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 Walking After Midnight

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Deoiridh
Merchant Captain
Merchant Captain
Deoiridh

Number of posts : 669
Localisation : Belle Isle (Virginia, US)
Registration date : 2007-05-22

Character sheet
Locations: Belle Isle, New Orleans, Irish Point
Production: Shot, Cannons, Fittings, Powder, Unrest Supplies
Requirements: Saltpeter, Limestone, Doubloons

Walking After Midnight Empty
PostSubject: Walking After Midnight   Walking After Midnight Icon_minitimeTue Feb 12, 2008 8:42 pm

Willem didn't look up when the tavern door opened. He did look up when there was no sound of it closing again. Madame D'Alembert was standing motionless in the doorway, holding the heavy wooden panel open with one slender arm. Even in the dim tavern light--it wasn't that he was cheap with the tapers, he rationalized, it was just that the patrons preferred things to have a dim and fuzzy cast--it was clear something was amiss.

Abruptly the woman released the door and began to make her way toward the bar. Her step was firm, but she moved as if disconnected from the air around her; smoothly avoiding the few patrons, tables, chairs, but automatically. As she neared the bar, Willem's eyes widened.

"Good Christ," he murmured. "Jesus Mary and Joseph on a soddin donkey!"

Madame D'Alembert sat down opposite him and he knew that he was staring in a most ungentlemanly fashion but he couldn't seem to look away. Her bodice was all in disarray, the overcoat she had taken to wearing ripped and torn. Her skirt, however, looked as if she had been rolling in the fire, the area below her waist blackened and shredded. And then there was the rest.

She eased back into the chair and appeared to notice Willem for the first time.

"Ah, Willem," she said, matter of factly, with a slight, almost business-like smile. Momentarily the smile faded, and she seemed suddenly uncertain. "Yes, Willem. My usua. . .no, in fact, I think this would be an occasion for rum. Yes. Rum. And Willem?"

She reached out and placed her hand over his, in the way that women did he noticed, not without a pang, to indicate their interest was limited to that of friendship.

"Your rum. The authentic article. Not the house stock."

He realized he was still staring. He forced himself to speak.

"Er, Ma'am. . .that's ter say. . ."

Without taking his eyes off her face, he reached out and picked up a metal plate, holding it toward her with one hand and gesturing awkwardly with the other. Taking the plate from him she contemplated herself as if in a mirror. With her eyes averted Willem now found that he could actually see what he had been staring at all this time. The blood. Splatters all over her face, and a thick rivulet running down one side. It looked like she had failed to dodge someone swinging a headless chicken.

"Ah," she said. "Yes. I quite see."

She reached across and gently took the towel that he used to wipe down the bar top. Turning the plate this way and that, trying to improve upon its blurred image, she began to clean off the blood, and in doing so handed Willem his second life-threatening shock of the evening. The blood wasn't hers. Finally, satisfied, she set the plate down, went to drop the towel and instead placed it gently on the plate, letting her hand rest there for a moment. Then she turned her one good eye and fixed it on Willem.

"That's done. Now Willem. You have a rum heading in my direction. . .at a rapid rate of knots, I trust?"
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Deoiridh
Merchant Captain
Merchant Captain
Deoiridh

Number of posts : 669
Localisation : Belle Isle (Virginia, US)
Registration date : 2007-05-22

Character sheet
Locations: Belle Isle, New Orleans, Irish Point
Production: Shot, Cannons, Fittings, Powder, Unrest Supplies
Requirements: Saltpeter, Limestone, Doubloons

Walking After Midnight Empty
PostSubject: Re: Walking After Midnight   Walking After Midnight Icon_minitimeTue Apr 15, 2008 7:51 pm

In Willem's mind rum was the universal solvent: all a man's troubles disappeared in its fiery swim and it definitely gave a sense of perspective on the world. Sadly that perspective often turned out to be a little off kilter with the way things really worked, which is why he no longer touched the stuff himself now that he was selling. He guessed it worked the same way for a woman, although to his way of thinking the rum had a great deal more to sort out once it got into a lady's system. Nevertheless, with enough application, it usually seemed to help. And Madame D, while rarely touching the hard stuff was no stranger no knocking back the finer vintages of the local wine produced by Confederacy-owned plantations. But she seemed not to know what to do with the rum. She'd been so insistent, and now she was just sitting there, staring at it. And for the love of all saints, she just looked terrible.

