By Heidi Schulz
Illustrated by John Hendrix
Cover design or artwork by John Hendrix
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So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn’t hesitate—here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she’d bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, she’s tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.
The crocodile’s clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz’s debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?
Text copyright © 2014 by Heidi Schulz
Illustrations copyright © 2014 by John Hendrix
Cover design by Tyler Nevins
Cover illustration © 2014 by John Hendrix
Excerpt from The Pirate Code copyright © 2015 by Heidi Schulz.
All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney • Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.
For Walt, who stole my heart the second time we met and keeps it still
And for Hannah, who knew this was hers but demanded it anyway
There have always been pirates. Why, even as far back as Eve, on the day she was considering whether or not to eat that apple, a pirate was most certainly planning to sail in and take it from her.
I expect that you'd like to know about the most famous of all pirates, Captain James Hook. As I am the world's foremost expert on him, naturally you turned to me. Children come to me all the time, begging to hear what I know. I graciously seat them in a circle around me, lean in, and whisper, "Not a chance."
I don't like children all that much.
However, last Thursday I became an old man. It occurs to me that someday I will die. Like many my age, I hope that I may go peacefully, in the midst of a hostage situation or a failed arson attempt. But I digress.…
We were talking about Captain Hook.
Most everyone knows the main points of his story: Peter Pan, the iron hook, the crocodile, and so on and so forth. What came after, however—with Jocelyn, Hook's last request, and such—now, that's far more interesting.
What's that? You've never heard of young Jocelyn Hook?
I'm not surprised. I'd venture to guess that a list of things you know nothing about could fill volumes. However, today appears to be your lucky day—you are about to be enlightened. The fact that I am the one who must provide the enlightenment can only mean that today is my unlucky day, but sometimes these things cannot be helped.
There is no use putting it off any longer; it is time to tell what I know, lest the girl's story die with me. Settle in, I suppose. Do be sure not to touch anything, and for heaven's sake, please don't breathe so loudly. If you're quite comfortable, I'll pour myself a little drink and begin. If you are not comfortable, I'll begin anyway. Your comfort is of little concern to me.
The week before Jocelyn's grandfather decided to send her away to finishing school was an eventful one, even by her standards.
On Monday, the girl's newest tutor found his pupil unable to do her history lesson. Someone had torn most of the pages from her lesson book in order to make paper boats. This same unidentified person had then floated the paper vessels on the garden pond, after lighting them on fire, of course. Jocelyn sat at her desk, the very picture of wide-eyed innocence—with a spot of soot on her nose and the faint smell of smoke still clinging to her rumpled dress.
If you ask me, her tutor was wrong to turn in his resignation. True history is filled with burning fleets.
On Tuesday, Jocelyn startled the head cook, who rather foolishly did not expect a twelve-year-old girl to come flying down the front banister brandishing a wooden sword and singing a bawdy sea chantey at the top of her lungs. A tea tray of French pastries dropped on the manor's finest Persian rug was clearly no one's fault but the cook's own.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were much the same: Jocelyn tore her new silk stockings trying to climb the high iron fence surrounding Hopewell Manor in order to see out and "scout for enemy ships approaching." Her finest blue sash went missing, only to be discovered beneath the hedgerow, one end tied into a complicated sailor's knot, the other a noose. She even scandalized the third-floor serving maids by refusing her evening bath with a shouted "Look out, ye dog-livered landlubbers! I'm the most feared girl pirate to ever live! I'll see you keelhauled before you get me to walk the plank!"
All these things were bad, to be sure, but not entirely out of character for the girl. It was what she did on Saturday that made Sir Charles Hopewell IV, Jocelyn's grandfather and guardian, feel he had to take drastic action.
On that fateful day, Sir Charles invited Lord and Lady Trottington and their one-day-perhaps-quite-eligible son, Ambrose, to a dinner party in order to show off his lovely young granddaughter. To his great dismay, the evening did not go as well as he had hoped.
Jocelyn sauntered into the dining room twenty minutes after the soup course had been served, with twigs in her unruly dark curls, muddy knees, grass stains on the seat of her dress, and a tattered adventure novel tucked under her arm. Her grandfather glowered at her and muttered something under his breath about interviewing for yet another governess as soon as possible.
Jocelyn laughed at his scowl, plopped her book down on the sideboard, and seated herself directly across from Ambrose. She couldn't help but see that the young gentleman was unabashedly picking his nose. She stared in fascinated interest. Ambrose took no notice but continued with his mining.
