Mannington flipped through the pages perfunctorily, briskly efficient. Hollee waited until the noises ceased, then turned back around. The senior captain was in the act of removing his hand from his breast pocket. “Would you like to go below and inspect the cargo, sir?” Hollee asked politely.
“No, no, there’s no need. Everything seems to be in order. Salt herring, eh?” he said, winking. “Nevis does seem to be terribly fond of salt herring. Well, that’s all in order then. You run a tight ship, Hollee, a tight ship. The Navy would approve of you!” Hollee inclined his head, forcing a nod. I could do with less approval, he thought sourly, if it meant leaving my ship unmolested.
They walked back onto the deck, where the lieutenant was still standing by the railing, trying and failing to look bored and disinterested. Several of the Windies were leaning over the side and conversing with the sailors from the Boreas, they jumped back with the captains approached.
“Always a pleasure, sir, always a pleasure,” Mannington said, turning to shake Hollee’s hand.
“Likewise, sir.” Hollee returned the handshake cordially. He had no real complaints about Mannington’s conduct, it was just this Navy policy of stopping any ship that caught their fancy which rankled. Mannington was genial enough, he was, after all, just following orders. The older man held onto Hollee’s hand a few seconds longer than was strictly necessary. He smiled into Hollee’s face, but his smile bore a hint of sadness that Hollee could not account for. Then he let go and swung himself over the rail. The lieutenant followed hastily.
“Well!” Hollee said as he watched the boat row away back toward the Boreas. “What do you suppose that was all about?” John had come up on deck and was mopping his head with a red kerchief. “He seemed powerfully distracted.”
The crew seemed to be in a state of some excitement. Pratt stepped forward. “Well, sir, we’ve just had a bit of news—it seems that Captain Mannington has been recalled to England, sir!”
Hollee smiled. “That would explain quite a lot. Did your, er, informers say why?”
“No sir, no one seems to know, sir. But they’d bet it’s because he ain’t enforcing the Navigation Acts, sir.”
Hollee’s smile faded. That would just be it, that would be the exact reason. Damme the English and their acts, their taxes. Hollee was sorry for the old captain—being called back to England to be raked over the coals by the Admiralty was not something he would look forward to, but he could not help wonder in the back of his head just how much higher his bribes would be for the next captain. Every Naval man sent here would take an oath of loyalty and swear to uphold the King’s laws—but every man could be bought, after all. Mannington’s price had been comparatively low. No, damme the English for their acts, their taxes, and now this new worry.
The port at Nevis was wide and deep—a merchant’s port, not easily defended. Ships could come and go twenty abreast if they needed to, and all manner of docks and rafts stuck out into the water, like tendrils of the land seeking for new footholds. As the Windsong approached, the breeze that had been carrying them forward slowed, so they edged into the still waters with barely any headway at all. This gave every man and boy with a pair of eyes time to pick out the Windsong’s shape and colors, and they all remarked to one another what a tidy ship she was and wondered out loud what sort of cargo she might be carrying.
“Look lively now!” barked John. “Mr. Pratt! Mr. Campbell! Let’s have those mainsails up and make ready to take in the topsails. Mr. Richards! Be ready with that rope there.”
They glided into the dockyards where a dozen pairs of hands reached eagerly for the Windsong’s ropes. Hollee watched critically as his crew scurried around the ship. No one would be able to say they made a bad job of it, but then again, the wind had been very low. All in all, a very tidy job of it. The ropes which anchored them to the dock were double-checked, and a gangway was slid across. Already women were calling to the men, and boys were jostling with one another, singing the praises of this or that establishment.
The men were on deck, grinning at one another as John brought out his small table with it’s locked box and his ledger. Hollee turned to address them.
“I intend to make sail in a week’s time, and if any of you should care to join me, then I expect to see you no later than nine am. We shall try to catch the morning’s tide.” Hollee had checked his tide table the night before. “I thank you all very much for your hard work, and now if you will please form an orderly rabble—I think Mr. Waggs has something for you.”
The men queued up for John, and Hollee spotted the harbourmaster coming down the dock towards them. The man looked slightly ridiculous, puffing away under a grey wig and straw boater, a mangy dog at his heels.
“Mr. Lamb, how good to see you again,” Hollee said, tipping his hat. Lamb returned the gesture, managing to wipe off his steaming forehead in the process.
