I don’t often fall in love with villains, but when I do, I make sure they have class.
And the French pirate in Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Frenchman’s Creek, Captain Jean-Benoit Aubery is one of them.
Captain Jean-Benoit Aubery is the master of the ship La Mouette and leader of the crew onboard the ship. A daredevil at heart, the French pirate enjoys taking risks when he goes on his raids. According to the man, the more dangerous the raids are, the more successful they will be! What about the time when he swooped down on Lord George Godolphin from the Merry Fortune and swiped his wig with the tip of his sword. And also the time when he boldly entered the Navron House to confront and taunt the twelve men seated at the dinner table, demanded that they hand over their jewels and strip themselves down to their undergarments while his men watched over them?
The Frenchman was not your typical pirate and not your regular seafaring rogue, despite the labels given to him by the people of Fowey and Helford in Cornwall. There were news reports on his raiding and plundering that he subjected the towns of Fowey and Helford to, but on the topic of rapes and murder that pirates are so famous for, there was hardly any of the sort. Which was a good thing too, as that would have been really dark and gloomy.
So when I read the chapter after Lady Dona St Columb was kidnapped by him and taken back to the ship, I had my fears. “Was she going to be raped, tortured and killed?” I wondered. “Would she be flayed alive or left to drown while they robbed her of her pride and dignity, clothes and jewellery?” I asked myself.
What greeted me next totally caught me by surprise.
For the pirate had engaged the bored and restless wife of Sir Harry in a conversation like no other. He was philosophical and had an entirely different take on life. His views on life were positive and absorbed with an open mind. He constantly questioned Dona on everything she said and had answers for every question on her mind. He spent his free time sketching birds, smoking his pipe, fishing, and gallivanting around town with Dona, who herself sought adventure and freedom to escape from a dull and dreary lifestyle. He spouts philosophy on life, teaches a lady how to do certain things, and can communicate better than your English professor are things I really didn’t expect a pirate to do!
Lady Dona St Columb is one lucky lady to meet a charming and plucky pirate, although her title only meant that she should be carrying herself better than sailing the high seas with a stranger. Though, I would be bored and restless too if I were in her shoes, and for Dona to escape into the British countryside with her restlessness and thirst for adventure as her only guides, well, if I could, I would have done the same. Dona eventually landed in remote Navron with her children Henrietta and James, and their nurse Prue. Not too soon after, she discovered her passionate self craving the love of a daring French pirate who is being hunted by all of Cornwall. And so, together, they embarked upon a quest rife with danger and glory, but one that will eventually leave Dona with an ultimatum: sacrifice her lover to certain death or risk her own life to save him.
I don’t have to tell you the choice she made. I’m sure you would already know.
So when Captain Jean-Benoit Aubery was captured by Lord Godolphin and his team of ragtag bumbling followers, I was far from being upset. I was amused, no less, because a pirate like him could not and would not allow himself to be held for long in a prison. No, he would have had thought of ways and means to escape, with the help of Dona and William, no doubt. And when he did escape, my heart jumped for joy, did a little merry jig and was relieved that he can now resume his piracy duties and sail the seven seas once again.
It was a good book. One that I certainly don’t mind reading it again someday.