'Doubloons, Moidores, Ducats, and Pieces of Eight'
by Phineas Redux
Summary:— Joanna Clayton is Captain of her own pirate ship the 'Amazon', accompanied by her sweetheart Sandy Parker. Time, 171—and something. Place, the Caribbean Sea. The Pirate Queen and her companion experience an uncomfortable time trying to profit by their ventures.
Disclaimer:— All characters are copyright ©2018 to the author. All characters in this story are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons living or dead, as well as being purely coincidental would also be absolutely mind-blowing.
Caution:— There is some extensive swearing in this story; they are pitiless pirates, y'realise.
The only problem with coin o'the realm such as gold moidores, even more golden doubloons, simple gold ducats, streetwise guineas, double or otherwise, or mere silver pieces of eight is that they are so clearly different coins. One golden moidore is not worth the equivalent of one extra-golden doubloon; an English guinea soldiers on regally at about a handsbreath above a doubloon, whilst a small gold ducat is only worth around half its companion gold coins, whereas a silver piece of eight, bringing up the rear, is only worth around a quarter of its four gold shipmates. This problem coming to the fore when a couple of worthy pirates, hot from the boundless horizons of the Caribbean Sea and associated Spanish Main and now standing in the dirty pirate-ridden streets of Cayona, Tortuga, find themselves wishing to free their equity therein.
"Jee-sus, that last money-lender, in Beckers Street, swore blind the best he could do for us, fer the whole lot, was fourteen percent. Jay-sus, talk about thieves an' villains."
"Easy, lass, take a deep breath." Joanna Clayton, captain of the pirate brig Amazon, was made of sterner stuff than Sandy Parker, her second-in-command and amour. "Ye do fire-off somethin' easy these days, yer knows."
"Who wouldn't, faced with that kind o'chicanery." Sandy pursing her lips in a very nasty manner indeed. "I mean, fourteen-f-ckin'-percent?"
"We'll jest need to look elsewhere, is all."
"But where?" Sandy coming out with the point that mattered. "Cayona ain't famous fer bein' the lair of a horde of open-handed easy-goin' money-lenders, y'know. We've been through all those who matter—who's left?, or do we need to v'yage over t'Hispaniola fer a fresh herd o'the sons o' b-tches?"
As they walked down one of the main streets in the only sizeable town on the island of Tortuga Joanna was thinking furiously, though in a different more restrained manner than her amour.
"I was thinkin' of approaching Caleb Waters."
"Oh, yeah?" Sandy gave her partner a close look from under frowning brows. "You really want ter lose yer money, an' no mistake; what in hell brought that bent accountant t'mind? Oh, I see."
"When in need, doll, needs must—an' all that."
"Y'can say it, but can yer spell the same, dearie?"
"Fool; come on, which ways the old reprobate, then?"
Caleb Waters had been around for a long time; in fact, residents of Tortuga bandied about the probability he had come over with Captain Morgan himself. In height he stood head high to almost everyone else's shoulders; in body he was thin, almost emaciated; in personality he was crabbed, miserable, tight-fisted, and addicted to some strange drug from the Far East—how he received regular supplies of same no-one could tell; its effects on his constitution either killing him slowly like a nasty disease, or keeping him active above and beyond normal boundaries, no-one could tell which.
"Jay-sus," Sandy had spotted their destination from afar in the street. "He looks like one o'those Egyptian mummies, fresh dug up fer the occasion. Sure he's really alive, at all?"
"Pipe down, lady; we're about t'launch in'ta business arrangements with same, so be nice. You know nice?"
"Ladies, what may I do fer you both ter'day?" Caleb sat at an outside table in front of his preferred Inn of choice, the Three Gables, drinking something which seemed to be orange-tinted from a silver goblet. "We don't talk often enough, Captain Clayton. Yours, I'm sure, Mistress Parker."
"We're jest by way of thinkin' of indulging ourselves in a sort'a business deal with someone of standin' and, er, capability." Joanna coming it the wise mistress of affairs, head held high. "Jest, y'knows, ter fill our day, an' all; nuthin' real serious."
Caleb, a finger in every pie and a spy in every corner, was on top of this naïve stance from the start.
"Doubloons by the bucket-load." A faint glimmer of something began to flicker in his grey eyes. "Moidores in barrels; ducats enough t'pave a city's streets; pieces of eight so numerous yer could carpet a palace ankle-deep. Escudos enough ter fill an ocean basin. So many pistoles no-one can count their total. Yeah, I've heard o'the, er, little difficulty ye're havin' tryin' ter get rid o'the dam' things. Fifteen percent, an' that's the only lay I can offer in these depressed times, ladies. Wha'd'ye say—a fair offer, you'll admit."
Sandy, incensed, took a step forward, opening her mouth preparatory to dealing with the reptile, but Joanna grabbed her wrist in the nick of time.
"Now is that jest fair, Caleb?" She essayed something she regarded as her best for Sundays' smile—though how it took others didn't usually seem to hold this theory up at all. "I've just come from a twenty percenter, so you'll see how much I'm honouring ye by my custom. I was thinkin', jest as between old friends, sixty-five percent, paid monthly fer, oh, eight month? How's that sound?"
