Part 206

Part the Two Hundred Sixth: The Salmagundi Incident

It was not until nearly sundown that Hope finally had a proper conversation with her host.

He’d gone beyond his promise of a fresh dry chemise and some privacy, offering her the hammock in his cabin to rest up in and letting her keep the coat.  Refreshed and dry, she emerged on deck as he was lighting his pipe.

“There’s still some of the mess,” he said.  “Salmagundi, though less meat than proper; left the chicken back at Port Maria by mistake.”

“You’ve got a proper cook,” Hope noted.

“Eh?”

“At sea,” she quickly added, “aboard this ship.  I’d thought the food was supposed to be horrible for sailors.”

“Not if ye take it as seriously as prayer,” he replied.  “Keep the men fed, and their faith in ye will keep them at your side when the fight comes.”

“This ship doesn’t seem like a warship.”

“Oh, aye?”

“You sound as though you’re on campaign,” said Hope, “all this talk about food being good for morale.”

“Ah, nay.  Not a warship, the Constance.  Me days in the field with General Monck in England, and Colonel Doyley here, left their mark on me.  Get a taste of powder and steel and ye end up with your mind on the march all your days.”

“Though your body is here at sea, I see.”

“Have to,” he said as he added a small amount of tobacco in his bowl to keep it full.  “Aye, I got a plantation after we took on and licked Don Cristobal at Rio Nuevo, and I make a go at it, but I have to get my cane to the bigger market.”

“Not overland?”

“Nay, not with the Maroons in the hills ready for ye.  Faster and safer going by ship.”

“I see, Captain…” Hope trailed.

“Willis.  Robert Willis.  And ye be again?”

She took a moment to consider how to respond.  “Abigail,” she finally said, “Abigail Forget.”

“Well, Abby,” said Robert, “ye best have some of the salmagundi.  Fancy it’s not, but with only two days to go before we get to Port Royal, it’s the best we have.”

“I’ll take you up on your offer.  I could eat dried hardtack with the hunger I’m feeling.”

“Eh?”

Hope tried to smile her way out from under his suspicions and asked sweetly, “Where do I help myself to this wonderful sounding dish?”

Robert’s expression gave little clue as to what he was thinking as he handed Hope a wooden bowl and showed her the pot where the ingredients were mixed together for her to scoop herself out a serving.

She said nothing as she used her fingers to feed herself.  The oil made the mushrooms and onions slippery, and the lemon juice was so pungent her lips bowed and puckered.

As she tried to scrape her tongue against her teeth to cut the acid, she noticed that Robert smiled as he watched her pucker.  At the very least, Hope noticed that he wasn’t giving her the suspicious glances he had earlier when she spoke without as much care as she could have.

She managed to smile before she stuffed more salmagundi into her mouth, hoping her lips would allay his suspicions…

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