Part the Two Hundred Seventeenth: Adrift in Port
“Prithee, a drink, lass?”
Hope just stared at the man, his mustache neatly trimmed, a seeming impossibility considering how reddened from the drink his nose and eyes were. His clothes were trimmed with finery that shone despite the damage he had done to them by his carousing.
She tried not to look into his eyes and avoid him.
“Now why treat me such, m’lady? Do ye think I’d be forcing bilge past those pretty lips of yours? All I ask is that ye have a drink, now.”
“Sir,” Hope responded, “do you drink so much so early in the morning regularly?”
“Why, do ye know the pain before you when you stop drinking?”
“Are you to say that you avoid being hung over by never stopping?”
“Sure if it doesn’t do the trick now, eh?” he responded with a smile.
“Good sir, I feel I cannot share a drink with you.”
“And why ever would I not be considered good enough company to drink with?”
Hope took a second to gather her thoughts quickly before she replied, “Sir, it is not your company with me I worry about, but my being good company to you. I am awaiting friends here in this public house who are due shortly, and I shall be a poor companion until they come, after which I will be badly distracted by their presence.”
“Good friends, eh? How good be they?”
“I share my bed with one, who is deadly with a knife.”
“A man like that would be an asset, aye,” he said with a nod and a smile.
Hope said nothing, trying not to betray that she referred to Charity in such a manner…
Before he could circle round for another pass, a woman working the men in the house slid up to him and started to nibble his ear.
Hope took the distraction the harlot offered and disengaged, looking for the master of the house.
The master saw Hope’s hails and with tankard in hand came to her, As he handed her the draught, he asked, “Do ye know who you just pushed off away from ye?”
“Do I look like I care?” she replied. “I’ve spent three weeks in Port Royal, kept in another inn waiting for something. I’ve been blessed with a patron who is patient and generous, and a companion who has been a comfort, though both could be gone in a blink.”
“And two days ago, my companion went to bring into town the rest of our company from Bull Bay. They should have come back by now, and unless you have-”
“As you wish,” the master said as he held up his hands and backed away.
“Should stop doing that in this public house,” Hope muttered, “before they mark me the ‘Mad Woman of Lyme Street,’ for my troub-”
“Ye lie, ye do,” she heard behind her.
Hope turned and nearly dropped her jaw on the floor.
“No, I do not,” said the man in the midst of the group behind her. “I did indeed see the Spaniard’s prize, and she was as I said.”
“Ye swear?” asked the first.
“Aye, she was indeed a fiery ginger,” said John of Mersey, “even after all he did to her…”
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