Sanders and Hope left the cabin together, the captain climbing to the quarterdeck, her spyglass handed to her upheld hand.
“Where she be, Mister Bosfeld?” she called up to him.
“Broad beam a’ starboard,” Bosfeld called back.
“Ja,” said Zoutman.
“Bring her to starboard,” Sanders ordered. “She be a French vessel,” she called out to the crew on deck gathered to hear, “cast far from where she should be, either a privateer or a smuggler. We be knowing soon enough when we claim her. Full sails.”
Without being asked, Hope started to strum a tune with a cadence that could have worked as a drum rhythm. To her surprise, the men that Collins was guiding in getting the guns armed were working to the rhythm she laid down; even Collins gave his orders in beat with her, and Andrews stayed focused on running the powder to each four pounder without trying to seize her music.
“She be turning, running broad reach,” called Bosfeld from atop the mainmast.
“She’s making a run of it,” cried Sanders, sharing the news with her crew. “Must be something quite valuable aboard her if she be doing that.”
Hope kept up the cadence as the Raging Gale leapt forward with the wind caught in all her sails. Slowly, the French merchant came closer into sight, her sails taut as the Gale‘s to the point where Hope thought she could see her masts strain to break.
“We be upon her soon,” said Collins to his crew. “We probably will be using chain to foul her rigging, so keep that handy for the barrels.”
“Arms to the ready!” Osei commanded those men on deck not under Collins. He proceeded to eye each man to make sure their blunderbusses were loaded and ready to fire.
“She be turning to port!” Kelly called out before he leapt from the bowsprit and headed onto the deck.
Sanders took the till and started to give the rudder a few twists.
Hope continued to play despite the fear she was feeling from seeing the flashes of panic in the faces of the men. She could tell something was amiss even though it was only the third action she’d been on with the crew of the Gale; something they knew or felt but were not saying aloud…
The French ship swung to port, and the sound of a cannon roared out. Hope heard what sounded like a dull whistle to aft before she heard two more such blasts.
Hope saw water splash up on deck from the shot that fell short, then watched with a cry as the third shot caught the main sail and ripped a large hole through it.
“Right!” called Sanders. “Ready for action! Raise the standard!” The white skull and rose on red field went up atop the mainmast, and the crew of the Raging Gale gave an angry cry closer to a growl.
To her shock, Hope found herself joining the pack in their cries…