Chloe Helton | Historical Fiction

The Red Pearl: Chapter 13

Chapter 13


I was chopping carrots when Jasper poked his head into the kitchen. “Your brother is here.”

Slowly, I lowered the knife, turning back to my husband. “Did he give a reason for his visit?” I had an idea, but I wanted to know what he’d told my brother.

He shrugged. “Just wanted to see you, I think. I didn’t know he was in the city.”

Most of the army had marched to Philadelphia, and common folk didn’t know that a few men had been retained in the area. I still wasn’t entirely clear why Jonathan was in Boston, but I assumed it was to help arm battleships and send imported supplies down south. Since the British had abandoned the city after the siege, most supplies came in through our port rather than New York, where a ship might fall into British hands. “I think he’s on leave. He doesn’t tell me much.” I wiped my hands on my apron. “He’ll probably want to come back here and help.” Jonathan was one of those men that couldn’t bear to keep his hands still.

“Well, he’s welcome to sit and have a drink or two with you,” Jasper said. “Just don’t get behind on your work.”

I smiled. “No, he’ll want to cook.”

I trotted out to the dining room, where my brother was hovering near a table, and ushered him into the kitchen. His eyes gleamed at the array of vegetables on the counter, and I saw him scanning for the spices.

“Stew tonight,” I said. “I’m chopping the carrots.”

Jonathan grabbed a knife from the rack and started peeling potatoes beside me as Jasper disappeared to tend the bar.

“You came just to visit?” I asked, knowing the answer. But he had seemed so reluctant to pass on my information - had he decided to do it after all? Perhaps he would give us a case or two of rum in gratitude. We sure could use it.

Jonathan glanced around, then in a low tone said, “We took the ship.”

Finishing one carrot, I slid the pieces aside and started on another. “And?”

“It wasn’t just rum.” Even lower, he continued, “Munitions, too.”

I froze. “Really?”

A subtle nod, and he finished sliding the blade under the skin of his current potato before reaching into his pocket. “I’ve written down a meeting time. The Pig’s Head, do you know it?”

I nodded. It was a pub a few streets down, and Betty and I used to meet there with Henry and Sam to have heated discussions over a round of drinks. Since that was well before I developed the tastes of a bartender’s wife, my wine at the Pig’s Head had usually been well-watered, whereas now I drank it almost straight.

“Meet there,” he said, handing me the paper, which said, “Tuesday, sunset.” That was a few days away.

I didn’t know why he had written it down rather than just telling me, but the handwriting didn’t look like his. Perhaps his captain had arranged it. I hoped I wasn’t meeting with the captain, but I figured if that were the case he would tell me, so I didn’t bother to ask.

Jonathan, whom I didn’t even know could tell the difference between cinnamon and nutmeg, started pouring the vegetables into the simmering broth and sprinkled an array of spices I couldn’t keep track of. “How did you learn all this?” I demanded.

He shrugged. “Eating soup every day gets boring unless you learn how to make it right.” I imagined him around the fire, shaking spices into his soup until it tasted like more than vegetable water. I had assumed the army wouldn’t provide luxuries such as spices, but perhaps I was wrong. Jonathan was quite vague about where he was quartered, so there were plenty of things I didn’t know.

Munitions. Clearly, they’d gotten lucky. Was that why Jonathan wanted to meet with me again? I wasn’t going to ask him any questions with Jasper and others in earshot, but perhaps he wanted more details about these men. I didn’t know if I could bear to give them.

Jasper returned to the kitchen, and after noticing his hair ribbon was coming undone, I stepped behind him to fix it. While I was re-gathering his hair into the knot, he said, “How’s the soup?”

“Jonathan has apparently learned how to make it perfectly,” I noted, tying the ribbon into a bow.

“Really?” Jasper glanced at my brother. “Well, we should taste it then.”

Jonathan dipped a spoon into the pot, blowing extensively on the broth before offering both me and my husband a mouthful.

“The potatoes aren’t done boiling,” my brother noted, tasting it for himself, “but the broth should be to taste.”

Jasper hummed as he swallowed it. “If only you had taught your sister such skill.”

I elbowed him lightly, although I agreed with him. Not that my cooking was bad, but it wasn’t this good, and I wished I could learn the dance of spices that would make people groan with delight. “I never knew he could cook.”

My brother smiled. “Everyone has their surprises.”