Not taking his eyes off her, Willem cautiously moved to the end of the bar, and surreptitiously beckoned the boy.

"Oy, get yer arse over here. The Reardy Dew, she's made port?" The boy looked blank, so Willem continued. "See that lady there?"

"Oui monsieur."

"Don't be given me lip, boy. You know her ship?"

"Oui, Le Rire de Dieu."

"Well that's what I said, for chrissake! That ship is in port?"

"Ou. . .er, but yes, that ship, it is in the docking since the morning of the last day."

"Good, you know Master Patrice? Get him here, as soon as possible. And boy. . ."--here he grabbed the boy hard by the lapel; the boy flinched, expecting a blow, but he was struck more by the cracking softness in the man's voice--"for the love of God, be as quick as you can. Tell Patrice that the Lady D is here, and she's. . .she's not well."

_________________
Deoiridh D'Alembert, Freetrader.
Merchant Captain of Le Rire de Dieu
out of Belle Isle, New France
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Deoiridh
Merchant Captain
Merchant Captain
Deoiridh

Number of posts : 669
Localisation : Belle Isle (Virginia, US)
Registration date : 2007-05-22

Character sheet
Locations: Belle Isle, New Orleans, Irish Point
Production: Shot, Cannons, Fittings, Powder, Unrest Supplies
Requirements: Saltpeter, Limestone, Doubloons

Walking After Midnight Empty
PostSubject: Re: Walking After Midnight   Walking After Midnight Icon_minitimeFri May 16, 2008 8:11 pm

She had not realized how long she had been sitting there until she felt the side of her face growing warm. Looking up, she was surprised to find the sun low in the sky, the squat buildings of New Orleans collapsing into thick pools of shadow. Off to her left the wall of the small church was brightly lit by the falling sun, the brick detail washed into a solid blonde mass until it seemed almost a second sun, filling the adjacent graveyard with light.

The rough wooden marker had been replaced with a more substantial marble monument; the stone very fine, but modestly shaped, paid for quietly by the officers of the Confederacy. But none of them had known what to say when the stonemason had asked them for the text of the inscription. Her fingers traced the simple lettering: Pere, Patriote, Ami. Feeling the channels and ridges beneath her fingers it was not, she knew now, what he would have wanted. The precise nature of his preference eluded her, however. He was a man always pulled in multiple directions. He would perhaps have chosen "Un Citoyen du Monde." Equally, however, she could well imagine him preferring simply "Un homme."

There was no name on the headstone. This had been at the suggestion of members of his crew. The first mate, Zacharie Sommer had taken her aside after the funeral service upon hearing that the Confederacy would pay for the monument.

"He was never supposed to be here," Zacharie said softly. "Perhaps it is fitting that he not be here now. I would like, I think, to imagine that he is still prowling the courts of Europe with the same restlessness he stalked the decks of the Luron." He caught her eye. "Do not mistake me Madame. He was exactly the right sort of man for the. . .the task he was assigned. But this part of the world. . ." He stared meditatively at the sexton filling in the grave. "It is not a part of the world that is made for the right sort of man."

Now, several weeks later she had returned, alone, to pay the kind of respects that could not be paid with a crowd watching. Her eyes strayed to the adjacent headstone, the resting place of his wife and child. The stone said simply, "Ma Vie." That, she knew, he would have liked. She realized to her surprise that tears were flooding down her cheeks.

"Ah Benoit," she murmured. "I cannot blame you for leaving, but you leave a hole in the world behind you."

She was not crying for the loss of the man. Death, she knew, creates self-absorbed hypocrites of us all. Their friendship had not begun promisingly--that was an understatement--but a relationship that begins at gunpoint can really only improve. They had dined regularly together, discussed philosophy, politics and religion. . .all the things that men and women were not supposed to talk about with one another. There had never been anything voiced between them, never anything that resembled that woefully polite phrase, an "understanding." But she wept now for the loss of hope, for the loss of possibility, for the loss of the better part of her nature. She found herself thinking of Cathern and Hew, of Chantilly and Emile. . .how did they ever develop this "understanding" with the world all beset by confusion and uncertainty? Yes, she understood well how it worked when a woman especially was young, and sheltered, and fanciful; the world kept them that way for a reason. But Chantilly and Cathern were like her in that they had seen much, done much, lived several lives. . .and yet those lives had not cut them off from other people as had hers. She hung her head, her tears falling into the unyielding grass atop her friend's grave.

