When Elizabeth Swann was eight years old her father promised to
take her to the country, away from the hustle and bustle of London, for a picnic. The day
before their planned outing dawned wet and gloomy, much to her dismay. She sat at the
window, trying not to smudge her nose against the glass as she scowled out at the drizzle.
"Stupid rain... Stupid, stupid rain..." she whispered.
The voice of her nursemaid broke into her moping reverie, causing her to snap away from
the window and attempt to look busy with the stitching in her lap. "Miss Swann,"
Ruth said brightly, "how is your sewing coming along?"
Elizabeth sheepishly looked down at the scrap of cloth, studying her uneven, loose
stitches. "Um, well, I..."
Ruth smiled. "Don't be too hard on yourself, Miss. You're still learning. It takes
lots of practice to gain skill with a needle, even when you don't...well, for
The girl looked away, filling in what the nurse had been about to say. Even when you don't
have a mother to teach you. Everyone seemed to avoid talking about the late Mrs. Swann
around her daughter, although Elizabeth had no memory of her and therefore did
not--indeed, could not--miss her. What she often thought but never said aloud was that it
seemed a bit silly for others to pity her on that account. People didn't cast sad looks at
her for not having a brother or sister, although most of her playmates and cousins had
siblings. Why, then, was this so different?
Ruth again interrupted her thoughts. "Why don't you put that aside for now and take a
stroll with me?"
"But it's raining." It was a statement, not an objection. Elizabeth found
walking in the rain to be a fun sort of adventure, but her nursemaids never agreed.
"Aye, that it is. We'll just walk a bit inside, then. It's not healthy for a young
miss such as yourself to sit with her nose in a book all day. You need to get your blood
circulating. C'mon now, just for a little while."
There wasn't anything better to do, and she was dreadfully bored with her sewing, so
Elizabeth rose and followed Ruth out of the sitting room.
They strolled at a leisurely pace through the corridors of her father's home, lingering in
the cloud of sweet aroma from the kitchens, before they came to the grand foyer. The door
opened and Elizabeth's father entered, handing his soggy coat to the footman.
"Father!" she exclaimed, running to embrace him.
Weatherby Swann picked her up and spun her around, grinning proudly. "Hello,
Elizabeth. Have you been able to keep yourself entertained despite the weather?"
"Oh yes, Father," she said brightly. "I finished another book this morning.
It was a marvelous story about a boy who was shipwrecked and washed up on an island full
of amazing things, like flowers that could sing, and men who walked on their hands, and
then he met some pirates who--"
"Yes, very nice, and how is your embroidery coming along?" He obviously
preferred her to spend her time on more demure pursuits, yet as long as she at least
attempted ladylike activities he allowed her free reign of his extensive library.
"Er...it's...not very good yet."
He laid a fond hand on her golden-brown curls and smiled. "Keep practicing and you'll
become an expert, I'm sure."
"Thank you, Father." Her tone was less confident than his.
Weatherby reached into his pocket and fished out a shiny coin. "It's stopped raining
now. Why don't you go down to the little red store on the corner and buy a treat?"
"Oh, may I, Father?" She held out her cupped hands to accept the coin.
"Yes, so long as Ruth stays with you. Don't wander off, and don't spoil your
"I won't. Thank you!"
The girl raced out the door and Ruth quickly bowed to her employer before scurrying to
At the end of the street was a small plaza, with an old well in the center and shops all
around. Rain pooled around the cobblestones but the low, gray skies were quiet for the
moment. What everyone in the area called "the little red store" was actually a
sweetshop, making it the favorite of all the children.
"Good afternoon, Miss Swann!" greeted the shopkeeper, a nearsighted, balding
"Good afternoon, Mister Green," Elizabeth said with a small curtsey. She placed
her coin on the counter and looked through the glass at the rows of sweets. Candied nuts,
licorice, crystallized fruits, and the most expensive of all--chocolate all the way from
"Tell me again where the chocolate comes from, please, Mr. Green!"
