|"Miranda," by John William Waterhouse, artmagick.com|
Editor's note: I never thought I'd be publishing a pirate story here on EC, but Shepard Allen's intriguing retelling of The Robber Bridegroom, by the Brothers Grimm is truly offbeat--in the good way.
Avast, me harties, an’ listen close t’ me story of a rich taverner who served grog in a port town that be friendly t’ pirates, scalawags, an’ ruthless buccaneers, such as yerselves. A beautiful girly offsprin’ this taverner had, but, sadly, no wife had he, for the lass’ mother went t' Fiddlers Green clean after givin’ birth t’ her. Now, the taverner be a miserly ol’ sea-dog, an’ he wouldn’t dare miss the chance t’ sell spiced rum t’ the sailors who frequented his inn. So, an ol’ beauty married he t’ help him rear the lass. But this second wife t’ the ol’ taverner be extra vain an’, ‘stead of tendin’ t’ the lass as she should’ve been, spent her time primpin’ afore a large mirror, or flirtin’ with the randy landlubbers who passed on the street below the window t’ her boudoir.
As her father be always workin’, an’ her wench of a stepmother be always primpin’, the lass grew up resentin’ both scurvy dogs. By the time she growed t’ a comely lass, the taverner’s daughter be extra familiar t’ the ways of pirates an’ sneak thieves, an’, though she be pleasin’ t’ behold, she be involved in activities her father an’ stepmother knew not of. Of these nefarious activities, one involved meetin’ a han’some first mate from a pirate ship that be cap’ned by a horrid drunkard; the couple’s trystin’ place bein’ an ol’ abandoned well that be hidden ’neath a grove of trees in a forest nearby.
When the lass be of a proper age t’ marry, the taverner told her she be promised t’ a cap’n that frequented his pub. The lass, who be extra surprised t’ learn that her betrothed was non other than the horrid drunkard who cap’ned her pirate lover’s ship, confessed t’ her father her love t’ the jim lad who intended t’ make her an honest woman. Her father be furious with the girly, an’ he bellowed loud ‘nough t’ shake the timbers t’ the house. He told the lass that she be marryin’ the cap’n ’stead of her lover. T’ boot, the ol’ bilge rat forbade the lass t’ ever be layin’ eyes on the young man again.
That night, t’ the well the taverner’s daughter went t’ meet her lover in secrecy. Though their past meetin’s be blissful, this meetin’ be filled with dread, for the lass told the first mate she be forbid by her father t’ ever lay an eye ‘pon him again, an’, ’stead of marryin’ him as she wished, she be betrothed t’ the drunkard cap’n.
“A terrible dream I be havin’ last night!” The lass said t’ her lover. “A dream by which ye took t’ murderin’ me father so we be free at last t’ marry. Me darlin’, t’was only a dream.”
After explanin’ t’ his love that his ship be leavin’ in the morn, the pirate lover promised the lass that he be thinkin’ of a way for the two t’ be together. ‘Pon arrivin’ back t’ the ship, the jim lad told his two buckos, the ship’s second mate an’ third mate, of his dilemma. The second mate, who be a little older than the young man, told his friend he would be aidin’ him, an’, while the ship be asea, the second mate thought best of how t’ do away with the lass’ father.
‘Pon returnin’ t’ the port town, the second mate went t’ the inn of the rich, ol’ sea-dog, an’ he told a servin’ wench that he wished t’ be speakin’ t’ the owner. After exchangin’ pleasantries, the second mate told the older man that, while asea, he heared of a rumor ’bout a pirate from years passed who be known for hidin’ his treasure in an ol’ abandoned well in the forest nearby.
“Harrr!” The taverner bellowed with delight. “There be an abandoned well in a forest by me own house!” An’ with that, the two men left the tavern an’ went t’ the well t’ find the treasure. Once there, the grog blossomed sea-dog asked the second mate where the booty be hidden.
“Just inside the well, m’lord.” The second mate said. “Lean ye into the depths as far as ye can go, an’ ye’ll be seein’ the gold a glitterin’ below!”
