16 August, 2016 by katelaity
‘It indeed provides an accurate and convincing argument,’ Tansy said, taking the measuring tape back from the hands of the good doctor, his fingers brushing the silver with familiarity and affection. ‘Many a doubter has been silenced where its authority commands.’
Rae leaned back into the fur-covered chair and nodded slowly. ‘I should have liked indeed to carry such an instrument with me on my first journey to the Bay—or even any of them afterward. I saw many things that few believed, much to my irritation and dismay.’ He spread his arms wide with a grin. ‘That is why you find me in such humble circumstances.’
‘Was your travel not rewarded?’ Tansy asked, his brow furrowed with concern. It gave me pause as well for I wondered at times what our own adventure would amount to given the unimaginative response we had from so many we met along the way.
‘It might be fair to say that my travel was rewarded, though the coin was often scorn and derision.’ Despite his words, the doctor looked amused.
‘I cannot understand that,’ I confessed. ‘Were there not riches aplenty, like that fur you have on your chair? I should think they would be plenty of money for such goods, the richness of which we certainly do not have in this tamed land.’
‘Ah, but the furs are not all I brought back—when I came back at last.’
‘At last?’ Tansy repeated. ‘You were delayed in your return?’
Rae smiled and sipped more of the fine whisky. ‘That would be one way of putting it. I sailed away to Hudson Bay to stay for a year. I stayed ten.’
‘Ten!’ Tansy and I barked in unison.
Rae chuckled. ‘It was not really my intention, it just ended up happening. The way these things do. Having no pressing demands upon me, I was happy enough to follow my whims and the vagaries of fate.’
‘But how did it come about?’
‘Like many expected turns in life it all happened without much fanfare. One makes a decision without seeing the myriad repercussions beyond the immediate choice—one hardly expects the eventual outcome.’
‘Whether it is ten years in the Hudson Bay or drinking whisky in Orkney,’ I murmured, hardly aware I spoke.
‘Indeed,’ Rae nodded, taking up his pipe. ‘It all began with the cat, I suppose.’
‘The captain’s cat that went missing?’ Tansy, always the eager pupil, retained details with surprising accuracy.
‘You are correct. You see the captain of The Prince of Wales like so many ship captains had his particular beliefs that were not to be questioned.’
‘Captains can be intimidating and imperious,’ I said, thinking of our friend in Penzance.
‘Do not interrupt so much,’ Tansy scolded. ‘We shall never get to Hudson Bay if you continue thus.’
Chastened, I helped myself to more cake and remained silent while the doctor took up his tale once more.
‘The cat was named Vinegar and she had an extraordinarily long tail and polydactyl feet.’ Obviously seeing my questioning look although my mouth was safely stuffed with cake, he smiled and explained, ‘That meant she had a few extra toes, which sailors always consider to be ideal for seafaring cats. Gives them stability. The extra long tail, however, was unusual and in part led to what happened onboard the ship in the middle of the Atlantic, when we were at our most vulnerable.’