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The Empress Gang, or the Further Voyages of a Learned Naval Penguin

Players were obliged to use one to three of the following words and phrases, in order:
diphthong penguin risible déjà-vu dragoman erinaceous grog obnubilate defenestrate earwig inspissated gaberlunzie lollygag mawkish ragamuffin scuttlebutt eructation pantaloons lackadaisical hussy fribbles pragmatical debauched shrewish "galvanised manatee" villainous "hellish procrastinators" lubricious mewling fretful tubular frowsty concupiscence

The Game

"PhD in Goth dubiously changes from one sound to another," said Admiral Jack Aubrey, not asking, merely thinking out loud. "Nine letters, ends in G."

"Shall I pour you another pot, my dear?" replied Doctor Maturin, while doing so. "It goes down gratefully after so many days of little but cold soup and warm grog. DIPHTHONG."

Six days of a hard, cruel blow, the cold snapping at fingers and gnawing at feet. On the seventh day the starboard watch had emerged groggily to be greeted by an eerie calm and a sort of a dawn. The sea was flat and silver, like that platter on which it is said good things are handed to the undeserving. The rim of that platter was scalloped here and there by the crowns of ice mountains, in contemplation of which the watcher on the forecastle was lost for some time, until:

"On deck, there," roared the lookout. "Sail ho, fine on the larboard bow."

Jack came on deck to find the other vessel quite surprisingly near. A hoist of signals made its leisurely way up, spelling out C-A-L-L-I. The next flag hesitated, came down, went up again, the halliard appearing to jam halfway. "It clears, sir... another flag... smiley face... shrug... WTF... TTFN..."

There broke out aboard Surprise what Maturin as a medical man could only describe as an epidemic of chuckling. "Ha ha," said Jack, beaming. "She is the dear old Calli Pie! I have not heard of her this past age. Desire her captain to come aboard, Tom, and let's see what she has been up to."

"Many in the service believe," said Jack to Stephen, "that the naming of HMS Callipygous was a piece of retirement-eve whimsy by the outgoing occupant of the Names and Figureheads desk at the Admiralty. Others say that he had already started the paperwork to name her Calliope before remembering that His Majesty already owned a vessel by that name. Whatever the explanation, she has never been a popular berth."

Indeed, no sea could be too remote or too sparsely tenanted for her officers and crew. The figurehead which now came alongside, carved by a literal-minded shipwright, completed the humiliation.

"While patrolling in the high latitudes we heard tell of an emperor PENGUIN in a land far to the south," said Captain Kaminski, now installed in the great cabin with a glass of sillery. Jack had a distant connexion to Kaminski through their shared equine interests, though they had not met since the DressageGate scandal of 18__ and the captain's subsequent reassignment. From the fo'c'sle came the distant cries "What ho, the bumboat!" and "Rear Admiral sends his compliments," each followed by a burst of ribald laughter. Captain Kaminski sighed.

"So some penguin has set himself up to rule his fellows," said Stephen. "It is monstrous, Jack. It is squalid tyranny and infamous oppression. We must act at once. We must

free the subjected penguins from their Bonapartist overlord."
"But Stephen, Captain Kaminski has very little intelligence about the realm of penguins in the far south." said the admiral.
Captain Kaminski bridled at this RISIBLE insinuation, "Sir, do not take me for a simpleton, of course I have intelligence, I just am not clear exactly where this penguin is located."
"Do not dance around the head of the pin, Jack," replied Stephen, "our duty is clear as the sky above."
"I am no angel," replied Jack, "but I do like to have a look before leaping from the frying pan into the bed I have made."
Just then they heard a cry from the quarterdeck "Dark squalls approaching , brail up the courses and reef the topsails." The light in the cabin faded as clouds spread rapidly across the heavens, dark streamers indicating that another strong blow was approaching.
Captain Kaminski immediately asked permission to go back to Callipygous before the seas became too rough for the gig to weather the waves. As he left, he asked "Do you have a sense of DÉJÀ-VU with this storm rising?"
"Never in life," replied the admiral, "Tom Pullings, you will discuss with the ship's DRAGOMAN whether his dragon, Indefatigable, can fly through this breeze to seek out the penguin's lair."
"I believe that is Dragonman, not dragoman, Sir" responded Captain Pullings. "He is very particular about his position and his dragon is even more prickly."

