He shook his head. "No, I'll just grab something and take my supper in here." He jerked his head at Sylvie. "I feel I should look after her."
Sebastien seemed to agree. "Why don't we all take our supper in here then?"
"That's a good idea."
Laurent broke in. "Why can't she just eat with us?"
Sebastien looked at him as though he were daft. "If you were a pretty young lady that no one had ever met before, would you want to go meet them while they're getting drunk?"
Laurent didn't seem to have a great capacity for empathy. "I don't know," he shrugged.
Jacques grinned at Sebastien. "If only we could make it happen—turn him into a girl and throw him in there."
"He might develop some empathy."
They laughed and seemed to agree that everyone except Laurent would come back and keep Sylvie company. "Oh, Sylvie," Jacques called over his shoulder, just before they'd stepped out, "is there anything that you don't eat? Anything to which you're allergic?"
"Don't bring me any lamb," she said. She had made it this far in one piece. She would pray the same for that filthy, scrawny sheep whose chances at surviving were looking less good than her own now, but whose chances of having dignity and virtue when she was slaughtered Sylvie still believed to be more promising. Warily, she brushed her hand across Jacques's hammock, something she'd dared not do before. Then she looked across the empty cabin with fixed eyes and muttered, "God help me."
Supper was fish and rice. "Don't become spoiled," said Sebastien. "Once we reach the high seas, this luxurious food will run out, and we'll be back to dried meat."
She was going to laugh at his joke, but by the look on his rugged face, she wasn't absolutely certain he had made one. She ventured a glance at her "luxurious food": overcooked, rubbery fish that hadn't been thoroughly skinned, and a plate frill of very starchy rice. "Well, I'll enjoy it while I can," she announced, forcing a grand smile accompanied by a spasm of fluttering blinks.
The cabin was still empty. A few men had wandered in to change clothes and leave again, but most had gone directly to supper. The ones who had come in had eyed Sylvie most disrespectfully, but Sebastien had been quick to say, "Stop staring. She belongs to Jacques." And Sylvie had been allowed peace.
*1 was afraid we wouldn't see you again," Sebastien said to Jacques, now that the cabin was quiet. "When that pig pirate hunter caught you, I thought you were finished."
"So did I," said Jacques between ravenous bites. Like the others, he was sitting on the splintered floor, eating with his hands.
"My heart nearly stopped," said Francois, a rather quiet member of their crew, a young man with a chestnut beard so long, it made him look much older than he was. "I saw you go into the merchant's and I was about to catch you when that huge man followed behind. I could just tell by the look of him that he was the Law."
"They always have that fixed stare, don't they?" asked Sebastien. "As though glancing around and looking about would make their eyes bleed."
As she picked at her fish, Sylvie had the strangest sensation that she was being watched. She looked up and saw Jacques's eyes fixed on her. At first, she didn't know why. But then she remembered. He had seen her with Jervais. He knew that she knew him, and in this room, that made her guilty of something. She wasn't sure what. Jacques released her from his stare with a sudden move of the eyes. "I think he was looking for me specifically," he told his friends. "I think it wasn't by chance that I'm the one who got nabbed."
"Why?" seemed the obvious question.
Jacques shrugged. "I'm thinking it's something to do with Blanchet."
For some reason unfathomable to Sylvie, that made all of his friends fall silent. It was as though he had muttered an unholy curse. Sebastien touched Jacques's arm in a manner of self-conscious camaraderie, something between a