Grace A. Johnson
Interview with Rina (Part One)
FINALLY! My interview (or, well, the first half of it) with the irritating - er, lovely Captain Rina Bennet is LIVE! Much thanks to Sophia, who supplied all the questions in today's interview, and to Abby, Issabelle, and Katherine, whose questions will be featured in another interview next month!
Rina and I, well, we're not as compatible as one would expect. So this interview ended up being a lot longer and more strenuous for me than I'd anticipated. Rina is, uh, not very cooperative, believe it or not. Anyway, I hope y'all enjoy getting to know her a little bit better! She's a hoot, that woman is.
GJ: You can sit down, you know.
RB: *eyes chair warily* Really? That spindly thing would likely crumble underneath my weight.
GJ: *rolls her eyes* You weigh one-hundred and eighty pounds, Rina. Not to mention you towering over me is intimidating.
RB: *grins* That would be the point, luv. Wait. How do you know my weight? *folds hands over her swelling stomach*
GJ: I made you. I know you.
RB: *slowly lowers into chair* *crosses legs* *squirms uncomfortably* Enough bilge, Grace. Let’s get down to business—why am I here?
GJ: Why else, Ree? You’re here for an interview.
RB: Ree? Where’d that come from?
GJ: So I gave your nickname a nickname. Get over it.
RB: *frowns* You’re much more disrespectful than I’d imagined. Did you mother raise you to speak to your elders in such a manner?
GJ: *quirks a brow* You’re stalling.
RB: Of course I’m stalling, luv. I’m scared right out o’ me wits, what with all these nosy questions and poking about in me personal life and all. You’d stall too if it were you.
GJ: Calm down, Ree. *reaches over and pats her hand* My friends are all kind, caring people who aren’t the least bit nosy at all. They genuinely want to get to know you.
RB: Which is equal to being nosy, aye?
GJ: *scoffs* *straightens glasses* *shuffles papers* Our first questions are from Sophia. She asks: Do you think you’d ever give up piracy? If so, why and what for?
RB: *mutters* Sounds rather nosy to me. *clears throat* I may as well answer the question, aye? Let’s see. What was it again?
RB: Ah, yes. I remember now! Would I ever give up piracy? *sobers* *leans forward* Should I mention that I already have, in a roundabout way? Or is that a secret?
GJ: *continues glaring* Not anymore, it’s not.
RB: Oh, well then. Sophia dear, I would give up piracy, aye, but could I give up my life on the sea is the question. I’m blessed to be able to privateer and practically still pirate as if nothing had ever changed—only with the sanction of the government, of course. Although, come to think of it, that still constitutes as stealing, which begs the question: am I really doing the right thing? Spain considers me a pirate, after all, so I may as well still be one.
You know, I don’t rightly believe I’ve ever thought of it that way…
Anyway, my point is that I wouldn’t want to. I certainly don’t think anyone could ever force me to. But I know that as I age, or even just with raising the twins and this new wee one, I will need to settle down eventually. However, as I’m returning to my ship with the twins, I see not why I should be forced to retire to raise them on land—providing all goes well on this voyage, that is. Should it not…ach, what am I saying? Of course it will, and my children will have a good upbringing aboard my ship. Why, I was raised aboard a pirate ship and look at me! I turned out—
GJ: A bloodthirsty, villainous pirate.
RB: A pirate, exactly. A fine specimen of person. I— *frowns* You were being sarcastic, weren’t you?
GJ: Of course. Now, on to our next question. (Please keep in mind, Rina, that we don’t have all day. You can’t spend thirty minutes on each question, you know.)
RB: I know that quite well, thank you very much. I don’t even want to be here, you know.
GJ: Yeah, I know. Next question: What is your favorite thing about being a pirate? And your least favorite thing as well?
RB: *sucks in a breath* Deuces, that’s a hard one. My favorite thing? Oy, there are so many—the freedom, the wind rustling my sails, the salt-tinged air. The crash of the waves. The rush of exhilaration when a prize sails into view. Just…being, you know? Enjoying life itself. You’ve never really lived until you’ve experienced the sea, felt the breeze, breathed in the salty brine.
