Bloody Jack

Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary 'Jacky' Faber, Ship's Boy

L. A. Meyer

Harcourt, Inc.

San Diego New York London

As always, for Annetje


My name is Jacky Faber and in London I was born, but, no, I wasn't born with that name. Well, the Faber part, yes, the Jacky part, no, but they call me Jacky now and it's fine with me. They also call me Jack-o and Jock and the Jackeroe, too, and, aye, it's true I've been called Bloody Jack a few times, but that wasn't all my fault. Mostly, though, they just call me Jacky.

That wasn't my name, though, back on That Dark Day when my poor dad died of the pestilence and the men dragged him out of our rooms and down the stairs, his poor head hanging between his shoulders and his poor feet bouncin' on the stairs, and me all sobbin' and blubberin' and Mum no help, she bein' sick, too, and my little sister, as well.

Back then my name was Mary.

London, 1797

'We'll be back for the rest of the lot in a few days,' allows one of the men, and he's right 'cause me mum and me sister both goes off the next day and the men come back and takes me mum and puts her in the cart, her legs all danglin' over the side and not covered up proper, but it's Muck that comes and picks up me poor little sister and throws her all limp over his shoulder. I din't know 'im as Muck then, but I do later, and it's Muck what takes me out all bawlin' to the street and sets me on the curb.

'There, there, Missy, there, there. Old Muck'll see ye soon,' says he, leavin' me in me tears and grief as he puts Penny in his wheelbarrow and heads off down the street. 'Inside of a week, I suspects.'

There's the sound of sweepin' behind me and the door slams shut.

I runs and runs, just out of me head with terror, and I keeps on runnin' till I starts heavin' and gaspin' and chokin' and I can't run no more and I falls down in an alley, the cobblestones all hard against me knees and cold against me face. I crawls on me hands and knees up in a dark doorway, and I puts me thumb in me mouth and I sucks on it real hard, with me tears runnin' down me face and on me thumb and in me mouth all salty and dirty, but I don't care, I just wants to die, just die is all. I curls up huggin' me knees to me chest, hopin' I'll go real fast so's to be in Heaven with Dad and Mum and Penny, and I'm prayin' to God, like I been taught, for Jesus to come take me in his lovin' arms and say that I've been a good girl, there, there, but He don't come, no, He don't. What comes is nighttime and a gang of kids what grabs me and strips off all me clothes.

'Ain't she the fine one, then—she's got drawers, even!' says the one what pulls me dress off over me head and me underdrawers off over me feet, and who in her mercy throws her filthy old shift at me nakedness and tells me to put it on. Shakin', I does what she says cause I don't know what else to do even though it stinks and it's way too big for me and me clothes is way too small for her but she puts 'em on anyways.

'Look at me,' says the girl what stole me clothes. 'I'm ready for the bleedin' Derby, I am!'

'Let's go,' comes a voice from the end of the alley.

'Stoof it, Charlie,' says the girl what stole me clothes. 'Oi'm not yet done with me toi- let.'

The others laugh and lark about in the dark and cast wild shadows on the walls about me, and then they heads off down the alley. The girl what stole me clothes looks back at me cowerin' and weepin' in the doorway.

'Well, come on, then. And quit yer snivelin'. It'll do ye no good.'

I snuffles and gets up.


An Orphan, Cast Out in the Storm,

Body and Soul Most Lightly Connected,

Tiny Spark on the Winds of Chance Borne,

To the Fancies of Fortune Subjected.

Chapter 1

Rooster Charlie allows as how today he's goin' to see Dr. Graves himself, the bloke what sends Muck around to pick up dead orphans for the di-seck-shun and for the good of science and all, to see if Charlie his ownself can get paid for his body before he goes croakers so's he can have the pleasure of it himself, like.

Me and the others laugh and jeer and say, 'Charlie, you ain't got the bollocks. He'll prolly open you up right there, without so much as a by-your-leave.' But Charlie, he hikes up his pants and gives his vest a pat and off he goes to sell his body. The pat is for his shiv, which he keeps tucked next to his ribs.

I've been with Charlie and the gang for four, maybe five, years since That Dark Day when me world was changed forever, but I can't be sure, the seasons run into each other so—we shivers and dies of the cold in the winter and sweats and dies of the pestilence in the summer, so it's all one. It's been close a couple of times, but I ain't dead yet.

We begs mostly, please Mum please Mum please Mum, over and over and we steals a bit and we gets by, just. There's only six of us right now 'cause Emily died last winter. I woke up next to her stiff body in the morning in our kip and I took her shift, which is too big but which I wears over me other shift, that givin' me two things I own besides me immortal soul. We tried takin' poor naked dead Emily down to the river and floatin' her off with the proper words and all, but she's stiff and hard to move and Muck caught us at it and stole her away. He gives us a curse for tryin' to get her away and for takin' her shift, too, that which he could have sold to the ragman.

Charlie is the leader of our gang and is called the Rooster 'cause his last name is Brewster, and him being such a cocky little banty, it seems natural, like. He's small, but he's smart and quick. Charlie's hair is straight and red and hangs to one side like a cock's comb. He's got britches that were once white and a once-white shirt and a bright blue vest over that, and he looks right fine, he does. A flash cove is our Rooster Charlie.

Besides him there's Polly and Judy and Nancy, and Hugh the Grand, him what is big and strong like an ox but what is a bit slow in the head. Charlie is fond of pattin' him on his broad back and sayin', 'Our Hughie is our muscle and our tower of strength in this world of strife and trouble,' and every time he does it, Hughie blushes all red and rocks his head side to side and grins his big dumb grin in his gladness. Charlie takes care of us, and with his cheek

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