Born William Alexander Seaworthy in 1676 to a poor millwright in a run-down neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, William had a remarkable life from the very start. As a baby, he never got sick and there was talk even back then that there was something about him that just wasn't right. His parents were proud of their only son and often would tell people of things he did that were special. But the people in the neighborhood thought the things they heard and saw for themselves were too strange to believe and stayed away from the family entirely. Eventually, the family had to move away from the Boston area after being asked to leave by a committee sent to talk to them.
“Mamma, why are people so mean to us?” Bill's lower lip was quivering from the effects of the committee's visit. He knew it was because of him that they had to move.
“Because they don't see the beauty in you like we do.”
“But Mamma, I'm not beautiful, I'm a boy.”
“You're my beautiful baby boy.”
“I am not a baby; I'm five years old next month.”
“You're a baby to me.”
Bill stomped off to his bedroom mumbling the whole way about his not being a baby. He never really forgave his mother for calling him that.
His father picked a small fishing village along the northern coast of Maine, thinking people there would leave them alone. Bill grew up in the village, but children stayed away from him because of stories their parents told them. Some of the things they said, the children had seen with their own eyes.
There was the day Bill ran into a jagged piece of metal sticking out of an old sea wall down close to the water line. There was no blood. Bill looked down at his arm and there was a gash running from his wrist to his elbow, but not a drop of blood. The kids next to him could see the white bones and the red tissue but nothing came out.
“Bill, look at your arm. You can see the bone. It's white like a skeleton,” cried out Jimmy Walker as he stared at Bill's red and white arm. All the boys came closer while the girls ran inside Becky Gray's house close by.
“Pretty neat, huh. I never bleed when I get cut.”
In unison, the boys all went, “Gooolllleeeee.”
There were other stories as well. One winter, Bill was playing with Jimmy and Sarah from next door down by the pond. Their parents let them play with Bill because it would be awkward to forbid it, being right next door to the Seaworthy family. That day Bill was walking out on the ice, and telling the others it was thick enough to walk on. The next thing they saw was Bill falling through the ice and disappearing under the gray-white sheet of water.
Jimmy, breathing heavy, called out, “Sarah, ran fast and get some help!”
Sarah ran for help while Jim tried to break off a large tree branch to hold out to Bill. Jimmy could see Bill's face through the ice; a slight smile is all he could make out. Both fathers showed up about the same time with rope and a long sled. Bill's father got on the sled and Jimmy and his dad held on to the rope they had tied to one end of the sled. Once they had pulled the two of them back to shore, no one was particularly surprised that Bill wasn't shivering. Bill walked back to the house, changed clothes and returned to playing like nothing had happened. In fact, Bill never seemed to mind the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and could be seen playing in the surf year-round.
“What was it like under there?” Jimmy asked, his eyes still wide from the excitement.
“I don't know. I could see everyone on top yelling and running around. It was quiet.”
Even though he played with Jimmy and Sarah next door, Bill never really formed a close friendship with anyone while growing up in the village. His mother loved him and took care that he had whatever he needed, yet there was always a distance Bill maintained with her after the baby incident. He was slightly closer to his father, but the closeness ended at the point his father stopped answering all his questions. Bill figured his father quit caring enough to bother answering him. Teachers were amazed at his breadth of knowledge and ability to learn new things as fast as they could teach him. Repeating subject matter would cause Bill to stare off into the distance or worse, disrupt the class until a new topic was covered. On the playground, if Bill fell he would get up and keep playing, never rubbing where the bump had formed. He would correct the teachers if they misspoke. If he couldn't get enough information on certain subjects, he would become irritated.
“Miss Caulder, Miss Caulder, you used the past tense just then.” He loved it when they slipped like that.
“Thank you, William. Now if you would be so kind, go to the board and write 100 words giving their past, present, and future tenses before you go home today.”
“But all I did was point out what you point out everyday with us.”
“That is ‘to' us, not ‘with' us, Bill. When you're the teacher you can do it too—not until then.”
By twelve, Bill was tired of school and tried to sign on a ship as a deck hand. Bill had chiseled features and a cleft chin. He was big for his age and even began to sport a small goatee that made his dark brown eyes look black in contrast. The man signing sailors up couldn't quite put his finger on it, but Bill made him uneasy. There was something about the young man that made him uncomfortable, but he signed him on anyway since they were short-handed as it was. Other members of the crew picked up on the unusual aspect of Bill immediately.