"I am sorry for coming in late," Jocelyn said to the boy, "but I was lost in the best part of my book. A giant Cyclops threatened to eat Odysseus and his crew. In order to escape and return to their ship, they had to get the monster drunk, wait until he was firmly asleep, find a sharp stick, and"—Jocelyn leaned in and spoke in a reverential whisper—"gouge his terrible Cyclops eye out. Isn't that marvelous?"
Ambrose yawned. He did not bother to remove his finger from his nostril, choosing instead to speak around it. "That's rather disgusting talk for the dining table." His sinus spelunking paused for the briefest of moments while he looked Jocelyn over. "You are pretty enough, I suppose, but I can see that you may need to learn some manners if we are to court when we are older."
Jocelyn immediately decided dinner should not last much longer. If Ambrose wanted a display of manners, she would give him one. For the next quarter of an hour the girl laughed too loudly, slurped her soup, dribbled gravy in her lap, and used her sleeve instead of a napkin.
Sir Charles and Lord Trottington took no notice; they were deep in discussion about the proper application of wig powder. Lady Trottington examined the quality of the silverware with an expression of silent disapproval. Ambrose removed his finger from his nose and inserted it in his ear. He pulled out a sticky glob of wax, sniffed it, and wiped it on the tablecloth.
Clearly, it was time for Jocelyn to play her trump card.
"You know," she said in a loud voice, "I think my father would like to meet you. He's been away, but I expect he'll come for me anytime now. Perhaps you have heard of him? Captain James Hook?"
Lady Trottington fainted dead away into her plate of jellied eels. Lord Trottington let out a terrified scream. (Who would have guessed him to be a soprano?) As for Ambrose, the thorough scrubbing a housemaid gave his chair later that evening stood as testament to his reaction to Jocelyn's pronouncement.
The next day, Sir Charles demanded that his granddaughter take an unusual outing with him: a stroll down execution dock. After a public hanging, the bodies of pirates and other criminals were placed in iron cages, called gibbets, and put on display. Sir Charles planned to employ a time-honored tactic used by parents the world over: frightening the child into obedience.
As the pair walked along the dock, a horrifying scene played out above them. The gibbets creaked and moaned as they swayed, calling to mind the sounds of ghosts in all the old stories.
Their occupants varied in looks, depending on freshness. Those that had been long exposed to the elements were reduced to little more than rags and bones. Skulls grinned down at the gentleman and his granddaughter, empty eye sockets staring. Worse still were the remains of the more recently deceased. Some had swelled so much that they pressed into the bars, rather like an overly ample woman trying to squeeze into a too-small corset.
A few moments of the terrible view ought to have been sufficient. Sir Charles pressed a handkerchief to his nose and ushered the willful child back to the safety of their carriage. They traveled most of their way home in silence. As the pair reached the manor gates, Sir Charles, wanting to be sure of his success, questioned his granddaughter: "And what did you learn today, Jocelyn?"
The girl looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes. "Two things, Grandfather. First, if I am to be a pirate and sail with my father, I must be a very good one and not get caught. Second, I will never, ever wear a corset."
That very evening, Sir Charles penned a letter to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb herself. Even with his best efforts, he had been unable to make any headway in turning Jocelyn into a lady. It was time for professional help.
Life is full of disappointments. Chocolates melt or are eaten by rodents. Ponies die. Kittens grow into cats—and cats are such hateful creatures. However, when Jocelyn arrived at the place that her grandfather intended to be her home, school, and prison for years to come, she was not disappointed: it was just as terrible as the girl had expected.
She hated every bit of the place, from its ivy-covered stone walls to the gilded lettering on its front-door sign:
MISS ELIZA CRUMB-BIDDLECOMB'S
FINISHING SCHOOL FOR YOUNG LADIES.
Well-groomed walks and lawns were populated by well-groomed young ladies strolling arm in arm or lounging on stone benches. The happy burbling of a nearby brook harmonized with the thrum of hummingbird wings as they flitted among fragrant garden flowers. Fireflies floated up, their lights twinkling in the early-evening shadows.
Jocelyn fought the urge to be sick.
She was in the midst of formulating a complicated escape plan involving a spade fork and a pair of croquet mallets when a stern-looking lady emerged from the school and began issuing orders. This could only be Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb. Jocelyn turned to face the headmistress, forcing herself to look the woman in the eye.
