The cool sea showered the crew with falling mist and strong spring winds that caused the men to clench and shiver. As the music ballads observed the rising of dusk, the twilight set upon the Anglo-Indian empire in the year of our lord 1907. Captain Colin Limmerick sprawled by the bow watching the crew celebrate yet another long night on the Celtic waters. He sat up, trying to focus, counting several empty bottles of ale rolling about his feet as he mesmerized himself with a hefty bottle of whiskey. He hoisted himself up and staggered toward the crew, leaning by the stairs that led to the galley. Eddy, the first mate and oldest crewmember, stood beside the towering six-foot-four captain.
The Atlantic Mermaid held her own with her sturdy body, two protruding steam pipes, and one mast sail. She cut through the blue-grey waters, too small to be a mechanized steamer, yet too oversized to be a deep-sea trawler
Eddy sighed with exhaustion. "Lad, Iím gettiní too old to keep up with yar strength ín mischief."
The captain chuckled. "Ye take a rest. Iíll haul in the catch."
"Ah, yar a one-man crew. Just look at the size of ya, Captain."
"I do what I can." The captain laughed while flexing his great biceps.
Young Timmy steered the ship to the Dublin Quays while Eddy trailed behind the nine-man crew into the galley. They sat wherever there was an empty stool, placing warm ale upon the wooden table. Colin remained standing, drinking his ale while he gazed at his crew.
Eddy looked at him. "Canít ya find a place to sit, Captain?"
"Standiní I donít mind doiní, thanks."
"Despite ya beiní the captain ín owner of this ship, yar still like a son to me. I can tell somethinís eatiní ya. Is it quid?"
"Quid? Itís not."
"Good to hear, Captain," Eddy responded.
"Our Mermaid, she brings us much good feastiní she does." Colin tried to smile. He finished his last drop of whiskey while noticing the crew comfortably seated around him. "Men, Iíve got some news for yez." He watched as a few drops of whiskey ran down the side of his empty bottle.
"Tyiní the knot are ya? I bet our Captain is." Eddy tried to guess. "Strange, a man of yar good looks canít find a wife." The crew cackled and drank up.
"Married, ye say? I havenít the luck with wenches, ye know it."
"Come out with it then -- what is it?" Eddy asked. The room grew quiet.
"Men, Iím thirty-nine years old. Ye know as a man ages he starts to ask himself if heís happy?" Colin tried to focus on the crew, who appeared concerned. He brushed his fingers along the sides of his empty whiskey bottle and placed the last drop of spirit upon his tongue. "I donít know how to say this." Colin tied back his brassy-crimson hair, which hung to the middle of his back. "Ye know Iíve lived in two worlds for the past seven years, tryiní to obtain me university degreesín run this vesselín such."
The crew nodded. "We know our captainís a scholar!" Eddy blurted as they all opened another ale. "Yaz the smartest man Iíve ever known."
"Yer too kind. I just received me acceptance into London Universityís doctorate course in the Department of Natural History. Sure, you know how much Iím goiní after beiní a naturalist?"
The men broke into hysterics mauling Colin with rugged hugs. "We know yaz could do it, Captain!"
"Iíll be meetiní up with me academic advisor next week in London town. I was teamed with íim ícause heís the only professor in the department who specialises in the evolutionary process. Ye fellows know me already, ye know how Iím interested in that kind ín such, donít you?" Colin asked, blowing the foam from his mug of ale.
"Yeah, we know youíre a big smart bastard!" Eddy shouted, then the men broke into chants of excitement.
"What ya goiní to do íbout us ín the Atlantic Mermaid?" Eddy asked.
"I thought maybe you all could carry on the legacy without me duriní the week. Iíll still be yer captain, only I wonít be on the ship as often ícause Iíd be spendiní me time at the universityín such. Iíll try ín be here three days a week to fill our largest quota I will." Colin lit a candle, reflecting the light off the freckles of his nose. The sun was starting to set as the crew intoxicated themselves without mercy.