An older boy on the first day at sea came over to Bill and shoved him into a pile of tangled netting that looked like a giant mound of live spiders. Bill didn't fight back, just looked at him and didn't say a word. The older kid took out his knife and swiped across Bill's arms. Two cuts opened up but no blood showed up. Several sailors were watching and laughed at the new kid not defending himself. The laughing stopped as they all stared at the inch wide openings in Bill's arms.
The older kid screamed, “You devil. I'll make you bleed for sure.”
Suddenly, everyone there was staring at the knife handle sticking straight out from Bill's stomach. Bill looked down, grabbed the handle, pulled the knife out and threw it back at the other boy.
“I believe this is yours.” Bill figured letting him live would be much scarier than killing him.
The knife sank deep into the aged, pitch covered mast where it pinned the boy's jacket while grazing his chest. At that, every man quickly scattered as Bill went back to securing some lines he had been working on. After that day, all of the crew, even the most aggressive sailors, stayed clear of him for the rest of the entire voyage. He was used to people staying away from him, forcing him into a life of isolation and the dysfunction that followed.
At each port of call, Bill would go into town and show up again just before they weighed anchor. No one saw him in town and the crew spent much of the voyage making things up they had seen him do while in port. After the incident with the knife, no story seemed impossible. In Lisbon, he was said to have caused a man to blackout with just a dirty look because the man had interrupted a beer-drinking contest Bill was involved with. In Athens, it took over thirty men to throw him out of a bar and later two dozen policemen let him go because they didn't think they could arrest him and haul him to jail. The police captain decided it wouldn't look good if they tried and failed. He wasn't about to lose his job over some disturbance in a local bar. Someone said they heard that when Bill was shot in the chest at point blank range, he merely stuck his index finger in the hole and popped the slug out onto the floor. There were also stories of him lifting a six-horse carriage off the ground while injured passengers were pulled from underneath.
By 1692, after four years at sea, Bill Seaworthy returned to New England, a man at sixteen years of age. In a dockside eatery, he saw a vision of beauty and asked around about her. They told him her name was Elizabeth and she had come down from the North to seek her fortune. He introduced himself to Elizabeth Joyce at a market in Portland.
“Hello, my name is William Alexander Seaworthy and I wish to ask you to join me at the bridge for a celebration this Saturday next.”
“No thank you, I have plans.”
“Maybe you could change your plans so you would free to accompany me that day?”
“No, I don't think so.”
“Then the Saturday after, to see the ships depart at high tide.”
“No, I have plans for that whole weekend.”
“Is there a chance of any day, either this month, or the next, or one after that?” He had decided to make her admit there was not going to be a day she would agree to see him, rather than letting her say no gracefully.
“Very well, if you insist on such a direct answer, I can assure you, Mr. Seaworthy, there will never be a day in which you may count on my company, ever.”
“You are plain enough in your answer, I wonder if you would be so kind as to give me a reason for such a posture?”
“Yes, sir, I would be happy to. The fact that you insist on anything at all upon first introduction, a self introduction at that, indicates you are a man that assumes far too much and any relationship would be one of agreeing to your thoughts and needs at the complete denial of mine.”
“Your fiery words have lit the passion of my soul and I have every intention of pursuing you to the ends of the earth, if need be.” Bill was built for the chase, long and lean, and with a childhood of always being on the outside, he was determined to have this woman as his own.
“I'll have the authorities enforce my rights of denial. You must be some sort of madman.”
“A madman I am.”
He courted her for quite some time before she agreed to marry him. She was a woman who had caught her husband in the arms of another, and had left with only the clothes on her back, with two handsome sons and a beautiful, three-year-old daughter. Bill was in love with her beauty and her courage. Women with children and no man to support them were a rare and noble breed. He considered her strength equal to his in spirit and adored her determination. Unfortunately, for the newly formed family, the sea was all Bill knew. Working in town or fishing locally would have made him restless. So he kissed his loving family goodbye and set off again with one of the crews he knew from before to secure his fortune and return to them a wealthy man.
“Goodbye, my love. I will return with a proper income to provide the family as soon as possible.”
“Return soon, Bill.”
They kissed long and gently. The boys smirked and the daughter laughed as it went on and on. Bill turned finally and walked towards the wharf without looking back. He didn't want them to see the tears that had filled his eyes; he couldn't see clearly as he walked along and tripped while still in sight.
She worked various jobs to support the family in his absence. Bill wished he had done work ashore in his past, so sailing wasn't his only option. Because it was a seaport, most of the jobs were on the docks doing paperwork, mostly bills of lading and filing. The work was tedious but it paid the bills, and with two teenage boys to feed, that was a challenge. Rebecca was the most affected by Bill being at sea.
