The deck was crowded with people coming and going, checking all over for valuable cargo to sell to the Gutheries. For the moment the results were not promising, Gates came from underdecks and the only thing they found was a man that assured to be a very good cook. He walked towards other group just in case they’ve got better chances.
-Mr.Gates!- Joji called his attention before he could ask, so he approached his team.
-Did you have any luck?- he said with far more enthusiasm that he felt. The men stepped aside and revealed a young lady looking around with caution. She was wearing a fancy black gown and shackles on her wrists. Gates frowned. –Where did you find her?
-In the stowage cells. She was chained to the wall- Muldoon clarified. Curious. What kind of threat could embody this woman to have her chained to the wall, despite of the shackles?- What shall we do with her?- he wanted to know.
-Who are you?- Gates inquired, whatever piece of information that solved this situation was welcome.
-My name is Margaret Sibley- she straighten up- and this ship was meant to take me to London, were I have been sentenced to die on the gallows- said she with ease as one speaks of the weather.
-On what charges?- Gates thought he heard that last name somewhere, but he couldn’t place it. And she was properly dressed. Even richly. If she came from a good family, she certainly had to do something terrible to face a death sentence. And so much for it to happen in London. That suggested spectacle.
-I’ve been accused of abduct and murder children, of the sudden disappearance of a whole inhabitants of a farm and the poor harvests of Boston surroundings. But we could summarize it all on the accusation of witchcraft, sir, that would be more accurate- she said with a slight sarcasm. Hearing the word “witchcraft” the men around muttered and some walked a step away from her. Muldoon crossed himself soberly.
-Capitain!- Gates found himself on a dead end and, he decided, this matter needed Flint’s intervention. Flint approached and he exposed the situation to him.
-We can take her to Nassau, and then she can try to find her way there- the boatswain suggested-she is young and we shouldn’t left her here, and least of it in chains- he thought out loud.
-I guess you are right- Flint sighed. He gave the order to release her from the shackles, and several tries after (they were rusty) they managed to set her free. Once free, both men tried to go back to their business, but the girl intercepted them.
-I would like to join your crew, if there is any chance- she looked at Flint. Gates hid a smile. He had the feeling that she had guts, and he was not wrong.
-Is that so? And what role you think you can play onboard? Everyone needs to contribute- said Flint in a mocking tone.
-You have many men at your command. 50? May be more. I am sure that your surgeon, if you have one, would appreciate another pair of hands to help –she sounded confident-I have knowledge in the medical field and I assisted in a smallpox outbreak at my hometown. I don’t want to go to the gallows, I refuse to give them the satisfaction- there was determination shining on her dark eyes.
-I am sure that Mr. Howell would be grateful- said Gates looking at Flint. He balanced his options and finally nodded.
-Alright then, welcome to the Walrus- he offered her a hand and she shook it grabbing his forearm firmly. “Nice handshake” thought Flint to himself. Then he turned to Gates- Keep an eye on her, will you? We never had a woman on board and with Singleton campaigning against me…- Flint explained as watched the lady walk away. Gates nodded and made a signal to Billy. Flint leaved to question the other Capitain.
-Billy, that over there is Miss Sibley. I want you to watch her, she will be part of the crew from now on helping Mr. Howell- Billy frowned.
-It’s a long story but she was being taken to London to die in the gallows accused of witchcraft. Bullshit, in my opinion. Most of these things have political motifs and she clearly has money. She probably became widowed or orphan and somebody else wanted the heritage-he said in a confidential tone. Billy looked at her and nodded. He pitied the lady but he decided he wouldn’t ask unless she wanted to talk- Now, be a good lad and keep away the marauders until things calm down. They will get used to her on the ship, you’ll see. And for the love of God, put a shirt on-he warned as he walked away. –Now, tell me about the new recruits- Gates smiled to Singleton.
Margaret was lost on her own thoughts when she noticed a man looking at her. She evaluated him in silence for a second. He seemed to doubt, but he finally presented himself.
-Billy Bones- he briefly explained- the boatswain asked me to keep you company until you grow familiar with the crew.
-Margaret Sibley- she offered him her hand and shook it firmly-it’s a synonym of escort I’ve never heard of- she smiled- I am sorry that you have to be stuck with me, Mr. Bones- said she with sympathy.
