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Fragments of: Some Autobiographical Notes by a Counterfeit Governess (the Picaresque Remix)

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...mother was a prostitute. By this I do not mean that she was some common harlot, nor, Dear Reader, did she labour under the watchful eye of a brothel madam. No wealthy man kept her for a mistress…

…not, in my early childhood, know who my father was – not, I hasten to add, because she did not keep careful track of what gentlemen she deigned to grant which favours, but because she had the personal preference of never limiting herself to just one client at any one time. Therefore, it was not until my twelfth year that she – having carefully examined my physical features – determined that my natural father must assuredly have been the late Lord B. – a gentleman politician of the Whig party who unfortunately managed to squander his fortune on frivolous...

...most unfortunate set of circumstances which prompted my eldest half-brother to seek his fortune with the East-Indian Company, or so, at least, I have been given to understand, though of course I never...

...a "hetaera", as the Greeks of old would have said. Having once been gifted by one of her clientele with a Dutch book about the far-off island kingdom of Japan, she became quite enamoured by the description of the so-called "geisha" – a lady of negotiable affection with all the accomplishments of an actual lady, and she determined to make of me one such. Towards this end she hired governesses and tutors and I proved an adept student, soon being fully able to purport myself as the young lady I most certainly was not...

...unable to find a suitable tutor in the Japanese, seeing as the possibilities were limited to Dutch sailors who were only familiar with the coarsest of words and Jesuits fathers who frowned heavily upon their prospective employer. Eventually, she settled for taking comfort in the thought that it was most unlikely that I should ever have a Japanese gentleman to entertain...

...personally undertook to educate me in the finer details of her profession. At what she judged to be an appropriate age she presented me with a certain wooden object of an unquestionably phallic nature and endeavoured to demonstrate how best to...

...Dear Reader, I shall not trouble you with the details of my coming-out, except to say that it was handled as such things customarily are...

...was quite adequate, then I never truly excelled in the profession, to my mother's great disappointment...

...client, a somewhat obese gentleman with connections in thespian circles, proposed a change of career...

...the theatre we played in was barely worthy of such a lofty name, being a scene placed in a smoky tavern. Still, we made do, practicing our craft amidst the noise and brawls and growing adept at dodging thrown mugs and...

...Dear Reader, I loved it...

...among the rest of the company was such characters as the Lady S., who was said to have run away from a doting husband and infant daughter out of a love for the stage, Mr. B., who mostly played characters of a villainous disposition, and Mr. M the midget, who would spend his days complaining and dreaming of foreign parts. And then there was she...

...years my senior, but very soon she was my dearest friend. She took me under her wing, endeavouring to make an actress of me. Her own specialty was such parts as required her to put on men's clothing – she was so skilled that on one occasion the company was threatened by a scandalized official, who had been so swayed by her performance that he was convinced that she was not, in fact, a woman, but a youth. Only after having been escorted to our dressing room and allowed to spy through the keyhole did he concede...

...was she who first introduced me to the works of Sappho, a most gifted poet...

...summer the company left London to tour the countryside, playing tired old plays in tired old villages. I remember best the long summer days spent lying in the tall grass as she fed me strawberries and kisses, and it was quite impossible to tell which were sweeter...

...an adventurous soul. When first she told me her plan, Dear Reader, I was quite scandalized – of course I had heard of such things, and I could not count the number of times she had sung to me of Sweet Polly Oliver, but still, the very thought of my dear friend alone among a company of soldiers or sailors was unbearable. I offered to accompany her, but she laughed and kissed my bosom as she told me that she feared this was one part which she doubted I...

...left, I mourned her as if she was dead, convinced that I'd never lay eyes on her again...

...supported myself with acting when the playhouses were not closed for fear of the plague and by my first profession when they were...

...by my mother's acquaintance, the Marquis de C. who persuaded me to partake in his schemes...

...and so, Dear Reader, I found myself in the unenviable position of having to leave London and preferably these British isles altogether or risk making the most respectable Mr. Jack Ketch's very close acquaintance. My mother, perhaps out of guilt for the part she had played in the unfortunate affair, managed to arrange for my passage to the West-Indies...

...was something strangely familiar about the young sailor who helped me out of the contraption I later learned was commonly referred to as the bosun's chair...

...share a cabin with one Miss T., since we were both young ladies travelling without companions...

