"You're silent as the last rat aboard, mate!" John
Cotton nudged the broad-shouldered young sailor next to him.
Gibbs only grunted in response.
"You can't spend every holiday a-mope over that Jenny-lass." John's
youthful, cleanshaven handsomeness was a contrast to the whiskery glower of
his best friend. They were both well-muscled from a life of constant hard
labor, but Cotton's form was more narrow-hipped Apollo to Josh's
barrel-chested Neptune. "C'mon! Have a bit of a Merry Yule, man. A New Year
dawns on the morrow: 1695. Only half a decade until the century mark!"
Joshamee gave no indication that he was listening.
"A gift. That's what you need! What say you to an exchange of gifts?" John
beamed at his own cleverness. "Don't you Scots have a gifting you do at
"Hogmanay," Gibbs' response was barely audible, "Ye ask yer mates fer the
thing ye wanted, an' Saint Nick dinnae bring ye." He did not point out for
the thousandth time that his family hadn't lived in Scotland in more than
five score years, not since Mary was Queen.
"Aye, that's just the thing, then!" John was nearly gleeful at the thought.
"Tell me what ye want, then, an' I'll give it to you if it's in my power to
Gibbs only swigged from his flask, for the hundredth time.
"And put down that swill. It only makes you worse, man!" John latched a
calloused hand onto the other man's drink, but Josh shrugged him away, stood
abruptly, and strode away.
"Wind in yer sails," he growled over his shoulder, surly.
John bounded after him, grabbed both shoulders, and swung him around. "Oh,
no you don't. You're not leaving, not until I've gotten my request.
And you know the saying; 'Tis better to give than t'receive."
Josh jutted out his chin. "What's it ye're wantin', then? I've nothin' fer
ye. Nobbut a penny an' a pinch fer th'pipe. An' ye've more of each of those
in yer own bag."
John swallowed, and reached for his courage, taking a quick swig from his
own flask at hand. "You have something I'm wanting, Josh."
"Ye know what's in me kit, John. I've naught ye want nor need!"
"I want to see you happy, Josh. I want to see some joy, shining in your
eyes, just for once."
"Now you're firing closer to the mark."
New Year's Day,
I hardly now how to begyn.
I beg ye, [smudged, indecipherable]. I swear it was nobbut oncet, just a
singel tyme, last eve. An I were fair in me cups.
Forgyve me. T'was no thing. An act of the body only, and not one of the
soul, nor the heart itself. I care for ye only, love ye [smudged]. John is a
worthy frend and a fair mate, [smudged] much in the ways of joys and sorrows
these past years but honest t'was only that he askt it as a gift fer
Hogmanay in the spirit of the Yule, and I [smudged, blots].
I hav ronged ye, an I only hope that me transgress can be overlooked in the
fog of drink and holiday.
Jesu Christ, they could hang us for this, as well. Keep mum, aye? An say
nawt to yer brothers.
adoring an abject servent,