Caleb, in some ways really rather brave, didn't immediately fall out of his chair in shock, but his parchment-like skin paled considerably all the same. "God, ma'am, ye're like ter give me a apoplexy; have ye no consideration fer invalids, at all? Oh, seein' we go way back tergether, how about eighteen percent? Now, yer knows full well ye'll get no better deal this side o'Hispaniola. Come now, shake on it."
Losing what little self-control she still laboured under Sandy came out fighting.
"The only thing I'll be shaking momentarily is you by the neck, ye little rat."
No whit put out Caleb raised a thin eyebrow, regarding the fiery harridan across the table with disdain—such being entirely possible when you had four big burly ape-like heavily armed guards standing behind you on either hand; that is to say, two such on either side.
"Hah, I takes it that's a no, then." He sat back, casting a sharp eye over his two co-respondents. "Perhaps ye could benefit at least by some professional advice, from a simple accounting point of view. Let me see, you have at the moment an excess of what, exactly? Doubloons an' moidores more or less equal one another in price—though the doubloon is actually slightly more valuable. An English guinea is worth, oh, say twenty per cent more than a doubloon. A ducat is probably worth around half a doubloon; whilst, as everyone knows, a mere silver piece o'eight is only worth a quarter of a doubloon. Makes, as ye can easy see, fer quite a mornin's calculations with quill an' parchment t'get near a common reckonin' fer the whole bilin', if mixed t'gether. That's why ye've had no luck with squeezin' more'n fifteen percent out'ta anyone; dam' difficult t'pass on, y'see, these coins. Oh well, come back when ye sees sense, I'll be here, still. Goodbye, ladies, a delight meetin' ye, I'm sure."
"I might well be back, Caleb." Joanna giving him her nastiest sneer as she turned away.
"Hopes yer balls falls off with tertiary fever o'the gut, yer creep." Sandy letting fly in words what others would have simply thought.
"Hah." Caleb, more amused than otherwise. "G'day t'ye both."
"He's right in a way, y'know."
The sad pirate Queens had hove up in front of yet another grog-shop, in one of the main, but still filthy, streets of the town. Now, sitting at a bench with pewter tankards of rum before them, they were considering their options.
""In what way, dearest?"
"Well, he's got the right attitude about the,—the variety o'coins we've amassed." Joanna pondered a trifle longer on the subject. "It's the very diversity o'the dam things that's holdin' people back from makin' a fair offer. How much is a ducat worth beside a moidore? Equal, how much between a doubloon an' a guinea? An' where d'the lowly pieces o'eight wash up in the proceedings? All a mighty harassin' problem."
"Ye got an answer, sweetheart?"
"Lem'me think on it, ducks."
Here Joanna took another long refreshing pull at her tankard, frowning darkly the while. Meanwhile the ordinary social business of the day carried on around them as the citizens of the town went about their daily affairs. Cayona, being the only town of size on Tortuga, was a lodestone for those persons who brought the most merchandise and profit to the town, i.e. pirates, buccaneers, and below these, the general privateers of all nations. A sad, vicious hard-nosed murderous lot, but with money in their pouches and a desire to throw same around wholesale, retail, and not for return being their general ambition the local cits took advantage as each saw fit to their own personal aggrandisement, as was only to be expected. Oft-times it was difficult to tell a citizen from a pirate; oft-times they were, indeed, the same.
The street, as of every such throughout the town, was filthy—there being no Council to instil levels of decency or cleanliness. Apart from the mess left daily by the passing hordes of donkeys, mules, ponies, horses, and dogs, there was also the fact that people, men and women, were not averse to attending to their own necessities in the gutter or alley-corners in broad daylight without the least feeling of shame. Allied to the ever-present smells and scents carried along in the fetid atmosphere from local houses' cess-pits and rubbish heaps, rotting vegetation left in piles by lackadaisical street-vendors, and the general stench of humanity itself—many citizens never indulging in a bath from one year's end to the other, unless they accidentally fell in the sea from the wharfside. All told it was no wonder the multiplicity of grog-shops, drinking-dens, and Inns did a roaring trade as customers tried to quench the smells around them by burying their noses in a tankard of grog or rum for extended periods.
"Jee-sus, spit it out, fer God's sake—what?"
"I was thinkin',—"
"Not so's it'll bring on a brain-fever, I hopes?" Sandy being catty, as by nature bound.
"Gim'me peace, lady." Joanna curling a supercilious lip to no effect against her partner. "I got an idea."
"Jee-sus, at long bloody last. Well, don't keep it a secret, let it rip, gal."
"What about we make up a total, of all our coin, ourselves—then tout this total around the money-shops, seein' who'll take us up on the offer?"
Sandy, put her tankard down on the table-top, licked her lips, and stared rather in confusion than anything else at her lover.
"Can ye be jest a little more specific in yer thoughts, dear heart?"
"What I'm sayin' is, we total the loot up, in a general sense but one that'll give a pleasing total fer us; then see's who's gon'na come up ter the mark in takin' us on thereaways. D'ye see?"
"Umm, hardly." Sandy rubbed a gauntleted finger over her fevered brow, no whit encouraged by her partner's solution, if it was one. "Count all them dam' moidores, ducats, doubloons, guineas, double-guineas, an' g-dd-m pieces o'eight, altogether in one huge gatherin'? How long'll that take? Days, weeks, months? We'll be dead o'old age by then."
