A Tall Ship Tale #3: A Tragic Loss

Paul de Anguera has many (as in nearly a hundred) of these things on his web site [http://www.quidnunc.net./deanguer/atstmain.htm]. Many of them were also published on alt.callahans. The quality is maintained to an exceptional degree, throughout.

Cilantro, the ex-spy whom the ship picked up in Lisbon, turned out to be part of the mystical plot to astrologically unseat Peter the Great. It was his task to lead the Portuguese Navy in through the Baltic Sea to Russia, to lend its strength to the revolt of the Brotherhood. But, no Portuguese Man O’War would venture into such cold waters — in fact, they writhed and quivered at the very idea. So, he went to ground until that clever dog, Ali, dug him up. Then he persuaded the Legume’s skipper, Kattemzamer Quid, to sail to Russia.

But the First Mate soon found that Cilantro led a dark and disturbed life. Haunted by threats, fears and memories unspeakable, the embittered and lonely spy turned to hashish for comfort. The night watch soon became accustomed to the alternating glow and bubble of his water-pipe at the foot of the ship’s bowsprit. Then they would hear his eerie voice moaning, “The secret police! They will find the book, they will find it — all is lost, alas, gollum, gollum!”

So, the ship was not surprised to discover one morning that Cilantro had left behind all his possessions, stolen the Captain’s pinnace and fled to the mainland. The First Mate shook his head sadly, “What an inconvenience for the Skipper! And what will his wife think of it?”

But the H.M.S. Legume sailed resolutely on through the Gulf of Finland to St. Petersburg, where Captain Quid hoped to make contact with the mysterious robbed and cowled members of the Brotherhood. And two emissaries of that grim order did come aboard. But they came reluctantly, and it was plain that they did not trust the British.

“How can the Brotherhood do business without Cilantro?” one of them demanded. “Can you even prove he was ever on board? His supposed disappearance at this time would be most convenient for you — if you were agents of the Tsar’s secret police!”

Quid, unused to long speeches, placed an object on the table and explained,

“The spy hookah, men from the cowled!”

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