"They say that humans weep because stones cannot."

She had not been aware that she was observed. A quick flourish of her kerchief and she turned clear eyes upon the man standing on the other side of the small wooden fence enclosing the burial ground. He wore the palest blue frock coat, from which issued at the neck and cuffs diaphonous clouds of lace. Yet he seemed like a small, detached piece of the lengthening shadows that had suddenly jumped toward her.

"Forgive me, Madame D'Alembert. I was informed you had arrived at the port, but I regret having to intrude on you at such an inopportune moment. Yet we have business together."

She stared hard at him. He spoke perfect French, yet her ear detected the unmistakable lilt at the edges. And her blood slowed to a crawl. Trying to keep her voice steady, she asked:

"Do I know you sir?"

He smiled. "Oh no. Not yet. But there will be time enough for us to become much better acquainted. However, here comes the priest. I'm sure he will expect a sizable donation for the privilege of allowing you to cry so prettily in his graveyard. These places are made for forgetting not remembering and you are ruining his scenery."

She had looked up at the approach of the priest, his mouth open in a gentle smile but his eyes, indeed, narrowly calculating; when her eyes flicked back to the fence the man in the frock coat was gone. But his final words had lodged in her brain, catching narrowly at the breath in her throat like a gnarled hand:

"Elsewhere, however, people make it their business to remember."

_________________
Deoiridh D'Alembert, Freetrader.
Merchant Captain of Le Rire de Dieu
out of Belle Isle, New France
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Deoiridh
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Deoiridh

Number of posts : 669
Localisation : Belle Isle (Virginia, US)
Registration date : 2007-05-22

Character sheet
Locations: Belle Isle, New Orleans, Irish Point
Production: Shot, Cannons, Fittings, Powder, Unrest Supplies
Requirements: Saltpeter, Limestone, Doubloons

Walking After Midnight Empty
PostSubject: Re: Walking After Midnight   Walking After Midnight Icon_minitimeTue May 27, 2008 9:20 am

Patrice burst through the door followed closely by Macklin, Grabber, Niles the coxswain, and the mountainous Breck, an intimidatingly heavyset waister.

"La Sainte Vierge!" exclaimed Patrice when he reached the bar and was able to take in her appearance fully. He rounded on Willem's boy, who was last through the door, breathing heavily, still wondering how these men had been able to outrun one born running through the irregular cobbles and slippery mud paths that made up Grenville's streets.

"Are you an idiot?" demanded Patrice? "You said that the lady was sick, not that she was injured. If you do not understand the difference I will be happy to use votre cul by way of illustration."

"Pardon, mon Capitaine," pleaded the boy, gesturing in Willem's direction, "it is as the monsieur instructed of me."

Patrice gave Willem a hard look. "I thank you for sending for us but we will take care of the lady now."

Willem returned Patrice's look with a fierce scowl. "Aye, and you've been doin a capital job of it and all so far! Don't be crackin airs on me in me own place. I've been plyin my trade all atwixt the violence of the world since afore ye was breeched and I can tell when someone is bad hurt. The lady aint injured, leastwise not obvious."

"Much that is most dangerous in the world is the least obvious," snapped Patrcice. "The lady needs medical attention, that much is obvious. How I wish that we were able to keep a surgeon aboard but they have demonstrated a lamentable tendency to fall overboard or die from mysterious ailments. Macklin, take Niles, make your way speedily to La Rue de la Bourbe and obtain the services of a surgeon. Here is my purse, use it as necessary. Grabber, Breck, stand outside and let no one in not personally known to you."

"By the pimpled arse of Old Nick himself!" thundered Willem. "Ye'll be doing no sich interfering with my trade! Just try and stop me custom from enterin of their own free will and they'll be using yer pizzle as a doorpull!"