“La, it’s hot, Bell, my God. Can’t you dock at a more acceptable hour?”
“And here I thought I was to be congratulated on the speed of my voyage.”
Mr. Lamb looked at Hollee reproachfully. “I wouldn’t look so smug if I were you—you’re the fourth vessel to pull in today, and one was a Navy job, ship of the line, bless my soul, fresh from England. Of course, there’s no telling them anything, no sir, it’s how’s you do and we’ll have all your best water casks, thank you very much. I tell you, Bell, it’s a sad business, a sad business.” Mr. Lamb’s large eyes looked up at Hollee, watery and grave. “When a navy ship—a king’s ship—has no respect for a fellow servant of the law, why then, Mr. Hollee, I declare, we’re no better than the colonists, that is, I mean to say, the Americans, that is—anarchy, Bell, is what I mean to say, without respect we’re two steps away from anarchy!”
Mr. Lamb looked quite pleased with himself, and Hollee suspected the man had been working on that speech all morning. Behind him the men were exiting the ship, some of them calling out “good-bye, captain!” with a respectful tip of a hat. Hollee nodded in return, knowing most of them would be back.
“Well, this should cheer you up, Mr. Lamb, I intend to stay for a week, so there’s no need to trouble yourself on my account.” And indeed, Lamb looked happier at the thought, and happier still when Hollee handed over enough coins to cover the cost of their stay. “I have six barrels that need to come out, but I must see Mr. Maccaby first.”
“The last ship what came through here was carrying horseshoes and roofing nails. As if we don’t have our own bloody horseshoes,” Lamb exhaled heavily. His dog was sniffing around Hollee’s ship, and he was watching the thin creature sharply. If it gave the slightest inclination of blessing the deck, Hollee would have it over the side in an instant. “Beg pardon, sir,” Lamb said a beat later. He wiped his head again.
“That’s all in order then. I shall see Mr. Maccaby and be back within the hour, I daresay.”
“Very good, Bell. I’ll come with you. Hoy! Ripper! Give over there!” Mr. Lamb went to intercept his dog.
“John, I’m going ashore. I’ll be back within the hour. You don’t mind staying awhile, do you?”
“Not at all sir,” John said, shutting his little box.
“I thought I might invite you to the Anchor and Crown for supper, if you don’t have any other plans,” Hollee added.
“Can’t say as I have. I’ll look forward to joining you then.” John had queer ideas about food—he refused to eat meat unless there was no other alternative. The Anchor and Crown—or, more specifically, it’s proprietress—was one of the few places that would indulge his strange tendencies. As if reading his mind, John grinned. “I daresay Queenie will be glad to see you.”
“And you as well, I shouldn’t wonder,” Bell grinned back. Mr. Lamb had chased his dog off the Windsong and now stood expectantly on the dock. “’til then, John.”
John picked up his table and moved back into the cabin as Holle joined Mr. Lamb.
“There she is sir—can you see her? Bloody great ship of the line, seventy-four guns or I miss my guess…” Mr. Lamb pointed, and they set up the dock towards dry land.
Nigel Maccaby was Bell Hollee’s “man of business” on Nevis—a staid businessman who bought and sold goods off of ships, and who also looked after Hollee’s money while the captain was away on long voyages. Maccaby and Brevis had been responsible for loaning the original Hollee his startup funds, and even though both Brevis and Hollee the elder were dead, Maccaby and Bell saw no reason to dissolve the partnership. Hollee walked briskly down the street, in between overhanging signs, dodging children and pigs. The sun had passed its zenith several hours before, but was still hot, even though shadows were edging out from where they had been hiding all day.
When Hollee entered the door of the modest warehouse, he was confronted by a small counter. No one was immediately evident, so he rapped once, calling for Mr. Maccaby. A faint voice entreated him to come around the back, so he moved through the front room and into the warehouse. Bales of goods were stacked up, barrels and crates, some of them prised open, some of them still shut like an oyster keeping a secret. Maccaby was standing over a bale of fabric while his two clerks broke it open, holding up lengths of satins and silks for his inspection. He nodded approvingly.
“Now, if there’s no moths in these, they’ll fetch a fair fortune. Hollee!” he said, smiling more broadly. “Good to see you, man. Tell me, have you ever seen such a red in all your life?”
The perspiring clerk held up a silk the colour of a parrot. “It is exquisite,” Bell acknowledged.
