MARIGOLD’S END, Chapter 15

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The rough and tumble has found the Kathryn B. The wind is blowing a full-on gale, but the crazy Jaffrey won’t let the smaller ship escape. It’s up to Phineas to overcome a devastating loss and solve things once and for all…

Chapter 15

Taylor puffed out his cheeks.

“Why is the Kathryn B here?”

“I don’t know,” Phineas replied. “Maybe they were trying to get away.”

“Or maybe they’ve come to rescue you,” Taylor said seriously. “But why are we attacking her?”

“Because,” Phineas answered slowly, piecing things together, “because the captain of this ship works for Suarez, and he thinks I am aboard the Kathryn B with the package.”

Taylor blinked.

“You mean that this is all about you?”

“Well, yes,” Phineas replied. “Well, no, not really. It’s about the package, and me, I guess. I don’t know.”

Another of Kathryn B‘s cannonballs cracked through the side. This time it was accompanied by the angry yelling of the Marigold‘s men.

“We have to do something,” Phineas snapped.

“So,” Taylor said nervously, “what the pirates really want is you.”

“Yes,” Phineas replied sharply, “or so they think. They think I have the package because I stole it from Red Suarez. But…”

“Then you must give yourself up, Feenayuse,” Louise called from the other side of the rudder compartment. “If you surrender yourself you will rescue us all. This battle is because of you.”

The cannon behind him roared out, blasting a cloud of thick gray smoke that roiled around them like a dusky veil, at the same moment a gust of wind struck them on the other side. The ship suddenly leaned over so precariously over that Phineas clung to the edge of the hatch to keep from sliding away.

Men yelled and swore, and another of Kathryn B‘s cannonballs burst through the side, this one up high because of Marigold‘s deep angle. The sea hissed outside the gun ports on the lower side, and he could see the strange purple-gray sky through the open gun ports above him.

“She ain’t gonna right herself!” Raskins yelled. “She’s goin’ over!”

The image of Jablonski drifted into Phineas’ head. Jablonski and their little talk about being a Jonah. Jonah was commanded by God to go to Nineveh, but chose to run away from his responsibilities. His ship had been caught in a terrible storm, and was about to sink, until Jonah jumped into the sea and saved it.

“Am I a Jonah?” Phineas had asked Jablonski.

“Goodness no, lad,” Jablonski had replied cheerfully.

“Of course not,” Nigel’s voice said in his head. “This is bad luck, old fish, but not because of you!”

Another of Marigold‘s guns roared out, firing an iron ball the size of a grapefruit at the Kathryn B. Jablonski was over there, firing his gun in this terrible storm, ducking the cannonballs from the Marigold. Maybe Swede was up in the rigging, clinging to the mast for his very life in this terrible, terrible wind. They were out there because Suarez thought that Phineas had the package. This was his fault. The Kathryn B would be sunk because of him.

“I am a Jonah,” Phineas said softly.

The gust that pushed the Marigold over at that steep angle finally relented, and she slowly brought herself upright again.

“God bless,” Raskins told Carothers. “I thought that was it for us!”

“That was it for me,” Phineas said quietly.

“What are you talking about?” Taylor asked.

“I’ve got to turn myself in,” Phineas said. “I have to give up.”

“What?!?” Taylor cried in surprise.

Précisément,” Louise called from below. “And the sooner the better!”

“Wha… what are you…?” Taylor stammered.

“Jaffrey thinks I have the package, but he thinks that I am aboard the Kathryn B. If I give myself up, he’ll stop the fighting, because there will be no reason to fight.”

“But then they’ll get the package,” Taylor said.

“‘Urry!” Louise called.

“No, they won’t,” Phineas replied. “Sir Edward has the package. He’s probably aboard the Kathryn B.”

“What?!?” Louise yelled. “You said you ‘ad it!”

“I did have it,” Phineas answered. ” But I gave it to Sir Edward.”

“Then turning yourself in won’t do any good,” Taylor answered. “They really do want the Kathryn B.”

Phineas was quiet again. His head spun around inside – all these details were so confusing.

“But,” Louise called from below, “these pirates do not know that.”

She scuffled around in the compartment, shoving Taylor so that he had to climb out of the hatch.

“Get out of the way,” she scolded.

Phineas helped Taylor climb out so that they could both talk to Louise. The cannon behind them roared out again. Louise stuck her head up through the hatch.

