Part the Three Hundredth: Sew Tight the Weighted Hammock
The last of Hope’s raging sadness had not subsided as she finished putting the last balls of shot in the hammock that Abigail was being sewn into.
She noticed that Abigail’s face would soon disappear inside the sewn hammock faster than expected; Edward’s speed and precision with a needle and thread surprised her.
“Not yet,” she told the boy. “Not until the last possible moment.”
He looked at her and Abigail and stopped. She was only mildly taken aback by the lack of reaction to being so close to the dead; his comfort in fact helped her deal better with the loss.
“Nothing about us,” called Goddard from atop the mast. “And land’s barely in sight to the north.”
“This should do,” said Hope. “I think she would prefer being this far out.”
“Bring her to port beam and steady her on,” Osei called to Mullins, who was manning the tiller. “Reef the sail,” he commanded as the Black Swallow changed course.
Hope waited until the sloop had slowed enough to be steady before she stood next to Abigail’s body. The crew gathered as she settled on what to say.
“I wish Surgeon Samuels was still with us,” she started with. “He would have been the perfect choice to say something meaningful here, something profound, which I cannot offer.
“As it is, all you have is me…”
She took a moment to draw in a breath before she continued.
“I am here, for what that’s worth, which is damned little. I promised you a magnificent sea artist, a fierce warrior and perhaps the greatest buccaneer ever to practice the Sweet Trade, and am sorry to present to you only a corpse. I promised you far more that I could give you, and in fact many of you who followed me did not make it back to sea, and I… I…”
Samuel took her right hand, and Charity gripped her left shoulder.
“I’m fine, thank you… She was fair to all, generous with those who sailed with her, and…”
She looked at her face, afraid she would start to cry uncontrollably again. She steeled herself to continue.
“And her coming into my life was the best thing that ever happened to me. I am sorry I could not offer any of you better than what I have before us, but given a choice I would never have passed up the chance to come to this point, before you all, having done what I did. I owe her everything, and I wish to hell I could do this better.”
“Maybe a song might work,” said Osei.
She gave a sad smile. “I wish… I have a song that suggests itself, but I can’t. There’s a piece, The Golden Vanity, about… The last time I played it, we were on our way to Nevis, and when I played it for her, I was angry at her. I feel ashamed about it now, and it all doesn’t matter why now why I, I was…”
Hope took a breath and held it a moment. Only the gulls spoke.
“And the piece, The Golden Vanity, about the sinking of the Spanish in the Lowland Sea, and the death of… No, the more I think about it, it would not be the right thing to sing.
“And if she were here now, instead of having me fall all over this moment, she’d change the subject and move on. Yes, that would be what she’d want.”
Hope gave Edward a nod, and quickly he sewed Abigail’s hammock up tight. And she grabbed hold, along with Osei, Goddard, Charity, Samuel, Jukes and Mullins, and hefted the hammock, clearing the starboard side.
Abigail’s body made a spectacular splash before the sea claimed it. The last Hope saw of her was her indistinct shape as the hammock descended into deeper water, fading from view. For a few moments afterwards, she could make out a small trail of bubbles from an air pocket trapped in it, one last life line between this existence and her next.
“So now what?” Charity asked warily.
“To a port to split what shares we did end up with, I guess,” said Jukes. “We’re not that far from Port Royale.”
“Where some of us will be hung when we come ashore,” said Samuel.
“What of Tortuga?” Redhanded Jack asked.
“Also fraught with peril,” said Charity.
“I doubt any Spanish port would provide us with a better welcome,” Osei noted.
“Is there any port where we could shelter?” asked Mason. “Anywhere?”
“What say you, Hope?” Mullins asked.
She said nothing.
“Hope?” Charity prodded.
Hope mounted the gunwale, grabbed the shroud and pointed out over the wide, unending sea…
All content Copyright © 2010 James Ryan