-No problem- he gave her a little smile. A big fuss started on the deck and Billy guided Margaret to a safer place apart, just in case things got out of control. Margaret seemed lost in her thoughts and the silence was comfortable. Billy allowed himself to examine her for a moment. She had her hair loose and a little tangled. The gown, as Gates said, implied that she had a good social position. Her hand was soft when she shook his and she had nice features. It was a fucking ticking bomb and Billy was not sure of what Flint had been thinking to allow this to happen, but all he could do for now was to seat and wait how this evolved.
Back to the Walrus, Billy made the introductions between Margaret and Mr. Howell and explained her a bit how her duty worked, alongside Mr.Howell. The morning passed without much of an incident, besides the death of Mr. Duffy, and they were close to Nassau already. He looked for Margaret and he found her in the deck. She had found Randall’s cat and had her in her arms as the animal purred. Billy smiled to the picture before him.
-I didn’t know that there were a cat on board- she said while scratching the cat’s ears.
-Yeas, well, it is very useful. It is very common to find rats in the stowage, I don’t recommend you to go often over there. She helps keep them in line. Actually, it’s Randall’s cat, though, the former cook. Her name is Betsy- Billy explained.
-Oh. It’s a lovely name. Besty –she said looking at the cat, that purred in approval- should I take her to Randall?- she wanted to know.
-She is used to wander around the ship, don’t worry. Besides, we are going to arrive to the harbor soon- he pointed the horizon line where it land appeared on sight.
-Any piece of advice once we get there?- Billy raised his eyebrows not expecting the question at all.- I have never been son far from home, and I guess Nassau has nothing to do with Boston- she explained while leaving the cat on the floor.
-Stay at the tavern, I will be there. It shouldn’t be a problem to accommodate you; I will spoke to Mr. Gates. In case you get lost, look for me or Mr. Gates, and if any of that works, the people in the tavern will shelter you and send for one of us, don’t worry. Just… try to be out of the crowded places and stay in more private ones, the brothel is nearby and we don’t want confusions of any short – he said without looking at her.
When they were close to go ashore Gates approached Margaret to check everything was going alright and that Billy was behaving.
-Miss Sibley, how has been your journey so far?- he asked with a friendly smile.
-Oh, it was good, the men are behaving, but I think that’s mostly Billy- she chuckled. –There are some that fear me, though. I can tell by their faces- she confessed.
-They’ll come around, you’ll see- he tried to give her hope.- Now, when we land Billy will have to go with the Capitan, so you will accompany me to run some errands, is that alright?- she nodded.
-Yes, that way I can learn more about how living on a ship works. Billy told me to go with him or you, for my safety. And no crowded places, just in case there is a confusion- she repeated Billy’s instructions.
-Confusions?- Gates frowned.
-He said the brothel is near the tavern- she whispered.
-If you excuse me- said Gates already walking towards Billy. He hit him on the nape, like a father admonishing a rebel son.
-Ouch! What was that even for?- Billy complained.
-You told her that she could be taken for a prostitute, that’s not how you speak to a lady, lad- he quarrel.
-Well, there was a possibility- another hit came to him- Ouch! Stop it!- he frowned.
-Then behave yourself- he warned.- Now, I need you to go with the Capitain…
Billy and Flint went to see Richard Gutherie and Margaret and Gates collected votes through the night, not having much trouble. Margaret was surprised to learn that she would get a vote too and that it would count just as much as everyone else. She decided that given the choices, she would vote for Flint. He gave her freedom and the opportunity of joining the crew. Besides, she had a bad feeling about Singleton and didn’t like how he greeted her into the ship or how he looked at her. When they learned that Vane had killed one of their men, she felt lost, not knowing to what purpose that would lead, but it was more and more clear to her that Nassau had its own intrigues, just as Salem did back in the day.
Once back on the ship the ambiance was pessimistic, Gates announced to her that Singleton had the votes and when Flint and Billy arrived with an injured man (she and Mr. Howell fled to attend his wounds) there was some kind of fight, because when they managed to finish binding up the man, there was a lot of blood on the deck and Singleton and Flint were injured. She didn’t know what was going on, but Gates reached her soon enough and update her with all the events. She looked with apprehension the scene before her eyes and wished that Flint won, for the gut told her that otherwise would be catastrophic. When Flint finally ended Singleton and passed the page to Billy the crew burst into jubilation for the Urca de Lima story, while Billy was more than concerned about what the hell would happen next.