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Title: By Conduct and Courage - A Story of the Days of Nelson
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          BY CONDUCT AND COURAGE



                      MR. HENTY’S HISTORICAL TALES.

      THE CAT OF BUBASTES: A Story of Ancient Egypt. 5_s._
      THE YOUNG CARTHAGINIAN: A Story of the Times of Hannibal. 6_s._
      FOR THE TEMPLE: A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem. 6_s._
      BERIC THE BRITON: A Story of the Roman Invasion. 6_s._
      THE DRAGON AND THE RAVEN: or, The Days of King Alfred. 5_s._
      WULF THE SAXON: A Story of the Norman Conquest. 6_s._
      A KNIGHT OF THE WHITE CROSS: The Siege of Rhodes. 6_s._
      IN FREEDOM’S CAUSE: A Story of Wallace and Bruce. 6_s._
      THE LION OF ST. MARK: A Story of Venice in the 14th Century. 6_s._
      ST. GEORGE FOR ENGLAND: A Tale of Cressy and Poitiers. 5_s._
      A MARCH ON LONDON: A Story of Wat Tyler. 5_s._
      BOTH SIDES THE BORDER: A Tale of Hotspur and Glendower. 6_s._
      AT AGINCOURT: A Tale of the White Hoods of Paris. 6_s._
      BY RIGHT OF CONQUEST: or, With Cortez in Mexico. 6_s._
      ST. BARTHOLOMEW’S EVE: A Tale of the Huguenot Wars. 6_s._
      BY PIKE AND DYKE: A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic. 6_s._
      BY ENGLAND’S AID: or, The Freeing of the Netherlands. 6_s._
      UNDER DRAKE’S FLAG: A Tale of the Spanish Main. 6_s._
      THE LION OF THE NORTH: A Tale of Gustavus Adolphus. 6_s._
      WON BY THE SWORD: A Tale of the Thirty Years’ War. 6_s._
      WHEN LONDON BURNED: A Story of the Great Fire. 6_s._
      A JACOBITE EXILE: In the Service of Charles XII. 5_s._
      IN THE IRISH BRIGADE: A Tale of War in Flanders and Spain. 6_s._
      THE BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE: or, With Peterborough in Spain. 5_s._
      BONNIE PRINCE CHARLIE: A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden. 6_s._
      WITH CLIVE IN INDIA: or, The Beginnings of an Empire. 6_s._
      WITH FREDERICK THE GREAT: The Seven Years’ War. 6_s._
      WITH WOLFE IN CANADA: or, The Winning of a Continent. 6_s._
      TRUE TO THE OLD FLAG: The American War of Independence. 6_s._
      HELD FAST FOR ENGLAND: A Tale of the Siege of Gibraltar. 5_s._
      IN THE REIGN OF TERROR: The French Revolution. 5_s._
      NO SURRENDER! A Tale of the Rising in La Vendée. 5_s._
      A ROVING COMMISSION: A Story of the Hayti Insurrection. 6_s._
      THE TIGER OF MYSORE: The War with Tippoo Saib. 6_s._
      AT ABOUKIR AND ACRE: Napoleon’s Invasion of Egypt. 5_s._
      WITH MOORE AT CORUNNA: A Tale of the Peninsular War. 6_s._
      UNDER WELLINGTON’S COMMAND: The Peninsular War. 6_s._
      WITH COCHRANE THE DAUNTLESS: A Tale of his Exploits. 6_s._
      THROUGH THE FRAY: A Story of the Luddite Riots. 6_s._
      THROUGH RUSSIAN SNOWS: The Retreat from Moscow. 5_s._
      ONE OF THE 28TH: A Story of Waterloo. 5_s._
      IN GREEK WATERS: A Story of the Grecian War (1821). 6_s._
      ON THE IRRAWADDY: A Story of the First Burmese War. 5_s._
      THROUGH THE SIKH WAR: A Tale of the Punjaub. 6_s._
      MAORI AND SETTLER: A Story of the New Zealand War. 5_s._
      WITH LEE IN VIRGINIA: A Story of the American Civil War. 6_s._
      BY SHEER PLUCK: A Tale of the Ashanti War. 5_s._
      OUT WITH GARIBALDI: A Story of the Liberation of Italy. 5_s._
      FOR NAME AND FAME: or, To Cabul with Roberts. 5_s._
      THE DASH FOR KHARTOUM: A Tale of the Nile Expedition. 6_s._
      CONDEMNED AS A NIHILIST: A Story of Escape from Siberia. 5_s._
      WITH BULLER IN NATAL: or, A Born Leader. 6_s._



  [Illustration: “AS THEY CLIMBED UP THEY WERE CONFRONTED BY
    FULLY A HUNDRED ARMED MOORS”]



                         BY CONDUCT AND COURAGE

                     A STORY OF THE DAYS OF NELSON

                                   BY

                              G. A. HENTY

       Author of “With Roberts to Pretoria” “With Buller in Natal”
                    “With Kitchener in the Soudan” &c.


_ILLUSTRATED BY WILLIAM RAINEY, R.I._



BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED
LONDON GLASGOW DUBLIN BOMBAY
1905



                             PUBLISHERS’ NOTE


Mr. George A. Henty, who died in November, 1902, had completed three new
stories, _With the Allies to Pekin_, _Through Three Campaigns_, and _By
Conduct and Courage_. Of these, _Through Three Campaigns_ and _With the
Allies to Pekin_ were published in the autumn of 1903; the present story
is therefore the last of Mr. Henty’s great series of historical stories
for boys.

The proofs have been revised by Mr. G. A. Henty’s son, Captain C. G.
Henty.



                                 CONTENTS


   CHAP.                                              Page
      I.   AN ORPHAN                                    11
     II.   IN THE KING’S SERVICE                        32
    III.   A SEA-FIGHT                                  53
     IV.   PROMOTED                                     75
      V.   A PIRATE HOLD                                96
     VI.   A NARROW ESCAPE                             119
    VII.   AN INDEPENDENT COMMAND                      137
   VIII.   A SPLENDID HAUL                             157
     IX.   A SPELL ASHORE                              178
      X.   BACK AT SCARCOMBE                           197
     XI.   CAPTIVES AMONG THE MOORS                    212
    XII.   BACK ON THE “TARTAR”                        234
   XIII.   WITH NELSON                                 250
    XIV.   THE GLORIOUS FIRST OF JUNE                  264
     XV.   ESCAPED                                     284
    XVI.   A DARING EXPLOIT                            300
   XVII.   ON BOARD THE “JASON”                        321
  XVIII.   ST. VINCENT AND CAMPERDOWN                  342
    XIX.   CONCLUSION                                  362



                              ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                     Page
     “AS THEY CLIMBED UP THEY WERE CONFRONTED BY          _Frontis._  213
     FULLY A HUNDRED ARMED MOORS”
     AFTER HIS FIRST FIGHT                                             65
     WILL LEADS A PARTY TO TAKE THE ENEMY IN THE REAR                 109
     THE RESCUE                                                       155
     “TOM AND DIMCHURCH MADE A DESPERATE DEFENCE”                     191
     “HE ORDERED THE MAN AT THE HELM TO STEER FOR THE                 286
     FRIGATE”
     “HE WAS JUST IN TIME TO SEE LUCIEN ALIGHT”                       312
     “AT LAST HER CAPTAIN WAS COMPELLED TO STRIKE”                    355



                          BY CONDUCT AND COURAGE



                                CHAPTER I


                                AN ORPHAN


A wandering musician was a rarity in the village of Scarcombe. In fact,
such a thing had not been known in the memory of the oldest inhabitant.
What could have brought him here? men and women asked themselves. There
was surely nobody who could dance in the village, and the few coppers he
would gain by performing on his violin would not repay him for his
trouble. Moreover, Scarcombe was a bleak place, and the man looked sorely
shaken with the storm of life. He seemed, indeed, almost unable to hold
out much longer; his breath was short, and he had a hacking cough.

To the surprise of the people, he did not attempt to play for their
amusement or to ask, in any way, for alms. He had taken a lodging in the
cottage of one of the fishermen, and on fine days he would wander out with
his boy, a child some five years old, and, lying down on the moorland,
would play soft tunes to himself. So he lived for three weeks; and then
the end came suddenly. The child ran out one morning from his room crying
and saying that daddy was asleep and he could not wake him, and on the
fisherman going in he saw that life had been extinct for some hours.
Probably it had come suddenly to the musician himself, for there was found
among his scanty effects no note or memorandum giving a clue to the
residence of the child’s friends, or leaving any direction concerning him.
The clergyman was, of course, called in to advise as to what should be
done. He was a kind-hearted man, and volunteered to bury the dead musician
without charging any fees.

After the funeral another question arose. What was to be done with the
child?

He was a fine-looking, frank boy, who had grown and hardened beyond his
years by the life he had led with his father. Fifteen pounds had been
found in the dead man’s kit. This, however, would fall to the share of the
workhouse authorities if they took charge of him. A sort of informal
council was held by the elder fishermen.

“It is hard on the child,” one of them said. “I have no doubt his father
intended to tell him where to find his friends, but his death came too
suddenly. Here is fifteen pounds. Not much good, you will say; and it
isn’t. It might last a year, or maybe eighteen months, but at the end of
that time he would be as badly off as he is now.”

“Maybe John Hammond would take him,” another suggested. “He lost his boat
and nets three weeks ago, and though he has a little money saved up, it is
not enough to replace them. Perhaps he would take the child in return for
the fifteen pounds. His old woman could do with him, too, and would soon
make him a bit useful. John himself is a kind-hearted chap, and would
treat him well, and in a few years the boy would make a useful nipper on
board his boat.”

John Hammond was sent for, and the case was put to him. “Well,” he said,
“I think I could do with him, and the brass would be mighty useful to me
just now; but how does the law stand? If it got to be talked about, the
parish might come down upon me for the money.”

“That is so, John,” one of the others said. “The best plan would be for
you, and two of us, to go up to parson, and ask him how the matter stands.
If he says that it is all right, you may be sure that you would be quite
safe.”

The clergyman, upon being consulted, said that he thought the arrangement
was a very good one. The parish authorities had not been asked to find any
money for the father’s funeral, and had therefore no say in the matter,
unless they were called upon to take the child. Should any question be
asked, he would state that he himself had gone into the matter and had
strongly approved of the arrangement, which he considered was to their
advantage as well as the child’s; for if they took charge of the boy they
would have to keep him at least ten years, and then pay for apprenticing
him out.

Accordingly the boy was handed over to John Hammond. With the buoyancy of
childhood, William Gilmore, which was the best that could be made of what
he gave as his name, soon felt at home in the fisherman’s cottage. It was
a pleasant change to him after having been a wanderer with his father for
as far back as he could remember. The old woman was kind in her rough way,
and soon took to sending him on small errands. She set him on washing-days
to watch the pot and tell her when it boiled. When not so employed she
allowed him to play with other children of his own age.

Sometimes when the weather was fine, John, who had come to be very fond of
the boy, never having had any children of his own, would take him out with
him fishing, to the child’s supreme enjoyment. After a year of this life
he was put to the village school, which was much less to his liking. Here,
fortunately for himself, he attracted the notice of the clergyman’s
daughter, a girl of sixteen. She, of course, knew his story, and was
filled with a great pity for him. She was a little inclined to romance,
and in her own mind invented many theories to account for his appearance
in the village. Her father would laugh sometimes when she related some of
these to him.

“My dear child,” he said, “it is not necessary to go so far to account for
the history of this poor wandering musician. You say that he looked to you
like a broken-down gentleman; there are thousands of such men in the
country, ne’er-do-wells, who have tired out all their friends, and have
taken at last to a life that permits a certain amount of freedom and
furnishes them with a living sufficient for necessary wants. It is from
such men as these that the great body of tramps is largely recruited. Many
such men drive hackney-coaches in our large towns; some of them enlist in
the army; but wherever they are, and whatever they take up, they are sure
to stay near the foot of the tree. They have no inclination for better
things. They work as hard as men who have steady employment, but they
prefer their own liberty with a crust to a solid meal regularly earned. I
agree with you myself that there was an appearance of having seen better
times about this man; I can go so far with you as to admit that I think
that at some time or other he moved in decent circles; but if we could get
at the truth I have no doubt whatever that we should find that he had
thrown away every opportunity, alienated every friend, and, having cut
himself adrift from all ties, took to the life of a wanderer. For such a
man nothing could be done; but I hope that the boy, beginning in vastly
poorer circumstances than his father, will some day come to earn his
living honestly in the position of life in which he is placed.”

The interest, however, which Miss Warden took in the boy remained
unabated, and had a very useful effect upon him. She persuaded him to come
up every day for half an hour to the rectory, and then instructed him in
his lessons, educating him in a manner very different from the perfunctory
teaching of the old dame at the school. She would urge him on by telling
him that if he would attend to his lessons he would some day be able to
rise to a better position than that of a village fisherman. His father, no
doubt, had had a good education, but from circumstances over which he had
had no control he had been obliged to take to the life of a strolling
musician, and she was sure that he would have wished of all things that
his son should be able to obtain a good position in life when he grew up.

Under Miss Warden’s teaching the boy made very rapid progress, and was,
before two more years had passed, vastly in advance of the rest of the
children of the village. As to this, however, by Miss Warden’s advice, he
remained silent. When he was ten his regular schooling was a great deal
interrupted, as it was considered that when a boy reached that age it was
high time that he began to assist his father in the boat. He was glad of
his freedom and the sense that he was able to make himself useful, but of
an evening when he was at home, or weather prevented the boat from going
out, he went up for his lesson to Miss Warden, and, stealing away from the
others, would lie down on the moor and work at his books.

He was now admitted to the society of watchers. He had often heard
whispers among other boys of the look-out that had to be kept upon the
custom-house officers, and heard thrilling tales of adventure and escape
on the part of the fishermen. Smuggling was indeed carried on on a large
scale on the whole Yorkshire coast, and cargoes were sometimes run under
the very noses of the revenue officers, who were put off the scent by many
ingenious contrivances. Before a vessel was expected in, rumours would be
circulated of an intention to land the cargo on some distant spot, and a
mysterious light would be shown in that direction by fishing-boats.
Sometimes, however, the smugglers were caught in the act, and then there
would be a fierce fight, ending in some, at least, of those engaged being
taken off to prison and afterwards sent on a voyage in a ship of war.

Will Gilmore was now admitted as a helper in these proceedings, and often
at night would watch one or other of the revenue men, and if he saw him
stir beyond his usual beat would quickly carry the news to the village. A
score of boys were thus employed, so that any movement which seemed to
evidence a concentration of the coast-guard men was almost certain to be
thwarted. Either the expected vessel was warned off with lights, or, if
the concentration left unguarded the place fixed upon for landing, the
cargo would be immediately run.

Thus another five years passed. Will was now a strong lad. His friend,
Miss Warden, could teach him but little more, but she often had him up of
an evening to have a chat with him.

“I am afraid, William,” she said one evening, “that a good deal of
smuggling is carried on here. Last week there was a fight, and three of
the men of the village were killed and several were taken away to prison.
It is a terrible state of affairs.”

William did not for a moment answer. It was something entirely new to him
that there was anything wrong in smuggling. He regarded it as a mere
contest of wits between the coast-guard and the fishermen, and had taken a
keen pleasure in outwitting the former.

“But there is no harm in smuggling, Miss Warden. Almost everyone takes
part in it, and the farmers round all send their carts in when a run is
expected.”

“But it is very wrong, William, and the fact that so many people are ready
to aid in it is no evidence in its favour. People band together to cheat
the King’s Revenue, and thereby bring additional taxation upon those who
deal fairly. It is as much robbery to avoid the excise duties as it is to
carry off property from a house, and it has been a great grief to my
father that his parishioners, otherwise honest and God-fearing people,
should take part in such doings, as is evidenced by the fact that so many
of them were involved in the fray last week. He only abstains from
denouncing it in the pulpit because he fears that he might thereby lose
the affection of the people and impair his power of doing good in other
respects.”

“I never thought of it in that way, miss,” the lad said seriously.

“Just think in your own case, William: suppose you were caught and sent
off to sea; there would be an end of the work you have been doing. You
would be mixed up with rough sailors, and, after being away on a long
voyage, you would forget all that you have learnt, and would be as rough
as themselves. This would be a poor ending indeed to all the pains I have
taken with you, and all the labour you have yourself expended in trying to
improve yourself. It would be a great grief to me, I can assure you, and a
cruel disappointment, to know that my hopes for you had all come to
naught.”

“They sha’n’t, Miss Warden,” the boy said firmly. “I know it will be hard
for me to draw back, but, if necessary, I will leave the village now that
you are going to be married. If you had been going to stay I would have
stopped too, but the village will not be like itself to me after you have
left.”

“I am glad to think you mean that. I have remained here as long as I could
be of use to you, for though I have taught you as much as I could in all
branches of education that would be likely to be useful to you, have lent
you my father’s books, and pushed you forward till I could no longer lead
the way, there are still, of course, many things for you to learn. You
have got a fair start, but you must not be content with that. If you have
to leave, and I don’t think a longer stay here would be of use to you, I
will endeavour to obtain some situation for you at Scarborough or Whitby,
where you could, after your work is done, continue your education. But I
beg you to do nothing rashly. It would be better if you could stay here
for another year or so. We may hope that the men will not be so annoyed as
you think at your refusal to take further part in the smuggling
operations. At any rate, stay if you can for a time. It will be two months
before I leave, and three more before I am settled in my new home at
Scarborough. When I am so I have no doubt that my husband will aid me in
obtaining a situation for you. He has been there for years, and will, of
course, have very many friends and acquaintances who would interest
themselves in you. If, however, you find that your position would be
intolerable, you might remain quiet as to your determination. After the
fight of last week it is not likely that there will be any attempt at a
landing for some little time to come, and I shall not blame you,
therefore, if you at least keep up the semblance of still taking part in
their proceedings.”

“No, Miss Warden,” the boy said sturdily, “I didn’t know that it was
wrong, and therefore joined in it willingly enough, but now you tell me
that it is so I will take no further share in it, whatever comes of it.”

“I am glad to hear you say so, William, for it shows that the aid I have
given you has not been thrown away. What sort of work would you like
yourself, if we can get it for you?”

“I would rather go to sea, Miss Warden, than do anything else. I have, for
the last year, taken a lot of pains to understand those books of
navigation you bought for me. I don’t say that I have mastered them all,
but I understand a good deal, and feel sure that after a few years at sea
I shall be able to pass as a mate.”

“Well, William, you know that, when I got the books for you, I told you
that I could not help you with them, but I can quite understand that with
your knowledge of mathematics you would be able at any rate to grasp a
great deal of the subject. I was afraid then that you would take to the
sea. It is a hard life, but one in which a young man capable of navigating
a ship should be able to make his way. Brought up, as you have been, on
the sea, it is not wonderful that you should choose it as a profession,
and, though I may regret it, I should not think of trying to turn you from
it. Very well, then, I will endeavour to get you apprenticed. It is a hard
life, but not harder than that of a fisherman, to which you are
accustomed.”

When William returned to his foster-father he informed him that he did not
mean to have anything more to do with the smuggling.

The old man looked at him in astonishment. “Are you mad?” he said. “Don’t
I get five shillings for every night you are out, generally four or five
nights a month, which pays for all your food.”

“I am sorry,” the lad said, “but I never knew that it was wrong before,
and now I know it I mean to have nothing more to do with it. What good
comes of it? Here we have three empty cottages, and five or six others
from which the heads will be absent for years. It is dear at any price. I
work hard with you, father, and am never slack; surely the money I earn in
the boat more than pays for my grub.”

“I can guess who told you this,” the old man said angrily. “It was that
parson’s daughter you are always with.”

“Don’t say anything against her,” the boy said earnestly; “she has been
the best friend to me that ever a fellow had, and as long as I live I
shall feel grateful to her. You know that I am not like the other boys of
the village; I can read and write well, and I have gathered a lot of
knowledge from books. Abuse me as much as you like, but say nothing
against her. You know that the terms on which you took me expired a year
ago, but I have gone on just as before and am ready to do the same for a
time.”

“You have been a good lad,” the old man said, mollified, “and I don’t know
what I should have done without you. I am nigh past work now, but in the
ten years you have been with me things have always gone well with me, and
I have money enough to make a shift with for the rest of my life, even if
I work no longer. But I don’t like this freak that you have taken into
your head. It will mean trouble, lad, as sure as you are standing there.
The men here won’t understand you, and will like enough think that the
revenue people have got hold of you. You will be shown the cold shoulder,
and even worse than that may befall you. We fisher-folk are rough and
ready in our ways, and if there is one thing we hate more than another it
is a spy.”

“I have no intention of being a spy,” the boy said. “I have spoken to none
of the revenue men, and don’t mean to do so, and I would not peach even if
I were certain that a cargo was going to be landed. Surely it is possible
to stand aside from it all without being suspected of having gone over to
the enemy. No gold that they could give me would tempt me to say a word
that would lead to the failure of a landing, and surely there can be no
great offence in declining to act longer as a watcher.”

The old man shook his head.

“A wilful man must have his way,” he said; “but I know our fellows better
than you do, and I foresee that serious trouble is likely to come of
this.”

“Well, if it must be, it must,” the boy said doggedly. “I mean, if I live,
to be a good man, and now that I know that it is wrong to cheat the
revenue I will have no more to do with it. It would be a nice reward for
all the pains Miss Warden has spent upon me to turn round and do what she
tells me is wrong.”

John Hammond was getting to the age when few things excite more than a
feeble surprise. He felt that the loss of the boy’s assistance would be a
heavy one, for he had done no small share of the work for the past two
years. But he had more than once lately talked to his wife of the
necessity for selling his boat and nets and remaining at home. With this
decision she quite agreed, feeling that he was indeed becoming incapable
of doing the work, and every time he had gone out in anything but the
calmest weather she had been filled with apprehension as to what would
happen if a storm were to blow up. He was really sorry for the boy, being
convinced that harm would befall him as the result of this, to him,
astonishing decision. To John Hammond smuggling appeared to be quite
justifiable. The village had always been noted as a nest of smugglers, and
to him it came as natural as fishing. It was a pity, a grievous pity, that
the boy should have taken so strange a fancy.

He was a good boy, a hard-working boy, and the only fault he had to find
with him was his unaccountable liking for study. John could neither read
nor write, and for the life of him could not see what good came of it. He
had always got on well without it, and when the school was first started
he and many others shook their heads gravely over it, and regarded it as a
fad of the parson’s. Still, as it only affected children too young to be
useful in the boats, they offered no active opposition, and in time the
school had come to be regarded as chiefly a place where the youngsters
were kept out of their mothers’ way when washing and cooking were going
on.

He went slowly back into the cottage and acquainted his wife with this new
and astonishing development on the part of the boy. His wife was full of
indignation, which was, however, modified at the thought that she would
now have her husband always at home with her.

“I shall speak my mind to Miss Warden,” she said, “and tell her how much
harm her advice has done.”

“No, no, Jenny,” her husband said; “what is the use of that? It is the
parson’s duty to be meddling in all sorts of matters, and it will do no
good to fight against it. Parson is a good man, all allow, and he always
finishes his sermons in time for us to get home to dinner. I agree with
you that the young madam has done harm, and I greatly fear that trouble
will come to the boy. There are places where smuggling is thought to be
wrong, but this place ain’t among them. I don’t know what will happen when
Will says that he doesn’t mean to go any more as a watcher, but there is
sure to be trouble of some sort.”

It was not long indeed before Will felt a change in the village. Previous
to this he had been generally popular, now men passed without seeing him.
He was glad when John Hammond called upon him to go out in the boat, when
the weather was fine, but at other times his only recourse was to steal
away to the moors with his books. Presently the elder boys took to
throwing sods at him as he passed, and calling spy and other opprobrious
epithets after him. This brought on several severe fights, and as Will
made up for want of weight by pluck and activity his opponents more than
once found themselves badly beaten. One day he learned from a subdued
excitement in the village that it was time for one of the smuggling
vessels to arrive. One of his boyish friends had stuck to him, and was
himself almost under a ban for associating with so unpopular a character.

“Don’t you come with me, Stevens,” Will had urged again and again; “you
will only make it bad for yourself, and it will do me no good.”

