A Tall Ship Tale #89: Signs Of The Thames

Paul DeAnguera’s epic puns continue.

Tenderly, with every respect due to great warriors from greater, the crew of the H.M.S. Legume conveyed defeated punster Hugo Phirst and the other Americans back across the Chesapeake to the U.S.S. Groundpea. “Shock and bleeding at the ears,” Emma Talligeist advised the American ship’s doctor. “Also several concussions from smacking their own foreheads.” They made the invalids as comfortable as they could. Then Emma returned and the Legume aimed its bowsprit toward the Atlantic. The Groundpea dipped its flag and stood aside to let them pass.

Although under arrest for his part in the Tibetan business, Sir Hillary Throckmorton-Shillingsworth III retained the freedom of the ship, albeit with a 24-pound shot fastened to one leg. With a rattle of chain he joined the crew gathering around the main mast, where stories were told to while away long ocean crossings.

“I wish I could tell you how I was recruited to a life in the underworld by the dreaded Mousaka in the 22nd century, but it’s a secret,” he apologized. “However, espionage and diplomacy are a very ancient tradition in my family. In the 16th century, my ancestor Sir Nicholas Throckmorton was Elizabeth I’s ambassador to Scotland and France. He could not resist conspiracies and so paid several visits to the Tower of London too.”


The Reformation was just getting underway, and one of Sir Nicholas’ missions was to infiltrate a group of former Catholics to see whether their conversion was sincere. He accompanied them into the nave of St. Peter’s and observed them sewing as they prayed during the Anglican service. They were using cross-stitch embroidery to create pious mottoes — “TRUST IN THE LORD,” and the like. The bishop, by way of approval, had caused the nave to be decorated with the little framed signs they had created.

The skeptical Sir Nicholas returned after the service and secured one of these signs for analysis. With a powerful lens and a needle he searched for some sort of pattern in the embroidery work. And this is what he found:

XxxxxxxxxxxXXxxxxxxxxxxXX …

The pattern of large and small cross-stitches resembled that of large and small beads on a rosary. Thus the unregenerates were carrying on their old practices, saying an Our Father, then ten Hail Marys, then a Gloria Patri, then repeating the cycle according to size of the stitches they took.

Sir Nicholas lost no time in writing a book about how he had discovered the secret of the St. Peter’s Catholics. He titled it:

A Time In Stitch-Sign Naves

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