Excerpt from The Pride of the King Historical Romance
That evening something unusual happened. For the first time ever, old Mathias played a merry tune on his fiddle. The crew was on shore playing cards when they heard the light-hearted strains, and they began to cheer.
“By Jove! What’s gotten into the old man!” cried Henry Bologne.
Isaac bounded up from the hold and bellowed, “Why it sounds like a celebration, Mathias! What’s the occasion?”
Mathias nodded at the setting sun then played on. Isaac dashed to the railing and shouted to the men. “What day is it?”
When no one answered, he declared, “Wait! It’s Midsummer, the longest day of the year!”
With little urging from Isaac the crew hustled on board clearing an area for dancing, and Mr. Groot disappeared to ask the Captain if the crew could have a celebration. The giant emerged from the hold with a smile on his face and a barrel of rum on his shoulder. “Compliments of the Captain!”
Everyone contributed something to the party. Robert and George put up torches, Isaac and Ben Groot arranged the deck, and Henry Bologne pulled out his tin whistle along with Samuel and his drum. Lauren made rum syllabub and brought sausage and cheese to the festivity. Even Mother Nature blessed them with a clear moonlit night.
For the first time in months Lauren could discard her dirty pinner and change into something soft and feminine. She had obtained fabric from Kingston several weeks earlier to make some everyday gowns, and even though none of the dresses were grand, the indigo muslin with the green stomacher seemed festive. She pinned up her auburn tresses and grabbed her skirts dashing up the companionway two steps at a time. She was not about to miss a single dance. When she reached the top step the men stared at her dumbfounded. Even Mathias stopped playing.
Seeing Lauren blush Isaac roared, “What’s wrong with you fools! Ain’t you never seen a lady before?
They laughed, and Mr. Claypool started the slip jig, “Kid on the Mountain” on his drum. Mathias followed putting the fiddle to his chin. Finding the right moment, Henry Bologne took up his tin whistle and joined in as well.
Isaac took Lauren by the waist and swung her out onto the makeshift dance floor. Tonight Lauren had no cares. Tonight she would dance and flirt with every man on board The Pride of the King and feel pretty once more.
The rum was flowing and after several drinks Isaac jumped on top of a barrel to show the crew his fancy dancing. He struck his boots on the barrel in time with the music and kicked his legs high into the air. He did a handstand on the barrel then jumped down onto the deck with a flourish.
Lauren laughed and clapped her hands with delight. She danced with every one of the crew and flirted outrageously with them all. She could not remember having more fun She danced with Robert who stepped on her feet, with the graceful giant Ben Groot and with Isaac Burroughs three times. She even danced with George Blasco.
At last she turned to the ship’s purser saying, “Come along, Mr. Bologne. It’s your turn,” and held out her hands.
Being without legs Henry Bologne did not think he could dance, and he refused Lauren, but she would not allow him to sit out. She took his large hands and whirled him around and around in circles on his platform. She darted under his arms and out again skipping around him like a gypsy around the fire.
“This is my first dance, my girl!” Henry shouted with glee as she tripped about him. His eyes twinkled merrily as he watched her dart around him like a bird.
The torches burned low as the merriment and music continued into the night. When the men were not dancing with Lauren, they were drinking rum, playing cards or singing their favorite chantey. No one noticed St. Clare come on deck and lean against the rail in the shadows. None of them noticed his dark eyes following Lauren as she danced around and around.