“Fire away, boys!” Black Ethel shouted, her voice ringing out clearly amidst the din of the battle. At once the report of cannon fire belched forth from the ship’s sides, hurtling the little black missives toward the Demeter’s groaning sides. How much more could they take?
Captain Bellamy yelled orders in his inimitable style, clouting the slower members of the crew about the head in an attempt to get them to scramble faster. Everyone seemed to be going in the wrong direction at once, cannon balls sometimes missing their trunks by mere inches, and all too often, not missing at all, but carrying the unlucky few over the side of the boat and into the great wide ocean. It was beginning to look an awful lot like chaos.
Through the smoke and noise, Lizzie could hear three distinct sounds: the throaty laugh of Black Ethel, the rasping snoring of Alice, and what she could only imagine to be the cry of the albatross perched high above the deck of the Bonny Read. Watching the fight from the window of the captain’s cabin, Lizzie began to fear that things were not going well.
For one thing, she could see that Captain Bellamy’s visage was becoming beet red, a sure sign of indignation, as was the tendency of his voice to rise ever higher and skate over more and more consonants. For another, she could see more than a few holes in the deck of the Demeter, which signaled a slight tendency to take on water.
“I must wake Alice,” Lizzie thought to herself. Surely it was only to have her cousin prepared for any eventuality and not simply because her snoring was becoming unbearably loud and coarse. In any case, she shook her cousin’s shoulder gently yet firmly and began to call her name. “Alice, Alice! You must wake up! We are under attack -- by pirates!”
“What?” Alice asked, rubbing her eyes and smiling vacantly as was her habit upon waking. “Parrots?”
“No, no, pirates,” Lizzie hastily corrected her. “They are at present firing cannonballs at the Demeter and will no doubt board her soon.” Well, perhaps an exaggeration, Lizzie scolded herself, but she needed to find a way to get Alice moving. She was so lethargic!
“Is there anything to eat?” Alice said as she stretched luxuriously, raising herself slowly to a sitting position. “Where is Mrs. Perkins?”
Lizzie groaned. “We are not at home, Alice! We are on board the ship, remember, dear? Captain Bellamy is our latest kidnapper and we are sailing for who knows where!”
Alice burst into tears. “I had thought that was all a dream! Oh, Lizzie, please tell me, can it be so?”
Lizzie patted her cousin’s shoulder. “I am so sorry, my dear, but it is true. We have been kidnapped, we are under attack from pirates and all looks quite dismal at present.”
“No, no,” Alice said, shaking her head sorrowfully, “But is it true I ate eels?”
“And many other kinds of fish, much of raw, Alice,” Lizzie could not quite help the scolding tone of her voice even as she tried to comfort her cousin. “But that is not the most important thing just now,” she continued as she moved the bucket once more to the bedside.
“What could be worse?” Alice asked in a strangled voice, turning a pale and not too becoming shade of light green.
With a sudden blast of splinters and shattering glass, a cannon ball crashed through the window of the cabin and made a hasty exit out a new hole on the opposite side.
“That, my dear, could be much worse!” While Alice cowered on the bed, regretting having woken up, Lizzie peeked carefully out the smashed window. The Bonny Read was a mere two yards away and the pirates were swinging ropes between them. They meant to board the ship!