“I don’t care,” the former said sturdily. “We have always been good
friends, and you know I don’t in the least believe that you have anything
to do with the revenue men. It is too bad of them to say so. I fought Tom
Dickson only this morning for abusing you. He said if you were not working
with them, why did you give up being on the watch. I told him it was no
odds to me why you gave it up, I supposed that you had a right to do as
you liked. Then from words we came to blows. I don’t say I beat him, for
he is a good bit bigger than I am, but I gave him as good as I got, and he
was as glad to stop as I was. You talk of going away soon. If you do, and
you will take me, I will go with you.”

“I don’t know yet where I am going, Tommy, but if I go to a town I have no
doubt I shall be able in a short time to hear of someone there who wants a
strong lad, or perhaps I may be able to get you a berth as cabin-boy in
the ship in which I go. I mean to go for a sailor myself if I can, and I
shall be glad to have you as a chum on board. We have always been great
friends, and I am sure we always shall be, Tommy. If I were you I would
think it over a good many times before you decide upon it. You see I have
learnt a great deal from books to prepare myself for a sea life. Miss
Warden is going to try to get me taken as an apprentice, and in that case
I may hope to get to be an officer when my time is out, but you would not
have much chance of doing so. Of course if we were together I could help
you on. So far you have never cared for books or to improve yourself, and
without that you can never rise to be any more than a common sailor.”

“I hate books,” the boy said; “still, I will try what I can do. But at any
rate I don’t care much so that I am with you.”

“Well, we will see about it when the time comes, Tommy. Miss Warden was
married, as you know, last week. In another three months she will be at
Scarborough, and she has promised that her husband will try to get me
apprenticed either there or at Whitby, which is a large port. Directly I
get on board a ship I will let you know if there is a vacancy in her for a
cabin-boy. But you think it over well first; you will find it difficult,
for I don’t expect your uncle will let you go.”

“I don’t care a snap about him. He is always knocking me about, and I
don’t care what he likes and what he don’t. You may be sure that I sha’n’t
ask him, but shall make off at night as soon as I hear from you. You won’t
forget me, will you, Will?”

“Certainly I will not; you may be quite sure of that. Mind, I don’t
promise that I shall be able to get you a berth as cabin-boy at once, or
as an apprentice. I only promise that I will do so as soon as I have a
chance. It may be a month, and it may be a year; it may even be three or
four years, for though there is always a demand for men, at least so I
have heard, there may not be any demand for boys. But you may be sure that
I will not keep you waiting any longer than I can help.”

One day Will was walking along the cliffs, feeling very solitary, when he
heard a faint cry, and, looking down, saw Tom Stevens in a deep pool. It
had precipitous sides, and he was evidently unable to climb out. “Hold on,
Tom,” he shouted, “I will come to you.”

It was half a mile before he could get to a place where he was able to
climb down, and when he reached the shore he ran with breathless speed to
the spot where Tom’s head was still above the water. He saw at once that
his friend’s strength was well-nigh spent, and, leaping in, he swam to
him. “Put your arms round my neck,” he said. “I will swim down with you to
the point where the creek ends.” The boy was too far gone to speak, and it
needed all Will’s strength to help him down the deep pool to the point
where it joined the sea, and then to haul him ashore.

“I was nearly gone, Will,” the boy said when he recovered a little.

“Yes, I saw that. But how on earth did you manage to get into the water?”

“I was running along by the side of the cliff, when my foot slipped. I
came down on my knee and hurt myself frightfully; I was in such pain that
I could not stop myself from rolling over. I tried to swim, which, of
course, would have been nothing for me, but I think my knee is smashed,
and it hurt me so frightfully that I screamed out with pain, and had to
give up. I could not have held on much longer, and should certainly have
been drowned had you not seen me. I was never so pleased as when I heard
your voice above.”

“Can you walk now, do you think?”

“No, I am sure I can’t walk by myself, but I might if I leant on you. I
will try anyhow.”

He hobbled along for a short distance, but at last said: “It is of no use,
Will, I can’t go any farther.”

“Well, get on my back and I will see what I can do for you.”

Slowly and with many stoppages Will got him to the point where he
descended the cliff. “I must get help to carry you up here, Tom; it is
very steep, and I am sure I could not take you myself. I must go into the
village and bring assistance.”

“I will wait here till morning, Will. There will be no hardship in that,
and I know that you don’t like speaking to anyone.”

“I will manage it,” Will said cheerfully. “I will tell John Hammond, and
he will go to your uncle and get help.”

“Ah, that will do! Most of the men are out, but I dare say there will be
two or three at home.”

Will ran all the way back to the village, which was more than a mile away.
“Tom Stevens is lying at the foot of the cliff, father. I think he has
broken his leg, and he has been nearly drowned. Will you go and see his
uncle, and get three or four men to carry him home. You know very well it
is no use my going to his uncle. He would not listen to what I have to
say, and would simply shower abuse upon me.”

“I will go,” the old man said. “The boy can’t be left there.”

In a quarter of an hour the men started. Will went ahead of them for some
distance until he reached the top of the path. “He is down at the bottom,”
he said, and turned away. Tom was brought home, and roundly abused by his
uncle for injuring himself so that he would be unable to accompany him in
his boat for some days. He lay for a week in bed, and was then only able
to hobble about with the aid of a stick. When he related how Will had
saved him there was a slight revulsion of feeling among the
better-disposed boys, but this was of short duration. It became known that
a French lugger would soon be on the coast. Will was not allowed to
approach the edge of the cliff, being assailed by curses and threats if he
ventured to do so. Every care was taken to throw the coast-guard off the
scent, but things went badly. There was some sharp fighting, and a
considerable portion of the cargo was seized as it was being carried up
the cliff.

The next day Tom hurried up to Will, who was a short way out on the moor.

“You must run for your life, Will. There are four or five of the men who
say that you betrayed them last night, and I do believe they will throw
you over the cliff. Here they come! The best thing you can do is to make
for the coast-guard station.”

Will saw that the four men who were coming along were among the roughest
in the village, and started off immediately at full speed. With oaths and
shouts the men pursued him. The coast-guard station was two miles away,
and he reached it fifty yards in front of them. The men stopped, shouting:
“You are safe there, but as soon as you leave it we will have you.”

“What is the matter, lad?” the sub-officer in charge of the station said.

“Those men say that I betrayed them, but you know ’tis false, sir.”

“Certainly I do. I know you well by sight, and believe that you are a good
young fellow. I have always heard you well spoken of. What makes them
think that?”

“It is because I would not agree to go on acting as watcher. I did not
know that there was any harm in it till Miss Warden told me, and then I
would not do it any longer, and that set all the village against me.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I will stay here to-night if you will let me. I am sure they will keep up
a watch for me.”

“I will sling a hammock for you,” the man said. “Now we are just going to
have dinner, and I dare say you can eat something. You are the boy they
call Miss Warden’s pet, are you not?”

“Yes, they call me so. She has been very kind to me, and has helped me on
with my books.”

“Ah, well, a boy is sure to get disliked by his fellows when he is
cleverer with his books than they are!”

After dinner the officer said: “It is quite clear that you won’t be able
to return to the village. I think I have heard that you have no father. Is
it not so?”

“Yes, he died when I was five years old. He left a little money, and John
Hammond took me in and bought a boat with that and what he had saved. I
was bound to stay with him until I was fourteen years old, but was soon
going to leave him, for he is really too old to go out any longer.”

“Have you ever thought of going into the royal navy?”

“I have thought of it, sir, but I have not settled anything. I thought of
going into the merchant navy.”

“Bah! I am surprised at a lad of spirit like you thinking of such a thing.
If you have learned a lot you will, if you are steady, be sure to get on
in time, and may very well become a petty officer. No lad of spirit would
take to the life of a merchantman who could enter the navy. I don’t say
that some of the Indiamen are not fine ships, but you would find it very
hard to get a berth on one of them. Our lieutenant will be over here in a
day or two, and I have no doubt that if I speak to him for you he will
ship you as a boy in a fine ship.”

“How long does one ship for, sir?”

“You engage for the time that the ship is in commission, at the outside
for five years; and if you find that you do not like it, at the end of
that time it is open to you to choose some other berth.”

“I can enter the merchant navy then if I like?”

“Of course you could, but I don’t think that you would. On a merchantman
you would be kicked and cuffed all round, whereas on a man-of-war I don’t
say it would be all easy sailing, but if you were sharp and obliging
things would go smoothly enough for you.”

“Well, sir, I will think it over to-night.”

“Good, my boy! you are quite right not to decide in a hurry. It is a
serious thing for a young chap to make a choice like that; but it seems to
me that, being without friends as you are, and having made enemies of all
the people of your village, it would be better for you to get out of it as
soon as possible.”

“I quite see that; and really I think I could not do better than pass a
few years on a man-of-war, for after that I should be fit for any work I
might find to do.”

“Well, sleep upon it, lad.”

Will sat down on the low wall in front of the station and thought it over.
After all, it seemed to him that it would be better to be on a fine ship
and have a chance of fighting with the French than to sail in a
merchantman. At the end of five years he would be twenty, and could pass
as a mate if he chose, or settle on land. He would have liked to consult
Miss Warden, but this was out of the question. He knew the men who had
pursued him well enough to be sure that his life would not be safe if they
caught him. He might make his way out of the station at night, but even
that was doubtful. Besides, if he were to do so he had no one to go to at
Scarborough; he had not a penny in his pocket, and would find it
impossible to maintain himself until Miss Warden returned. He did not wish
to appear before her as a beggar. He was still thinking when a shadow fell
across him, and, looking up, he saw his friend Tom.

“I have come round to see you, Will,” he said. “I don’t know what is to be
done. Nothing will convince the village that you did not betray them.”

“The thing is too absurd,” Will said angrily. “I never spoke to a
coast-guardsman in my life till to-day, except, perhaps, in passing, and
then I would do no more than make a remark about the weather. Besides, no
one in the village has spoken to me for a month, so how could I tell that
the lugger was coming in that night?”

“Well, I really don’t think it would be safe for you to go back.”

“I am not going back. I have not quite settled what I shall do, but
certainly I don’t intend to return to the village.”

“Then what are you going to do, Will?”

“I don’t know exactly, but I have half decided to ship as a boy on one of
the king’s ships.”

“I should like to go with you wherever you go, but I should like more than
anything to do that.”

“It is a serious business, you know; you would have to make up your mind
to be kicked and cuffed.”

“I get that at home,” Tom said; “it can’t be harder for me at sea than it
is there.”

“Well, I have not got to decide until to-morrow; you go home and think it
over, and if you come in the morning with your mind made up, I will speak
to the officer here and ask him if they will take us both.”



                                CHAPTER II


                          IN THE KING’S SERVICE


Before morning came Will had thought the matter over in every light, and
concluded that he could not do better than join the navy for a few years.
Putting all other things aside, it was a life of adventure, and adventure
is always tempting to boys. It really did not seem to him that, if he
entered the merchant service at once, he would be any better off than he
would be if he had a preliminary training in the royal navy. He knew that
the man-of-war training would make him a smarter sailor, and he hoped that
he would find time enough on board ship to continue his work, so that
afterwards he might be able to pass as a mate in the merchant service.

Tom Stevens came round in the morning.

“I have quite made up my mind to go with you if you will let me,” he said.

“I will let you readily enough, Tom, but I must warn you that you will not
have such a good look-out as I shall. You know, I have learnt a good deal,
and if the first cruise lasts for five years I have no doubt that at the
end of it I shall be able to pass as a mate in the merchant service, and I
am afraid you will have very little chance of doing so.”

“I can’t help that,” Tom said. “I know that I am not like you, and I
haven’t learnt things, and I don’t suppose that if I had had anyone to
help me it would have made any difference. I know I shall never rise much
above a sailor before the mast. If you leave the service and go into a
merchantman I will go there with you. It does not matter to me where I am.
I felt so before, and of course I feel it all the more now that you have
saved my life. I am quite sure you will get on in the world, Will, and
sha’n’t grudge you your success a bit, however high you rise, for I know
how hard you have worked, and how well you deserve it. Besides, even if I
had had the pains bestowed upon me, and had worked ever so hard myself, I
should never have been a bit like you. You seem different from us somehow.
I don’t know how it is, but you are smarter and quicker and more active. I
expect some day you will find out something about your father, and then
probably we shall be able to understand the difference between us. At any
rate I am quite prepared to see you rise, and I shall be well content if
you will always allow me to remain your friend.”

Will gratified the sub-officer later by telling him that he had made up
his mind to ship on board one of the king’s vessels, and that his friend
and chum, Tom Stevens, had made up his mind to go with him.

The coxswain looked Tom up and down.

“You have the makings of a fine strong man,” he said, “and ought to turn
out a good sailor. The training you have had in the fishing-boats will be
all in your favour. Well, I will let you know when the lieutenant makes
his rounds. I am sure there will be no difficulty in shipping you. Boys
ain’t what they were when I was young. Then we thought it an honour to be
shipped on board a man-of-war, now most of them seem to me mollycoddled,
and we have difficulty in getting enough boys for the ships. You see, we
are not allowed to press boys, but only able-bodied men; so the youngsters
can laugh in our faces. Most of the crimps get one or two of them to watch
the sailors as the boys of the village watch our men, and give notice when
they are going to make a raid. I don’t think, therefore, that there is any
fear of your being refused, especially when I say that one of you has got
into great trouble from refusing to aid in throwing us off the scent when
a lugger is due. If for no other reason he owes you a debt for that.”

Three days passed. Will still remained at the coast-guard station, and men
still hovered near. Tom came over once and said that it had been decided
among a number of the fishermen that no great harm should be done to Will
when they got him, but that he should be thrashed within an inch of his
life. On the third day the coxswain said to Will:

“I have a message this morning from the lieutenant, that he will be here
by eleven o’clock. If you will write a line to your friend I will send it
over by one of the men.”

Tom arrived breathless two minutes before the officer.

“My eye, I have had a run of it,” he said. “The man brought me the letter
just as I was going to start in the boat with my uncle. I pretended to
have left something behind me and ran back to the cottage, he swearing
after me all the way for my stupidity. I ran into the house, and then got
out of the window behind, and started for the moors, taking good care to
keep the house in a line between him and me. My, what a mad rage he will
be in when I don’t come back, and he goes up and finds that I have
disappeared! I stopped a minute to take a clean shirt and my Sunday
clothes. I expect, when he sees I am not in the cottage, he will look
round, and he will discover that they have gone from their pegs, and guess
that I have made a bolt of it. He won’t guess, however, that I have come
here, but will think I have gone across the moors. He knows very well how
hard he has made my life; still, that won’t console him for losing me,
just as I am getting really useful in the boat.”

The lieutenant landed from his cutter at the foot of the path leading up
to the station. The sub-officer received him at the top, and after a few
words they walked up to the station together.

“Who are these two boys?” he asked as he came up to them.

“Two lads who wish to enter the navy, sir.”

“Umph! runaways, I suppose?”

“Not exactly, sir. Both of them are fatherless. That one has received a
fair education from the daughter of the clergyman of the village, who took
a great fancy to him. He has for some years now been assisting in one of
the fishing-boats and, as he acknowledges, in the spying upon our men, as
practically everyone else in the village does. When, however, Miss Warden
told him that smuggling was very wrong, he openly announced his intention
of having nothing more to do with it. This has had the effect of making
the ignorant villagers think that he must have taken bribes from us to
keep us informed of what was going on. In consequence he has suffered
severe persecution and has been sent to Coventry. After the fight we had
with them the other day they appear to think that there could be no
further doubt of his being concerned in the matter, and four men set out
after him to take his life. He fled here as his nearest possible refuge,
and if you will look over there you will see two men on the watch for him.
He had made up his mind to ship as an apprentice on a merchantman, but I
have talked the matter over with him, and he has now decided to join a
man-of-war.”

“A very good choice,” the officer said. “I suppose you can read and write,
lad?”

“Yes, sir,” Will said, suppressing a smile.

“Know a bit more, perhaps?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, if you are civil and well behaved, you will get on. And who is the
other one?”

“He is Gilmore’s special chum, sir. He has a brute of an uncle who is
always knocking him about, and he wants to go to sea with his friend.”

“Well, they are two likely youngsters. The second is more heavily built
than the other, but there is no doubt as to which is the more intelligent.
I will test them at once, and then take them off with me in the cutter and
hand them over to the tender at Whitby. Now send four men and catch those
two fellows and bring them in here. I will give them a sharp lesson
against ill-treating a lad who refuses to join them in their rascally
work.”

A minute later four of the men strolled off by the cliffs, two in each
direction. When they had got out of sight of the watchers, they struck
inland, and, making a detour, came down behind them. The fishermen did not
take the alarm until it was too late. They started to run, but the sailors
were more active and quick-footed, and, presently capturing them, brought
them back to the coast-guard station.

“So my men,” the lieutenant said sternly, “you have been threatening to
ill-treat one of His Majesty’s subjects for refusing to join you in your
attempts to cheat the revenue? I might send you off to a magistrate for
trial, in which case you would certainly get three months’ imprisonment. I
prefer, however, settling such matters myself. Strip them to the waist,
lads.”

The orders were executed in spite of the men’s struggles and execrations.

“Now tie them up to the flag-post and give them a dozen heartily.”

As the men were all indignant at the treatment that had been given to Will
they laid the lash on heavily, and the execrations that followed the first
few blows speedily subsided into shrieks for mercy, followed at last by
low moaning.

When both had received their punishment, the lieutenant said: “Now you can
put on your clothes again and carry the news of what you have had to your
village, and tell your friends that I wish I had had every man concerned
in the matter before me. If I had I would have dealt out the same
punishment to all. Now, lads, I shall be leaving in an hour’s time; if you
like to send back to the village for your clothes, one of the men will
take the message.”

Tom already had all his scanty belongings, but Will was glad to send a
note to John Hammond, briefly stating his reasons for leaving, and
thanking him for his kindness in the past, and asking him to send his
clothes to him by the bearer. An hour and a half later they embarked in
the lieutenant’s gig and were rowed off to the revenue cutter lying a
quarter of a mile away. Here they were put under the charge of the
boatswain.

“They have shipped for the service, Thompson,” the lieutenant said. “I
think they are good lads. Make them as comfortable as you can.”

“So you have shipped, have you?” the boatswain said as he led them
forward. “Well, you are plucky young cockerels. It ain’t exactly a bed of
roses, you will find, at first, but if you can always keep your temper and
return a civil answer to a question you will soon get on all right. You
will have more trouble with the other boys than with the men, and will
have a battle or two to fight.”

“We sha’n’t mind that,” Will said; “we have had to deal with some tough
ones already in our own village, and have proved that we are better than
most of our own age. At any rate we won’t be licked easily, even if they
are a bit bigger and stronger than ourselves, and after all a licking
doesn’t go for much anyway. What ship do you think they will send us to,
sir?”

“Ah, that is a good deal more than I can say! There is a cutter that acts
as a receiving-ship at Whitby, and you will be sent off from it as
opportunity offers and the ships of war want hands. Like enough you will
go off with a batch down to the south in a fortnight or so, and will be
put on board some ship being commissioned at Portsmouth or Devonport. A
large cutter comes round the coast once a month, to pick up the hands from
the various receiving-ships, and as often as not she goes back with a
hundred. And a rum lot you will think them. There are jail-birds who have
had the offer of release on condition that they enter the navy; there are
farm-labourers who don’t know one end of a boat from the other; there are
drunkards who have been sold by the crimps when their money has run out;
but, Lord bless you, it don’t make much difference what they are, they are
all knocked into shape before they have been three months on board. I
think, however, you will have a better time than this. Our lieutenant is a
kind-hearted man, though he is strict enough in the way of business, and I
have no doubt he will say a good word for you to the commander of the
tender, which, as he is the senior officer, will go a long way.”

The two boys were soon on good terms with the crew, who divined at once
that they were lads of mettle, and were specially attracted to Will on
account of the persecution he had suffered by refusing to act as the
smugglers’ watcher, and also when they heard from Tom how he had saved his
life.

“You will do,” was the verdict of an old sailor. “I can see that you have
both got the right stuff in you. When one fellow saves another’s life, and
that fellow runs away and ships in order to be near his friend, you may be
sure that there is plenty of good stuff in them, and that they will turn
out a credit to His Majesty’s service.”

They were a week on board before the cutter finished her trip at Whitby.
Both boys had done their best to acquire knowledge, and had learnt the
names of the ropes and their uses by the time they got to port.

“You need not go on board the depot ship until to-morrow,” the lieutenant
said. “I will go across with you myself. I have had my eye upon you ever
since you came on board, and I have seen that you have been trying hard to
learn, and have always been ready to give a pull on a rope when necessary.
I have no fear of your getting on. It is a pity we don’t get more lads of
your type in the navy.”

On the following morning the lieutenant took them on board the depot and
put them under the charge of the boatswain. “You will have to mix with a
roughish crew here,” the latter said, “but everything will go smoothly
enough when you once join your ship. You had better hand over your kits to
me to keep for you, otherwise there won’t be much left at the end of the
first night; and if you like I will let you stow yourselves away at night
in the bitts forward. It is not cold, and I will throw a bit of old
sail-cloth over you; you will be better there than down with the others,
where the air is almost thick enough to cut.”

“Thank you very much, sir; we should prefer that. We have both been
accustomed to sleep at night in the bottom of an open boat, so it will
come natural enough to us. Are there any more boys on board?”

“No, you are the only ones. We get more boys down in the west, but up here
very few ship.”

They went below together. “Dimchurch,” the boatswain said to a tall
sailor-like man, “these boys have just joined. I wish you would keep an
eye on them, and prevent anyone from bullying them. I know that you are a
pressed man, and that we have no right to expect anything of you until you
have joined your ship, but I can see that for all that you are a true
British sailor, and I trust to you to look after these boys.”

“All right, mate!” the sailor said. “I will take the nippers under my
charge, and see that no one meddles with them. I know what I had to go
through when I first went to sea, and am glad enough to do a good turn to
any youngsters joining.”

“Thank you! Then I will leave them now in your charge.”

“This is your first voyage, I suppose,” the sailor said as he sat down on
the table and looked at the boys. “I see by your togs that you have been
fishing.”

“Yes, we both had seven or eight years of it, though of course we were of
no real use till the last five.”

“You don’t speak like a fisherman’s boy either,” the man said.

“No. A lady interested herself in me and got me to work all my spare time
at books.”

“Well, they will be of no use to you at present, but they may come in
handy some day to get you a rating. I never learnt to read or write myself
or I should have been mate long ago. This is my first voyage in a ship of
war. Hitherto I have always escaped being pressed when I was ashore, but
now they have caught me I don’t mind having a try at it. I believe, from
all I hear, that the grub and treatment are better than aboard most
merchantmen, and the work nothing like so hard. Of course the great
drawback is the cat, but I expect that a well-behaved man doesn’t often
feel it.”

The others had looked on curiously when the lads first came down, but they
soon turned away indifferently and took up their former pursuits. Some
were playing cards, others lying about half-asleep. Two or three who were
fortunate enough to be possessed of tobacco were smoking. In all there
were some forty men. When the evening meal was served out the sailor
placed one of the boys on each side of him, and saw that they got their
share.

“I must find a place for you to sleep,” he said when they had finished.

“The officer who brought us down has given us permission to sleep on deck
near the bitts.”

“Ah, yes, that is quite in the bows of the ship! You will do very well
there, much better than you would down here. I will go up on deck and show
you the place. How is it that he is looking specially after you?”

“I believe Lieutenant Jones of the _Antelope_ was good enough to speak to
the officer in command of this craft in our favour.”

“How did you make him your friend?”

Will told briefly the story of his troubles with the smugglers. The sailor
laughed.

“Well,” he said, “you must be a pretty plucky one to fly in the face of a
smuggling village in that way. You must have known what the consequence
would be, and it is not every boy, nor every man either, if it comes to
that, that would venture to do as you did.”

“It did not seem to me that I had any choice when I once found out that it
was wrong.”

The sailor laughed again. “Well, you know, it is not what you could call a
crime, though it is against the law of the land, but everyone does a bit
of smuggling when they get the chance. Lord bless you! I have come home
from abroad when there was not one of the passengers and crew who did not
have a bit of something hidden about him or his luggage—brandy, ’baccy,
French wines, or knick-knacks of some sort. Pretty nigh half of them got
found out and fined, but the value of the things got ashore was six or
eight times as much as what was collared.”

“Still it was not right,” Will persisted.

