MARTIN CHANDOS woke to the thud of a distant saker. For a moment he lay bemused, turning to the woman beside him in the little bunk, her dark eyes open and sober, intent on his. The sun splashed through the stern windows, across the table and its silver service, touching the rug on the floor and the gilded bulkheads with yellow fingers.
Again the saker roared, and now Martin Chandos came out of the bunk to Cross the stern cabin to its row of windows.
Out over the blue spill of tossing water he saw two tall red galleons under heavy sail, running free before the wind, bearing down on them. Below his feet he felt the surge of the Hussy as she crowded on more canvas, and the faint slap of feet that came from her deck as the buccaneers began uncovering deck cannons.
“Spaniards,” muttered Lizzie Hollister. As her arm touched his, Martin Chandos could feel her tremble.
“They’ve come in answer to my prayers,” he breathed softly. “Look at the fine, big build of them, Lizzie darling. Forty guns each, with sakers at her beak, and a clean spread of sail overhead. Ah, it’s fine lessons we’ll be after teaching them, acushla”
Her black hair trembled as she shook her head, and now he could see the worry in her violet eyes. Her mouth, which had been so soft and warm last night, was tight with anxiety.
She muttered, “We’re foul from being overlong at sea. And Raoul Sans Espoir, whose ship this is, is no clean mariner when he sails. I should have waited for my own ship, instead of renting his.”
“A foul bottom Fash, it’s no more than I should have expected. If only those buckos above-decks would stir their stumps to keep her shipshape, we wouldn’t be at a disadvantage. But no matter! Get above, Lizzie, and take command.”
“We’ve only twenty guns. Those ships have eighty between them.”
He turned then and stared at her. “Why, so they have. The Forthright had only four. Four against sixty, and as true as Craftine played the harp at Tara, I almost took her. I would have done so, but a wave played me an unlucky trick.”
“We’ll let them come close, then board them!”
“Will you? If those dons are the seamen I think, they’ll stand off and batter you to splinters. No, no, Lizzie. It’s a sea fight that’s ahead of us.”
In her helplessness, Lizzie Hollister lost her temper. She whirled, and her eyes were violet pools of fury. “We can’t run and we can’t fight, you insufferable merchant!” she spat. “Now get out of my way while I go topside and consider our plight.”
“Don’t be too long considering, Lizzie darling, or the dons will have us five fathoms down, and still sinking. If you’ve no guts for a battle, I have! Move aside while I cover my skin.”
She tensed as if to launch herself at him, her fingers curved like claws. And then she shrugged and walked across the cabin to the screen where a big sea chest stood open.
They dressed in the silence of their secret thoughts. Martin Chandos crowded long legs into his dark brown breeches and sea boots of Cordovan leather. He found a white shirt freshly laundered and put it on. He had the thought, as he went up the companionway at Lizzie’s heels, that he looked as much the buccaneer as any of the Hussy’s crew.