The following week Colin planned a meeting with his advisory professor in the afternoon so he could spend the morning travelling to London. His crew dropped him off at Fishguard, where he boarded a train to London.
He finally made it to London, where he tried to make sense of his directions, that were scratched on a scrap of newspaper. Pulling off his jacket, he swung it over his shoulder. His tight-fitted undershirt exposed far too much of his brawny flesh for the buzzing Edwardian Londoners. Frayed suspenders were attached to his tattered trousers, which expelled the stench of seawater. He wore three chain necklaces around his broad neck: one gold with a hanging crucifix; a large, heavy silver chain; and a fine silver one. His ear was pierced with a gold earring. He wore heavy boots, which made a hard clinking sound when he walked in his regular, lead-footed stomp.
He scurried out of the train station onto the street level, where he was immediately faced with the thriving hustle and bustle of the crowded streets of London. He continued to walk north. Clusters of females passed by, staring with blushing giggles. Gangs of young thugs passed by him, cursing in their south London cockney slang.
He found the university and made his way up the stairs to the second floor to the Natural History Department. He clenched the newspaper with the directions in his hands, failing to notice his fingers were caked with dirt. He stopped someone in the dim hallway asking if they knew where Professor Randolph Cushingís office was. The person directed him to the north side of the building. Colin stopped in the hallway, deciding to tie his long hair back so he could look more presentable. His tweed capís visor pressed his long forelock, which hung past his eyes, against his face. He stopped to catch his reflection in a window where he tried to primp his appearance the best he knew how.
He finally found the correct office and knocked on the door. He found it ajar. "Pardon? Pardon meself?" Colin called out as he pushed his way into a dimly lit, well-organised office.
A man in his mid-sixties turned to Colin while he poured himself a cup of tea. The paunchy man had hanging jowls that swung from each side of his face. "Yes?" The man could hear the sound of Colinís jewellery clang as he walked into the middle of the room. He jolted with surprise as the towering, broad-shouldered man approached him.
"Pardon me, sar, but could ye be so kind in directiní me to a Professor Randolph Cushingís office?" Colin asked in his heavy Dublin brogue.
The manís eyes widened. "Yes, I am he. I am Dr. Cushing." The professor squinted his eyes as he tried to focus on Colin, noticing the tattoo of a mermaid and a ship burned onto his arm. "Oh, I see who you are. Yes, you see this cabinet is very large and heavy; it needs to be moved to this side of the room," Dr. Cushing said, pointing to a large metal cabinet. "Iíve been waiting for you all day. What took you so long?"
"All day, sar? I thought I informed ye that Iíd be in yer office this afternoon."
"No! No! No! Just move the cabinet!"
Colin squatted to the floor to lift the cabinet. "Ye want it on that side of the room, sar?"
"Yes, I do! Damn it!" He paused. "What are you doing?"
Colin started to lift the cabinet. "Doin,í sar? Moviní this metal cabinet as ye asked."
"Stupid foreigner, youíre supposed to take everything out before you move it!"
"Not necessary, sar." Colin moved the cabinet to the other side of the office with folders and books still in it.
"You look like you could move a house! Now, I suppose you want some kind of a tip?"
"Tip, sar? Canít say I know what yer speakiní of."
Professor Cushing pulled two pence from his wallet. "Here!"
Colin stood still, confused. "Sar, whyíd ye just give me money?"
"Look, I donít have time to chat. Iím expecting someone to arrive quite shortly."
"Aye, sar. Iíve arrived, so I have."
Professor Cushing nodded his head with disgust. "No, no, not you. Iím talking about my new doctorate student."
"Oh, ye got yerself another new doctorate student do ye?"
"No, Timothy Duncan is already in his second year of his doctorate, heís my other student. My new student is some chap named Colin Limmerick ... heís got impressive credentials," the professor muttered as he glanced at the clock on his desk. "Not that youíd be interested in that sort of thing."