"What sez ye to jest leavin' the g-dd-m pieces o'eight aside, ter look after themselves—too much bother otherwise." Joanna was warming to her idea as time went on. "I mean, the other gold coins'll bring in the major total after all, anyway. An' it'll make countin' all the easier. We can off-load the pieces o'eight somewhere else, at a later date. Jest concentrate on the gold fer the time bein'. If we make, say, a reasonable total o'the things someone may well decide that' it's a viable concern, an' we gets our just rewards at long last."
"It's probably the only solution."
"It is that, baby."
"Oh, alright. Who's goin' ter do the countin'? Not me, fer definite, lady; put any thought o'that right out'ta yer mind."
Back at the Three Gables Caleb Waters was still holding court and, also holding no grudges, was not at all surprised to see the return of his late visitors.
"Take a pew an' have at a glass o'Madeira, if ye both pleases." He waved a hand at a passing servant. "A nice soft sweet wine, that'll cool ye nicely. Now, what's ter do at this hour o'the day, if I may enquire?"
"I was thinkin' of takin' advice on, er, monetary matters concernin' Sandy an' I."
"Always a good policy t'take advice, afore jumpin' in a pool thet might be deep." Caleb nodding wisely the while. "Spit it out, I'll do my best fer old friends sich as yerselves."
The sun, as always, was shining down fiercely, but Joanna and Sandy were well covered by their wide-brimmed, if somewhat care-worn hats. Joanna as usual wore a dirty still partially-white shirt tied with small ribbons, a short loose leather jerkin, wide leather belt with a light pistol tucked in the left-hand side, and a pair of well-worn leather breeches, falling over her long boots. Sandy's attire was more or less similar; though, even in this hot weather, she also wore soft chamois gauntlets, as the result of an accident some few years since when a keg of gunpowder had exploded near her and burnt her hands savagely.
Sandy, being the late scion of a wealthy and aristocratic English family of note—her father was a Viscount, no less—had a skin of the pearlest white, more or less. Joanna, her partner and lover, on the other hand had a pale-olive skin tone, the result of a lady of colour appearing somewhere in her near ancestry; a fact that had led, on several occasions, to nasty sometimes violent stand-offs with persons holding, er, views on racial matters wholly opposed to her own, or Sandy's. The ladies' both being pirates having some virtue on these occasions; Joanna's history of violence and disregard of all convention coming in very handy at such times—not to mention Sandy's skill with a long knife.
"My idea was, instead o'askin' people to ante-up a fraction o'the perceived total of the loot Sandy an' I have amassed, I makes up a general total myself." Joanna cocked an eye at her listener, though he was giving nothing away. "I mean, instead of a money-lender making a play fer a percentage o'the expected whole, I gives an already stated figure, an' we makes a deal on that?"
"Would ye be willin' ter explain jest a little more precisely, Captain Clayton? Jest so's I gets the gist o'the thing clear in my mind."
"Instead of calculating the real whole an' bein' forced t'take only a percentage o'that, I makes an offer of a particular amount?" Joanna was encouraged by the fact Caleb was at least actually listening to her explanation. "Instead of dealin' with percentages of a theoretical nature, we looks a real, acceptable, total in the eye, an' takes things from there?"
Caleb took time to refresh himself from his tankard, musing on the offer with real interest. Then he raised his eyes to gaze first at Joanna then Sandy.
"What would this particular total amount to, I wonders? Jest by way o'dealin' with the mathematics o'the thing, o'course."
Joanna, brought to the line with no further escape, came to the detail of her plan.
"We needs yer help there, Caleb." She shrugged her shoulders, with a grimace. "We got about forty thousand doubloons t'hand. Maybe twenty thousand moidores; eleven thousand ducats, around ten thousand guineas, and four thousand double-guineas. Maybe another twelve thousand pieces made up of pistoles, escudos, and reales. Thet about makes up the lot."
"What about pieces o'eight?"
"T'hell with 'em. Too much bother t'calculate. I'll dump them som'mers else in due time."
"Right, well, that all makes for a pretty calculation." Caleb scratched his chin in thought. "What say ye leave it with me fer the forenoon, an' returns here say around four bells in the afternoon? Thet'll give me time ter come t'some kind'a conclusion on what a reasonable total ought ter be? Deal?"
Joanna and Sandy exchanged glances, then Joanna nodded.
The interior of the private room on the second floor of the Happy Hoplite, an Inn of some distinction in the town of Cayona, was wide, for a change clean, and filled with light from the mullion window looking out on the street. The bed was wide enough to offer comfort to two sleepers, and a high wardrobe gave space for their clothes, while a large chest allowed room for their boots and other personal equipment. Altogether a very nice place to return to for peace and quiet, and privacy to mull over recent events.
"What d'ye think, lover?" Sandy sitting on the bed scraping the floorboards with her right boot heel by way of occupation. "Takin' in'ta account those were jest approximate totals y'gave Caleb."
"Approximate, but near enough." Joanna, staring moodily into the small looking-glass set up on the small table in one corner, shrugged her shoulders expressively. "Whatever total he comes up with'll probably be near enough fer neither of us t'haggle over. Least thet's what I thinks."
"Take what we can get, eh?"
"Yeah." Joanna nodded gloomily. "Jee-sus, who'd a'thought bein' a bare-faced unforgivin' nasty-minded pirate'd finally bring us ter jest about beggin' on our knees fer someone ter take our loot off our hands?"