Miss Eliza did not waste time on pleasantries. "I hope you took refreshment on the road. You are nearly one quarter hour past the end of dinner, and we do not reopen the kitchens until morning. No exceptions. Breakfast will be at eight o'clock, sharp. Dress smartly and be punctual. Latecomers will not be served. No exceptions."
Jocelyn had not yet had dinner. When her stomach received word that there would be none, and that the prospect of breakfast was threatened as well, it let out an angry growl.
Miss Eliza gave the girl a pointed look and went on. "I have sent your trunks up to your room. A chambermaid will unpack them and air your clothing. You will be sharing a suite with Miss Priscilla Edgeworth and Miss Nanette Arbuckle. We do not offer private accommodations here. No exceptions."
Jocelyn fidgeted, only half listening.
"All the young ladies are currently enjoying some free time. I will have you shown to your suite momentarily, where you will have a few minutes to prepare to greet your roommates. I suggest you use your time wisely and employ some soap and water. Your face and hands are rather dusty from your travels. You must not fail to put your best foot forward."
Jocelyn stole a glance at her hands. They weren't exactly spotless, but since she had been cooped up in the carriage most of the day, they were a good sight cleaner than usual.
Miss Eliza continued with her speech. "Your grandfather has written me regarding some of your peculiarities, but I have assured him that you are not a hopeless case. It is not unusual for a girl growing up without the benefit of a mother to have some rough patches. Fortunately, I am quite experienced in filing down rough patches. I have been headmistress of this school for nearly three decades. In that time many a young lady has appeared at my door, unrefined in either manners, appearance, or both. Not once have I failed to turn the girl into a lady worthy of her class and distinction. No exceptions."
Miss Eliza stood for a moment longer, silently appraising the girl.
"You may go now. I expect you are feeling tired from your journey."
Jocelyn gave Miss Eliza her most irksome smile and replied, "Actually, I'm feeling rather exceptional," then turned heel and followed the chambermaid to her room, taking care to scuff her shoes on the polished wood flooring the whole way.
Her room was a monstrosity of pink.
The walls were papered in a soft mauve with a sickening pattern of sweet little roses. Three fluffy chairs, upholstered in pale carnation, sat before a rose-colored Italian marble fireplace. Jocelyn's trunks were neatly stacked at the foot of a frilly bed: delicate pink coverlets under soft pink canopies surrounded by deep pink curtains.
It will be like sleeping in a giant mouth, she thought with disgust.
Two identical atrocities were lined up next to it. Jocelyn pulled back the bed curtains to inspect them. They did not appear to be occupied, but she jumped on each mattress a time or two, to be certain.
Smart thinking, that. You can never be too careful.
The room's remaining furniture also came in triplicate, and in pink. Three wardrobes, painted puce, next to three matching dressing tables beneath three coral-colored pitcher-and-basin sets, beside three pearly pink dishes holding three rosy cakes of floral-scented soap.
These Jocelyn studiously ignored.
Instead, she crossed (on a pale salmon rug) to the window and pulled back the heavy amaranth covering. Here the girl received her first, and only, pleasant surprise of the day.
It was not the cherry tree framing the window in a cascade of blossoms (also pink), nor was it her view of the now nearly empty gardens and walks. No, what lifted Jocelyn's spirits was this: if she looked toward the horizon, turned her head like so and squinted her eyes like this, far in the distance she could make out a tiny patch of shoreline bordered by a bit of deep blue sea.
For the sake of that spot of blue, Jocelyn resolved that she would not set fire to her room.
At least not on her first night.
Jocelyn was so intent on the patch of blue sea outside her window that she didn't hear the door open behind her. She pressed her face to the glass, squinted as hard as she could, and crossed her eyes, hoping to make out a ship. Although she had never met her father, she held high hopes for the future. Perhaps he was, at that very instant, sailing in to take her away.
Alas. No fair wind blew in her favor that day. Instead, trouble hung on the horizon.
"What is wrong with our beds?" someone whined from behind her.
Jocelyn was so startled that she turned around still cross-eyed and squinty. Two girls stood in the center of the room staring at their beds. Jocelyn's earlier, rather vigorous, investigations had left the mattresses sagging and the curtains hanging at odd angles.
"Never mind that," the taller of the two stage-whispered. "The real question is what is wrong with her face?"