"I think," said Deoiridh quietly, "that is quite enough shouting for the moment. Both of you, Patrice, Willem, sit down. Sit. Down. Thank you. Now I am in no need of a doctor, so you may save your hard-earned doubloons, Patrice. Boy, follow the two men that have left and ask them to return, on my authority. However, Willem, for the moment, I think it might be a good idea to station two men outside. Not," she hastened to add, as Willem's colour began to rise, "To prevent anyone leaving or entering, but just as a. . .precaution. And I think it is time I offered you all an explanation of the necessity for such a precaution."

_________________
Deoiridh D'Alembert, Freetrader.
Merchant Captain of Le Rire de Dieu
out of Belle Isle, New France
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Deoiridh
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Deoiridh

Number of posts : 669
Localisation : Belle Isle (Virginia, US)
Registration date : 2007-05-22

Character sheet
Locations: Belle Isle, New Orleans, Irish Point
Production: Shot, Cannons, Fittings, Powder, Unrest Supplies
Requirements: Saltpeter, Limestone, Doubloons

Walking After Midnight Empty
PostSubject: Re: Walking After Midnight   Walking After Midnight Icon_minitimeFri Dec 19, 2008 9:09 am

"Would herself be wantin me to await her pleasure?"
"No, thank you Niles. I plan to stop the night at the Albatross. Deliver that case to Master Patrice at the docks and for the love of money be careful with it. Sextants of that quality are hard to come by in this part of the world. Be sure to meet me here at noon tomorrow."

The Coxswain grunted and then moved off toward the public docks, the small wooden chest encased in his large hands with all the delicacy of a cocooned baby sparrow fallen from a nest.

She took a moment to gather herself. The night air weighed upon her. To her surprise she found herself longing for the moorland mists and dense coastal fogs of home. At the time she'd found them almost unbearable: a thick, penetrating cold lent permanence by a damp almost indistinguishable in its insistence from a soaking rain. How very different these Caribbean "miasmas," as the locals called them. Oppressively hot and almost invisible, no grey shroud to let you know what you were dealing with, the only visual cue the way buildings, trees, people, seemed to take a step backward from your view, flinching from an unwanted touch. The fogs of home rose up from sea and land to lay claim to you, to remind you from whence you came. The miasmas of the New World she couldn't help but associate with the presence of people: too many people packed too close together in a place where they weren't supposed to be. The highland mists gradually leached the marrow from your bones. That she found preferable to the Grenville air which was like someone holding a down pillow over her face and pressing, pressing. . .

She shivered.

The streets of Grenville were darker than usual--the sudden surge in piracy in the region was starting to force all kinds of economies--but her feet knew the way to the Albatross well enough by now and she allowed her mind to wander. The Confederacy's alliance with France was becoming a cause of concern. Or rather, not the alliance, so much as the increasingly obvious weakness of French forces in the region. She had no doubts about the bravery and integrity of the many French captains in whose company she sailed. But the glory of one or two spectacular French victories could not obscure the larger disorganization of the regular naval forces. Of still more concern to her mercantile mind was the fact that the French manufacturing base was increasingly overmatched by the larger and more coordinated economies of Spain and Britain.

She turned into a small alleyway not far from the regional admiralty office, her mind calculating the profit and loss on an immigration scheme she had been asked to support. She stopped just before bumping into the man who appeared abruptly in front of her.

"Excusez, monsieur," she mumbled, making to push past.
The man blocked her path.
"No harm done, love. Leastways, not yet."
She felt the second man behind her but too late to react before he grabbed her, pinning her arms against her body.
"Too bloody easy by half," growled a voice in her ear. "It's beneath us this is, snatching trollops off the streets."
"Coin's coin, mate. And speakin of beneath us, the guvner didn't say anything about the condition of the goods, did he?"
"That he did not, me old son. He just said to grab her and do it speedy like."
"Well, can't speak for you now, but I can be as quick as a ferret in heat. One don't get the chance to help themselves to taint of this quality every day."
" 'At's God's truth an all."
"You hold her fast then while I get the old musket out and primed, and I'll oblige you with the same courtesy in just a moment."

Her upper arms were pinned tight against her sides but she was able to get one hand into the pocket of her dress, feeling around for the pistol she always kept hidden amongst the folds of fabric. Her hand closed on the weapon but before she could withdraw it the first man pushed himself against her, hands spidering across her hips as he sought to gather the folds of her dress. His weight pushed the pistol almost vertical, and there was the audible click of the hammer being forced back. He paused, uncertain. She pulled the trigger.