"Isn't like the old days, nah." Sandy agreeing with a twist of her head. "Then ye could more or less throw yer loot at anyone's feet, and they'd shell out guineas or dollars or pistoles or escudos in payment fer almost any gold or silver coin ye might have had to hand. Now, they grumbles over whether the monetary rate in Ameriky, or even Europe, isn't fallin'; and whether that'll affect the percentage rate they allows t'offer ye, on paper t'come t'fruition at three months—Jee-sus. More like a bloody merchant's business, than a happy-go-lucky hobby. All the excitement and entertainment's fallin' off rapidly, I got'ta tell ye, darlin'."
"And that doesn't cover the trouble we still have over them dam' pieces o'eight." Joanna not forgetting the difficulty still needing to be addressed. "I mean, the crew'll be wanting their fair shares o'those, too. How many o'the dam' things have we amassed to the present moment, anyway? Any idea?"
Sandy, caught short with this request for mathematical preciseness, frowned for half a minute, then gave up.
"—er, well, as ye asks, lady o'my heart, I suppose there's, maybe, enough ter fill, oh, what, twenty, maybe twenty-five water-barrels."
"Jee-sus, you're kiddin'?" Joanna turned from examining in the looking-glass what might well be a large incipient spot appearing on her forehead to face the source of this knowledge. "Ye can't be serious? Twenty-five barrel o'pieces o'eight? Jee-sus. How much in guineas'd that be, then?"
"God, Jo, am I a calculatin' machine, or what? How'n Hell'd I know what the total was?" Sandy standing up for herself because there was no-one else present who would. "—er, er, a guinea's worth around twenty percent more'n a doubloon; an' a piece o'eight's actually eight reales—so that'd be, say, er,—no, that's not right, a guinea's say six, or is it eight, pieces o'eight? Is that right?"
"Jee-sus, woman, ye're losin' yer mind among all they figures."
"Well, you asked, lover." Sandy baring her teeth in the direction of her paramour. "It's, it's, no,—oh sh-t, I gives up."
A calm descended on the room, not of peace and tranquility, but one of foundering expectations, lost causes, and fine hopes cast away in grief and sorrow.
"It's near enough mid-afternoon." Joanna taking command like the captain she was. "Back to Caleb, and lets hope, fer God's sake, he's bin better at the mathematics than you, sis."
"Dam' that fer a compliment, lover."
"Wasn't meant ter be one, gal."
"Come on, you; afore I stands back an' throws this here chamber-pot in yer direction."
"Try it, madam, go on, I dares ye."
The Three Gables was, at this time in the afternoon, a trifle busier than the morning, but there was still privacy for personal converse at the outside tables, where Caleb Waters was still ensconced; though now with only two attendants looming in the offing. Again he rose to wave a hand in greeting as the weary pirate Queens hove up once again.
"Greetings, we keep meeting like this an' people'll start gossiping, ha-ha."
Not seeing the funny side of this remark both Joanna and Sandy merely took their seats in silence. Caleb, smoking the fact he had committed a faux pas, as the Frenchies say, got down to the nitty-gritty.
"I've bin goin' over the figures ye were kind enough ter supply me with." He consulted several sheets of loose paper on the table in front of him. "The problem with all these calculations, of course, is always—what is a guinea really worth on the World market? When ye have such things as Venetian sequins or French Louis d'or or even Arabic shekels floating about the markets causing confusion and misery what d'ye do?"
"Never seen a Louis d'or, not to recognise as sich, anyway." Sandy owning up to her lack of education generally. "What'd they look like?"
"More or less similar t'gold doubloons, sis." Joana jumping in with the requisite knowledge. "Not much difference."
"So," Caleb carried on, ignoring this slight interruption. "what's required in this particular situation is a general levelling of the field, so to speak."
"Meaning what?" Joanna, frowning darkly, suddenly focussed on the man opposite.
"Oh, jest that we needs to come to some acknowledgement of general principles in the matter." Caleb looked from one to the other of his visitors, summing up their intellectual capacities as a whole. "Leavin' any inexactitude, as it were, or impreciseness about the relevant pricing structure between so much disparate coinage is jest goin' ter lead to anger, argument, and confusion—not to say bloody an' broken heads in the long run."
"Ha, that I can see coming." Sandy allowing her gloomier side to loom large over the proceedings.
"Thereby," Caleb approaching to the heart of his plan, though looking sideways with some concern at the small brunette by Joanna's side. "I'm of a mind to, jest as a mere suggestion ye understands, make an overall comparison a'tween the various coins ye've managed to amass in such huge numbers. It wouldn't have been half so difficult if'n ye'd both jest had a great deal less treasure, y'knows."
"Then we'd have had no trouble reducing it t'manageable levels, an' so wouldn't be in the present predicament, hovering on yer every word t'get us out'ta a dam' tight spot, Caleb." Joanna giving the man her stare of Death which, happily, had no effect on the double-dyed villain, as he certainly was. "So, get t'the grist o'the thing, if ye pleases."
The daily life and business of the Inn went on around them, unhindered by any idea of the plans going forward at the table. Caleb sat comfortably, a glass of something cooling in front of him. On the opposite side Joanna and Sandy were a lot less at ease; Joanna frowning deeply, suspecting some devious working of Caleb's nasty mind; while Sandy had taken to slouching over and beginning to twitch her arms in a steady manner Joanna knew well as the antecedent to the light-framed woman blowing her top like a Visigoth with the toothache.