Colin laughed as he extended his large hand toward Professor Cushing. "Itís me pleasure."
Professor Cushing pushed Colinís hand away from him. "Be gone! Iíve got to get prepared for my new student."
Colin placed his hands on his hips. "Sar, Iím yer man. Colin Limmerick, so I am!"
Professor Cushing was silent and still. "What?"
"Colin Limmerick, so I am. íTis grand to meet with ye, so it is," Colin said shaking his professorís hand profusely.
"But, I called the movers to move my office furniture? Arenít you them?"
"Colin Limmerick is me name. The one with the impressive references ye speak of, sar."
Professor Cushing sat down.
Colin smiled. "Sar, for some reason, ye thought I was here to move yer furniture? Sure, I am yer new doctorate student."
"It was you who sent that outstanding reference package? That was you?"
"Sure I am, sar," Colin responded in his deep, calm voice.
"You? How can this be?"
"How can what be, sar?"
"Youíre ... youíre a pirate!"
Colin laughed. "Pirate, sar? A pirate Iím not -- a fisherman so I am."
Professor Cushing remained sitting as he tried to slurp his cold tea. "It was you who wrote that lengthy monograph for your research proposal on Charles Darwinís theory of natural selection? That was you?"
"And so it was, sar."
The Professor rubbed his face. "Go, you need to go now. There is a housewarming ordeal occurring in the universityís Great Hall. Just go and mingle with the other students. Get your doctoral student package -- it will be addressed to you with my name marked down as your academic advisor. I canít believe youíre Colin Limmerick! Just go!"
"Professor Cushing, you seem a wee bit piqued, ye do."
"Just go! I have to take this in. Iím going to be working with you for the next four years. I have to come to terms with this some way, somehow."
Colin leaned over Professor Cushingís desk to shake his hand. The professor looked at Colinís sweaty, dirty hands in horror.
Colin smiled as he made his way down the marble stairs of the university searching for the Great Hall. He could see a crowd of people filtering into a middle-sized hall. By the time he got there, they had all had already taken their seats, leaving Colin standing in the aisle. An older man spoke in a loud monotone to the crowd. The students were quiet as they listened to the man welcome the new students to The University of London. Colin fumbled along the aisle. The speaker stopped and glanced at Colin, who was still trying to find a seat.
"Who is it youíre looking for?" the speaker loudly asked Colin.
"Is this the Great Hall?
"Then Iím in the correct location I am. I apologise I do." Colin bowed his head while he could hear the seated students whisper to one another.
"Come on, come on then, just find a seat anywhere and we will proceed," the speaker said, looking annoyed at Colin.
Colin spotted one seat near the back row as he fumbled through the crowd. "Pardon me, is this seat taken?" he asked one of the few females in the crowd.
The young woman smiled. "It would be yours now."
Colin seated himself and removed his tweed cap. "Hello," he said to the woman, noticing her long, golden brown hair was tied back with a blue felt ribbon.
She smiled as she tried to pay attention to the speaker but instead grew more intrigued with the stranger sitting beside her. The crowd applauded, and the speaker completed his "welcome, graduate students" speech.
"Would ye know who the speaker is?" Colin asked the young woman.
She leaned over to him and covered her mouth. "I think heís the chancellor, but Iím not too sure," she whispered.
"Rather long speech it was?" Colin commented, trying to make conversation.
"Yes, rather boring." She gestured a pretend yawn and pulled her student information out of a brown folder with her name on it.
"Whereíd ye get that?" Colin asked.
The young woman couldnít help but stare at Colinís brutally handsome smile but tried to focus on his question. "It was handed out as we entered the hall -- yours is probably still by the podium," she said.
"Fetch it I should?" Colin asked nervously.
"You would draw too much attention to yourself."
