Bloody Jack (novel) - Plot Summary

Plot Summary

Mary Faber is an orphan in a gang on the streets of Cheapside, London, during the late 18th century. After the death of the gang's leader, she dons boy's clothing and goes to the docks, where she attempts to obtain a position as one of six ship's boys on the British warship H.M.S. Dolphin. Her endeavor is successful due to her ability to read, and she is signed under the alias Jack "Jacky" Faber. After boarding the ship, she meets the other ship's boys, named Tink, Willy, Benjy, Davy, and Jaimy.

Jacky and the other ship's boys gain their sea legs and begin their duties on the ship. Jacky meets a seaman, Liam Delaney, who becomes her sea dad. Liam teaches her the ways of the ship and how to play the pennywhistle. After some time on the ship, Jacky finds that she's grown, and needing some new clothes, she makes her own. Jacky's new outfit catches the Captain's eye and is asked to sew up more for the others. As the plot develops, a pirate ship is spotted and a battle begins. The crew boards the enemy ship, and Jacky acquires a pistol from a dead pirate. She sees another pirate preparing to kill one of the ships boys, Jaimy, whom Jacky is starting to have feelings for. Then she shoots the pirate, who is carrying a chest of money, and thus gets the nickname "Bloody Jack". It is in this battle that Benjy, a ship's boy in The Brotherhood, (what Jacky and the other ship's boys call themselves), is killed. The ship heads for Palma to get there ship repaired after the battle. At about this time, Jacky first menstruates, and her upbringing having left her unaware of the details of female physical maturation, she believes that she is ill and about to die.

After the ship lands at Palma, the ship's boys go to get a tattoo to show their brotherhood. Jacky then goes to a brothel to find a woman to ask 'for a friend' why she had bled before, where the madam quickly sees through her disguise and informs Jacky of the details of female bodies. The rest of the ship's boys consider Jack a rake after this, as they only know one nominal reason for a visit to a brothel.

Then the ship heads for the Caribbean Sea. While Jacky is in the schoolroom, a sailor aboard the ship called Midshipman Bliffil starts to beat Jacky up, and only stops when the teacher yells at him. Jacky is put in the sick ward for her injuries. She convinces Midshipman Jenkins to stand up to Bliffil and teaches him some fighting moves. A crew member Bill Sloat threatens Jacky and her sea dad Liam Delaney tries to protect her, which causes some problems. When Bliffil attacks Jacky again, Jenkins stands up to him. Jacky begins to sleep in the rope locker because The Brotherhood's friendship is strained after recent events, and this is when Sloat tries to sexually assault her. Jacky tries to protect herself by stabbing him with her shiv, but she injures him more than she had meant to, and ends up stabbing him in the stomach and he stumbles overboard. Liam is put on trial for the murder and he is going to be hanged. Jacky intervenes and confesses to stabbing Sloat. She is put in confinement and thinks that she will be hanged instead, but she is set free because she had acted in self-defense.

After that she is welcomed back by into the Brotherhood but the feeling is still weird. Jaimy admits to her that he has strange feelings for her, and that is when Jacky asks him to hold up a dress so she can mark it, and Jaimy learns that she is really a girl and that she has feelings for him.

Soon after they arrive in Kingston, Jamaica. Jacky and Jaimy go out on the streets, and Jacky wears a dress that she bought. They eat at a café, and Davy and Tink see them. Davy and Tink do not know that the girl Jaimy is eating with is Jacky, and she leaves and changes back into her ship boy clothing. The group then finds a piercing shop, where they all get a gold hoop earring. Jacky and Jaimy exchange rings. Then they set sail again to hunt for the pirates.

They soon encounter the pirate LeFievre ("The Fever") at sea. There is a battle, but LeFievre gets away, and the Dolphin is damaged and in the process of sinking. Men are at the bilge pumps trying to keep the ship afloat when land is sighted, and the ship and crew stop for rest and repairs. Davy learns of Jacky's true identity when he discovers her and Jaimy curled up in a hammock together. Soon after, Mr. Tilden the teacher wants to put Jacky on a kite and fly her up so she can see more land, but the winds were blowing so hard that the tree she is tied to is ripped out of the ground and after many hours of flying she lands on an unknown island. She stays there for a few days and uses smoke signals to try to get the attention of HMS Dolphin. A boat crew from the Dolphin comes to rescue her and she finds out that LeFievre and his pirates are on the island with her and waiting to ambush the rescue crew. She tries to lead the rescue crew away but the pirates catch her and hold her for hanging and money. She is hanged, but is so scrawny and skinny that she just hangs there choking. The HMS Dolphin rescue crew lands, Jaimy quickly cuts the rope around her neck, and Jacky survives.

Jacky is finally discovered to be a girl. She is guarded by someone everywhere she goes. She is confined from almost everyone on board, including her old mates, but they secretly sneak over to the grating above her room to talk to her. She is told by the captain that she will be enrolled in Lawson Peabody's School for Girls in Boston, and then the book concludes with her stepping off the ship.

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