Part the One Hundred Twelfth: Elise Comes to Tortuga
Hope did not care about the shriveling of her hands and feet in the cooling bath water. She continued to listen intently to Elise’s tale about how she came to the New World from her convent.
“It was to the east of Hispaniola,” said Elise. “The mutineers had put Jean-David, those men loyal to him and I, into the launch and left us adrift while they continued to plunder at will, now full-fledged pirates. They gave us very little to eat and drink, and only enough powder for one shot in each pistol. I believe they expected us to end our lives before we starved to death.
“Within hours of our abandonment, there was a violent storm. The boat pitched to and fro, and during the swells we lost four men. They were good decent gentlemen, and I fear that they may have purposely gone over the side for the sake of their crew, to give the rest a better chance to survive.
“Their sacrifice gave us two days before starvation became a concern, and slowly we watched each other mourez de faim. It is not something I talk of easily, watching men grow weak and die as they succumb to hunger.
“By the time the launch made its way towards land, only Jean-David and I were left. He had been gracious and attentive, giving me more to eat from our stores than he would take. When we did touch land, though, he was so weak that I had to pull the boat in from the surf myself with him in it.
“When we came inland, we met some of the older boucaniers, the original settlers, still living in their huts and smoking the pigs they hunted to trade with passing ships. They were kindly and charitable, which allowed us to make our way to Tortuga, where we hoped to consider what we would do next.”
“So what happened when you both got to Tortuga?” Hope asked.
Elise sighed. “Sadly, only I made it. On the way, Jean-David caught a fever, and weak as he was from being marooned, he fell to it quickly. His last wish as he lay dying was that I continue to live, and to carry on.
“And in that, I have succeeded. I live, and I carry on, through any means at my disposal. I have done quite a bit to earn what I can, in any way possible, and while I am not proud I have no regrets. I have even been able to serve as un intermédiaire between the sailors that come to Tortuga and those ladies offering quelque chose de exotique, collecting a fee for such introductions.”
As the mention of Elise’s sideline hung in the air, Hope lowered herself a little into the chilling bath.
Elise smiled. “Oh, no, I’m not looking for new talent. If I could sail as crew aboard ship, I would.”
“And go after the mutineers?” Hope asked.
“It would be too late to try. I had heard they met their end near Santo Domingo.”
“They were captured by a Spanish ship, the Casa del Sol. Her captain hung them all in the harbor until they rotted away,” said Elise.
Hope felt the water get colder…
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