Part the Two Hundred Eighty Fifth: The Tricks of the Trade
“We’re not going to make it, are we?” Mullins asked Hope as he came beside her, barely audible over the splash of shot hitting the water.
Hope tried not to let his comment deter her from manning the tiller to find the best tact to guide the Black Swallow out of Santiago Bay. She said nothing as she danced with the tiller to keep the sails full.
“We’re going to end up scuttled if we keep this up,” he continued. “They’re going to get us in their sights soon enough with enough patience, and we’re going to go down. Unless you have a trick to whip out now, we’d best be ready to end up in the water soon.”
“Mister Mullins!” Osei barked. “Apply your talents to our survival and don’t distract her!”
“I’ve seen plenty of moments like this in my time at sea, and unless there is something now that we can try to save our hides, then this will be much like all those, ending with a sinking.”
“This is not the time for speaking out like that!” Charity snapped. “Our lives are at risk, and to talk of surrender-”
“Acceptance, miss,” said Mullins. “I do not see us getting out of this danger, and want to spend a moment preparing for what’s to come. I know my soul will have much to answer for, and knowing that we are soon to leave this world for the next, I could not in good conscience prepare myself for the end while everyone around me did not have a chance to do the same.”
“Insolent! Stupid! Égoïste! How can you say that when she’s doing the best she can to save us? Should I kill him, pour sa bêtise?” she asked Hope.
“Release the boom line,” Hope replied.
Everyone stopped talking and stared at her.
“Release the boom NOW!” Hope barked.
The crew let loose their grip and the boom swung to starboard.
As the sail slackened, Hope gripped the tiller under her right armpit and charged.
The Swallow nearly capsized as she violently changed heading to port. Goddard nearly fell overboard from atop the mast; when he regained his grip, he quickly lowered himself back to deck.
When the bow pointed to shore, Hope commanded, “Secure that line!”
The crew on the line was joined by Mullins, Charity and Goddard, who steadied the boom as the mainsail filled again.
Hope tapped her foot, keeping count as the Swallow came up to speed on her new heading.
Above them, shots from the fortress streaked forth and hit the water far off the starboard bow.
Hope kept tapping her foot as she held the tiller steady.
“That came rather close to where we would have been,” said Samuel.
“Aye,” said Mullins, “there is that-”
“Release the boom!” Hope bellowed.
This time the boom flew without hesitation as Hope yanked the tiller towards her hard.
The Swallow veered to starboard, heading back toward open water.
“You were saying about our doom, Monsieur?” Charity asked. “You were some help!”
“He was,” said Hope. “We did need a trick, and his reminder was quite timely.”
Mullins said nothing as the sloop took its new course and made its way to open water…
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