"I think ye could be right."
The welcome lecture finally concluded, Colin and the woman left the lecture along with the crowd of new graduate students. Colin held his tweed cap in his hand, "Say, would ye like to walk íround London town with me?"
"Right now?" she asked.
"Now is good." He took notice of her large, dark eyes. She appeared nervous.
"I donít know."
"Sure yeíd like to show a newcomer like me íround London town?"
"I donít know," she said, turning away from him.
"Ye from íround here?" he asked as he stepped closer to her.
"I grew up in London, but Iím no Londoner."
"Nor am I."
"Really?" she answered sarcastically.
He chuckled and stepped closer to her. "Ye seem like a very proper lady ye do. So proper ín so beautiful."
She stepped away from him. "You know, I really need to pay attention to the time."
"Ah, ye need to run do ye?"
Her eyes started to wander, for she could not stop focusing on his piercing green eyes. "Yes, I have to be somewhere."
She lowered her eyebrows. "Somewhere -- that is none of your business!"
"Would ye spare some time ín walk íround town with me -- just for a minute or two?"
"Youíre a stranger."
"That I am. Maybe not a stranger for long?"
"Youíre persistent arenít you?"
"That I am."
"What would your wife say about this?"
He chuckled. "Wife, ye say? Thereís no wife. Iím still waitiní for the right maiden to come me way." Colin grinned, exposing the dimples in his cheeks.
"All right then."
"Is that a yes?"
"Iíll stroll about with you."
Colin smiled as he clumsily gathered his notes and orientation information.
They walked to Covent Garden, where several vendors sold food and other merchandise.
"May I ask a lady her name?" Colin tipped his cap toward her, noticing how delicate she was. She was dressed in a floor-length blue dress with several ribbons that drew Colinís attraction.
"Iím Rosa. Rosa Emanuel." She extended her hand to him.
"Rosa, Rosa, like a flower ye are smelliní so sweet ín lookiní so lovely," Colin sang as he bowed and kissed her hand.
"I see youíre a poet? Not a keen one, but a poet," she commented. "And your name?"
"Colin. Colin Limmerick I am -- Captain at that. Captain Colin Limmerick so I am."
"Limmerick, Colin Limmerick...Captain? I donít think Iíve ever met anyone with a last name of a city."
"Itís common it is, very common wouldnít ye think, lass? Me Celtic ancestors mayíve had somethiní to do with it or even the Gauls perhaps -- it goes way back, ye know."
She paused. "Wait a moment ... I heard about you. Youíre the bloke with the impeccable academic references?"
"Impeccable? I never would have described me references that way as such."
"Youíre the bloke whoís supposed to be impeccably brilliant?" She pointed at him. "Youíre Professor Cushingís new PhD student? It was you who wrote that monograph for part of the university application on some prehistoric mammal?"
"Megaloceros giganteus," he said.
"Itís displayed in the showcase in the foyer of the Natural History building. Yes, meglo-whatever! Thatís you?"
"Megaloceros, the Irish elk, the same mammal with two names it is."
"Oh! Did you meet Professor Cushing yet?"
"Briefly, I did."
"Iíve heard about him. How did it go?"
Colin scratched his head. "I donít know really."
"You donít know?"
"I ... I moved his office furniture around I did."
"He had me move a grand lookiní metal cabinet to the other end of his office."
"A mover he thought I was. He didnít appear to fancy me much. Two pence he gave me."
"He gave you money? Why?"
"A tip I think it was."
"Dr. Cushing is known as a snobby elitist! Watch out for him. On the other hand, some of his students adore him."
"If heís known as an elitist maybe he wonít fancy me beiní Irish."
"By the way, Iím a Dubliner I am."
"What a surprise."
They continued to walk through the markets of Coventry Street. "Rosa, I wonder if I could ask ye somethiní if I may?" he asked.