“The captain of this ship does not know that you do not ‘ave the package, non?”

“Uh, no,” Phineas replied. “He thinks that I am with the package on board the Kathryn B.”

“So, ‘e will be surprised to see you, non?”

“I, uh, imagine so.”

“Then that, Feenayuse,” Louise said proudly, “will be your diversion. You present yourself to the captain. ‘E is surprised by you and calls off the attack, long enough for your ship to get away.”

“But they’ll kill him if he doesn’t have the package,” Taylor interjected.

“They’ll kill ‘im anyway,” Louise answered. “But, you and I, we will not let it get that far. Feenayuse is create the first diversion, but you and I, we are create the second, non?”

Phineas froze.

“I’m not so sure…”

“Do not be silly,” Louise said. “There is no time. Tay-lore and I will create a diversion…”

“It’s not that I don’t trust you…”

Louise looked at him earnestly. The lantern light flickered in her dark eyes. The ship rumbled and groaned and crashed around him. Everything swirled and chased around in his head. He was terribly thirsty, and his hands and knees shook uncontrollably. But Louise’s calm and steady gaze was confident and strong.

“Do not worry, Feenayuse,” she said kindly. “We will not let them kill you. I promise.”

“All right,” Phineas replied softly. “All right.”

Time seemed to be moving slowly. It was hard to think. Hard to focus. He knew that this time his death truly was at hand.

“How will we get away?” he asked.

“We will jump off of the ship,” Louise said cheerfully. “The sea is warm. We will wait for your ship to rescue us, non?”

“I can’t swim,” Taylor said quietly.

“I will teach you,” Louise said brightly. “Come along, there is none of the time to waste.”

As if to prove her words, another of Kathryn B‘s cannonballs, smacked through the side, this time just inches from their heads. The Marigold‘s guns roared out in response.

Phineas sighed deeply. There was nothing else he could do. This was all his fault, and he could think of no other way to fix it. He turned away, walking slowly and deliberately down the deck towards the ladder.

“Do not worry, mon ami,” Louise called.

“Yours is the bravest soul ever I have known,” Taylor yelled.

Phineas didn’t hear them anymore. He couldn’t hear the guns, or smell the smoke, or feel the deck cant under the incredible wind. He was going to die. He was marching off to his doom. No one would ever understand the sacrifice he was making. He would die a sad and lonely death. If only Susannah Kilburn were here to see it.

As he walked along the deck, stepping over broken pieces of wooden planks without seeing them, he thought things over. What a shame it would be to waste this Brilliant Caswell Mind. What a titanic lunacy this whole situation was to think that he, a someday prosperous publisher, a true gentleman, should have his life cut short at the hands of a bunch of drooling ruffians. To think that his noble career-to-be would be ended by an oaf in a purple coat, a fellow without any sense of how colors should be matched at all. And, perhaps worse, Jaffrey was just a stooge to that nasty little monster Suarez. Well, he decided angrily, THIS WOULD NEVER DO.

“THIS WILL NEVER DO!” he yelled.

He stomped up the ladder and out into the waist. The wind howled and moaned and peppered him with blown spray. He latched onto the safety rope and dragged himself across the waist.

“We’ll just see about this,” he snarled into the wind.

He pulled himself up the companion ladder and stomped up the quarterdeck until he was just three feet away from Jaffrey. He clung onto the rail to keep from getting blown away, but did his best to stand up bravely. Fear surged through him when he thought about what he was doing, and he felt his knees weaken. He shook his head angrily – mad at the thought that he could feel afraid. He stood up taller.

Jaffrey was fully engaged in watching the Kathryn B, the set of the Marigold‘s sails, and the crests of the surging green waves. He stared intently at one, and then at the other.

“A touch to loo’rd,” he hissed at the man clinging to the ship’s wheel. “Just a touch.”

Phineas stood before him for a few seconds. His anger, instead of retreating now that the moment of truth was at hand, got stronger.

“I say, there, you,” Phineas barked rudely.

Jaffrey glanced at him briefly, but then went back to looking at the Kathryn B.

“Give a touch more to loo…” he began, but then cut himself short. He slowly turned to look fully at Phineas.

“You!” he said in surprise.

“You bet it’s me, Captain Jaffrey,” Phineas said angrily. “If you’ve a brain in your head you will curl up your sails this instant and cease attacking that ship!”