"Well, that would be explained by the fact that dragons are in fact some kind of hedgehog, or so the doctor tells me. And anyway, I would be prickly, too, if I were asked to fly out into this freezing cold, and me a creature of heat and fire. But nevertheless, please consult the Dragonman about what can be done."
The Admiral returned to the cabin, where his friend had already half emptied yet another pot of coffee. Jack hastened to fill his cup with what was left before it could get cold, when Captain Pullings entered.
"The Dragonman claims that his dragon is perfectly suited to flying even in this inclement weather and will send him off directly," he reported. Then he turned to Stephen and asked:
"Doctor, is a dragon really nothing but a sort of hedgehog? I can scarcely credit it."
"It is not a hedgehog as such," replied Maturin, "but it was claimed by the eminent Flemish natural philosopher Jonk van Mannekenpis that dragons are descended from the extinct ERINACEOUS megafauna which inhabited these parts long ago. He explored the great southern continent and made some remarkable discoveries. Unfortunately by the time he returned from his exploration, he had gone quite mad, and nobody knows which of his recorded observations were made with the unbiased eye of the philosopher and which were tainted by the fancies of an unstable mind."
"Were they not perhaps tainted by too much GROG?" Jack asked with a laugh. "The Dutch are famous for their drinking, you know."
"It is true that van Mannekenpis was prone to OBNUBILATE his mind with Genever, but that was after his return. Something he had seen had unsettled him, so that he preferred to be out of his mind on drink rather than having to remember it.
I look forward to hearing with what information the dragon comes back," Stephen added. " Don't you think it is incumbent on us to land on this southern continent and explore it more thoroughly? Surely that is the only way to deal with this monstrous penguin?"
But the admiral wasn't listening.

Indeed, Jack was staring at the window of the great cabin, where a very large golden eye was looking in with an apologetic air. "Excuse me, Admiral, might I have a word?" a deep voice rumbled through the closed window. "I am very sorry to interrupt you, but It is a matter of some urgency."

Jack was not quite used to sailing on a dragonship yet, and having the stern occupied by a very large and talkative flying serpent with a propensity for looking through gun ports to watch the crew at their leisure (in the first week of their voyage, fortunately in warmer waters, causing three men to DEFENESTRATE themselves in fear, only to be retrieved from the waves by the cause of their abrupt departures) was nothing his extensive naval career had prepared him for. However, he had found Indefatigable to be a mostly genial addition to the crew, not to mention a stimulating conversationalist.

Recovering himself, Jack replied, "I shall be on deck shortly." The eye withdrew upwards.

Stephen grumbled, "Was that infernal hedgehog acting the EARWIG and listening in on our private talk? I do not trust him, the creature."

"Nonsense, my dear, I am sure he is most trustworthy. And have I not observed you in lengthy conversation with him and his lieutenant?"

"I fear his loyalties might lie with that Buonapartist penguin. Is he not indeed of French origin, not to mention a rare talking inhuman creature, as is the penguin?"

"True, his egg was confiscated from a French ship of the line, the 'Mal de Mer', but he was not yet hatched, or so his file tells me. He emerged at sea on the brave 'Lepus'." Jack's face lightened. "Eggs! Killick! Killick, there! Breakfast!"

Jack's steward stumped into the cabin bearing a platter of an INSPISSATED mess. "Which they've been ready an hour past, and now ruined. And there ain't no more today, the hens bein' right off their feed with that there serpent right outside their coop. Jemmy Ducks ain't happy, nor is the goat."

Jack and Stephen nonetheless made quick work of the cold, congealed mess, as well as a rack of toast, slightly unsavoury sausages, and another pot of coffee. Finally, Jack pushed back his chair. "I must see what is so urgent with Indefatigable. Shall you come with me, if nothing more than to put your fears to rest?"

"I shall be on deck to observe the ice mountains. The hedgehog is incapable of whispering, so no doubt I will learn all about it. It is a small ship, sure."

"Feathers McGraw, that tyrant of penguins, is assembling sphenisciformes of all species on the edge of a great, ice-filled southern continent!" boomed Indefatigable. "I know not why. I flew low enough to hear him call me a 'thrawn, ill-feckit GABERLUNZIE before he persuaded his companions to lob snowballs at me, shouting 'awa' ye wombly boggert'. I thought it prudent to retreat and flew back to the Surprise."

Jack was not one to LOLLYGAG, whatever he was doing, but he was in a sad state of indecision. He turned to Captain Kaminski, who had also come on deck, and said in a low, troubled voice: "I must confess that I am at a loss, wholly at a loss. It is our clear duty to put an end to McGraw's capers, but I fear for Surprise and Callipygous in the highest latitudes. I do not wish to sound MAWKISH, but being trapped in sea ice would be a sad end for us all."