Maccaby hopped off the bale he had been standing on. A thin man with a colorless face, he wore grey breeches and an off-white shirt. The effect only made him stand out the more as he moved in front of the jewel-bright fabrics toward Hollee.
“Upon my word, you make your trips faster every time. It’s good to see you, my lad. Now tell me what you’ve brought for us.”
“Six barrels from Charleston,” Hollee said as they moved into Maccaby’s office, which was tucked into a corner. “Tobacco. I had more, but they snapped it up at St. Kitt’s.”
“And that’s all?”
Hollee nodded. “I had uncommon good luck trading along the coast. John can show you the books—we’ve turned a fair profit on this voyage.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Maccaby said, pulling is own ledger toward him. It was covered in green leather, and was rather larger than any ledger Hollee had ever seen. “Well now. Tobacco…oh, yes…” He quoted a figure at Hollee and they haggled good naturedly about the price for a few minutes, before settling on an amount. Mr. Maccaby made a mark in his huge green ledger and then pulled a smaller black ledger off the shelf behind him. In it was a list of figures concerning Hollee’s personal fortune. He copied the amount he had just subtracted from the green ledger into the smaller black one, and added the new figure in.
“You know, “ he said, as he pushed the book across the table toward Hollee so the young man could inspect it, “you really ought to consider investing some of your money. I know I offer you a fair per cent here, but you could do much better if you thought to buy some bonds or stocks. Or an investment of real estate, perhaps? You could practically build a house with this amount.”
“I have no wish to have a house empty save for a few servants who spend their days polishing silver that never gets used,” Hollee said. “The Windsong is my home.”
“Then perhaps another ship?” Maccaby said. “Has the idea ever crossed your mind to expand your business? I know several good men who would be more than happy to sail for you, and if you had twice the ships, why, you’d be transporting twice the merchandise. Or a larger ship, even. If you traded the Windsong, you could get a ship twice as large for a song.”
Hollee smiled. “I don’t think you understand a captain’s attachment to his ship, sir. As to getting a second one—well, I can think of no one off the top of my head who I’d trust at her helm. If only John Waggs were thirty years younger, I’d do it in a second and put him charge without a second thought. And a larger ship—why, I’d only have to pay twice the taxes.” Hollee sat forward, attentively. “Maccaby, that reminds me. I’ve heard that Mannington is to be sent back to England, is this true? Have you heard anything?”
“Oh, it’s true all right. The Navy apparently thinks we’re getting a little too complacent in circumnavigating the Navigation Acts.” Maccaby spoke with the tone of one who was unconcerned about the fact that everything in his warehouse would be considered contraband goods. “Happened quite suddenly. One day the packet arrives with his orders to prepare to return to England, two days later the Temeraire arrives with his replacement. Quite shocking, really. He’s lived here twenty years! How he’s going to pack up and return to England I shall never know. I wouldn’t be surprised if he retires his commission, comes to live here. He’s put away a fair bit, wouldn’t you say?” He winked. Hollee thought about how much larger the numbers in the black ledger would be if he hadn’t had to pay Mannington every time he sailed past Nevis.
The Navigation Acts had been a fact of his life ever since the War for American Independence had ended four years previously. During the war Hollee had spent most of his time trading back and forth between the islands of the West Indies, with occasional jaunts to England, trying to avoid the bulk of fighting altogether. Only once had they made a dash into Baltimore, and that on a special request. The truth was, Hollee could have bought a larger ship and traded more profitably between America and, say, France or Holland, but he liked the compactness and familiarity of the Windsong, he liked the beauty and tranquilty of the West Indies. There was no reason why he couldn’t go along as he had until the time came for him to retire. Even then he secretly wished that he would drop on the deck just as old Hollee had. And so he had agreed to the sordid necessity of bribery, the only dishonest practice he engaged in. Even that did not rankle him so much as the fact that bribery was now a necessity whereas before he had been perfectly free to ply the same routes free from harassment.
“I must withdraw a small sum—there are stores to be bought, and I think I would feel better if we replaced the topsail before it splits down the middle—but there’s no great hurry,” Hollee said. “I intend to stay here for a week. May I engage you to take supper with sometime in the next few days?”
“Certainly, sir, I should like nothing better!” said Mr. Maccaby amicably. They rose and shook hands, exchanging pleasantries, and Hollee exited out into the street once more.