The girl who asked must not have known the one about the pot calling the kettle black. She had the pinch-faced look of one perpetually waiting for a sneeze that never would arrive.
Jocelyn chose to ignore the second question. She rearranged her face into a normal expression and said, "Sorry about the beds. I was checking for spiders."
Pinch-Face squealed. "Oooh! I hate spiders! Did you catch any?"
"Unfortunately, no. They all got away. I'm Jocelyn. You must be my roommates."
The idea of spiders loose in their beds did not appear to sit well with the girls, though the shorter one quickly regained her composure. "Yes. We heard you were coming. I am Miss Priscilla Katherine-Anne Edgeworth. You may call me Prissy. This," she said motioning to Pinch-Face, "is Miss Nanette Arbuckle."
Pinch-Face smiled, adding to the frightfulness of her appearance. "You may call me Nanette. Or Nan. Or Nanette. Which do you think is better, Prissy? Perhaps Netty?"
Prissy ignored her. "If there is anything you need, you may ask me. Anything at all. I am a particular favorite of Miss Eliza's. My mother went here when she was a girl, and my father, well, he's a very generous donor to the school."
"Good to know," Jocelyn said. "There is something, actually. Our room…"
"What about it?"
"It's very pink, isn't it?
Prissy's eyes lit up. "Don't you love it? My father paid to have it done because I wanted it. Pink is my very favorite color."
That statement told Jocelyn all she needed to know about Prissy.
"Pink is my favorite color too," Pinch-Face simpered. "I love it ever so much. I wish all the colors were pink."
In that room, they were.
Prissy narrowed her eyes and looked at Jocelyn. "And you? Do you love pink too? It's so much easier if everyone likes the same things, don't you think?"
"Yes, pink," Jocelyn replied with the barest trace of a smirk. "I find it to be every bit as lovely as the pair of you."
Pinch-Face beamed alarmingly, but Prissy frowned a little, seemingly unsure of how to take the compliment. Jocelyn continued: "How thoughtful of your father to give you such a fitting space. I can only hope that someday my father will pay him a visit to properly thank him. Perhaps soon."
"Don't you mean your grandfather?" Prissy asked. "I overheard Miss Eliza saying that you lived with your grandfather because your mother died when you were born and your father is some sort of criminal." Her smile was excessively sweet. "If I were you, I wouldn't worry too, too much about it. Dead mothers are rather fashionable these days. They lend such an attractive air of tragedy."
Pinch-Face agreed. "I wish I had one."
Jocelyn clenched her teeth but said nothing.
Prissy rolled her eyes at Pinch-Face and continued. "As for your father, Nanette's father is from the Americas, but Miss Eliza assures her that if she works very hard on her embroidery, she's nearly certain to find someone suitable to marry her. It shouldn't be so difficult for you to do the same."
"It's true." Pinch-Face nodded her head with vigor. "And, remember, you do have that dead mother. You should do tolerably well."
Jocelyn chose not to respond to their reassurances, at least not aloud. She did, however, make herself a promise. There were likely no spiders in the other girls' beds that evening, but Jocelyn resolved to remedy that as soon as possible.
One of the worst feelings in the world is being too tired to sleep. It ranks right up there with being too bored to pillage, too angry to maim, or too rich to steal. Simply dreadful.
Jocelyn's first night at school was long and difficult. She rarely slept well when she was troubled or unhappy—or hungry. True sleep eluded her, though she wasn't fully awake, either. She spent hours trapped in that twilight place between asleep and awake, where dreams are the most vivid and nonsensical, and where the Neverland draws near.
Even as she clearly felt herself lying in bed, Jocelyn dreamed she was hovering over the Jolly Roger. It was moored just offshore the most impossible island, where it appeared to be all four seasons at once. Warm snow drifted down, dampening the girl's hair. Below her a great squawking bird bobbed on the waves, nesting in an upturned hat.
A pirate stood on the deck of the great ship. Jocelyn was unable to clearly see his face, but in the bizarre way of dreams, she knew him to be her father. Oddly, instead of a right hand, he had an iron hook. He was locked in battle with the strangest foe—a boy dressed in a suit of skeleton leaves. Even more bewildering than the boy's youth or clothing was the fact that he was flying, and not with some kind of machine, or even with wings—he simply flew, as though it were as natural to him as breathing.
This soaring about seemed to be, in Jocelyn's opinion, an unfair advantage. The boy would dart in and slash with his knife, but before her father's hook or blade could cause any return damage, the cocky young thing would be floating ten feet up in the air and laughing, as if the whole thing were the greatest joke ever told.
