Thursday, February 24, 2005


A Pirate Tale - part 40

“Vloek!” Baastian spat out his morning tea upon hearing of the leak below deck and headed below to see the damage for himself.

Lady Fanny told Sally to gather all of the girls on deck – someone was going to have to explain this act of sabotage. “Why would anyone want to slow us down when we are so close to reaching Madagascar and the prize? What kind of villain would do that?” Lady Fanny’s brow was knit into cruel furrows of contorted rage. She began loading a pistol, talking calmly to herself as she worked, “Well, somebody’s going to have to get shot in order for everyone to learn a lesson – that’s just the way it’s going to be.”

The girls shot panicky looks back and forth – mostly in Sally’s direction. Sally stepped forward.

“Lady Fanny.” She curtsied politely – although, by now, it had been weeks since she had even seen a dress.

“Not now, Sally – your heroics won’t save one of these girls from her fate. Somebody caused that hole to happen and she is going to pay for it – I’ll probably use her body to plug the hole. Now, who could it be?” With the pistol loaded, she waved it recklessly pointing at girl after girl as each stood as still as she could – not wishing to draw attention and Lady Fanny’s fire.

“Could it be little Mary, who always says less than she knows? Or perhaps it’s our dear Harriet in whom everyone confides.” She pulled Harriet out of the line and pressed the barrel of the gun to her temple. “Everyone talks to Harriet, don’t they? I’ll bet you either know who did it or are responsible for doing it yourself!”

Harriet’s breathing quickened, but if someone had, in fact, confided in her, she wasn’t saying who it was. She braced herself for the explosion.

Sally broke in, her tone was strong and clear. “Your Ladyship is mistaken. None of these girls caused the leak. Of that I can assure you!”

“Of that I can assure you!” Lady Fanny’s tone was an evil mockery. “What assurance can you offer, Sally? Can you tell me who our saboteur is or produce evidence that there was none? Can you explain why, suddenly, there is a breach in our hull leaking water that wasn’t there yesterday?”

Sally stood silently for a moment. Then, she took a deep breath and replied, “Yes, I can.”

Every eye shifted toward Sally now. Murmurings and whispers began wafting up onto the winds from this gathering on deck. Finally, Lady Fanny intervened.

“Stop your infernal murmuring! You know how I hate murmurers!” Her screeching brought silence to the deck of the ship. “Well, Sally. If you can explain the leak …” Lady Fanny cocked the hammer back on the pistol which she kept close to Harriet’s head “…now would be an excellent time for an explanation.”

Without blinking, Sally said just two words. “Narwhal attack.”

“Narwhal attack?” Lady Fanny almost laughed; her face was a mix of incredulous delight and bloodlust. “Did you just say, ‘Narwhal attack?’?”

Sally was resolute and steadfast. “Yes, Narwhal attack.” She continued, “Clearly the damage was done by something on the outside trying to break through – what else could it be?”

“Anything else!” Lady Fanny was actually enjoying this – her years of studying life sciences were about to pay off. “Narwhals are native to the Arctic – not the Antarctic – and even if they were, they’re still thousands of miles from cold, friendly waters. You might as well have told me that we had been sabotaged by a gang of Czechoslovakian Cranberry growers!”

Sally doggedly stuck to her story. “No, M’lady, I tell you it was a Narwhal!”

“It wasn’t a Narwhal!” Lady Fanny’s patience had just about expired – and so, Harriet feared, had her life expectancy.

“It might have been a Narwhal …” Baastian cut into the conversation. All eyes turned toward him as he emerged from below. His pants were sopping wet and his shirt open, revealing his muscular chest. The young ladies all gasped. “But that would be silly – there aren’t any in these waters.”

“See? I told you so!” Lady Fanny nearly stuck her tongue out at Sally, who stood still with a defining grace.

“It was probably the Narwhal’s lesser-known cousin, the ‘Sarwhal.’”

“Sarwhal?” Lady Fanny and Sally seemed equally surprised.

