“As our prior association has been dissolved by our late misadvetnure,” Cooke said, “We need new articles, which you can see that I’ve drawn up. The terms are one share for each man in the promised reward for returning…ma’am?”

“Maria de las Mercedes Ximénez y Nereida.”

“What she said. One share for seamen, two for mates and the navigator, three for the captain and quartermaster. This will cover any incidental claims along the way as well.” Cooke signed the paper with a flourish. “As captain and owner of the Fancy Rat, I invite you to come forward and make your mark.”

The men fell to speaking and squabbling among each other. “What do you think, boss?” said Hume. “Will we get enough of a crew to man the Rat?

“Well, there are plenty of considerations around that fact,” said Cooke. “Not least of which is that we’re the only ship in the harbor and the only escape for anyone who might not want the Spaniards to find them here.”

“Granted. What else?”

“You’ll note the unusually low shares that I offered for officers, so the men stand to make more than they otherwise might.”

Hume grunted. “I can think of a few things to set against that.”

“Like what?” said Cooke. “You know I always appreciate your grumpiness, Hume. It’s a fine antidote to my own sunny outlook.”

“First: ladies onboard. It’s bad luck.” Hume said. “Even if I don’t believe it, half of them will.”

“It’s a good thing we have but one lady, then, and needn’t fear more,” Cooke replied.

“With a ship full of men and one woman, you might find that they multiply rather quickly,” Hume said. “Assuming any will sail with her at all.”

“It always struck me as rather curious,” replied Cooke. “Half of them were born in the New World, how to they suppose their mothers got here? On a horse?”

“Second,” Hume continued. “Pay. It’s a paltry hook to hand a crew on, the promise of Catholic gold in return for a woman who for all we know may be bluffing.”

“Crews have been hung on much less,” replied Cooke. “Literally as well as figuratively.”

“Third: the Spaniards wanted her for something. They will come looking for her, and I doubt that we will be as lucky as we were this time, without a fleet to back us up.”

“On the contrary, Hume,” said Cooke. “I think we’ll be considerably luckier without a fleet to slow us down.”

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