Miss Fanny Breakwind stared out of the rain-lashed windows wondering if Captain Adams was thinking of her, or if, indeed, he would ever return to her at all. It had been several weeks since his last letter and Fanny was beginning to wonder what had become of him. Would he ever return from France to marry her and release her from the confines of her mother’s house?
Mary was labouring through something dreary on the pianoforte, Lydia was polishing fork handles and suddenly Fanny found she simply couldn’t bear it. She had been trapped inside for three days by this dreadful weather with these ghastly people and all the while knowing nothing of her love’s fate. It would not do!
She stood and calmly walked out into the hall, whereupon she threw herself into a frenzy of activity. Running in her sprigged muslin to the kitchens she found the cook’s boy and slipped a shilling into his hand and a whisper into his ear. He nodded once and darted to the stables.
Fanny ran to her room and began dragging the ringlets from her hair. A tap at the door! It was cook’s boy with a damp bundle. He flashed a gap-toothed smile and scurried below stairs.
Inside the package were some trousers, a cap and a ragged shirt and jacket. Fanny threw the sprigged muslin to the ground and donned her the threadbare garments. She twisted her hair up into the cap and stared at herself in the glass. She barely recognised her reflection. Splendid. Then, without giving herself time to think, she ran out into the pouring rain, liberated from the trappings of her dress and filled with heady exhilaration.
She’d go to Captain McGrew. He’d find her passage to France as a ship’s boy. She ran all the way to the dockyard, stepping fearlessly over broken chains, coils of rope and mysterious puddles of matter. The air smelled thick and briney and gulls swooped overhead.
At Captain Dick McGrew’s office Fanny rapped sharply on the door. She heard movement inside and waited.
“Uh, just a minute” called Captain McGrew, but Fanny couldn’t wait. She turned the handle and stepped inside:
“Sir, I’m just a ‘umble lad looking for some ‘onest work and a bit o’ travel…”
Fanny trailed off. There, in nothing but their shirt tails, stood Dick McGrew and none other than her own dear Captain Adams engaged in some very unsavoury activity. She gaped, open-mouthed.
“Fanny, is that you?” shouted Adams fastening his britches. “By God you look marvellous in that outfit - much better than that sprigged muslin.”
Fanny blushed and smiled, despite her shock.
“Fact is Fanny I decided to abandon the ship and make a go of it with old Dick here, but now that you’re here looking so devilishly handsome I’ve half a mind to bring you with us. What do you say Dick?”
He didn’t wait for Dick to answer, who was too busy wrestling with his own britches, but stared appealingly at Fanny. Remembering the dull tedium of her mother’s living room she agreed in an instant and the three of them set sail for India the very next day...