He removed his glove. The skin there also was scored with the marks of fire. Two of his fingers were missing but on his third finger he wore gold ring, a half-sovereign. I looked into his face. One of his eyes was almost closed and the worst of the scarring was on his left cheek and his left ear, which seemed to have somehow melted away.
“It is a fine piece of jewellery, is it not?” he asked, looking down at the ring. “It was given to me by a Jamaican Jew. Do you like it?”
He took my hand and put it to his lips, which were very smooth and cold. “Peter Delvin.” He leaned forward and held me in his gaze. “But my friends call me Bouspeut.”
I saw my eyes flash in his. I heard myself gasp. The boat seemed to sway beneath me; and the squawking of frigate birds became deafening. He did not let go of my hand.
“Whatever have you said to the poor lady, Peter?” asked the woman in the sack-back dress, laughing. “She looks deathly!”
“Pierre,” I whispered. I turned my face up towards the sky, closed my eyes and shook away the tears. I had told myself he might have perished on Revenge, when the gunpowder exploded and fire ripped through the sloop. Or that Mary, or Anne, even may have shot him. Nobody knew what those two hell-cats were capable of in the end, not even they.
“I thought you might have gone back to New Providence,” I said at last. “Lived out your days surrounded by a string of handsome young sailors.” Oh, his beautiful face! I reached out to touch his cheek, but he caught my other hand in his.
Then Pierre looked towards the Frenchmen in the coats and one of them nodded to him in a way that seemed most familiar. There was something wrong on the boat, something sinister. I felt the sweat trickle down the back of my neck.
“Look!” cried the woman in the pink gown. “She’s fallen for you already, Delvin!”
“You are over excited, madam,” he told her.
“I should think I am!” she said. “The sea’s an exciting place.”
“It certainly is!” Pierre laughed. “There are monsters and shipwrecks and ghosts who roam the water at night… There are pirates!”
The elderly woman with the veil put her hand to her necklace. “Stop it, sir! You shall have the ladies petrified with your nonsense.” Her breasts swelled in her stays; she could barely catch her breath.
“Oh yes!” he continued. “Pirates! Would that not be marvellous? Imagine it – a whole crew of them storming our little boat, hoisting up the Jolly Roger on the mast, seizing the jewellery from your neck and the purse from beneath your skirts!”
(Five Guns Blazing – Emma Rose Millar and Kevin Allen).
Pierre Bouspeut had fingers in as many pies as he had names: he owned a hairdressing salon, dressmaker’s shop and coffee house, and of course he was a celebrated gay villain, who lived in the pirate haven New Providence where vagabonds sold their wares at market and where all social ‘norms’ went to the wind.
It was here that Pierre met the notorious Anne Bonny. Legend has it that Anne tempted him into a life of piracy with tales of gold and bolts of fine cloth up for the taking on the high seas. In their most audacious escapade, Anne dressed Bouspeut’s tailors’ dummy as a corpse, smeared it with blood from her own dog and sat it at the helm of her ship. She stood over the dummy holding aloft an axe and ordered the rest of her crew to play dead. Upon seeing the ‘ghost ship’, the crew of a French merchantman were so terrified that they immediately handed over all their cargo.
When Anne joined forces with the pirate John Rackham she took Pierre with her. Some sources suggest that the two men had a sexual relationship. This would not have been uncommon on the sloop where women, out of superstition, were not permitted, (apart from Anne that is, and later her lover, Mary Read). What seems more certain is that Bouspeut probably would have designed and made Rackham’s infamous calico suits and the black velvet pants which were Anne’s signature garment.
There is little information about Pierre Bouspeut apart from his connection with Anne Bonny and John Rackham. Similarly, his fate is not known. Perhaps he was shot by the King’s men on board Revenge or he may have been sentenced to death and later executed. I would like to think however that he escaped from Jamaica and carried on his glamorous existence elsewhere, living to a ripe old age, surrounded by a dozen handsome sailors.
FIVE GUNS BLAZING is now available on Amazon
“Never had she imagined she would be brought so low, and all for the love of a very bad man.”
Convict’s daughter, Laetitia Beedham, is set on an epic journey from the back streets of London, through transportation to Barbados and gruelling plantation life, into the clutches of notorious pirates John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, Mary Read and the treacherous Anne Bonny.
In a world of villainy and deceit, where black men are kept in chains and a woman will sell her daughter for a few gold coins, Laetitia can find no one in whom to place her trust.
As the King’s men close in on the pirates and the noose begins to tighten around their necks, who will win her loyalty and her heart?