Part the Ninety First: The Musician Earns Her Keep
Hope found a distraction to the smell of the fetid air below decks by being anxious about the Raging Gale’s fight with the other brigantine, on top and out of sight.
The movements the ship made as she swept down on her prey seemed strange when observed from below deck. Without seeing the masts tilt and sails flutter above her, each roll of the deck under her feet seemed more pronounced. The bodies of the anxious men in the hold jostled into Hope with each pitch. The creak of the rudder as the ship made a turn filled the hold with a sound like the lid of a coffin opening.
“Mister Follard,” said Osei, “keep an eye on the patch to the hull. If it comes undone and there is a breach, sing out.”
“Oui,” he replied as he worked his way past the crew in tight quarters to where the stores had been kept.
“That’s not going to come undone, is it?” Hope asked aloud.
“Belay that question!” Osei snapped. “We need spirits lifted here while we wait for the signal to emerge.”
Osei gave her a direct and stern look. Every second he stared at her, another crewman would turn to look her way despite the low light below deck. Even Charity turned her gaze on her, expecting something from her.
Hope gave a slight gulp while she quickly considered what to do. With only a second’s consideration, she decided, and sang:
The fifteenth day of July
With glistening spear and shield
A famous fight in Flanders
Was fought then in the field
The most courageous officers
Were English captains three
But the bravest in the battle
Was brave Lord Willoughby.
Hope’s quick choice of song softened the looks she was getting. The crew of the Gale that hailed from England nodded along with a smile. As she was keeping her own voice lower to not give away the crew, Hope did not mind that no one was stomping and clapping in tune as an audience usually would for the ballad.
Stand to it noble pikemen
And look you round about
And shoot you right you bowmen
And we will keep them out
You muskets and caviler men
Do you prove true to me
I’ll be the foremost man in fight
Said brave Lord Willoughby.
As she finished the verse, Hope heard an explosion coming from over the bow.
“The swivel gun,” said Osei. “We must be getting closer now.”
“How will we know it’s time to go forth?” asked Charity.
“When the hatch is opened,” he replied, “we go forth ready for the fight.”
Then quoth the Spanish general,
‘Come let us march away,
I fear we shall be spoiled all
If we here longer stay,
For yonder comes Lord Willoughby
With courage fierce and fell,
He will not give one inch of way
For all the devils in he-
The verse was interrupted by the splintering of the hull as two round shot came through from port. Hope saw a dark hand fly past her face, separated from its master, Akua, whose blood spurted on the bulkhead over her.
Hope couldn’t decide whether to sing or scream then…
All content Copyright © 2008 James Ryan