Part the Eighty Fourth: The End of the Venture?
The bailing to keep the Raging Gale afloat stretched on, minute by painful minute. Even with Charity taking her side of each filled bucket, the strain in Hope’s shoulders stared to scream with every new desperate load.
Hope was sure that at any second her arms were going to pop out of their sockets, bloodied ripped masses of meat, in all likelihood still connected to the buckets that went down empty and came back filled with water. She even pictured one of her arms going over the side with the bilge water, floating in the sea, waiting for the ship to sink so that the rest of her body could down with it…
But after a good hour of bailing went by, cadenced calls for buckets stopped coming from below deck, and soon after, buckets loaded with water stopped coming up as well. As the line stood down, the only loud cries came from Hope’s shoulders, pleading for rest.
“Cher Dieu,” Charity said as she rolled her shoulders forward and back. “That was a close one, no? How are you doing after that?”
Hope tried to say something in response to her question, but could not find an answer.
The men who had gone below deck to man the bailing line soon came up into the light. Some of them paid closer attention to Charity now that the crisis was over; from the looks Hope saw on their faces, she feared a new crisis was about to come forth…
Before words could be exchanged, Sanders came up from below and mounted the quarterdeck, followed by Osei and Folard. The appearance of the captain and two of her officers tabled that issue as she stood above the assembled crew, who turned to her.
“There was a rot at the keel line,” Sanders announced to the assembled crew, “which according to Mister Folard would have given way regardless of what action we’ve seen. I want there to be no such talk that any action we took led to this, as I and those who examined the rot can tell ye it was too far below the water line for any shot to do that.
“We be afloat for now,” she continued, “but we’re in need of some thorough attention and bereft of water and meat stores lost to the flooding. This puts us at as good a time as any to review and discuss the fate of the venture.”
The men looked around with concern on their faces. Hope could hear expressions of surprise behind her from some of the assembled men.
“We’re well blessed by our efforts so far, and it’s been a good run, I tell ye,” said Sanders, “but it means nothing if we can’t spend it. Perhaps we’ll find another prize before we go for repairs in Tortuga-”
Hope heard some positive reactions at mention of this place, and Sanders waited for their excitement to die down before continuing.
“At that time, we’ll be needing to take stock of this venture’s accomplishments. This had to happen sooner or later, and if ever there was a port for doing such in, then Toprtuga certainly be it.”