But my least favorite? *chuckles* Probably the piracy itself. The risk, really. Even as a privateer, there’s a risk. Of dying at any given moment. But then…that’s what makes it all worth it, you know? What puts life into perspective, knowing it could end at any given moment.
So really, I think my least favorite thing isn’t necessarily being at death’s front door everyday. More so, it’s going out the wrong way, you know? The diseases, the mutinies, the card games gone awry. Not to mention the lack of good food and water. The stench. *shudders*
GJ: *sniffs* Speaking of stench…Rina, when was the last time you bathed?
RB: That’s not one of the questions, is it? Aye, it’s been a few days. Don’t suppose I’ve washed my hair in a good week or two. But I cleaned up a couple days ago, you know. Washed my face and arms.
GJ: *mutters to herself* 17th century bathing habits. Ick. I knew I should’ve set my books in the era of modern showering. Gee, even the late 1800s would be better than this.
But on to the next question: What do you think your life would be like if you hadn’t become a pirate?
RB: You know, I actually asked myself that once. I…back in ‘83, when I was in London with Father, I had absolutely no idea what was I going to do with my life now that everything had changed so drastically and…I’m not sure. I suppose I just started thinking back to what I could’ve done after my uncle Maverick died to prevent me from becoming a pirate. I don’t think I’d known about the pardon yet, actually. Oh, I don’t know—so much was happening all at once. I was meeting my parents for the first time since I was a babe; I was feeling guilty about the life I’d led; Xavier was declaring his love for me.
Come to think of it, he really chose the worst possible time to do that. I don’t suppose I’ve ever thought of him as impatient—he’s most assuredly nothing as bad as Elliot—but he couldn’t seem to wait to let that particular cat out of the bag, if you know what I mean.
GJ: I do. And I also know that you still, five minutes later, have not answered the question.
RB: Oh. Yes. You’re right. Thank you, luv. Let’s see…if I hadn’t become a pirate…well, I guess that all depends upon whether or not Uncle Maverick ever abducted me. See, had he not, I would’ve lived with my parents, been raised a noblewoman, and likely would have wed fifteen years ago. Possibly even to Xavier.
But he did, so had I not taken over as captain of the Rina after he died, I suppose I…I mean, I could’ve been a barmaid. I couldn’t really see myself serving drinks to sailors, though. Maybe…maybe some sort of homeless vagrant. I don’t really have a coveted skill set that would’ve gotten me a position as anything other than a hired mercenary. Perhaps I would have wed…nay. No, I think had I not remained a pirate, I would have just wasted away. Drank myself to death or something. Piracy, as criminal as it is, gave me purpose. It gave me something to do, something to strive after.
‘Tis odd how greed can give you life and take it away all at the same time.
GJ: That’s actually pretty profound, Ree. Now this next question from Sophia shouldn’t take you so long to answer. How much rum do you consume in one day?
RB: *bursts into laughter* How much rum? *doubles over* *howls* Ooh, ooh. Ah. I apologize, but I, oh, I…that just… *clears throat* Back to the question, aye? I, uh, I don’t drink anymore—can’t because of the wee one, see? Not to mention, you know, abstinence and all. I’ve had an occasional glass of wine since I quit drinking, but not enough to get tipsy on, mind you. I do tend to get drunk pretty quickly, though.
As I was saying, back when I used to drink, the quantity average differed between my moods. When I was in one of my dark moods—which had been growing rarer and rarer until Elliot got married and she died and all—it was something close to maybe ten bottles? Oh, how do you measure liquids these days?
GJ: Ounces. *holds up a random glass Coke bottle that appeared out of nowhere* Is this about the right size, you reckon?
RB: Ah, yes. Something like that. About ten of those on bad days. Twelve if I were on my menses. Come to think of it, all that alcohol was probably what made me cramp so horribly to begin with. Hmm.
Oh, but on a good day, it was closer to seven. But not watered down, you know. I didn’t drink that bilge—just straight, strong rum. Or, you know, port or Madeira, if we ever got a hold of it. Good stuff, that Madeira is. Not as good as rum, but—
GJ: All right. Enough about the alcohol.
RB: Aye, you’re one of them teetotalers, aren’t you?
