With some difficulty, the two young women were helped over the small gap between the ships and onto the Bonny Read. Some of the pirates were busy putting out the fires which the fierce battle had sparked in the rigging and on the deck. The crew seemed to pay no attention to their latest acquisitions, being far too engaged with control of the damage.
Black Ethel shouted encouragement in the way of dark curses. “What’re you thinking, you lazy miscreant! Get that rigging restrung, tout de suite! You -- bricon! Get some planks down over that hole. Load that cargo faster. Put your backs into it, merdaille!”
Alice exchanged a frightened glance with her cousin. If she was this harsh with her own men, imagine what the pirate queen would be like with poor captives like themselves. Alice considered fainting dead away, but found she was far too excited about the change of ships to give in to such a wistful impulse.
Lizzie, for her part, was bearing up well, as always, braced by the excitement of a new challenge and unknown horizons. While she observed the rough speech of the corsair queen, she also noted how the men shrugged off her hard words for the most part, doubling their efforts to be sure, but not cowering in fear as she might have expected.
Captain Bellamy’s men, on the other hand, quaked quite visibly before the dashing black figure of Ethel, afraid no doubt that she would be putting them to the plank or setting fire to their ship and abandoning them to the horror of choosing between death by fire or water. They trundled their goods onto the deck and scurried back over the side to their own familiar decks. Black Ethel strode back and forth, her curt commands punctuated with a gleeful laugh. No doubt she was proud of the loot they were taking and the humiliating beating she had given Bellamy.
“I do hope the good captain will recover from his wounds,” Lizzie said confidentially to Alice as the latter gawked in a very un-ladylike manner at the proceedings whirling around them.
“Fie on the good captain,” said Alice with what Lizzie saw as a want of charity. “If he had been such a good captain he would have taken better care of his charges.”
“Now Alice,” Lizzie scolded, “He was our warden so to speak. How was he to know on what charges we were brought there? Perhaps he thought we were ungrateful little women who never did our lessons or deferred to our parents’ wishes.”
We must assume Lizzie was in high spirits to tease poor Alice so, but her cousin -- in her usual artless way -- was taking her at her word. As she was more than a little prone to being ungrateful on the whole, avoiding her lessons at all cost and seldom taking into account her parents’ wishes at all, Alice was a might peeved to think her cousin meant these jests seriously.
She was just about to let fly words in a squeaky and most unbecoming pitch when Black Ethel returned to their side and motioned for the two to follow her to her cabin. One could presume it was her cabin because it had the grammatically incorrect yet emphatically feminine “La Capitaine” painted on the door.
“Entrez, ma petites. You have a new sort of adventure ahead of you!”
Lizzie and Alice trembled but obeyed and entered the dimly lit cabin. The first sight to meet them was a mop and bucket and the horrible truth sank into their hearts.
They were to be maids after all. Horreurs!