I must see about supper, Hollee mused, and then perhaps I shall return to the Windsong. Campbell’s impromptu bathing had put him in a mind to have a wash himself before eating, and with the ship safely docked he could do so unmolested. So caught up in his small thoughts was he that he did not notice the open carriage until it was nearly upon him.
“I say, man, look out!” a voice called sharply and Bell pulled up, alarmed. A neat black carriage, open to the sun had stopped in front of him. The man who had shouted was seated in the back, his face protected from the sun by a wide hat. Next to him sat a young lady of perhaps sixteen, peering out from a froth of lace and bonnets. Hollee’s hat was in his hands before he even registered that the carriage carried another passenger—passengers, actually—and he gave a low bow. The man recognised him and smiled. "Why, Mr. Hollee, we did not know you."
“President Herbert, Miss Herbert,” he said. He inclined toward the lady sitting in the front of the carriage, “Mrs. Nisbet, forgive me, I did not see you there.”
“What a splendid surprise,” Herbert said. He was the president of the island, appointed by royal decree, and the mantle of his station sat upon him visibly even when, like today, he was dressed fairly casually. Miss Herbert—Mary—was his daughter. She was a coquettish, smiling woman, hiding her head beneath her parasol as she flashed her perfect teeth at Hollee. Hollee, however, had eyes only for the slim figure sitting across from them with her back to the driver. Herbert was carrying on, “Frances was just talking about you the other day, weren’t you, Frances? Saying that it had been far too long since we’ve seen you. And I daresay it has been.” As one of Nevis’ most successful merchants, Hollee enjoyed a felicitious relationship with it’s president—a relationship that would not have been so cordial had the strict class lines of England held sway here, or if Hollee had not been quite so successful.
Fanny Nisbet was President Herbert’s niece. She had married a doctor and gone off to England to live, only to return two years later, her husband dead, a small son in tow. Josiah was with them now, peering over the side of the carriage interestedly as his mother patted his soft curls. Hollee forced himself to give the child a smile. He did not especially care for children, but Josiah was less disagreeable than most. Although she would not be considered beautiful by many people—especially sitting so close to her vivacious cousin--Fanny had a sort of Roman beauty, her grey eyes solemn and thoughtful, her brown hair capped tightly under a straw bonnet. The yards of fabric which made up her dress were a sedate rose color, much easier on the eyes than the screaming red Maccaby had been so proud of a half hour earlier.
“And what brings you into the center of town today, sir?” Hollee said, replacing his hat on his head. “It is quite hot, is it not?”
“I did not think so, sir, until we ventured down here. It’s quite cool up at our house, we enjoy a healthy breeze off the sea. The same breeze that brought you in, I daresay. No, the king has sent us a new man—have you heard? A young captain to take over the Boreas, to enforce the king’s laws. Poor Mannington,” he went on, scowling, “One can’t help but feel he brought it on himself. Perhaps it’s all for the best.” Herbert made it perfectly clear that he was all for abiding the king’s rules, although perhaps, as President, there was more leeway for him than anyone else. “We have come down to the quay to see if this new captain would do us the honor of being our guest tonight at a small party. Would you care to join us?”
The invitation had come so quickly that Hollee did not register it at first. “I beg your pardon, sir?”
“Oh, do,” Fanny said, speaking for the first time. “It will be dreadfully boring, I am afraid, only Navy men and their wives, we should very much like to hear your stories about the pirates you’ve encountered.”
“But my dear Mrs. Nisbet,” Hollee said with a faint smile, “You’ve heard all my stories already—you could probably recite them better than I could.”
“Yes, do come,” Herbert said, leaning across his daughter, “I’m sure the new man will want to meet as many of our local merchants as possible—better to meet on neutral ground now, eh?” Herbert laughed genially, never suspecting for a moment that Hollee was not as law-abiding as he seemed.
“I meant to dine at the Anchor and Crown tonight with my man,” Hollee said slowly, “I suppose I could ask him if he could do without me for one night. I shall see.”
“You don’t need his permission, do you, come on now,” Herbert said.
Fanny leaned over and smiled, almost apologizing for her uncle’s behavior, for Hollee had visibly stiffened at this slur against John. “John will understand. Please come. It would be so nice to have a good long chat with you again.”
“Well, then, I…I suppose I can but accept. Yes. thank you very much, Mr. Herbert, I will join you tonight.”
“Splendid! Eight o’clock then—we shall be looking for you!”
