Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lettre de marque (2): Sole with potatoes

Mataró, 14th November 1713

--About your Lettre de Marque, I’m pretty sure we can solve the issue. You need a new one --General Basset had told to his old friend Ginard.

Ginard snorted loudly while making a rejecting movement with his hand: --Wish this isn't the only reason for our meeting. The real issue is that I haven't money enough to pay for it, Joan. Not right now. I couldn't take such a risk.

--Er... well, let’s suppose I put the money, and we might also suppose the Catalan Government wouldn't object to issuing a new Lettre de Marque for someone like you...

--That's a damned lot of suppositions, my friend...

But Basset knew his friend good enough to perceive his own words had planted in Ginard's mind a little seed of interest. The seaman continued after a short pause: --All right, let’s suppose all these things do happen. I’ve just told you there are no longer preys in sight. It's said that the remains of the Spanish Mediterranean fleet are enclosed inside Cartagena, like chickens in a henhouse. With no preys we can get no money. With no money, all such suppositions are worthless.

The boy served to Basset a pair of appetizing soles, garnished with a generous ration of potatoes. The boy's face apparently showed no interest in the conversation of the two men.

--Mateu is the son of Bernat Capó, my old partner --Ginard explained--. He was only four when his father died... His mother passed last year too. He's been working for a merchant in Palma. This little devil managed to persuade me to add him to my crew... He can read and write, you know? ...and he has the most acute vision among my crewmen. --Ginard smiled proudly.

But the thoughts of Basset ignored the boy: --Tony, the deal isn't by any means about Spanish ships. We want you to... cause problems to the Spanish rearguard. Every men they were compelled to keep at rearguard would substantially increase Catalonia's chances of resisting their invasion. We want you to raid the Valencian coast once and once again. You know every town, village, beach, stronghold and sentry tower from here to Murcia, besides of local winds, reefs, tides and dominant flows. You're our man.

--What about the ships? --Ginard asked.

--Only one, to be precise. --Basset approved with a pleased smile the first sole's delicious taste. --And she’s right here, at harbour.

The mind of Ginard reviewed by mind all the ships arrived in Mataró harbour in the last weeks, as well as their patrons' names. His eyes opened wide, in a sudden expression of disbelief: --Don’t you mean that old rotten, stinky galley?

--Indeed. "Américo Vespucio" is the name she was given by the Spaniards.

--...A damn bad name for a corsair ship!

--You can choose a name for her at your will, if you believe such detail to be a problem.

Ginard was lost in his thoughts. He had not touched his soles yet. Young Mateu was eating his own meal, with the eyes absently stared at his own dish. Basset continued: --The General Deputation will provide for the galley oarsmen. Prisoners, of course. And a Valencian nobleman will look after the money for gathering crew, soldiers, weapons and supplies. Recruiting capable men will be your job. Balearic Islands may be the best place to find them. Toni, there’s no point for hidding to you one important fact: that Valencian noble family is the main driving force in this project. And they have their own interests. They will send some kind of... legate, or commisar... to join your crew. We must make whatever is possible to match these interests to our own war needings.

Ginard laughed heartily: --I'd have ever placed a bid about your relationship with Valencian nobility, Joan. If I know you well enough, I'd say you must have "swallowed a big toad" with this expedition --he still laughed for a while.

Basset didn’t feel himself patient enough to answer the ironic words of his friend: --War joins odd travel companions... It’s just a matter of pragmatism.

--I see... well. I'll have some conditions...

--Details are not my problem. You must talk about them with the Valencian legate. My role here is just to give the first push.

Ginard perceived Basset's tension, so he tried to soften a bit the situation. The early pro-Charles uprising in Valencian territory, leaded by Basset eight years ago, had bordered a true revolution. His political ideals were at the opposing pole of whatever intentions the Valentian nobility could conceive.

--I’m sure Mateu will find a better name for our galley. What do you think, Mateu? And wipe this smile off your face, boy. Nobody has told you I'm allowing a child like you in my galley.

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