“Oh, no! it was not right,” the sailor said carelessly, “but everyone took
his chance. It is a sort of game, you see, between the passengers and crew
on one side and the custom-house officers on the other. It was enough to
make one laugh to see the passengers land. Women who had been as thin as
whistles came out as stout matrons, owing to the yards and yards of laces
and silk they had wound round them. All sorts of odd places were
choke-full of tobacco; there were cases that looked like baggage, but
really had a tin lining, which was full of brandy. It was a rare game for
those who got through, I can tell you, though I own it was not so pleasant
for those who got caught and had their contraband goods confiscated,
besides having to pay five times the proper duty. As a rule the men took
it quietly enough, they had played the game and lost; but as for the
women, they were just raging tigers.

“For myself, I laughed fit to split. If I lost anything it was a pound or
two of tobacco which I was taking home for my old father, and I felt that
things might have been a deal worse if they had searched the legs of my
trousers, where I had a couple of bladders filled with good brandy. You
see, young ’un, though everyone knows that it is against the law, no one
thinks it a crime. It is a game you play; if you lose you pay handsomely,
but if you win you get off scot-free. I think the lady who told you it was
wrong did you a very bad service, for if she lived near that village she
must have known that you would get into no end of trouble if you were to
say you would have nothing more to do with it. And how is it”—turning to
Tom—“that you came to go with him? You did not take it into your head that
smuggling was wrong too?”

“I never thought of it,” Tom said, “and if I had been told so should only
have answered that what was good enough for others was good enough for me.
I came because Will came. We had always been great friends, and more than
once joined to thrash a big fellow who put upon us. But the principal
thing was that a little while ago he saved me from drowning. There was a
deep cut running up to the foot of the cliffs. One day I was running past
there, when I slipped, and in falling hurt my leg badly. I am only just
beginning to use it a bit now. The pain was so great that I did not know
what I was doing; I rolled off the rock into the water. My knee was so bad
that I could not swim, and the rock was too high for me to crawl out. I
had been there for some time, and was beginning to get weak, when Will
came along on the top of the cliff and saw me. He shouted to me to hold on
till he could get down to me. Then he ran half a mile to a place where he
was able to climb down, and tore back again along the shore till he
reached the cut, and then jumped in and swam to me. There was no getting
out on either side, so he swam with me to the end of the cut and landed me
there. I was by that time pretty nigh insensible, but he half-helped and
half-carried me till we got to the point of the cliff where he had come
down. Then he left me and ran off to the village to get help. So you will
understand now why I should wish to stick to him.”

“I should think so,” the sailor said warmly. “It was a fine thing to do,
and I would be glad to do it myself. Stick to him, lad, as long as he will
let you. I fancy, from the way he speaks and his manner, that he will
mount up above you, but never you mind that.”

“I won’t, as long as I can keep by him, and I hope that soon I may have a
chance of returning him the service he has done me. He knows well enough
that if I could I would give my life for him willingly.”

“I think,” the sailor said to Will seriously, “you are a fortunate fellow
to have made a friend like that. A good chum is the next best thing to a
good wife. In fact, I don’t know if it is not a bit better. Ah, here comes
the boatswain with a bit of sail-cloth, so you had better lie down at
once. We shall most of us turn in soon down below, for there is nothing to
pass the time, and I for one shall be very glad when the cutter comes for
us.”

The boys chatted for some time under cover of the sail-cloth. They agreed
that things were much better than they could have expected. The protection
of the boatswain was a great thing, but that of their sailor friend was
better. They hoped that he would be told off to the ship in which they
went, for they felt sure that he would be a valuable friend to them. The
life on board the cutter, too, had been pleasant, and altogether they
congratulated themselves on the course they had taken.

“I have no doubt we shall like it very much when we are once settled. They
look a rough lot down below, and that sentry standing with a loaded musket
at the gangway shows pretty well what sort of men they are. I am not
surprised that the pressed men should try to get away, but I have no pity
for the drunken fellows who joined when they had spent their last
shilling. Our fishermen go on a spree sometimes, but not often, and when
they do, they quarrel and fight a bit, but they always go to work the next
morning.”

“That is a different thing altogether, for I heard that in the towns men
will spend every penny they have, give up work altogether, and become
idle, lazy loafers.”

Two days later, to the great satisfaction of the boys, a large cutter
flying the white ensign was seen approaching the harbour. No doubt was
entertained that she was the receiving-ship. This was confirmed when the
officer in charge of the depot-ship was rowed to the new arrival as soon
as the anchor was dropped. A quarter of an hour later he returned, and it
became known that the new hands were to be taken to Portsmouth. The next
morning two boats rowed alongside. Will could not but admire the neat and
natty appearance of the crew, which formed a somewhat striking contrast to
the slovenly appearance of the gang on the depot-ship. A list of the new
men was handed over to the officer in charge, and these were at once
transferred to the big cutter.

Here everything was exquisitely clean and neat. The new-comers were at
once supplied with uniforms, and told off as supernumeraries to each
watch. Will and Tom received no special orders, and were informed that
they were to make themselves generally useful. Beyond having to carry an
occasional message from one or other of the midshipmen, or boatswain,
their duties were of the lightest kind. They helped at the distribution of
the messes, the washing of the decks, the paring of the potatoes for
dinner, and other odd jobs. When not wanted they could do as they pleased,
and Will employed every spare moment in gaining what information he could
from his friend Dimchurch, or from any sailor he saw disengaged and
wearing a look that invited interrogation.

“You seem to want to know a lot all at once, youngster,” one said.

“I have got to learn it sooner or later,” Will replied, “and it is just as
well to learn as much as I can while I have time on my hands. I expect I
shall get plenty to do when I join a ship at Portsmouth. May I go up the
rigging?”

“That you may not. You don’t suppose that His Majesty’s ships are intended
to look like trees with rooks perched all over them? You will be taught
all that in due time. There is plenty to learn on deck, and when you know
all that, it will be time enough to think of going aloft. You don’t want
to become a Blake or a Benbow all at once, do you?”

“No,” Will laughed, “it will be time to think of that in another twenty
years.”

The sailor broke into a roar of laughter.

“Well, there is nothing like flying high, young ’un; but there is no
reason why in time you should not get to be captain of the fore-top or
coxswain of the captain’s gig. I suppose either of these would content
you?”

“I suppose it ought,” Will said with a merry laugh. “At any rate it will
be time to think of higher posts when I have gained one of these.”

The voyage to Portsmouth was uneventful. They stopped at several
receiving-stations on their way down, and before they reached their
destination they had gathered a hundred and twenty men. Will and Tom were
astonished at the bustle and activity of the port. Frigates and men-of-war
lay off Portsmouth and out at Spithead; boats of various sizes rowed
between them, or to and from the shore. Never had they imagined such a
scene; the enormous bulk of the men-of-war struck them with wonder. Will
admired equally the tapering spars and the more graceful lines of the
frigates and corvettes, and his heart thrilled with pride as he felt that
he too was a sailor, and a portion, however insignificant, of one of these
mighty engines of war.

The officer in command of the receiving-ship at Whitby had passed on to
the captain of the cutter what had been told him of the two boys by the
lieutenant of the _Antelope_, and he in turn related the story to one of
the chief officers of the dockyard. It happened that they were the only
two boys that had been brought down, and the dockyard official said it
would be a pity to separate them.

“I will put them down as part of the crew of the _Furious_. I want a few
specially strong and active men for her; her commander is a very dashing
officer, and I should like to see that he is well manned.”

The two boys had especially noticed and admired the _Furious_, which was a
thirty-four-gun frigate, so next morning, when the new hands were mustered
and told off to different ships, they were delighted when they found their
names appear at the end of the list for that vessel, all the more so
because Dimchurch was to join her also.

“I am pleased, Dimchurch, that we are to be in the same ship with you,”
Will exclaimed as soon as the men were dismissed.

“I am glad too, youngster. I have taken a fancy to you, as you seem to
have done to me, and it will be very pleasant for us to be together. But
now you must go and get your kit-bags ready at once; we are sure to be
sent off to the _Furious_ in a short time, and it will be a bad mark
against you if you keep the boat waiting.”

In a quarter of an hour a boat was seen approaching from the _Furious_.
The officer in charge ascended to the deck of the cutter, and after a chat
with the captain called out the list, and counted the men one by one as
they went down to the boat, each carrying his kit.

“Not a bad lot,” he said to the young midshipman sitting by his side.
“This pretty nearly makes up our complement; the press gang are sure to
pick up the few hands we want either to-day or to-morrow.”

“I shall be glad when we are off, sir,” the midshipman said. “I am never
comfortable, after beginning to get into commission, until we are out on
blue water.”

“Nor am I. I hope the dockyard won’t keep us waiting for stores. We have
got most of them, but the getting on board of the powder and shot is
always a long task, and we have to be so careful with the powder. There is
the captain on deck; he is looking out, no doubt, to see the new hands. I
am glad they are good ones, for nothing puts him into a bad temper so
readily as having a man brought on board who is not, as he considers, up
to the mark.”

As they mustered on deck the captain’s eye ran with a keen scrutiny over
them. A slight smile crossed his lips as he came to the two boys.

“That will do, Mr. Ayling; they are not a bad lot, taking them one for
all, and there are half a dozen men among them who ought to make
first-rate topmen. I should say half of them have been to sea before, and
the others will soon be knocked into shape. The two boys will, of course,
go into the same mess as the others who have come on board. One of them
looks a very sharp young fellow.”

“He has been rather specially passed down, sir. He belonged to one of the
most noted smuggling villages on the Yorkshire coast, which is saying a
great deal, and he struck against smuggling because some lady in the place
told him that it was wrong. Of course he drew upon himself the enmity of
the whole village. The coast-guard stopped a landing, and two or three of
the fishermen were killed. The hostility against the lad, which was
entirely unfounded, rose in consequence of this to such a pitch that he
was obliged to take refuge in the coast-guard station. I hear from the
captain of the _Hearty_ that the boy has been far better educated than the
generality of fisher lads, and was specially recommended to him by the
officer of the receiving-ship.”

“Is there anything extraordinary about the other boy?” the captain asked
with a slight smile.

“No, sir; I believe he joined chiefly to be near his companion, the two
being great friends.”

“He looks a different kind of boy altogether,” the captain said. “You
could pick him out as a fisher boy anywhere, and picture him in high
boots, baggy corduroy breeches, and blue guernsey.”

“He is a strong, well-built lad, and I should say a good deal more
powerful than his friend.”

“Well, they are good types of boys, and are not likely to give us as much
trouble as some of those young scamps, run-away apprentices and so on, who
want a rope’s end every week or so to teach them to do their duty.”

The boys were taken down to a deck below the water-level, where the crew
were just going to begin dinner. At one end was a table at which six boys
were sitting.

“Hillo, who are you?” the eldest among them asked. “I warn you, if you
don’t make things comfortable, you will get your heads punched in no
time.”

“My name is William Gilmore, and this is Tom Stevens. As to punching
heads, you may not find it as easy as you think. I may warn you at once
that we are friends and will stick together, and that there will be no
punching one head without having to punch both.”

“We shall see about that before long,” the other said. “Some of the others
thought they were going to rule the roost when they joined a few days ago,
but I soon taught them their place.”

“Well, you can begin to teach us ours as soon as you like,” Tom Stevens
said. “We have met bullies of your sort before. Now, as dinner is going
on, we will have some of it, as they didn’t victual us before we left the
cutter.”

“Well, then, you had better go to the cook-house and draw rations. No
doubt the cook has a list of you fellows’ names.”

The boys took the advice and soon procured a cooked ration of meat and
potatoes. The cook told them where they would find plates.

“One of the mess has to wash them up,” he said, “and stow them away in the
racks provided for them.”

“Johnson,” the eldest boy said to the smallest of the party, “you need not
wash up to-day; that is the duty of the last comer.”

“I suppose it is the duty of each one of the mess by turn,” Will said
quietly; “we learnt that much as we came down the coast.”

“You will have to learn more than that, young fellow,” the bully, who was
seventeen, blustered. “You will have to learn that I am senior of the
mess, and will have to do as I tell you. I have made one voyage already,
and all the rest of you are greenhorns.”

“It seems to me from the manner in which you speak, that it is not a
question of seniority but simply of bounce and bullying, and I hope that
the other boys will no more give in to that sort of thing than Stevens or
myself. I have yet to learn that one boy is in any way superior to the
others, and in the course of the next hour I shall ascertain whether this
is so.”

“Perhaps, after the meal is over, you will go down to the lower deck and
allow me to give you a lesson.”

“As I told you,” Will answered quietly, “my friend and I are one. I don’t
suppose that single-handed I could fight a great hulking fellow like you,
but my friend and I are quite willing to do so together. So now if there
is any talk of fighting, you know what to expect.”

The bully eyed the two boys curiously, but, like most of the type, he was
at heart a coward, and felt considerable doubt whether these two boys
would not prove too much for him. He therefore muttered sullenly that he
would choose his own time.

“All right! choose by all means, and whenever you like to fix a time we
shall be perfectly ready to accommodate you.”

“Who on earth are you with your long words? Are you a gentleman in
disguise?”

“Never mind who I am,” Will said. “I have learnt enough, at any rate, to
know a bully and a coward when I meet him.”

The lad was too furious to answer, but finished his dinner in silence, his
anger being all the more acute from the fact that he saw that some of the
other boys were tittering and nudging each other. But he resolved that,
though it might be prudent for the present to postpone any encounter with
the boys, he would take his revenge on the first opportunity.



                               CHAPTER III


                               A SEA-FIGHT


As the conflict of words came to an end, a roar of laughter burst from the
sailors at the next mess-table.

“Well done, little bantam!” one said; “you have taken that lout down a
good many pegs, and I would not mind backing you to thrash him
single-handed. We have noticed his goings-on for the past two or three
days with the other boys, and had intended to give him a lesson, but you
have done it right well. He may have been on a voyage before, but I would
wager that he has never been aloft, and I would back you to be at the
masthead before he has crawled through the lubbers’ hole. Now, my lad,
just you understand that if you are ready to fight both those boys we
won’t interfere, but if you try it one on one of them we will.”

The boys’ duties consisted largely of working with the watch to which they
were attached, of scrubbing decks, and cleaning brass-work. In battle
their place was to bring up the powder and shot for the guns. On the
second day, when the work was done, Will Gilmore went up to the boatswain.

“If you please, sir,” he said, “may I go up the mast?”

The boatswain looked at him out of one eye.

“Do you really want to learn, lad?”

“I do, sir.”

“Well, when there are, as at present, other hands aloft, you may go up,
but not at other times.”

“Thank you, sir!”

Will at once started. He was accustomed to climb the mast of John
Hammond’s boat, but this was a very different matter. From scrambling
about the cliffs so frequently he had a steady eye, and could look down
without any feeling of giddiness. The lubbers’ hole had been pointed out
to him, but he was determined to avoid the ignominy of having to go up
through it. When he got near it he paused and looked round. It did not
seem to him that there was any great difficulty in going outside it, and
as he knew he could trust to his hands he went steadily up until he stood
on the main-top.

“Hallo, lad,” said a sailor who was busy there, “do you mean to say that
you have come up outside?”

“Yes, there did not seem to be any difficulty about it.”

“And is it the first time you have tried?”

“Yes.”

“Then one day you will turn out a first-rate sailor. What are you going to
do now?”

Will looked up.

“I am going up to the top of the next mast.”

“You are sure that you won’t get giddy?”

“Yes, I am accustomed to climbing up the cliffs on the Yorkshire coast,
and I have not the least fear of losing my head.”

“Well, then, fire away, lad, and if you find that you are getting giddy
shout and I will come up to you.”

“Thank you! I will call if I want help.”

Steadily he went up till he stood on the cap of the topmast.

“I may as well go up one more,” he said. “I can’t think why people make
difficulties of what is so easy.”

The sailor called to him as he saw him preparing to ascend still higher,
but Will only waved his hand and started up. When he reached the cap of
the top-gallant mast he sat upon it and looked down at the harbour.
Presently he heard a hail from below, and saw the first lieutenant
standing looking up at him.

“All right, sir! I will come down at once,” and steadily he descended to
the maintop, where the sailor who had spoken to him abused him roundly.
Then he went to where the lieutenant was standing.

“How old are you, youngster?”

“I am a little past fifteen, sir.”

“Have you ever been up a mast before?”

“Never, sir, except that I have climbed up a fishing-boat’s mast many a
time, and I am accustomed to clambering about the cliffs. I hope there was
no harm in my going so high?”

“No harm as it has turned out. You are a courageous little fellow; I never
before saw a lad who went outside the lubbers’ hole on his first ascent.
Well, I hope, my lad, that you will be as well-behaved as you are active
and courageous. I shall keep my eye upon you, and you have my permission
henceforth, when you have no other duties, to climb about the masts as you
like.”

The lieutenant afterwards told the captain of Will’s exploit.

“That is the sort of lad to make a good topman,” the captain remarked. “He
will soon be up to the duties, but will have to wait to get some beef on
him before he is of much use in furling a sail.”

“I am very glad to have such a lad on board,” said the lieutenant. “If we
are at any station on the Mediterranean, and have sports between the
ships, I should back him against any other boy in the fleet to get to the
masthead and down again.”

One of the midshipmen, named Forster, came up to Will when he left the
lieutenant, and said: “Well done, young un! It was as much as I could do
at your age, though I had been two years in the navy, to climb up where
you did. If there is anything I can do for you at any time I will gladly
do it. I don’t say that it is likely, for midshipmen have no power to
speak of; still, if there should be anything I would gladly help you.”

“There is something, if you would be so very good, sir. I am learning
navigation, but there are some things that I can’t make out, and it would
be a kindness indeed if you would spare a few minutes occasionally to
explain them to me.”

The midshipman opened his eyes.

“Well, I am blowed,” he exclaimed in intense astonishment. “The idea of a
newly-joined boy wanting to be helped in navigation beats me altogether.
However, lad, I will certainly do as you ask me, though I cannot think
that, unless you have been at a nautical school, you can know anything
about it. But come to me this evening during the dog-watches, and then I
will see what you have learned about the subject.”

That evening Will went on deck rather shyly with two or three of his
books. The midshipman was standing at a quiet spot on the deck. He glanced
at Will enquiringly when he saw what he was carrying.

“Do you mean to say that you understand these books?”

“Not altogether, sir. I think I could work out the latitude and longitude
if I knew something about a quadrant, but I have never seen one, and have
no idea of its use. But what I wanted to ask you first of all was the
meaning of some of these words which I cannot find in the dictionary.”

“It seems to me, youngster, that you know pretty well as much as I do, for
I cannot do more than fudge an observation. How on earth did you learn all
this? I thought you were a fisher-boy before you joined.”

“So I was, sir. I was an orphan at the age of five. My father left enough
money to buy a boat, and, as one of the fishermen had lately lost his, he
adopted me, and I became bound to him as an apprentice till I was
fourteen. The clergyman’s daughter took a fancy to me from the first, and
she used to teach me for half an hour a day, which gave me a great
advantage over the other boys in the school. I was very fond of reading,
and she supplied me with books. As I said I meant to go to sea, she bought
me some books that would help me. So there is nothing extraordinary in my
knowing these things; it all came from her kindness to me for ten years.”

“Why didn’t she try to get you into the mercantile marine?”

“She got married and left the place, sir, but before she went she told me
that it was very wrong to have anything to do with smugglers. So I decided
to give it up, and that set the whole village against me, and I should
probably have been killed if I had not taken refuge in the coast-guard
station. There the officer in charge spoke to me of joining the royal
navy, and it seemed to me that it would do me good to serve a few years in
it; for I could afterwards, if I chose, pass as an officer in the merchant
service.”

“You are the rummest boy that I ever came across,” Forster said. “Well, I
must think it over. Now, if there is anything that you specially wish to
know, I will explain it to you.”

For half an hour they talked together, and the midshipman solved many of
the problems that had troubled the lad. Then with many thanks Will went
below.

“Is it true, Will,” Tom Stevens said, “that you have been right up the
mast?”

“Not exactly, Tom, but I went up to the top of the top-gallant mast.”

“But why did you do that?”

“I wanted to get accustomed to going up. There was not a bit of difficulty
about it, except that it was necessary to keep a steady head. You could do
it just as well as I, for we have climbed about the cliffs together scores
of times.”

“Do you think it will do any good, Will?”

“Yes, I think so. When they see that a fellow is willing and anxious to
learn, it is sure to do him good in the long run. It will help him on, and
perhaps in two or three years he may get rated as an able seaman, and no
longer be regarded as a boy, useful only to do odd jobs. One of the
midshipmen is going to give me some help with my navigation. I wish, Tom,
you would take it up too, but I am afraid it would be no use. You have got
to learn a tremendous lot before you can master it, and what little you
were taught at our school would hardly help you at all.”

“I know that well enough, Will, and I should never think of such a thing.
I always was a fool, and could hardly take in the little that old woman
tried to teach us. No, it is of no use trying to make a silk purse out of
a sow’s ear. I hope that soon I shall be able to hit a good round blow at
a Frenchman; that is about all I shall be fit for, though I hope I may
some day get to be a smart topman. The next time you climb the mast I will
go with you. I don’t think there is enough in my head to make it unsteady.
At any rate I think that I can promise that I won’t do anything to bring
discredit upon you.”

The feat that Will had performed had a great effect upon the bully of the
mess. Before that he had frequently enjoyed boasting of his experience in
climbing, and even hinted that he had upon one occasion reached the
masthead. Now no more was heard of this, for, as Tom said openly, he was
afraid that Will might challenge him to a climbing-match. The next evening
the first lieutenant said to the captain: “That other lad who was brought
down from Yorkshire has been up the mast with his chum this afternoon. As
I told you, sir, I heard that they were great friends, and Stevens did as
well as the other.”

“But there is a great difference between them. The one is as sharp and as
bright as can be; the other is simply a solidly-built fisher-boy who will,
I have no doubt, make a good sailor, but is not likely to set the Thames
on fire.”

“Do you know, sir, Mr. Forster came to me this morning, and told me that
on his talking to the boy he astounded him by asking if he would be kind
enough to explain a few things in navigation, as he had pretty well
mastered all the book-work, but had had no opportunity of learning the use
of a quadrant. Forster asked if I had any objection to his giving him
lessons. It is the first time that I ever heard of such a request, and to
allow it would be contrary to all idea of discipline; still, a lad of that
sort deserves encouragement, and I will talk with the padre concerning
him. He is one of the most good-natured of men, and I think he would not
mind giving a quarter of an hour a day to this boy, after he has dismissed
the midshipmen from their studies. Of course he must do the same work as
the other boys, and no distinction must be made between them.”

“Certainly not. I think the idea is an excellent one, and I have not much
doubt that Mr. Simpson will fall in with it.”

The first lieutenant went off at once to find the clergyman.

“Well, he must be a strange boy,” the chaplain said when the case was laid
before him; “I should not be surprised if a fellow like that found his way
to the quarter-deck some day. He appears to be a sort of admirable
Crichton. Such an amount of learning is extraordinary in a boy of his age
and with his opportunities, especially in one active and courageous enough
to go up to the cap of the top-gallant mast on his first trial in climbing
a mast. Certainly I shall be very glad to take the boy on, and will
willingly give him, as you say, a quarter of an hour a day. I feel sure
that my time will not be wasted. I never before heard of a ship’s boy who
wished to be instructed in navigation, and I shall be glad to help such an
exceptional lad.”

The next day the _Furious_, having received all her stores, went out to
Spithead. The midshipmen had been all fully engaged, and there were no
lessons with the padre, but on the following day these were resumed, and
presently one of the other boys came down with a message that Will was to
go to the padre’s cabin.

“I have arranged, lad,” the chaplain said when he entered, “to give you a
quarter of an hour a day to help you on with your navigation, and I take
it that you, on your part, are ready to do the work. It seems to me almost
out of the question that you can be advanced enough to enter upon such
studies. That, however, I shall soon ascertain. Now open that book and let
me see how you would work out the following observation,” and he gave him
the necessary data.

In five minutes Will handed him the result.

“Of course, sir, to obtain the exact answer I should require to know more
than you have given me.”

“That is quite right. To-morrow you shall go on deck with me, and I will
show you how to use a quadrant and take the altitude of the sun, and from
it how to calculate the longitude, which is somewhat more difficult than
the latitude. I see you have a good knowledge of figures, and I am quite
sure that at the end of a few days’ work you will be able to take an
observation that will be close enough for all practical purposes.”

He then asked Will many questions as to his course of study, the books he
had read, and the manner in which he had got up the book-work of
navigation.

“But how did you manage about logarithms,” he said. “I generally find them
great stumbling-blocks in the way of my pupils.”