"Never trouble yourself," replied Kaminski. "My First Lieutenant, Bornemann, has

expert skills in fending off ice boulders, skills developed during a childhood spent sailing with her cousins around Verwüstung Insel, a popular holiday destination in the German Ocean. Bornemann shall instruct your crew in these techniques, known to every infant and RAGAMUFFIN in Saxony as Urlaubeisbergabwehrenkompetenzen.

The Surprises came to curse the compound-German-word-meaning-holiday-iceberg-fending-skills, for the lieutenant proved to a hard-horse, a right Tartar, mate. Still, some days later, as an unknown land spanning the southern horizon hove into view, a delighted Bornemann was able to announce that the larboard watch had fended off three ice boulders in exactly five minutes, a new record for the barky.

Admiral Aubrey received the news with satisfaction as he paced the quarterdeck in company with Stephen. "You would not want me to play the informer, I'm sure, but the SCUTTLEBUTT at Royal Windsor was that Kaminski vaulted the fence, sprinted across the arena, and threw herself at Major Hemsworth, knocking him clean off Lady of Asgard. He never..."

"Jack!" cried Stephen, looking over the taffrail at a great disturbance on the ocean's surface. "There is a visible ERUCTATION forming!"

Alarmed, Jack glanced hastily down at his

PANTALOONS, fortunately he was wearing his brown ones, used for more fearsome days. He raised his eyes and gazed at the growing disturbance in the sea astern of Surprise. Suddenly a large aviform head appeared. Followed rapidly by about twenty others of similar size. They swam in a LACKADAISICAL manner, bobbing up and then suddenly speeding up and launching themselves from the sea before splashing down into the deep.
"Can it be that Feathers McGraw has sent an embassy to negotiate with us?" he mused. "Stephen, I know you have knowledge of many languages, can you by any chance speak Penguin?"
"Not even pidgin," replied Stephen, "but I can whistle a nice lark song."
The swimming birds continued to erupt from the water like frolicking porpoises but showed no hostile intent, neither did they approach Surprise.
After the watch bell had been rung twice, the penguins, for such they were, started to slowly move towards the icy shore visible in the distance.
"Sir, shall we follow them in?" asked Captain Pullings. "Yes" replied the admiral. "I believe we will need to see if we can establish what they want. But keep a sharp watch out for more ice boulders and also as we near the coast have some leadsmen in the chains to determine the depth."
Gradually the Surprise and her consort Callipygous closed with the land, still fending off the occasional ice bolder under Lieutenant Bornemann's expert instruction, following the still frolicking sprightly penguins. Details on shore became clearer, rocks, snow and ice dotted here and there with large groups of black and white upright birds.
"Fifteen fathoms with this line." One of the leadsmen called. "Sandy bottom with shells."
"Prepare to anchor," called the junior lieutenant of the watch, a colonial man by the name of Burnfield, "Cast off the best bower and free the cable from the bitts."
The two ships brailed up their topsails to reduce way and coasted slowly on as the men prepared to release the anchor. They rounded up into the wind and "Let go the anchor. " cried Lieutenant Burnfield.
With a rush the anchor dropped into the water and the cable started streaming out of the hawse holes.
The penguins seemed startled by the splash and...

ran a short distance inshore. But soon they stopped again and watched as Jack assembled his coxswain and the crew for his boat.
"I think it would be best if you and the dragonman came ashore as well," he said to the dragon, which readily assented. And there was of course no way of stopping the doctor from coming as well. A remote shore, possibly teeming with nondescript lifeforms, was too much of a temptation to be resisted.
The ship had anchored fairly close to the shore, and in no time Jack and his men were clambering up the gentle slope, which was nonetheless slippery with patches of snow. As they advanced on the penguins, the penguins retreated, always keeping the same sort of distance. Jack asked Indefatigable to fly ahead. He had no desire of coming into Feathers McGraw's presence unexpectedly. There was something unnerving in the way the penguins seemed to lead them on – silently, apart from the occasional squawk. Indefatigable flew off, but did not return. Jack had expected a report, some advance warning of what they were moving towards, but now he thought to himself: "Was Stephen right, and we can't trust him? Has he indeed made common cause with the monstrous penguin?"
The crew had been following the penguins up a hill, and as they reached the top, they saw before them a plain and in the distance another hill. What made them stop in their tracks, though, was the sight that presented itself: on top of the hill stood what was no doubt the huge emperor penguin, Feathers McGraw. And circling above, round and round, was Indefatigable. What was even more curious were the movements of the penguin. It seemed to be engaged in a sort of dance, waving its wings and bending from side to side.
"What is he doing?" the Admiral asked. Stephen, who had borrowed a small telescope from Lieutenant Burnfield to get a better look, answered: "There is only one explanation I can think of: it is a mating display, to be sure."
Burnfield gaped in astonishment as the implications of the doctor's assertion sank in. But then he burst out:
"Feathers McGraw is a female! And she's trying to seduce the dragon – the HUSSY!"

