Almost at once I saw her, a Spanish lady of unusual grace and distinction and a beauty that immediately arrested my eye. She looked in my direction, and it seemed to me she was imploring her rescue.
I walked over and stepped up in front of her, aware that several other of the Buccaneers had already had the same idea and were circling her with appraising, lascivious looks.
This was an extremely dangerous situation, as a Buccaneer would not hesitate to fight to the death in order to gain the favours of a woman. Nevertheless I stood amongst them and said in a loud clear voice, which could brook of no misinterpretation” This lady is under my protection and I forbid anyone to touch her on pain of death!”.On saying this I unsheathed my cutlass and slashed it about in the air, my eyes looking foul scorn at the half-dozen Buccaneers who surrounded me.
This declaration was very reckless. I ought to have spirited the lady away at once without another word, but perhaps there was something else, perhaps at once and deep inside, I had made the decision to win this ladies love by some fearless deed.
The noise which was generated had already attracted about twenty or thirty Buccaneers, like eager spectators at a prize fight. Others of them when they heard of my declaration said that the girls were for everyone and that I was very selfish. I saw Neems for the first time since the battle had started, he had drawn his pistols and walked over to where I stood and indicated to the lady that she should stand behind him, which she did.
At once a Buccaneer strode forward he was the one known as the Egyptian for reasons which were unknown to me, he was gorilla like man with massive hairy arms, which he exposed up to the shoulders. The alcohol which he had already consumed causing his eyes to whirl in their sockets. I immediately couched my sabre , but he advanced contemptuously towards it until it pricked his chest, he took out his sabre stepped back and waved it in front of me.
I had had a few swordfights using my cutlass, this man handled his saber as if he had been born with it.
The fact that he was drunk gave me some hope, he was breathing heavily and also sweating profusely. I assumed a sneer of contempt on my face and beheld his advance without apparent fear. This enraged the man and he ran at me whirling his sword above his head, in the process recklessly exposing his belly. I heard the whistle of his sword as I pushed mine forward and thrust it as hard as I could into his belly. He looked at me in surprise and anger, but stopped dead and looked down in confusion at his belly which was covering with blood. Then he began to wobble from side to side and then threw his hand out onto a table, but instead brought it crashing down as he lost his balance completely and tumbled to the floor.
This unexpectedly easy defeat of one of their number caused the Filibusters to become very angry and some shouted out that I should be hanged immediately, but instead a more valiant solution imposed itself and another champion move forward to dispute with me.
My next opponent was small, but very agile and carried with him a rapier which, if used with skill, is probably the most dangerous of all weapons. This gentleman was not at all drunk, but his malevolent smile once again gave me an indication that he expected an easy victory.
This confidence was to prove his undoing as he failed to notice the blood which covered the floor from my first victim. So that although he advanced in measured, springy style, he went a little too fast and slipped a little as he advanced towards me. At that moment I rushed at him hoping to run him through, but he parried my attack and after a great struggle he pushed me back, this was surprising as he seemed less strong than I – I feared that at that moment I was tiring. However, I managed to break free, but at once he was upon me again thrusting and parrying with terrifying skill. It was clear to me I was about to die -but fear gave me resource and with great difficulty I managed to push him back and for the first time I heard him begin to breathe ,heavily, an encouraging sign, unspeakably foul though his breath was. At long last I decided on a very hazardous subterfuge and so I pretended to stop fighting and lowered my guard, this took him by such surprise that he lowered his guard likewise, upon this hint I lunged forward and stabbed him in the chest with my sword, without a cry he crumpled down to his knees then fell headfirst into the sawdust.
Now the Buccaneers had turned very quiet and sullen, in the first contest they had laid bets with great eagerness, now they looked at me with dumb hatred. Duels are commonplace and acceptable amongst the Buccaneers, but they hate to lose Brethren to outsiders.
I stood and faced the filibusters with my one good hand, breathless and confused, I recklessly shouted out for any further challengers. Neems shouted at me in reproof, but I was now in another world.
Very soon another filibuster came forward; he was a mestizo, Samuel, from Caracas, who had won acceptance from the Buccaneers by his extraordinary bravery. He did not smile in a confident manner like my previous assailant, but looked at me in deadly earnest as he fingered his machete..
He approached slowly, his arms outspread, his machete in his left hand. He stared at me with the basilisk eye of the snake. The machete cut the air, whistling horribly as it did so, I dodged my head out of the way but its downward arc caught my shoulder and cut me badly, though I did not notice any pain – that came later. I raised my sword and struck back at him very violently, so that he fell back, I advanced and struck out again; he attempted to parry me with his machete, but it is not a suitable weapon in a sword fight, deadly though it can be. I stood upright and tickled his chest with the tip of my sword, involuntarily he moved back, then he lifted his machete once more against my sword, but I was too quick and parried it away, in the split second that followed I struck him in the chest in the same fashion as his two predecessors and he fell to the floor spraying blood.
Suddenly, I heard a roaring voice wafting from the corner of the room and I saw a fourth man come forward wielding a sabre. He was balding and held the remains of his hair in a pigtail and as he bared his teeth at me, they were either missing or badly stained. His clothes were torn and smeared with dirt and grease, all this somehow served to relax my guard which he broke and slashed my arm. This time it felt very painful and I fell back, suddenly feeling very tired. My head started to spin, but somehow I parried his attacks. The Buccaneers now began taking bets, all of which were against me.
I fell back further and allowed myself a split second look at my beautiful Spanish Lady. She stood quite still and was as pale as death, but she agitatedly fingered her rosary, as one on the edge of a terrible fate. This look renewed my courage and I sprang at my attacker in a terrible rage, causing the man to break in panic, he threw down his sword and fled.
At this point the world seemed to whirl about me, I saw stars and malevolent meteors, suddenly my legs were weak and I collapsed to the floor, my sword spinning noisily across the floor. My last sight was of the Buccaneers advancing towards me and so I thought after all that I’m still done for, but decided I didn’t care. Then I fainted.
I awoke sometime later, rolling on a makeshift hammock strung up between two trees, within sight of the burning hulk of Panama City. Where were the Buccaneers? Where was Neems? Most of all, what about the Spanish lady, for whose sake I had risked all, not to mention my share of the treasure of Panama City.
I called out, at once there was a response. A hand appeared to grasp mine, followed by a face by a face as pale as it had been during my epic struggle. My Spanish Lady had not deserted me! She looked at me with blackened circles under her eyes. She produced a cloth and wiped my forehead, cheeks and neck. Then she stood there silently and watched.
“Lady, Thankyou – muchas gracias.” I said in a weak voice.
She said nothing, but gave me a look as if to say such thanks was quite unnecessary..
Then I lost consciousness again.
For the next two weeks I was in a raging delirium, as the Yellow Jack finally caught up with me. In which I alternately woke and ranted and then fell asleep in a nightmare-filled sleep – filled with the poisonous jaws of caymans, and Henry Morgan wielding fire and sword all around me, accompanied by high pitched screaming. I was chased by grinning corpses and carnivorous animals of indeterminate species who gnawed at me with iron teeth. Occasionally I saw Neems who laid his hands his hands on my forehead and said a prayer, and then it would be the Spanish Lady who leaned forward into my hammock and kissed me passionately on the cheek. Even in my reduced state I was seized with terror that she should contract the Yellow Jack and so I pushed her violently away, much to her distress.
As I was told later this happened repeatedly. But despite this, my friends stayed with me and did not contract the sickness. And so they nursed me back to life. The violent images and spasms ceased; my forehead was suddenly dry and I lay in my hammock like a new-born babe, a being which wishes only to eat and sleep.
