Short Stories

Bells and batons

A long time ago…

In a place far from here…

There was a girl. She’d been crewing a ship from Portsmouth to Belgium. The Schooner was called ‘The Mistake’ and she had asked the Captain why its name.

“Because of a mistake,” he’d said in a brash voice and although he had been wearing a white jumper and cotton slacks, the girl realised that she wouldn’t have been surprised if he had opened his answer with Argh. The Captain looked out of place in his clothes, almost as if his countenance cried out for a peg leg and great coat.

“What kind?” she asked.

“What’s your name?” The Captain countered, one eye partially shut against the sun.

“Eve,” she said with a sunny smile.

The Captain had scowled at her and jerked his head to the cabin. “Go stow your bag.”

Eve had blinked a moment, but under the glowering stare she found herself backing out of the bridge and scurrying down the stairs. She had thought this would be a new experience. To travel out to Belgium as part of the crew, and to get a crew certificate as she went. But she was concerned. Just before she put her bag into its locker she wondered if it were a good idea. But then this was probably the only time she could do this. Sighing she shoved her over-sized bag into the locker. Leaning on the door in order to close it.

That had been two weeks ago. They were now moored in Belgium and so far it had been a fine working holiday. She hadn’t had a conversation with the Captain, but she was enjoying herself.

Sitting on the side and waiting for the rest of the crew she noted that the Captain was talking to a dark swarthy guy on shore, the kind of man she expected him to talk to. The Captain nodded and the man gave his had a massive shake. Eve wondered what deal had been struck. A shiver of apprehension snaked its way up her back. The Captain walked back to the boat and stepped aboard.

“On deck!” he cried.

There was a scrabbling noise as the other nine crew members came from below. Eve turned so she could see him.

“As you are aware,” the Captain began. “Funds are a little low.”

Eve hadn’t been aware of this. She was fine for cash.

“So I have done a deal with the tavern.” He gestured to the pub on the shore. Eve looked over and noted that the picture depicted a sheep with a black fleece.

“We are to dance for our beer!” The Captain looked very pleased.

Eve frowned. “Dance?” she asked.


“What type?” another member asked.

“Morris,” the Captain said.

Eve sighed. She’d known that there was something up when two days ago they had pulled into a small harbour and the Captain had decided to ‘teach’ them a new skill. It had resulted in everyone shuffling around with sticks and the Captain yelling and getting redder in the face. Eve had been lucky to get away with bruised knuckles and a squashed toe.

The crew looked at the man in front of them and then at the ground. No one wanted to but then no one wanted to stand up to the Captain.

“Morris dancing?” Eve said, unable to believe it.

“Yes, and I have a surprise.”

Oh no, Eve thought.

The Captain reached into a storage box on the deck and rummaged around. They all heard it before they saw it, bells. He pulled out a selection of bells and handed them to the nearest crew member.

“Take two and pass them on.”

Everyone groaned but did what they were told to.

Eve was handed two which she held a by a ratty bit of string. The bells were a little rusty and tied onto the jute with what looked like garden twine.

“Put them around your ankles,” the Captain said.

Eve looked at him. “Where are yours?”

The Captain laughed. “I’m not doing it.”

And that was that. Eve found herself shuffling back and forth, tinkling all the way. The patrons of the pub poured out. Tourists appeared everywhere and the crowd grew. Eve ducked to avoid a baton and winced as a bell decked leg kicked her shin. All the time they smiled under the watchful eye of the Captain.

And at the end? A pitcher of cold beer was brought out, which the Captain shared.

“Did you enjoy that?” the growled at her.

“I will never forget it,” Eve mumbled into her glass, glad that her face no longer felt hot and as red as beetroot.

The Captain smiled and laughed. “Excellent.”

This post was inspired by the daily prompt – game of groans.

16 thoughts on “Bells and batons

  1. Greetings ! I have a question: what is the REAL name of that schooner?
    Does not appear to be the Bluenose as I do not see the Bluenose’ distinctive bow.

    1. I can’t remember the name of the schooner. This is a memoir and the character, Eve, is me. I don’t think I’ve ever been so embarrassed as when I danced with bells strapped to my ankles.

      1. Not to worry .. i think i figured it out. This is the Bluenose II – replica of the original.
        It’s all beautiful – whatever it may be. Love your story too !

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