Jack and his entire party were stunned. "An Empress penguin!" Jack exclaimed. "Is there something in Southern seas that encourages the female to seize power? Think of Queen Puolani of Moahu! Or those other—ladies." He blushed to remember his encounter with the redoubtable pahi sailors.

The dragonman exclaimed, "We must stop this, sir! She is corrupting my dragon! He is strong but he is also an innocent! Why, he has never even met a female of his own species! This nepharious penguin's FRIBBLES will be his undoing!"

"Forward, men!" Jack shouted, pulling his pistol from his waistband. "Let us confront this monstrous temptress in her lair!" and with that, he ran forward as fast as his sea legs could carry him, followed closely by the landing party.

They labored up the steep hill that was Feathers McGraw's throne, finally drawing to a halt panting in front of her. The enormous penguin ignored them completely, but continued her sinuous gyrations and wing flapping. Jack brandished his pistol and glared heroically at her. No reaction. :Hey!" he bellowed.

Still nothing. Feathers McGraw warbled a hoarse but somehow melodious song, not unlike the doctor when he was deep in his cups.

Jack lowered the pistol, momentarily stymied at this development. Then he cleared his throat and said, "Um, Your Highness? Excellency? Mistress McGraw? A word?"

This was too much for the dragonman. He jumped forward and yelled at the top of his lungs, "LEAVE MY DRAGON ALONE, YOU FEATHERED, SARDINE-EATING JEZEBEL!!"

At that the statuesque penguin ceased her terpsichorean efforts and stared coldly at the men, red eyes blazing. "How dare you interrupt me, you silly little men?" She gestured to the circling dragon. Indefatigable let forth a throaty rumble and performed a particularly intricate aerial gyration, then continued his circling. "Can you not see that we witness a miracle? The Great Bird of the Galaxy has sent me a worthy mate who will ensure the triumph of penguindom! Behold!" Her slender and useless wing pointed at the magnificent dragon above. "Together we will found the immortal dynasty of PENGUINS THAT FLY!"

"I hate to dampen your ardour," broke in Stephen, "but the thing is materially impossible. Being of different animal classes, your love can never be fruitful."

"Awa' wi' ye, ye PRAGMATICAL numpty," replied McGraw, lapsing back into her native Scots. Until that point, she had been trying very hard to speak entirely in received pronunciation; she had so wished to impress her flying beau.

"I hope that you will put an end to this infernal display," added the dragonman. "To think that you would have DEBAUCHED dear Indefatigable."

Feathers stilled herself and let her wings drop limply to her side. In an unnaturally meek voice, she said

"Aye, weel..."—then, with a SHREWISH cry—"SEIZE HIM!"

Two hench-penguins, one to either side of Jack, seized his arms and pushed him forward, knocking his hat to the ground.

* * *

The captain of marines of the Callipygous ran through a strangely deserted belowdecks, strategically ducking every second step, till a clinking sound brought him to the door of the armory. "Quick man, where is my hammer?" he said. Polduck, the Surprise's entrepreneurial armorer, looked up from his work and shook his head. "We been backed up, sir, what with the commemorative silver-plated tooth mugs, and if I don't get this here GALVANISED MANATEE finished for the Doctor there'll be Hell to pay."

The captain swarmed up to the deck and over the rail, pausing only to grab an enormous joint of pork that the beating to quarters had caused to be abandoned in the galley.

* * *

Jack said, "Do you expect me to talk?" Feathers, laughing, replied: "No Mr, err, Blond, I expect you to die!"

The shore party prepared to make a last stand. At that moment, a tall figure could been seen bounding athletically up the slope. He looks so familiar, thought Jack, though I can't place him. My height, fair hair, ruddy faced, blue eyes, ruggedly handsome in a weatherbeaten way some might say... perhaps needs to forgo the second slice of duff for bit...

