His Majesty's Bad Bargain
by Nereus

"Likely `e just wanted to get out o' the danger," Styles said.

"'E argued with, `Epplewhite, that's what I `eard." That was Finch.

"So `e wanted to stay below as long as `e could."

"I reckon `e's all right," said Matthews. "'E could've reported us for gambling but `e didn't."

"Too soft," Styles snorted. "An' what's `e got to be so righteous about? You should've seen `im in the riggings on Justinian. Near wet `isself `e did."

"Mebbe yer sacred `e'll take it out on you for `elping Mr. Simpson get `im up there," Oldroyd blurted. There was a sharp silence. Oldroyd had something of a child's knack for hitting on unpleasant truths.

"Well," Matthews said slowly. "I reckon `e could think the worse of all of us on account of being *`is* men. But if `e was going to do that why didn't `e turn us in?"

"Like I said, too soft."

"No," Matthews said. "I've seen some soft `uns an' I don't reckon `e's one."

"You can say what yer like," Styles said stubbornly. "But on Justinian we `ad a cushy billet an' a grown man over us, not a soft boy what couldn't keep it down in Spithead."

"And you can say what you like, Styles," Matthews retorted, "but I've been on more ships than you, I know what's good and what's bad, and this ship is five times what Justinian was. I reckon we're lucky to be `ere."

"An' maybe lucky `e ain't coming down on us for having been Mr Simpson's men before an' all," Finch said.

"Well, I reckon yer all goin' daft," said Styles. "An' I don't see why yer wants *me* to do it."

"'Cos yer the one with rat bites." Matthews said. "It'll mean most coming from you. An' there's still a few things as you owe me for."

"Oh, all *right*. But I still reckon yer goin' daft."

~~#~~

"That wasn't so hard, was it?" Matthews said.

"You know," said Finch, "You actu'lly sound like yer meant it."

Styles stared at his feet. "'E knew Williams's name," he said. "Both `is names. Plenty of them young snotties never bother even to learn yer last name, never mind find out yer first."

"So you think `e is all right then?" Oldroyd asked curiously.

"Well... `e ain't so bad in some ways. As to the rest we'll see."

"Aye," said Matthews. "We will."