“What?” Jaffrey asked. He shook his head. “What?”

“You heard me plain enough, Captain,” Phineas snapped. The ease with which he had taken over the presumed meeting of death made him feel positively giddy. “Now, veer off to wind’ard and let’s discuss this thing like gentlemen.”

“Bancroft! Mendoza!” Jaffrey barked.

Two pirates rushed up the companion ladder to stand behind Phineas.

“Take this nasty bugger to my cabin,” Jaffrey snarled. He turned back to face the Kathryn B. “Veer off to wind’ard, indeed,” he muttered.

Bancroft and Mendoza hauled Phineas backwards off the quarterdeck and down the companion ladder.

“I say,” Phineas croaked in surprise. “Unhand me, you oafs!”

They dragged him backwards through the ‘tween decks and into the aft cabin.

“You’ll wait for the cap’n,” Bancroft growled. He was an average looking fellow – would have passed for a tavern keeper – but for the dark and evil glare in his eyes. “You’d probably spit in people’s ale,” Phineas muttered.

“What was that?” Bancroft said lowly.

“If you ran a tavern, you’d probably spit in people’s ale,” Phineas said loudly. He was just angry enough, and just scared enough, to not care what happened next.

Bancroft smiled. He looked at Mendoza, a short, wiry man with dark curly hair, and laughed.

“I reckon as I would,” he said.

Phineas was still angry, but began to grow afraid that his anger was giving way to fear. He thought of things to make himself angry again. How dare these clods manhandle him?

“I’ll have you know that I am a personal acquaintance of the headmaster at Fotheringham School,” he stated quickly. “And he is the brother of the Lord Mayor of Duxbury. AND, all I have to do is snap my fingers and, snap, you two would be in jail faster than you can say Tom’s your uncle.”

“It’s ‘Bob’s your uncle’,” Bancroft corrected. He was still smiling. The correction made Phineas madder still.

“I don’t care if it’s Red Suarez that’s your uncle,” Phineas roared.

He glanced angrily about the cabin, looking for something mean to do. A nice desk sat under the big windows that ran across the stern, and a couple of chairs, and a cot. All in all, it wasn’t too different from the Kathryn B‘s aft cabin. Except it was much larger, and all of the furniture was finished in a dark red upholstery.

The cabin door banged open and Jaffrey swooped in. The cabin’s dark red upholstery clashed badly with Jaffrey’s coat, making it seem all the more outlandish. Phineas opened his mouth to mention it, but was interrupted.

“Search him,” Jaffrey ordered.

The two men approached Phineas to search him. He had no doubt that it would be thorough.

“Touch a hair on my head and your precious package will be gone forever,” he said.

The sailors paused and looked at Jaffrey.

“Don’t touch his head,” Jaffrey ordered. “Search him.”

The sailors approached him again.

“I mean it,” Phineas said angrily. “I’ve hidden the package in a place you’ll never find it. Touch me and you’ll never get it.”

“Oh,” Jaffrey smiled. “I’ll get it. If I have to pluck every hair out of your foppish little head, I’ll get it. If I have to drive splinters under your fingernails, I’ll get it. If I have to scrape your teeth with a marlinspike, I’ll get it. You don’t make no bargains with Jack Jaffrey. I don’t know how you got aboard this ship, or what you done with that package, but I guarantee you, you will tell me. I…”

“Deck there!” a faraway voice called. “Sail off the weather quarter!”

“I will bet it is the Pelican,” the sailor called Mendoza said. “Red Suarez don’t leave nothin’ to chance.”

“Blast that Suarez,” Jaffrey muttered. He pointed to the others. “Make sure he stays here.”

Jaffrey slammed the aft cabin door without a look back. Bancroft and Mendoza looked at one another with raised eyebrows.

“You shouldn’t have said that about Red Suarez,” Bancroft said quietly. “It got him all riled up.”

“Well, it be the truth!” Mendoza replied.

The Marigold‘s guns roared out again. By craning his neck, he could just see the left rear side of the Kathryn B through the stern windows. As he watched an enormous gust of wind laid her over on her side so far that he could see almost her entire bottom.

