Part 17

Part the Seventeenth: Hope Asks the Captain

Hope went atop the quarterdeck where Captain Sanders was setting the tiller and asked, “So what is this I hear about the Articles, madam?”

Captain Sanders allowed herself only the briefest moment to be surprised before she let out a laugh. “Well, are ye a sight of anyone wanting to go on the account!” she roared.

“If it means my life and comfort, then yes, yes, I damned well want to know about the Articles!”

Captain Sanders laughed again before she called, “Steady the till! I have business to conduct below decks here…”

In the wardroom, the captain used a match to light a tallow candle, and placed it on the table that was fastened to the deck, with a lantern hood placed atop the candle. “Have a seat,” said Captain Sanders as she took one of the small casks she used as stools and rolled it into position to sit on.

Hope did likewise as she took a seat opposite the captain. Only now in this light with the sun coming through the rear glass reflected off the sea did Hope give a more thorough look at the ornamental scabbard hanging on the wall next to the hammock the captain slept in. She never noticed before how it was secured to the bulkhead at such a level that the captain could reach over and touch it from her hammock, but only fully realized how much it meant to her as she watched Captain Sanders’ eyes focus for a spell on it before she turned to Hope.

“Do ye know what it means to be going on account, Hope?” the captain asked.

“It means something to do with the Articles, I guess,” she answered, trying not to sound totally ignorant.

“It means that if ye want a place with this crew, ye be signing to the same terms we all agree upon.”

“Agree upon? But if you’re the captain, how do you allow anyone to say otherwise?” asked Hope.

“To be with a crew on the account is not to submit to any one person. Not fully, no, though they best be toeing the line when need be done.”

“So how did you become captain, then, if not by force? Are you saying anyone could become the captain if they wanted to?”

Captain Sanders stared at Hope. She thought the Captain was going to give one of the derisive laughs that she wielded as effectively as she did her sword.

Instead, Captain Sanders smiled. “I’d forgot what it meant to have questions like that asked. I so miss that.”

“Pardon me?”

“In answer to yer first question, no, you don’t force a crew, you invite it. And it picks its captain, the person they think would be best for the task, and so long as he- or she,” Captain Sanders added quickly with a sly smile, “meets the satisfaction of the crew and keeps them happy, then they follow the captain through hell if need be.”

“And they just give you all that power, to command them?”

“Nay, the crew first chooses a captain, but then the ship’s articles must be drawn up and agreed upon. Only then, when the crew agrees to the captain and how they will follow the captain, will he command a ship and those who sail upon it.”

Hope considered her next question carefully…

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All content Copyright © 2008 James Ryan

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