I opened my eyes and saw the Lady, she had now become quite disheveled, with her hair awry and dirt bespattering her face. I could see at once that she thought I was better and that this had brought joy to her dear face.
She leaned over and fed me from a gourd of milk, unmistakably I felt life returning to my body and also a strange happiness, which at first I could not account for, but which was greater and sweeter than I had ever known.
In my waking moments she was constantly by my side, she standing by my hammock looking endlessly into my face.
Her name was Dona Teresa, the daughter of a rich merchant of Panama..Her father had been killed in the attack, but before this happened he had managed to bury this treasure, which was now hers alone, her mother having perished by the Siamese sickness, some years before.
And then at last she talked of my saving of her. She was full of joy at my recovery, but afraid that I would now leave. I almost laughed at such an impossible thing, because I knew without thinking that I could not leave without her.
Full of this strange happiness which , as I said , I had never before known, I called out to my friend Neems and he emerged still clad in black, though he was now very tattered , with bits of his flesh showing through the holes. But the same impeccable light shone through his eyes.
He made the sign of the Cross.
“Thankyou, old friend.”
“We are thanking God for your recovery.”
‘Why was I not killed by the Buccaneers?.”
“I threatened to blast them out of life with my pistols.”
“And that was enough?”I asked, knowing what reckless, fearless devils they were.
“They had had enough of killing for one night, I think - they went away meek as the lambs of Abraham.”And so it was determined by a Generous God that I should survive again. Moreover it was further determined that I should fall into the hands of Beauty.
The more I recovered the more it pleased me simply to lie on my bed and stare at this creature, who was invariably to be found at my bedside. She returned my gaze, her dark eyes seeming to me to promise me the Earth.
Strength finally returned when she placed a hand on my leg far above the knee and seemed to look down at a place even higher, with a fondness combined with a look of barely containable anticipation.
It was then I sat up and took Dona Teresa in my arms, her mouth was waiting for me as I delved inside and tasted her glorious essence. All sense of illness vanished as I felt myself reborn and reclaimed as a new man, nothing seemed more important to Dona Teresa than to allow me entrance ,which I achieved in a state of ecstasy, calling out her name and showering her with kisses. What followed was an abolition of thought and a complete surrender to the senses, which lasted for a time it is impossible to compute, finishing in mutual harmonious joy.
Thus is the story of my deliverance.
We were thus occupied blissfully for some days, when the subject of Dona Teresa treasure was raised. We consulted with Neems, who had ever been a discrete presence and he agreed to assist us in finding it. Her father, Don Gilberto, had left her a map with the spot where the treasure lay clearly marked.
This proved exceedingly difficult to find, although Dona Teresa had lived in Panama City for some years, she had hardly ever been into the jungle and it was only with difficulty that we found suitable digging equipment from the ruins of the city.
The location of the treasure was placed on the map as the Place of Parrots, there being a profusion of that creature in this region, but we walked around in the jungle for hours without seeing a single one of them. When suddenly as we lay on the floor of the jungle one of these creatures landed on Neems his hat and began to sing. Then we heard an answering chorus and just a few hundred yards away we found the Place of Parrots, a clearing in the jungle which was home to dozens of the species. The treasure was buried near a tree with twisted branches, which we soon located and so I began digging. This was very hard work and I was nearly convinced we had found the wrong spot, when my shovel hit something hard, which turned out to be Don Gilberto’s strongbox.
We dragged it out of the whole and opened it with the key, which Dona Teresa’s father had entrusted to her. It consisted of a huge quantity of precious stones – opals and emeralds, which her father had obtained in vast quantities from the Viceroyalty of Peru, also gold and silver from Potosi and a hundred thousand pieces of eight and many hundreds of dollars.
This made Dona Teresa the most desirable of heiresses, but without a moments hesitation she said that half of it was mine. Neems was offered a share, but, characteristically he refused..