"Unhand the Admiral, vile fish-birds!" shouted Hemsworth, for it was he.

"How are you going to make me?" sneered Feathers.

In reply, Hemsworth reached under his red jacket and flung his mighty ham, stunning the emperor and knocking her off the rocky eminence. Jack shook off his gaping captors and

shouted "Take that you VILLAINOUS harridan" before beating a hasty retreat to join the rest of his beleaguered landing party. "Hemsworth, well done, Sir, I admire your skill with the ham. Now, pray let us make a tactical withdrawal to our boats."

The startled minion penguins were gathered around their fallen empress trying to revive her, but this was difficult as they had only flipper like wings to fan her and could not bring any other restorative except regurgitated fish to revive her.

Doctor Maturin was gathering his medical case to go and offer his assistance but the admiral told two burly sailors to pick him up and bodily carry him off to the boats with the rest of the party. They safely pushed off from the shore and found that all the penguins were still milling around the slowly recovering empress, staring stupidly after the retreating boats.
"A good thing that they are HELLISH PROCRASTINATORS," muttered Jack. "Back to the ships and perhaps we should beat to quarters".
The ship's company alerted by the approach of the admiral quickly assembled to offer him the usual honours as he boarded, including the twitter of the bosun's pipes. Jack clambered up the side and saluted as he stepped on to the deck.
"Captain Pullings," he said, "Let us beat to quarters and prepare to repel birders."
"Certainly, sir." replied the good captain and turning to the officer of the watch

he commanded: "Prepare the vats!"
"Aye aye, sir!" the officer replied and passed the command on in turn.
The watch kept a steady eye on the penguins, but, procrastinators that they were, they were not yet approaching the ship in any way. The crew had plenty of time, therefore, to heat the fat in the vat, as the captain had commanded, and distribute it evenly over the planking to render their condition so LUBRICIOUS as to prevent anyone or anything from coming up the side unless those on board allowed them to. The watch turned their attention back to island of the penguins, were some of them could now be seem launching themselves into the water. They were still a long way off, but presently a low, MEWLING. sound could be heard from the other side of the ship. It was like a low mumble in a rather disagreeable voice, occasionally rising to a shrill indignance before subsiding again. Captain Pullings, who had been subconsciously aware of this noise for some time, now turned his full attention to it. Lieutenant Burnfield was leaning over the side, apparently talking to someone in the water below. And when Pullings himself leaned over, he was astonished to see the doctor by himself in a boat, arguing with the officer and occasionally making feeble attempts to board.
"What is going on?" he demanded.
"Sir," the lieutenant reported, "the doctor somehow managed to get the boat into the water, and himself into the boat, no doubt intending to sneak off to the penguin island. But now he is demanding to be let on board again, to fetch his portable booth – you know, the one he uses for the secretive observation of birds. But since the Admirals orders were to repel birders, I perceived it to be my duty to keep him where he is."
Pullings scratched his head. Something seemed to have gone awry somewhere in the chain of command. Whatever it was, where the doctor was concerned, the normal rules didn't apply anyway.
"Leave it to me, lieutenant, and see that the greasing operation is completed," he commanded. "Aye aye sir," replied Burnfield and moved away.
Pullings let a rope ladder down the side, asking the doctor to clap onto it and pulling it up again – he did not trust the doctor's climbing abilities, and Maturin's mumbling turned rather FRETFUL at this point. After directing two seamen to see to the boat, he led Maturin below, made him sit down in his cabin and then asked:
"What were you about, doctor? I know you were trying to return to the island, but what were you trying to achieve there? You would have been kidnapped by those penguins, and then where would we be?"
"Well, it occurred to me that we don't even know yet what we are dealing with. There has been no observation, no examination of the phenomenon that is this monstrous penguin. Where did it come from? How did it grow into what it is? Is it something about the atmosphere of the island, a noxious miasma, a contamination in the water, or something else? Only a close observation of the penguins' habits is going to furnish us with an answer, and can point us to a successful course of action."
Pullings hesitated. There was certainly something in what Maturin was saying. He himself had noticed the strange hold which the Empress seemed to have over Indefatigable. The dragonman had only been able to coax him away with considerable efforts.
These considerations would have to wait until later, though. For now

...Captain Pullings could but ready his ship for a possible boarding attempt by hordes of angry avians.