"I've decided, jest t'average out the dam' things," Caleb indeed addressing the pertinent matters at last. "t'take certain generalities as gospel, y'might say. As, principe, doubloons and moidores are equal. Second, ducats are half a doubloon. Third, guineas are one and a quarter times a doubloon, meaning that every four doubloons equals five guineas. Pieces of eight, ye says, are t'be left out'ta the reckonin'?"
"Dam' right." Joanna nodding in agreement on this disputatious point.
"Which leaves us," Caleb now on the bright sunlit slopes of success. "with jest the mere simple mathematics ter sort out fer the total of the amount of coin ye've said as ye presently are the joint mistresses of. D'ye follow?"
Leaning her elbows on the table in an unladylike manner, but when had Joanna ever been regarded as a lady?, she stared at the man expectantly. Sandy, seeing the climax to the whole sorry affair apparently about to kick-off, stopped twitching and looked at Caleb with a frowning brow.
"Yeah, get on with it, fer God's sake. How much?" Sandy pinpointing the important fact with the preciseness of a university master.
"All in all, taking everything as it is, making the best of a dam' bad job, an' regardin' the whole subject in the best possible light," Caleb, noticing that Sandy was twitching again, and Joanna was fondling the grip of her pistol in a meaningful manner, jumped to the climax. "the end result is—two hundred and twenty thousand guineas."
Staggered by this wholly unexpected amount both women sat transfixed on their chairs for several seconds; then Sandy came to life, gasping as with a dry throat.
Joanna, more in command of her senses, finally sat back, raised her eyebrows, and offered everyone around a slightly erratic grin.
"That'll do ever so nicely, Caleb. Are ye offerin', yerself? Or up t'makin' an offer on someone else's part?"
Caleb considered the women opposite some seconds more, then made his mind up.
"I'll go fer it, myself." He reached for the rum jug and filled three goblets. "Forty thousand guineas ter be paid this time four days from now—aboard the Amazon, and the transfer of an equal amount of yer treasure to take place into my hands then. Another forty thousand guineas'll be in my hands by next week, and I can promise the rest over the following three weeks. Only the equal amount of your coins t'be transferred into my hands on each occasion. I should say the whole thing should be finished in, oh, one month? I get the coins, on which I may say I can hope to make a reasonable profit over time; you gets yer marketable guineas. Happy?"
"As a lark, Caleb—like a whole bloody flock o'same." Joanna brought her fist down on the table with a satisfied thump, grinning broadly now. "That'll do very nicely indeed. What d'ya say, young 'un?"
On her side Sandy had been gloomily resting her forearms on the table; now she raised her head to gaze at her two companions with a wide smile.
"That's a fine total, Caleb; the kind'a total that fills me with happiness an' joy towards all mankind—well, almost all, barring the bloody Royal Navy, in 'course." She grinned even more widely, like a hungry hyena suddenly faced with a sleeping lamb. "The lads back on the Amazon'll be happy, too. Fancy they were beginnin' ter think they was never goin' t'get their just rewards fer all their work an' trouble."
"Excellent." Caleb nodded happily, glad the ladies had accepted his proposal without unseemly argument. "To tell you the truth, ladies, as in all business deals the customer must accept to take a reduction in their wares, in order t'get ahead, as it were. The basis of all merchandising, y'know. So, what I'm sayin' is, though ye gets yer immense amount o'golden guineas, I can still look to a reasonable profit on the coins ye hand over t'me, in the long term. So everyone's happy."
"At dam' last." Sandy heaving a long deep sigh of relief.
"Yeah, no two ways about that." Joanna nodding too.
"Well, if you allow me to leave you, I have some business in the offing." Caleb smiled at his customers, the very picture of a happy merchant. "Have to go an', er, coax some debts out'ta people I knows. Have t'get around to amassing the necessary fer your payments, somehow. But there won't be any trouble there, I having my methods o'persuasion, y'might say."
Joanna looked at the old man, a world of surmise in her dark eyes.
"I jest bet y'do, Caleb. Well, me an' my lady-friend here have places t'go, things ter attend to; been nice speakin' with ye Caleb. Hopes ter see yer on the Amazon in four days, sharp as a nail, an' loaded with guineas, eh? Ha-ha."
"Yeah, Caleb," Sandy rising with her mate to leave the table. "Be lookin' out fer ye, date an' time set."
Caleb, still smiling, nevertheless took note of the underlying chill tone of Sandy's words—the moral being, as he very well understood, not to get on the wrong side of an unhappy pirate by being late or lacking in the promised amounts of guineas to hand. Ah me, he thought, to himself of course, when was a pirate's life ever a happy one with a smooth gentle course?
"Till then, ladies, till then—keep safe, I'm sure."
Thomson was their long-standing quartermaster on the Amazon, and as such had been pushed forward by the crew as their spokesman after Joanna and Sandy had carefully explained the putative plan to them the next morning—the crew as a whole having a few reservationis about some minor pernickety details of the solution propounded by the pirate Queens.
Standing on the quarterdeck close to midday, by the double wheel, the three now stood in private conversation; the crew going about their business all round, but an over-riding sense of ears cocked for every word hanging in the air, all the same.
"It's like this, ma'am." Thomson edging from foot to foot a trifle nervously. "The lads has some little questions they'd like answered, in light o'what ye've told 'em about this bloody ocean o'golden guineas that's about ter swamp us all."