The same gust must have hit the Marigold, for she suddenly leaned over and over on her right side. A chair tipped over. Phineas grabbed onto the doorframe. Farther she leaned. The desk groaned and slowly slid off to the right. She leaned over farther still, and another chair tipped over. The charts tumbled off of the desk

“Easy, easy now,” Bancroft muttered. But he wasn’t talking to Phineas. His stared pleadingly up at the deck beams over his head. He spoke to the ship itself. “Come on, now. Right up.”

Mendoza clung onto the deck beam over his head with both hands. His eyes were tightly closed.

Phineas saw his chance and bolted for the cabin door. It wasn’t locked, and he sprang through it in an instant. Water sloshed across the ‘tween decks, making it a slippery run, and Phineas had to lean to compensate for the steep angle at which the ship had tilted under the force of the gust.

“Hey!” Bancroft cried through the open door. Phineas ignored him and ran as quickly as he could towards the waist. He had no idea what to do, no plan, but to get away from all these people and back aboard the Kathryn B. He burst out into the purple-gray light of the waist.

“It’s the Grace,” a voice called out on the quarterdeck. “As sure as I’m standin’ ‘ere.”

“Here to cut out that paintpot, are ye?” Jaffrey yelled. “Well, not from me! A point to loo’rd! We’ll cut ’em off!”

The Marigold twisted wildly, and an enormous wave leapt clean over the front of the ship. Water surged over the forecastle and cascaded across the waist, soaking Phineas up to the knees.

The sea sucked at him greedily, lapping around his ankles, making him slip and slide on the deck. It knocked him from his feet and dragged him down the deck. He scratched and scrabbled at anything he could hold onto to keep from going with it over the side. The edge of a pin rail swam past, and his fingers found a purchase. He closed his eyes and held tightly to the rail and felt the sea retreat and leave him lying on the deck.

“I hate you,” he whispered.

“For the love of Mike, Cap’n,” the voice said, “you’ll take us under in this wind!”

“Stand down, ye knave,” Jaffrey bellowed. “Starboard battery! On the uproll!”

The guns, which had ceaselessly been firing at the poor Kathryn B, now fell silent, waiting for the uproll. The Marigold turned sharply towards the smaller ship.

Phineas pulled himself to his feet to see what Jaffrey was doing. A third ship, strikingly small, bore down of them with the wind behind her. Her left side bristled with cannon barrels, and she obviously came to fight. It was the Grace. It was Father’s ship, come to rescue him.

But the Marigold sailed boldly, wildly, across the smaller ship’s path.

“Fire!” Jaffrey screamed. The deck beneath Phineas’ feet leapt under the recoil of all of the guns on one side firing at the same time.

“Port over,” Jaffrey yelled, “a full point!”

The Marigold lunged into a turn to the left. Phineas let go of the pin rail and half flew and half stumbled across to the gunwale. He stared over it in horror.

The Grace shuddered in the sea as every one of Marigold’s shots hit her. Her forward mast twisted and turned, and the sails suddenly ballooned out like tattered kites. The mast snapped off and fell over the far side, but didn’t float away. It remained tied there, held by the many ropes of the rigging. Instead of drifting away, it acted like an anchor, and the Grace swung wildly, horribly, around it.

Another gust hit the Marigold, causing her starboard side to dip low towards the sea. The same gust caught the Grace, pushing her farther and farther over, until her very keel rose out of the ocean.

“NOOOOOOO!” Phineas screamed in horror.

Grace capsized. She rolled over, slowly, slowly, until she was completely upside down. Weeds growing on her bottom flapped and fluttered in the terrible wind. She was a wreck, just like that miserable Bartolomeo back on Cape Cod. Father was in there. Trapped, lost, in that awful wreckage.

“Please, God,” Phineas groaned, “please God, turn her over again.”

The wind tore around him. The Marigold shuddered beneath him as she turned farther into the wind.

He stared after the Grace, willing her to roll back over. Willing Father to be alive.

She lay even deeper, little more than the hump of her weed-covered keel showing above the waves.

The Marigold turned farther into the wind, and his view of the Grace was blocked. He could still see the Kathryn B, her sails in shreds and her side riddled with big jagged holes where the Marigold had hit her. She slowed, perhaps to go and help the poor souls of the Grace.

“Huzzah, lads!” Jaffrey bellowed. “That’s showing them!”

“Huzzah!” the men roared from the guns. “Huzzah!”

“I’ll give you a huzzah!” Phineas yelled at the top of his lungs. The cheers continued around him without a break.