“Momma, when will papa be home?”
“He'll be home when he secures his fortune. It should be soon.”
“Billy Boy” was a legend. Elizabeth had heard of the stories about a boy no one could kill, injure, or for that matter hurt in any way. But she had no idea that her beloved Bill was that boy. In seaports all over the world, drunken sailors told stories of a boy that couldn't die. If a sailor wanted to watch a man go ghostly white, he would point behind the man and say, “Isn't that Billy Boy at the bar, weren't you just saying you could wipe the bar room floor with him?” As with any story after it's told several times, the facts get lost in the shuffle as men try to amaze and shock those listening. Now, as the story goes, it took over 300 men to throw Billy Boy out of that saloon in Athens. In Lisbon, the man died from the dirty look. The carriage became a collapsing second story of an orphanage where sixty small children scampered to safety while he held tons of sagging timbers. It was said he never walked completely upright after that, some of the ligaments in his back were torn beyond repair. It was the first time anyone had heard of him being injured. That didn't mean that men were ready to try their luck at challenging him to win fame and glory. In fact, a slightly stooped Billy Boy was even more unsettling when he came through a doorway. His arms were covered with scars from earlier wounds. Eventually, no man anywhere in the world would brag that he could show Billy Boy a thing or two, no matter how drunk he got.
Whenever Billy Boy was home, he divided his time between the family and looking for the right town to settle down in. He had only one requirement of the ideal location; that they had never heard of Billy Boy of Boston. Up and down the eastern seaboard, he went looking for peace and quiet. He would go directly to the central part of town, walk in to any bar, and tell a Billy Boy story, hoping they would just look at him funny. He would roar at some of the stories, amazed at the imagination of men when they are drunk. But he noticed that even the braggarts avoided saying they could beat him in a fight.
In one tavern, Bill told a Billy Boy story about the carriage he had held up while a wheel was changed.
A particularly drunk sailor countered, “That's nothing, I heard he had to get a friend out of prison and pulled the bars out of the cell window, frame and all. Then when the guards pursued the escaping prisoner Billy Boy threw the framed bars back towards the cell wall so hard, that the entire building collapsed.”
Bill spoke up, “That's impossible. I doubt the boy could even bend the bars much less do that.”
“You're a brave man standing there alone. Bet you wouldn't say nothing if he were here.”
Bill didn't know why he said that. It wasn't going to stop the stories from being told. He doubled his efforts to find a remote place his family would be happy living in and he could escape these endless stories.
In 1698, on Bill's 22nd birthday, he rode into a small delta town in the Carolinas that housed the families of guards at the local colonial prison established years before. No one had heard of Billy Boy, or as he was called these days, Boston Billy. The Seaworthy family left Boston, the largest city in the colonies with 7,000 residents, and settled in, hopefully, for rest of their lives.
Bill's sons, Theodore and Douglas, joined him in the family business, a bait and tackle shop that also repaired anything that was broken. Darkwood Dock, named after local trees with unusually dark wood, was so far from the beaten path, Bill and his family were the first outsiders the people had seen in four years. No one counted the new prisoners from England that arrived twice a year on a well-guarded prison ship.
Bill and Elizabeth were happy living in the quiet little town and their sons married local girls and had large families. The seasons were mild. The summer sun was cooled by ocean breezes and giant white clouds. Bill always wore loose fitting long sleeved shirts to cover his past. His daughter, Rebecca or Becky, was a curious girl and wanted to know everything about the world. He would take her to the ocean beaches and tell her Billy Boy stories. He would tell what he heard had actually happened, and then tell her the first time he heard it told, and then any following versions he had been told.
“Tell me another Billy Boy story, papa”, as she leaned against him on the sand and squirmed around until she was comfortable on her back with her head resting on his leg.
“I've told you six stories since we got out here this morning. Best we head back so you don't miss your supper.”
“I'm not hungry, besides Billy Boy never had to eat; he had the air to breathe and the sun to warm his belly.”
“Yes, but he had no home to go to where meals were waiting.”
Her eyes closed as she tried to stretch out the moment to last the rest of the day, she asked, “Papa, have you ever seen Billy Boy when you were out to sea or in one of those sea ports?”
“No, sweet one, I never did.”
“That's too bad.”
“Why is that?”
“Because if you knew him, I'm sure he would like you, and be your friend, and then you could invite him to live with us, for ever and ever.”
