Tuesday, May 10, 2005


A Pirate Tale – part 83 "A Dicey Situation"

After the general laughter died away, Genevieve stamped an angry foot onto the thick wooden floor of Hinrich’s House of Hasenpfeffer clinching her fists tightly at the end of her two rigid arms that ran down her rigid waifish sides. “I demand to be taken home at once – to Britain!” Her gaze was fixed sternly on Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp.

Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthrope Mandrake Tharp stood slowly and straightened out the creases in his pristine uniform. “Your affection for our home island is touching, little miss, but your impertinence in your ‘demand’ as you call it, leaves me disinclined to acquiesce.”

“Do you know who I am, sir!?” Genevieve demanded.

“Aye,” the admiral replied calmly, “You are a naughty little girl who has been given her way too often and is need of both a right good spanking and a sharp ‘heart-to-heart’ with an older and wiser woman.”

“No!” by now, there was fire in Genevieve’s eyes.

“No?” Lord Sir Admiral Tharp shot the exclamation, as a question, back into her court as if it was a flaming tennis ball.

“No.” Genevieve was calmer now and smiled like the proverbial cat who had just swallowed the proverbial crate of proverbial marshmallow canaries. “My Aunt Fanny taught me to build contingencies.” At this point, she clapped her hands and twenty-five well-armed men burst into the room with rifles loaded and hammers cocked. They leveled these guns at the men in the room who, having been drinking for some time, were too slow to arm themselves and mount a defense. Genevieve continued, “Admiral, may I introduce you to the Dutch Home Guard – a rag-tag, but well-drilled militia dedicated to the protection of their South African sovereignty and the eradication of piracy. I believe the prudent course of action for you would be to ‘acquiesce’ to my request and call your men to the ship forthwith.”

“What about these other men?” Admiral Tharp showed genuine concern for his brother’s and his brother’s men’s safety.

“They will be dealt with according to the prevailing laws of the land. I believe Dutch policy toward pirates is pretty much the same as the English – I leave it to you, Admiral, to draw the necessary conclusions.” She gazed coldly into Lord Sir Admiral Percival Winthorpe Mandrake Tharp’s face. “Now, if you would be so kind as to accompany us helpless young ladies to your ship so that we may settle into what accommodations you may have arranged for our comfort and privacy.” And with that, young Lady
Genevieve established herself as a force with which to reckon as she turned and marched out of the establishment.

The Dutch Home Guard moved quickly to disarm Slappy and his men. Tharp looked at his half-brother with a strong sense of foreboding, but Slappy just smiled and directed the admiral toward the door with his eyes. The admiral followed the young ladies to his ship and they departed within two hours.

By dawn the following morning, almost the entire pirate population had been rounded up and was being held in a makeshift cage in the town square just a few yards away from where a large gallows was being constructed. The female pirates were being held in the town jail – but the men were exposed to the elements and the abuse of angry passers-by.

“Do they have us all?” George asked.

“I haven’t seen McCormack.” Ol’ Chumbucket observed.

“Well, if he was here, ye would have seen him.” Slappy seemed perfectly comfortable sprawled out on the cobblestone floor.

“I’m glad to see the Cap’n is not taking this lying down!” Burgess snapped churlishly.

Slappy replied, “The Dutch are notorious for the fairness of their judicial system. They have no evidence of piracy and we have done no wrong either in their town or in their waters. I have every confidence they will soon be setting us free.”

“Not to haggle with the Cap’n’s logic,” Dogwatch began, “but if you are so confident in their sense of justice, why are they already building a scaffold?”

Slappy thought for a moment and almost sat up as he glanced at the large gallows being erected. “They are just – but they are also thrifty. Perhaps they have heard of our theatrical skills and will use it as a stage for a command performance if they don’t hang every man-Jack of us.”

“And what of the non-man-Jacks among us?” Keeling asked with a special concern for Red Molly. “Will they hang them as well?”

“No.” George replied. “When we took them on as crew, I gave them a workshop on ‘pleading their bellies’ in the event of arrest and imminent execution. If they stick to their training, they should be out of there in a few months.”

This provided LefTENant Keeling some relief, but only the momentary kind.

The Mayor of the town complained bitterly to the General of the Dutch Home Guard about keeping the prisoners in such inhospitable conditions with the hot days and cold nights, but the General was more interested in his game of dice in which he seemed to win at every roll.

“General.” The Mayor pleaded, “You cannot keep these men in the square like dogs or goats or pigs or cows. I have a warehouse you may use where they will be out of the heat and protected from the night’s cold.”

Annoyed, the General snapped back. “I will keep them here like any animal waiting for slaughter – close to the slaughter house!” The rolled the dice again – “Another win for me!” he shouted.

“But General.” The Mayor insisted, “There has been no trial – no verdict – no set date for the execution. These things take time and …”

The Mayor was cut off by the uplifted hand of the General who stood up and moved quickly to the side of the cage. He then went into the motion of playing three parts, an attorney, a judge and a jury.

As Attorney: “Your Honor, I will prove to this court that these vermin here in this cage are pirates!”

As Judge: “Well, you’ve proven it to me. What says the Jury?”

As Jury: “Guilty!”

As Attorney: “I object!”

As Judge: “Over-ruled!”

As Jury: “We recommend hangings for everyone!”

As Judge: “Far be it from me to rule against a jury of their peers. (at this point, the General produced a black handkerchief he kept for just such occasions) You, the defendants, having been found guilty of piracy by a jury of your peers are hereby sentenced to death by hanging to be carried out …”

“When will the gallows be finished?” The General broke out of character to call to the head carpenter. The carpenter replied, “Tomorrow by mid morning!”