“Aye!” Baastian explained, “They were thought to be hunted to extinction by Argentinean Pygmies two centuries ago. They were bigger, meaner and had longer horns than their northern brethren – also, much more reckless which explains why a bunch of midgets from South America could have whipped them out.”

“Wiped them out.” Lady Fanny corrected.

“Whipped/Wiped – What’s the difference?” Baastian questioned this English lesson in front of the girls.

“I’ll show you later.” She whispered to Baastian – then, in a much louder voice to the women on deck, “Alright, grab as many buckets as you can find and start bailing! We make for …” She glanced at Baastian for the nearest emergency stopping place.

“Port Elizabeth – I have an uncle who owns a shipwright shop there.” He pointed in the direction they should head.

“Port Elizabeth! Harriet, be a dear and grab a bucket.” Fanny’s voice was once again, sickeningly sweet.

“Yes, Lady Fanny.” She moved quickly out of harm’s way.

As the young ladies approached the steps to the decks below, Baastian stopped them. “Leave your britches here – they’ll only get wet down below.” He smiled at his own double entendre.

The girls looked at Lady Fanny who glowered at Baastian – but thought better of it. “Quite right!” she said, “One mustn’t go wetting one’s trousers needlessly – it wouldn’t be lady-like.”

Once again, the young women hesitated.

“STRIP!” Lady Fanny screamed her command. They quickly complied and ran half naked into the darkness below.

“There, was that enough titillation for you, my darling?” She whispered in Baastian’s ear.

Through a laugh he replied, “That’s a start – now, take me back to the cabin and explain what is the difference between this wiped and this whipped.”

Night had settled on the Festering Boil. Strumpet was keeping Slappy awake, so he decided to take a stroll on the deck and check the watch. As he passed what he thought to be some crates covered with a tarp, he heard groans and saw movement.

Strumpet, sitting on his shoulder, started to squeak – but Slappy quickly covered her mouth. He slowly pulled a pistol from his belt and moved toward the undulating mass.

“Stow-aways” he thought to himself. “We were far too lenient on the Dutch and a couple of them have hidden themselves aboard in order to join the crew without going through the proper application process.”

Carefully, he reached the edge of the tarp and pulled it back sharply to reveal the identity of these two refugees.

A very startled-looking Lef-TEN-ant Keeling and Red Molly scrambled to cover themselves with a mix and match set of his and her clothing. Keeling still had his cat o’ nine-tails clinched between his teeth.

“Oh, excuse me!” At first, Slappy was startled, then, he became a bit more playful. “Is this where I might find the symposium on the place of ship’s discipline in stemming the occurrence of fraternization between the officer and able seaman classes? Or did I just interrupt a wee bit o’ the ‘Bouncy-Bouncy’?”

Keeling quickly regained his comportment. “Yes, sir, Cap’n – that would be the latter?”

Molly added, “And we weren’t quite done, Cap’n – so if you don’t mind …?”

Slappy smiled – he always enjoyed seeing the young people ‘enjoying’ one another.

“Of course – I beg pardon for the interruption.” He said most sincerely and re-covered them so they could continue their open-air romp.

As he turned back to the quarter deck, he saw Sir Nigel at the helm smoking a pipe. He was laughing at the site of Slappy’s accidental discovery.

“Stumbled into Cupid’s garden of delights, did you not?” Sir Nigel observed as the two men looked out over a black sea.

“Ah, to be young and in love.” Slappy opined.

“Or, at least to get some well-deserved roistering done.” Sir Nigel shot back. “God, I do miss a bit o’ the ‘rumpy-pumpy’ after a night of heavy drinking at the Slovenly Slattern.”

“Aye,” Cap’n Slappy agreed, “But that’s many miles and months away.”

Further up the deck, they could hear Professor Droppingham offering his critique to the young lovers; “Och! Ye call that ‘FORNICATIN’? I’ve seen Burmese Dung Beetles with more skill in the carnal arts!”

Both men stood silently listening to the hushed groans below and sighed.

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