“And don’t listen to uncle,” Fanny added quickly, “It’s won’t be a small party, whatever he says, so be sure to wear your silk stockings!” This last was called out to him, for the carriage had begun to rattle down the street. Fanny raised her hand in a small salute to him, and Hollee lifted his hat again, watching her move away from him.
What a funny man, Fanny ruminated, her hand automatically stopping Josiah from tumbling out of the carriage. Taller than most men, he had an odd way of standing with his shoulders cocked forward so that, even though he was ramrod straight, he gave the appearance of slouching. He carried his head proudly, his manners almost too formal for old friends such as they. Fanny had first met Hollee when the latter had called on her uncle, interceding on behalf of a sailor who had been about to be thrown out of his house for failing to pay taxes. A great deal of money had changed hands, Fanny was sure, but in the end the man had been able to keep his house, and Herbert had been quietly impressed by the determination of this bright young man. Fanny had been newly a widow then, wandering about her uncle’s house with little to keep her distracted from her grief. Hollee had begged the pleasure of her company after finding her alone in the garden, and they had taken a quiet tea together. He had done most of the talking, describing his ship, his travels. Fanny had only ever been on a ship twice in her life—once on her way to England, a new bride, once on her way back, bereaved—but she had loved the feel of the ocean under her feet, the snapping sails. Hollee had a way of speaking that captured that sensation perfectly, so that they passed many hours together. Since then, whenever he had put in to Nevis he had made it a point to come and see her, and their friendship had grown and strengthened.
“What an odd fellow,” Herbert said, mimicking Fanny’s thoughts. She frowned though, for she did not like to hear her uncle speak ill of Hollee. “A good sailor but—quiet, isn’t he?”
“Very quiet, Father,” Mary piped up. Her hand was snuggled into the crook of her father’s arm, and Fanny felt suddenly lonely.
Hollee had watched the carriage disappear around a corner before turning and walking again. He did not particularly wish to attend a party at Mr. Herbert’s plantation house—a house barely eight years old and beautiful and wide open—he would prefer a quiet night with John. Or a quiet afternoon with Fanny, he reflected, but they would barely have a chance to talk at a party. She would be required to perform some duties as the niece of the host, and he could not hope to know anyone else there.
Then there was the matter of her final comment. Silk stockings. Hollee frowned. What use had he for silk stockings? He regarded his own outfit—his “uniform,” as he referred to it. His plain brown trousers, green waistcoat and wine-coloured coat had served him very well for the past several years, and unless there was a great upheaval in the very near future, he could see no reason to change it. The wine coat was particularly nice, he thought, an elegant compromise between the drab brown most merchants wore and the bright patterns of plantation owners and landsmen. Hollee had been forced to buy it after his last coat (a drab brown, come to that) had been irreparably ripped during a storm. And Fanny had liked it. She complimented him on it when he had presented himself the next time, saying that it set off his brown hair and eyes nicely. Hollee frowned again. Well—if she wanted him in silk stockings, he would have another stop to make. He turned down a side street, heading for a haberdashery he knew.
“John,” Bell Hollee said an hour later, stumping over the gangway onto the Windsong. “I hope you can forgive me, I’ve accepted an invitation to dine with at President Herbert’s home tonight. Apparently he is feting the new captain and thought I might provide some amusement, a distraction from Naval matters. I’m afraid I shall have to postpone our dinner.”
“’Tis no matter to me, sir,” John said sagely, “I shall dine at the A&C whether you are there or not—and I’ll give Queenie your love as well, whether you will or no. What’s in the package?”
“Silk stockings,” Hollee said shortly.
“Bless me, sounds like quite an affair,” John said, hiding a smile.
“I’m sure Herbert is anxious to make a good impression. After all, this man is newly from England, and we are but a small tropical colony, I’m sure he wishes to impress on him that we are just as civilized as any society house in London. By the by, I saw Mr. Maccoby, and he seems to think Mannington was sent off because he was not enforcing the Acts as stringently as he could. I am a little concerned what this new man will do to our overhead,” Hollee said, “As I’m sure you are. Perhaps we should think about upgrading the Windsong and trading between Europe and the Americas? I know the Song can make it, but I wouldn’t like to do it any more than I have to, and I dearly hate a convoy. What do you think?”
“It’s a possibility,” allowed John, “but perhaps you’re getting a bit ahead of yourself?”
