A Tall Ship Tale #15: Absorb-a The Greek

Paul de Anguera continues his series.

Emma Talligeist, the Transylvanian ensign, hummed snatches of “The Ballad Of St. Anne’s Reel” as she made her way along a rack of cannon-balls, smoothing out their irregularities with her thumbs. A chill breeze came up, so she stopped to get her astrakhan. Then she noticed a man strolling along the Cannes wharf and looking up at the ship. His rolling walk revealed him to be a sailor. She went down the gangway to investigate, and learned that his name was Pierre Dijon.

“There’s no ship like a frigate!” He enthused. “The eyes of the fleet! Powerful enough to conquer any small ship, and fast enough to get away from the rest.”

“You’ll find that the Legume is special even among frigates,” she informed him. “If the need arises, so can the ship!”

He looked dubious, but as she slipped an arm around him he concluded “I’m impressed!”

“So you are,” she agreed, embracing him and deploying her fangs. She seemed to be developing a taste for Gauls. At length she carried him up the gangplank and delivered the new recruit to the Boatswain as the ship was getting underway. Meanwhile, the Captain and First Mate were looking at the chart tacked onto the star board.

“Now we’ve found some ducks, and Napoleon has canned them for us,” the First Mate pondered. “But, where can we get oil?”

Captain Quid’s rugged eyebrows plunged together like wrestling caterpillars. But soon a smile creased his homely face. He thumped a hairy forefinger at their next destination. The First Mate leaned forward to read it:


As the H.M.S. Legume approached Athens, Quid ordered the steersman to pull the flying lever. The ship rose out of the sea and continued sailing, right up the Acropolis to the Parthenon temple. Here the crew dropped anchor. A work party lowered the palm trees which they had potted on the Nile River, and arranged them along the avenue. Crowds of pale-skinned people in baggy shorts, loud shirts, sunglasses and silly hats were waiting in line to point little boxes at the temple. They greased the palms as they passed them. By the end of the day, the palm trees were saturated with oil.

The crew reloaded the palms and took them down to the harbor. “Now, how do we get the oil out of the trees?” the First Mate asked.

“Trompe le’oeil,” Pierre advised. So they chopped up the palms and loaded them into a press which Ian Vilcorus the blacksmith constructed. Then they jumped on it. Oil started to trickle out; then they realized they had nothing to put it in. “We should have asked Napoleon for an extra can!” Owen exclaimed. Then they noticed what Emma was wearing. She reluctantly agreed to loan them her astrakhan; the oil just filled it. At last the work was done. “What a relief!” they said.

But now they discovered a new problem. The Athens harbor was quite shallow, and the ship had become stuck in the mud at its bottom. The mud held the shutters of the GAG levitation system closed, so the ship couldn’t fly out of it. Towing the ship with its boats did no good. They tried to run the anchor out into deep water, drop it, and crank the ship up to it by its windlass, but the mud’s suction was too strong. By now they were exhausted. “What are we going to do?” the First Mate panted.

“Let’s wait for a high tide to lift the ship up off the mud,” Emma urged. “You see…

“You can’t run, but you can tide!”

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