“I don’t really understand them now, sir. I can look down the columns and
find the number I want, and see how it works out the result, but why it
should do so I have not been able to understand. It seems quite different
from other operations in figures.”

“It is so,” the chaplain said, “and let me tell you that not one navigator
in fifty really grasps the principle. They ‘fudge’, as it is termed, the
answer, and if they get it right are quite content without troubling
themselves in any way with the principle involved. If you want to be a
good navigator you must grasp the principle, and work the answer out for
yourself. When you can do this you will have a right to call yourself a
navigator. If you come to me at twelve o’clock to-morrow I will show you
how to work a quadrant. The theory is easy. You have but to take the angle
the sun makes with the horizon at its moment of highest ascension. In
practice, however, this is far from easy, and you will be some time before
you can hit upon the right moment. It requires patience and close
observation, but if you have these qualities you will soon pick it up.”

The sailors were the next day greatly astonished at seeing the chaplain
take his place at the side of the ship and explain to Will the methods of
taking an observation.

In the meantime Will was making rapid progress in the good graces of the
crew. He was always ready to render assistance in running messages, in
hauling on ropes, and generally making himself useful in all respects. His
fight with Robert Jones had come off. Will had gained great confidence in
himself when he found that he was able to climb the mast in the ordinary
way, while Tom Stevens was able only to crawl up through the lubbers’
hole. Goaded to madness by the chaff of the other boys, all of whom had
ranged themselves under Will’s banner, Jones threw down the challenge. Tom
Stevens was most anxious that Will should not take it up except on the
conditions stated, but Will proclaimed a profound contempt for the bully.

“I will try it myself, Tom. I can hardly fail to lick such a braggart as
that. I don’t believe he has any muscles to speak of in that big body of
his, while I am as hard as nails. No doubt it will be a tough fight if he
has a scrap of pluck in him, but I think I will win. Besides, if he does
beat me, he will certainly get little credit for it, while I shall have
learnt a lot that will be useful to me in the next fight.”

Accordingly, at the time appointed the two lads went down to the orlop
deck, a good many of the sailors accompanying them. An ordinary fight
between boys attracted little attention, but the disparity between the
years of the combatants, and the liking entertained for Will, brought most
of those who were off duty to witness it. The difference between the
antagonists when they stripped was very marked. Robert Jones was fully
three stone the heavier and four inches the taller, but he was flabby and
altogether out of condition, while Will was as hard as nails, and as
active on his feet as a kid.

“It is ten to one against the young un,” one of the men said, “but if he
holds on for the first five rounds I would back him at evens.”

“So would I,” another said, “but I doubt whether he can do so; the odds
are too great against him.”

“I will take four to one,” another said. “Look at the young un’s muscles
down his back. You won’t often see anything better among lads two years
older than he is.”

The fight began with a tremendous rush on the part of Jones. Will stood
his ground doggedly, and struck his opponent fairly between the eyes,
making him shake his head like an exasperated bull. Time after time Jones
repeated the manœuvre, but only once or twice landed a blow, while he
never escaped without a hard return. At length he began to feel the
effects of his own efforts, and stood on the defensive, panting for
breath. Now it was Will’s turn. He danced round and round his opponent
with the activity of a goat, dodging in and delivering a heavy body-blow
and then leaping out again before his opponent could get any return. The
cheers of the sailors rose louder and louder, and Will heard them
shouting: “Go in; finish him, lad!” But Will was too prudent to risk
anything; he knew that the battle was in his hands unless he threw it
away, and that Jones was well-nigh pumped out. At last, after dealing a
heavy blow, he saw his antagonist stagger back, and in an instant sprang
forward and struck him between the eyes with far greater force than he had
before exerted. Jones fell like a log, and was altogether unable to come
up to time. A burst of cheering rose from the crowd, and many and hearty
were the congratulations Will received.

  [Illustration: AFTER HIS FIRST FIGHT]

“What was going on this afternoon, Mr. Farrance?” asked the captain; “I
heard a lot of cheering.”

“I made enquiry about it, sir, and the boatswain told me that it was only
a fight between two of the boys. Of course he had not been present.”

“Ah! It is not often that a boys’ fight excites such interest. Who were
they?”

“They were Jones, the biggest of the boys, and by no means a satisfactory
character, and young Gilmore.”

“Why, Jones is big enough to eat him.”

“Yes, sir, at any rate he ought to have been. He was a great bully when he
first came on board, but the other tackled him as soon as they were
together, and it seems he has to-day given him as handsome a thrashing as
could be wished for, and that without being seriously hurt himself. He has
certainly established his supremacy among the boys of this ship.”

“That boy is out of the common,” the captain said. “A ship’s boy newly
joined taking up navigation, going about the masts like a monkey, and
finally thrashing a fellow two years his senior must be considered as
altogether exceptional. I shall certainly keep my eye upon him, and give
him every opportunity I can for making his way.”

Will received his honours quietly.

“There is nothing,” he said, “in fighting a fellow who is altogether out
of condition, and has a very small amount of pluck to make up for it. I
was convinced when we first met that he had nothing behind his brag,
though I certainly did not expect to beat him as easily as I did. Well, I
hope we shall be good friends in future. I have no enmity against him, and
there is no reason why we should not get on well together after this.”

“I don’t know,” said the sailor to whom he was speaking; “a decent fellow
will make it up and think no more about it, but if I am not mistaken,
Robert Jones will do you a bad turn if he gets the chance.”

No one was more delighted at the result than Tom Stevens, who had cheered
loudly and enthusiastically. Dimchurch was also exuberant at Will’s
success.

“I knew that you were a good un, but I never thought you could have
tackled that fellow. I don’t know what to make of you; as a general thing,
as far as I have seen, a fellow who takes to books is no good for anything
else, but everything seems to agree with you. If I am not mistaken, you
will be on the quarter-deck before many years have passed.”

They were now running down channel, and the boys were astonished at the
ease and smoothness with which the ship breasted the waves, and at the
mass of snowy canvas that towered above her. As they sat one day at the
bow watching the sheets of spray rise as the ship cut her way through the
water, Tom said to his friend: “You are going up above me quick, Will.
Anyone can see that. You are thought a lot of. I knew it would be so, and
I said I should not grudge it you; in fact, the greater your success the
better I shall be pleased. But I did not think that your learning would
have made such a difference already. The first lieutenant often says a
word to you as he passes, and the padre generally speaks to you when he
goes along the deck. It is wonderful what a difference learning makes;
not, mind you, that I should ever have gone in for it, even had I known
how useful it is. I could never have taken it in, and I am sure the old
woman could never have taught me. I suppose some fellows are born clever
and others grow to it. And some never are clever at all. That was my way,
I suppose. I just learned to spell words of two letters, which, of course,
was of no use. A fellow can’t do much with ba, be, by, and bo, and these
are about all the words I remember. I used to think, when we first became
chums, how foolish you were to be always reading and studying. Now I see
what a pull you have got by it. I expect it is partly because your father
was a clever man, and, as most of the people thought, a gentleman, that
you came to take to it. Well, if I had my time over again I would really
try to learn something. I should never make much of it, but still, I
suppose I should have got to read decently.”

“Certainly you would, Tom; and when you once had got to read, so as to be
able to enjoy it, you would have gone through all sorts of books and got
lots of information from them. I am afraid, however, it is too late to
worry over that. A man may be a good man and a good sailor without knowing
how to read and write. I am sure you will do your share when it comes to
that.”

“I wonder when we shall fall in with a Frenchman?”

“There is no saying. You may be sure that every man on board is longing to
do so. I hope she will be a bit bigger than we are, and I know the captain
hopes so too. He is for ever watching every ship that comes in sight.”

When running down the coast of Spain one day the look-out at the masthead
shouted: “A sail!”

“What is she like?” the first lieutenant hailed.

“I can only see her top-gallant sails, sir, but she is certainly a
square-rigged ship bound south, and her sails have a foreign cut.”

The first lieutenant swung his telescope over his shoulder and mounted the
rigging. When he came to the top-gallant crosstrees he sat down and gazed
into the distance through his glass.

After making a careful examination of the ship he called to the captain,
who was now on deck:

“She is, as Johnson says, sir, a square-rigged ship, and I agree with him
as to the cut of her sails. She is certainly a Frenchman, and evidently a
large frigate. She is running down the coast as we are, and I expect hopes
to get through the Straits at night.”

“Well, edge in towards her,” the captain said. “Lower the top-gallant
sails. If she hasn’t already made us out, I shall be able to work in a
good deal closer to her before she does so.”

All hands were now on the _qui vive_, but it was not for some time that
the stranger could be made out from the deck.

“You can get up our top-gallant sails again,” the captain said. “She must
have made us out by this time, and she certainly has gained upon us since
we first saw her. There is no longer any possibility of concealment, so
hoist royals as well as top-gallant sails.”

The stranger made no addition to her sails. By this time those on board
the _Furious_ were able to judge of her size, and came to the conclusion
that she was a battle-ship of small size, and ought to be more than a
match for the _Furious_. The vessels gradually approached each other,
until at last a shot was thrown across the bows of the Frenchman. She made
no reply, but continued on her way as if unconscious of the presence of
the English frigate. The crew of the _Furious_ could now make out that she
had fifty guns, whereas their own ship had thirty-four.

“Just comfortable odds,” the captain said quietly when this was reported
to him. “I have no doubt she carries heavier metal as well as more guns.
Altogether she would be a satisfactory prize to send into Portsmouth.”

The men had not waited for orders, but had mustered to quarters on their
own account. The guns were run in and loaded, and the boarding-pikes got
ready. In five minutes orders were given to fire another shot. There was a
cheer as white splinters were seen to fly from the Frenchman’s side. Her
helm was put up at once, and she swept round and fired a broadside into
the _Furious_. Four or five shots took effect, some stays and ropes were
cut, and two shot swept across her deck, killing three of the sailors and
knocking down several of the others.

“Aim steadily, lads,” the captain shouted; “don’t throw away a shot. It is
our turn now. All aim at her centre ports. Fire!”

The ship swayed from the recoil of the guns, and then she swung half-round
and a broadside was poured into the Frenchman from the other side.

After this Will and Tom knew little more of what was going on, for they
were kept busy running to and from the magazine with fresh cartridges.
They were not tall enough to see over the bulwarks, and were only able to
peep out occasionally from one of the port-holes. They presently heard
from the shouts and exclamations of the men that everything was going
well, and on looking out they saw that the enemy’s foremast had been shot
away, and in consequence she was unmanageable. The crew of the _Furious_
had suffered heavily, but her main spars were intact, and the captain,
manœuvring with great skill, was able to sail backwards and forwards
across the enemy’s stern and rake him repeatedly fore and aft.

So the fight continued until at last the captain gave the order to lay the
ship alongside the Frenchman and board. There was no more work for the
powder-monkeys now, so Will and Tom seized boarding-pikes and joined in
the rush on to the enemy’s deck. The resistance, however, was short-lived;
the enemy had suffered terribly from the raking fire of the _Furious_, and
as the captain and many of the officers had fallen, the senior survivor
soon ordered the flag to be lowered. A tremendous cheer broke from the
British. They now learned that the ship they had captured was the
_Proserpine_, which was on her way to enter the Mediterranean and effect a
junction with the French fleet at Toulon.

The next day the crew worked hard to get up a jury foremast. When this was
done a prize crew was put on board. The French prisoners were confined
below, as they far outnumbered their captors. Then, having repaired her
own damages, the _Furious_ proceeded on her way.

On arriving at Gibraltar the captain received orders to proceed to Malta,
and to place himself under the order of the admiral there. For a time
matters proceeded quietly, for the winds were light and baffling, and it
took a fortnight to get to their destination. Here the ship was thoroughly
examined, and the damage she had suffered more satisfactorily repaired
than had been possible while she was at sea.

When the overhauling was completed she received orders to cruise off the
coast of Africa. This was by no means pleasing to the crew, who considered
that they had small chance of falling in with anything of their own size
on that station. They were told, however, that there had been serious
complaints of piracy on the part of the Moors, and that they were
specially to direct their attention to punishing the perpetrators of such
acts.

One morning three strange craft were sighted lying close together.
Unfortunately, however, it was a dead calm.

“They are Moors, certainly,” the captain said to the first lieutenant
after examining them with his glass. “What would I not give for a breath
of wind now? But they are not going to escape us. Get all the boats
hoisted out, and take command of the expedition yourself.”

Immediately all was bustle on board the ship, and in a very short time
every boat was lowered into the water. Will was looking on with longing
eyes as the men took their places. The lieutenant noticed him.

“Clamber down into the bow of my boat,” he said; “you deserve it.”

In the highest state of delight Will seized a spare cutlass and made his
way into the bow of the boat amid the jokes of the men. These, however,
were stilled the moment the first lieutenant took his place in the stern.

The Moors had not been idle. As soon as they saw that the boats had been
lowered they got out their sweeps and began to row at a pace which the
lieutenant saw would tax the efforts of his oarsmen to the utmost. The
Moors had fully three miles start, and, although the men bent to their
oars with the best will, they gained very slowly. The officers in the
various boats encouraged them with their shouts, and the men pulled nobly.
Five miles had been passed and but one mile gained. It was evident,
however, that the efforts of the Moorish rowers were flagging, while the
sailors were rowing almost as strongly as when they started. Three more
miles and another mile had been gained. Then from the three vessels came a
confused fire of cannon of all sizes.

Several men were hit, boats splintered, and oars smashed. The first
lieutenant shouted orders for the boats to open out so that the enemy
would no longer have a compact mass to aim at. At last, after another
mile, the Moors evidently came to the conclusion that they could not
escape by rowing, and at once drew in their oars, lowered their sails, and
all formed in line. As soon as this manœuvre was completed heavy firing
began again. Will, lying in the bow, looked out ahead, and, seeing the sea
torn up with balls, wondered that any of the boats should escape unharmed.

The lieutenant shouted to the boats to divide into two parties, one, led
by himself, to attack the vessel on the left of the line, and the other,
under the second lieutenant, to deal with the ship on the right, for the
middle boat would assuredly be captured if the other two were taken.

“Row quietly, men,” he shouted; “you will want your breath if it comes to
fighting. Keep on at a steady pace until within two hundred yards of them,
and then make a dash.”

This order was carried out by both parties, and when within the given
distance the men gave a cheer, and, bending their backs to the oars, sent
the boats tearing through the water. The pirate craft were all crowded
with men, who raised yells of rage and defiance. However, except that one
boat was sunk by a shot that struck her full in the bow, Lieutenant
Farrance’s party reached their vessel.

The first to try to climb on board were all cut down or thrown backwards,
but at length the men gained a footing on the deck, and, led by Mr.
Farrance, fell upon the enemy with great spirit. Will was the last to
climb up out of his boat, but he soon pushed his way forward until he was
close behind the lieutenant. Several times the boarders were pushed back,
but as often they rallied, and won their way along the deck again.

During one of these rushes Lieutenant Farrance’s foot slipped in a pool of
blood, and he fell to the deck. Two Moors sprang at him, but Will leapt
forward, whirling his cutlass, and by luck rather than skill cut down one
of them. The other attacked him and dealt him a severe blow on the arm,
but before he could repeat it the lieutenant had regained his feet, and,
springing forward, had run the Moor through the body.

Another five minutes’ fighting and all resistance was at an end. Some of
the Moors rushed below, others jumped overboard and swam to their consort.
As soon as resistance had ceased the lieutenant ordered the majority of
the men to return to the boats, and, leaving a sufficient number to hold
the captured vessel, proceeded to the attack of the middle craft.

The fight here was even more stubborn than before, for the men that fled
from the ships that had already been taken had strongly reinforced the
crew of this one. The British, however, were not to be denied. The boats
of one division attacked on one side, those of the second on the other,
and, after nearly a quarter of an hour’s hard fighting, brought the enemy
to their knees.

The pirates were all now battened down, the wounded seamen cared for by
the doctor who had accompanied the expedition, and the bodies of the dead
Moors thrown overboard. When this was done the successful expedition
prepared to return to the _Furious_. They had lost twenty-eight killed,
and nearly forty wounded.

“The loss has been very heavy,” the first lieutenant said when the return
was given to him; “and to do the fellows justice they fought desperately.
Well, now we have to get back to the ship, which is a good ten miles away.
She is still becalmed, and so are we, and unless the wind springs up we
shall hardly reach her before nightfall. I don’t like to ask the men for
more exertions after a ten miles row at such a ripping pace; still, it
must be done. Let two boats take each of the pirates in tow; they shall be
relieved every hour.”

The sailors, who were in high glee at their success, took their places in
the boats cheerfully, but when night fell they were still more than four
miles away from the frigate.



                                CHAPTER IV


                                 PROMOTED


The lieutenant took a boat when it became dusk and rowed to the frigate,
where he handed in his report of the fight.

“I will read that later, Mr. Farrance,” the captain said. “Meanwhile, tell
me briefly what is the result? Of course I saw you returning with the
three vessels in tow.”

“We had a very sharp fight, sir, and I am sorry to say that the casualties
are heavy, twenty-eight killed and nearly forty wounded more or less
severely.”

“That is a heavy list indeed, Mr. Farrance, very heavy, and we are the
less able to bear it since we have some seventy men away on the French
prize. The rascals must have fought desperately.”

“They did, sir. I am bound to say that men could hardly have fought
better. We had very hard work with the two outside ships, and as most of
the fellows jumped overboard and swam to the other, we had an even stiffer
fight there. In fact, if we had had only one of our division of boats
available I am sure we should not have carried her.”

“What are the casualties among the officers?”

“Midshipman Howard is killed, sir, and Lieutenant Ayling and Midshipman
James very severely wounded. I myself had a very narrow escape. I slipped
upon some blood, and two Moors rushed at me and would have killed me had
not that boy Gilmore thrown himself between us. He waved his cutlass about
wildly, and, principally from good luck, I think, cut down one of them. On
this the other attacked him, and I had time to get to my feet again. As
soon as I was up I ran the Moor through, but not before he had given the
boy a very ugly wound on the arm.”

“That is a wonderful boy,” the captain said with a smile. “I think he is
too good to remain where he is, and I must put him on the quarter-deck.”

“I should feel greatly obliged if you would, sir, for there is no doubt
that he saved my life. He is certainly as well up in his work as any of
the midshipmen. The chaplain told me only yesterday that he had learnt to
use the quadrant, and can take an observation quite as accurately as most
of his pupils.”

“Such a boy as that,” said the captain, “ought to be given a chance of
rising in his profession. He is quite at home aloft, and may be fairly
called a sailor. He is certainly a favourite with the whole crew, and I
think, if promoted, will give every satisfaction. Very well, Farrance, we
may consider that as settled.”

“Thank you very much, sir! I need hardly say that it will be a pleasure to
me to fit him out.”

The next morning there was a light breeze, and the three prizes, which had
remained four miles from the frigate through the night, closed up to her.
The wounded were transhipped, and a prize crew was told off to each of the
captures, a considerable portion of the Moors being also transferred to
the frigate and sent down into the hold.

In the afternoon Will, to his surprise, received word that the captain
wished to speak to him. His jacket had been cut off and his injured arm
was in a sling, so he could only throw the garment over his shoulders
before he hurried aft. When he reached the poop he found that the crew
were mustered, and in much trepidation as to his appearance, and with a
great feeling of wonder as to why he had been sent for, he made his way to
where the captain was standing surrounded by a group of officers.

“Men,” the captain said in a loud clear voice, “I am going to take a
somewhat unusual step, and raise one of your comrades to the quarter-deck.
Still more unusual is it that such an honour should fall to a ship’s boy.
In this case, however, I am sure you will all agree with me that the boy
in question has distinguished himself not only by his activity and
keenness aloft, but by the fact that he has, under great difficulties,
educated himself, and in manner and education is perfectly fit to be a
messmate of the midshipmen of this vessel. Moreover, in the fight
yesterday he saved the life of Lieutenant Farrance when he had fallen and
was attacked by two of the Moors. One of these the lad killed, and the
other he engaged. This gave Lieutenant Farrance time to recover his feet,
and he quickly disposed of the second Moor, not, however, before the
rascal had inflicted a severe wound on the lad. Mr. William Gilmore, I
have real pleasure in nominating you a midshipman on board His Majesty’s
ship _Furious_, and inviting you to join us on the quarter-deck.”

The cheer that broke from the men showed that they heartily approved of
the honour that had fallen upon their young comrade. As to Will himself,
he was so surprised and overcome by this most unexpected distinction that
he could scarcely speak. The captain stepped forward and shook him by the
hand, an example followed by the other officers and midshipmen.

“You had better retire,” the captain said, seeing that the lad was quite
unable to speak, “and when you have recovered from your wound the ship’s
tailor will take your uniform in hand. Lieutenant Farrance has kindly
expressed his intention of providing you with it.”

Will, with the greatest difficulty, restrained his feelings till he
reached the sick berth, and then he threw himself into a hammock and burst
into tears. Presently Tom Stevens came in to see him.

“I am glad, Will,” he said, “more glad than I can possibly express. It is
splendid to think that you are really an officer.”

“It is too much altogether, Tom. I had hoped that some day I might come to
be a mate, or even a captain in a merchant ship, but to think that in less
than two months after joining I could be on the quarter-deck was beyond my
wildest dreams. Well I hope I sha’n’t get puffed up, and I am sure, Tom,
that I shall be as much your friend as ever.”

“I don’t doubt that, Will; you would not be yourself if it made any
difference in you. Dimchurch asked me to tell you how much he too was
pleased, but that he was not surprised at all, for he felt sure that in
less than a year you would be on the quarter-deck, as it would be
ridiculous that anyone who could take an observation and be at the same
time one of the smartest hands aloft should remain in the position of
ship’s boy. One of the elder sailors said that in all his experience he
had never known but three or four cases of men being promoted from the
deck except when old warrant officers were made mates and appointed to
revenue cutters.”

“Thank Dimchurch very heartily for me, Tom, and tell him that I hope we
shall sail many years together, although it may be in different parts of
the ship. Now I will lie quiet for a time, for my arm is throbbing
dreadfully. The doctor tells me that although the wound is severe it can
hardly be called serious, for with so good a constitution as I have it
will heal quickly, and in a month I shall be able to use it as well as
before.”

The agitation and excitement, however, acted injuriously, and the next day
Will was in a state of high fever, which did not abate for some days, and
left him extremely weak.

“You have had a sharp bout of it, lad,” the doctor said, “but you are safe
now, and you will soon pick up strength again. It has had one good effect;
it has kept you from fidgeting over your wound, and I have no doubt that,
now the fever has left you, you will go on nicely.”

In another three weeks Will was able to leave the sick bay, and on the
morning he was discharged from the sick list he found by his hammock two
suits of midshipman’s uniform, a full dress and a working suit, together
with a pile of shirts and underclothing of all kinds, and two or three
pairs of shoes. His other clothes had been taken away, so he dressed
himself in the working suit, and with some little trepidation made his way
to his new quarters. The midshipmen were just sitting down to breakfast,
and, rising, they all shook hands with him and congratulated him heartily
both on his promotion and his recovery.

“You are very good to welcome me so heartily,” he said. “I know that
neither by birth nor station am I your equal.”

“You are quite our equal, youngster,” said one of the midshipmen,
“whatever you may be by birth. Not one of us could have worked half so
well as you have done; the chaplain tells us that you can take an
observation as well as he can. I can assure you we are all heartily glad
to have you with us. Sit down and make yourself at home. We have not much
to offer you besides our rations; for we have been out for over a month,
and our soft tack and all other luxuries were finished long ago, so we are
reduced to ham and biscuit.”

“It could not be better,” Will said with a smile, “for I have got such an
appetite that I could eat horse with satisfaction. I feel immensely
indebted to you, Mr. Forster; for if you had not brought my request before
the first lieutenant I should not have been able to make such progress
with my books as I have done.”

“The chaplain is a first-rate fellow—but, by the way, we have no misters
here; we all call each other by our surname plain and simple. Even Peters,
who has welcomed you in our name and who is a full-fledged master’s mate,
does not claim to be addressed as mister, though he will probably do so
before long, for the wound of Lieutenant Ayling, who, it is settled, will
be invalided when we get to Malta, will give him his step. On that
occasion we will solemnly drink his health, at his own expense of course.”

“That is not the ordinary way,” the mate laughed. “I know that you fellows
will be game to shell out a bottle apiece—I don’t think I can do it—not at
least until I get three months of my new rate of pay.”

So they laughed and chaffed, and Will felt grateful to them, for he saw
that it was in no small degree due to the desire to set him at his ease.

