The message arrived a short moment before, “Captain Avery wishes to see ye and yer first mate, miss.”
So with Sara Steele trotting alongside, I made haste to Captain Avery’s office. I entered the presence of that formidable old pirate with trepidation - what nearly impossible and completely dangerous task will he assign me?
Captain Avery greeted me with a sunny smile. (Barnacles! I thought, this is going to be bad!)
“Ah, Esperanza, I’m glad you’re here,” he said, grinning from ear to ear. “I have had some excellent news; as you know, ever since the treaty with Puerto Mico was signed, I have been trying to get official recognition of my pirate republic. Well, that day has finally arrived!”
He pulled a document from his waistcoat pocket and continued, “this notifies me that the Crown of Monquista is sending an Ambassador to Skull Island to establish friendly relations between our two countries.” he replaced the document. “So you see I must arrange an official reception for the arriving ambassador; that is where you come in, I will leave everything in your capable hands! Oh, by the way, you have three days to prepare something suitable.”
Stunned, I turned to go, when he said something that nearly dropped me in my tracks.
“You will, of course, attend the reception, so procure a ball gown.”
I returned home, collapsed into my favorite chair, placed my head in my hands and groaned aloud.
“Oh, just Avery being Avery,” Sarah explained the situation, “The new assignment won’t be hard, Captain. We’ll help you!”
“Aye,” agreed Bonnie Anne, “How hard can it be to plan a party?”
“Are ye out o’ yer mind, girl?” growled Ratbeard. “Don’t ye remember the party we planned fer that Eagilles feller?”
I pulled myself together and pounded the table with my fist.
“Now hear this! I will plan this reception, with your help, and it will be the best blasted party Skull Island has ever seen! I. Will. Not. Fail!!”
“Huzzah for the captain!” they all cheered.
The ensuing forty – eight hours passed by in a blur. Invitations were written and sent, supplies bought (I made sure there were receipts and an itemized account kept, Gracie Conrad was invaluable there, my math being rather shaky). Loads of bananas, batacuda steaks and casks of yum arrived and quickly filled the basement of my home. Bunting was sewn, thanks to the quick needles of Mustang Sally, Bonnie Anne and Nurse Quinn. I hired the services of Chef Motomori for the evening (at great expense, I might add). The thought of the old devil, er, gentleman, having to reimburse me made me feel a little better. Soon everything was ready and on the morning of the reception, I went to Avery’s office to make my report.
I entered and saluted him respectfully, “Everything is well in hand, sir. The carpenters will arrive shortly to put up the decorations; may I suggest that you remove all breakable objects while they are here? Flowers have been ordered from Puerto Mico, Catbeard himself will bring them. Oh, by the way, I assure you, pickled herring is not on the menu. All the invitations have been express delivered and I’m pleased to say, despite the short notice, everyone is coming. Musicians have been hired and an entertaining magic act direct from Port Regal will be performing. I believe that is all.”
“Well done, Esperanza, well done indeed! You have exceeded all my expectations. But I hear no mention of a ball gown? You can’t attend in your pirate togs, you know.”
I made a short bow to hide my face. “That, also, is well in hand, Captain Avery.”
I went home, grabbed my trusty cutlass and dagger and turned to leave.
“ ‘Ere now, where do ye think yer goin’?” demanded Ratbeard.
“To the Brawlin’ Hall! Maybe I can become sufficiently injured so as not to be able to attend that cursed reception!” I exclaimed, rather hysterically.
“Ye will not,” Bonnie Anne said, sternly, “Not after all the hard work we put into this! Now tell me, what is the trouble?”
I threw myself back into my chair, “That triple cursed ball gown! I don’t have one! And there’s not a bit of fabric left in Skull Island to make one! And you know it takes more than five hours to make a ball gown, or so I’ve heard.”
“Now, now don’t worry aboot it. Here, drink some calming tea and go up to your chamber to get some rest. Ye’ve hardly had a wink o’ sleep in two days.” Bonnie Anne soothed my ruffled nerves.
She was right, there was nothing I could do about it now. I would just have to attend in my best dress coat, and hope that would serve.
Unknown to me there was a plot afoot and this is what happened next.
While I was upstairs resting, Bonnie Anne gathered my crew together and explained the situation.
“Captain Avery will be disappointed, he may even punish our captain for failing to follow orders, he has a wee bit of a temper, ye know.”
They all nodded, glumly.
Ratbeard perked up, “Not a bit o’ material on the whole island, she says! Why, thar’s plenty of material in this very room!”
They looked at him as if he’d gone daft.
He pointed to the two large widows, “Look at ‘em, the best velvet this side o’ Valencia! And a deep green color that’ll bring out our cap’n’s eyes!”
“Hey, we can do it!” shouted Sarah, “WE can help our captain get her ball gown! You guys go into the market and find all the ribbons and lace available, I know we bought a lot, but there must be something left over!”
“Arr, one thing though,” groused Ratbeard, “Where will the gold come from? The Cap’n’s tapped out, an’ I don’t think the rest o’ us are too plump in the pockets, neither.”
“A simple gown would look best on the Captain,” said Mustang Sally, “and you won’t need much trim for it, in fact, we can take trim from one of my dresses and use that!”
I woke several hours later, when Bonnie Anne knocked on the door.
“Captain? It’s time to get up and prepare for the reception.”
“I’d rather face a platoon of Armada forces.”
“Oh, aye? Is that how you feel, then? Never mind, come and wash your face and brush your hair.”
“Where’s my dress coat?”
“On that chair, now come downstairs when you’re ready.”
I prepared myself as best I could; brushed down my coat and gave my hat a stylish tilt, and if Avery didn’t like it....well, I would be in a lot of trouble.
I came downstairs and entered the main room. My crew was standing at attention in front of the table.
“Surprise! Surprise!” They sang out as they moved away from the table.
And on the table was a large, lumpy package wrapped up in canvas. And inside the package was the most beautiful gown I ever saw! Well, before you could say Jack Robinson, I was up those stairs. Bonnie Anne, Sarah and Mustang Sally helped me dress and arrange my hair.
When I came downstairs, Ratbeard gave a low whistle.
“Cleans up nice, don’t she?” was his comment.
“It needs something more,” opined Catbeard, “She needs a flower.” he pulled a flower from behind his back, “I saved one out of the bouquets for you – a tiger lily. Let me put it in your hair.”
“The Captain needs an Honor Guard, as the Khans have in Mooshu.” said Subodai.
“Dats our cue den,” said Birgus, “You and me will be her guard.”
Needless to say, the night was a complete success, and I noticed that the wife of the Monquistan Ambassador was taking careful note of my gown, so maybe I will start a fashion trend.
Captain Avery came up to me, bowed and asked me to dance. As we were dancing, he commented.
“You have done very well, Esperanza and we have impressed the Monquistans with our resources. Now about that expense report...”
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