The taverner did as instructed, an’ the second mate took the opportunity t’ push the ol’ man into the dark depths. The taverner fell he forward an’ broken his neck ‘pon landin’ at the bottom of the well. ‘Pon returnin’ t’ the pirate ship, the second mate told the jim lad what he’d done, an’, later that night at the secret trystin’ place, the first mate told his lover of her father’s fate.
“That be all well an’ good!” The lass said . “But me stepmother will insist I follow me father’s wishes an’ be marryin’ your drunken cap’n. A terrible dream I be havin’ last night where ye took t’ murderin’ me stepmother so we be free t’ marry. Me darlin’, t’was only a dream.”
The first mate told the lass that, once again, his ship be sailin’ out the next morn, an’ he promised that he be thinkin’ of a way for the two t’ be together. ‘Pon arrivin’ t’ the ship later that night, the first mate told his buckos of his dilemma. The third mate, who be a little younger than the first mate, promised t’ be aidin’ his friend, an’, while the ship was asea for many months, thought best of how t’ do away with the lass’ stepmother.
‘Pon returnin’ t’ the port town, the third mate went he t’ the home of the taverner’s second wife an’ told her that, while asea, he heared a rumor that another pirate had fallen desperately in love with her beauty. He also told the wench that since her husband be missin’ for several months, the love-struck pirate be wantin’, more than anythin’, t’ meet with her by an abandoned well in the forest nearby.
“Harrr!” The woman squealed with delight. “There be an abandoned well in the forest by me own house!” An’ with that, the two left the house an’ went t’ the trystin’ place. Once there, the proud wench asked her companion where the smitten pirate be hidin’.
“Just inside the well, m’lady.” The third mate said. “Lean ye into the depths as far as ye can go, an’ ye’ll be seein’ your admirer a smilin’ up from below!”
The ol’ beauty did as instructed, an’ the third mate pushed the ol’ woman into the deep depths. The stepmother fell forward an’ broken her neck ’pon landin’ at the same place where be her husband. ‘Pon returnin’ t’ the ship, the third mate told the jim lad what he’d done, an’, later that night while at the hidden trystin’ place, the first mate told his love of her stepmother’s fate.
“That be all well an’ good!” The lass said. “But your horrid drunkard cap’n will surely be callin’ when he hears that both me guardians be missin’. A terrible dream I be havin’ last night where ye took t’ killin’ the cap’n so we be free t’ marry. Me darlin’, t’was only a dream.”
The first mate told the young lass that, again, his ship be sailin’ out the next morn, an’ he promised her he be thinkin’ of a way for the two t’ be together. Once arrivin’ back t’ the ship, the first mate told his two buckos of his dilemma. This time, though, the first mate decided it must be he who be murderin’ the pirate cap’n.
‘Pon returnin’ t’ the port town, the first mate told his cap’n that the guardians of his betrothed be disappeared, an’ the innkeeper’s girly be intendin’ t’ follow through with the wishes of her father. He said the lass wished t’ meet the cap’n at an ol’ well in the forest nearby. The cap’n be extra thrilled when he heared the news an’ insisted the first mate lead him t’ the site where he be meetin’ his new bride. Once at the trystin’ place, the cap’n asked the first mate where the young lass be hidin’.
“Just inside the well, me Cap’n.” The first mate said. “Lean ye into the depths as far as ye can go, an’ ye’ll be seein’ the girly a waitin’ for ye below.”
The cap’n did as instructed, an’ the first mate pushed the ol’ scourge into the dark depths. The cap’n be quicker than the first mate expected, though, an’ the ol’ man took hold of the jim lad’s shirt an’ pulled him into the well. Both men fell forward an’ broken their necks ‘pon landin’ at the very place where the father an’ stepmother lay decayin’.
That night, the lass went t’ the abandoned well t’ meet with her pirate lover. As his dead body be layin’ at the bottom of the very place she be a waitin’, no appearance made he. Not knowin’ her pirate lover was dead, an’ thinkin’ he might return t’ her some day, the young lass ne’er married an’, due t’ her own greed, died she a sad an’ lonely ol’ woman.
Shepard Allen lives near Houston, Texas and has written several short stories and plays for Dead Head Grin Magazine, Black Petals Magazine, and The Blinn Times. He teaches theatre and speech at a community college near his home.