A flash, and searing heat across her abdomen. The man's head exploded upward and outward, the body staggering back but absurdly remaining upright. The second man gasped, loosed his grip, and she took the opportunity to drive her elbow hard into his beefy mid section. She grasped the headless body as it began to topple and felt desperately around its mid-section, almost sobbing as she found a pistol, wrenching it clear as the body tumbled to the ground. She advanced on the second man who lost his footing, falling heavily to the ground. With a cry he threw up an arm to defend himself as she fired. The front half of his forearm fell loose like a snapped twig and the right side of his face disappeared.

She stood over him for a moment, the smell of gunpowder mingling with that of scorched fabric. 200 doubloons, she thought to herself. This dress cost 200 doubloons. Am I that wealthy I can afford to just throw that kind of money away? It must have begun to rain, because her face was wet, moisture trickling down her forehead and onto her cheekbones. The night seemed to have gone almost completely silent, as it often will do in the wake of sudden loud noises. The only sound was a wet, sucking mewling from the shape at her feet.

She dropped the pistol and continued on down the alley where another few turnings would see her at the Albatross.

_________________
Deoiridh D'Alembert, Freetrader.
Merchant Captain of Le Rire de Dieu
out of Belle Isle, New France
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Deoiridh
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Deoiridh

Number of posts : 669
Localisation : Belle Isle (Virginia, US)
Registration date : 2007-05-22

Character sheet
Locations: Belle Isle, New Orleans, Irish Point
Production: Shot, Cannons, Fittings, Powder, Unrest Supplies
Requirements: Saltpeter, Limestone, Doubloons

Walking After Midnight Empty
PostSubject: Re: Walking After Midnight   Walking After Midnight Icon_minitimeMon Dec 22, 2008 1:09 pm

Patrice stroked his beard meditatively for a moment. "Macklin, take Breck back to the alley Madame D'Alembert described. I do not think you will find anything of substance there, but just in case, have your pistols ready. Grabber, I want you to pay a visit to that fat strumpet you seem unable to quit--Francoise, je pense?--and you may remove that smile from your face. You are going to keep your pantalon firmly buttoned and if I hear otherwise I will remove any need for you ever to remove them again. Every smuggler worth the name traffics out of her brothel and I want to know who has been bringing us some English visitors recently."

Deoiridh smiled to herself. Patrice was not what you would describe as a man of action, but he was a decisive man, a quality she had grown to appreciate. This made the task she was about to perform all the more painful.

"Gentlemen," she began, once the seamen had left, "Your efforts on my behalf reflect, I am sorry to say, more credit upon you than they do on myself. But matters have come to such a pass that they are now putting all of you at risk on my behalf. I am aware of the rumors that have been circulating about me, many of which even preceded my arrival. I am aware that it is widely believed that I killed my husband. No. . ." she held up a hand to stifle the reflexive protestations from her audience, "your desire to spare my feelings does you credit. But while the Caribbean is vast when it comes to war and politics, in matters of reputation it is a hamlet. And it is to the credit of you all and of the Confederacy as a whole that I have been welcomed, and these rumors have not influenced your dealings with me. Occasionally, however, gossip and speculation are founded on truth, or at least upon fact. I owe it to you all now to say that it is a fact that I killed my husband."

Willem was quick to respond. "Belike it was some accident, I expect. Something in the way of the ordinary domestical range of things. The average house being a source of considerable risk, as what I'm told."

"No, it was no accident Willem. I killed him quite deliberately."

"I'm sure you was not in your right wits, then. Women being prone to strange behaviors as is well known, beggin yer pardon, round the time of the moon fer example. Why, I once heard of a woman. . ."

Deoiridh shook her head. "No, Willem, tho you are a good soul to believe it otherwise. I killed my husband soberly, deliberately, after mature reflection, and in full cognizance of the likely consequences."

The room was silent, the men staring, unable to take their eyes off her. There was a terrible irony here, of course, to which she was not oblivious. They had as individuals and as a group performed a hundred deeds more heinous than the premature dispatch of monsieur D'Alembert. But the death of a man at the hands of his legal wife was sufficient to render such a woman monstrous. She chose to ignore the silence.