Sounds from her bedroom intruded on Jocelyn's dream. The ocean waves were whipped up by Prissy's snoring while the mantel clock ticked loudly away, forcing the fight to keep its rhythm. It was not until dawn that Jocelyn finally drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
She woke late. Prissy and Nanette were already gone, likely on their way to the dining hall. Jocelyn was famished, and according to the clock, if she didn't hurry, she would have to stay that way a good while longer. She pulled herself out of bed and looked around for something to wear. A clean white dress was laid out and waiting. Jocelyn did like the look of a white dress. It was like a blank canvas.
Today, however, she stuck her tongue out at it and put on yesterday's traveling dress. The combination of an empty stomach, a poor night's sleep, and that hideous room had placed her in a bit of a temper. Besides, Jocelyn always felt clothes were more comfortable with a day or two's wrinkles. Somewhat cheered by happy memories brought about by the jam spots on her sleeve and streaks of dried mud on her hem, she set out for breakfast.
The dining hall was easy enough to find; Jocelyn just followed the scent of cinnamon and freshly baked pastries. Her hunger prodded her to hurry. By the time she reached a set of double doors at the end of the first-floor hallway, she was flat-out running. What a picture the girl must have made as she flung open those doors and dashed inside, skirts hiked nearly to her knees and hair flying out behind her.
Needless to say, Miss Eliza was not impressed. I wish I had been there to see the look on her old face. I hear it puckered up tighter than a frog's bottom.
All eyes, except Jocelyn's, were on the headmistress as she headed for the wild girl. Jocelyn's eyes were on the tables laden with baked goods, porridge, fruit, and cream. She couldn't wait to dig in.
"While I do appreciate you making it to breakfast on time," Miss Eliza began in an icy tone, "your entrance leaves much to be desired, as does"—she surveyed Jocelyn's rumpled clothing—"your personal appearance. I am quite certain I instructed you to dress smartly. As you have failed to follow my instructions, you shall not be dining with us. You may stand in the corner until the appropriately attired young ladies and I have finished our meal."
Jocelyn thought to argue, but a steely look in Miss Eliza's eyes (and that puckery face, I'm sure) convinced her otherwise.
On her way to the corner, she heard Prissy tell several other girls, "Her mother is dead and her father is some kind of criminal, likely deranged. I think she might be a bit simpleminded herself. I truly do feel sorry for the poor dear—not that I'm thrilled about sharing my suite with her, but we must try to set a good example."
Pinch-Face nodded along agreeably.
Jocelyn's face burned at the injustice of it all. Still, she took her place in the corner. To keep herself from snatching pastries from a nearby plate, she imagined the punishments her father might visit upon both Prissy and Miss Eliza when he finally came for her: keelhauling, flogging with a cat-o'-nine-tails, dunking from the yardarm…
Absorbed as she was in these happy imaginings, the time passed more quickly than she realized. Jocelyn didn't notice when the servants began to remove empty dishes.
After her place was cleared, Miss Eliza stood to speak. "Young ladies, I am certain none of you could help but notice our newest pupil as she flew into the dining hall. However, I am confident that this morning's behavior was an anomaly and that Miss Hopewell will soon settle in, and become every bit as lovely and compliant as the rest of you. Isn't that right, Miss Hopewell?"
Jocelyn continued to stand in the corner. She was busy picturing Miss Eliza walking the plank. There were a lot of sharks swimming around in her imagination.
"Miss Hopewell!" Miss Eliza loudly repeated.
Jocelyn jumped and looked over. "Who, me?"
"What impertinence! Of course I was speaking to you! Are you or are you not Miss Jocelyn Hopewell?"
Jocelyn clenched her fists and glared at Miss Eliza. "I am not."
Now, Miss Eliza was no novice. The woman undoubtedly knew better how to handle disturbances—though it is certain that no student had ever behaved in as rash and unruly a manner on the first morning as Jocelyn. Perhaps that was what rattled the woman into making a terrible mistake: she dared to ask, "Well then, who are you?"
Jocelyn lifted her chin and raised her eyes to Miss Eliza's. Her voice rang out clearly in the silent room. "Jocelyn Hook, only daughter and heir of Captain James Hook, the dread pirate, that's who!"
- On Sale
- Sep 16, 2014
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers