Part 177

Part the One Hundred Seventy Seventh:  The Run of the Gun



The first thought racing through Hope’s mind was that of all the ways to die, this was probably not as bad as some.


The second thought was that if this didn’t kill her, that if there was any mercy to be found, that she would lose a lower extremity and keep her hands.


Which, despite herself, Hope held up before her to stop the four pounder rolling on the deck towards her…


She felt her stomach press down as her center of balance shifted, her face pitching towards the gun, her hands on its butt.


The yaw shifted, the four pounder’s carriage slowed suddenly, and the tilt of the deck kept the weight of the gun from bearing down on Hope.


“Give me a hand!” she called out.  “We need to tie this gun down!”


Charity was beside her bracing the four pounder, and out of the gloom Goddard and Kelly came forth to put their hands on the gun.  The four of them rolled the carriage back to the gunwale, helped by the deck’s balance cooperating with their efforts in taking the proper tilt required.


“Secure that tackle!” Hope barked, grabbing the loose line tied to the barrel.


“Aye aye!” said Goddard as he took one end of the rope and secured it with another piece to the gunwale.


After Kelly tied down the other end, Charity placed blocks on both sides of the carriage’s wheels.  When she finished, as Goddard and Kelly returned to where Garland was in position, she said to her, “So, how was your first taste of command?”


Before Hope could take a second to register the remark, the Gale yawed violently, pitching her into Charity’s arms.  Like a quickened country dance, the two twirled over the deck trying to stay on their feet.


As  they twirled, a flash of lightning lit up the deck like the sunlight of high noon.  On the quarterdeck, Hope could see Abigail latched to the tiller, fighting it as never before.  The lines tying her to the tiller looked like a sea creature dragging her beneath the waves, her visage as one would have trying to fight such a fate.


Osei broke up the dance, standing firm as the women bounced into him.  “To the lines!” he commanded, raising his voice over the loud peal of thunder that broke instantly with the lightning.  “We will be needing all hands soon for it.”


As he said that, the mainsail started to slacken, then flapped loose as the wind flew from her.  The violence of the deck’s sways lessened, though the waves still knocked the Gale about, each hit punctuated with spray, taller than any man aboard, arching over the gunwale.


“Hand over hand!” said Osei.  “Firm, but quick with it!”


Hope and Charity grabbed the line.  Hope felt the rope pull through her palms, burning them, before she could close her fingers, which were nearly ripped off of her hands.


Despite the pain, she gripped the line, then let it out hand over hand in concert with the crew.  Above her, she could see the gaff being lowered while the mainsail was gathered by the crew manning the reef tackle.


Above her, lightning sparked and thunder roared, both violently.


What worried Hope the most was that both occurred at once…




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All content Copyright © 2009 James Ryan

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