Part the Two Hundred Seventh: Ashore But Not At Liberty
Up until Robert spoke, Hope enjoyed what she saw of Port Royal as the Constance sailed into her harbor.
It was less the finery of the important buildings that rose above the crowded streets around them than how the assembled structures looked surrounded by the azure waters on three sides that grabbed her attention. The sounds of revels snaked their way over the peaked wooden roofs bleaching in the tropical sun, the music and laughter making them feel to the observer as though they swayed to the cadence of the crowds behind them. Port Royal looked as though she had emerged from the sea, proudly baring her chest as she rose to stride upon the shoal.
As the Constance rounded her western tip, trimmed steadily to starboard until she rounded the hook and ended up in the bay behind the fortresses, Hope took in the sounds of the fishermen unloading their catch, many proclaiming loudly how deeply they wanted to descend into debauchery on their profits.
“You think he’s in Fort Charles?” Robert asked Hope, nodding towards the larger set of walls. “Your lad, I mean?”
“Oh, yes…” Hope trailed, trying not to sound like a woman caught in a lie.
“Never did say much about him. Ye spent most your time just staring over the waves.”
“Yes, well… It was quite harrowing being upon the water, doomed to drown had you not plucked me from it. In fact, I should so like to get ashore as quickly as possible; is there any-”
“Now hold on there,” Robert said with a raised hand. “I’d be a rake and a fool to let you go there alone.”
“I can’t let ye just wander into the wickedest city in the New World, nay, maybe all the world, alone and unprotected. I’ll not let ye risk your name and honor so close to being reunited with yer beloved. Would not be Christian for me to do that.”
Hope stopped herself from replying. Any claim to having been seasoned for Port Royal by her shore leave in Tortuga would just not do, but saying nothing meant being entangled by him all the same.
Trying not to look desperate, she said, “But surely your wares need to be dealt with first. Spending your valuable time escorting me would certainly keep you from your appointed rounds.”
“Nay, the canes will be fine below, and the lads I have will see that they’re safe until they’re unloaded.”
“And leaving you to accompany me through the wickedest city, a man in his autumnal years? So rough a city as that?”
“I’m still strong enough to protect ye,” Robert replied, “and having faced the Scots at their worst at Dunbar, I feel these roughs will be no more a threat to us than midges.”
Hope tried hard to not roll her eyes as she looked for any way to leave him and go on into Port Royal alone.
He struck the fatal blow to her plan with his arm extended and invitation firmly offered, “Now, Miss Forget, I do believe we have a gentleman who is expecting you, who will be happy to see you alive.”
“You are gracious to a fault,” she replied, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice…
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