"Oh, yeah, Thomson?" Joanna raised an eyebrow interrogatively, keeping a calm front the while. "An' what would they be?"
"Yeah, spit it out." Sandy gritting her teeth menacingly, she not liking any sign of mutiny in the ranks. "What's the grouch?"
"Well, as ye both knows fine well, an' I'm makin' no criticism o'either o'ye in sayin' so," Thomson, aware he was losing his thread, gulped and set a straight course for home. "—er, that's ter say, ye knows there's a fine mixture o'people on this here brig. A fine set o'Yankee's; ditto, a large contingent o'Spanish-speakin' Caribbean lads. An' also, jest by way o'seasonin' ye might say, a biggish lot' o' Mexicans an' those native ter the rest o'the Spanish Main entire."
"We know the make-up of the crew fine well, Thomson." Joanna not yet comprehending where things were headed. "So what? What's the problem?"
Thomson, having been brought to the hub of the case, found himself even more nervous than he had earlier expected. Taking a deep breath he faced the danger like a gentleman.
"Some o'the lads ain't entirely happy with bein' paid in golden guineas, is what it is, ma'am, beggin' yer pardon, in 'course."
A longish pause ensued, while both Joanna and Sandy tried to bring their heads around to understanding what the quartermaster had just said.
"What?" From Joanna, mystified.
"What?" From Sandy, all at sea without a paddle, and looking the same to all and sundry.
"The Yankees among the crew wish it known they'll only take Yankee dollars as recompense." Thomson spilling the bad news all in one hurried disjointed sentence. "The Spanish lot want escudos; whiles what ye may call the Spanish Main contingent swears blind all they can possibly work with is pistoles. Some score or so men say they can only live with reales; whiles there's a few requires pieces o'eight straight down on the barrel. Thet about makes up the general thinkin' on the subjec', ma'am an' ladies."
The silence which now ensued was indeed like the proverabial calm before the storm. Joanna, having much experience in these conditions, grabbed Sandy's sword-arm before she could run berserk—an action she was quite capbable of; then Joanna turned on the quartermaster, a tone of sad disappointment in her quavering voice.
"Yer tellin' us the lads wants paid in every bloody coin o'the realm, exceptin' guineas? Is thet what yer sayin'?"
Standing before his irate superiors Thomson attempted to look both humble and yet still holder of the moral high ground—not easy for a life-long pirate of parts.
"Would yer kindly ask the crew t'line up on the main deck, Thomson." Sandy's voice sounding like the very knell of Doom, as she fingered the hilt of her cutlass. "Jest so's I can deal with each one individually, y'knows."
"Stand easy, lady." Joanna taking command before things really got out of hand. "That's all very well, Thomson, but you have ter understand Sandy an' I've been knockin' ourselves out this past week, traipsin' round every money-lender in Cayona trying t'get a good deal for the crew. Here we are, loaded down with every bloody variety o'coin imaginable, from doubloons ter Lous d'or, with a f-ckin' mountain o'silver pieces o'eight muddyin' the financial waters as well. All we want fer the lads is the best possible outcome."
"Yeah," Sandy now partially recovered from a near eruption of the lower more violent senses. "Y'know fine well the arguing an' fightin' that always accompanies tryin' to share out coin when it's all shapes an' sizes. One man says his bucket-load o' moidores doesn't equal that man's bucket o'ducats, an' the same fer every bloody other coin imaginable. So Joanna an' I sweats ourselves t'wisps of our former selves tryin' t'make all equal by turnin' a mixed goulash in'ta a sweet syllabub perfect fer everyone's taste—an' this's what we gets in return fer all our hard work?"
Another pause ensued here while both Joanna and Thomson tried, unsuccessfully, to make sense of Sandy's unusual culinary allusion.
"Anyway's," Joanna taking a diagonal direction. "though we has a veritable mountain o'coin, we doesn't have enough o'each particular coin t'meet the needs of all concerned. What I means is, those who want paid in pistoles, we ain't got enough o'same t'go round; ditto in the case o'escudos. We ain't got enough reales to cover the need, either; I takin' it fer granted those wishin' sich don't want pieces o'eight? Same with every other coin; there's no way we can cover all those who want particular coins as pay—ain't enough in our hold t'go round everyone."
"That, Thomson," Sandy here, with an evil grimace, waxing sarcastic in the extreme. "is why Jo an' I have worked ourselves t'the bone tryin' t'make base metal in'ta gold—changin' all an' everything we got in'ta guineas. An' what's our bloody reward fer same? Oh miss, I want it back the way it was—arguments an' fights an what-all as before? F-ckin' idiots; I got a good mind t'toss the whole bleedin' lot overboard an' make those who wishes dive fer their dam' pay."
"It's jest that the lads all has their own idee's as to what's good fer their own single needs, is all, ma'am." Thomson trying valiantly to stand by his men, yet stand-off at a safe neutral distance, also; not a compromise easy to accomplish, without you were an experienced politician.
Joanna shook her head, feeling herself standing on a solid foundation here.
"Well, that jest brings us back ter the start o'the whole concern, don't it?" She gazed first at Thomson, then the disparate crew going about their business around the ship's deck and masts. "This here's a ship with a crew an', as is the usual case in sich matters, a captain duly appointed as well. An' I'm that captain; anyone wants ter argue the fact can discuss their case with my second in command here. Sandy, ye up fer some light social discussion with such members o'the crew as presents their-sel's fer sich?"