“You will be in the starboard watch, Gilmore,” the mate said when the meal
was finished. “That was the one Ayling had. The third lieutenant, Bowden,
who is now in charge, isn’t half a bad fellow. Of course he is a little
cocky—third lieutenants on their first commission generally are, but he is
kind-hearted and likes to makes himself popular, and he will wink one eye
when you take a nap under a gun, which is no mean virtue. The boatswain,
who is in the same watch, is a much more formidable person, and busies
himself quite unnecessarily. One cannot, however, have everything, and on
the whole you will get on very comfortably. I am in the other watch,
Rodwell and Forster are with you. They are well-meaning lads; I don’t know
that I can say anything more for them, but you will find out their faults
soon enough yourself.”

Will then went up on deck with the others. It seemed strange to him to
enter upon what he had hitherto regarded as a sort of sacred ground, and
he stood shyly aside while the others fell into their duties of looking
after the men and seeing that the work was being done. Presently the first
lieutenant came on deck. Will went up to him and touched his hat.

“I cannot tell you, sir,” he said, “how indebted I feel to you for your
kindness in speaking for me to the captain, and especially in providing me
with an outfit. I can assure you, sir, that as long as I live I shall
remember your kindness.”

“My lad, these things weigh but little against the saving of my life, and
I can assure you that it was a great satisfaction to me to be able to make
this slight return. I shall watch your career with the greatest interest,
for I am convinced that it will be a brilliant one.”

Owing to the fact that two officers had gone away in their first prize,
and that three had been killed or disabled in the late fight, there was a
shortage of officers on the _Furious_. Three had left in the Moorish
prizes, and when, a week later, another Moorish vessel was captured
without much fighting, the captain had no officers to spare above the rank
of midshipmen.

“Mr. Forster,” he said, “I have selected you to go in the prize. You can
take one of the juniors with you; I cannot spare either of the seniors.
Who would you like to take?”

“I would rather have Gilmore, sir. I feel that I can trust him
thoroughly.”

“I think you have made a good choice. I cannot spare you more than thirty
men. You will go straight to Malta, hand over your prize to the agent
there, and either wait till we return, or come back again if there should
be any means of doing so.”

Will was delighted when he heard that he was to go with Forster. “Will you
pick the crew?” he asked his friend.

“No, but I could arrange without difficulty for anyone you specially
wished.”

“I should like very much to have my friend Tom Stevens and the sailor
named Dimchurch; they are both good hands in their way, and were very
friendly with me before I got promoted.”

“All right! there will no difficulty about that; we shall want a boy to
act as our servant, and one able seaman is as good as another. I have
noticed Dimchurch; he is a fine active hand, and I will appoint him
boatswain.”

Great was the pride of Will as the prize crew rowed from the _Furious_ to
the Moorish galley of which he was to be second in command, but he could
not help bursting out laughing as he went down with Forster into the
cabin.

“What are you laughing at?” Forster asked.

“I was having a bit of a laugh at the thought of the change that has come
over my position. Not that I am conceited about it, but it all seems so
strange that I should be here and second in command.”

“No doubt it does,” laughed Forster, “but you will soon get accustomed to
it. It is almost as strange for me, for it is the first time that I have
been in command. I have brought a chart on board with me. Our course is
north-north-east, and the distance is between two and three hundred miles.
In any decent part of the world we should do it in a couple of days, but
with these baffling winds we may take a week or more. Well, I don’t much
care how long we are; it will be a luxury to be one’s own master for a
bit.”

The first step was to divide the crew into two watches.

“I am entitled not to keep a watch,” Forster said, “but I shall certainly
waive the privilege. We will take a watch each.”

Tom Stevens was appointed cabin servant, and one of the men was made cook;
nine of the others were told off to each watch.

“I wish she hadn’t all those prisoners on board,” Forster said. “They will
be a constant source of anxiety. There are over fifty of them, and as
hang-dog scoundrels as one would wish to see. We shall have to keep a
sharp look-out on them, to make sure that they don’t get a ghost of a
chance of coming up on deck, for if they did they would not think twice
about cutting our throats.”

“I don’t see how they could possibly get out,” Will said.

“No; it generally does look like that, but they manage it sometimes for
all that. These fellows know that when they get to Malta they will be set
to work in the yards, and if there was an opportunity, however small, for
them to break out, you may be sure that they would take it. These Moorish
pirates are about as ruffianly scoundrels as are to be found, and if they
don’t put their prisoners to death they only spare them for what they will
fetch as slaves.”

After three days’ sailing they had made but little way, for it was only in
the morning and the evening that there was any breeze. Will had just
turned in for the middle watch, and had scarcely dropped to sleep, when he
was suddenly awakened by a loud noise. He sprang out of bed, seized his
dirk and a brace of pistols which were part of the equipment given him by
the first lieutenant. As he ran up the companion he heard a coil of rope
thrown against the door, so he leapt down again and ran with all speed to
the men’s quarters. They, too, were all on their feet, but the hatch had
been battened down above them.

“This is a bad job, sir,” Dimchurch said. “How they have got out I have no
idea. I looked at the fastenings of the two hatches when I came down
twenty minutes ago, and they looked to me all right. I am afraid they will
cut all our comrades’ throats.”

“I fear so, Dimchurch. What do you think we had better do?”

“I don’t know, sir; it will require a good deal of thinking out. I don’t
suppose they will meddle with us at present, but of course they will
sooner or later.”

“Well, Dimchurch, as a first step we will bring all the mess tables and
other portable things forward here, and make a barricade with them. We
will also obtain two or three barrels of water and a stock of food, so
that when the time comes we may at any rate be able to make a stout
resistance.”

“That is a good idea, sir. We will set to work at once.”

In a short time, with the aid of tubs of provisions, barrels of water, and
bales of goods, a barricade was built across the bow of the vessel,
forming a triangular enclosure of about fourteen feet on each side. The
arms were then collected and placed inside, and when this was done there
was a general feeling of satisfaction that they could at least sell their
lives dearly.

“Now, sir, what is the next step?” Dimchurch asked. “You have only to give
your orders and we are ready to carry them out.”

“I have thought of nothing at present,” Will said. “I fancy it will be
better to allow them to make the first move, for even with the advantage
of attacking them in the dark we could hardly hope to overcome four times
our number.”

“It would be a tough job certainly, sir; but if the worst comes to the
worst, we might try it.”

“It must come to quite the worst, Dimchurch, before we take such a step as
that.”

As evening approached, the Moors were heard descending the companion.
There was a buzz of talk, and then they came rushing forward. When they
reached the door between the fore and aft portions of the ship Will and
his men opened fire upon them, and as they poured out they were shot down.
Seven or eight fell, and then the others dashed forward. The seamen lined
the barricade and made a strenuous resistance. Cutlass clashed against
Moorish yatagan; the Moors were too crowded together to use their guns,
and as they could gather no more closely in front than the sailors stood,
they were unable to break through the barricade. At last, after many had
fallen, the rest retired. Three or four of the sailors had received more
or less severe wounds, but none were absolutely disabled. Tom Stevens had
fought pluckily among the rest, and Will was ready with his shouts of
encouragement, and a cutlass he had taken for use instead of his dirk,
wherever the pressure was most severe.

When the Moors had retired, Dimchurch and two others went outside the
barricade and piled some heavy bales against the door, after first
carrying out the dead Moors.

“They will hardly attack us that way again, sir,” he said to Will; “it
will be our turn next time.”

“Yes, six of their number are killed, and probably several badly wounded,
so we ought to have a good chance of success if we make a dash at them in
the dark.”

They waited until night had fallen. Then Will said:

“Do you think you can lift that hatchway, Dimchurch?”

“I will have a pretty hard try anyhow,” the man said. “I will roll this
tub under it; that will give me a chance of using my strength.”

Although he was able to move it slightly, his utmost efforts failed to
lift it more than an inch or two.

“They have piled too many ropes on it for me, sir; but I think that if
some others will get on tubs and join me we shall be able to move the
thing.”

“Wait a minute, Dimchurch. Let each man make sure that his musket is
loaded.”

There was a short pause, during which all firelocks were carefully
examined. When he saw that all were in good order, Will said:

“Now, lads, heave away.”

Slowly the hatchway yielded, and with a great effort it was pushed up far
enough for a man to crawl out. Pieces of wood were shoved in at each
corner so as to hold the hatch open, and the men who had lifted it stood
clear.

“Clamber out, Dimchurch, and have a look round. Are there many of them on
deck?”

“Only about a dozen, as far as I can make out, sir. They are jabbering
away among themselves disputing, I should say, as to the best way to get
at us.”

“I expect they intend to leave us alone and take us into Algiers. However,
that does not matter. You two crawl out and lie down, then give me a hand
and hoist me out. I think the others can all reach, except Tom; you had
better hoist him up after me.”

Each man, as he clambered out, lay down on the deck. When all were up,
they crawled along aft to within a few yards of the Moors, then leapt to
their feet and fired a volley. Five of the Moors fell, while the others,
panic-stricken, ran below.

“Now, pile cables over the hatchway,” Will shouted.

The sailors rushed to carry out the order. They were startled as they did
so by a shout from above.

“Hillo, below there! Have you got possession of the ship?”

“Yes. Is that you, Forster?”

“Yes.”

“Thank God for that!” Will shouted back, while the men gave a cheer. “Why
don’t you come down?”

“I am going to slide down the mast.”

“What for? Why don’t you come down by the rattlings?”

“I have cut the shrouds. When our last man fell I made a dash for them,
and directly I got to the top I cut them, and half a dozen men who were
climbing after me fell sprawling to the deck. Then I cut them on the other
side. I thought then that they would at once shoot me, but there was a
lively argument among them and shouts of laughter, and they evidently
thought that it would be a great joke to leave me up here until I chose to
slide down and be killed. Of course I heard their attack on you, and
trembled for the result; but when the noise suddenly ceased I guessed that
you had repulsed them. Well, here goes!” and half a minute later he slid
down to the deck. “How do matters stand?” he asked, when he stood among
them.

“We killed six and wounded eight or ten in the first attack upon us, and
we have shot five more now. All the rest are battened down below.”

“There they had better remain for the present. Well, Gilmore, I
congratulate you on having recaptured the ship. It has been a bad affair,
for we have lost nine men killed; but as far as you are concerned you have
done splendidly. I am afraid I shall get a pretty bad wigging for allowing
them to get out, though certainly the bolts of the hatchways were all
right when we changed the watch. Of course I see now that I ought to have
placed a man there as sentry. It is always so mighty easy to be wise after
the event. I expect the rascals pretty nearly cut the wood away round the
bolts, and after the watch was changed set to work and completed the job.
We shall not, however, be able to investigate that until we get to Malta.”

“We have blocked up the door between the fore and the after parts of the
ship,” said Will; “but I think it would be as well to place a sentry at
each hatch now, as they might turn the tables upon us again.”

“Certainly. Are you badly wounded, Dimchurch?”

“I have got a slash across the cheek, sir, but nothing to speak of.”

“Well, will you take post at the after-hatch for the present. Stevens, you
may as well go down and guard the door. You will be able to tell us, at
least, if they are up to any mischief. I should think, however, the fight
is pretty well taken out of them, and that they will resign themselves to
their fate now.”

“This is a bad job for me,” Forster said, as he and Will sat down together
on a gun.

“I am awfully sorry, Forster, but I am afraid there is no getting out of
it.”

“No, that is out of the question.”

“There is one thing, Forster. If you did not put a sentry over the
hatchway, neither did I, so I am just as much to blame for the disaster as
you are. If I had had a man there they could hardly have cut away the
woodwork without his hearing. I certainly wish you to state in your report
that you took the watch over from me just as I left it, and that no sentry
had been placed there, as ought certainly to have been done when I came on
watch at eight o’clock.”

“It is very kind of you, Gilmore, to wish to take the blame upon your own
shoulders, but the responsibility is wholly mine. I ought to have reminded
you to put a man there, there can be no question at all about that, but I
never gave the matter a thought, and the blunder has cost us nine good
seamen. I shall be lucky if I only escape with a tremendous wigging. I
must bear it as well as I can.”

While they were talking the sailors were busy splicing the shrouds. When
this was done two of the men swarmed up the mast by means of the
halliards. Then they hoisted up the shrouds, and fastened them round the
mast, making all taut by means of the lanyards. The sails were still
standing, flapping loosely in the light breeze, so the sheets were hauled
in and the vessel again began to move through the water. Two days later
they anchored in Valetta harbour.

“Here goes,” Forster said, as he stepped into the boat with his report.
“It all depends now on what sort of a man the admiral is, but I should not
be surprised if he ordered me to take court-martial.”

“Oh, I hope not!” Will exclaimed. “I do wish you would let me go with you
to share the blame.”

“It cannot be thought of,” Forster said; “the commanding officer must make
the report.”

Two hours later Forster returned.

“It is all right, Gilmore,” he said as the boat came alongside. “Of course
I got a wigging. The admiral read the report and then looked at me as
fierce as a tiger.

“ ‘How was it that no sentry was placed over the prisoners?’

“ ‘I have to admit, sir,’ I said, ‘that I entirely overlooked that. I am
quite conscious that my conduct was indefensible, but I have certainly
paid very heavily for it.’

“ ‘It was a smart trick taking to the shrouds,’ the admiral said, ‘though
one would have thought they would have shot you at once after you had cut
them.’

“ ‘That is what I expected, sir,’ said I, ‘but they seemed to think it was
a very good joke, my being a prisoner up there, and preferred to wait till
I was driven down by thirst.’

“ ‘I suppose your men sold their lives dearly?’ he asked.

“ ‘Yes, sir,’ I replied. ‘Taken by surprise as they were they certainly
accounted for more than one man each.’

“ ‘And doubtless you did the same, Mr. Forster?’

“ ‘Yes, sir, I cut down two of them, and I did not cease fighting until I
saw that all was lost.’

“ ‘Then I suppose you thought that your duty to His Majesty was to take
care of yourself,’ he said slyly.

“ ‘I am afraid, sir,’ I said, ‘at that moment I thought more of my duty
towards myself than of my duty to him.’

“He smiled grimly.

“ ‘I have no doubt that was so, Mr. Forster. Well, you committed a
blunder, and I hope it will be a lesson to you in future.’

“ ‘It will indeed, sir,’ I said.

“Then he started to question me about you.

“ ‘Your junior officer seems to have behaved very well,’ he said.

“ ‘Extremely well, sir,’ I said. ‘I only wish I had done as well.’

“ ‘His plan of forming a barricade across the bow so that his little force
were ample to defend it was excellent,’ he said. ‘Also the blocking up of
the door of communication through the bulkhead was well thought of, and
his final escape through the hatchway and sudden attack upon the enemy was
well carried out. I will make a note of his name. I suppose he is not as
old as yourself, as he is your junior?’

“ ‘No, sir, he is not yet sixteen, and he was only promoted from being a
ship’s boy to the quarter-deck three weeks ago.’

“ ‘Promoted from being a ship’s boy?’ the admiral said in surprise.

“Then I had to give a detailed account, not only of the fight that led to
your promotion, but also of your life so far as I knew it.

“When I had finished, the admiral said:

“ ‘He must be a singular lad, this Gilmore, and is likely to prove an
honour to the navy. Bring him up here at this hour to-morrow; I shall be
glad to see him. There, now, you may go, and don’t forget in future that
when you are in charge of prisoners you must always place a guard over
them.’

“So unknowingly you have done me a good turn, Gilmore, for I expect that
if the admiral had not been so interested in you he would not have let me
off so easily. You must put on your best uniform for the first time and go
up to-morrow.”

“Well, I am afraid I should have felt very shaky if I had not heard your
account of the admiral. From what you say it is evident he is a kindly
man, and after all you have told him about me he can’t have many questions
to ask.”

“Well, I feel a good deal easier in my mind, as you may guess,” Forster
said. “When I went ashore I felt like a bad boy who is in for a flogging.
I dare say I shall get it a little hotter from the captain, but it will be
just a wigging, and there will be no talk of courts-martial. By what we
saw of the goods on board this craft before this rumpus took place I fancy
the Moor had captured and plundered a well-laden merchantman. In that case
the prize-money will be worth a good round sum, and as the admiral gets a
picking out of it he will be still more inclined to look favourably on the
matter. Here comes the boat to take off the prisoners. I have no doubt
some of them will be hanged, especially as they will not be able to give
any satisfactory explanation as to the fate of the merchantman. As soon as
we have got rid of them we will overhaul a few of the bales and see what
are their contents.”

When the last of the prisoners were taken ashore Forster and Gilmore went
below and examined the cargo. This proved to consist of valuable Eastern
stuffs, broad-cloths, silks, and Turkish carpets.

“It could not be better,” Forster said; “she must be worth a lot of money,
and it will add to the nice little handful of prize-money we shall get
when we return home. They ought to give us a good round sum for the
_Proserpine_; then there were the three Moorish vessels, though I don’t
think they were worth much, for their holds were nearly empty and I fancy
they had only been cruising a short time. This fellow, however, is a rich
prize; he certainly had very hard luck, falling in with us as he did. I
fancy the ship they pillaged was a Frenchman or Italian, more likely the
latter. I don’t think there are many French merchantmen about, and it is
most likely that the cargo was intended for Genoa, whence a good part of
it might be sent to Paris. Well, it makes little difference to us what its
destination was, its proceeds are certainly destined to enrich us instead
of its original consignees.”

The next morning Will put on his best uniform for the first time, and,
landing with Forster, ascended the Nix Mangare stairs and called on the
admiral.

“Well, Mr. Gilmore,” the admiral said as he was shown in, “it gives me
great pleasure to meet so promising a young officer. Will you kindly tell
me such details of your early history as may seem fitting to you.”

Will gave him a fairly detailed account of his history up to the time he
joined the navy.

“Well, sir, you cannot be too grateful to that young lady, but at the same
time there are few who would have availed themselves so well of her
assistance. It is nothing short of astonishing that you should have
progressed so far under her care that you were able, after a few lessons
from the chaplain of your ship, to use a quadrant. As a mark of my
approbation I will present you with one. I will send it off to your ship
to-morrow morning.”

With many thanks Will took his leave, and returned with Forster to the
prize.

On the following morning the quadrant arrived. That afternoon the prize
was handed over to the prize-agents, and the crew transferred to the naval
barracks, Forster and Gilmore receiving lodging money to live on shore.
Hitherto, the only fortifications Will had seen were those of Portsmouth,
so he was greatly interested in the castle with its heavy frowning stone
batteries, the deep cut separating it from the rest of the island, and its
towering rock. Then there was the church of St. John, paved with
tombstones of the knights, and other places of interest. The costume and
appearance of the inhabitants amused and pleased him, as did the shops
with their laces, cameos, and lovely coral ornaments. Beyond the walls
there were the gardens full of orange-trees, bright with their fruit, and
the burying-place of the old monks, each body standing in a niche, dressed
in his gown and cowl as in life.

Will wished that he could get his share of prize-money at once, and
promised himself that his very first expenditure would be a suite of coral
for the lady who had done so much for him. In no way, he thought, could he
lay out money with such gratification to himself.

A fortnight later the _Furious_ came into harbour bringing another prize
with her. This had been taken without any trouble. One morning, when day
broke, she was seen only a quarter of a mile from the frigate. A gun was
at once fired across her bows, and, seeing that escape was impossible, she
hauled down her colours without resistance.

Forster and Gilmore, with the officers who had brought in the other
prizes, all went on board at once and made their reports. As Forster had
predicted, he was severely reprimanded for not having placed a sentry over
the prisoners, but in consideration of the fact that he had already been
spoken to by the admiral himself the captain was less severe on him than
he would otherwise have been. Gilmore, on the other hand, was warmly
commended.

“You managed extremely well,” the captain said, “and showed that you fully
deserved your promotion.”



                                CHAPTER V


                              A PIRATE HOLD


The _Furious_ was at once placed in the hands of the dockyard people, who
set to work immediately to repair damages, while large quantities of
provisions were brought off from the stores on shore.

“They are not generally as sharp as this,” Forster said; “I should say
there must be something in the wind.”

Such was the general opinion on board the ship, for double gangs of
workers were put on, and in three days she was reported to be again ready
for sea. The captain came on board half an hour later and spoke to the
first lieutenant, and orders were at once issued to get up the anchors and
set sail. Her head was pointed west as she left the harbour, and the
general opinion was that she was bound for Gibraltar. It leaked out,
however, in the afternoon that she was sailing under sealed orders, and as
that would hardly be the case if she were bound for Gibraltar, there were
innumerable discussions among the sailors as to her destination. Could she
be meant to cruise along the west coast of France, or to return to England
and join a fleet being got ready there for some important operation?

“What do you say, Bill?” one of the men asked an old sailor, who had sat
quietly, taking no part in the discussion.

“Well, if you asks me,” he said, “I should say we are bound for the West
Indies.”

“The West Indies, Bill! What makes you think that?”

“Well, I thinks that, because it seems to me as that is where we are most
wanted. The French have got a stronger fleet than we have out there.”

“Well, they have got as strong a fleet at Toulon, and quite as strong a
one at Brest.”

“Yes, that may be so, but I think we are pretty safe to lick them at
either of these places if they will come out and fight us fair, whereas in
the West Indies they are a good bit stronger. There are so many ports and
islands that, as we are, so to speak, a good deal scattered, they might at
any moment come upon us in double our strength.”

“Have you ever been there before, Bill?”

“Ay, two or three times. In some respects it could not be better; you can
buy fruit, and ’bacca and rum for next to nothing, when your officers give
you a chance. Lor’, the games them niggers are up to to circumvent them
would make you laugh! When you land, an old black woman will come up with
a basket full of cocoa-nuts. Your officer steps up to her and examines
them, and they look as right as can be. Perhaps he breaks one and it is
full of milk; very good. So you go up to buy, and the officer looks on.
The woman hands you two or three, and when she gives you the last one she
winks her eye. She don’t say anything, but you drop a sixpence into her
hand among the coppers you have to pay for the others, and when she has
quite sold out the officer orders you into the boat to lie off till he
comes back. And when he returns he is quite astonished to find that most
of the crew are three sheets in the wind.

“Then they will bring you sugar-canes half as thick as your wrist, looking
as innocent as may be; both ends are sealed up with bits of the pith, and
when you open one end you find that all the joints have been bored
through, and the cane is full of rum. But mind, lads, you are fools if you
touch it; it is new and strong and rank, and a bottle of it would knock
you silly. And that is not the worst of it, for fever catches hold of you,
and fever out there ain’t no joke. You eats a good dinner at twelve
o’clock, and you are buried in the palisades at six; that’s called yellow
jack. It is a country where you can enjoy yourselves reasonable with
fruit, and perhaps a small sup of rum, but where you must beware of
drinking; if you do that you are all right. The islands are beautiful,
downright beautiful; there ain’t many places which I troubles myself to
look at, but the West Indies are like gardens with feathery sorts of
trees, and mountains, and everything that you can want in nature.”

“It is very hot, isn’t it, Bill?”

“It ain’t, so to speak, cool in summer-time. In winter it is just right,
but in summer you would like to lie naked all day and have cold water
poured over you. Still, one gets accustomed to it in time. Then, you see,
there is always excitement of some kind. There are pirates and Frenchmen,
and there are Spaniards, whom I regard as a cross between the other two.
They hide about among the islands and pop out when you least expect them.
You always have to keep your eyes in your head and your cutlass handy when
you go ashore. The worst of them are what they call mulattoes; they are a
whity-brown sort of chaps, neither one thing nor the other, and a nice
cut-throat lot they are. A sailor who drinks too much and loses his boat
is as like as not to be murdered by some of them before morning. I hate
them chaps like poison. There are scores of small craft manned by them
which prey upon the negroes, who are an honest, merry lot, and not bad
sailors either in their way. Sometimes four or five of these pirate craft
will go together, and many of them are a good size and carry a lot of
guns. They make some island their head-quarters. Any niggers there may be
on it they turn into slaves. There are thousands of these islands, so at
least I should say, scattered about, some of them mere sand-spots, others
a goodish size.

“Well, I hope it is the West Indies. There is plenty of amusement and
plenty of fighting to be done there, and I should like to know what a
sailor can want more.”

There was a hum of approval; the picture was certainly tempting.

