The tension was palpable on the ship as they waited. The French ships had maneuvered themselves closer to get a better look. The Whispering Wind and the Tempest were painted not only to look like ships of the line but also that they had double rows of gun ports. If the French raiding party got in close enough Redgrave hoped they would think themselves out gunned, though it wasn't true.
The HEIC vessels were in position, forming an official battle line, waving the Union Jack; by noon they got their answer the French fleet had chosen to flee. The ruse had worked.
"What now, Commander?" Mr. Cree asked.
Clara eyes shot up and her look of surprise was unmistakable. Redgrave laughed in spite of the gravity of the situation. "We must continue the ruse," he explained. "The British would give them no quarter. They would choose to drive them off, or engage and take them down."
"However, Mr. McCree... signal we are to follow but do not engage unless fired upon," Redgrave ordered and Mr. McCree signaled the other ships.
Almost immediately into the pursuit did they spy that one frigate had broken off. "The guard wishes to pursue, sir." The HEIC guard ship, the Dauntless was the only naval battle ship in the fleet making it the largest and most heavily armed.
Redgrave thought this might be the approach the French would take. Evasive maneuvers only to circle back and try to attack from behind, especially if they believed them to be merchant ships. "Let them know they have permission to engage."
The Whispering Wind and Tempest however stayed close to other frigate, though the ship was still far off on the horizon. Since the French vessel chose not to engage Redgrave was convinced they must think the ships part of the line and feared engaging him. However, Redgrave was under no misconception. He knew that the Frigate was much stronger than his own ship.
By midday they had gotten report that French ship, the Dauntless pursued, had fired shots and though the battle continued so far no real damage had been inflicted and they had zero causalities to report. Redgrave was grateful for that.
As night fell they had lost sight of both the Dauntless and the French frigate they were in battle with, therefore all communication had stopped. Redgrave hoped that the fighting had ceased and that the naval guard ship would soon be able to regroup with them.
He ordered Claremont to get the powder monkeys to light lanterns in every gunport whether or not there was a cannon in the port. She quickly sprung into action and the ship was lit up like a leering jack-o-lantern on the night sea.
Clara returned topside and felt the ship change positions. They were closing the distance. She looked on amazed as the Whispering Wind pulled alongside the French Frigate. Redgrave hailed the other ship, and demanded them to surrender. Clara thought he was taking this ruse too far. They should have broken off and disappeared under the cover of night. What was he thinking?
The ships held their collective breath as they waited for the commander of the French Frigate to respond. When he chose to strike his flag and come aboard the Whispering Wind to surrender formally, Clara allowed herself to exhale.
Redgrave received the Commander and his first Lieutenant onboard the Whispering Wind. It was evident that once onboard the Commander of the French Frigate realized that he was duped. That there were far less guns than were portrayed.
"May I ask to whom am I surrendering?" the French Commander asked.
Redgrave stood tall, when he announced, "To a Merchantman."
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Forever RuinedHistorical Fiction
Benjamin McAllister's past was riddled with intrigue, war and death. It was no place for a woman, such comforts as marriage, family and love were not meant to be his but one woman changed all of that for him. Clara Bentley had won Benjamin McAllist...