Part the First: The White Skull and Rose on the Red Field
It was not the other vessel hoisting up a new flag, a white skull and rose upon a red field, that made Hope Harvey fearful.
It was more so the reaction of the rest of the crew aboard the King Charles when the other vessel raised the banner. A cry of alarm came from the men that was worse than that raised as the ship headed into that storm on the way over from England, a cry that would have sounded like Hope’s playmates seeing a mouse in the room with them had their voices not been so deep. Whatever this set of colors offered, it was not a welcome sight by the forty men crewing the ship.
In her fifteen years, she had never seen such a banner back home in Plymouth. While she had seen other ships coming in and out of port, this was her first time aboard a ship, upon which everything was new to her. And so far it had been dreadful; having to try and walk as the ship pitched was not easily learnt, and the food served once the meats spoiled and had to be dumped was loathsome. It was only her uncle’s promise that things would be better once they reached Clarendon and the royal chartered estate that the family was going to oversee in the Carolina colony that made the trip across the Atlantic bearable.
And now that seemed to be endangered as well by the two-mast craft hoisting the strange symbol.
Hope heard her Uncle James call for her. “Young lady,” he said in a loud voice above the cries of the men, “come here this instant!”
She looked for him, the one gentleman among the crew, his fine waistcoat with gold-colored lacing as bright as her hair. He was on the higher level- the quarterdeck, she reminded herself (such a scowl she received every time she used the former phrase), waving her over as he barked to the master of the ship.
“Uncle James, what is it?” she asked as he worked his way down from the quarterdeck to her side.
“This be no place for a young lady,” Uncle James said. “Best we get you below decks while we fend them off.”
“Begging your pardon,” said the master of the ship as he came to Hope and Uncle James’ side, “but that’s not the best option we have. That brigantine outguns us and is faster than our vessel.”
“Have you no options, man?”
“Only to surrender and let them take what they need,” said the master. “’Tis not wise to anger a pirate, especially not these.”
“What pirates be these that come for us?” asked Hope.
“The colors belong to the Raging Gale,” said the master. “She ranges wide through the waters of the Americas, and has a reputation.”
“I don’t care if they have the colors of the Legions of Hell!” screamed Uncle James. “We must make way and continue on to Clarendon. We’re only a few days out of Nassau, certainly if we keep ahead of them they’ll turn once they see land before them.”
“Not to be in disagreement, but these pirates don’t fear English ports and the patrols they have in them,” said the master. “If we do not strike our colors soon, then they will certainly come down on us with great fury.”
“Now hear this!” screamed Uncle James to the crew as he climbed aboard a gun. “I shall out of my own fortune offer every man here two crowns each for delivering this ship to safety to Nassau. Take us through this and you will be well-rewarded.”
The offer by Uncle James slowed the men of the King Charles like a cold breeze. Uncertain whether to follow their fear or their greed, they had to pause to consider the choice.
The pause proved fatal to the ship, as the Raging Gale turned to starboard and brought her port side to bear, firing on the King Charles…
All content Copyright © 2008 James Ryan