Part the Fifty Seventh: The Pinnace Claims Its Prize
Daylight found the Raging Gail no closer to the pinnace than she was when she started the chase. With no direct role to fill in the silence, Hope spent the night on deck against the mainmast, catching a few short naps when she could.
When she awoke again, the rising sun was at close starboard, while the pinnace was still at broad starboard to the Gale. Captain Sanders was at the corner of the quarterdeck with her spyglass up to her eye, keeping watch on the other vessel.
Hope walked up the steps to come close to her, saying nothing.
“She’s armed, quite well too, we can see in the daylight,” said the Captain as she took the tiller back. “She’s expecting someone at the end of her journey, and if it be the way it looks, it be someone not expecting them.”
“Aye. And it be someone with a good plan aided by a member of the other ship’s crew. No one would be going that fast on any heading unless they had something they were heading for. The fact that she’s carrying so many guns is to our benefit of course.”
“She… that slowed her down?” Hope guessed.
“Aye. Half her guns, and she’d have gone beyond the horizon well before dawn.”
“But if she turns and fires on us, what then?”
Sanders didn’t even bother to say anything to change the topic; she replied with silence as she made small taps to the tiller to set her heading.
Hope sighed, the prospect of the inevitable fight with the pinnace turning tragic starting to color her-
“Sink me!” she heard Sanders curse while looking up into the mainmast’s rigging. Up over the topsail, Zoutman had removed his shirt and waved it like a flag, pointing off the bow.
Sanders bounced past Hope on her way to the bowsprit, where she swung forward past Kelly, far out enough to use the jib sail under her arm to steady herself as she brought up her spyglass.
Osei and Collins were beside Hope, who followed Sanders to the bow, as their captain came back on deck. “It be a sloop she was after,” Sanders explained. “The pinnace has good information concerning her, and the sloop’s crew must have thought themselves too small and fast to worry about being taken at sea. Which means someone aboard the prize expects a lot for their Judas’ act.”
“Our course?” Osei asked.
“We stay close, just at the edge until we see how she plays out. When there be a resolution, we come for the winner.”
“You mean,” said Hope, “that after this treason takes place, you’ll swoop down on the one that is left afloat and steal from them?”
“And your point being?” Sanders asked sharply.
Hope felt her reply turn to stone in her throat.
“If that pinnace be willing to go all out to seize that sloop,” Sanders continued, “then there be something of great value to have here. Any cargo worth that kind of effort, we’d be fools not to go for it ourselves!”