A Tall Ship Tale #36: A Gesture of Defiance

Paul deAnguera’s Tale continues.

Wondering when Sir Hillary Throckmorton-Shillingsworth III and the First Mate would return from their secret mission to Mecca, Captain Quid leafed idly through his backlog of old dispatches:

August, 1588

From:      The Lord High Admiral

To:          The Privy Council

… The next morning, being Sunday 21 July 1588, all the English ships that were then come out of Plymouth had recovered the wind off Idye Stone, and about 9 of the clock in the morning, the Lord Admiral sent his pinnace, named The Disdain, to give the Duke of Medina defiance …*

Quite a daring gesture of defiance, Quid thought; and no wonder that it is emulated to this day, though abbreviated by time to a simple hand-gesture! He wondered whether the Lord Admiral had named his pinnace especially for the occasion, and whether Mrs. Admiral had christened his pinnace, and how she christened it. And this train of thought begat a second, funeral train of thought regarding his own pinnace — stolen on the North Sea by Cilantro the spy. The sound of musketfire interrupted his reverie; he hurried up to the quarter-deck.

The Boatswain had just ordered nets stretched from the rails up to the lower yards to intercept boarders. And not a moment too soon! A mob in which swords and daggers glittered was pouring out of Jidda’s narrow streets, chasing a tired-looking camel whose two riders urged it wildly on. The beast clattered out onto the pier; the riders leaped for the gangplank! Scrambling through the inter-net, they reached the main deck at last. Only then did Quid realize that the half-naked men were Sir Hillary and the First Mate. They quickly briefed him.

“You know, I’ve always put these on first,” Quid observed. “Are you sure inside-out is the style here?”

“We only barely escaped, sir,” the First Mate exclaimed.

“So I see, “Quid noted. Nervously, he eyed the enraged crowd of Arabs which had gathered on the pier and were making gestures of defiance. “How?” he asked distractedly.

“We’d made our robes into sarongs. We didn’t need the rest of our clothes after that, so …

…”We gave them the slip!”

* Stephen Underwood, “The Great Enterprise”

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