The elderly man smiled and leaned on the counter, seeing in her large brown eyes an
appreciative audience. "Certainly, Miss Swann. Chocolate comes from cocoa, which only
grows in the warm places far across the sea where it never snows, and the jungles are full
of monkeys and parrots with feathers bright as these candies."
Elizabeth listened in rapt attention, enjoying the daydream of such exotic lands as much
as the chocolate she was buying.
Mr. Green handed her a smaller but equally shiny coin as change along with a tiny brown
paper package containing two small chocolates. She thanked him and left the store with
Ruth in tow, then stopped in the middle of the square to unwrap the sweets. She set the
small coin on the edge of the well and carefully removed the chocolates from their
delicate paper, relishing the crinkling sound of the waxy wrapping.
"You should make a wish, Miss Swann," Ruth said suddenly.
"If you drop a coin into a well you can make a wish."
"And it will come true?"
"It might, if you wish hard enough."
Elizabeth gave one of the chocolates to Ruth: a gesture that was certainly not expected
but received with polite thanks. As they chewed slowly to enjoy every particle of
sweetness, Elizabeth studied the coin. It was shiny even in the meager sunlight that
filtered through the clouds, engraved with intricate filigree and a profile of the King.
She had never taken the time to really look at a coin before, but this one suddenly struck
her as pretty, a miniature work of art. She envisioned herself tucking it away in a
drawer, her own secret treasure...
A soft pit-pit-pit noise announced a fresh rainshower. "Oh dear, Miss Swann, we must
get back home right away," Ruth said. "Can't have you catching cold."
Elizabeth squinted up at the bleak sky. "It has to stop raining or we can't go on our
picnic tomorrow." She frowned sternly at the sky as if she could order the sun to
"Then you should wish for it to stop raining," Ruth suggested. "But please
Elizabeth hesitated, looking again at the shining coin in her palm. At last, she took a
deep breath and dropped the tiny disc into the well. She heard a distant plunk as it hit
the water, then allowed Ruth to loop her arm around her own and hurry back toward the
house as swiftly as decorum allowed.
Elizabeth did not catch cold--she was vaguely indignant at the thought that a little bit
of rain would ruin her health--but the weather did not improve. She awoke early and sat at
the window, still in her nightgown, watching the steady rain with bitter disappointment.
No servant had delivered the news but it went without saying that there would be no picnic
Her wish hadn't worked. She had given up her pretty coin in exchange for a sunny day, but
there was no sun: only rain, clouds, and wind. It had been a gamble, but she had believed
that by forfeiting one treasure she would gain another, even greater one. Now, instead,
she was left with nothing.
She leaned her elbows on the windowsill and sighed. Life wasn't fair.
Nearly two decades later, Elizabeth Swann found herself sitting in much the same posture,
gazing out at fireflies lazily blinking around the swamp. Life still wasn't fair. In fact,
at that moment life seemed less fair than it ever had. It only got more complicated, more
confusing, more difficult...
She glanced across the room, through all the hanging bottles of bizarre and disgusting
things in the voodoo priestess' collection, to where Will sat leaning against a cabinet,
sound asleep. Even with his eyes closed in slumber, he looked distant, closed off from
He had barely spoken to her since they left the Black Pearl. She strongly suspected the
reason--he had seen more than she had intended for him to see, or at least guessed--but
every time she resolved to discuss what had happened, no words would come. How could she
explain it to him when she couldn't even explain it to herself?
Elizabeth turned back to the window and stared out into the misty night. If only she had
remembered earlier the futility of wishing wells.
Take what you can...give nothing back.
The words echoed in her head; then came another, fresher memory...
So much wrapped into that one word. In one breath he had claimed her, condemned her,
forgiven her, insulted her, adored her, and shown that he understood her as no one else
ever had. She was right about him: he was a good man. But he was right about her, too.
The sickly-sweet pall of incense in Tia Dalma's hut made her light-headed, and Elizabeth
found herself nodding off to sleep at the window. She slumped back in her chair and
surrendered to fatigue. As the lines between reality and dreams blurred, her thoughts
centered on the nebulous image of a coin, shining underwater against a background of dark