A Tall Ship Tale #37: A Promise Kept

The tale by Paul DeAnguera continues.

“Merely turn over two sacrilegious and worthless men, and all freedoms are yours!” came a cry from one of the Sultan’s galleys which had blockaded the H.M.S. Legume into the port of Jidda. “But while you shelter them, you shall never leave!” The galley’s oars dipped in unison, holding position with its long bronze ram directed squarely at the frigate’s vulnerable stern.

Sir Hillary and the First Mate, recently returned from a secret mission to Mecca which had been regrettably indiscreet, consulted anxiously on the quarter deck. “If the ship were turned around we might get past them. But the slip is too narrow for turning. And, sailing backwards against those rams…!” Sir Hillary shook his head.

“We could just shoot our way out,” the First Mate suggested. But Sir Hillary shook his head again.

“You forget that the Captain swore in Chapter 35 that he wouldn’t fire on a Sultan’s ship,” he pointed out. “At any rate, the Arabs think he did. He’d never dishonor the Crown by breaking his word.”

Just then, Captain Quid emerged from his cabin; and the crafty glint under his low, heavy brow put heart into the men immediately. “Load two guns at the stern, and two at the bow,” he ordered.

“But, on which side, sir?” the gunner asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” he grunted, then clarified “Opposite sides. Ax-men to the lines. Top-men prepare to set sail.” When all was ready, he turned to the steersman. “Stand by to pull the flying lever.” He paused to savor the tension, until the crew wondered if he had somehow fallen asleep standing. Finally he tugged down the front of his shirt and said “Engage!”

Axes fell, cutting the shore lines. Then the GAG levitation system kicked in; the Legume popped out of the water and hung dripping in mid-air. Next, four cannons boomed out in unison; their recoil started the ship spinning slowly. A nearby warehouse crumpled from the blow, and from it a flock of magic carpets flapped away in a panic. Another volley turned the ship far enough for the sails to fill, and it swept majestically over the harbor. The galleys trailed behind it, their bronze rams useless now, hurling darts and epithets at the escaping infidels.

The officers gathered by the rail to watch Jidda recede. Its cloud of panicky carpets promised to make an unusual sunset. “That was fabulous!” The First Mate enthused. “From now on they’ll call it the Quid Maneuver. How did you know it would work so well, sir?”

Quid modestly filled his pipe, then said simply:

“It was a four-gun conclusion!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *