This is not a BE story, so if that's all you're interested in, don't waste your precious time reading it. A word of warning, the story departs from Axolotl's usual carefree style in places. There are some unpleasant aspects. It is a parody and a fantasy. After all, ships' Captains have traditionally had extreme difficulty determining the gender of their cabin boys.
But although it isn't strictly BE, be assured that this cabin boy's breasts are quite quickly becoming two of her most outstanding features. To the writer's knowledge, there was no frigate called Salamandre in either the French or the British Navy. But you mustn't expect research in even the most superior brand of smut.
"Quick m'lady. Your hair!"
Catherine gasped. "What are you doing?" Mary-Ann seized a fistful of the fair locks. There was a long knife in her hand. "Ow-oww! No! Stop it!"
"It has to be done. Beggin' yer pardon m'lady. It grieves me, but 'tis your only chance." The knife was sawing, hacking at her hair. A handful of it had gone already, tossed over the side of the boat where the waves slapped and sloshed. Another handful, tugging and tearing at her scalp. Mary-Ann's eyes were full of tears. "'Tis so beautiful. Yet I must chop it off. M'lady, forgive me!"
Catherine's hands went to her rough-shorn head. Her hair floated away on the current. She was left with an unevenly cropped mess of stubble. "Why? Mary-Ann, why?"
Mary-Ann said nothing, but thrust aside the blanket she wore round her own shoulders and tore off her coarse flannel shirt. "Now, you must don this shirt, m'lady. 'Tis nearly clean. Take off your gown, it will be but a poor fit on me, but t'will serve. The mat'loes'll not be too fussed about our gowns once they get us below. Please, lady. You must hurry!"
Mary-Ann already had the shirt off. Her fat breasts were startlingly white in the fading daylight. Catherine wanted to turn her eyes away. Her fingers fumbled at the neck of her blue silk gown. It was salt-stained and wringing wet all round the hem and it clung damply to her thighs like a shroud, but Mary-Ann was insisting that she get it off. "Why?" she repeated forlornly.
"You'll wear the shirt, m'lady. And the britches. Sal, get yer britches off, girl! The lady has need of 'em." Up at the other end of the boat, the serving wench was crying bitterly, but she tugged the britches down her skinny legs and handed them to Mary-Ann. The maid's face was ashamed as she handed them to Catherine. "She's pissed in them, m'lady, beggin' your pardon. But you must wear them. 'Tis your only chance."
It was a nightmare. Surely she would wake up soon. The silk rustled and all light was extinguished as Mary-Ann helped her off with the gown. Her nipples instantly hardened into spikes. Quickly, she scrambled into the flannel shirt. It was clammy and disgusting, but the breeches were infinitely worse. "Must I?" she pleaded. Mary-Ann was already pulling the gown over her own head and wrestling it over her bulging bosom, swaying precariously as the boat teetered on another wave.
"You're a fine looking boy, m'lady," said Mary-Ann with a brave smile. "Now, when they take us on board, you're a boy, remember. Keep your shirt well buttoned over your bosoms, speak fair to the Cap'n and the truth'll not come out. It won't be long. Soon we'll all be safe an' sound in Plymouth. Or elsewhere. Le Havre, Lisbon. It matters little."
"But what will become of you and Sal... ?"
"Don't you give no mind to that, m'lady. We shall survive. A few hundred randy sailors won't do us much harm. I c'n think of many a gal as 'ud give her right arm for such a chance. Don't worry for us, m'lady. Right. Here she comes!"
Catherine strained to see over her shoulder. The ship was much closer, now, wheeling round in a tight semicircle, obviously stopping to pick them up. With a sinking feeling in her stomach, she read the name in bold gilded letters across the windowed stern. Salamandre. A Frenchman? After all this time, were they being 'rescued' by the enemy? Catherine couldn't share Mary-Ann's equanimity as to their fate.
The maid was shaking her shoulder.
Good luck to you, young Caspar!"
"Young ... what?"
"Caspar. You'll be needing a boy's name now..."
A shadow swung across the sky. The ship had approached in silence while they were preparing their disguise and deception. The boat rose and fell alarmingly alongside the steep wooden wall of the ship. It was tar-black and scarred. Why had Catherine assumed it would be smooth-sided? She stared up at its terrible height. Way above her head, a row of black and white chequers showed where the guns would be. Guns! A French ship of war. Some refuge, this! They were days, weeks, months from England on a hostile ocean. They could yet end their lives in icy swirling oblivion...
