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There is a Tide in the Affairs of Men (Part 1)

Cadmus stepped onto the dock. He left the unloading of the ship to his crew. He looked around the yard watching the men with hooks and knives work. He chuckled to himself. The Sea always called to him when he was on land, but lately he would wake having dreamed of this place. With the rocking of the hammock and salt air he use to never dream of land, but there was something about this place.

Iron Bay was bustling with dockworkers about there business. Mr. Chase was in the yard talking to the foreman. Mr. Chase ran the oil refinery well in his absence. Chase had a head for administration. The man had been a whaler for many a year, but had forsaken the sea after the last time he was shipwrecked. Three small boats escaped and lost in a vast ocean. Only one boat made it to a scrag of an island. They had resorted to cannibalism before they were rescued.

Cadmus entered the refinery. The reek of whale offal was strong. He checked on the vats of whale oil before turning towards the front of the building. Mr. Hob was behind the bar serving out rum to a thirsty knot of sailors. Old Hob, well named, was an old sea-dog who ran the tavern on occasion. Hob was a wreck of a man, with a sunburn face with as many scars as wrinkles. His arms were tattooed as was his face. When Old Hob was not tending bar he was rolling those damn dice. He never played craps, or Liar’s Dice, with the other sailors he just rolled the dice and looked at them. Old Hob sometimes went out to the sidewalk when Little Jo, the crossing sweeper was out there with his broom. He would have the dirty, ragged urchin roll a new set of dice. Then Old Hob would snatch up the dice and throw them into the fire.

By chance or not, Little Jo entered the building holding a letter.

“Cappain, right, a letter arrived for yer, right? It just arrived on the packet ship.”

Cadmus looked at the letter, in the filthy little hand, as if it was a viper.

“It looks fancy an’ has a seal on it.”

It had to be from the Ad Astra Society. Either Sir Thomas, or R.R.C checking up on him.
He had told the packet ship to not use urchins to deliver his letters. Cadmus eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“Did you read the envelope?”

“Yo’ knows ah canna read Cappain, as enny fool kin plainly see.”

Cadmus held a farthing in his hand. The boy’s eyes got slightly bigger. The dirty little hand moved slightly before he checked himself.

“This buys your tongue, see that you keep it.”

The sickly street waif nodded in desperate agreement.

“Thank yo’, ah won’t t’no trouble.”

Cadmus was in a generous mood so he threw the coin down the street instead of into the water. Clutching his broom Little Jo raced down the street after the coin.

Cadmus carried the letter back inside.

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2 Comments

  1. Tepic Harlequin Tepic Harlequin September 14, 2011

    Yup, Little Jo can’t read, an goodness knows we tried ter teach him his letters, recon he ain’t got the knack……. but he can trace the shapes he sees in the dirt very well, an who knows how many urchins he saw an chatted to between the packet boat and the refinery who can read…. Just as well urchins know how to keep quiet, ain’t it?

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