48 Hours a Day
Chapter 224 - New Crisis
After the wind and waves died down, only the Jackdaw remained on the vast ocean.
“I can’t believe we actually escaped!”
Dufresne surveyed the surrounding waters until he was sure that the enemy was nowhere to be seen. Only when he was convinced that they were alone did he plop down on the deck, breathing a long sigh of relief.
After finding Harry and hearing of Jarvis’s betrayal, he had been extremely anxious and tense. He held it all in until the danger was over. Now, he was completely drained and weak.
In a case where the navy had absolute firepower and completely blockaded the seaport, twelve pirates miraculously got the Jackdaw through the blockade, shook off their pursuers, and even successfully made it through the terrible storm. All this in a ship that was less than seaworthy at that time.
Every step of the way was a perilous affair, and everyone contributed by doing their absolute best. Even so, a lot of luck was involved, especially with the occurrence of the storm. It started brewing at the perfect moment. Had it struck them a minute later, and the two armored ships would have sunk the Jackdaw. What was even more incredible was that even in her condition, the Jackdaw was able to survive the fierce storm and still come out in one piece.
As the skies brightened, a soufflé of pink clouds lined the horizon. The drunk sailors finally woke from their slumber. Soon, the main deck began filling up with a hushed murmur audible amongst the pirates, most merely happy to be alive. Dufresne looked around until his gaze finally fell upon a silent figure standing at the stern.
When that man said that he was going to take everyone home, Dufresne thought that he was only saying it to appease the sailors. After all, as captain of the ship, it was only his duty to stabilize the situation first. What Dufresne never expected was that Zhang Heng would actually fulfill his promise, and lead the Jackdaw in an astonishing escape from a desperate situation that seemed hopeless.
Whatever he had done last night, no one else could have done it in his place.
His achievements overshadowed the sphere of what an ordinary human could do. The Jackdaw’s incredible night was nothing short of a miracle, clearly reflected in the expressions of awe and admiration on the sailors’ faces. Zhang Heng, however, didn’t look particularly cheery.
Having recuperated his strength after resting for a bit, Dufresne walked up to the captain and looked in at the direction he was looking at. It was probably toward Parrot Island. Nevertheless, they couldn’t spot anything from so far away.
“Do they… still have a chance?”‘
Zhang Heng shook his head. “The navy came very well prepared this time. And then there’s Jarvis, their spy. We’ve lost a lot this time around. If Black Sam and the others wish to live, they would have to retreat to the heart of the island. But that is exactly what the navy hopes for. They won’t even have to do anything. All they need to do is to wait for two weeks, and when they get on the island, they’ll find themselves a gang of famished, diseased pirates who are on the verge of death.”
Dufresne fell silent. He, too, had already guessed it. This was the very reason why Zhang Heng did everything in his power to get the Jackdaw away from the island. This battle was doomed long before it even started.
Although both sides were on equal footing when it came to firepower, it wasn’t a fair contest at all. The pirates on the island were attacked while celebrating, caught completely unaware. They were separated from their ships and their weapons weren’t loaded. On top of that, their brains were gin-soaked – in no condition to fight, yet, forced to do so. One could only imagine what the outcome of that would be.
While Dufresne and Zhang Heng were in the middle of the conversation, the recently hired bookkeeper hurried over to them.
“Captain, Mr. Dufresne, you better come see this,” said the man while panting.
Zhang Heng and Dufresne quickly followed the bookkeeper to the hold. Nearly all the seawater had been pumped out, and except for the dampness, it was mostly back to its normal state. However, the sailors inside looked grim, as they stood looking at a bucket of clean water.
Dufresne reached in and scooped some into his hands. He took a sip, but its saltiness made him spit it out instantly. He asked, “How much?”
“We’re out of luck, sir. Two shells hit the area where we stored our fresh water. It destroyed around seven or eight barrels of them. It was fine at first, but when the flood came in, seawater mixed with it. There’s also not much rum left on the ship because we took out thirty barrels for the party!”
“Anything else?” the quartermaster asked when he saw the bookkeeper gulp.
“The biscuits stored in here are soaked in seawater as well. We managed to save some of it, but the rest of it can’t be eaten.”
“So, how long can our reserves last us?”
“We have enough food. Even without the biscuits, we still have the dried meat and potatoes. We can also have our men go fishing. If we carefully ration our food, it should be enough to last us till Nassau. But…” the bookkeeper paused. “…there’s only enough water for four days.”
“At our rate of current consumption, yes.”
Dufresne immediately recognized the direness of the situation. It took the Jackdaw almost two weeks to get from Nassau to Parrot Island, and that was with the wind on their tail.
The Jackdaw had just endured a major battle. As luck would have it, the masts were not seriously damaged, and the sails had been patched up by the crew. Now, of all things, the wind wasn’t in their favor. It would take them much longer to return to Nassau.
“Are there any islands nearby where we can replenish our water supply?” Zhang Heng asked.
“There is one near us… a small island, only a quarter of the size of Parrot Island, but there’s no water there, sir,” a sailor answered.
“Then, from now on, we’ll start restricting the water on board. Everyone will receive an allotted amount every day,” Dufresne said.
Zhang Heng made no comments. Instead, he turned to Harry and said, “Go get my chart from my quarters.”
The latter had been eavesdropping on the conversation, wondering when Dufresne would tell Zhang Heng about his contribution. When Zhang Heng spoke directly to him, he was taken aback, but for whatever reason, a look of excitement suddenly washed over his face, and he made haste to the captain’s quarters.
However, once inside, he was distressed. Unfamiliar with the room, it took him amost half a day of rummaging around to find the chart tucked away at the top of the bookshelf.
Zhang Heng spread out the chart, and the first thing he did was to locate Parrot Island and tried to look for the nearby island. He seemed to be calculating something in his head.
Dufresne was puzzled. “There’s no fresh water on the island. What is the use of us going there?”
“We’ve been hounded and pursued by these guys for the longest time now. We’d be letting them off the hook too easily if we just leave without asking for any recompense. Also, the water that we need will come from them,” Zhang Heng explained.