Sanders needed only to make a single rising yell to have Collins call out, “FIRE-HOLE!”
The sound seemed less thunderous to Hope this time, though whether it was familiarity or the difference in sound between firing one large shot versus many small ones, she could not say. She did watch this time, as the grapeshot filled the air like angry hornets, striking down anyone still standing on deck.
The French ship did not respond as the Gale crossed before her cannons. Hope saw the crew that would have fired on them sprawled atop their pieces, cut down by the last volley. She could barely make out those few on the deck not felled by the two rounds, hidden from sight by the smoke of the burning decks.
“Ready chain starboard!” Sanders cried out as she coaxed her brigantine to turn again for another pass at her prey.
Hope watched her captain ply the rudder, moving the till as though it were her dance partner. That moment as she watched her dance the deck, deftly moving her feet and swinging under and around the till to make the next pass, awed her into stunned observation…
It was only Andrews giving her a nudge that broke the spell. She was too stunned at first from the broken enchantment to be able to react.
“I said, are you going over with us again?” he asked. “We’re ready to board her.”
Hope caught one last sight of the dance Abigail had with the Raging Gale; she could tell the dance was ending just by how she stepped around and held the till, without needing to see how the yards of her ship nearly touched those of the French vessel.
As the Gale prepared to board her prey alongside her, starboard to port, the pirate crew readied themselves for the action. The growls they had as they fired on their target subsided as they drew closer, each ones’ ears listening for any danger. The only sound greeting them, however, were cries of anguish from the wounded and dying between the crackles of fires from the merchant’s forecastle.
The still waters as the decks came together calmed the crew of the Gale, their murderous rage now a wary slow advance. What men were alive weakly cried, “Espargnez-nous,” and “Pour l’amour de Dieu.” Hope watched as Kelly, Saxe and Garland, who were closest to the fire of the French, responded to their cries with their axes, finishing off the victims and sending them to their Maker.
“So where be the rest of them?” Captain Sanders asked aloud. “This be too small a compliment to both man the guns and sail her. Keep ye eyes sharp; if ye see what ye think be a mouse hiding in the scuppers, go for it, as ye might find the rest of the crew that way.”
Hope tried to stay close to the mainmast, the better to climb it should the French have had a surprise.
A surprise the French sprung as a muzzle emerged from the door to the captain’s quarters with an angry blast…