Part the Sixty Ninth: The Gale Goes For An Easy Prize
“Sail!” called Bosfelt from atop the foremast of the Raging Gale. “Sail, to broad starboard!”
Bentinck looked at his hardtack and tossed it aside. “I wasn’t that hungry anyway,” he said as he got up.
“What see ye?” Captain Sanders yelled up to Bosfelt from the quarterdeck.
“Three masts, three sets of square sails on the main and mizzenmast.”
“She sounds like a galleon,” said Sanders. “We’ll be leaving from these waters with quite a bit for our efforts, it seems. Heave to on the boom,” she commanded as she watched the direction of the pendent. “We be running close hauled and have to close fast if we are to pull this off.”
Hope watched as Charles went to the bow to help trim the jury-rigged jib before she started with a solferge in the time of a short-haul shanty. She decided as she gave time for the crew that next chance she got, either off a prize that had one or when they made port, she would get a drum.
Off the port side, dark clouds could be seen in the distance…
The Raging Gale closed in on her prey with all possible speed she could running closed hauled. Hope could notice the difference that not having a jib made; the brigantine did not seem to fly as fast as she did before.
The galleon before the Gale did not flee, even though she looked light, riding high in the water. The closer the Gale got, the more easily noticed it was that her prey only trimmed sails on two masts.
“Mister Collins,” said Sanders, “have ready round shot for the first volley, and be prepared to fire at any moment.”
“Captain?” he replied as Hope stopped singing.
“She’s too slow and too light all at once. If her master be a fool, that would make me feel better, but there’s too much to suggest otherwise. Mister Osei, have the men armed and ready to fire before we arrive, but place half the compliment below. They’re going to need to go for cover quickly if necessary, and will need more room to do that.”
As Osei chose his compliment from among those available for the first wave, Hope came up on deck and asked, “If you think this is a trap, why go through with it?”
“If she be a trap, we’ll take such steps to make sure they pay for their treachery. If she’s not, then we take our load and be off. The worst heading to track would be to let her go on without a challenge, not with a crew that wants a prize.”
“But think of the lives you might save to say no.”
“I think more of the character of those lives, and how they would rather die with a chance of success offered against living with regrets. And no captain, no matter whom she may be, wants to be the one to hand a man regrets.”
Hope looked down, unable to argue against such a harsh reality, and started on her way to the mainmast to resume her station. She noticed that Charles was one of the musketeers chosen for the first wave.
The sound of thunder off to the east could now be heard…
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