A confection inspired by fellow lissun Catalina Hannan’s lament, “Where’s Bonden when you need him?”
“Ah, Bonden, there you are,” said Jack as the door to the great cabin opened. “Can you knit?”
“Which I have knit, sir. It’s really just knotting and splicing if you take my meaning, but with a powerful thin marlinspike and fid. Comforters come easy and I’ve even managed a pair of mittens for Joe Plaice—his fingers feel the damp something cruel now.”
“Excellent, just as I’d hoped. Miss Hannan here is in need of some assistance. Quite a job to finish but no time for a single set of hands to do it.”
“I’m your man, sir…and miss,” Bonden added with a broad smile and a nod to the previously unnoticed lady who stepped forward from the shadows. “What is it that needs making, if I may be so bold?”
“Yes, quite, the articles.” Here Jack’s usual bluff confidence seemed to falter. “They’re rather delicate and small. Yes, small clothes indeed.” At another time he would have laughed at this approach to wit, but knowing what he must say next and its effect on Bonden’s look of willing anticipation, he frowned and continued “small garments…of a certain delicacy that a lady must by necessity wear in an area that…”
“Underclothes, Bonden,” Miss Hannan explained, coming to the blushing captain’s rescue. “For a doll, a female doll named Hitty to be exact.”
“Doll’s…” he began in a stricken voice.
“Underclothes, yes. You are acquainted with the design of lady’s underclothes, are you not?”
“Oh yes, miss, intimately.” Now the coxswain was as red as his captain, instantly regretting his words as a strangled laugh erupted from the other side of the keyhole.
“Good. I must finish them today before the mailbag puts off.”
“Today, miss?” Bonden brightened. “I couldn’t possibly today, miss. I promised the bosun I’d—”
“Never mind the bosun,” interrupted Jack, “I’ll have Mr. Pullings send another man ’round to him. Miss Hannan will give you everything you need, then you can get to work on the fo’c’sle. The work sounds fine, you’ll need the full light.”
“The fo’c’sle. Full light,” Bonden repeated hollowly. The reaction of his messmates was too painful to think on, yet impossible to put from his mind.
“Thank you, Captain Aubrey, I’m in your debt for finding me such capable help.” Here Miss Hannan moved a step closer and smiled what she hoped would be a convincing mix of gratitude and solicitude. “It pains me to do so, but might I beg you to do me another kindness? It would be immeasurable help if Bonden could see my work and I his to ensure the one will fit over the other.” Another step, another smile. She gently placed a hand on his arm. “Might we work here, in the great cabin? The light through the stern windows is perfection, and here there’s no danger of tar dripping on the yarn. Of course, I should not wish to intrude and should you have need of the cabin I shall certainly gather my things and repair above.”
“Never in life, miss! Let something so pretty be marred by pitch? No. Of course you shall work here.” He patted her hand in response to her squeeze of thanks, lingering. “Shall I have Killick bring some refreshments?”
“No. I think not. Best to keep Killick at a distance. I hate to tell tales, but he does have a habit of fingering my yarn, and as I saw him polishing the silver earlier, I’d hate for…”
“Just so.” He nodded knowingly, patted again, said he’d give the order, and left.
As she turned back to her assistant her smile became much more mischievous. “Is this more to your liking Barret Bonden?”
“If you’d prefer three thousand miles of jokes about the terror of the Med knitting dolly’s dainty underthings, you’re free to go forward.” Free if he could bring himself to remove the soft and slender arm now linked in his and leading him to the locker amidst a delicious rustle of skirts. “But to my way of thinking, it seemed a better arrangement for your messmates to be in awe that you spent the afternoon alone in the cabin with the lady passenger at her request.”
“Thankee, miss. I knew you were a good ’un soon as you came aboard. And may I say I never seen anyone handle his honor so skillful like. I’d best watch myself.” He sat with a wink and a grin. “Now where are them pins? Your little lady must be right cold without a stitch on.”
The door burst open. Killick had returned his ear to the keyhole in time for only these last few words, and they were too much to resist. He begged pardon…heard the miss’s work needed light…had candles at the ready, you see…understood entirely…wouldn’t light them yet…gladly would bring a glass of something cool…ah, two glasses…most irregular, but if the captain had left the miss in charge who was he to…of course he would step to it immediately, didn’t he always?
“And, Killick? Just leave the tray outside the door.”
Nodding he left, his retreating cloud of disappointment in stark contrast to Bonden’s open mirth.“
…so that’s how I came to sail with the captain in the first place, you see,” finished Bonden, casting off his last stitch. “Will you look at that old sun. Now when did it go and sink so low? And me bending your pretty ear all this time, too. We’d best get Miss Hitty kitted out. Her boat will be alongside afore the next glass.”
© 2006 Linda Laflamme