"I congratulate the fates that I was not married young. Indeed, with my younger sister already married my father had long given up hope of ever seeing me married. Yet this ensured that I did not enter blind into the state of wedded bliss as so many of our sex do, ignorant of the world, and assertively deluded in the ways of men and women.

"My husband, Gustave, was a wealthy merchant from Paris, with strong business ties amongst the merchant families of the area. He was considerably older even than I--having devoted his life with a single-minded determination to building up his business--but still vigorous. And I must give him credit. When he determined to marry, he was not looking for a silly wife to decorate his drawing room, but a useful adjunct to his business. Not a partner, naturally, for how few men can admit of that possibility, but someone who could be called upon to contribute in a solid but undemanding way to the general increase in the profitability of his life. For a while I kept his books and handled much of his correspondence, which is why I am so well versed in matters of business on this side of the world.

"Nor was he a cruel man, at least at first. If the general opinion of the world could have been taken with regard to his particular character I am sure the summary judgement would have declared him to be "kindly." Of course, only someone who has been married can fathom what a degree of condescension, indifference, indictment and blame can give rise to a "kindly" disposition. Nevertheless, it was no more than I had come to expect--my sister would confirm for you that I have never been the sentimentalist--and given what I saw amongst my other married acquaintances, I counted myself lucky.

"But the world changed, as it always does. There were, in the first place, certain expectations as to how I would be useful for his business that I was not able to fulfill. We were not, to use the phrase so beloved of the world, destined to receive the blessing of children. Twice our efforts ended in premature extinction, one I carried to term but it was a daughter and stillborn to boot. Further efforts were in vain, and then after a while such efforts ceased altogether."

Unexpectedly, she found her voice catching. "None of you can know what it is to be a woman who proves incapable of bearing a child. Even an educated and self-reliant woman cannot help but know that in the eyes of the world she is forever diminished for being unable to perform a function so basic that the least gutter slattern can do it without thinking."

She continued more strongly. "I was not initially aware of how deeply this had affected my relationship with Gust. . .with Monsieur D'Alembert. I think it would have been easier if he had simply suffered from the common desire of the male sex, to have an heir to carry on their name. But my husband counted on children as a material fact of his business: sons to share the labor and expand the business, daughters to marry to strategic advantage. In his eyes I had sabotaged all his enterprises. And his reproach was palpable.

"It was around this time that he fell into company with Simon Fraser, the presumptive Lord Lovat. He and his family are fixtures in Highland politics and a nastier, more slippery piece of work you will not find. Whatever his pronouncements he is concerned with his own interests alone. He works ceaselessly behind the scenes, playing all sides against the other, supporting whichever promises to secure him an advantage. While professing to support the cause of Scottish liberty he has actively conspired with the English. While promising to advance English interests he has plotted their overthrow with the Spanish. But it is all done so artfully, that nothing can ever be proved. And Simon, "The Fox," as we call him, has his own ways of limiting the spread of rumor and gossip. My husband, regrettably, was drawn further into the twisted world of the Fox, initially through some commercial dealings, then through a series of speculations designed to secure for the Fox funds to obtain disputed parcels of land.

"One cannot touch the world of Simon Fraser without being tainted. The most straightforward business transaction contains the seeds of corruption. It is as if the very documents he signs are contaminated with some kind of infectious moral poison that corrupts the will and weakens all sense of judgment. My husband changed before my eyes. He consorted with new companions, men of low morals and high self-regard. I noticed that there was now business correspondence that he kept from me. I couldn't balance the books no matter how I tried, which led me to suspect that there were transactions not being recorded, a suspicion confirmed only after his death. But it was the change in his character that was most shocking. I had always looked upon my husband as a strong and resolute character. Little did I understand then that the kind of strength which comes from investing oneself utterly in a singular view of one's place in the world is no strength at all. I would have the world's sympathy if I told you all that he took to strong drink in excess or embraced the use of opiates. But he did not. He quite simply became mean, vindictive, quick to anger. . .a man who nursed and cultivated resentments real and imagined, until they overwhelmed him.

"It was during this time that he began to beat me."

