Friday, 7 January 2011
Author Spotlight week - Excerpt from The Privateer
"Good Lord!" was Captain Adair's first private remark. "What was that wild, babbling thing?" Well satiated at the Lieutenant-Governor's expense, Captain Adair and Bertrand had excused themselves as the hour drew late. Once free of the manor's gates, they slowed their pace, letting their eyes adjust to the dim light of the waxing half moon. Dark shadows of the island's palm trees stretched across the foot path like ghostly sentinels. Fronds ruffled the night air. "Those white curls," Adair continued, "have you ever seen such fair madness?"
Bertrand waved him off. "I prefer beauty in her natural state, not trussed like a turkey without a mind to own."
"I didn't mean she wasn't a beautiful thing, Miss O'Connell. If one likes a girl with no shape and high as a heron."
"Now that I am faced with the inevitable obligation of procuring one of those things as you call them, I'm not inclined to worry about form."
"Well," said Adair, too loose in the tongue, "I'm sure Miss Spencer feels the same way."
Bertrand made an ugly face for his friend's benefit. "What we must suffer to advance ourselves." He wanted nothing to do with matrimony, but he knew if his ambitions were to be met, there was little choice.
"Surely a title has its merits. Fortunately for me," Adair added, "I only need to catch and conquer to earn my colors."
"And you have conquered well," Bertrand said wryly.
Adair lost all mirth. "A fine upstanding wife would all but secure you, mate."
Bertrand ground his teeth at the thought that everyone on the island seemed to believe Miss Spencer would make a fine upstanding wife, and nobody more than her mother. He changed the subject before he let slip that he found the O'Connell girl far more intriguing.
"Speaking of security, Dubois has returned."
His companion stiffened. "What information did he gather?"
"The Warbler was in Martinique not three weeks ago."
"Again? Bloody thieves."
Bertrand shrugged. "It's a simple way to profit. They trade slaves for sugar rather than gold, then return to England with a valuable commodity that is easier to transport."
"Sugar purchased from the French. Where are the Africans coming from directly?"
"Not from the South Sea Company, that much I know."
"Should we consider this an answer to the recent surge in kidnappings?"
"I would lay all the blame on the Spanish, but they appear to be too busy pillaging our ships in the name of Utrecht. Port Royal is on vigilant guard. Once these ships leave England the African coast is over their shoulders."
Adair brushed a hair that had escaped its pigtail in the blessed breeze, out of his eye. "I cannot believe a merchant would run such risk."
"Everyone has his thumb in the pie. I don't see a connection with the rumors. And there is more. Some of the same leaflets discovered in Jamaica have made their way east."
"Your man found evidence of an uprising?"
"From what I understand."
"I'm disinclined to believe that," said Bertrand.
"But who reads them?"
"It is ignorance, Adair, to assume the Englishman the only literate creature in the New World."
"Any more rumors of French support?"
Bertrand shook his head. "No evidence, but France would profit enormously. Consider St. Lucia. They want it."
"I don't like it though. The shipping lanes are starting to resemble the Channel."
"Search them," Bertrand growled.
"For what? The papers are official and nothing is out of order."
"No," Adair said. "You monitor the guardacostas. Those Spanish mongrels are up to something. The next ship of the line I spy without colors will get a boarding party."
"You'll be wise to have orders for that."
"I'll think of something. A lieutenant transfer should arrive soon to replace Walker."
Bertrand stooped and picked up a discarded bottle, half buried in the sand. "There have been more attacks." He shook it clean and blew across the top.
"Aye. Pirates. And this Moreaux, again. He appears to scout within a closer range of the colonies before each strike then disappears quickly."
Bertrand shrugged in the blue moonlight. "Belize, perhaps? New Providence? Maybe as far as Brazil."
"Too far, man. Any more theories?"
"Men from the Main recognize the name."
This drew in Adair immediately. "Any word from survivors?"
"To my knowledge, he doesn't leave any."
"Then the rumors are from?"
The pair approached a slight embankment that led to the wharf and the frigate, Indemnity. Bertrand stopped. "He seems to be regrettably selective. Flies any colors he fancies. She's rumored to be a galleon although anyone able to throw up sails and ignore a few chasers can elude them."
Adair sought the moon. It glowed luminous, unlike his expression. "You've been given more than I," he muttered. He wiped his hand over his face looking suddenly tired. "Until next week then, my old friend," and taking his cue, Bertrand slipped off into the shadows underneath the pilings.