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The storm finally exhausted itself in the middle watch, though even before then Jack had finally left the deck, as the maddeningly inconstant sea became something close to Christian and the wind lost its high pitched, unnerving wail.

As dawn broke the mood on board was far more somber than any outside observer would have guessed however; for at the height of the storm Pongo, unwilling to leave the sailmaker's side, had been washed into the lee scuppers and injured to a shocking degree. Stephen had immediately warned Coats that there was very little to hang his hopes on, and as the storm failed so did she. Shortly into the morning watch the news of her death had traveled throughout the ship and it was a morose crew that went about its duty.

"Stephen," said Jack that evening, as they passed Stephen's rosin back and forth, "Bonden has represented to me that the crew will take it mighty hard if you insist upon opening up Pongo."

Stephen looked up from his cello. "But such an interesting presentation, and I have fairly pined to examine her liver since I bought her in Sumatra. The liver of the Pongo pygmaeus abelii, I'm sure you know, is renowned for—."

"I tell you what it is, Stephen," interrupted Jack, his hand up and his face pinched against such ghoulishness, "they have as much as threatened mutiny if she don't receive a proper burial, and I can't say as I blame them. She was much loved; far more than even I knew."

"Indeed she was, the creature," said Stephen. "Your common sailor dotes upon luck, and no doubt the weak minded aboard noted that her appearance coincided with increased good fortune."

"Yes. And even a high-bred nobleman cannot deny that all was Saltash Luck before she came aboard, and that afterward we snapped up two fat prizes in short order without firing a shot," replied Jack. "But more to the point, she was one of Sails' messmates."

"Messmates? You astonish me. I would not have thought such a thing was possible."

"Well, I can't say as I would have allowed it had I known about it. But what's done is done. It turns out she went from simply following Coats around to messing with him and his mates. The hands generally agreed she was good luck and so quickly grew accustomed to her. It appears she was entrusted with the kid at the very least, and Coats claims that she even helped him make the duff whenever his turn came up."

Stephen considered the loss of his specimen for a moment, and then sighed. "So she cooked with Sails?"

"Aye," said Jack, "and you can't say fairer than that."

© 2005 Horrible Old David