_________________
Deoiridh D'Alembert, Freetrader.
Merchant Captain of Le Rire de Dieu
out of Belle Isle, New France
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Deoiridh
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Deoiridh

Number of posts : 669
Localisation : Belle Isle (Virginia, US)
Registration date : 2007-05-22

Character sheet
Locations: Belle Isle, New Orleans, Irish Point
Production: Shot, Cannons, Fittings, Powder, Unrest Supplies
Requirements: Saltpeter, Limestone, Doubloons

Walking After Midnight Empty
PostSubject: Re: Walking After Midnight   Walking After Midnight Icon_minitimeThu Feb 19, 2009 10:32 am

Deoiridh hadn't expected her words to have any impact on the men and indeed they did not, although Patrice at least was considerate enough to lower his eyes and pick at the wooden tabletop with his thumbnail. She had developed an enormous affection for these men, trusted them completely, but she would never forget that they were still men. And she hadn't met a man yet who deep inside didn't believe that women were the better for an occasional thrashing. All of these men, she knew, hit women, some of them on a regular basis.

"Some women learn to live with such things," she continued. "Not I. But that is because I knew what I was dealing with. When a woman is beaten by a husband flushed with drink she can lie and lie and lie to herself that her husband is "not himself" and "doesn't really mean it." But Gustave hit me deliberately, seriously, and in full possession of all his faculties. Eventually, such tender ministrations of my husband cost me the full use of my leg and deprived me of half my sight."

She saw the men start and exchange glances. She smiled thinly.

"Yes, I am aware that many stories have circulated about my physical. . .idiosyncrasies. Many of them flatteringly romantic. A sharp boarding action. An overturned carriage while fleeing the house of a lover. But the sad truth is that while passing my husband's study one day he abruptly opened the door and punched me in the stomach, Winded, I couldn't fight back or regain my feet before he picked me up and threw me bodily down the stairs of our respectable Paris townhouse."

She paused, absentmindedly running one hand over her cheek.

"The scarring on my face healed, mostly. And Gustave paid for the finest glass eye that could be crafted. Hardly an act of contrition; rather, keeping up appearances was always a priority for him. But the surgeon botched the setting of the leg. . .I've seen better work done in the mire and chaos of a ship in combat.

"Poison is easily procured. One can get anything in Paris. And I took a leaf out of Gustave's book. One day I surprised him with the strategic application of one of his priceless antique vases. When he regained his senses he unthinkingly took the "restorative" that I proffered him. It was all too easy. I stood there and watched him froth and gargle away his last moments. Watched the flailing, eye-rolling travesty of a human being he had become. And didn't stop watching until the stench told me he had fouled himself in death."

There was no sound except the crackling of the fire, and the occasional banging of pots being washed in the back room. Outside, in the distance, the sound of a drunk singing nonsense in an unusually clear and lilting voice. Finally Willem cleared his throat.

"Way I sees it you got nothing te reproach yerself for, Lady D. Bastard had it coming."

He stopped, surprised by the gentle shake of her head.

"No. No, he really didn't. He couldn't be other than what he was. Punishment should be reserved for those who can actually choose to be something different. People like myself."

After another pause she seemed to shake herself slightly, as if waking up.

"But to the present purpose. I still had many friends in Paris, and an appropriate death certificate was easily procured. My poor husband had suffered a dreadful seizure following a fall. I was not naive enough to believe, however, that my crime would remain undiscovered. Whenever money changes hands, there is always the prospect that more money will change minds. It was a question of whether or not I had bought sufficient time to escape. I thought that I had.

"However Simon Fraser somehow found out about my less than wifely devotion to my husband, although what this information should be to him I cannot guess. But I am certain that he was behind tonight's attack. Not directly, for that is not his style, but it is his agents that are at work. But to what end? I have turned it over in my mind and I cannot see how my abduction should profit him."

Slowly, she stood up, one hand fussing absentmindedly at the shattered front of her dress.

"My apologies, gentlemen, I have kept you too long. But now you know all. What you do with this information is up to you. I confess that I am suddenly dreadfully fatigued and I hope you will forgive me if I make my way to my chamber."

The men watched her climb the tavern's narrow staircase until she was out of sight. Wordlessly, Willem filled each man's tankard. No one made a move to take a drink.

"Mes amis," Patrice said finally, "Nous sommes un probleme."

_________________
Deoiridh D'Alembert, Freetrader.
Merchant Captain of Le Rire de Dieu
out of Belle Isle, New France
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