Chapter 14 - Restitution
The branding was set to take place in five days. I was given no duties during this time, but instructed to eat and rest, and to bathe frequently in salt water and care for my body so that I would be strong and ready for the ceremony. This I did with an eagerness that surprised even me, and I looked forward to the moment when I could show the Captain how much I loved him.
I had accepted my state now. I no longer shielded by mind from uttering the phrase. I loved him. I saw it clearly now, though I could no more explain it than I could explain the sun. It was there, a simple fact. That was all that mattered.
Sometime during the second day of my healing I got to see the cabin boy. He was pitiful sight, thin and emasculated, his demeanor dull and quiet. He did not smile at me but only shrugged when I spoke to him and asked him how he fared. Only later, from a crew member, did I learn the truth. The boy had been given life, but the Captain had taken away his manhood. They had castrated him. No more would he be a threat to the Captain's pride.
At first I was angry, then saddened. Eventually I came to see the justice in the act, though it grieved me terribly. But I had begun to accept the fact I was not among civilized men. A pirate's life is not a pleasant one. It is hard, brutal work, always dangerous, always on the run. There is no safe port for a pirate vessel, save for deserted islands. Hunted by man and nature, he is friends with no one, enemies to all.
Yet there is order within pirate society, and an odd bond not found among ordinary men. Cutthroats these men are--they'd kill each other as easily and with as little conscious as they'd kill an innocent c***d--yet they are b*****rs, perfectly accepting of each others' faults and foibles. They are honest men. They do not try to hide their devious behavior behind the veneer of civilization. From what I learned of my father after his passing he was little better than these men, treating his workers cruelly and cheating the natives he traded with. His techniques were as ruthless and underhanded as those of the pirates, but while the pirates worked openly in the face of God and man, my father did his evil in secret, and lived with the admiration and respect of his fellow human beings.
When the time came for my test I was ready. My skin had almost completely healed, though it was still soft and very tender. I felt strong, however, and ready to face whatever the Captain had in store for me. Though I was nervous I felt elated at being given a chance to regain the Captain's favor.
The morning of the ordeal the ship was anchored in the cove of a small island. It was a peaceful place, full of wildlife and greenery, and undiscovered by most men. It was said the Captain had buried treasure there, though no one knew where.
All of the sailors gathered around on the main deck and a brazier was brought forth along with a stout branding iron. In spite of my resolve I shivered as I saw the hot coals begin to heat the iron.
"No restraints," the Captain ordered. "She does this willingly."
I shuddered. How could I possibly not resist this pain? Surely I should jerk or my body react on its own. It is not natural for a person to accept great pain without protest or resistance. But this, I was told by the Captain, was what separated Man from the b**sts.
"Man can accept any amount of suffering if he wills it," he told me. "He is rational and understands the nature of the sacrifice he makes. The b**st, on the other hand, knows nothing of the future and suffers blindly, for no purpose, and will not choose suffering without pressure."
Here the Captain paused and I saw him lift the iron which was hot and steaming. "Lady Sarah," he cried out boldly. "Will you accept my mark?"
I bowed low. I was kneeling across a small wooden bench and I closed my eyes as the Captain approached. "Yes, my Lord," I said firmly, glancing up at him.
He brought the iron near my left side and I could feel its heat singing my flesh. Already my body cringed and threatened to pull away. I resisted. Someone thrust a piece of leather between my teeth and I bit onto it gratefully, tears already blurring my vision.
Then it touched me. It was like the heavens themselves had opened. My mind whirled and the sky became filled with bizarre images. I heard a distant screaming that was so utterly forlorn it filled me with despair. "Why is she so sad?" I thought to myself. "This should be a happy occasion."
Then I realized it was I who was screaming, and I saw the Captain was standing before me with the brand in his hand. The stench of burnt flesh filled the air. It terrified me. I could feel very little as the side of my left buttock was numb.
"Please, my Lord," I whispered, pushing the leather bit to one side of my mouth. "The other one."
"In time," he said with a smile, and I saw love in his eyes. He was pleased with me!
The brand was put back into the fire and time passed slowly. I was aware of very little, my mind overwhelmed by my experience. When the brand was hot the Captain came to my right side. This time I feared it even more than before, yet I was calm.
"Do you accept my mark?" asked the Red Devil, his voice thick with emotion, reminding me of the stakes we were dealing with.
"Unequivocally!" I shouted. The brand pressed against me, the sizzling hiss chilling my soul. I roared in agony and I felt the leather in my mouth split as I bit it into pieces. I spat them out in a fury as I sobbed and trembled. Shudders went through my body but somehow I remained still for the eternity it took for the brand to sear into place.
The side of my right buttock burned as the brand was removed, the sudden rush of cold air numbing my cheek instantly. My body jerked with a spasm. It was out of control. I felt like vomiting and urinating at the same time, and then I became confused as to which was which. My stomach churned and flipped.
Inexplicably, only my mind remained calm. I stood with tears rushing down my face and turned to the Red Devil. I bowed low, as gracefully as I could manage, and said, "I love you, Master."
The Red Devil smiled at me, and it was the smile of a friend. Tears glistened in his eyes. "You are mine," he whispered hoarsely, scarcely able to speak he was so overcome. "You are all mine.
Today I live on the island. The Captain visits regularly, and sometimes he even stays for a few weeks while the pirates go off on their own under the command of the first mate. It is a strange arrangement. Even the Captain thinks so. None of his men had ever heard of a pirate taking a wife.
I rarely travel with the ship any more. I have three c***dren and soon shall have a fourth. I am very happy. Robb, the cabin boy, stays on the island and assists me. The Captain has no worries about the loyalty of either of us. He has forgiven us both and the boy has forgiven me, and I him, though I cannot say what there was that I forgive him, but he insisted on it. He has grown into a fine man, though he is reclusive and lives by himself in a small cabin he built on the opposite side of the island. He does not talk much any more, though he seems content. I can no longer worry myself about him. What happened was done and is in the past. We must move on.
My relationship with the pirate known as the Red Devil is still something of a mystery to me. He himself cannot explain it. "Opposites attract," he says and shrugs, as though that is explanation enough. I think there must be more to it than that, but I cannot fathom how he makes me feel. With him I am complete, satisfied, whole. When he punishes me it is with love and I feel released and am able to be true to my soul, passionate and open, hiding nothing.
He has conquered me utterly. I cannot imagine how I could have withstood my dull life in London's upper circles, smiling at people I hated and putting on airs as though I was better than anyone else.
Here I run naked on the beach and swim with my c***dren. I teach them to handle swords and pistols, to hunt the tasty wild boar so plentiful on this island, to grow delicious vegetables and exotic legumes. We eat better than most kings, and though we must work hard to survive and earn our food, we enjoy the rewards of our labors far more than I ever enjoyed any meal prepared by servants and placed before me when I was a spoiled c***d.
And at night, among the quiet lull of the waves on the beach and the gentle sounds of the night a****ls, my husband and I make passionate love. It is nothing like civilized love I am proud to say. It is wild and uncontrolled, unplanned, unrehearsed, untamed. There is nothing delicate about it. We tear up the beach with our insane lust, groping and fondling and roaring like a****ls. It is often painful, always pleasurable, and indescribably intense. Hours pass like minutes and we return to consciousness surprised at where we are and astonished at our scratched and bruised bodies.
There is nothing like it on earth, and I count the minutes when the Captain is away. He spends more and more time here on the island, and I suspect he will soon retire. Though his fellow pirates scoff and jeer at him "becoming soft" they dare not do it in his presence--and I know that his pride grows less and less important to him every day, and it is his c***dren that he values most highly, and his beloved wife.