After a six days’ run with a favourable wind they passed through the
Straits without touching at Gibraltar, and held west for twenty-four
hours. Then the sealed orders were opened, and it was soon known
throughout the ship that it was indeed the West Indies for which they were
bound. The ship’s course was at once changed. Teneriffe was passed, and
they stopped for a day to take in fresh water and vegetables at St.
Vincent. Then her head was turned more westward, and three weeks later the
_Furious_ anchored at Port Royal. The captain went on shore at once to
visit the admiral, and returned with the news that the _Furious_ was to
cruise off the coast of Cuba. The exact position of the French fleet was
unknown, but when last heard of was in the neighbourhood of that island.

“I must keep a sharp look-out for them,” the captain said, “and bring back
news of their whereabouts if I do catch sight of them; that is, of course,
if we don’t catch a tartar, for not only do the French ships carry heavier
guns than we do, but they sail faster. We are as speedy, however, as any
of our class, and will, I hope, be able to show them a clean pair of
heels. In addition to this, I am told that three piratical craft, which
have their rendezvous on some island off the south coast of Cuba, have
been committing great depredations. A number of merchantmen have been
missed; so I am to keep a sharp look-out for them and to clip their wings
if I can.”

“What size are they?” asked the first lieutenant.

“One is said to be a cutter carrying eight guns and a long-tom, the other
two are schooners, each carrying six guns on a broadside; it is not known
whether they have a long-tom, but the probability is that they have.”

“They would be rather formidable opponents then if we caught them
together, as they carry as many guns as we do, and those long-toms are
vastly more powerful than anything we have. I think it is a pity that they
don’t furnish all ships on this station with a long twenty-four; it would
be worth nearly all our broadsides.”

“That is so, Mr. Farrance, but somehow the people at home cannot get out
of their regular groove, and fill up the ships with eight and
ten-pounders, while, as you say, one long twenty-four would be worth a
dozen of them. If we do catch one of these pirates I shall confiscate
their long guns to our own use.”

“It would be a capital plan, sir. Well, I am glad we shall have something
to look for besides the French fleet, which may be a hundred miles away.”

“Ay, or a thousand,” the captain added.

Will had been standing not far from the captain, and heard this
conversation. His heart beat high at the thought of the possibility of a
fight with these murderous pirates.

For three weeks they cruised off the coast of Cuba. They saw no sign
whatever of the French fleet, but from time to time they heard from native
craft of the pirates. The natives differed somewhat widely as to the
head-quarters of these pests, but all agreed that it was on an island
lying in the middle of dangerous shoals.

One day they saw smoke rising some fifteen miles away and at once shaped
their course for it. When they approached it they found that it rose from
a vessel enveloped in flames.

“She is a European ship,” the captain said as they neared her. “Send an
officer in a boat to row round her and gather any particulars as to her
fate. I see no boats near her, and I am afraid that it is the work of
those pirates.”

All watched the boat with intent interest as she rowed round the ship.

“I have no doubt whatever that it is the work of pirates,” the officer
said on his return. “Her bulwarks are burnt away, and I could make out
several piles on deck which looked like dead men.”

“Send a man up to the mast-head, Farrance, and tell him to scan the
horizon carefully for a sail. I should say this ship can’t have been
burning above three hours at most.”

No sooner had the man reached the top of the mast than he called down
“Sail ho!”

“Where away?” Mr. Farrance shouted.

“On the port bow, sir.”

“What do you make her out to be?”

“I should say she was a schooner by her topsails.”

The ship’s course was at once changed, and every rag of sail put upon her.
The first lieutenant climbed to the upper crosstrees, and after a long
look through his telescope returned to deck.

“I should say she is certainly one of the schooners that we are in search
of, sir, but I doubt whether with this light wind we have much chance of
overhauling her.”

“We will try anyhow,” the captain said. “She is probably steering for the
rendezvous, so by following her we may at least get some important
information.”

All day the chase continued, but there was no apparent change in the
position of the two vessels. The _Furious_ was kept on the same course
through the night, and to the satisfaction of all on board they found,
when morning broke, that they had certainly gained on the schooner, as her
mainsails were now visible. At twelve o’clock a low bank of sand was
sighted ahead, and the schooner had entered a channel in this two hours
later. The _Furious_ had to be hove-to outside the shoal. The sand
extended a long distance, but there were several breaks in it, and from
the masthead a net-work of channels could be made out. It was a great
disappointment to the crew of the _Furious_ to have to give up the chase
and see the schooner only some four miles off on her way under easy sail.

“This is an awkward place, Mr. Farrance,” the captain said, “and will need
a deal of examination before we go any farther. The first thing to do will
be to sail round and note and sound the various channels. I wish you would
go aloft with your glass and see whether there is any ground higher than
the rest. Such a place would naturally be the point of rendezvous.”

Lieutenant Farrance went aloft and presently returned.

“There is a clump of green trees,” he said, “some ten miles off. The
schooner is nearing them, and I think, though of this I am not certain,
that I can make out the masts of another craft lying there.”

“Well, it is something to have located her,” the captain said. “Now we
must find how we can best get there; that will be a work of time. We may
as well begin by examining some of these channels.”

Four boats were at once lowered and rowed to the mouths of those nearest.
The sounding operations quickly showed that in three of them there was but
two feet of water; the other was somewhat deeper, but there was still two
feet less water than the _Furious_ drew. The deep part was very narrow and
winding.

“It may be this one that the schooner has gone up,” the captain said. “I
have no doubt she draws three or four feet less than we do, and, knowing
the passage perfectly, she could get up it easily. I hope, however, we
shall find something deeper presently.”

The next three days were spent in circumnavigating the sand-banks and in
sounding the various channels, but at last the captain was obliged to
admit that none of them were deep enough for the _Furious_, although there
were fully half a dozen by which vessels of lighter draught might enter.

“I am ready to run any fair risk, Mr. Farrance,” he said, “but I daren’t
send a boat expedition against such a force as that, especially as they
have no doubt thrown up batteries to strengthen their position. They must
have any number of cannon which they have taken from ships they have
captured.”

“It would certainly be a desperate enterprise,” the first lieutenant
agreed, “and, as you say, too dangerous to be attempted now.”

“Gilmore,” Forster said, as the midshipmen met at dinner, “you are always
full of ideas; can’t you suggest any way by which we might get at them?”

“I am afraid not,” Will laughed. “The only possible way that I can see
would be to sail away, get together a number of native craft, and then
make a dash at the place.”

“What would be the advantage of native craft over our boats,” one of the
others said scoffingly.

“The great advantage would be that, if we had a dozen native craft, the
men would be scattered about their decks instead of being crowded in
boats, and would therefore be able to land with comparatively little
loss.”

“Upon my word,” one of the seniors said, “I think there is something in
Gilmore’s idea. Of course they would have to be very shallow, and one
would have to choose a night when there was just enough breeze to take
them quietly along. At any rate I will run the risk of being snubbed, and
will mention it to one of the lieutenants. ’Pon my word, the more I think
of it the more feasible does it seem.”

After dinner was over the midshipman went up to Mr. Peters, who was now
third lieutenant, and saluted.

“What is it?” the lieutenant asked.

“Well, sir, it is an idea of Gilmore’s. It may not be worth anything at
all, but it certainly seemed to me that there was something in it.”

“His ideas are generally worth something. What is it?”

The midshipman explained Will’s plan.

“There is certainly something in it,” Peters said. “What a beggar that boy
is for ideas! At any rate, I will mention it to Mr. Farrance.”

Mr. Farrance at first pooh-poohed the idea, but, on thinking it over, he
concluded that it would be as well at any rate to lay it before the
captain.

“’Pon my word it does seem feasible,” the captain said. “They could tow
the boats in after them, so that, when they came under the pirates’ fire,
the men could get into the boats and so be in shelter. Only one hand would
be required to steer each vessel, and the rest would remain out of sight
of the enemy until near enough to make a dash either for the shore or the
pirates’ craft, as the case might be. It is a good idea, a really
brilliant idea, and well worth putting into effect. Besides, each of the
vessels could carry one or two small guns, and so keep down the enemy’s
fire to some extent. Send for Gilmore.”

In a few minutes Will entered the captain’s cabin cap in hand.

“Mr. Farrance tells me, Mr. Gilmore, that you have an idea that by
collecting a number of native craft of shallow draught we might attack the
pirates with some hope of success.”

“It was only an idea, sir, that occurred to me on the spur of the moment.”

“Well, I am inclined to regard it as a feasible one,” the captain said. “A
dozen boats of that kind would carry the greater part of the ship’s crew,
and if each had a couple of light cannon on board they would be able to
answer the enemy’s fire. If I do attack in this manner I propose to send
the boats in towing behind the native craft, so that when the enemy’s fire
becomes really heavy the men can take their places in these, and so be in
shelter until close enough to make a dash. Is there any other suggestion
you can offer I?”

“No, sir. The plan of taking the boats certainly seems to me to be a good
one.”

The captain smiled a little. He was not accustomed to have his plans
approved of by midshipmen. However, he only said: “I think it will work.
Should any other suggestion occur to you, you will mention it to Mr.
Farrance. I am really obliged to you for the idea, which does great credit
to your sharpness.”

“Thank you, sir!” said Will, and retired.

An hour later the frigate was sailing away from the sand-banks.

“What did the old man say?” the midshipmen asked Will as he rejoined them.

“He thinks that there was something in the idea, but of course he has
greatly improved it. He means to send the boats towing behind the native
craft, so that if the fire gets very heavy the men can take to them and be
towed in perfect shelter until near enough to make a rush. He intends to
put a gun or two in each of the native boats, to keep down the enemy’s
fire a bit as they approach.”

“That is an improvement,” Forster said, “and it certainly seems, Gilmore,
as if you had found a way out of our dilemma.”

Those who had been most disposed to laugh at Will’s suggestion were eager
to congratulate him now that the captain had expressed his approval of it
and had adopted it.

The _Furious_ sailed direct for Port Royal. There was no fear that the
pirates would abandon their island, for they would naturally take the
retirement of the _Furious_ as an admission of defeat. They were, of
course, open to a boat attack, but they would consider themselves strong
enough to beat off any such attempt without difficulty.

Arriving at Port Royal, Lieutenant Farrance went ashore in search of
suitable craft. He had no difficulty in buying a dozen old native boats.
He then procured a large quantity of cane, and lashed these in the bottom
of the boats, using a sufficient quantity to keep them afloat even if they
were riddled with balls. Then the carpenters set to work to make platforms
in the bows of each to carry a seven-pounder gun. In three days the work
was completed and the _Furious_ started again, putting two men in each of
the boats and taking them in tow.

Five days later they arrived off the sand-spits, and preparations were at
once made for the attack. Lying low in the water, and keeping in a line
behind the _Furious_, the native craft would be altogether invisible from
the central islands, so that the pirates would not be aware of the method
of attack. The greater portion of the men were told off to them, only
forty remaining on board the _Furious_. All was ready an hour after
nightfall, and the men took their places in the native craft, fastening
their boats to the stern in each case. The sails were at once got up, and,
following each other in single file, they entered the channel which had
been found to be the deepest. The leading boat kept on sounding—an easy
matter, as, the wind being light, the rate of progress did not exceed a
mile an hour.

Will had been posted by the first lieutenant in his own boat, which was
the leader, and Dimchurch and Tom Stevens were among the crew. Dimchurch
had exchanged places with another seaman; Tom had been allowed a place by
the special solicitation of Will.

“He fought stoutly in that fight on the Moorish prize, and he is very much
attached to me. I should be obliged, sir, if you would take him.”

“All right!” said the first lieutenant; “let him stow himself away in the
bow till the fighting begins.” Accordingly Tom curled himself up by the
gun.

It was between two and three in the morning when the trees of the central
island were made out; they were not more than five hundred yards away.
Presently from a projecting point, where a heavy mass could be made out, a
cannon was fired. The shot flew overhead, but the effect was
instantaneous. Shouts were heard on shore and the sound of oars in
rowlocks.

“Take to the boats!” the lieutenant shouted. The two lines of lights in
the port-holes showed the positions of two vessels, and the men on the
native craft left to work the guns at once opened fire at them. For a
minute or two there was no return, and it was evident that the greater
portion of the crew had been ashore. The battery that had first fired now
kept up a steady discharge, but as the boats were almost invisible, the
shot flew wildly overhead or splashed harmlessly in the water. The gunners
on board disregarded it, and maintained a steady fire at the ports of the
enemy’s vessels. From these now came answering flashes, but the shot did
little damage.

When the attacking party had got within a hundred yards of the pirate
ships, the lieutenant gave the signal, and the boats, with a cheer, dashed
forward at full speed. They had received instructions how to act in case
two vessels were found, and, dividing, they made for their respective
quarters.

The race was short and sharp, each officer urging his men to the fullest
exertions. The instant they were alongside the oars were cast aside, and
the men, drawing their cutlasses, leapt to their feet and endeavoured to
climb up. They were thrust back with boarding-pikes, axes, and weapons of
all kinds, but at last managed to get a foothold aft.

Will in vain endeavoured to get on deck; the sides were too high for him.
Finding himself left with half the crew, he made his way in the boat
forward along the side of the pirate vessel and clambered up by the
bowsprit shrouds. Some of the men in the other boats, seeing what he was
doing, followed his example. They were unnoticed. A fierce fight was
raging on the quarter-deck, and the shouting was prodigious. When some
thirty men were gathered Will led the way aft. Their arrival was
opportune, for the attacking party, under the lieutenant, had been vastly
outnumbered by the pirates, and although fighting stoutly, had been penned
against the bulwark, where with difficulty they defended themselves.

  [Illustration: WILL LEADS A PARTY TO TAKE THE ENEMY IN THE REAR]

With a cheer Will’s party rushed aft, taking the pirates in the rear. Many
of these were cut down, and the rest fell back confused by this unexpected
attack.

“Now is your time, lads!” the lieutenant shouted. “Throw yourselves upon
them and drive them back!”

Although the pirates still fought desperately, knowing that no mercy would
be extended them, the steady valour of the sailors was too much for them.
At last the pirate captain was cut down by Dimchurch, and with his fall
his men entirely lost heart. Some threw down their arms, and many of them
jumped overboard and swam ashore. A loud cheer burst from the sailors as
the resistance came to an end.

The fight was still raging on board the other ship, and the lieutenant
ordered the men of his own and another boat to row to it. Unseen by the
pirates they reached the bow and climbed on deck. Then as soon as all had
gained a footing they rushed aft. Here, too, the rear attack decided the
struggle; in five minutes all was over.

Daylight was now breaking, and they were able to see that there was a line
of storehouses on the islands together with a large number of huts. The
greater portion of the men were ordered to land, and the fugitives from
the ships were hunted down. Most of these had taken refuge in the battery
at the mouth of the harbour, but as this was open on the land side it was
soon stormed and the defenders all cut down. Then the huts were searched
and burnt and the storehouses opened.

These were found to contain an enormous quantity of goods, the spoil
evidently of many ships, and the men were at once set to work to transfer
it to the prizes, and when these were full, to the native craft. A boat
had been sent off, directly the fighting was over, with news to the
captain of the success they had gained, and in the morning another message
was sent saying that it would take four or five days to transfer the
stores to the ships, and the _Furious_ had in consequence hoisted anchor
and gone for a short cruise away from the dangerous proximity of the
sands.

On the afternoon of the third day a large cutter was seen approaching.
Lieutenant Farrance ordered the native craft to be towed behind a small
islet, where they were hidden from sight of a vessel entering the harbour,
and the crews to take their places on the captured vessels. When this was
done the guns were loaded and the men stood to their quarters. The
new-comer approached without apparently entertaining any suspicion that
anything unusual had happened, the huts that had been destroyed being
hidden by the groves of trees.

As she came abreast of them the guns were run out and the lieutenant
shouted: “I call upon you to surrender! These vessels are prizes of His
Majesty’s frigate _Furious_, and if you don’t surrender we will sink you
at once!”

There was a hoarse shout of fury and astonishment, and then the captain
called back: “We will never surrender!”

Both the schooners at once poured in their broadsides, doing immense
damage, and killing large numbers of the pirates. A few cannon were fired
in answer, but in such haste that they had no effect. When two more
broadsides had been fired into her, the cutter blew up with a tremendous
explosion which shook both vessels to the keel and threw many of the men
down. When the smoke cleared away the cutter had disappeared. Whether a
shot had reached her magazine, or whether she was blown up by her
desperate commander, was never known, as not a single survivor of the crew
was picked up.

When the work of loading was completed, and the storehouses had been
destroyed by fire, the two schooners sailed out, followed by the native
craft with the boats towing behind.

The victory had been won at very little cost. Only three men had been
killed and some seventeen wounded, while with the exception of some thirty
prisoners, for the most part wounded, the whole pirate force had been
annihilated.

The captain had already visited the scene, having rowed in as soon as he
had received news of the success of the expedition. In Lieutenant
Farrance’s despatch several officers were noted for distinguished conduct.
Among these was Will Gilmore, to whom the lieutenant gave great credit for
the manner in which he had boarded the pirate, and by his sudden attack
upon the rear of the enemy converted what was a distinctly perilous
situation into a success.

“I tell you what it is, Gilmore,” one of the midshipmen jestingly said,
“if you go on like this we shall send you to Coventry. It is unbearable
that you should always get to the front.”

Great was the rejoicing among the merchants of Port Royal when the
_Furious_ returned with her two prizes and it became known that the third
had been destroyed and the nest of pirates completely broken up.

On the following day Will was sent for by the admiral.

“My lad,” he said, “I wish to tell you that although it is not usual for a
captain to acknowledge in official despatches that he acted on the ideas
of a young midshipman, Captain Marker has done full justice to you in his
verbal report to me. Your idea showed great ingenuity, and although the
surprise was so complete that even had the attack been made by ships’
boats only it would probably have been successful, this detracts in no way
from the merit of the suggestion. Of course you have some years to serve
yet before you can pass, but I can promise you that as soon as you do so
you shall, if you are still here, have your appointment at once as mate,
with employment in which you can distinguish yourself.”

“Thank you very much, sir!” Will said, and, saluting, retired.

In three days the ship’s prizes and native craft were unloaded, and their
contents were found to be of very great value, for by the marks upon the
goods it was evident that at least twenty-three merchantmen must have been
captured and pillaged, and as none of these were ever heard of after they
had sailed it was reasonably concluded that all must have been burnt, and
those on board murdered. The case was so atrocious that the prisoners were
all tried, condemned to death, and executed in batches. There was little
doubt that the pirates must have had agents in the various ports who had
kept them informed of the sailing of ships, but there was no means of
ascertaining who these parties were.

The _Furious_ sailed four days after her return, and this time cruised on
the northern coast of Cuba. One day, when sailing along by a stretch of
high cliffs, a ship of war suddenly appeared from a narrow inlet; she was
followed by two others. The _Furious_ was headed round at once, and with
the three French frigates in pursuit started on her way back. The wind was
light, and though every stitch of canvas was set, it was evident, after an
hour’s sailing, that one, at least, of her pursuers gained steadily on
her. The French ship would, indeed, have gained more than she had done had
she not yawed occasionally and fired with her bow-chasers. The _Furious_
had shifted two of her broadside guns to her stern to reply, but, although
the aim was good, only one or two hits were made, the distance being still
too great for accurate shooting.

“I wish the other two Frenchmen were a little slower,” the captain said to
the first lieutenant. “They are only a little farther behind her than when
we started, and are, I think, only about half a mile astern of her. If she
continues to travel at her present rate she will be close up to us by
sunset. She is just about our own size, and I make no doubt that we should
give a good account of her, but we could not hope to do so before her two
consorts came up, and we could not expect to beat all three. If we could
but fall in with one of our cruisers I would fight them willingly.”

“Yes, the odds are too much against us at present, sir. I don’t say that
we could not fight them separately, but we could hardly hope to beat three
of them at once. We can’t make her go through the water faster than she is
doing as far as I can see.”

“No, every sail seems to be doing its best. There is nothing for it but to
pray either for another frigate or for more wind. I am not sure that wind
would help us, still it might.”

“I think, sir,” the lieutenant said, two hours later, “that one of your
wishes is going to be fulfilled. There is a cloud rising very rapidly on
the larboard bow, and from its colour and appearance it seems to me that
we are going to have a tornado.”

“It will be welcome indeed,” the captain said. “We have been hit ten times
in the last half-hour, and the nearest ship is not more than
three-quarters of a mile away.”

Five minutes later the captain said: “It is certainly a tornado. All hands
reduce sail. Don’t waste a moment, lads; it will be on us in three
minutes.”

In a moment the vessel was a scene of bustle; the men swarmed up the
rigging, urged to the greatest exertions not only by the voices of their
officers but by the appearance of the heavens. The frigate behind held on
three or four minutes longer, then her sheets were let fly, and
immediately she was a scene of wild confusion.

“It will be on her before she is ready,” the captain said grimly, “and if
it is, she will turn turtle. It is as much as we shall do to be ready.”

Just as a line of white foam was seen approaching with the speed of a
race-horse, the last man reached the deck.

“I would give a great deal,” the captain said, “to have time to get down
all our light spars. Get ready your small fore try-sail, and a small
stay-sail to run up on the mizzen.”

A minute later the storm was upon them. A blinding sheet of spray, driven
with almost the force of grape-shot, swept over the ship, followed by a
deafening roar and a force of wind that seemed about to lift the ship
bodily out of the water. Over and over she heeled, and all thought that
she was about to founder, when, even above the noise of the storm, three
loud crashes were heard, and the three masts, with all their lofty hamper,
went over the side.

“Thank God,” the lieutenant exclaimed, “that has saved her!”

All hands with axes and knives began cutting away the wreckage. At the
same time the two try-sails were hoisted, but they at once blew out of the
bolt-ropes.

“Don’t you think, sir,” the first lieutenant shouted, “that if we lash a
hawser to all this hamper, and hang to it, it will act as a floating
anchor, and bring her head up to the wind?”

“Very well thought of, Mr. Farrance,” the captain shouted back; “by all
means do so.”

The order was given and immediately carried out. The tangle of ropes and
spars, with the ship’s strongest hawser attached, soon drifted past her,
and as the cable tightened the vessel’s head began to come slowly up into
the wind.

“That will delay her fate for a bit,” the captain said, “but we can’t hope
that it will more than delay it, unless we can get up some sail and crawl
off the coast. Get ready the strongest try-sails we have in case they may
be wanted.”

In a few minutes the sails were got ready, but for the present there was
nothing for it but to hang on to the wreckage. The shore was some miles
away, but in spite of the floating anchor the drift was great. The crew of
the _Furious_ had now time to breathe, but it was pitch dark and nothing
could be seen save the white heads of the waves which now every moment
threatened to overwhelm them. Not a trace of the frigate which had so
hotly pursued them could be seen.

“God rest their souls!” the captain said earnestly. “I am afraid she is
gone. In fair fight one strives to do as much damage as possible, but such
a catastrophe as this is awful. I trust the other two took warning in
time.”

“I hope so too. They were under the lee of that island we passed shortly
before it began, so would be partially sheltered. There is no hope for the
first, and their fate is terrible indeed, sir; all the more awful,
perhaps, because we know that it may become ours before long.”

“There is no doubt about that,” the captain said. “Unless the wind drops
or chops round our fate is sealed, and a few hours will see the ship
grinding her bones on that rocky shore. It is too dark to see it, but we
know that we are most surely approaching it.”

As day broke the shore was made out a little more than half a mile away.
The captain then called the crew together.

“My lads,” he shouted, but in spite of his efforts his voice was heard but
a few yards away, “everything has been done for the ship that could be
done, but as you see for yourselves our efforts have been in vain. I trust
that you will all get ashore, but as far as we can see at present the
rocks are almost precipitous, and, high as they are, the spray flies right
over them. I thank you all for your good conduct while the ship has been
in commission, and am sure that you will know how to die, and will
preserve your calm and courage till the end. Go to your stations and
remain there until she is about to strike; then each man must make the
best fight for life that he can.”

The men went quietly off. Mr. Farrance stood watching the shore with his
telescope. Presently he exclaimed: “See, sir, there is a break in the
cliff! I do not know how far it goes in, but it looks to me as if it might
be the opening to an inlet. We are nearly opposite to it, so if we shift
the hawser from the bow to the stern she will swing round, and will
probably drift right into the creek if that is what it is.”

“By all means let us make the attempt,” the captain said. “Thank God,
there is a hope of escape for us all!”