Sandy in her lifetime had been many things, an aristocratic Lady of Quality; a merchant; an adventurer around the world; and finally a pirate. All these activities had made their individual mark on her character, mostly in a negative manner; and now the expression she presented to Thomson held qualities of all those awful experiences in her past life she had either viewed as a spectator or participated in personally.
"Ye jest go back an' tell the lads, Thomson, that if any individual wishes ter discuss the detail o'what Joanna an' I have sweated blood ter get fer their own good, then I'll be ready on this here quarter-deck, waitin' their desires—with my cutlass drawn an' sharpened fer business."
"What my second in command means by that there remark," Joanna feeling clarification necessary. "—is that anyone wishing t'take their pay in whatever coin o'whichever realm most appeals ter them can easy take their portion o'the guineas we means ter pay 'em, an' change sich into what coin they most desires at any money-lender in Cayona, in their own time a'course—savvy?"
"An' if they gets less than they believes fair, in such a deal, an' are overall losers as a result," Sandy covering her ass, like a true business-woman. "they only has themselves ter blame—no returns available, as per contract—see?"
Thomson here allowing the discussion had reached its natural conclusion nodded and returned to the main deck to spread the bad news, leaving Joanna and Sandy in lone command of the quarter-deck, apart from the man at the wheel; the women retreating to the taffrail for privacy.
"Yeah, Jee-sus." Sandy standing by her lover, as required by all Romantic standards. "You ever met a reasonable pirate, dear?"
"Not recently, to be sure, lover." Joanna acknowledging the truth of the matter.
"What d'we do now, then?"
"What d'we do?" Joanna raising her eyebrows at her companion. "We does nuthin', o'course. What, ye wants we should go back ter Caleb an', hats in hand, beg him ter not shell out his precious guineas after all? Ha, some hope, dearie. Guineas is what we traded fer, an' dam' guineas is what the bloody crew'll take, an' thank us whiles doin' so."
"I'm with ye there, lover, don't fret." Sandy stroking the arm of her heartmate softly. "Only two days more an' Caleb'll be here with his casks o'golden guineas. That'll be something t'see, an' no mistake."
"God, yeah." Joanna contemplated the coming scenario in her mind, then made the only possible suggestion. "We better double-load our pistols on the day; jest, ye understands, as a simple safety measure, nuthin' more."
"I'm with ye on that lay, too, lover." Sandy nodding her head with a grimace a Gorgon would have been proud of. "Think I'll load one o'my pistols with small grapeshot—spreads further an' does more damage t'the ounce, yer knows."
"Jeez, sometimes I wonders about yer past life, lover."
The aforesaid day came and with it Caleb and his crates of gold. These being of some considerable weight he brought a contingent of broad-shouldered longshoremen to do the physical work, accompanied by derricks and double-winches. Finally, after about an hour and a half, the cargo of coin was safely deposited on the main deck of the Amazon, carefully guarded by Sandy, looking mean as a bobcat with the mange; two loaded pistols prominently on display in her wide leather belt.
"Mighty happy t'see ye both on such a fine morning." Caleb being free with the soft soap, the deck of a fully-manned pirate vessel not being his situation of most comfort. "Shalll we get down t'business right away, then?"
"Jest a few things t'clear out'ta the way first, if ye will, Caleb." Joanna standing tall and speaking loud to one and all of the assembled pirate crew. "First, what Caleb here's giving us is golden guineas, nuthin' else. Second, what ye'll all receive in due course'll be these same golden guineas; nuthin' else, hear me. Third, ye may feel yersel's free ter go in'ta Cayona an' change yer guineas at any money-lender o'yer choice. Fourth, when ye finds yer left with a mere percentage o'the original whole I doled out ter yer individually, don't come runnin' back t'me with tears in yer eyes accusin' me o'theft an' robbery—I'll see the colour of yer intestines as a result, no fear. Fifthly, guineas is what we got t'offer, an' if'n any one o'ye feels guineas ain't ter yer personal taste why, feel free ter leave the Amazon an' go elsewhere t'pursue the profitable life of a pirate. Sixthly, guineas is what I intends t'change all an' everything of our captured wealth into in future, so's every man, an' woman, gets equal shares; with none o'this arguing over the relative nature o'moidores to doubloons, or ducats t'pieces o'eight. Guineas it'll be henceforth, an' guineas ye'll dam' well take, or I, an' Sandy here, will know the reason why. Right, Sandy?"
"Dam' right, captain." Sandy giving the crew, as a single entity, the benefit of her most official best-for-Sundays snarl—several newer crewmen taking a step back in horror as a result.
"So what's about t'transpire is first, Caleb here'll dole out his golden guineas as required by our contract." Joanna getting down to business with a will, now the nasty bit had been successfully dealt with. "Ye'll all see the nature and colour of his guineas; then I transfer to him an equal amount, counted out by a registered clerk brought here by Caleb, of our coin o'the realm, whichever realm an' coin that may be. Then, later in the afternoon watch, ye all assembles here again when your own partial shares—takin' note of what your individual full shares will eventually be—will be handed out. This same procedure taking place again over the next four weeks, till the whole business has been settled satisfactorily, and you all have your full shares."
