Alice drew back in horror. “Did he quail before your daring?” She thrilled to think of the bravery of the pirate queen, holding a knife to the throat of the renowned buccaneer. Lafitte himself -- such daring! Alice longed to be such a heroine herself, but she was hampered by the prime defect of being quite cowardly. It was so inconvenient.
Black Ethel meanwhile had allowed a lazy grin to move across her features as she contemplated this episode from her youth. The young orphan had indeed possessed daring. She shook her head in response to Alice’s question. “Indeed he did not, he never moved or showed the least bit of worry.”
Lizzie smiled. Although he was admittedly a pirate, she could not help a thrill of admiration for the unflappable rapscallion. “What a man of considerable mettle he must have been to remain so complaisant in the face of a wild young thing.”
“C’est vrai!” Black Ethel continued, taking another puff on her latest cigar. The hour had grown late but none of the three seemed the least bit tired. The thrilling narrative had kept them all rapt with a fervor to let the yarn unfurl. “He simply reached for his spoon and began to eat once more, keeping a weather eye on my hand to see if it would tremble. I suppose now that he was more concerned with my fear leading to his injury rather than my wrath.
“After a time, when I had demonstrated that I was no less stubborn than he, Lafitte pushed the empty bowl away from him, grabbed the mug of ale and took a deep draft, my knife still at his throat. When he set down the empty glass, he looked once more into my blazing eyes and grunted.
“’What is your name, cherie?’ he asked me. I gave him the name my dear parents had bequeathed me, but he shook his head. ‘That is no name for a pirate.’ My heart leaped of course to know that he would accept me into his crew.
“’Merci, mon capitán! I shall do all that you ask, I shall work hard, I shall be ruthless…’ I was effusive in my delight, but the old reprobate merely grunted again and asked for more food. I sprang to work finding him sustenance, rooting through the cabinets with alacrity. He said nothing more until he had devoured some Bretagne ham and half a loaf of pumpernickel. And all he said then was that I must disguise myself as a boy.
“I laughed, because I had already anticipated that possibility. In my bindle I had stuffed such clothes as would fit the life of the cabin boy for some time to come. It took only a few minutes to run and fetch the rucksack, but I feared the whole time that the bloody pirate would abandon me to the ravages of the Gorgon once more, but he was still filling his pockets with smoked meats when I returned breathless. He looked at my bindle and wordlessly handed me a string of sausages. I took it upon myself to liberate the few good wedges of cheese to be found in that sorry excuse for a kitchen, and turned to follow at Lafitte’s heel as he strode once more out of the infirmière.
“As we walked down the filthy streets of Paris, I turned once more to look at the workplace that had oppressed me for a time and spat on the ground with contempt. Lafitte saw me do so and laughed out loud as we walked toward the banks of the Seine.”