“That could very well be. Maccaby has my head all turned around with ideas of investing in something. Well, I shall meet the man tonight and try to make an assessment of him. After all, I wouldn’t want to go skipping off to France if I didn’t need to.”
“Just so, sir.”
Hollee felt the presence of his first mate comforting. “Would you be so good as to fetch me a bucket or two of water? I’ve a mind to wash before tonight’s party. Oh and John, may I borrow your new green coat?”
“My new coat, sir?”
“Yes, the green one.”
“The one I bought in Carolina? It’s two years old, Bell.”
“Yes, well, you’ve never worn it, it will be like new, won’t it?” Hollee said, a trifle testily. “And Fanny won’t have seen it, she’ll think I did as she asked and put my best foot forward.” Hollee could have bitten off his tongue at that last statement. John smiled as the reason behind the new stockings and sudden need to bathe became clear.
“Very good, sir,” John said, “water it is. Oh—and you may want to stick your head down the hatchway there and have a yell at Pritchard. He hasn’t left the ship, he’s afraid you’re still angry with him.”
John moved away to get a bucket of water, and Hollee did as he asked. He went halfway down the steps leading to the lower deck, peering into the gloom. Pritchard was tucked up in the bow, the ship’s cat asleep on his lap.
“Pritchard, for God’s sake, take some leave,” Hollee said.”
“Yes sir, thank you, sir,” Pritchard stood quickly, upending the cat. “I didn’t want to upset you more, sir. I’ll see you in a week then?”
“Yes, thank you.” Hollee stood aside as the man went up on the deck. He may have stayed on the ship in an attitude of penitence, but he had also prepared to go ashore while he was waiting, for he was now wearing his best vest and a strong odor of cologne.
“Have a pleasant time at your party tonight, captain!” Pritchard called cheekily as he scampered over the gangway. Hollee stared after him, annoyed. Now every man aboard his ship would think that he was dressing up for Mrs. Nisbet, which wasn’t the case at all. Like President Herbert, he was simply determined not to embarrass Nevis. That was all.
In his cabin, John had poured water into the basin beneath the faded mirror and left the rest of the bucketful alongside the small cabinet that held his necessities. Hollee scrubbed at his face with a small cloth, eyeing his reflection. He had a narrow face, tall cheekbones and a longish nose which had a tendency to stick in the air if he wasn’t careful. His brown eyes were the exact same shade as his brown hair, which he now loosed from its queue and brushed out. It reached to below his shoulder blades, a glossy brown that might have elicited looks of jealousy from women, had he ever worn it loose in their company. He hated wigs, but could not tolerate the smallest wisp of hair in his eyes. He gave one last brush and then reached for the horn jar of grease and began to apply it mechanically to his hair. When this was done, he braided it and bound it back it its long black ribbon. Then he undressed, rubbing the wet cloth over the rest of his body. His face and hands were tanned from their long exposure in the sun, but the color ended sharply at his wrists and neck, the rest of his body pale from being hidden beneath layers of clothes. He had no fresh linens, so he put his dirty shirt and breeches back on, but instead of his brown stockings, on went the white stockings, their newness and cleanness shocking in the gloom.
From underneath his small bunk he pulled a small chest and opened it. Inside was a collection of clothes and a jumble of journals, quills, odd souveniers he had collected from his travels. Near the top was a parcel wrapped in crinkly paper. He pulled it out and opened it. It was a cream-coloured waistcoat worked over with small blue flowers. For some unknowable reason, he had bought it the last time they were in Charleston and then—embarrassed by his extravagance—had buried it immediately in his trunk. But it was just the thing for Fanny—just the thing for the party tonight. He put it on.
John knocked at the door and came in, carrying his green coat. Two years out of fashion, to be sure, but still clean and new, as Hollee had known it would be. John eyed his captain critically, his face reflecting some deep inner disturbance. His eyes were green, not like the color of water which warns about shallows, but rich green like the pine trees on the coast of New Jersey. He nodded gruffly at Hollee’s outfit as the captain spread his arms helplessly. John brushed the coat with Hollee’s brush as Hollee worked on his neckcloth. He tied it three times before it was satisfactory and then slipped into John’s coat. John had been bigger when he had bought it, and it was only slightly too short for Hollee. He didn’t think anyone would notice. He gave one last tug at his neck, then turned to face his first mate.
“Well then. Off I go.”