Finally! Chapter Nine is complete! You wouldn't think two pages would take so long. The story is back on track now.
As Anthony was speaking, Michael had gotten himself over to the British prize. Climbing on deck, he announced “I am the new commander of this ship, and I know how to sail, so don’t cross me.”
“You!” exclaimed one of the British midshipmen. “You’re not even a man yet! Swim back to your father, boy, if that’s who he is, and get some more training before you come to put yourself over us!”
Drawing one of his knives, taking aim at the mainmast, and throwing, Michael replied, as he watched the blade strike its target “I’ve had no practice yet, and yet my aim is true? As I said, do not cross me! Return to your work.”
By the time that the damage had been satisfactorily repaired, more than hour had passed and Anthony had left to seek out more prizes.
Taking up a position on the quarter-deck, Michael announced “I’ve been given no orders. My orders are my own. We’re to sail around the cape!”
Immediately, a crewman spoke out against the decision. “Real sailors know it’s storm season around the cape this time of year!”
Hefting one of his daggers, Michael shouted back “Are you armed, or are you the captain? Because if you’re either, you may have a right to dispute with me. But you’ll die if you move from your place, for I’ll brook no objections. Set the course!”
Michael did not hear any objections for some time after that incident. He suspected it was because the crew was afraid of being slain suddenly if he grew upset. Every order he called was executed promptly, with little noise.
Under the threat of sudden death, the hostile crew refrained from giving Michael any trouble for several days. At the end of the week, they sighted the Cape of Good Hope. Michael heard one deckhand muttering “Cape of No Hope, more like. Especially at this time of year. Though if I say anything, that boy commanding us is likely to take the opportunity to prove his aim. I wouldn’t want that.”
As he listened, Michael thought “He’s got sense, at least. He’ll cause no trouble.” Then, looking up at the sky ahead of the ship, he thought “But he’s right. The storms have beaten me to the point.”
Accordingly, when they had reached a position approximately one thousand yards off the coast, Michael gave the order to prepare the ship to ride out the squall.
The crew set the sails, and the storm came to them. It was likely to be the most awful experience Michael had ever been through.
First, there was the wind. The wind came whistling through the rigging, buffeting the crew across the deck in all directions as they worked to steady the ship. Everything was done in silence, if it was possible to consider the obvious futility of opening one’s mouth, as a result of the awful keening wind, as silence.
Michael, who was aware of the impact a captain’s actions had on a crew, had long since found a suit of storm gear and resolved to remain on deck. But then the rain came. It seemed to be driving straight onto his face regardless of the direction he faced. Squinting against the bitterly cold torrent, which anywhere else, the crew may have attempted to collect, he still remained on deck, trying to keep his ship above the water. It was not long before he began to wonder what the downpour was doing to his face. He could no longer tell, as he had grown numb. When he finally realized that he could hardly tell whether he even had a nose any longer, he abandoned all pretences and ran for his cabin as hard as he was able, slamming the door, which mercifully remained shut.
As soon as this was done, he threw himself down on his cot and began rubbing his hands back and forth, again, as hard as he was able to.
Finally, he began to relax, although he still had no chance to sleep, with the wind howling outside as loud as it was. It was then that the waves finally arrived. Michael could hear them crashing on the deck, rocking the ship from side to side as they did so. Several times, Michael came perilously close to being thrown out his bunk and rolling across the cabin floor. This did not happen only because he was gripping the sides so tightly that he thought he could nearly see his veins bulging in his arms. Keeping his teeth clenched, he strained to hear the noises that told any sailor to brace for the impending disaster.
A moment more, and he thought he had heard it. It was so difficult to tell over the various sounds of the storm. The sound of the anchor rope creaking. “Thank the Lord it has not already snapped, but it is bound to break soon.” He thought, still clenching his teeth and gripping the sides of his cot. Only moments later, he heard the sound he had been dreading to hear since the squall had begun. The distinct sound of water pouring through a hole in the side into the lower decks. It grew louder and louder even as he listened. “The ship is breaking through the bottom!” he thought, becoming frantic in his desperation. “Lord, please let us all live through this day. I know the men are Brits, but they’re men just the same. Please, bring us all through this.”
Then, knowing it was useless to hide in the cabin, he resolved to run out onto the deck, grab the nearest piece of broken wood, and commit himself to the Lord. It was not long after this that he had found a broken spar floating in the ocean, leaped in after it, draped himself over it, and immediately began to fall asleep after relaxing his tightened muscles.
When he woke up the next morning, he found himself on the beach, face down in the sand. After he had finally realized he was alive and awake once more for another day, he remained motionless for several minutes. Then, his thoughts completed, he rose, made the sign of the cross over himself, and went to find the crew.
He found them together behind the first large hill he came to. “Well hello, boy.” Several called to him. “Do you believe us now? It is storm season. We’ve been salvaging while you slept out there on the sand.” They continued, indicating about ten barrels of supplies which they had, astonishingly, managed to rescue from the wreck.
Seeing these, Michael answered “We must now walk to the nearest city. We can not wait here, for no ship would come here to rescue us even if they knew we were here.”
Without waiting for a reply, he set off.