"Iíd adore yer company, if ye could?" he said, standing very close to her in the streets of the market. Rosa looked up at him as he continued. "Would ye do me the honour of allowiní me to be yer suitor?"
She stepped back. "Are you asking me if you can court me?"
"I understand if ye already have a gentleman. Taken already, Iím sure a pretty lass like ye would have yerself a fine gent, ye would."
"Youíre asking if I have a gentleman friend?"
"Well, if by any slim chance ye donít, perhaps I could maybe be considered, if this is a wee bit possible?"
"I gave them up a while ago."
"Men, I gave them up. I donít court anyone."
Colin wasnít sure if she was making a joke. "Gave up men, yer telliní me?"
"I donít bother with them."
Colin appeared deflated with his lips parted. "I see."
"Donít look so sad -- you donít even know me. Iím sure all the ladies are constantly giving you attention."
"I wouldnít say that much, I wouldnít. Somehow, Rosa, I feel as if Iíve known ye all me life. What ye think?"
"I just met you. I think this is all a bit premature -- not to mention quite abrupt."
His body language indicated some angst as he constantly shifted his weight from one leg to another. "Ye know I pay attention to the ancient Celts I do."
"Theyís me ancestors, they is. Intuition is somethiní not to be ignored. Deep in me gut I feel ye ín me should be courtiní."
"Really, me love, from the spirits of me ancient Celtic ancestors, I need to be your suitor."
She rolled back her eyes. "Look, ignore my last comment. Where would you like to take me?" she asked feeling nervous.
"Where I live Iíd like to take ye."
Her eyes focused on the road. "Where do you live?" There was caution in her voice.
"A sea merchant I am, ín I live on me vessel, I do. Would ye like to see me ship ín meet me crew?"
"Youíre a sea merchant? That explains the Captain you put in front of your name, and I suppose it explains your clothes?"
"Me …adaigh? Somethiní wrong with me clothes?"
"Well, I guess your clothes are perfect for a sea merchant, but I hardly think theyíre too fitting for the elitist university community."
Colin glanced down at his chest while he examined what he was wearing. "Iíve always dressed this way even when I went to university in Dublin."
"That was Dublin -- this is London. Professor Cushing probably lost a beat when he saw you walk through his door. Just buy some suits, and all should be well. Oh, and scrub those fingernails," she said. "They do look dreadful."
Colin peered at his fingers. "I donít understand."
"You need to fit in -- thatís all Iím saying," she said.
Colin took her hand. "Would ye like to see where I live? This Friday evening a party will be upon me ship. Iíd like to invite ye to come as me guest I would."
"A party! Sounds like fun. How do I get to your ship?"
"Iíll pick ye up in front of the Natural History buildiní. Ye will come with me on a train to Fishguard, ín waitiní there will be me vessel already docked."
"This sounds very far and complicated."
"Itís the only way."
"I donít think this is possible. I donít even know you," she said, pulling away from him.
He placed his arms around her and brought her five-foot-five, slender frame toward him, pressing her face against his belly. "Please," he pleaded.
She squirmed in his arms. "If I come, it can only be for a short time."
"Ah, but thatís the catch, love."
Rosaís smile dissipated. "Thereís a catch?"
"Youíd have to stay in me cabin for the weekend. I reunite with me crew every Friday through Sunday for our most tryiní catch of the week. Iíd have ye back by Sunday."
Rosa stepped away from him. "Then I canít come."
"Please. I really would like ye to visit me ship I would. I want to show ye off to me crew."
"Show me off to your crew? What is this?"
"Not tryiní to offend Iím not."
Her voice lowered. "I never stayed in a manís home before."
"Please, ye must say yes, ye do."
"Crew? You want me to stay in your cabin the entire weekend with you and your crew? No, I donít think I can," she said nodding her head while pulling away from him. "Iím Catholic."
"So am I. Isnít that marvellous somethiní in common weís got."
"I hope you go to confession."
