Part the Seventy Fourth: Abigail Shares Her Insight
“She should be waking on her own, soon,” said Abigail as she observed ‘Charles,’ who was resting in a hammock strung in the captain’s cabin, having received Surgeon Samuels’ care and pronouncement that she would recover.
Hope said nothing. Not since Samuels had revealed ‘Charles’ for who she was had she uttered a sound, spending the whole time staring at her.
“We lost a few good men today,” said Abigail. “William Bentink was a good sailor, and a decent crewman. He’d been wiling to show me all he knew about priming a fuse when I was Johan, and was willing after that to see me as captain.”
Hope turned slowly to look at Abigail, focusing her sights on her.
“My hope is that she had a chance to speak to Bentink, our friend here,” Abigail continued. “He would have been a good person to have speak for her now, but…” Abigail let it stand alone in the room.
“You knew,” said Hope. “The whole time you knew about this, you knew he- she, she was doing this…” she tried to say before her voice broke, “and you said nothing.”
“Aye,” Abigail finally replied. “I said nothing, and aye, I did know the moment I saw her.”
Hope just stared at Abigail.
“I knew on sight,” Abigail continued, “having done the same myself. I knew what to look for, what to notice, as one who had gone to sea as a man. Aye, she was good enough to pass a casual glance, though not so good as to fool one who’d gone before her.”
Nothing was said as Abigail retrieved a bottle of rumbullion and two tankards. She poured drink into both, one only a third of the way full, the other near capacity, and took the larger. She offered the lesser amount to Hope, who stared at it before she took it in her hands.
Abigail took a drink and continued, “Aye, I’d passed myself off as a man, and the whole time I was in danger should I be found. At any moment I could have been exposed and at their mercy. Most crews do not take well to a woman among them, and when I was exposed I lost some of Dyck’s best men. I consider myself lucky that that was the worst of it.”
Hope continued to stare.
“I could well have been cast off at the next port, with nothing left to me. And being alone in some far port with naught to offer or hold would have given me few options. That was a danger I faced every day, every minute, even with Edwin beside me. Even had there not been the danger of worse, of rape and murder, to be cast ashore and no longer under sail would have been as cruel as any fate to suffer.”
Hope glanced at ‘Charles;’ she considered those possible fates, and whether she really deserved any of those…
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