I had barely arrived in my cabin when there was a light knocking on the door!
“Enter!” I called.
The door opened, and a rather serious faced woman, possibly in her thirties, entered. She had a very pale complexion, scarred in many areas by marks that I thought were better left unmentioned. Her hair was a lank mess, but had been of a very dark, almost black, colour originally I thought. Her eyes flicked about the cabin nervously!
“Come in!…. Please….. sit down! Make yourself comfortable! Can I get you a glass of wine?”
“NO!…Capitano…. obligado!” her voice raised.
I signalled for her to sit, which she did, somewhat apprehensively.
“You speak English?”
“A little Capiten….You want to see me?”
“Yes! I would like you to take a message to all the ladies and girls below decks….please convey my apologies for not visiting them and ensuring their comfort! I have been busy with thoughts of war, and have been sadly lacking in hospitality! I have also left orders that a guard will be detailed at each watch to check on your safety and comfort every two hours until we have found you new accommodation, new quarters ashore, or whatever! I would like your stay with us to be as comfortable and free from anxiety as possible! If there is anything I can do to help achieve that please let me know!”
“Why thank you Capiten! That is very kind! I will take your message to them! They were very happy that you killed the Arab!… Capiten… Very Happy!”
“I have also called you here to inform you that later today we reach the island of Palentenka!” I saw a sudden expression of fear cross her face!
“I plan to take this ship through the shoals and then land an armed raiding party ashore and rout the slavers from their lair! I was hoping you might be able to help me with a plan of what you can remember of the island….and….I also would like to have some of your ladies help with our guns crews! Help load the cannon, pass powder and shot, sponge-out! Do you think they would wish to help in these duties? To relieve some of my men, thereby enabling me to send more men ashore, with a better chance of success in our foray!”
“I think Capiten that they will be very happy to do this…you can teach them how?”
“Yes most definitely! It will not be too hazardous an undertaking! It all depends on how near the coast the encampment is!”
“Is very close Capitan! Is maybe……a short distance….like….maybe the distance between our ships when our ship sank!”
A few hundred yards!!! No more?
“Are you sure? That is no more than two cables length!”
“I know not of cables Capiten…..But is about that distance! It is lie in a long hollow in the land! It has a guard tower of timber! It is invisible from the sea I think! I think I hear them say one time, that it cannot be seen from sea! But from the tower….all can be seen at sea! Be very careful Capiten! You are certain to be seen!”
“Maybe! Maybe! Is this encampment built from timber?”
“Yes! With two rings of walls! Between the walls are spikes!”
“Spiked timbers?? Between the two walls?”
“Yes sir! ….men with guns are on the inside wall! The other front wall is shorter, not so tall!”
“Can you draw me a plan? Get you heads together with your friends and draw me a plan of the camp?”
“I think perhaps I can Capiten! It will be a great pleasure! You can give me something to write with?”
“Yes of course! Your English is very good! What country are you from?”
“From Portuguese Capiten…From Portugal, but my Papa is English, he teach me all!”
“Excellent! Ok so go to it ….err…what’s your name may I ask?”
“You may Capiten!” There was the first sign of a twinkle in her eye. “My name is Maria….Maria da Sintra!…My Papa is big wine seller in Oporto!”
“As soon as this affair is over, and we have routed the slavers, we will make for Tortuga and from there you can get a message to your father…the others too! I will see to it!”
“Thank you Capiten! I will draw you the map! What about the guns? I am sure they will all want to help!”
“We shall make landfall sometime later this evening! I will send my Gunnery officer to see you and we will arrange for some practice before then….select some of your friends you think will help!”
She rose to go and offered me her hand. I took it and held it in mine! I looked into her eyes and saw only tragedy reflected there! Pain! Mistrust! They were all there plain to see! But…..how could it be any different I wondered?
I showed her out and shouted for my steward!
Johns popped his head around the door!
“My compliments to Mr Jordan! Ask him if he would join me if you please Johns!”
“Aye aye sir!”
As the door closed, I felt the first tremble of fear in my stomach! Butterflies! There would be a lot more of them before the night was through!!!
(To be cont............)