My intention now was to return to England in the company of Dona Teresa, with the intention of making her my wife. A plan with which she was in enthusiastic agreement, but to return to England with our vast treasure was an immense and dangerous undertaking, any filibuster in the Caribbean would gladly risk his life and commit any atrocity to attain it. We decided to leave behind the precious stones, taking just the Pieces of Eight and the Dollars, as these were legal currency throughout the Caribbean. We intended at some point in the future to return and reclaim the stones.
We went back into the city and found that people were beginning to return, so we managed to purchase half a dozen burros, hardy pack animals who would transport our treasure to the Coast. Our intention was to reach the Caribbean Coast and there find a boat to Jamaica and from there under the protection of the Governor, find our way back to England.
We passed through swamps and deep undergrowth, attempting as far as possible to follow the route used by Morgan’s Buccaneers. This was easier than might be imagined as they had left behind a miasma of broken jungle and discarded rubbish. We had brought some food , but this soon ran out and there was none to be had along the way; the filibusters had destroyed all the settlements in their path and had scared all the wildlife away. However, we soon had water from the River Chagre and we managed to find some roots and berries along the way which provided some sustenance. As we lay for the night under a tree with Dona Teresa beside me, I could not help becoming convinced that this state of prosperity could not last and that something must come along to destroy it – thus does the mind endlessly rehearse one’s own misfortune. Despite this train of thought I lay down and was about to rest in the arms of Morpheus, when the silence was shattered by a piercing scream. In blind panic I looked down at Dona Teresa. Only her head and legs were visible. Around the rest of her body was coiled the odious body of a snake, larger and stronger and thicker than it is possible to imagine. I immediately identified as the terrible creature which the Spanish call the Anaconda, which is capable of eating and digesting a cow. The Spanish fear them as no other snake, even though their bite is not poisonous, they are much more carnivorous than any other . In a frenzied panic I grabbed my cutlass and pistol, which was fortunately already loaded. I shouted for Neems, but he did not seem to be anywhere around.
The monster had coiled itself five or six times around the body of Dona Teresa and was slowly applying the deadly inexorable pressure which would suffocate the life out of his victim. Dona Teresa head lolled forward, her eyes turned feebly towards mine and even in this extremis, I saw the unmistakable spark of love. I blindly hacked at the monster, though not so blindly as to harm my Beloved. But this beast seemed capable of sustaining any wound and I could sense my Beloved was slipping away from me. I realized I must sever the creatures head. At that moment the creatures head was slithering all over my beloved, its dreadful forked tongue spitting in and out of its mouth. I could sense the triumph in the beast and in one desperate movement I slashed its head off, miraculously sparing my Beloved, but showering her and myself with its detestable Hells Blood.
To my intense relief the clutches of the beast relaxed and it fell away and Dona Teresa rolled into my arms sobbing and weak, But with the precious breath of life still within her.
Her face was grey and flecked with the blood of the serpent. I bathed her face in water and rubbed her shoulders and ribs and back in a desperate attempt to restore life. She looked at me suddenly as if to thank me, then she fell into unconsciousness. Thus I held her for the rest of the night.
As dawn approached she opened her eyes and smiled weakly, this I took as a sign of her revival and I kissed her several times on the mouth and cheek. And so I cleaved to her, her being revived by all that is sweet and delicate.
Suddenly I heard a shout, such as a monkey makes when it hurls coconuts at you from a tree. I looked around, but knew it to be no monkey as I saw, to my great delight, the figure of my great friend Neems stagger towards me. I stood up and held out my hand, which Neems shook with tremendous vehemence. His familiar clerical garments were covered in mud and looked wet through. On his face he wore a most pathetic and woeful expression. I bade him lay down and fed him some plantains and gave him water from the river. It did my heart good to see the courage return to his face.
By degrees I learned his story
During the night he had turned too vigorously in his sleep and had rolled down a slope, near which he had unwisely laid down before going to sleep. As a result he had fallen in the river and was carried down stream by the fast current. His cries and lamentations not being sufficient to wake us.