A menacing hook thudded into the side of their boat, and a sailor came swarming down a rope ladder to perch on the edge of the plunging craft as calmly as if he was stepping off a log. He squatted there like a gargoyle, peering into the gathering gloom, then his expression changed.
"They're women, zur!" he bellowed. In English?
"Women? All of 'em?" The answering cry was a more cultured voice, although still from the far West Country.
"All three of 'em women, zur. No, belay that. One of em's a boy."
"A boy, huh? Send 'im up first. I can use 'im. Then send the women up and we'll get Mr Campbell to make 'em at home."
The sailor leaned forward. He wore a coarse blue shirt, frayed trousers and a saucy hat coated in tar perched on top of a grizzled but not unfriendly face. "C'mon, you! You, boy! Up you come."
Catherine stumbled to her hands and knees and reached out delicately for the sailor's hand. At the last second, she realised her mistake and clutched at his sleeve. He dragged her towards him and propelled her to the ladder. Her legs were tingling with pins and needles.
"Up there?" The ladder was rising and falling precipitously. One moment the end of it was clattering about in the bottom of the boat, the next it was as high as her head.
"Move yourself, boyo, it's nearly dark. We've got to lift the ladies on board yet." He leered as he drawled the word 'ladies' with heavy emphasis.
Catherine reached for the ladder, squeezed her eyes shut tight and clung on, hoping to plant a bare foot on the bottom rung. At that moment, the boat dropped away from beneath her and the ship rocketed skywards with a great sucking noise. She screamed, convinced her last moments had come, dangling by her hands from a slippery chunk of soaking wood. Then her screams were cut short as the ship rolled away from her on the swell and her body was slammed flat against it. Desperately gasping for breath, she flailed her legs, seeking something solid, anything she could cling to. Somehow, one foot found the blessed ropes of the ladder, and she wrapped legs and thighs round it, stabbing out with one foot until she felt a reassuring rung beneath the sole of her bare foot. Not that she could relax, as the ladder immediately bent in the middle, leaving her now hanging on her back in space, plunging sickeningly downwards. A wave reached out to drag her into the depths, icy water drenching her borrowed breeches. This was the end! She was preparing to let go, abandon hope, die quickly. But her fingers, with a will of their own, refused to abandon their death grip on the rope ladder. Then, to her horror, she felt a rude hand grab a huge fistful of her soft buttock and hoist her upwards.
"Up again, boy. Keep goin', damn' yer fat stinkin' botty!"
Catherine whimpered, unable to let go with either hand. As she hesitated, the hand clutched at her again, this time right between her legs, squeezing hard. She squealed and shot up the next half dozen rungs like a rat up a drainpipe. Without realising how, she found herself almost at the top, her arms burning with the effort, the soles of her feet in pain from the hard wooden rungs.
Half a dozen roughened hands grasped at her shirt and almost flung her inboard. She staggered across the slanting deck, her feet leading her she knew not where, stubbed her toes on something hard and sprawled full length. Behind her, the sailors were all leaning over the rail, bellowing lewd advice to their colleague down below. She shuddered with the horror of it, burying her face in her hands. Alive, but what for?
Strong hands probed her back, her upper arms. "Now, what have we here? Sit up, boy. Now, what's your name?" The voice was somehow warm.
The deck smelled of damp wood, scrubbed clean. She looked round, then sat up carefully. A fancy uniform. Blue coat with lots of fancy braid and stuff. He had kneeled down to her level, his hands feeling her shoulders. "Welcome aboard His Majesty's frigate Salamandre, thirty-eight. No broken bones? Can you walk? You'd better come down to my cabin and tell me everything you know. Garrick! A dish of hot soup for the new cabin boy! What's your name, son?"
"Cath ... Caspar, sir!"
"Caspar? A fine manly name. Get along with Garrick yonder, I shall see you presently, as soon as these brave sail-eye-ors have dragged your lady-friends out of that skiff of yours. Right!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs. "We shall get under way presently, Mr Galbraith, if you please. Tops'ls an jib. Steer nor'west and a half west!" He was already striding away.
.... There is more of this story ...