really a diary, more of an account after the fact, mostly. He wrote it after they arrived in Canada. In English. He dated it and signed it. There are a few more entries later, more like journal entries.
"Of course Lafitte didn't rest. Almost right away he began to invest his great wealth in legitimate commerce—real estate and trade—taking advantage of Captain Mac's Québec City contacts. He and the Captain had already made plans to form a partnership, almost like the old days when they were pirates together."
"Hm. So ever since, you've all been living off the spoils of piracy." Alex raised her eyebrows.
Martine grimaced a little. "Well, yes, you could put it that way. Not that we knew.
"I guess Cochrane never married. There's no stone for any wife. And he didn't change his name. On his stone it says: William Cochrane, Ever Loyal and Devoted. In English again. I used to wonder sometimes who he was and who he was devoted to."
Alex's eyes teared up. "That's so beautiful, Martine. He must have really loved Lafitte. Loved both of them. Wow, so Jean Lafitte was your—how many greats—great-grandfather!"
"What about the diary? How did you find it?"
"There's a little chapel on the property that I've been restoring. It hasn't been used in many years. Some of the stones were being replaced last summer, and one of the stonemasons found it. It was in a space behind a stone cut quite thin and shoved in front of it, tight but without mortar. I guess Cochrane, or somebody, decided it was too dangerous to keep around but couldn't bear to destroy it. The manuscript was wrapped in layers of linen, but the dampness got to it, of course. It was stuck together and too fragile to open and read.
"Since it was rag paper it could be restored, so I got somebody at the university here in Kingston to work on it. A paper specialist in the Art Conservation Program. She hasn't finished with it, but she sent me a transcription. I haven't made it public yet."
Alex could feel her hair prickling. "Um, and how do you think you'll do that?" she asked, holding her breath.
Martine looked at her knowingly. "Haven't decided. Gee, I don't know…would you like to?" She grinned widely at her lover. "Maybe write a paper over the winter?"
"Oh, my god! Yes!" Alex hugged her so violently that she knocked her over and they ended up half-lying on the seat, Alex on top. She shifted so that one knee and one elbow took some of her weight. "Can we go and see the manuscript while we're here?"
Martine nuzzled Alex's neck and shoulder, still smiling at her excitement and enjoying the pressure of her body.
"I was intending to. I was going to suggest that we stay here for a week or so, on the island. There's a motorboat here and a couple of kayaks."
Alex nodded enthusiastically, or tried to, while Martine was holding her head and kissing her face.
"So that's why you want to go down there. You're a real chip off the old block, you know. Sailing the bounding main and all."
"Both blocks. Regaud loved the sea, too, remember. I'd really like to see where they lived, explore their territory—the bayous, the Gulf—and imagine them there."
Alex looked down at Martine's grey eyes looking dreamily back at her. In her mind, Martine was probably seeing a schooner in full sail. Alex knew that they could be gone a long time. Would she really be able to work on her book? Did she care? Maybe she'd write a different book instead. About a pirate. Hmm. She couldn't wait to see Repos—the house, the chapel. She hoped the gap in the wall was still there.
Alex focused on Martine's eyes again and then on her mouth. Martine's full lips were open slightly, and suddenly the desire that Alex had banked earlier flared up again. When she brushed her mouth softly over Martine's, then moved down to her throat, sucking gently on the pulse there, Martine was abruptly pulled back to the present. She moaned softly and arched her neck, then her body as Alex inserted her bare thigh between hers.
"I started something earlier that I really need to finish," Alex murmured against Martine's breast. "Do you think we could just stay on board tonight? It'll be dark soon."
Martine looked up at the sky which was now a vivid pink and orange.
"Oh yes, chérie. Red sky at night, sailor's delight," she whispered, as she surrendered willingly to her lover's attentions.
The part about Lafitte's activities up to leaving Galveston is more or less fact, not counting a few embellishments like Regaud about whom little is known except her name. After that it's total fantasy except for a few Canadian history bits. But hey, it could have happened, as apparently nothing much is definitely known about Lafitte (or "Laffite") after Galveston. A controversial manuscript which may or may not be authentic was publicized in the 1950s; it's supposedly by his hand and includes a description of his later life (uneventful and not in Canada).
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