He managed to keep afloat by holding to what he thought were fallen logs in the water. It was not for some time that he realized they were caymans or alligators, of which there are a profusion in those parts – a creature exceedingly dangerous to man..They are dreadful pre-historic creatures with huge jaws capable of felling large animals or even fully-grown men. They infest the waters of the Panama Jungle. Eventually the creature that Neems held onto, must have realized he was eatable and began to shake and squirm itself very vigorously in the water. Neems was not a strong man and he was soon thrown free. So he began thrashing around in the water shouting heavenward imprecations. No activity is more calculated to attract the attention of caymans, who are very curious and unlike most wild creatures quite difficult to frighten. It seemed very surprising that Neems had survived this experience.
Suddenly Neems realized that the caymans were very blind and deaf and responded chiefly to vibrations in the water. Unless he could get to the shore, which was some fifty to a hundred feet away, he realised that the only way he could survive was to attempt to stand on one of the creatures backs, thus taking him out of the water altogether.
It seemed about five or six of these caymans had been attracted by these altercations in the water. They had advance slowly like floating wood, their huge snouts visible out of the floating water. Neems trod water, awaiting their approach.
They circled around him without noise and he was able to see the terrible power in their jaws and tails.
He suddenly felt against his legs a strange pressure, he realized at once it was the snout of one of the beasts making a prod of investigation.
With an unspoken prayer in his throat his legs became still, his arms outstretched to keep himself afloat. His presence in the water attracted the attention of the other caymans, but in their eagerness to get close to him they seemed to clash together and created a terrible violent clash in the water. Upon this hint Neems made his escape and reached the bank and maneuvered himself to safety by the use of creepers which dangled over the water.
He lay sleeping where he was for some time, which was dangerous as caymans have been known to seize sleepers in their jaws and pull them into the water.We listened to Neems tale with fascination and he listened with horror our story of Dona Teresa’s survival at the hands of the anaconda.
We had to tarry sometime while my Beloved recovered from her experience, then we struck camp and began to follow the River Chagre to its mouth. Everywhere on our route we found the bodies of filibusters who had been killed in duels or had died of malnourishment of fatigue. We ourselves began to suffer terribly from the heat and from lack of food, the burros began to suffer equally as we had little to give them, though they were able to graze on grass and foliage along the route. Every few hours it rained to further dampen our spirits, though I truly felt that with Dona Teresa at my side I could endure anything – and she was of the same mind. As always Neems had his spiritual strength to nourish him.
Each was thus inwardly sustained as we finally reached the mouth of the River Chagre and saw on the other side of the River, the Great Fort which had been captured by the Buccaneers. It was now a smoking ruin and seemed utterly deserted. As we entered its precincts corpses were strewn everywhere and the stench of death was in our nostrils. At every moment I expected to find the returned Spaniards, but to our great good fortune there were none.
Eventually we made our way through the outer defences of the fort and went down to the Gulf of Panama, where there was a small sandy beach surrounded by high cliffs on both sides. Clearly Fort Chagre was not meant to be accessible from the sea and had no harbour, but we understood from the local Indians that there was a port further up the coast.
This we reached after a journey of three days in the jungle, sustained by food we had found in the ruins of Fort Chagre. I looked out at from the high ridge as we emerged from the jungle and saw the settlement in the distance, as we drew closer it seemed a mean looking place, but there was no denying that it was a port, as there were a number of vessels clearly visible. Our difficulty lay in the fact that as a result of the sacking of Panama, every Englishman now had a price on his head , as if he were a common criminal and that we would have to rely on Dona Teresa to do all the talking – Neems and I would just have to pretend to be deaf mutes, making our party a very strange collection of individuals, but we had no other choice. We would need to expend a great deal of money to get a proper ship, which was prepared to go to Jamaica, which was ,after all, controlled by the English. We would have to find a suitable trustworthy crew, who would not cut our throats and throw us into the sea and take our treasure.
