Part the Seventy Seventh: Charity Is Introduced
“All right, lass,” said Abigail as she dragged over one of the barrels she used as a stool by the map table to be next to the stowaway. “Ye can do away with the pretending here, and give me a straight answer. That be the best course, if ye want any sympathy or protection.”
The young woman looked at Abigail, then noticed Hope. Looking into her eyes, she gave a slight sigh. “You have me at a disadvantage, no?”
Hope stared at her intently as she took in who she was, and who he had been. Without the bindings, she was easily recognized as a woman. The timbre that had been in Charles’ voice was gone as she took a breath easily, without short syllables the way he had spoken before ‘he’ was exposed. The hair, which was not in a tail as it had been before, as bound as her chest, looked more feminine when allowed to go free.
Hope wondered how she could have missed that Charles was a she, and how Abigail spotted it so easily. Was she so good at pulling off the disguise, Hope wondered, that she could be easily fooled, or was she just unable to tell? And the more she wondered, Abigail’s comments about Hope’s lack of experience came back to laugh at her, holding her up to ridicule as she looked at this other woman sitting in the hammock opposite her.
“Ye have a name, lass?” asked Abigail. “Or should we be calling you ‘Charles’ the whole time now?”
She laughed; she used much of the same small laugh that ‘Charles’ had. The sound of that laugh burned Hope’s ears; she wondered if she should storm out of the cabin or slap her for being him right there.
And Hope wondered, whichever course she chose, whether the numbness in her extremities would allow her to take that action. She imagined herself either way stumbling into a heap on the cabin floor, unable to stop her from laughing.
“My name is Charity, Charity Forgèt. I an indeed of Normandy, so at least in that respect I was honest.”
“Not much of a claim in your favor,” said Hope in a low mumble.
If Abigail had heard Hope say that, she did not acknowledge the remark and asked, “And so how does a Norman lass end up a French lad aboard me ship?”
“That, mon capitane, is a tale to tell.”
“One ye be best giving me now,” said Abigail. “Surely you’ve heard about how pirates get information from their captives.”
“If some of the more colorful means of doing so to a lady are threatened, that would be très intéressant, no?” Charity said with a slight blush and a smile.
“Only if ye be into cracked finger bones and smashed feet,” said Abigail with a slight smile in return.
Charity stopped blushing and smiling.
Hope tried to keep her head upright as she watched Abigail start her interrogation. She was unsure if, should Charity not be forthcoming with her tale, whether she should be fearful or gleeful at the likely response…
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