The Girl from the Sea – Chapter Fourteen
The fishing fleet was back after a successful day. There was a lively atmosphere at the inn that evening. Wages were in pockets and ale was flowing; someone had bought a fiddle, someone else an accordion and a merry shanty tune was playing. Voices were raised in song as the drink flowed freely. The inn was full – everyone was there. The boats had all come back and been de-rigged – the equipment scrubbed and stowed away. Salt air always created a thirst in the men’s throats and the inn was the first stop before home for dinner. The Captain was catching up with friends in a quiet corner.
The Captain leant in, in a conspiratorial manner. “Lads,” he whispered. “I found a girl…”
There were guffaws and whistles of approval. “Nice one, Cap! Didn’t think that was your style! Thought you and Esther were pretty solid, but you never know…”
“No you fools, not that kind of girl! Esther would have my guts for garters!” He shivered at the thought that she literally would have his guts for garters if he ever betrayed her. “A young girl…on the beach…this morning. On the verge of death she was…black and blue. Hardly breathing….”
There was shock all around on every face. “Where do you think she came from? What did she say? Is she still alive?” Too many questions crowded the air and the commotion was drawing attention to them. There seemed to be a lull in the singing and the conversations around them.
“Hush your mouths,” he hissed, staring fixedly at his ale mug, to try and make it look as if they weren’t having a heated debate. “Drink something, and calm down!” They all shifted in their seats and took a sip under instructions. The singing started up again.
“I don’t know anything about her, apart from the fact that she’s badly beaten and has washed ashore from somewhere. She hasn’t spoken to me. Young Joe managed to get her name out of her.”
“Joe? That blabber mouth. And what does that lad know about her? You know he won’t keep this quiet!”
“Shhhh,” he warned. “He seems to be the only one she’ll talk to. Not that she’s said much any way. She was in a bad way, but she must be a tough nut to have recovered from what she went through.” His friends nodded, knowing his background and were never sure how to react. Nothing was said for a while. The men sat together showing their support in their silence. The rest of the pub roared the chorus to the song behind them.
“Did any of you hear anything about a missing girl today? She must have family who are missing her?”
“No I’ve not heard anything Captain.”
“Well keep your ears open, will you? If anyone starts asking questions about her come and find me.”
“Aye sir,” they all repeated. He may not be Captain of a boat any longer, but he still commanded respect.
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