...soon felt as if I knew Miss T.'s familial situation better than my own. Apparently, the Reverend and Mrs. T. were the kindest, gentlest, good Christian folk that ever did live, and her sole regret in life was not being their daughter. Rather, the singular honour of being her father fell to the Reverend's brother – a wastrel and a libertine – the only good thing he had ever done was to actually carry the merchant's daughter he had seduced away to a church instead of just leaving her a fallen...

...married five years and with no children of their own, they happily agreed to care for their niece as if she was their own. Alas, the irony of fate had Mrs T. give birth to twin sons barely a year later, and soon three daughters followed...

...not desiring to be a burden on her relatives, she undertook to become a governess...

...excellent references, so the good Lady C. offered to pay for the voyage...

...three days out from London, having finally found my sea legs, I ventured out on deck...

...noticed the young sailor staring at me and found myself staring back...

...pressed against the ropes. I was just about to call for help when strawberry sweet lips pressed against mine, and when she pulled back, licking her lips like a cat, I found myself quite at a loss for words. So I slapped her...

...found myself wishing I had a private cabin...

...weeks when the mutiny occurred, though I suppose it must have been underway for quite some time, and I, being unfamiliar with shipboard life, had simply not noticed the...

...and officers immediately put to the sword, except for the handsome third lieutenant and a couple of comely midshipmen, who they first took turns abusing in that most sinful way which I have been given to understand has ever flourished amongst sailing men. A similar fate befell poor Miss T. and the other female passengers and no doubt I would have suffered the same, if not for my love. Somehow, she had been among the leaders of the mutiny and managed to use that authority to claim me for her own...

...our goodbyes, as our sole confidant, the elderly seaman Mr. C. guarded the door to the cabin. Afterwards, I helped her resume her disguise, binding her breasts tightly and carefully adjusting the rolled-up socks...

...saw my love and her fellow mutineers sail away in the boat as the navy ship drew nearer...

...Captain N. was most appalled by the horrible ordeal that I – the only being aboard (apart from a ship's cat) left alive after the mutiny – had been through...

...decided to make use of a golden opportunity, be the circumstances ever so distasteful to me: when they asked my name, I told them I was Miss T., a governess on her way to Jamaica, having been promised a situation in Governor S.'s household. I experienced a moment's panic when it became apparent that Captain N. was a close friend of the Governor's and found it somewhat strange that he had not known a governess was expected, but fortunately...

...first meeting with my young charge was less than fortuitous. I had not even presented myself to the Governor yet, having taken a moment beforehand to say a brief prayer, hoping that neither the Governor nor any member of his household had ever met the real Miss T., when the girl child appeared. Dear Reader, I tell you true, at first glance I thought her a mulatto or at best a quadroon, such a dark, wild thing she...

...first most resentful about my continued presence. Having been allowed to run wild, she had come to consider it her natural right, and rebelled against such things as should have been taught at a far earlier age...

...soft spot, when I, having noticed young Miss S.'s almost boyish love of adventures and all things piratical in nature, allowed her to choose from amongst the collection of novels I had found among Miss T.'s belongings...

...found myself quite exhausted from my masquerade as well as from the frequents battles of will with my charge – for I found myself unable to explain to her satisfaction the reasons for her having to behave ladylike, the arguments used by my own governesses seeming inappropriate to use in a Governor's household...

...spent my first free day in some time taking a stroll around the better parts of Port Royal. Walking along a beach, I saw a young negress in a large hat selling fish out of a small boat. As I walked past, she looked up and our eyes met...

...arranged to meet somewhere more suitable under the pretence of buying a large cowry shell from her. The shell I carried home with me and spent the evening trailing its edges in a manner most unladylike, thinking of...

...delicious...

...bearable thanks to my frequent encounters with A., as well as thanks to a slowly blossoming friendship with my young charge. Having once established a suitable method of winning her obedience and love, I made sure to always have something suitable with which to tempt her. I particularly remember one Christmas, where I presented her with what might well have been the first copy of Captain Johnson's famous work to grace the shores of Jamaica...

...made her goodbyes, confiding in me her concern that the local authorities might have been informed by their Haitian counterparts of...

...her leaving for Tortuga, life grew duller by far. Miss S. had been tamed as far as I dared hope she ever would be, and would soon be too old for a governess, counterfeit or not. Finally, I had recently received a letter from Miss T.'s cousin, expressing his intentions to journey to the West-Indies to seek his fortune. Consequently, I began to consider my possibilities...

...called down to dinner, as would sometimes happen if the number of the Governor's guests was such that they might otherwise be thirteen...

