Chapter ONE

Maidstone School for Young Girls

England 1815

Oh, Ellie, if only you could see all of this!

The sand is so white and the water is of a blue you can't imagine, not even in your wildest dreams! And it feels so fresh on the skin – you can actually swim in this water (it's even a little lukewarm), forget about the Thames' murky depths, this is so much better!

And it's hot ALL THE TIME… It has yet to rain but I can hardly believe a sky so blue and clear can produce clouds. Charles says id does rain quite a bit from time to time and that the whole place flounders – that's why our home (and most of the settlement) is built on high ground. But to tell you the truth, I don't really believe it.

Oddly enough I do miss London's gray days, the cold and you.

Mostly You.

Anyway, Gabriel is going to be in London between the 7th and the 13th of April, if you want to answer this letter – and if it gets to you in time – you can send the answer with him, he is coming to see me right after.

I wish he could bring you, too.

Love, always, SoS

Your Bea.


Sister of my Soul.

Those words always made Ellie smile.

Quickly, she dug out some paper and began to pen an answering letter. I was exactly the 12th of April, and, if she hurried she could send the letter –along with a large box of Bea's favorite sweets and a handkerchief she had just finished embroidering – to The Warrior (which was the ship Bea's brother commanded).

"Miss Ellie," Hannah, a young maid of Maidstone's staff, knocked on the door.

"What is it Hannah?"

Hannah opened the door, "This letter just arrived for you. Special messenger and all, so I came to give it to you right away."

"Thank you, Hannah." Ellie said as she turned the letter over and over.

It was from Mr. Fairfax – a distant uncle and her guardian or, as Ellie liked to call him, the source of all her misery – and he only wrote when there were bad news to give.

Ellie's stomach dropped as she opened the letter, already dreading to read its contents.


As you have come of age, I've decided you must be married. I've selected your bridegroom and I'm giving you to my good friend Mr. Gunn.

We'll be at Maidstone to collect you tomorrow at noon, and the wedding will be performed right after.

Be ready.

Mr. Nicholas Fairfax

Of all the things Ellie could have expected this was not it. Married! And to Mr. Gunn.

Ellie remembered Mr. Gunn from the two weeks she had lived with Mr. Fairfax before he had sent her to Maidstone. Mr. Gunn was old – at least fifty – he was unkempt, had bad breath and had always reminded her of a big, fat fish. And there was the way Mr. Gunn had looked at Ellie and asked her questions he knew she couldn't answer.

Ellie would rather die before marring him.

There had to be a way out of it. There had to be. Ellie refused to believe that would be her fate.

"Think, Ellie, just think." Ellie muttered to herself as she paced over and over around her little room.

Family? She didn't have any family to speak of. Mr. Fairfax was Ellie's father's second cousin and his only remaining relative.

The only person Ellie had really considered family since her parents' death was Bea… and Bea was hundreds and hundreds of miles away; an ocean apart.

An ocean apart. Ellie thought.

That ought to be far away enough. If Ellie could manage to get to Bea, she would help her, no doubt. Bea lived in the Caribbean, and for what her letters told Ellie, there were a fair number of families there with young children whom would be interested on an English governess. It might not be ideal, but Ellie knew all there was to know about a young child's education, and with Bea's help she could probably find a job fast and never have to set foot in England again… sure she Ellie would hate to lose her parents' money to Mr. Fairfax but money came and went.

Freedom was what really was important.

The only problem was, how to get to St. Lucia's Island, where Bea lived.

It took her a moment but Ellie soon realized Bea had given her the answer to that question already. Bea's brother would be in London until the next day and then he was going to St. Lucia's Island. He could take Ellie to Bea.

The only problem with that plan was how to convince Gabriel Ravenscroft to take her all the way to St. Lucia's.

Ellie didn't have much of experience with Gabriel. Ellie remembered him from that long ago visit to Bea, and from Bea's wedding. And he had been kind in both occasions but he didn't seem the type to give into a mad scheme like the one Ellie was planning.

But, then again, there were the presents! Gabriel had to be a kind man to have sent Ellie all those presents just to make his sister happy, with any luck he would hear her out and help her, for Bea if not for anything else. Besides, Ellie had saved all her pin money for years and years, and she could pay him for the trip.


She hoped.

"Now, how do I get to The Warrior?" Ellie asked to herself, already pulling out a small canvas bag that Bea had left behind and filling it with her treasures: a miniature of her parents on their wedding day, a drawing Bea had done of the two of them that one time they had gone to Wales for a summer retreat, the silver backed hairbrush and hair pins, the music box, her shawl and the panther craving. That was easy, the rest wouldn't be.

"Miss Ellie!" Hannah's cry made Ellie drop her bag. "What are you doing?"


Ellie was so busted… and now she had to explain.

In the end, it was for the best that Hannah had found out. Apparently, Hannah had plenty of experience on sneaking out of Maidstone. And she also gave Ellie valuable pointers on how to disguise herself.

Hannah explained that the docks weren't a place for a young lady and they agreed it would be safer if Ellie disguised as a boy, and Hannah promptly found a few changes of boy's clothes and helped Ellie to bind her chest.

"Now, what are you planning to do with your hair, Miss?

"My hair?" Ellie asked, both perplexed and vaguely afraid.

"Have you ever seen a boy with tresses like yours?

"Well… no but-"

Hannah laughed and sat Ellie in front of the mirror and braided all of Ellie's fine red hair into a tight braid, then she pinned the braid very closely to Ellie's scalp and finally covered all of her hair with a black kerchief and put a hat over it to finish the cover up.

"Just don't take your hat off until you're sure you're safe." Hannah added. "Now, when you get to the docks go to the customs office, there is a list of all the ships and in which dock they are. Find the one you're looking for and go there. Don't look at anyone in the eye, and act as frugal and unassuming as possible. And don't sway your hips or they'll think you're a queer boy and well… some of the sailors just don't' care much if they have a boy or a girl."

Ellie nodded, trying to keep track. "Why are you helping me?"

"Because you're a good girl, Miss, and you have always been kind, you deserve something better than a fish-like bridegroom."

When Hannah said that, Ellie couldn't help herself and threw her arms around Hannah, hugging her in thanks and in goodbye.

"Go now, the later it gets the more dangerous the docks are. If they ask, I'll say I saw you and you were answering a letter."

"Thank you so much, Hannah."

And so, Ellie snuck out of Maidstone, where she had lived half of her life, with nothing more than a canvas bag and what amounted to about a hundred pounds.

But she had her will, and was determinate to not go back, whereas she found The Warrior or not… which, after and hour or two at the docks, seemed to be the case.