She paused to gaze over her assembled audience and, seeing merely gloomy faces with no concerted bottom to take their grouses any further, nodded to herself as of a job well done. A table had been brought out onto the main deck where she now waved Thomson to take his place, account-book before him, along with an inkstand and three sharpened quills.
"Thomson here's gon'na mark each man an' woman off, on the crew register, as they get their hand-outs, so's there won't be any carping an' complaining afterwards. Right, let's get to it—Caleb, if ye will?"
A long day is a long day, and on a pirate ship with the dis-spirited crew being handed out their partial shares of a larger treasure a long day can go a long way. By the time Caleb had taken himself and his assorted coins of the realm, late Joanna and Sandy's but now his, back to shore and the crew had each been given their dole of golden guineas both Joanna and Sandy gladly repaired to their private stern-cabin to refresh themselves after their hard work.
"God, what a bloody day." Sandy flopped down on a chair by the long table and reached for the rum jug with meaning. "Hopes things is easier from now on. Here, lady, soak that up if ye will."
Joanna taking the proferred goblet, filled to the brim, sat by her lover's side and took a long refreshing swallow.
"Aahh, that hits the spot." She heaved a long sigh after taking another small sip, gazing comfortably at her companion. "Jeez, ye've emptied yer goblet a'ready? Where'in hell d'ya put the stuff, gal?"
"In'ta an empty, an' dry, stomach, lady o'my heart." Sandy knowing full well what was what, and what the moral imperatives of the present moment were, reaching for the jug again. "Nuthin' like rum fer soothing all those parts thet most need refreshing. Aah, that's better. So how long'll it be a'fore Caleb manages t'fulfil his contract?"
"By which I takes it yer mean, when'll we have full pay o'guineas fer our assorted treasure, doll?"
"Jest so, darlin'."
"Well, let me calculate a whiles." Joanna suited her actions to her words, falling silent for several seconds, musing darkly. "Right, from where I stands, or sits, right now I figures this time four and a half weeks we'll be in full possession of all owed ter us. How's that sound?"
"It'll do, it'll do." Sandy off-handedly filling her goblet with the dark liquid for the third time, affecting not to notice as she did so. "Mmmm, so what d'ye think the crew'll get up to, when they goes off t'change their guineas back in'ta baser coin at the Cayona money-lenders?"
"Oh, they talks big, Sandy, but they ain't got no bottom fer the business." Joanna knew well of what she spoke. "A pirate—dirty o'nature, base o'moral worth, lacking any level o'edication, an' only seein' immediate in front o'his eyes what'll most delight him fer the present moment? Hah, I bets hardly any o'them'll get anywhere near a money-lender a'fore they sees some floozy, or grog-shop or, indeed, both an' makes a bee-line ter taking command o'both, as long as their golden guineas last. Which, knowin' 'em as we does, won't be fer long. Half o'them'll come crawling back t'the Amazon still half-seas over with headaches that'd kill a bull; the other half'll meander in, well over their shore-leave time, penniless an' battered an' bruised from innumerable fights in back alleys; an' the rest'll be found floating face-down in the harbour, minus whatever was left of their guineas, an' of no further use ter us as crewmen of a fighting pirate ship. Next time round none o'them'll think twice about bein' given dam' guineas, I bet's yer."
"No takers here, lover." Sandy sitting hunched over with her elbows, as ever, on the table contemplating the rum jug with an enquiring eye. "I wonders—"
"No more rum fer you, lover; ye've had yer measure fer this evening." Joanna reaching across to slide the jug well out of her companion's already stretching arm. "Only bed fer ye; look, the stars is out a'ready; young lady's like yerself should'a been a'bed hours ago—think o'yer beauty sleep an' all."
"Huh, I gave up thinkin' about my beauty sleep decades ago, lady." Sandy waxing atribilarioius as she always did whenever having taken too much spirituous liquor. "Alright, alright, I'm comin', don't rush me. Say, what's that on the floor there? Jest by my left boot."
Swaying a little she bent down, Joanna hanging onto her arm to prevent complete collapse. Then Sandy, with a long sigh, straightened up with something clutched in her hand, eyelids already flickering in her half-asleep state.
"Wha'sh this? Wha',—wha's sh'ish, lover? Wha—"
"It's a bloody doubloon, dear; must'a gotten free from it's compatriots that time, days since, we was counting that mess o'coin o'all the realms o'the bloody world. Thank God fer Caleb's guineas."
"Doub—dou—Bloody doubloon?" Sandy's voice rising in tone and strength as the realisation of what she held in her hand dawned on her foggy senses. "G-dd-m it. G-dd-m bloody m-th-r-f-ckin' dam'nable doubloon."
With this last confused oath she tottered over to the open stern window and threw the coin out into the sea below, holding onto the window-edge to keep her feet.
"An' be dam'med ter yer, an' all yer sisters, too."
With this last curse on the race of doubloons Sandy turned back into the cabin, glanced at Joanna unseeingly, and began to slowly give at her knees; Joanna jumping forward to catch the woman she loved most in all the world before she unceremoniously fell in a heap on the floor.
"Come on, lady, time fer ye t'hit the sheets. Ye'll feel much better tomorrow."
"Oh, God; what I has ter do fer love. Come along, gal, come ter yer lover."
The next Captain Claytonstorywill arrive shortly.