...introduced as the young Admiral P. of the Dutch navy, but unlike our last encounter I recognized her at once...

...my young charge would not stop telling me about the young Admiral's virtues. Dear Reader, I found myself sorely tempted to strangle the wench...

...took some time to arrange for us to meet at the discreet boarding house I had previously...

...renewed our very close acquaintance. Afterwards, we told each other about of adventures. I regaled her with the tale of my masquerade as well as the delightful details of my acquaintance with my sweet A. She in turn told me about how, after the mutiny, their boat had been happened upon by a band of vicious Barbary corsairs...

...true barbarians. She told me of how they had cruelly mutilated our good friend Mr. C., cutting out his tongue as punishment for singing...

...discovered the truth of her sex, they brought her to the market in...

...harem. It was quite luxurious, with slave girls and eunuchs to cater to the every whim of the odalisques and concubines, but of course she had no greater desire than to flee...

...convinced the mistress of the harem that she in no way desired to usurp her lofty position, the woman actually became quite friendly. Hearing of my love's thirst for freedom, she summoned a particular eunuch and proceed to unveil him to be most certainly not a eunuch, but a Christian sailor by the name of J.S., who she had had smuggled into the harem for the sake of her own amusement. She first endeavoured to prove her sisterly feelings towards my love by sharing her prize with her, much to his consternation. Afterwards, she confided that she had of late grown worried that the sultan might suspect her harmless game...

...made their plans...

...disguised as the men of the desert nomads, for amongst such people it is the custom for the men to keep their faces covered...

...made it to the sea, where a passing Dutch ship...

...parted ways, he promising not to reveal her secret and she in turn neglecting to mention the brand...

...in a short span of time managing to impress her superior officers...

...promised one another that we would not allow ourselves to be parted once more...

...would often make mention of the many good qualities of Admiral P., as would the Governor. Even the good Captain N. volunteered a few choice words of nautical praise. The Admiral was often invited to the Governor's house – for dinner, for tea, for the ball that young Miss S. undertook to arrange...

...realized what my young charge was about, and determined to use her scheme for our own advantage...

...heard the girlish giggling behind the rosebush, as the Admiral kneeled before me...

...a gorgeous sight in "his" fine uniform...

...'twas all I could do to stop myself from giggling, as the priest performed the ceremony, at the thought of what he and my young bridesmaid and all the most respectable guests at our wedding would say, if only they knew...

...waving as my husband and I sailed off for our honeymoon...

...commandeered a small ship and set sail for...

...India. At a market I came upon a lavishly illustrated book of a most instructional nature...

...Japan, sneaking ashore under the cover of darkness...

...Singapore...

...the island of Queenah-Kootah...

...being delighted with his own cleverness in discovering our secret, the young sultan made us an offer. We would be most welcome to stay on the island and to enjoy all the luxuries that it had to offer, if we would but agree to marry him and provide him with an heir. He spoke eloquently of his need to secure the kingdom his late father had founded, and furthermore assured us that my love's masquerade would not have to be unveiled, seeing as his subjects were mostly of a savage race and had themselves been known to practice similar...

...my precious daughter was born and named...

...both of us publicly mourned our husband's too-early passing, but also assured our people that Queenah-Kootah had a fine young sultana...

...determined to have her way, and her way was the handsome young Mr. T, never mind the fact that a youth who had himself admitted to being the son of a common blacksmith was hardly a suitable choice. It amazed me that she would prefer him to the exclusion of all the pretty girls and boys in her harem...

...could have knocked me down with a feather when the groom's parents arrived...

...and so we all found ourselves sitting in the shadow of Eliza Peak as the setting sun turned sea and sky as red as blood, speaking of life, of wilful children and of the strange twists and turns of fate...

...Dowager Queen of Queenah-Kootah, 17-...

 

When the only known copy of the work known as Some Autobiographical Notes by a Counterfeit Governess came to light towards the end of the 20th century, it was the cause of many discussions amongst both students of nautical and literary history, as the authenticity of this poorly preserved and frankly provocative document was called into question time and time again. While it has now been satisfactorily proven that the Notes were indeed written in the 18th century, it is still a matter of some debate whether they are to be considered an actual historical document or an attempt at a picaresque novel in the manner of Defoe's Moll Flanders. Nevertheless, the editors have decided to include this unusual work in the anthology, since it offers an unusual glimpse of the Pirate King Elizabeth Swann as she was seen through the eyes of her contemporaries.