The men sprang to their feet with alacrity when they heard the news.
Another hawser was brought up and firmly spliced to the one in use just
beyond the bulwark forward. Then it was led along outside the shrouds and
fastened to the bitts astern and then to the mizzen-mast. This done, the
first hawser was cut at the bulwark forward, and the ship swung round
almost instantly. As soon as she headed dead for shore the raffle that had
so long served for their floating anchor was cut adrift and the try-sail
was hoisted on the stump of the foremast, and with six good men at the
wheel the vessel surged shorewards under the force of the gale, every man
on board holding his breath. The opening was but a ship’s-length across,
but driven by the wind and steered with the greatest care the _Furious_
shot into it as quickly and as surely as if she were propelled with oars.
A great shout of relief burst from the whole crew when, after proceeding
for a hundred yards along a narrow channel, the passage suddenly widened
out into a pool a quarter of a mile across.

“Let go the anchor!” the captain cried, and he had scarce spoken when the
great anchor went thundering down. “Pay out the chain gradually,” was the
next order, “and check her when she gets half-way across.” The order was
obeyed and the vessel’s head swung round, and in less than a minute she
was riding quietly over great waves that came rolling in through the
entrance and broke in foam against the shore of the inlet. The quiet after
the roar and din was almost startling. Above, the clouds could be seen
flying past in rugged masses, but the breast of the pool, sheltered as it
was from the wind by its lofty sides, was scarcely rippled, and the waves
rolled in as if they were made of glass. Not a word was heard until the
captain spoke.

“It is the least we can do, men, to thank God for this miraculous escape.
I trust that there is not a man on board this ship who will not offer his
fervent thanks to Him who has so wonderfully brought us out of the jaws of
death.”

Every head was bared, and for two or three minutes no sound was heard on
board the ship. Then the captain replaced his hat, and the men went
quietly off to their duties.



                                CHAPTER VI


                             A NARROW ESCAPE


They were hardly anchored before the gale showed signs of breaking, and in
a few hours the sun shone out and the wind subsided. The destruction of
the timber on the hillsides had been prodigious, and large spaces were
entirely cleared.

The captain and first lieutenant had an anxious consultation. Every boat
had gone, and all the masts and rigging. They were in what was practically
a hostile country, for although Spain had not declared war against us, she
gave every assistance to the French and left her ports open to them. In a
few weeks probably she would openly throw herself into the scale against
us.

“It is clear that we must communicate with Port Royal somehow,” the
captain said, “but it certainly isn’t clear how we are to do it. Between
this and the nearest port there may be miles and miles of mountain all
encumbered by fallen trees, which it would be almost impossible to get
through. Then again we have heard that there are always bands of fugitive
slaves in the mountains, who would be sure to attack us. As to the sea, we
might possibly make shift to build a boat. There is certainly no lack of
timber lying round, and we have plenty of sail-cloth for sails, so we
could fit her out fairly well. It would be a journey of fully a thousand
miles, but that seems the most feasible plan. A small craft of, say, forty
feet long might be built and got ready for sea in the course of a week.”

“I should say so certainly, sir. With the amount of labour we have at our
disposal it might be built even sooner than that. We have plenty of handy
men on board who could give efficient help to the carpenter’s gang.”

“I suppose you would build it rather as a ship than as a boat?”

“Yes, I think so. We could build her of one-and-a-half-inch planks, fill
the seams well with oakum, and give her a couple of coats of paint. Let
her be of shallow draft with plenty of beam. She should, of course, be
decked over, as she might meet with another tornado. The crew would
consist of an officer and ten men. With such a vessel there should be no
difficulty in reaching Port Royal.”

The carpenters were at once told off to carry out the work.

“You can have as many hands to help you as you wish,” the captain said to
the head of the gang. “What will you do first?”

“I shall get some planks from below, sir, and make a raft. By means of
that we can get on shore and choose the trunks that would be most suitable
for the purpose; we are sure to find plenty about. Then we will find a
suitable spot for a ship-yard, and at once start on the work. I will set a
gang of men with axes to square the trunks and make them ready for sawing.
They need not be more than six inches square when finished, and as I have
a couple of double-handed saws we can soon rip these into planks.”

“How long do you think you will be?”

“I should say, sir, with the help I can get, I ought to be ready to start
in less than a week. Of course the ribs will take some time to prepare,
but when I have them and the keel and stem- and stern-post in place the
planking will not take us very long.”

“She is to be decked, Thompson.”

“All over, sir?”

“Yes, I think so. She may meet with weather like that we have just come
through, and if she is well decked we may feel assured that she will reach
Port Royal. I will leave Mr. Farrance and you to draw out her lines.”

“I think,” said the first lieutenant, “she should be like a magnified
launch, with greater beam and a larger draft of water, which could,
perhaps, best be gained by giving her a deep keel. Of course she must be a
good deal higher out of the water than a launch, say a good four feet
under the deck. There should be no need to carry much ballast; she will
gain her stability by her beam.”

“I understand, sir. The first thing to be done is to form the raft.”

The ship’s crew were soon at work, and it was not long before a raft was
constructed. A rope was at once taken ashore and made fast to a tree, so
that the raft could be hauled rapidly backwards and forwards between the
ship and the shore.

The carpenter and his mates were the first to land, and while the chief
selected a suitable point for a yard his assistants scattered, examining
all fallen trees and cutting the branches off those that seemed most
suitable. These were soon dragged down to the yard. Then strong gangs set
to work to square them, and the carpenters to cut them into planks.

The first lieutenant remained with them, encouraging them at their work,
while the junior officers and midshipmen were divided among the various
gangs. By six o’clock, when the _Furious_ signalled for all hands to come
on board, they had indeed done a good day’s work. A pile of planks lay
ready to be used as required. The carpenters had made some progress with a
keel, which they were laboriously chopping out from the straight trunk of
a large tree. By evening of the next day this was finished and placed in
position. On the third day some started to shape the stem- and
stern-posts, while the head-carpenter made from some thin planks templates
of the ribs, and set others to chop out the ribs to fit.

In two more days all was ready for fastening on the planks. A hundred and
fifty men can get through an amazing amount of labour when they work well
and heartily. The planks were bent by main strength to fit in their
places, and as there was an abundance of nails and other necessary
articles on board, the sheathing was finished in two days. The rest of the
work was comparatively easy. While the deck was being laid the hull was
caulked and painted, and the two masts, sails, and rigging prepared. The
boat had no bulwarks, it being considered that she would be a much better
sea-boat without them, as in case of shipping a sea the water would run
off at once. The hatchways fore and aft were made very small, with
close-fitting hatches covered with tarpaulin.

The captain was delighted when she was finished.

“She is really a fine boat,” he said, “with her forty feet of length and
fifteen of beam. It has taken longer to build her than I had expected, but
we had not reckoned sufficiently on the difficulties. Everything, however,
has now been done to make her seaworthy, so those of us who remain here
may feel sure that she will reach Port Royal safely. In case of a gale the
sails must be lowered and lashed to the deck, and all hands must go below
and fasten the hatchways securely. She has no ballast except her stores,
but I think she will be perfectly safe; there is very little chance of her
capsizing.”

“With such beam and such a depth of keel,” said the first lieutenant, “she
could not possibly capsize. In case of a tornado the masts might very well
be taken out of her and used as a floating anchor to keep her head to it.”

“Now whom do you intend to send in her, sir?”

“I will send two officers,” the captain said. “Peters, and a midshipman to
take his place in case he should be disabled. I think it is Robson’s turn
for special service.”

The next morning the boat started soon after daybreak, the ship’s crew all
watching her till the two white lug-sails disappeared through the opening.

“Now we will take a strong party of wood-cutters,” the captain said, “and
see if we can make a way to the top of the hill and get some idea of the
country round. I don’t expect we shall see much of interest, but it is
just as well that we should be kept employed. By the way, before we do
that, we will get hawsers to the shore and work the frigate round so as to
bring her broadside to bear upon the opening; we ought to have done that
at first. The French may know of this place, or if they don’t they may
learn of it from the Spaniards. Those two ships astern of us probably got
themselves snug before the tornado struck them, and weathered it all
right, though I doubt very much if they did so, unless they knew of some
inlets they could run for. If they did escape, it is likely that they will
be taking some trouble to find out what became of us. They may have seen
their companion’s fate, but they would hardly have made us out in the
darkness. Still, they would certainly want to report our loss, and may
sail along close inshore to look for timbers and other signs of wreck. I
think, therefore, that it will be advisable to station a well-armed boat
at this end of the cut, and tell them to row every half-hour or so to the
other end and see if they can make out either sailing or rowing craft
coming along the shore. If they do see them they must retire to this end
of the opening, unless they can find some place where they could hide till
a boat came abreast of them, and then pounce out and capture it.”

“It would certainly be a good precaution, sir. I will see to it at
once—but we are both forgetting that we have no boats.”

“Bless me, I did forget that altogether! Well, here is that little dug-out
the carpenters made for sending messages to and from the ship. It will
carry three. I should be glad if you would take a couple of hands and row
down to the mouth of the entrance and see if there is any place where,
without any great difficulty, a small party with a gun could be stationed
so as not to be noticed by a boat coming up.”

“I understand, sir.”

The lieutenant started at once, and when he returned, some hours later, he
reported that there was a ledge some twenty feet long and twelve deep. “It
is about eight feet from the water’s edge and some twelve above it, sir,”
he said, “and is not noticeable until one is almost directly opposite it.
If we were to pile up rocks regularly four feet high along the face, both
the gun and its crew would be completely hidden.”

“Get one of the hands on board, Mr. Farrance; I will myself go and see it
with you.”

One of the men at once climbed on deck, and the captain took his place in
the little dug-out. When they reached the ledge he made a careful
inspection of it.

“Yes,” he said, “ten men could certainly lie hidden here, and with a rough
parapet, constructed to look as natural as possible, they should certainly
be unobserved by an incoming boat, especially as the attention of those in
the stern would be directed into the inlet. Will you order Mr. Forster and
one of the other midshipmen to go with as many men as the raft will carry,
and build such a parapet. They had better take one of the rope-ladders
with them and fix it to the ledge by means of a grapnel. There is plenty
of building material among the rocks that have fallen from the precipices
above. I must leave it to their ingenuity to make it as natural as
possible.”

When they returned to the ship the first lieutenant called Forster and
gave him the captain’s orders.

“You can take young Gilmore with you,” he said. “Your object will be to
make it as natural as possible, so as to look, in fact, as if the rocks
that had fallen out behind had lodged on the ledge. The height is not very
important, for if a boat were coming along, the men would, of course, lie
down till it was abreast of them, and the cannon would be withdrawn and
only run out at the last moment.”

“Very well, sir, I will do my best.”

The raft was again brought into requisition, and it was found that it
could carry twelve men. Dimchurch and nine others were chosen, and, using
oars as paddles, they slowly made their way down to the spot.

“It will be a difficult job to make anything like a natural wall there,”
Forster said.

“Yes,” Will agreed, “I don’t see how it is to be managed at all. Of course
we could pile up a line of stones, but that would not look in the least
natural. If we could get up three or four big chunks they might do if
filled in with small stones, but it would be impossible to raise great
blocks to that shelf.”

The ladder was fixed and they climbed up to the ledge. When they reached
it they found that it was very rough and uneven, and consequently that the
task was more difficult than it had seemed from below.

“The only way I see,” Forster said, “would be to blast out a trench six
feet wide and one foot deep, in which the men could lie hidden. The
question is whether the captain will not be afraid that the blasting might
draw attention to our presence here.”

“They were just starting for the top of the hill when we came away,” Will
said, “and may be able to see whether there are any habitations in the
neighbourhood. A couple of men in the dug-out would be able to bring us
news of any craft in sight. I certainly don’t see any other way.”

When Forster made his report the captain said:

“I believe it will be the best plan. At the top of the hill we could see
nothing but forests, for the most part levelled; we could make out no sign
of smoke anywhere. The operation of blasting can be done with
comparatively small charges, and occurring as it does at the foot of a
gorge like that, the sound would hardly spread much over the surrounding
country, and we could, of course, take care that there was no ship in
sight when we fired the charges.

“Well, you can begin to-morrow. I believe there are some blasting-tools in
the store. Take the gunner with you; this work comes within his province.”

On the following morning the raft went off again, and at midday a number
of sharp explosions told that the work was begun. In the evening another
series of shots were fired, and the party returned with the news that the
ground had been broken up to the depth of two feet and of ample size to
give the men cover. The next morning the rocks were cleared out, and a
seven-pounder and carriage, with tackle for hoisting it up, were sent
over.

In the afternoon the captain went in the dug-out and inspected the work,
and expressed himself as thoroughly satisfied with it. A garrison
consisting of an officer and ten men was then placed in the fort. They
remained there all day and returned to the ship as darkness fell, as it
was thought pretty certain that no one would try to explore the inlet
during the night. The next morning another party was told off to garrison
duty, and so on, no man being given two consecutive days in the fort.

On the fourth day the dug-out returned in haste to the ship from its post
at the mouth of the gap, and reported that two men-of-war were to be seen
in the distance cruising close inshore. Mr. Farrance landed, and with
difficulty made his way up the hill to a point near the mouth of the
opening, which commanded a view over the sea. From that point he could
easily see the hulls of the ships with his telescope, and had no doubt
whatever that they were the former antagonists of the _Furious_. After
watching for some time he made out four little black specks very close to
the shore. He examined them closely and then hurried down to the cove.

“They are searching the coast with boats,” he reported, “as I feared they
would.”

The news had been given to the little party at the battery as the dug-out
came in, and they were at once on the alert. The carpenters, who after the
departure of their first boat had been employed in building a large gig to
pull twelve oars, were at once recalled to the ship, and the magazines
were opened and the guns loaded. All the guns from the larboard main deck
had been brought up to the upper deck and port-holes made for them, and a
boom of trees had been built from the bow and stern of the ship to the
shore, so as to prevent any craft from getting inside her. Thus prepared,
the captain considered that he was fully a match for any two ships of his
own size, but he knew, nevertheless, that, even if he beat them off, he
might be exposed to attack from a still larger force unless assistance
arrived from Jamaica.

But he did not think only of the ship. The dug-out, which had brought Mr.
Farrance back with his report, was at once sent off with orders to the
party at the battery that they must, if possible, sink any boat or boats
that entered, but that if ships of war came in they must not try to work
their gun after the first shot, as if they did so they would simply be
swept away by the enemy’s fire. That one shot was to be aimed at the
enemy’s rudder; then they were to lie down, and if they had not disabled
the ship they were to keep up a heavy musketry fire, aimed solely against
her steersman. It was hardly likely that they would be attacked by boats,
as the enemy would be fully engaged with the _Furious_; but even if they
should, the Frenchmen would have no means of climbing the eight feet of
precipitous rock.

The dug-out went to and from the entrance, bringing back news of the
progress made by the enemy’s boats. About three hours from the time when
they had first been made out by Mr. Farrance the little boat reported that
they were only two or three hundred yards from the entrance. On board the
ship all listened anxiously, for a slight bend in the narrow passage
prevented them from seeing the battery. Presently the boom of a cannon was
heard, followed by a cheer, which told that the little garrison had been
successful; then for two or three minutes there was a rattle of musketry.
When this stopped, the dug-out at once went out to the fort, and returned
with the news that two boats had come up abreast, that one of them had
been sunk by the cannon at the fort, and that its crew had been picked up
by the other boat, which had rowed hastily back, suffering a good deal
from the musketry fire under which the operation was carried on.

“That is act one,” the captain said; “now we shall have to look for act
two. I will go up with you, Mr. Farrance, to the place whence you saw
them; we may be sure that there will be a great deal of signalling and
consultation before they make any further step.”

Accordingly they landed and went up to the look-out. The two vessels were
lying close to each other with their sails aback. The more fortunate of
the two boats which had attempted to explore the passage had just returned
to them with its load of wounded and the survivors of its late companion,
and boats were passing to and fro between the two ships.

“It is an awkward question for them to decide,” the captain said. “Of
course they know well enough that a ship must be in here, the gun shows
them that, but they cannot tell that we are capable of making any defence
beyond the single gun battery on the ledge.”

It was an hour before there was any change in the position, but at the end
of that time the sails were filled and the two vessels headed for the
mouth of the inlet. They had evidently concluded that the English ship was
lying there disabled. The two officers hurried back to the _Furious_, and
gave orders to prepare for the attack. The men at once stood to their
posts. Presently the gun of the fort boomed out again, and by the cheering
that followed the sound it was evident that the shot had taken effect and
smashed the rudder of one of the French ships. Several guns were fired in
reply, but a minute later the bowsprit of the leading ship came into view.
The men waited until they could see the whole vessel, then a crashing
broadside from every gun on board the _Furious_ was poured into her bow.

The effect was tremendous; a hole ten or twelve feet wide was torn in her
bow, and the ship was swept from end to end by balls and splinters, and
the shrieks and groans that arose from her told that the execution was
heavy. It was evident that the battle was already half-won as far as she
was concerned. There was not room enough in the little inlet for her to
manœuvre in the light wind so as to bring her broadside to bear on the
_Furious_, and another crashing broadside from the latter vessel completed
her discomfiture. The other vessel now came up by her side, but she had
been disabled by the fort, and her helm would not act. Her captain at once
lowered her boats and tried to get her head round, but these were smashed
up by the fire of the _Furious_, and the two vessels lay together side by
side, helpless to reply in any efficient way to the incessant fire kept up
upon them. The Frenchmen did all that was possible for brave men to do in
the circumstances, but their position was hopeless, and after suffering
terribly for ten minutes, one after the other hauled down their flag.

A tremendous burst of cheering broke from the _Furious_. She had lost but
two men killed and four or five wounded by the bullets of the French
topmen. She had also been struck twice by balls from the bow-chaser of the
second ship; but this was the extent of her damage, while the loss of life
on board the French frigates had been frightful. Some sixty men had been
killed and eighty wounded on the first ship, while thirty were killed and
still more wounded in the boats of the second vessel.

Captain Harker went on board the captures to receive the swords of their
commanders.

“You have done your best, gentlemen,” he said; “no one in the
circumstances could have done more. Had there been ten of you instead of
two the result must have been the same. If your boats had got in and seen
the situation you would have understood that the position was an
impossible one. There was no room in here for manœuvring, and even had one
of you not been damaged by the shot from that little battery of ours, your
position would have been practically unchanged, and you could not possibly
have brought your broadsides to bear upon us.”

The French captains, who were much mortified by the disaster, bowed
silently.

“It is the fortune of war, sir,” one of them said, “and certainly we could
not have anticipated that you would be so wonderfully placed for defence.
I agree with you that our case was hopeless from the first, and I
compliment you upon your dispositions, which were certainly admirable.”

“You and your officers will be perfectly at liberty,” the captain said;
“your crews must be placed in partial confinement, but a third of them can
always be on deck. My surgeon has come on board with me, and will at once
assist yours in attending to your wounded.”

A considerable portion of the crew of the _Furious_ were at once put on
board the French frigate _Eclaire_, and set to work to dismantle her. The
masts, spars, and rigging were transferred to the _Furious_ and erected in
place of her own shattered stumps, which were thrown overboard. Thus,
after four days of the hardest work for all, the _Furious_ was again
placed in fighting trim.

Preparations were immediately made for sailing. The _Furious_ led the way,
towing behind her the dismantled hull in which the whole of the prisoners
were carried. A prize crew of sixty were placed on board the _Actif_.

When they were about half-way to Jamaica a squadron of three vessels were
sighted. Preparations were made to throw off the _Eclaire_ if the ships
proved to be hostile, but before long it was evident that they were
English. They approached rapidly, and when they rounded-to near the
_Furious_ the crews manned the yards and greeted her with tremendous
cheers. The officer in command was at once rowed to the _Furious_. As the
boat neared the ship his friends recognized Mr. Peters and Robson sitting
in the stern.

“What miracle is this, Captain Harker?” the officer cried as he came on
deck. “Your lieutenant brought us news that you were dismasted and lying
helpless in some little inlet, and here you are with what I can see is a
French equipment and a couple of prizes! I can almost accuse you of having
brought us here on a fool’s errand.”

“It must have that appearance to you; but the facts of the case are
simple;” and he told the story of the fight. “The battle was practically
over when the first shot was fired,” he said. “The two French ships lost
upwards of seventy killed and over a hundred wounded, while we had only
four men killed and two wounded. If the place had been designed by nature
specially for defence it could not have been better adapted for us.”

“I see that,” Captain Ingham said; “but you made the most of the
advantages. Your plan of laying her broadside to the entrance, getting all
your cannon on one side, and building a boom to prevent any vessel from
getting behind you, was most excellent. Well, it is a splendid victory,
the more so as it has been won with so little loss. The French certainly
showed but little discretion in thus running into the trap you had
prepared for them. Of course they could not tell what to expect, but at
least, whatever it might have cost them, they ought to have sent a strong
boat division in to reconnoitre. No English captain would have risked his
vessel in such a way.”

With very little delay the voyage to Jamaica was continued. Two of the
relief party went straight on, the other remained with the _Furious_ in
case she should fall in with a French fleet. When the little squadron
entered Port Royal they received an enthusiastic welcome from the ships on
the station. Both prizes were bought into the service and handed over to
the dockyard for a thorough refit. Their names were changed, the _Eclaire_
being rechristened the _Sylph_, the _Actif_ becoming the _Hawke_.
Lieutenant Farrance was promoted to the rank of captain, and given the
command of the latter vessel, and some of the survivors of a ship that had
a fortnight before been lost on a dangerous reef were told off to her. He
was, according to rule, permitted to take a boat’s crew and a midshipman
with him from his old ship, and he selected Will Gilmore, and, among the
men, Dimchurch and Tom Stevens.

The planters of Jamaica were celebrated for their hospitality, and the
officers received many invitations.

“You are quite at liberty to accept any of them you like,” Captain
Farrance said to Will. “Till the vessel gets out of the hands of the
dockyard men there is nothing whatever for you to do. But I may tell you
that there is a good deal of unrest in the island among the slaves. The
doings of the French revolutionists, and the excitement they have caused
by becoming the patrons of the mulattoes has, as might be expected, spread
here, and it is greatly feared that trouble may come of it. Of course the
planters generally pooh-pooh the idea, but it is not to be despised, and a
few of them have already left their plantations and come down here. I
don’t say that you should not accept any invitation if you like, but if an
outbreak takes place suddenly I fancy very few of the planters will get
down safely. I mean, of course, if there is a general rising, which I hope
will not be the case. Negroes are a good deal like other people. Where
they are well treated they are quite content to go on as they are. Where
they are badly treated they are apt to try and better themselves. Still,
that is not always the case. There is no doubt that altogether the French
planters of San Domingo are much gentler in their treatment of their
slaves than our people are here. Large numbers of them are of good old
French families, and look on their slaves rather as children to be ruled
by kindness than as beasts of burden, as there is no doubt some, not many,
I hope, but certainly some of the English planters do. With San Domingo in
the throes of a slave revolution, therefore, it will not be surprising if
the movement communicates itself to the slaves here. I know that the
admiral thinks it prudent to keep an extra ship of war on the station so
as to be prepared for any emergency.”

“Very well, sir. Then I will not accept invitations for overnight.”

“I don’t say that, Mr. Gilmore. In nine cases out of ten I should say it
could be done without danger; for if a rebellion breaks out it will not at
first be general, but will begin at some of the most hardly-managed
plantations, and there will be plenty of time to return to town before it
spreads.”

As Will had no desire to mix himself up in a slave insurrection, he
declined all invitations to go out to houses beyond a distance whence he
could drive back in the evening. At all the houses he visited he was
struck by the apparently good relations between masters and slaves. The
planters were almost aggrieved when he insisted on leaving them in the
evening, but he had the excuse that he was a sort of aide-de-camp to
Captain Farrance, and was bound to be there the first thing in the morning
to receive any orders that he might have to give. He generally hired a gig
and drove over early so as to have a long day there, and always took
either Dimchurch or Tom with him. He enjoyed himself very much, but was
not sorry when the repairs on the _Hawke_ were completed.

As the admiral was anxious for her to be away, some men were drafted from
the other ships; others were recruited from the crews of the merchantmen
in the port by Dimchurch, who spoke very highly of the life on board a
man-of-war, and of the good qualities of the _Hawke’s_ commander. The
complement was completed by a draft of fresh hands from England, brought
out to make good the losses of the various ships on the station. Within
three weeks, therefore, of her leaving the dockyard the _Hawke_ sailed to
join the expedition under Sir John Laforey and General Cuyler, to capture
the island of Tobago, where, on 14th April, 1793, some troops were landed.
The French governor was summoned to surrender, but refused, so the works
were attacked and carried after a spirited resistance. But the attempt to
capture St. Pierre in the island of Martinique was not equally
successfully. The French defended the place so desperately that the troops
were re-embarked with considerable loss.



