Part the Two Hundred Eighteenth: The Golden Prize
“Tell me again what happened,” a second man asked John of Mersey, who was surrounded in the public house by a set of scoundrels hanging on his every word.
As well as Hope, who moved closer while staying hidden.
“Well,” said John, “I had the pleasure of being in his presence, the Spaniard’s, soon after he returned to Santiago. He was especially buoyant, as he’d claimed his grand prize after some effort.”
“Why, John?” asked the man who had accused him of lying. “Why did he want her?”
“Well, to see her was something to behold, and in and of itself I’d have been impressed enough. And how she was presented-”
“That’s the part I want,” said the second.
“Are we one for that, eh, Dickey?” said John with a side glance.
“Tell it again, tell it again.”
“Very well: He insisted on presenting what he called ‘Mi Tesoro,’ and had a big to do set for me and the rest of the honored guests, the Porto merchant de Huevo, the Garda Captain, a few others who’ve taken his coin who were there. And it was a grand feast, I tell y-”
“Get to the good part!” said Dickey.
“Oi, lad, ye keep that up and there won’t be a Confessor under Heaven that’s able to help ye!” said the first.
“I’d better continue before Dickey explodes,” said John. “Well, he had eight bearers bring out what looked like a pallet, covered with a sheer cloth. We could just make out what was under it, but that didn’t prepare us for the unveiling, which he did with a full flourish from his musicians.
“And there she was, the woman he’d been going after. She was shackled at the ankles and wrists like a slave at market, made every bit more a treasure with a mixture of gold dust and oil applied to her naked body, save her long red hair and a few spots de Colera’s servants either couldn’t or wouldn’t gild her.”
Hope tried to fight that image forming in her head.
“And then he got up,” John continued, “and gave a small talk about her. He described how she was the terror of the seas, preying on ships throughout all the waters of the New World, how much of a terror she had been, but now was his.”
“And he took her there in front of you?” asked a third listener.
“Ah, I half expected that,” said John, “as she was well stupefied and chained in such a way to make it easy for him. Yet she managed to gather her wits as he finished and spat in his face.”
“And then he let her have it, I bet,” said the first.
“Nay. Not after that deed he wouldn’t, from what he said about ‘su meyor valor’ during his talk, and the way he kept scratching the back of her neck like he would behind a dog’s ears, no. And what he said afterwards in confidence, not with what he has planned.”
“Like a dog you say?” said Dickey. “More like a bitch!”
This was all Hope could bear. Angry and in pain, she turned to leave-
-knocking down and landing beside the drunk she encountered earlier…
An angering drunk who was bearing down on her…
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