A Tall Ship Tale #38: Spy vs. Spy

It has, again, been too long since we continued these tall tales by Paul de Anguera.

As the H.M.S. Legume anchored in the harbor of steamy Zanzibar, the First Mate doodled in frustration on the encrypted letter which Cilantro had left. Sir Hillary had started to read it in Chapter 34, then claimed he could make nothing of it. But, since they were both spies, perhaps one was covering for the other? He jotted Sir Hillary’s words underneath the original message:

Your oar, dears! Art, to prose — cede to thee! Why douse, Anisette? Fie, you’re due wit!


This seemed promising. He studied the rest of the message, and added “TO THE.” But at this point he was called away to organize hospitality for an important shore visitor.

“This is Abul; Abul, meet our First Mate,” the Captain introduced him. “Bashi is the slave of Abul,” he added, indicating a corpulent, bearded man. “And Chistiyya is the slave of Bashi,” he concluded, waving toward a wiry little man by the rail. The First Mate looked stunned; Captain Quid took him aside. “Remember the Prime Directive,” he warned him. “There is much slavery in Zanzibar, and gambling too. We are here only to observe, not to interfere!”

“Just so,” the First Mate agreed, recovering himself. “And what would be your pleasure, sir?” he asked Abul.

“I heard that British naval officers play whist,” Abul said. “I want to play whist. But not with infidels!”

“Very well,” the First Mate said. “You and your associates need only one more to make a foursome. Our carpenter is of the, er, Faithful, and will join you shortly.”

Effayaid di’Amir, the ship’s carpenter, had just reported to Sick Bay. The Captain had recently appointed Emma Talligeist, the Transylvanian, as ship’s doctor. She was a natural hematologist, for she could diagnose diseases from the merest taste of blood. Emma was as subtle as a mosquito, and so beguiling that the men did not mind an occasional embrace in the name of science, even though they nicknamed her “Doctor Crusher” for her unique method of taking blood samples. She drew Effayaid to her now and murmured “Vot is your problem?” into his ear.

“Sore legs — aching back — aching neck,” he sighed into her hair. “Ow!” he winced as she probed his rather bowed backbone.

“Have you been eating your eggs — cheese — butter?” she asked. He shook his head guiltily. “You have osteomalacia,” she concluded. “So, you don’t like eggs? Rx: no drinking or gambling, until you get your Vitamin D up to snuff!”

“Excuse me, Doctor,” the First Mate interrupted, “But I need your patient to play whist with some visitors.” But Emma burst out furiously:

“No whist for the ricketed!”

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