Tuesday, February 19, 2008

chapter 3

When Hollee stayed on Nevis (which was rare, he preferred his cabin aboard the Windsong), he stayed at the Anchor and Crown, a rambling pub and hotel which had started out as a three-room building and gradually been added on to over the years. The clientele were men much like himself, seafarers, largely sensible men with wives and children back home, who needed a clean place for a night or two. The tiny rooms were undecorated and had hardly anything to recommend them, but the pub was the other extreme, packed with a mishmash of tables, chairs, lurid posters and broadsheets covering the walls while heavy wooden chandeliers cast light over the assorted guests. The stone floor was covered in dried reeds, and a huge fireplace at the end of the room was hardly ever lit, owing to the heat generated by the usually full room. Instead, a stuffed vulture perched on the grate while soot steadily blackened his red head. More animals were scattered around, an owl stood guard over the door and a fox kept watch over one end of the bar. Squirrels were abundant, and a few sad fish had made their final home in niches carved in the wall—far from their native element. Bell found the atmosphere of genial anonymous fun relaxing after being constantly watched on deck of the Windsong.

Then there was Queenie, an enormous old mulatto woman whose cooking was famous for a thousand miles. She ruled over the establishment—and her husband—with a personality that was like a hurricanoe. Many times her patrons had been woken by her early in the morning as her voice rose in argument with the village’s greengrocer, haggling over the price of fresh vegetables. Her husband ran the brewery out back, and his ales were only slightly less famous than his wife’s cooking. He was nearly as big as his wife, and not shy about raising his voice to match hers. Together they quarreled, laughed and worked together, creating the most successful establishment on Nevis.

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