GJ: Why, yes, I am, and quite proud of it, thank you.
RB: Good on you. Next question?
GJ: *glances down at her paper* *snickers* You’ll like this one. Do pirates really say "arrrgh" all the time?
RB: *shakes her head* *sighs* Arrgh. Lord help me, if I hear that word again… I’ll be honest with everyone, shall I? The exclamation arrgh wasn’t invented until after I’d been dead at least two hundred years. Don’t ask me how I know that, since I’ll be dead then, but my point remains. Arrgh is like a Shakespearean word—created for the benefit of the creator and his purposes. Created to amuse and to portray a particular aura. You know, Shakespeare invented and modified a lot of the words in the English language. A portion of what you speak in your time comes from Shakespeare’s own imagination.
As for me in mine? Nay, we don’t say arrgh. In fact, pirates don’t even have a particular dialect. A great deal of pirates hail from Bristol or Wales, so you’ll hear a lot of their dialects when it comes to English pirates, but some speak with cockney accents—like Elliot does—or a more polished accent—like I do—or with any sort of regional dialect. For example, Keaton was born and raised in Cambridgeshire, so he speaks with a SOMETHING accent, which if you were to hear it, you America English speakers would have yourself quite the laugh. It’s such a rough, country accent. A bit like the British version of your southern accent, Grace.
GJ: *lifts one eyebrow* Are you sayin’ my accent is rough? I prefer to think of my regional dialect as a cultured intonation of speech, thank you very much. The “rough” accents belong to the hillbillies, which I, a South Georgian, am not.
*purses lips* Now, where were we? Ah, yes. Sophia wants to know what is the weirdest thing you’ve encountered during your life as a pirate? She also asks if you have any funny, weird, or scary stories we don’t know about that you’d like to share?
RB: *stares incredulously at Grace* Don’t you think you, my omniscient creator, are better suited to answer that question?
GJ: You, my glorious creation, are the one who experienced these events, so surely you can recount them better…
RB: *huffs* Fine. The weirdest thing… Oy, that right there be a tough one indeed. Hmm…there are so many! And I do believe it depends on your definition of weird. There was the time a trained monkey masqueraded as the captain of the Vengeful…I think we all got a chuckle out of that one. You see, the actual captain, one Henry Atwood, was bedridden with dysentery, I believe it was, and my! was he an eccentric. His ship was a model of Noah’s Ark, full of birds and pigs and goats and a host of exotic animals. One of which was a small monkey, bedecked in a tailored vest and tricorn and whatnot. When he came out and greeted me with a handshake…egad, I still can’t keep a straight face about it to this day.
They say female captains are strange, you know.
Oh, and there was this one time when I was in India. I love India, you know. The beautiful weather and the architecture and the food and the music and the clothing and…you get my point. This was—oh, this had to be when I was ten and six, mayhap, one of my first times at port in Calicut. Uncle had friends in high places, and we had been invited to dinner at the home of this deranged old politician—someone with the East India Company or what have you—who’d been out in the sun for far too long.
Anyway, the old man was convinced that I was his Indian bride, who’d died at least twenty—probably closer to thirty—years before, come back from the dead. Uncle was half amused and half terrified out of his wits that the man was going to take me as his wife. He knew he couldn’t sway him into believing I wasn’t his wife, so he and Elliot devised this plan. Let me tell you, it was gold. And I had no clue what he was up to, so whilst we were having dinner, I was plotting ways to slit his throat before he got his grubby little paws on me…then lo and behold, this ghostly high-pitched voice began humming and this ethereal figure came floating towards us out of nowhere.
The man took one look at the ghost and knew that was really his wife’s spirit.
But it, uh, it wasn’t. Far from it. He ended up chasing after a combination of worn sheets, an old dress, and Elliot—and in the meantime, Uncle Maverick and I doubled back to the ship. When he rounded the corner, he found Elliot standing there in his drawers, a pile of tattered fabric at his feet.
Still, to this day, I have no earthly idea how Elliot managed that girly voice or how my uncle convinced him to run around wearing a dress and a sheet over his head. I tried asking him, but would you believe that he denied it was even him.
*shrugs* I was grateful for their rescue, but I think more than that I was grateful to have something to waggle over El’s head.
