Part the Two Hundred Thirty Eighth: Reduced and Reclaimed
Hope wondered if Turley was going to be the first casualty in the venture to rescue Abigail.
He’d already shown considerable uneasiness around Osei, whom Hope trusted more than the man relating his tale. And the tale Turley told was one of considerable woe, his efforts to trade slaves for tobacco doomed by storms, mutiny and slave uprising, making her question whether this man was up to something as challenging as Abigail’s rescue from de Colera was going to be.
More worrisome was how violently ill he was getting in Osei’s presence. It was as though all of his sins were standing before him, readying to smite him in judgment, and he was by no means prepared for that moment…
“But I interrupted,” Osei gave a slight smile, softening his visage just enough. “Pray, continue.”
“Y-y-yes, well…” Turley sought his voice. “It was just the five of us left, our carg- the men we had in the hold, the warriors now out among the Maroons. My feeling was, as horrible as the natives had been before, they were likely to be far worse once the warriors hooked up with them.”
“Would they have?” Jukes asked.
“Very likely,” said Osei. “The Maroons are former slaves themselves and would have welcomed them with open arms into their community.”
“I don’t know if they did mingle soon after,” said Turley, “because I never saw the Maroons again. I count myself lucky, luckier than the rest who probably did see them before they…”
“Before they what?” Hope asked.
“They picked us off, one by one. At night, during the day, it didn’t matter; the island was theirs and we were like berries on a bush, to be picked at their leisure. I barely made it to Bull Bay, and was in such a state that I stayed under a thin blanket for days before I could face anyone there. And even after I recovered, I was nearly out of wits at times as the memories came to haunt my quiet moments.
“I was rather fortunate that Master Zoutman struck up a conversation with me on a good day, when I was more fully in control of my faculties. I’d not had chance to have conversation with most of the men there, and the talk of sailing and the craft thereby was very deep and fulfilling. I think I made quite an impression on him to have me invited into his company.”
“Which will be of little use if you are mastered by your past,” said Hope. “If you cannot be at ease with all the members of this crew, then you will be of no value to this venture.”
Turley looked at Osei, steadying himself with every moment his eyes fixed on him.
“Sir,” he said, “I hope you will forgive my trespasses and not hold over me what I have done, as we undertake this venture.”
The air hung heavily over the decks as Turley’s entreaty awaited a reply, ever longer in its coming…
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