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My footsteps left no imprint on the frozen sand. Wind whipped the sea foam above the high-tide mark. The signal fire would provide no warmth, only a small beacon against the blinding night.
Before, back at the inn, I said t’was reckless to off-load this night. Let the Astral hove off towards Grayson’s Spit; the skiffs to wait for calmer seas.
But our leader thought only of the pounds to be made on the cargo: “Gentry’s hungry for spices, nutmeg for their cooks to grind for them fancy pies. Patrons of the coffee houses swig cocoa and talk nonsense. Seen worse seas, night’s only a gentle, King’s Men won’t come out – no freezing ar*es for them” were his prevarications; the evil of his greed.
Rest of the crew, made blustery by the rum, carried the same tune in a basket. They’d seen worse; the cove a fixture, safe as angels. We were off to light the fires and the lanterns, refractive light to signal “all clear,” tide and winds a fore you.
Sure as bulrushes’ exploding in the fall, Pentry put off from the Astral; his pride t’would ne’er allow another crew to make the sea girt first. He’d set his determined jaw, and row like a prisoner escaped from a hulk.
The wind shifted; a drizzle of ice froze to my woolen shawl. “Out the come in lights” I called, so none other would venture but my voice lost to the force of the wind .
Skiff awash, Pentry body disappeared into the maddened waves. “Throw a cord,” I cried – the rest of the crew frozen like my shawl. I prayed as I never had he would catch hold of the rope, even in a stupor from the pounding of the sea.
Then he lay on the sand, in a tremor, half dead, his face a nacreous shade. With the flask of fine brandy retro from our last haul to hand, forced his blanched lips open and poured a fair draught down his throat.
He opened his eyes, and croaked, “Girl, if you’re to give a man fine brandy, then give him more than a sip.”