“He's probably not even real, little one.”
Bill softly brushed his fingertips across her small forehead while she smiled, her eyes still closed tight.
“I love you, Papa.”
“I love you too, little one.”
One day when he was repairing an axle on a buggy, she saw his arms bare with all the scars, bumps, and knots. He quickly covered them up and grunted to get him some water. She never asked him about his arms and he never said a word.
Bill didn't like the name Rebecca that much, so he started calling her Seabreeze, since they spent so much time on the beach and there seemed to be ocean breezes day and night. She didn't marry any of the local boys when she reached the marrying age of thirteen. She said it was a new century and she was going to do something with her life. The local schoolteacher lived with the Seaworthy family, so Seabreeze had access to all the books she wanted to read. She would read well into the night under the covers with a small candle at her feet. In the morning, she would carefully peel all the wax off the sheets that had dripped over the edge of the holder the night before. Her mother had warned her about starting a fire with candles, but hadn't actually forbid her from reading under the covers. Seabreeze looked up to one woman in particular, Aphra Behn, whose political poetry and theatrical plays catapulted her from an unknown origin to a pinnacle of success in London society. Bill would tell her that the idea that women are incapable of critical thinking was absurd and as for the idea that they were to remain silent and obedient, he used to laugh out loud.
“Papa, you married mother because she spoke her mind, didn't you?”
“That, and because she was intelligent and wise.”
“Mother says it was because you had to chase her forever and you were too winded to chase any others.”
“Your mother was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen and I had no choice but follow her wherever she went. I was under her spell then and I'm under her spell now.”
The next ten years were the best of Bill's life. Seabreeze's teacher, Miss Brighton, was French on her mother's side and taught a strict Parisian French class, a luxury in a town so remote. Seabreeze was sure she was ready to visit Paris in the spring and meet some extremely handsome boy, fall in love, then return a wiser, worldlier woman. Miss Brighton said she could learn French in the newly established Detroit before going to Paris, but Bill put his foot down. He thought she was too young and would miss her too much to allow such a thing to happen. He took this stand in spite of his going to sea at twelve against his parent's wishes. The issue boiled and brewed in the family mostly out of earshot of Bill until one day Elizabeth came to him.
“William Alexander, will you reconsider your daughter's future and what would be best for her, not what you think would be best for you?”
“But the advantages that could be offered at…”
Elizabeth loved Bill but she knew when to push it and when to drop it.
Bill sat looking out at his precious Seabreeze. A tear ran down his cheek He wiped it off after turning his head, so Elizabeth didn't see.
Word reached Darkwood Dock of war being declared against Spain and France by England, following the recent coronation of Queen Anne. Although there were raids by French troops along the entire East Coast, none came anywhere near Darkwood Dock. Though the delta was known for rich bottom land, few plantations were closer than 50 miles for fear of escaped convicts. The Carolinas were prison colonies. Bill's views were strong against slavery and told Seabreeze since she was little that black men were men too. So it was with great reluctance that he forbade her to invite a young black boy she was interested in to her sixteenth birthday party in 1705. All the townspeople would be there and a law had just been passed that it was now illegal for whites and blacks to marry. In this community, even being seen with a black boy would have them run out of the community. It was one of the only times Seabreeze wouldn't talk to Bill and he went into a deep depression that lasted for weeks.
That same summer, Bill had an accident while fixing a harvesting machine. The blades were sharp and his mind was on the fiasco at the birthday party when it happened. Before he could pull his hand back, a blade had sliced off his thumb along the lifeline. Theodore, his oldest son was there and insisted that he take Bill to Bensonville to see the only doctor in a hundred miles of hard riding. Doc Singleton had studied medicine with a doctor in Boston from Europe and the rumor was he had to run from some big gambling debts that he couldn't pay off. Bill knew the Doc from the complications with the birth of his third grandchild and thought him quite competent. Still, Bill had never gone to a doctor and if it weren't for an infection that set in he wouldn't have gone. Bill had positioned the thumb carefully in its proper place then bound it so tightly his skin was white all the way to his small finger. The Doc had to cut away some dead skin around the wound and found that it did not bleed where he was cutting. He left the room immediately and brought back two large books. After several minutes, he put down his reading spectacles.
“Bill, you have a rare condition of the blood vessels and surrounding tissue, possibly all your body cells are involved. Your blood vessels will close up and seal themselves instantly upon being severed and there was a good chance that your vital organs will do the same.”
“Doc, what are you trying to say?”
