Part 48

Part the Forty Eighth: The French Bilge
“With all due respect, sir,” said the French youth as he kept his cutlass down, “my intent depends on your stance as far as Marcel- Akua,” he corrected himself as he turned to his companion, “-as to this man’s freedom. For I did sign aboard with the crew only just after his purchase at Saint Martin, and did not discover what was happening to him until we put out to sea.”

“I would say both of your fates are tied to how much you are willing to offer as to this vessel’s manifest,” replied Osei, “and how willing you are to insure that all of it be secured.”

The youth nodded, then asked, “Did your men try the bilge? I believe the captain spent far too long below decks for someone of his station to be hanging about there.”

Osei motioned to four crewman, who went past the gathering at the bottom to check the lowest point of the hold out of Hope’s sight.

The sound of hatches being opened and whacks of axes against wood were followed by cries and whistles. One of the crew sent to check the bilge came into sight, holding a large ingot of silver with a smile.

“It be a stone’s worth, this piece!” the happy man said as he shared sight of the booty. “And there be two more we found there!”

“Get that man out of irons,” Osei commanded, “and bring them both up on deck.”

There was a flurry of activity at the bottom of the hold as the chained youth’s former opponents worked to free him of his shackles. After considerable swearing, clanks of metal on metal and one angry scream, the two emerged from the hold shortly after the treasure in the bilge.

As the two cooperating captives got used to the sunlight and the sight of their ship being torn apart for treasure, Osei addressed them. “Gentlemen, as you have been helpful to us, have been abused by your former master, and have no options other than be abandoned with this hulk, we hereby offer you a chance to crew with us.” Osei repeated this offer in French for Akua’s benefit, which Hope assumed from Akua’s expressions did not need further translation.

“Admittedly, monsieur,” said the young Frenchman, “your offer has considerable appeal. I can see no other-“

Hope saw his eyes adjust to the light and land on her. The look on his face as he fixed on her, a slight surprise being gracefully escorted off by a widening smile.

A nice smile, Hope noticed…

“And the lady,” the youth asked, “she is with you in what capacity?”

“She is our musician,” said Osei with a tinge of warning implied in his voice.

“She must be handy at port to entice others to sign up eagerly, no?” he replied.

Hope started to smile despite herself.

“I am Charles de Normandie,” he said with a slight bow. “And I consider myself trés honoré to be here.”

Hope felt his eyes focus on her as he said that and gave Osei a bow. She tried to hide her smile in response…

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All content Copyright © 2008 James Ryan


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