Molly quickly fell into a routine on board the ship. She soon adjusted to the swaying motions and the clammy air, and spent her mornings and afternoons visiting the different areas of the vessel and helping out whenever she could. She hadn't yet been to the kitchens to help Cups, but it was on her list.
After dinner she held some reading and writing classes for the ship’s younger crew members. This usually numbered between three and seven students, the most eager of which was a doe-eyed little girl called Clarissa. At just six years old, Clarissa was the only female on board younger than Molly, and she also had the sharpest tongue of any of the crew members.
On the fourth day, a burly sailor named Hark was putting on a sort of knife-usage workshop for the boys, and little Clarissa was banned from going. She showed up to her English lesson in such a downtrodden mood that Molly decided to take her sole student for the day on a walk instead.
The warm, steamy air simmered across the decks as a fiery hue broke across the sky. Molly and Clarissa wandered right up to the railings to overlook the sprawling cityscape that lay beneath a light sheet of silver fog.
“Pretty,” Molly murmured in awe, leaning into the railing and smiling to herself.
“Not really. I’ve seen nicer.” Clarissa clambered up the railings and peered into the sky with minimum interest, scratching her head. “But I’ve been a pirate a long time, and you haven’t.”
Molly smiled sideways at her. “Tell me more about the pirates,” she said happily, partly to encourage the little girl to make conversation with her, and partly out of genuine interest.
“I will, but how did you never know about pirates before? Pirates are the most brilliant heroes of all history. Did you know Jesus Christ was a pirate?”
Biting her lip, Molly had to laugh to herself. “No, Clarissa, I didn’t know Jesus Christ was a pirate.”
“Didn’t your daddy tell you stories?”
Something seemed to become lodged in the back of Molly’s throat, as though something had become jammed in one of her gears. “My f…. My father,” she said, painfully aware that it was her first time speaking about Mr. Meriwether since his death, “used to tell me lots of stories, but never about anything such as pirates.”
“But why not?” Clarissa desperately wanted to know.
“Well, did your daddy tell you about girls with mechanical bodies?”
Clarissa hopped down from the railing, blonde pigtails splaying out behind her. “A few nights ago. He said, ‘Clarissa. This is Molly. She’s going to teach you about letters.” She looked up at Molly with sparkling eyes.
“So what stories did your daddy use to tell you?”
Thinking for a moment, Molly replied, “Have you heard the one about Siegfried the Dormouse?”
“Tell me the alphabet from A to L, and I’ll tell you all about him.”
“Okay!” Clarissa’s cheeks flushed with excitement. She hoisted back her shoulders and began to recite, almost like a robot rattling off codes; “A – B – C – D –”