Part the One Hundred Nineteenth: Hope Has a Crisis of Faith
“Back to England? Are you certain, Hope?” Charity asked.
Hope was relieved that she did not react badly to her desire to return to England. After seeing her kill Andrews with enraged passion, passion she could not satiate, Hope assumed the worst, as usual.
“Maybe I am not meant for this,” Hope said, so softly that the sound of the waves under the moonlight almost drowned her words. “It seemed a better idea than going on to Carolina and being on a plantation at the edge of the world, surrounded by the wilds and savages away from everything I’d ever known.”
“But you had seen the worst of the trade, at least since the Gale captured my ship. How could this affect you so?” Charity asked as her hand stroked Hope’s cheek.
“Because it was… It was more personal. Before all of that, there was murder and mayhem on all sides, but no one had intended to hurt me and only me. And Andrews was one of us, one of our crew. How could he do that to me?”
“Hope, Hope… The first thing you must know about all sailors who ply the trade is, ils sont les hommes méchants. Each and every one, beasts at their core. You could say that of most men in any group, save for perhaps monks, but here especially there are no saints.”
“And how am I to trust any of them after that?” Hope asked, trying not to cry again.
“You can’t. No one is going to give you any certainty. The only thing you can do is be ready to defend yourself. And I will see to you your defense avec des lecons personnelles.”
“You will… teach me how to protect myself?”
“Oui, with blade or bottle, whatever you have on hand,” said Charity as her hands cupped Hope’s face. “You should know how to save your own life, just in case there ever comes a time when I cannot protect you myself, which I would do even at the cost of my life.”
“But couldn’t I avoid all that by going home?”
“To what? With all your family over on this side of the world now, what would you do? Become a maid in someone’s home, maybe to someone you knew who had been of your station before you left? Married in desperation to a common farmer or merchant who would treat you as another implement of the house? Or worse, become a streetwalker one bad encounter away from an early grave?”
Hope tried to look down, but Charity’s hands kept her eyes fixed forward, looking straight into her eyes.
“I could not see you going to that,” Charity continued. “Such a fate should not befall you, my dear, dear Hope…”
Hope could not move as Charity came closer, nose passing nose as their lips brushed together…
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