"Oh, but I do."
"Of course you do."
"An avid Catholic at that I am."
She stepped closer to him. "Look, I was never with someone like you."
"How do ye mean, Rosa -- love?"
"You have dirty fingernails. You even smell quite disgusting."
Colin hung his head down while staring at the street. "You donít fancy me much, do ye?"
"No! No, thatís not it! I really like you! You seem very nice. No, please donít misunderstand. Itís because you seem different than the blokes Iím used to attending school with."
"Rosa, I would really like to spend some time with ye. Iím invitiní ye to me ship. Think of me as the boy next door."
She laughed. "Boy next door? You?"
"Iíve been called that before I have."
"No, no, you havenít. I would never describe you as the boy next door. Maybe a rough-neck at best."
He scooped her in his arms. "Well? Are ye cominí to me boat?"
Rosa was shaken by surprise. "Put me down, you out-of-control, big lug!"
Regretfully, he placed her onto the road. "Iím hurtiní ye, am I?"
"No, no, youíre not. Colin, why canít you understand? Iíve only known you a few hours. I canít stay the weekend on your ship with you and your crew. My reputation would be crushed."
Colinís eyes saddened. "I suppose I donít really follow reputations much."
"I want ye to see the world I come from íis all."
He focused on her as he paused. "íCause I truly fancy ye, Rosa."
"You donít even know me. What if I was Jack the Ripperís sister or something awful like that?"
He stepped closer to her and ran his hand through her long, silky hair. "I donít think thatís the case, love."
"If you werenít so nice and so intriguing, I would walk from you this very minute, Colin Limmerick! But I suppose I will have to trust you on this one, God knows why."
"Is that a yes, lass?"
"Yes, yes, yes, Iíll visit your boat. But you and your crew are not allowed in the cabin where I will be spending the night."
"Me crew will be forbidden, I promise ye."
"They better be forbidden," she enforced.
Colin wrapped his arms around her. "A good-bye kiss Iíd love to give ye just now?"
"No!" she said angrily.
"A day kiss right now here on the street?"
She pulled away. "No!"
"I promise I wonít hurt ye," he said while he gingerly held and kissed her cheek.
She pushed him away. "You have to stop doing this."
"Why is that?"
"It just isnít proper. Iím a lady, and youíre a ..." Her gaze dropped to the road.
He stepped closer to her again. "And Iím a man. Aye, yer a lady, ín Iím a man -- therefore, we can get romantic with one another, eh?"
She tried desperately not to look at him. "Keep your distance!" she blurted, holding her hands out in front of her.
He stood still. "Iíd like to at least try the other cheek if I may?"
"No! You may not!"
"Ye have me word Iíd never hurt ye. Me ship is a much safer place to be than the streets of London."
"Iím making a big mistake. I donít think I can trust you."
"Ah, but ye can, lass! Please! Ye must!"
"I told you my answer already. I will not board your ship!" she said sternly as her eyes locked with his.
He smiled and remained still.
"You have these dimples in your cheeks which make you look like an honest man," she said.
"An honest man is what I am, love." He stepped closer to her.
Her hands shielded her again. "Stay back! And, donít call me love!"
He walked toward her. "I need to go now. Me crew will be waitiní at port -- I need to take the train, I do."
She started to walk backwards away from him. "You shouldnít keep your crew waiting."
"Sometimes I make íem wait, but this time I shouldnít."
"I have to go too," she said.
"What time can I pick ye up Friday?"
"Donít know!" She kept her distance.
"I have to work at sea. Iíll get clean. I promise ín pick ye up at half seven?" he continued to walk toward her.
"Half past seven is fine, I suppose," she turned her back on him and began walking north in a near trot.
He grabbed her from behind by the waist. "I have to give ye a kiss good-bye, ítil we meet again!"
She pulled away from him and ran like a bashful teenager. "Until then!" she shouted, getting away from him as fast as possible.