|"Un homme averti en vaut deux."
Forewarned is forearmed.
"How could I only be that stupid!"
For the umpteenth time Norrington hit his fist against the unyelding door of the Molly's brig.
"It wasn't your fault, Sir. Nobody could have predicted that."
"I should have known the first moment I realised that most of the men with exception of the officers didn't belong to our usual crew. I should hang for that, it's inexcusable!"
"You had other - things on your mind. I should have noticed as well. To quote one Elizabeth who I greatly admire: why should you keep a dog and bark yourself?"
Norrington noticed the dig at Elizabeth; Gillette certainly was a man who knew how to hold a grudge.
"She also said the past can't be cured, Mr. Gillette. I'm responsible for our situation, nobody else."
A week in the brig, and still Norrington and Gillette had no idea what Captain Logan wanted. Nobody talked to them, despite Gillette's vocal protests and demands for an explanation. Norrington suspected that the silence was part of a plan to wear them down, alas, it didn't work. Gillette was like a caged bear, ready to tear the head off the first person who'd come into his range. They were dirty and bruised, but it took more than a week at water and hard tack to break their spirits.
During the capture of the Joyful Molly, Norrington had received a minor stabbing wound to his shoulder at the hand of Captain Logan. Nothing dangerous, but he had been surprised about the willingness of the pirates to provide dressing material and water. This was certainly not the usual way pirates treated their prisoners, especially not Logan, who was known for torturing the unlucky seamen he got a hold of. There were rumours that he had once stuck the head of a commodore on the spar of his ship, the Banshee.
Now Logan was the captain of the Molly, and Norrington could have spit nails over that fact. This had all been carefully planned in advance, that much was obvious by now, and he had a suspicion who that scheming mind was.
Norrington had been rather puzzled when Groves and the other officers had been allowed to leave the ship. While he was glad that his men were not harmed, this unusual lenience also made him suspicious, even more so as Gillette had been locked up with him. What special interest could they possibly have in his first lieutenant?
"I'd be grateful if you could interrupt your self-flagellation for two minutes, keep still and let me look after you wound, Sir."
"Would you please stop fussing, Mr. Gillette? It's neigh a scratch."
Every day it was the same procedure and argument, and in the end, Norrington would finally give in and allow Gillette to clean the wound and apply a new dressing. It was as hot as in hell here in the brig, but somehow Gillette always managed to have cool hands, which was a blessing.
Gillette took his time. Not only did he consider it to be his duty to look after Norrington's injury, it also took his mind off his musings on their situation. And he could touch him without having to worry what it would look like to the rest of the world, and without feeling guilty afterwards.
Coming to think of it, the whole thing was rather pathetic.
They were interrupted by an old pirate who unlocked the door and shoved a jug with water and two pieces of hard tack with lard into the brig. He didn't take any precautions; the two prisoners wouldn't try to escape, there was no place for them to run to.
"Captain's to see ya later, ye bastards," he grumbled. Before any of the two men could ask further questions, he shuffled off, thinking that the dinner was wasted, considering the upcoming events.
"It looks like we're invited for a soiree," Norrington said.
Gillette quickly picked up the wooden plate. He had made it his duty to pick as many of the weevils out of the tack before he gave it to Norrington. He knew the captain was secretly terribly revolted, and he didn't want him to skip a meal just because of a couple of bugs. Gillette himself didn't mind. He'd eaten worse before, and in the end, weevils were nothing but additional nutrition.
"You don't have to do that, Mr. Gillette. I don't mind having company for dinner."
Gillette looked up with a sheepish smile.
"One should never overdo the socialising, Sir. Here – I think this one is fine."
He handed a piece of tack to Norrington who took a bite, keeping a stoic face and cringing inwardly.
"I wonder what they want from us," Gillette mused once again, mainly to distract Norrington from the meal. "The Molly is not of much use to them, we don't have valuable cargo."
"Agreed, Mr. Gillette. The conclusion is rather unpleasant: if it's not about the ship or the cargo, it's about us."
Gillette didn't like that thought one bit.
"What could they possibly want from us?"
"We will soon know, Mr. Gillette. But whatever it is, they won't get it. And please: no matter what happens, keep your calm."
Out of an impulse, he put his hand on Gillette's shoulder.
"This is an order. I don't want you to take any risks."
"Aye, Sir," Gillette replied.
But Norrington wasn't fooled.
* * *
Ragetti's random notes: the usual thing to drink aboard a ship would have been beer. Giving prisoners water instead was part of the punishment. The weevils appear mainly because Eveiya is so fond of them and because no story about the Royal Navy is complete without the mentioning of disgusting food. Though, if you look at it from the weevil's point of view, they are heroes: just imagine, all those courageous pioneer seafaring weevils, infesting flour where no weevil has infested flour before!
"The one Elizabeth Gillette admires" is Queen Elizabeth I, the "seafaring queen" who, incidentally, also had red hair.
|CHAPTER 5: In The Brig
by Molly Joyful