It took another two hours walking before we reached the settlement, which was called Nuevo Porto. It was fortunately the hot part of the day, so few people were around. As we walked down the main street there were a few loungers, who lazily acknowledged our arrival. Dona Teresa called out in the fine Spanish style and this seemed to reassure them, nevertheless they followed us with extremely alert interest. And walking openly in this way was very hard upon the nerves. I wanted to stop to buy food and drink, but there was such a danger of being discovered in our imposture, that we decided against it. We were all of us now very hungry and thirsty and it was becoming extremely hot. The dust of the main street blew up into our mouths and eyes, to increase our anxiety.
Then with the harbour in our sites one of the caballeros called out to us, approaching us from across the street in a black broad brimmed hat. In his hand he carried a large cigar, He said hello politely to Dona Teresa and raised his hat, she explained our circumstances – that we were deaf mutes, who had had their tongues cut out by the English and that she was helping them to return to San Domingo, which is where we came from. This was a brilliant stroke on her part as a sympathetic look came over the man’s face, people were prepared to believe anything of the English in those days in that part of the world.
She enquired where we might find a suitable ship, we could not name our destination as Jamaica as that was an English possession, but once we had set sail we hoped to bribe the captain to change his course.
The man was friendly to us, but patently found us extremely interesting, chiefly Dona Teresa, whose beauty he clearly found fascinating, he was most deferential towards her. But then he provided us with some useful details of the ships that were available and then we went on our way. But he persisted in following us, calling out further directions and inviting us to his house. We escaped his attentions with an uneasy feeling, but made our way to the harbour as quickly as we could with five burros in tow.
We stopped to drink at a water fountain along the way and attracted yet more attention from a group of mestizos, who seemed to be the worse for drink .I was very heavily armed with two pistols in my belt and a cutlass ,with a musket strung across my shoulders. Neems’ pistols were prominently displayed in his belt, but I was , of course , afraid he would not use them. As the mestizos advanced towards us, my hand went to my pistols. They began shouting amongst each other in a state of high amusement and I could see that their main interest was Dona Teresa, who could arrest a man’s attention in any part of the world. My fingers went to the triggers of the pistols, although I was very reluctant to provoke an incident for fear that we should be discovered.
We kept on walking and the mestizos shouted after us, till one, bolder than the rest attempted to take Dona Teresa by the hand. Within a second I had my pistol pointed at his head and he swiftly desisted. This immediately quelled the high spirits of these fellows and they allowed us to depart without further interference. We had escaped, but it was clear that we were attracting far too much attention and that sooner or later ,we would be found out.
Within a few minutes we were at the harbour and Dona Teresa began asking around the various nautical types who were strolling around, very slowly like everyone else.
We had no luck at all and nobody seemed to going anywhere except the Spanish Main.
We bought some food and wine and sheltered under some palm trees, just at the edge of the harbour. The burros we fed on hay, which was freely available.
Tension had developed in our party and we were all feeling the strain, loving looks from Dona Teresa was replaced by sullen silence and the occasional barbed comment. But in the end none of us had any choice but to pursue the ends we had chosen, a situation which in the end encourages an individual to be philosophical.
As the sun grew hotter we all submitted to sleep and for a short time we had release from our dilemma. Then I felt someone tugging at my sleeve. It was Dona Teresa, she indicated a tall shaggy-haired man who stood in front of us, standing in what appeared to be a helpful posture.
She said he may be able to help us, he was not actually a Spaniard, but a Greek, of whom, there were many in this land. He had a ship which was available for hire and he was willing to help us. I decided to discard my disguise and ask him how much he wanted and he asked for two thousand dollars, clearly expecting to be turned down. But of course, we accepted, on condition that he make ready to leave straightaway. This he agreed to do , but he added that it would take him several hours to get his crew together and so we settled down to wait.
