Avast Ye!

Chapter 4

By the lady with the silver nose. I mean Queen Smithy. Yeh.

Summary: What Sam saw from the apple sack.

Dedication: to my socks

***

Spending a night on the Chandon was an interesting experience. It would all start when Richie began yawning. Then gradually, everyone put an end to their daily tasks and retired to the Galley. Nobody said anything much until Richie joined them - invariably carrying a barrel of ale, and several bottles of rum in his pockets. Sam usually dragged himself off to bed before he got too drunk, but on this evening, for some reason, he was in party spirits. He could feel that his adventures at sea were pretty much over, and this comforted him to no end.

"What's the matter with you?" Richie asked, raising his eyebrows at Sam, who had managed to acquire a bottle of rum for himself.

"Nothing at all!" Sam said happily. "I've never felt better. You don't know how good it felt to be on land again, old thing! Beautiful, solid land!"

"Tha' land lubber's had a bad influence on ye," Richie grunted. "Either tha' of yeh've been at the pies again."

"Oh shutup," slurred Sam, waving his bottle vaguely in Richie's direction. "Y'know what your problem is? You know what you prob'em is, Richie? You've gotta great big nose, y'know that? It's as big as a huge great. . . nose. . ."

Richie blinked as Sam tried to poke his nose and totally missed, instead falling clean off his chair and sprawling in the apple sack in the corner, where he began to snore. Richie rolled his eyes.

"Kids these days," he muttered. "Can't hol' their drink." He picked up his pint mug, which was full to the brim of rum, and sipped it carefully so as not to spill a single drop.

"Nicely done," said Peters approvingly.

***

Elsewhere, Jim was trying to talk to a seagull, via Gulerod. This wasn't going too well, for various reasons.

"Ok," said Jim to the parrot-skunk. "I need you to tell. . . What did you say your name was?" he glanced up at the seagull, which was perched in the rigging.

"Awwk," it said.

"Ok." Jim turned back to Gul. "Tell mister Awwk that I need him to take a message to someone in England."

Gul beamed at Jim and looked up at the seagull. He chattered insanely for a moment.

"Awwwwk! Ark ark ark!" said the seagull.

"He say 'sod you, pigdog,'" said Gul happily.

"Tell him there's a fish in it for him."

"Awwwwk! Ark ark ark!" said the bird again, once Gul had translated this.

"Ok, a fish every day for a week? Two fish?"

Mister Awwk put his head on one side. "Awk awwwk ark ark awwk," he said.

Gul grinned. "He say 'you not understand him, he no carrier pigeon.'"

"I'm only asking this one little favour!" Jim protested. "And I'll pay whatever you like. It's urgent!"

Gul translated, and mister Awwk put his head on the other side. Eventually he said "Awk."

"He say 'okay, just once, but the price is going to be six fish twice daily, he got family to feed and it not easy this time of year, and two fish must be herring cause his old lady likes herring,' and he wants to be allowed prime choice of scraps from the kitchen too. He say all that."

"He did?" said Jim. "Fine, fine. Whatever. Just come back to this ship at 5 O'clock tomorrow morning, ok?"

"Awk awwwwk arrkle awk?"

"He say, 'what this 5 clocks?'"

"Ok, sorry, at sunrise, then."

"Awk."

"And deliver the letter to mister Gold in Portsmouth."

"Awk."

The seagull flapped off again, and Gul looked extremely proud of himself.

"I was useful, yes?" he said, scurrying up Jim's arm.

"Yes, Gul, you were useful," said Jim. "And you'll have a radish for your usefulness. But if you can be even more useful, you can have *two* radishes."

"I be more useful!" said Gul, nodding his head.

"Ok. All you have to do, is not mention this to anyone."

"Not mention to anyone," said Gul, nodding madly.

"No one at all. Not even Richie or Sam. Ok?"

"Not Richie or Sam. Gotcha."

"And you most certainly won't mention the name of the person I'm corresponding with, will you?"

"Nonono."

"That's the important bit."

"Important bit. Yep!"

"Good skunk."

"What are a skunk?"

"Good parrot, then."

***

It was still dark when Sam woke up. He lay very still for a moment, waiting for the hangover to hit him. When it didn't, he made a vague effort to get up, but merely rolled about on top of the apples. With a sigh, he flopped back again and tried to get some more sleep, but a small chink of light kept catching his eye. Curiosity got the better of him, and he rolled onto his front and applied his eye to the crack in the wood through which the light was coming.

On the other side was one of the cabins. Sam's crack in the wood was about half way up the wall, so he commanded quite a good view of the corner of the room facing him. What he could see was this: A desk with a couple of candles on (the obvious source of the light), and a man seated behind it with his head bent down in the effort of writing. From the clean-ness and neat parting of the hair, Sam could tell it was Jim. He was writing quickly, pausing only to re-ink his quill. When he moved for this purpose, Sam could catch snatches of his writing, but only briefly and upside-down. "Dear mister Gold" was the top line. He also read "apologies for the lateness of my reply," "the deal seems set thanks to Sam, who has proved useful" and "the captain appears to be of little intelligence." These last two made Sam shiver. Useful? How had he been useful except in the way he already knew? And why talk that way of Richie? There was no malice in the words, but he didn't like them. Was this how these people always spoke of their clients?

Grumbling under his breath, Sam hauled himself out of the apple sack. The pirates wouldn't wake up for an hour or so, and neither would he normally, but he couldn't just lie there any more. Something had to be done. He had to find out the rest of the contents of Jim's letter.

Stumbling, he made his way down to Jim's cabin and stared at the door. What could he do now? Knock? Then Jim would surely hide the letter before Sam entered, if there was anything incriminating in it. Just walk in? That would make his suspicion too obvious. He couldn't stand there forever more, although it seemed like he would until Jim solved his problem by opening his door. The dark-haired man blinked in surprise, then gave Sam a cheerful smile.

"You're up early," Sam commented.

Jim stared at him. "Yet you expected me to be, seeing as you're here."

Damn. Sam cursed his still drink-and-sleep fuzzed brain. "Um," he said. He tried to peer past Jim into the room. No paper on the desk, but there was a stick of half-melted red wax and a half a potato, carefully carved to show what looked like an otter or a sea lion, but his sense of humour told Sam it was supposed to be a seal. He cursed silently again. No hope of reading the letter without being noticed now.

"Just. . . Wondered if you wanted breakfast," he improvised. "Thought I'd make myself useful," he added quietly.

"Ah, that's be just the thing!" said Jim, beaming. "I'm half-starved. Why don't you run along to the galley and I'll join you there?"

Sam watched Jim make his way to the main deck. He could ask where he was going, but, should Jim have anything to hide, he would lie. It was obvious and annoying. However, Jim seemed to sense the other watching him. He turned round. "Just got a letter to post," he said, smiling as he slipped the folded and sealed paper from his pocket and waved it tauntingly (it seemed) under Sam's nose. With a small grunt, Sam pushed past him and headed for the galley.

***

To Be Continued. . . ?