An Extra Scene – “Cannons and Honor”

Cannons and Honor got two opening scenes, one of which was a little late for inclusion into the final ebook. It restates information in the opening paragraphs, just differently- compare it to the more period-flavored opening of the story.

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“I knew we should not have taken passage on such a small ship, Leigh.”  The fresh-faced little blond in the wide bonnet held onto her companion’s arm as they stood at the taffrail of the Dutch brigantine De Zigeuner. “The East India Company ships are seldom taken by pirates.”

“True, but the cost of the passage on an Indiaman was beyond our means, darling. We could have sent you to Bangalore, where the Major will reimburse your passage as a wedding gift, but then I could not have accompanied you.” The young man patted the hand that she slipped through the crook of his elbow.  “They did say we would go in convoy and be safer, but losing a yard cost De Zigeuner time and company.”  He had fretted about this very thing, without troubling his sister with his worries, though he, too, would have preferred to sail in a larger, more heavily armed merchantman.

“Once we were well away from Madagascar, we should have been safe enough,” commented the purser, who had returned above decks to watch the ship that had been pursuing them for several hours. It had grown larger as it drew closer, but still did not appear to be an active threat. “If His Majesty’s frigates still plied these waters in number, we should not have this worry.”

“There might be one or two, but most of them have been recalled to blockade duty. Dreary work, that—back and forth and back and forth off the harbors, keeping Boney’s fleets bottled up. Important though, don’t want ships of the line boiling out of Le Havre or Brest.”  The brigantine’s second lieutenant paused to add a note to the conversation.

“Small consolation to us now.”  The purser shaded his eyes to watch the pursuer more closely. “Who do you suppose is chasing us?”

“Pirates. Does it matter?” asked the young woman, scorn in her voice.

“Indeed it does. With some upstart, you can’t predict what will happen if they catch us. If it’s Captain John Bull…”

“John Bull! What kind of a name is that! How dare he take it! He’s no proper representative of England if he’s a pirate!” The young woman very nearly quivered with indignation. “And will they catch us?”  Practical concerns could bubble into her mind at times.

“Possibly not. We’ve been tacking through some dangerous waters. Most pirates would have given up by now, but Bull will chase us all the way to Calcutta. The lieutenant hurried on, perhaps because escaping the conversation was as important as the task he was engaged on. He disappeared below deck and could be heard shouting to the men to clear for action.

“He’s John Bull because he’s everything about England gone wrong,” muttered the captain, once he’d taken the spyglass away form his eye. “He fights like an Englishman, he treats his prizes with English courtesy, and he speaks with a Kentish accent, damn him.”  A quick glance to one side. “Begging your pardon, miss.”

“His crews love him, so I’m told,” the purser carried on quickly, before the young man could object to the profanity used before his companion. “A motley of  Malays and Somalis—it’s said he speaks the rogues’ languages.”

“Call them what you like now, but speak softly if they catch us.” The captain looked again through his glass.

“Speak softly to pirates?” the young woman scoffed.

“Speak softly or not at all,” the captain warned her. “They’ve been known to take tongues.”

“Do you think he’s really a deserter from the Royal Navy?” asked another passenger, a portly Englishman with extravagant whiskers.

“Perhaps. Possibly he fled the East India Company—he’s got astonishing abilities to find the best bits of the cargo, no matter where they’ve been stowed.”  The captain had met Bull once before and did not cherish the memories.  “His jackdaws will take whatever appeals to them.”

“To think that he’s of the same nation as Bolitho and Ramage,” the purser mourned.

“He’s as fine a sailor as Aubrey,” the captain said before he shouted more orders to his men. “We might be able to keep enough distance on him to evade. A mixed blessing, that, because we haven’t the armament to shoot back at this distance.”

Puffs of smoke appeared around the trailing ship, pre-empting the question of shooting first or shooting back.   A fountain of water flew into the air. “And as fine a shot, too,” commented the purser. “He’s got the range on us already.”

“What can one cannon ball do?” the young woman asked with grave skepticism. “It’s small. The ship is large. They don’t explode.”

“One cannon ball can turn the decks, boats, and railings into oak splinters that mow down everyone nearby.” The captain shook his head at this astonishing display of naval ignorance. “Nor does it need to be ball shot.  For instance, chain shot can do a great deal of—“

The captain never did finish that statement, because the distant ship had puffed again, though the sound of the cannon did not carry. Something whistled through the air and holes appeared in the sails, which had been set for speed. A terrible cracking sound filled the air—to the horror of all, the mizzen mast came down to drag the sails and yards in the water. A sea anchor could not have slowed the ship more effectively, and the pursuer drew closer.

“What should we do?” the young man asked, not that he could have assisted the crew.

“Stay,” advised the purser, for the captain had stumped off toward the fallen mast to direct his crew. “They know we’re here, going below will not save you. In fact, you especially do not want to be caught below, Miss Westman. I am sorry, my friends, but you are going to have more adventure than you could wish.”

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Want to read the rest? Get it here.

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