“Devil take you all,” he swore and dragged himself along the safety line to the gundeck ladder. Nobody paid him any mind. They were still too busy gloating over the sinking of the Grace.

He moved much more quickly on the gun deck. He stormed up the deck, past the cheering pirates who paid him no attention, back to the hatch. He dropped on his hands and knees and pounded on it.

“What happened?” Taylor asked as the hatch opened.

“It was the Grace,” Phineas answered. “My father’s ship. She turned upside down.”

“Merciful heavens,” Taylor’s gray face turned white.

“Feenayuse,” Louise gasped, “I am so very sorry.”

“Create your diversion,” Phineas said grimly, “and you and Taylor get ready to jump out that hole.”

He left the hatch and walked forward, knowing in his heart of hearts what he had to do.

The guns roared out again at the poor Kathryn B. No cannonballs from the brave little ship came through the walls. There was no popping noise from her little guns.

Phineas took down one of the lanterns that hung above the center of the gun deck and carried it to the edge of the hold. He raised his arm to toss it down onto the open keg of powder at the bottom of the ladder, but a firm grip grabbed his upper arm.

“‘Ere,” a deep voice said, ” have ye gone daft?”

“Let go,” Phineas grunted as he tried to jerk his arm free. He turned to face the pirate that had grabbed him. He was a big Caribbean man, with a short curly beard.

“What are ye about, den?” the pirate asked. “You be blowin’ up de ship ye drop dat down dere.”

The deck shuddered beneath their feet so sharply that Phineas dropped the lantern. It clattered onto the deck and rolled in a tight circle, but didn’t break.

“You lucky…” the pirate said, but couldn’t finish. The deck canted suddenly beneath them, causing them both to stumble down towards the guns.

“Tiller line’s parted!” someone yelled.

Phineas jerked his arm free of the pirate’s grasp and threw himself face down on the deck. He scrambled on his all fours to grab the lantern.

“Get dat boy!” the Caribbean pirate bellowed.

“She’ll no’ answer her rudder!” someone else yelled. “We’ll go under for sure!”

“Oh no, you won’t,” Phineas growled and lunged for the rolling lantern. He caught the blistering hot shade in his bare hands, but was beyond feeling it.

The Caribbean pirate slowly crawled towards him. Phineas rose up on his knees, swung the lantern over his head, and hurled it down into the hold with all of his strength. He heard the glass shatter and the yelp of surprise of the creepy old man with the powder barrels.

“Fire,” the old man screamed. “Fire in the hold!”

“What you did do?” the Caribbean pirate roared at him.

Phineas ignored him and leapt to his feet. He thundered as fast as his legs could carry him up the sloping deck to the hatch. Pirates stared at him as he streaked past. He threw himself on the deck and skidded the last three feet.

It was closed. Seconds ticked by as he scrabbled with his fingers to get enough of a grip on the heavy iron ring handle with his burnt hands to lift it open.

The lid suddenly popped open, and Taylor’s head immediately appeared.

“We parted the tiller line,” he said triumphantly.

“Out,” Phineas panted. “Get out. Go out the hole.”

“What?” Taylor blinked at him. “What?”

“Powder room is on fire,” Phineas panted.

“Merciful heavens,” Taylor gasped and dropped down into the room.

“There!” Carother’s voice burst out behind him. “‘E cut the tiller lines!”

Feet pounded on the deck behind him, but he dared not turn around.

Ma foi,” Louise said, “But…”

The small compartment was dark, and Phineas couldn’t see if they had jumped out the hole. There was no time. He simply threw himself face first through the hatch.

He stuck. His upper half made it into the dark compartment, but his lower half remained on the other side of the hatch. He twisted around to see the pirate that held his ankle in a grimy fist.

“No ye don’t, me boyo,” a voice said.

A shaft of light flickered through the rudder hole as Taylor jumped out through it. Louise must have already gone.

“Yes, yes I do, me boyo,” Phineas yelled and kicked at his own ankle with heel of his good buckle shoe.

The hand immediately released its grip with a yelp of pain. Phineas dropped headfirst into the dark compartment. The wildly swinging tiller bar caught him in the hips and knocked him to one side, but he rolled to the floor and scrambled to the rudder hole.

“I see ‘im,” a pirate yelled. “Gimme that pistol!”

The crack of a pistol shot exploded behind him.

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