A Tall Ship Tale #14: The French Connection

The tale by Paul de Anguera continues

The H.M.S. Legume paused on its return trip down the Nile to anchor near a stand of palm trees. The crew set to work carefully digging up some small palms. They planted them in the clay pots which the Captain had purchased in Chapter 13, and put them in the hold with the ducks.

As they resumed their journey, the First Mate pored over the chart. Captain Quid wiped up the spill with disdain, wrung out the Dane and sent him back to his station. “Now we have a load of ducks. But, what about canning them?” the First Mate asked. The Captain, always a miser with words, jabbed the chart with a hairy forefinger. The First Mate bent forward to see their next destination:


Here they met Napoleon Bon-Aperitif, a French merchant who had a cannery. (Sad to report, this venture of his never prospered. Yet he achieved success in the end. To this day we see Napoleon’s picture on bottles of olive oil.) He was always worrying about business expenses, and had developed the habit of compulsively thrusting his hand between the buttons on the front of his jacket to hold his wallet. While their ducks were being canned, he took the ship’s officers on a tour of the place.

“It’s the nineteenth century, after all,” he told them, “So I’ve made every effort to create a modern and efficient factory. These conveyor belts bring ducks and other fowl from the various loading docks. The belts join together at the canning machinery,” he explained, pointing out the poultry switching network. “The ducks go into the cans in the central Pasteurizing unit, or CPU, where they are executed. The next step is the output buffer, where rotating cotton pads polish the outsides of the cans.”

When Owen Anatu picked up a can and looked at it, Napoleon clutched his wallet inside his jacket. “I’m sorry, am I making you nervous?” Owen asked solicitously.

“The cans are the most expensive part of this operation,” he admitted. “A ship of mine brings them over from England. I wanted to encourage the crew’s patriotism, so I agreed to supply them with wine whenever the ship is on the coast of France. But they’re drinking up all my profits! So I’ve been thinking about moving my cannery to the Seine River. Then they can sail directly up the river from the English Channel and tie up at my wharf, with no time spent drinking along the coast.”

Owen nodded. “A sensible idea,” he said, and added…

“A hitch in Seine saves wine!”

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