And then there was the time Keaton swore he saw a squid, but it was— Nay, wait. What about the time we careened the ship on that island with the— No! No, I should tell you the story of when this strange creature snuck aboard the ship and—
GJ: Rina, we’ve been at this for an hour and over two thousand words now. And I still have sixteen more questions! Can we please wrap this up some time today?
RB: *frowns* But I was just getting to the good stories. I—
RB: *throws hands up* Very well. One last story. What had she asked for?
GJ: A scary story.
RB: *chuckles* Luv, all pirate tales are horror stories, trust me. I don’t think there was ever anything that came off to me as frightening—I’m not easily scared, you know—but there was this one time we were in Port Royal…when I was, oh, ten and four, perhaps. I was in charge of watching Julius—he had to have been seven at the time—whilst his father was at port. We had strict orders not to leave the ship, but you know how children are, always making mischief.
GJ: I do. Now please continue.
RB: Right then. So off go these two children—well, I wouldn’t call myself a child. I was drinking at the time. Deuces, I’ve been drinking since I was ten, probably!
GJ: Don’t you think that’s unhealthy, Rina? I wouldn’t necessarily be proud of that.
RB: Well, unlike you modern day folk, we didn’t have clean water. So it was boiled water purified with alcohol or dysentery and cholera and typhoid and—
GJ: Back to the story, please.
RB: *grunts* Off we go, down these deep, dark alleyways. Julius was terrified the entire time, but it wasn’t until we’d lost sight of the taverns Uncle Maverick frequented and we were in the most dangerous side of town.
GJ: Wasn’t all of Port Royal dangerous? They called it the Wickedest City on Earth back in your day, you know.
RB: Yes, yes. And it was! But every wicked city has one section that’s simply wickeder than wicked. This side of town was like Tortuga—absolutely evil. Even my uncle never stepped foot on that side. He rarely went to Tortuga either, at least after Julius was born. You know how it is with—
GJ: Children. Yes, I know. Go on. I’ve only got five more minutes before my next interview.
RB: Oh! You have another interview? *leans forward* Who with?
GJ: No one you would know, Catherina.
RB: *slinks back* Good grief, Grace. Crabby today, are we?
Let me see…aye. We’re in the darkest side of Port Royal, and Julius calls out to me, pointing his finger at this dark, almost empty looking building. God bless his soul, he thought his mother was in there. And at this time, Julius was determined to find his mother one day. He doesn’t want anything to do with her now, but you know—never mind.
So I took him by the hand and led him in there, certain his mother wasn’t inside, but he just wanted to see, you know? Instead, there was this scraggly old woman, hunched over with no teeth and dreadlocks, chanting these words… *shudders* I got scared then. Only other time I’ve seen a witch so menacing and forbidding was when I was in Singapore back in ‘80.
The Lord spared us that day. We ran out of there like the devil was at our heels—well, he was, actually. Nearly didn’t make it back to the ship. I have never been so terrified in my life.
Anyway, I better stop now, oughtn’t I? Before you have me head?
GJ: Yes. Something like that. Well, it’s been a pleasure, Rina. I suppose I’ll be seeing you again in a few weeks to finish up the rest of these questions?
RB: Oh, yes, that would be lovely! Thank you ever so much for having me, Miss Johnson. This has truly been an experience. And good day to all you who read our interview—thank you for your time and your questions and, well, keep them coming! I’d love to answer some more!
GJ: *mutters* Oh, no, you don’t.
About the Captain
(Image not available)
Born in 1655 as Catherina Winterbourne, Rina was raised by her uncle (who may, or may not, have abducted her when she was a baby...but that's a story for another day), infamous pirate captain Maverick Blackstone, until the day of his death in 1673, when Rina was elected captain in his place.
Since then, Rina has been pardoned for her crimes and given letters of marque by the British monarchy. She is now married to Xavier Bennet and has two twin sons, Richard and Maverick.
You can find her aboard her ship, the Rina, or with her husband's family in Port Royal. Upon occasion, she visits London. Most of the time she laments the lack of properly tailored shirts for women and time travels to the 21st century to be interview by popular historical romance author, Grace A. Johnson.