Our anxiety mounted as it seemed likely that our imposture would become widely known very rapidly. We kept our eyes fixed on the town and I handed Dona Teresa one of my pistols, which apparently she was quite proficient in using. But nothing seemed to be stirring.
In the distance about five hundred yards from the shore and we could see a ship approaching and then shortly after the Greek appeared and told us to get ready. As he spoke a shot rang out, which grazed the top of my head. The Greek looked around in panic, turning round I saw the man with the broad brimmed hat in a kneeling position ,with a musket in his hands. Behind him was a machete wielding mob, which suddenly broke into a run towards , shouting out against ‘Hereticos’ and ‘Luteranos!’ – trust the Spanish to see everything in religious terms! We ran down the steps as quickly as we could, guiding the burros and dodging the projectiles which rained down upon us. Dona Teresa took out her pistol and aimed at the advancing mob and to our delight downed one of them and this seemed to stay them for a short time , while we ran onto the quay, just as our ship was pulling into harbour. Another bullet rang out hitting one of the burros, but it can only have been a flesh wound as the beast never stopped moving. We saw the gangplank being lowered onto the quay, the Greek ran forward waving his hat at the crew and bade us move up the plank with the greatest possible speed .This was easier said than done and by the time we were all on board the mob was on the quay and within seconds of sweeping us away, but they were too late! We had the satisfaction of sailing away into the Gulf of Panama, watched by a howling mob which was completely impotent to do anything about it..
We were given accommodation in a tent which had been constructed amidships and the Captain – the Greek – bade us join him in his cabin. Once the burros had been fed and watered we happily followed him, leaving Neems to guard our treasure.
His quarters were mean and dirty, but he fed us well on cheese and bread, tomatoes and wine. It was extremely satisfactory after all our exertions to sit back, relax and eat our fill. The captain at first was very polite and did not ask many probing questions, he seemed to have no special affection for the Spaniards, although most of his crew were of that nationality.
“I am neutral, sir,” he said,” in this War of the New World..”
I must say his English was exceptionally good and unusual for that part of the Caribbean.
He poured me a very large glass of wine and did the same for Dona Teresa, as he did so he winked and passed her a glass, a familiarity which made my blood boil like a Spaniard, but this was clearly not the time to remark on it.
“Your lady is remarkable….in so many ways….”
He took a huge swig of his wine, which was red as the blood of Christ.
“For beauty…….”to my irritation I could see Dona Teresa begin preening herself.
“For steadfastness and courage to come all the way through the jungle…the heat, the mosquitos…the caimans,” he was right about the latter, turning to me said,” I can only congratulate you, senor,” he said but without looking at me, instead he continued to look at Don Teresa, a look which was swiftly turning into a leer and my Beloved didn’t seem to mind at all.
“You are too kind, senor,” she replied.
I said nothing as politeness and expediency warred with indignation, but after all what could I say and so, of course, I said nothing.
The Captain then got out of his seat and took a plate of olives which he placed in front of Dona Teresa, then he sat down beside her.
“Such a vision is rarely seen in Nicaragua,” which apparently was where he was normally based. The man was starting to make me feel uneasy.
I stood up abruptly.
‘Captain, may we thank you effusively for your hospitality, but sadly my lady is very tired after her exertions and wishes to rest,” I looked at Dona Teresa, she did not look at all in agreement with this idea. Nevertheless I took her by the arm and steered her towards the door.
“Many thanks my dear sir….we shall not long forget your kindness here.”
Once on deck Dona Teresa rounded on me in Spanish and accused me of rudeness and lack of cultivation in my treatment of such a gallant gentleman. Her obvious enjoyment of his advances maddened me and, of course, gave my first glint of that nature which was not exclusively devoted to me.
Thus on the deck of the San Ferdinand we had our first quarrel, to which the crew provided an appreciative audience.