“I don't know how long you'll live, but getting wounded in a fight isn't going to be a concern.”
“I didn't say that.”
“Thanks, Doc. What do I owe you?”
“It's on the house, if you'll let me write up this in the Colonial Medical Journal and agree to be examined by men from various parts of the world.”
“Forget it, I've spent years finding seclusion.”
“No.” Bill left Doc's office while buttoning up his shirt. He had left a gold piece well in excess of what the charges would have come to. He expected Doc to keep his secret while he spent the excess.
By 1714, the year George I ascended to the throne, the Queen Anne War was over and the Motherland had been the United Kingdom for several years. The Carolinas and been divided into North and South, so Bill and his family were now from North Carolina where importing new slaves was illegal and what plantations were still around were in hard times. The town of Darkwood Dock had grown some, mostly newborns from marriages of locals since strangers were seldom seen. Miss Brighton had married Jim Bob Thompson, the town's blacksmith back in ‘09 and Seabreeze had taken over a school of twenty-two children, grades 1-8 at twenty years of age. She was known as “the old schoolmarm,” since women her age had large families of their own and were considered middle-aged. Seabreeze always told Bill the local boys seemed like her brothers and she had no interest in them romantically. The books she read told of dashing young men who did great deeds and rode giant white stallions that carried them into battle. Seabreeze had added Greek and Latin to English and French classes in the one room schoolhouse on the bank of the delta.
That year three things happened that made it impossible for Bill to stay in North Carolina. In late spring, his beloved wife Elizabeth has come down with influenza and died. Seabreeze had been seeing a recently released prisoner that talked real smooth and slid out of town just as easily. She was with child when a traveling pots and pans salesman came to town with his wagon of every day goods and recognized Bill as Billy Boy of Boston. Bill denied it but several people standing there asked why the man was so sure. The vendor listed five things about Boston Bill that fit Bill like a glove: the scars on his chest and arms, the way he couldn't stand perfectly upright, the ages of his wife and children, his unbelievable strength, and the steely look he would give a man that would paralyze the man where he stood. The men in town knew it was true. It explained how no one could beat him arm wrestling at picnics. It also explained the feeling they got if he looked at them a certain way, how their arms and legs went stiff and their heart seemed to stop beating. Bill gave the peddler one of those looks as he helped the old man back on his wagon and slapped the hindquarters of his horse. As the wagon went off down the road with a stiff looking salesman holding the reins, the townspeople began to pull back from Bill and Theodore as they finished loading their buckboard.
The following week, Bill signed ownership of the business over to Theodore and Douglas who, by that time, were experts at fixing anything that turned, rotated, or had gears. Bill's right thumb had knitted back in place but most of the nerve endings never healed and he wasn't able to switch to his left hand for much of the work he needed to do. Bill was still depressed and lonely from Elizabeth's passing and almost welcomed the chance to get away from all the things that reminded him of her. He would miss his sons and their wives who he had known since they were little girls. The eight grandchildren were going to miss him the most. Much of their weekends and every day after school they would run to Grandpa Bill to hear stories of the sea and ports of call all over the world. He spent two to four hours with each one before leaving going over their time together and what he wanted them to do in the up coming months.
The leaves were beginning to fall and there was a light frost on the ground the morning that William and Rebecca Seaworthy kissed and hugged their family goodbye and climbed up on the small buckboard loaded with all her books and their personal belongings. They had left just enough space for a giant malamute he had bought from a man in Bensonville the year before. He figured he would sleep easier at night on the road traveling with a 300-pound guard that could fit a man's head in his mouth before swallowing it. Klondike was the biggest dog he had ever seen anywhere in the world. That included a giant St. Bernard in Geneva and huge mastiff in Oslo. The man he bought it from said Klondike had carried on his back a man with a broken leg two hundred miles through the mountains of the Yukon Territories to safety.
Seabreeze was just starting to show and, as she pulled herself up to the seat, she looked at Bill and said it was time to go before she threw up again. They were headed to Boston, where she would teach school and be the widow from the South. Hers would be a tragic story, of a newly wed husband killed by Indians near the end of the Toscarora Indian War the same night she gave birth to their first child. Bill planned to spend a year or so getting to Boston so their story matched the baby's age.
They settled into a small cottage just outside of Baltimore to allow time for the storyline they would tell in Boston. It was a cold morning in March when Elizabeth Aphra Seaworthy came into the world. She was a happy baby and spent much of her day creating mounds of bubbles she delivered to waiting shoulders. Bill loved her dearly and called her Seafoam.