As Pullings stood to resume his duties on the deck, Maturin raised a hand to stay him. "What, pray tell, is the point of anointing the ship with grease? It seems a ridiculous effort."

Patiently, Pullings said, "Did you not notice the difficulty you had in coming back aboard, Doctor? It is to make boarding from the sea difficult, if not impossible. It is a common practice."

"What stuff!" Maturin exclaimed. "Are we facing Barbary pirates, to be foiled by such a ruse? Have you never sailed these latitudes before? Have you never watched penguins and other denizens of the icy waters leap out of the water and slither upward to land? Why, you have prepared a smooth entry for these obstreperous birds!"

At that moment, the cry "Penguin, ho!" rang out from the masthead. Pullings and Maturin both leapt to their feet and clambered (one gracefully, one not so much) to the deck. "Where away?" called Pullings.
"A cable's length off the starboard bow!" bellowed the lookout, pointing for good measure. Pullings peered into the waters, and sure enough, the wavery image of an enormous, TUBULAR black and white body flashing towards the ship was visible.

"Prepare to repel boarders!!" he called. "Someone fetch the Admiral!" There was a confusing as men ran to get whatever weapons were to hand. Pullings loosened the sword in his scabbard.

The monstrous penguin was picking up speed, swimming so swiftly it was if she had been launched from a cannon. And then, in an explosion of water, she burst out of the sea, slithered right up the greased side, and landed with an inelegant thump on the deck. She was instantly surrounded by the men brandishing marlinspikes, cutlasses, and even capstan bars.
The Empress penguin drew herself up to her full, not inconsiderable height. Below in the water, her minions circled while squawking disconsolately. Every so often came a 'thunk!' from the hull followed by a splash as one attempted to emulate his Empress without success. From the stern, Indefatigable could be heard humming what sounded very much like a love ballad rendered on a leaky bagpipe.

Jack finally appeared, surreptitiously tucking his shirt tails into his breeches (followed closely by Killick holding out the Admiral's next-best coat) as he strode forward out of the FROWSTY atmosphere of below decks to face the penguin. "Madam, what is the meaning of this? Have you come to surrender?"

"No, never!" She exclaimed. "Well, perhaps 'surrender' is not quite the correct word."

"What might be the correct term, then?" Jack inquired.

The massive penguin sighed. "To be perfectly honest, I'm quite bored. Ruling over thousands of loyal, but inarticulate and uninteresting subjects has grown stale." She raised her flippers in a gesture that seemed to encompass the world. "I want more from life!" She looked back at her icy kingdom. "It took but one night's consideration to realize that you could free me from all this."

Doctor Maturin stepped forward. "Are there no other penguins of your kind, then? I have seen only the ordinary sorts amongst your subjects."

"Alas, none of my subjects are cursed with the power of speech and philosophical thought, let alone my impressive size."

"And how came you to be so different?"

She sighed again. "It all started when I was very young. I was captured by a ship and imprisoned with a dozen of my fellows, no doubt to serve eventually as supper. But before they could carry out their intentions, the ship visited a remote port where the weather was quite warm, and well, I was bitten by a spider that came aboard hidden in some kind of fruit."

Feathers McGraw was a naturally communicative bird, yet for many a year her only audience had been her dumb subjects, and now she talked with an almost alarming volubility. How, after the spider had bitten her, she had grown and grown and gradually begun to understand the speech of the crew. At the horrible moment when their Jemmy Ducks had approached her with a cleaver, language had burst forth from her beak and she had pleaded for her life.

She had been put in the care of the schoolmaster, a Scot. He had used to write speeches for the member for Selkirkshire, but an over-fondness for the products of his native distilleries had obliged him to take to sea. He had taught her to read and discovered that she had prodigious powers of recall – why, she could recite the entirety of Dr Johnson's dictionary, should they wish. After a long voyage, she had escaped in southern latitudes after she overheard scraps of conversation on the lower deck about exhibits at St Bartholomew's Fair and the undoubtedly crowd-pleasing nature of educated seabirds. She had been stuck here with her minions ever since. She regretted the incident with the dragon extremely and begged them to let her join them.

"I should be very happy, more than happy, to offer you a role on board," replied Jack. "Our squeakers absolutely wallow in ignorance and it seems that there is much that you could teach them."

The penguin positively simpered in response and would have blushed if she could.

"But there is to be no CONCUPISCENCE; no ill behaviour with Indefatigable."

"I will be a fully-fledged schoolma'am, Admiral, if you will excuse the pun."



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