As Judge: “…blah, di, blah, di, blah … death by hanging to be carried out at noon tomorrow!”

And with that, the General gave a flourish and a bow to the applause even of the pirates in the cage who all appreciated a good one-man-show.

The Mayor was less than enthused by this mockery of the judicial system. “What’s to become of their ship?”

“Naturally,” the General began, “it will become the property of the Dutch Home Guard and specifically the executive in charge. Unless someone wants to have a roll of the dice with me over it?”

The Mayor, having seen the General’s success at dicing would have nothing of it – nor would the townsfolk who looked on. None, that is, except for a very large woman who now raised her hand and sheepishly called out, “Yoo Hoo, Mister General! I’ll take that wager. But I have one condition.”

The General was shocked that anyone would want to challenge him and his own dice. He looked at the woman in disbelief. Part of his disbelief was based in her audacity and the rest was firmly rooted in her remarkable size, but he comported himself nicely and asked what ‘condition’ she may have.

“If I win the ship, I win the crew – I’ll need them to sail it for me, as I am but a poor widow.” The woman’s voice cracked on the word, ‘widow’ giving it a graceful, tragic tone.

In the cage, Slappy stood next to Ol’ Chumbucket and muttered but one word. “Jesus.”

Ol’ Chumbucket went to work straightaway on the padlock that secured the cage door. He had hoped to wait until the cover of darkness, but now there was no time to lose.

Spencer approached Cap’n Slappy along with Gabriel, both boys asked simultaneously, “Isn’t that …” But they were stifled by the Cap’n’s finger pressed firmly to his lips and a long, yet quiet, “shhhhhh.”

“And what is your wager, madam?” the General asked the woman.

“My wager?” she seemed confused.

“Yes, madam. My wager is that ship and its crew – what, pray tell, is your wager in this bet?” the General spoke slowly – as if to a child.

“Oh!” she gasped as if surprised. “My wager will be this box.”

The General laughed, “That’s a very nice box indeed! But I hardly think it is of equal value to that ship and these …”

The woman opened the box to reveal that it was filled with gold pieces.

The General’s eyes nearly erupted from his head. “There must be anywhere from eight to ten thousand Guilders in there!”

“How’s that lock coming?” George whispered nervously to Ol’ Chumbucket.

“They must have picked it up in Switzerland!” He muttered under his breath as he continued to struggle.

“Alright!” The General declared, “I’ll wager that ship and this pirate crew – including the pregnant ladies in the jail against your box and all its contents.” He reached for his dice and began shaking them in his hand. “One roll. Winner take all.” His motion became more brisk.

“Wait!” The woman cried. “I think it only fair that if we’re using your dice, General, I ought to be the one to roll.”

The assembled crowd of townspeople grumbled in agreement – as did the pirates in the cage.

At first, the General’s face was a picture of distorted anger, but he smiled and said, “Very well. Here are my dice. I call seven to win – if any other number comes up, you win. Now, that’s more than fair, don’t you think?”

The woman smiled broadly – her eyes as big as rather impressive saucers. “The General is more than fair.” As he handed her the dice, she fixed her gaze over an beyond his left shoulder, “Oh! Dear me! Whatever is that Duck doing?!?” she shrieked.

The General spun around to see what was going on behind him, but he saw nothing. “I don’t see any duck!” He snapped as he turned back to the widow who was already rolling the dice in the palm of her big leathery hands.

“I must have been mistaken.” She said as she fixed her eyes on the board upon which she would roll the dice. After a couple of vigorous shakes, the woman threw the dice which came up double-ones. “SNAKE-EYES!” She hissed in victory.

The General couldn’t believe his eyes. He grabbed the dice and examined them closely. They looked to the entire world like the dice he had been throwing all day. Even his men believed that. He dare not accuse the widow of cheating for why would he think that unless he knew how the dice SHOULD roll?

Reluctantly, he ordered the pirates released to their ship. When the sergeant came to unlock the cage, he found a very satisfied Ol’ Chumbucket twirling the open lock around with his finger in the air. “Clever,” he said to the sergeant, “but I’ve yet to meet a lock, Swiss or otherwise, that I can’t pick.” With that, he slapped the lock into the sergeant's hand and went on his way - whistling.

The Mayor, feeling badly about the mistreatment of their guests, ordered provisions be loaded aboard The Festering Boil at no cost. The women were released from the relative comfort of their jail cells.

Everyone was anxious to be underway, but the “widow,” was being scrutinized by a now-wary General.

“Where do you live, widow?” He asked.

“Amsterdam.” Cementhands McCormack declared as he moved quickly toward the ship – afraid that he may have overplayed his character.

“What brings you to South Africa?” the General pressed – feeling the charade slipping away.

“Business.” Cementhands muttered now in full-on scurry mode.

“What KIND of business?” the General now demanded in a stern voice that was only to be overcome by the next voice heard.

“THE FACKIN’ LORD’S BUSINESS! YE RACIST SCUM!” Seamus Casey’s brogue filled the air as he took “the widow” by her gigantic hand and aided her up the gang plank.

Being the last two aboard, it provided him a moment to preach to the General and others assembled dockside as the gang plank was pulled up.


McCormack, still resplendent in his dress punctuated the priest’s admonition with a loud falsetto. “Aaaaaaaa – Men!”

In moments, The Festering Boil was pulling out of harbor and away from the African coast.

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