                               CHAPTER VII


                          AN INDEPENDENT COMMAND


Will was hit by a musket-ball in the last engagement that took place, and
was sent back with a batch of wounded to Port Royal. Three of the fingers
of his left hand had been carried away, but he bore the loss with
equanimity, as it would not compel him to leave the service. Tom, who went
with him as his servant, fretted a good deal more over it than he himself,
and was often loud in his lamentations.

“It would not have made any difference if it had been me,” he said, “but
it is awfully hard on you.”

“What ridiculous nonsense, Tom!” Will said quite angrily, after one of
these outbursts. “If it had been you it would have been really serious,
for though an officer can get on very well without some of his fingers a
sailor would be useless and would be turned adrift with some trifling
pension. I shall do very well. I have been mentioned in despatches and I
am certain to get my step as soon as I have served long enough to pass, so
after a time I shall not miss them at all.”

Tom was silenced, though not convinced. The wound healed rapidly, thanks
to Will’s abstemious habits, and in six weeks after entering the hospital
he was discharged as fit for duty. The _Hawke_ was not in harbour, so he
went to an hotel. On the following day he received an order to call upon
the admiral. When he did so that officer received him very kindly. “I am
sorry,” he said, “to learn that you have lost some fingers, Mr. Gilmore.”

“I hope it will not interfere much with my efficiency, sir?”

“I think not,” the admiral said; “I have received the surgeon’s report
this morning. In it he stated that your wound had from the first gone on
most favourably, and that they had really kept you in hospital a fortnight
longer than was absolutely necessary, lest in your anxiety to rejoin you
might do yourself harm. Three days since a cutter of about a hundred tons
was sent in by the _Sylph_. She was a pirate, and, like all vessels of
that class, very fast, and would most likely have outsailed the _Sylph_
had she not caught her up a creek. I have purchased her for the government
service, and I propose to place you in command.”

Will gave a start of surprise. At his age he could not have expected for a
moment to be given an independent command.

“I have noted your behaviour here, and have looked through the records of
your service since you joined, and I am convinced that you will do credit
to the post. I shall give you a midshipman junior to yourself from the
_Thetis_, and you will have forty hands before the mast. The _Hawke_ is
expected in in a few days, so you can pick five men from her. The rest I
will make up from the other ships. The cutter will be furnished with four
twelve-pounders, and the long sixteen as a bow gun, which she had when she
was captured. Your duty will be to police the coasts and to overhaul as
many craft as you may find committing depredations, of course avoiding a
combat with adversaries too strong for you.”

“I thank you most heartily, sir, for selecting me for this service, and
will do my best to merit your kindness.”

“That is all right, Mr. Gilmore. I have acted, as I believe, for the good
of the service, and to some extent as an incentive to other young officers
to use their wits.”

Will went out with his head in a whirl. He could hardly have hoped, within
a year of his term of service as a midshipman, to obtain a separate
command, and he could have shouted with joy at this altogether unexpected
promotion. The first thing he did was to take a boat and row off in it to
his new command. She was a handsome boat, evidently designed to be fast
and weatherly.

“These beggars know how to build boats much better than how to fight
them,” he said, when he had examined her. “Assuredly in anything like a
light wind she would run away from the _Sylph_. The admiral was right when
he said that it was only by chance that she was caught. I hope the fellow
who is going with me is a good sort. It would be awkward if we did not
pull well together. At any rate, as the admiral seems to have picked him
out for the service, he must be worth his salt. Of course I shall have
Dimchurch as my boatswain; he will take one watch and the youngster the
other. It will be hard if we don’t catch something.”

Having rowed round the cutter two or three times he returned to the shore.
As the little vessel had been taken by surprise, and had not been able to
offer any resistance to a craft so much more powerful than herself, she
was uninjured, and was in a fit state to be immediately recommissioned.
She was called _L’Agile_, a name which Will thought very suitable for her.

“Forty men will be none too strong for her,” he said, “for we shall have
to work two guns on each side and that long one in the bow.” He went to
bed that night and dreamt of fierce fights and many captures, and laughed
at himself when he awoke. “Still,” he said, “I shall always be able to
tackle any craft of our own size and carrying anything like our number of
men.”

Three days later the _Hawke_ came in. Will at once rowed off to her and
had a chat with his friends. When he mentioned his new command his news
was at first received with absolute incredulity, but when at last his
messmates came to understand that he was not joking, he was heartily
congratulated on his good fortune. Afterwards he was not a little chaffed
on the tremendous deeds he and his craft were going to perform. When at
last they became serious, Latham, the master’s mate, remarked: “But what
is your new command like?”

“She is a cutter of about a hundred tons, carrying four twelve-pounders,
and a sixteen-pounder long pivot gun at the bow. I am to have forty men
and a young midshipman from the _Thetis_.”

“A very tidy little craft, I should say, Gilmore, and you will probably
get a good deal more fun out of her than from a frigate or line-of-battle
ship. You will want a good boatswain to take charge of one of the
watches.”

“I shall have one, for I am to take five men out of the _Hawke_, and you
may be sure I shall take Dimchurch as boatswain.”

“You could not have a better man,” Latham said; “he is certainly one of
the smartest fellows on board the ship. He is very popular with all the
men, and is full of life and go, and always the first to set an example
when there is any work to be done. I suppose we shall also lose the
services of that boy Tom?”

“I think so,” Will laughed; “I should be quite lost without so faithful a
hand, and indeed, though he still ranks as a boy, he is a big powerful
fellow, and a match for many an A.B. at hauling a rope or pulling an oar.”

“You are right. He is as big round the chest as many of the men, and
though perhaps not so active, quite as powerful. When will you hoist your
pendant?”

“I have to get the crew together yet. I am to have small drafts from
several of the ships, and it may be a few days before they can be
collected.”

The next morning the _Thetis_ arrived, and the young midshipman came on
shore an hour later to report himself to Will. He looked surprised for a
moment at the age of his new commander, but gravely reported himself for
service. Will was pleased with his appearance. He was a merry-faced boy,
but with a look on his face which indicated pluck and determination.

“You are surprised at my age, no doubt, Harman,” Will said, “and I cannot
be more than a year older than yourself, but I have been fortunate enough
to be twice mentioned in despatches, indeed have had wonderful luck. I
feel sure that we shall get on well together, and I hope both do well. We
are to act as police on the coast of Cuba; it swarms with pirates, and it
will be hard if we don’t fall in with some of them. You will, of course,
keep one watch, and the boatswain, who is a thoroughly good man, will take
the other. I need hardly say that we shall have no nonsense about
commanding officer. Except when on duty, I hope we shall be good chums,
which means, of course, that when an enemy is in sight or the weather is
dirty I must be in absolute command.”

“Thank you, sir!” Harman said. “These are good terms, and I promise to
obey your commands as readily as if you were old enough to be my father.”

“That is good. Now I have dinner ordered and I hope you will share it with
me. We can then talk over matters comfortably.”

Before dinner was over, the lad was more than satisfied with his new
chief, and felt sure that at any rate the cruise would be a pleasant one.
Just as they had finished, Dimchurch and Tom came in to see Will. On
finding that he was engaged they would have withdrawn, but Will called
them in. “Sit down and join Mr. Harman and myself in a chat. This, Harman,
is Bob Dimchurch, who is going to be our boatswain, and Tom Stevens, whom
I have known since we were five years old, and although I have gone over
his head we are as good friends as ever. Dimchurch took me under his wing
when I first joined, and since then has fought by my side on several
occasions.”

“We came to wish you success in your new command, sir,” Dimchurch said,
“and should not have intruded had we known that you were not alone.”

“It is no intrusion at all, Dimchurch. There is no man whose
congratulations can be more pleasing to me. Have you seen the cutter?”

“Yes, sir. Tom and I noticed what a smart, likely craft she was when we
came in and dropped anchor. I little thought that it was you who had
command of her, but I have no fear but that you will do her full justice.
I could hardly believe my ears when I was told this afternoon, and Tom was
ready to jump out of his clothes with joy.”

“It is wonderfully good fortune, Dimchurch; I can hardly believe it myself
yet.”

“I am sure you deserve it, sir. It was you who recaptured that prize in
the Mediterranean; it was you who saved the first lieutenant’s life; and
it was you who suggested a plan by which we accounted for those three
pirates. If that didn’t deserve promotion, it is hard to say what would.”

“I owe no small portion of it, Dimchurch, to the fact that I was able to
take an observation so soon after I had joined, and that was due to the
kindness of my good friend Miss Warden.”

“Yes, sir, that goes for something, no doubt, but there is a good deal
more than that in it.” After some further talk both of the past and the
future, Dimchurch sprang to his feet, saying: “Well, sir, I wish you
success. But it is time we were off. I am told we are to remove our duds
on board the new craft to-morrow.”

“Yes, we are going to start manning her at once; I shall be on board with
Mr. Harman directly after breakfast. I have not put foot upon her yet, and
am most anxious to do so.”

The craft fully answered Will’s expectations. Her after-accommodation was
exceedingly good; the cabin was handsomely fitted, and there were two
state-rooms.

“We shall be in clover here, Harman,” he said; “no one could wish for a
better command. I must set to work to get stores shipped at once. How many
of the crew are on board?”

“Twenty-three, sir, and I believe we shall have our full complement before
night.”

As they spoke a boat laden with provisions came alongside, and all hands
were at once engaged transferring her load to the cutter. In the course of
the forenoon the remainder of the men came on board in twos and threes.
After dinner Will called the crew together and read out his commission.
Then he made his maiden speech.

“My lads,” he said, “I wish this to be a comfortable ship, and I will do
my best to make it so. I shall expect the ready obedience of all; and you
may be assured that if possible I will put you in the way of gaining
prize-money. There are plenty of prizes to be taken, and I hope
confidently that many of them will fall to our share.” The men gave three
cheers, and Will added: “I will order an extra supply of grog to be served
out this evening.”

On the following day _L’Agile_ dipped her ensign to the admiral and set
off on her voyage. Will was well pleased with the smartness the crew
displayed in getting under weigh, and more than satisfied with the pace at
which she moved through the water. For a month they cruised off the coast
of Cuba, during which time they picked up eight small prizes. These were
for the most part rowing-galleys carrying one large lateen sail. None of
them were sufficiently strong to show fight; they were not intended to
attack merchantmen, but preyed upon native craft, and were manned by from
ten to twenty desperadoes. Most of them, when overhauled, pretended to be
peaceful fishermen or traders, but a search always brought to light
concealed arms, and in some cases captured goods. The boats were burned,
and their crews, mostly mulattoes, with a sprinkling of negroes—rascals
whose countenances were sufficiently villainous to justify their being
hanged without trial,—were put ashore; for the admiral had given
instructions to Will not to burden himself with prisoners, who would have
to be closely guarded, and would therefore weaken his crew, and, if
brought to Port Royal, would take up prison accommodation.

At last one day a schooner rather bigger than themselves was sighted. Her
appearance was rakish, and there was little doubt as to her character. All
sail was at once crowded on _L’Agile_. The schooner was nearly as fast as
she was, and at the end of a six hours’ chase she was still two miles
ahead. Suddenly she headed for the shore and disappeared among the trees.
_L’Agile_ proceeded on her course until opposite the mouth of the inlet
which the pirate had entered. It was getting dark, and Will decided to
wait until morning, and then to send a boat in to reconnoitre.

“I have not forgotten,” he said to Harman, “the way in which those two
French frigates I have told you of ran into a trap, and I don’t mean to be
caught so if I can help it.”

_L’Agile_ remained hove to during the night, and in the morning lowered a
boat, with four hands, commanded by Dimchurch, who was ordered to row in
until he obtained a fair view of the enemy, and observe as far as possible
what preparation had been made for defence. He was absent for half an
hour, and then returned, saying that the schooner was lying anchored with
her sails stowed at the far end of the inlet, which was about half a mile
long and nearly as wide, with her broadside bearing on the entrance.

“If it is as large as that,” Will said, “there will be plenty of room for
us to manœuvre. Did you make out what number of guns she carried?”

“Yes, sir, she mounted four guns on each side; I should say they were for
the most part ten-pounders.”

“I think we can reckon upon taking her. Our guns are of heavier metal than
hers, and the long-tom will make up for our deficiency in numbers.”

_L’Agile_ was put under as easy sail as would suffice to give her
manœuvring powers, and then headed for the mouth of the inlet. She was
half-way through when suddenly two hidden batteries, each mounting three
guns, opened upon her.

“Drop the anchor at once,” Will shouted; “we will finish with these
gentlemen before we go farther.” The schooner at the same time opened
fire, but at half a mile range her guns did not inflict much damage upon
the cutter. Lying between the two batteries she engaged them both, her
broadside guns firing with grape, while the long-tom sent a shot into each
alternately. In a quarter of an hour their fire was silenced, three of the
guns were dismounted, and the men who had been working them fled
precipitately.

“Take a boat and spike the remaining guns, Dimchurch,” Will said; “I don’t
want any more bother with them.”

In a few minutes Dimchurch returned to the cutter, having accomplished his
mission. The anchor was then got up again, and she proceeded to attack the
schooner. _L’Agile’s_ casualties had been trifling; only one had been
killed and three wounded, all of them slightly. As she sailed up the inlet
she replied with her pivot-gun to the fire of the enemy. At every shot the
splinters were seen to fly from the schooner’s side, much to the
discomfiture of the pirate gunners, whose aim became so wild that scarcely
a shot struck _L’Agile_. When within a hundred yards of the schooner the
helm was put down, and the cutter swept round and opened fire with her two
broadside guns.

The shots had scarcely rung out when Harman touched Will on the shoulder.
“Look there, sir,” he said. Will turned and saw a vessel emerging from a
side channel, which was so closed in with trees that it had been
unperceived by anybody aboard the cutter. Her aim was evidently to get
between them and the sea. She was a cutter of about the same size as
_L’Agile_, but carried six ten-pounders.

“The schooner has enticed us in here,” Will said, “there is no doubt about
that, and now there is nothing to do but to fight it out. Take her head
round,” he said, “we will settle it with the cutter first. The schooner
cannot come to her assistance for some minutes as she has all her sails
furled.”

Accordingly he ranged up to the new-comer, and a furious contest ensued.
He engaged her with two broadside guns and the long-tom, and at the same
time kept his other two guns playing upon the schooner, the crew of which
were busy getting up sail. The long-tom was served by Dimchurch himself,
and every shot went crashing through the side of the pirate cutter, the
fire of the two broadside guns being almost equally effective.

“Keep it up, lads,” Will shouted; “we shall finish with her before the
other can come up.” As he spoke a shot from the long-tom struck the
cutter’s mainmast, which tottered for a moment and then fell over her side
towards _L’Agile_, and the sails and hamper entirely prevented the crew
from working her guns. For another five minutes the fire was kept up; then
the crew were seen to be leaping overboard, and presently a man stood up
and shouted that she surrendered. The schooner was now coming up fast.

“Don’t let her escape,” Will shouted; “she has had enough of it, and is
trying to get away. Run her aboard!” In a minute the two vessels crashed
together, and headed by Will, Harman, and Dimchurch, _L’Agile’s_ crew
sprang on board the schooner.

The pirate crew were evidently discouraged by the fate of their consort
and by the complete failure of their plan to capture _L’Agile_. The
captain, a gigantic mulatto, fought desperately, as did two or three of
his principal men. One of them charged at Will while he was engaged with
another, and would have killed him had not Tom Stevens sprung forward and
caught the blow on his own cutlass. The sword flew from the man’s hand,
and Tom at once cut him down. Dimchurch engaged in a single-handed contest
with the great mulatto captain. Strong as the sailor was he could with
difficulty parry the ruffian’s blows, but skill made up for inequality of
strength, and after a few exchanges he laid the man low with a clever
thrust. The fall of their leader completed the discomfiture of the
pirates, most of whom at once sprang overboard and made for the shore,
those who remained being cut down by the sailors.

When at last they were masters of the ship the crew gave three lusty
cheers. But Will did not permit them to waste precious time in rejoicing.
He knew that, though they had accomplished so much, there was still a
great deal to be done, for the prizes might even yet be recaptured before
they got them out to sea. Without a moment’s delay, therefore, he sent a
boat to take possession of the cutter. The sail and wreckage were cleared
away, and the boat proceeded to tow her out of the inlet. In the meantime
a warp was taken from _L’Agile_ to the schooner, the sails of the latter
were lowered, and Will sailed proudly out with his second prize in tow.
Once fairly at sea the crew began to repair damages. Five men in all had
been killed and eleven were wounded. Several of the latter, however, were
able to lend a hand. The shot-holes in _L’Agile_ were first patched with
pieces of plank, then covered with canvas, and afterwards given a coat of
paint. Then the schooner was taken in hand, and when she was got into
something like ship-shape order her sails were hoisted again, and ten men
under Harman placed on board to work her. The cutter was taken in tow,
only three men being left on board to steer.

It was late in the afternoon before all the repairs were completed. Before
sailing, a rough examination was made of the holds of the two vessels, and
to the great satisfaction of _L’Agile’s_ crew both were found to contain a
considerable amount of booty.

“It is probable that there is a storehouse somewhere,” Will said; “but as
we have under thirty available men it would be madness to try to land, for
certainly two-thirds of the scoundrels escaped by swimming, and as each
craft must have carried nearly a hundred men we should have been
altogether overmatched. Well, they had certainly a right to count upon
success; their arrangements were exceedingly good. No doubt they expected
us to leave the batteries alone, and from the position in which they were
placed they could have peppered us hotly while we were engaged with the
schooner; in which case they would probably have had an easy victory. It
was a cleverly-laid trap and ought to have succeeded.”

“And it would, sir,” Dimchurch said, “if you had not turned from the
schooner and settled with the cutter before the other could come to her
assistance.”

“The credit is largely due to you,” Will said; “that shot of yours that
took the mast out was the turning-point of the fight. It completely
crippled her, and as it luckily fell towards us it altogether prevented
them from returning our fire.”

Very proud were Will and his crew when they sailed into Port Royal with
their two prizes. Will at once rowed to the flagship, where he received a
very hearty greeting. “You have not come empty-handed, I see, Mr.
Gilmore,” the admiral said; “you were lucky indeed to take two ships of
your own size one after the other.”

“We took them at the same time, sir,” Will said, “as you will see by my
report.”

The admiral gave a look of surprise and opened the document. First he ran
his eye over it, then he read it more attentively. When he had finished he
said: “You have fought a most gallant action, Mr. Gilmore, a most gallant
action. It was indeed long odds you had against you, two vessels each
considerably over your own size and manned by far heavier crews, besides
the two batteries. It was an excellent idea to leave the vessel with which
you were first engaged and turn upon the second one. If you had tried to
fight them both at once you would almost certainly have been overcome, and
you succeeded because you were cool enough to grasp the fact that the
schooner at anchor and with her sails down would not be able to come to
her friend’s assistance for some minutes, and acted so promptly on your
conclusions. The oldest officer in the service could not have done better.
I congratulate you very heartily on your conduct. What are the contents of
the cargoes of the prizes?”

“I cannot say, sir. With three vessels on my hands I had no time to
examine them, but they certainly contain a number of bales of various
sorts. I opened one which contained British goods.”

“Then no doubt they are the pick of the cargoes they captured,” the
admiral said; “I will go off with you myself and ascertain. I have nothing
else to do this afternoon, and it will be a matter of interest to me as
well as to you. You may as well let your own gig row back and I will take
mine.”

Accordingly the gig was sent back to _L’Agile_ with orders for two boats
to be lowered and twenty of the men to be ready to go to the two prizes.
As soon as the admiral came on board the hatchways were opened, and the
men brought up a number of the bales. These were found to contain fine
cloths, material for women’s dresses, china, ironmongery, carpets, and
other goods of British manufacture. The other vessel contained sugar,
coffee, ginger, spices, and other products of the islands. “That is
enough,” said the admiral; “I don’t think we shall be far wrong if we put
down the value of those two cargoes at £10,000. The two vessels will sell
for about £1000 apiece, so that the prize-money will be altogether about
£12,000, and even after putting aside my portion you will all share to a
handsome amount in the proceeds. That is the advantage of not belonging to
a squadron. In that case your share would not be worth anything like what
it will now be. By the way, since you have been absent I have received the
account of the prize-money earned by the _Furious_ in the Mediterranean
and by the capture of the French frigates. It amounts in all to £35,000.
Of course as a midshipman your share will not be very large; probably,
indeed, it will not exceed £250, so, you see, pirate-hunting in the West
Indies, in command even of a small craft, pays enormously better than
being a midshipman on board a frigate.”

“It does indeed, sir, though £250 would be a fortune to a midshipman.”

“Well, if our calculations as to the value of the cargoes and ships are
correct, you will get more than ten times that amount now. And as there
are only the flag and one other officer to share with you, the men’s
portion will be something like £100 apiece. A few more captures like
this,” and he laughed, “and you will become a rich man.”

He then rowed away to his own ship, and Will returned to _L’Agile_ and
gladdened the hearts of Harman and the crew with the news of the value of
their captures. _L’Agile_ remained another week in harbour, during which
time all signs of the recent conflict were removed, and he received a
draft of men sufficient to bring his crew up to its former level. Then she
again set sail.

They had cruised for about a fortnight when one morning, just as Will was
getting up, Dimchurch ran down and reported that they had sighted two
sails suspiciously near each other. “One,” he said, “looks to me a
full-rigged ship, and the other a large schooner.”

“I will have a look at them,” Will said, and, putting on his clothes, he
ran on deck.

“Yes, it certainly looks suspicious,” he said, when he had examined them
through his telescope; “we will head towards them.”

“She looks to me a very large schooner, sir,” said Dimchurch.

“Yes, she is larger than these pirates generally are, but there is very
little doubt as to her character. How far are they off, do you think?”

“Ten miles, sir, I should say; but we have got the land-breeze while they
are becalmed. By the look of the water I should say we should carry the
wind with us until we are pretty close to them.”

Every sail the cutter could carry was hoisted, and she approached the two
vessels rapidly. They were some four miles from them when the sails of the
schooner filled and she began to move through the water.

“It will be a long chase now,” Will said; “but the cutter has light wings,
so we have a good chance of overhauling her.”

“The sails of the ship are all anyhow, sir,” Harman said.

“So they are, Mr. Harman; foul play has been going on there, I have not
the least doubt. The fact that the crew are not making any effort to haul
in her sheets and come to meet us is in itself a proof of it. I think it
is our duty to board her and see what has taken place. Even if we allow
the schooner to escape we shall light upon her again some day, I have no
doubt.”

“She is very low in the water,” he said, after examining the merchantman
carefully through his telescope, “and either her cargo is of no value to
the pirates, and they have allowed it to remain in her, or they have
scuttled her.”

“I am afraid it is that, sir,” Dimchurch said, “for she is certainly lower
in the water than when I first saw her.”

“You are right, Dimchurch, the scoundrels have scuttled her. Please God we
shall get to her before she founders! Oh for a stronger wind! Do you think
we could row there quicker than we sail?”

“No, sir. The gig might go as fast as the cutter, but the other boat would
not be able to keep pace with her.”

“Well, make all preparations for lowering. Heaven only knows what tragedy
may have taken place there.”

After all had been got ready, every eye on board the cutter was fixed on
the vessel. There was no doubt now that she was getting deeper in the
water every minute. When they got within a quarter of a mile of the ship
she was so low that it was evident she could not float many minutes
longer.

“To the boats, men,” Will cried, “row for your lives.”

A moment later three boats started at full speed. The gig, in which
Dimchurch and Tom were both rowing, was first to search the sinking ship.
Will leapt on board at once, and as he did so he gave an exclamation of
horror, for the deck was strewn with dead bodies. Without stopping to look
about him he ran aft to the companion and went down to the cabin, which
was already a foot deep in water. There he found some fifteen men and
women sitting securely bound on the sofas. Will drew his dirk, and running
along cut their thongs.

“Up on deck for your lives,” he cried, “and get into the boats alongside;
she will not float three minutes.”

At the farther end of the cabin a young girl was kneeling by the side of a
stout old lady, who had evidently fainted.

“Come,” Will said, going up to her, “it is a matter of life and death; we
shall have the water coming down the companion in a minute or two.”

“I can’t leave her,” the girl cried.

Will attempted to lift the old lady, but she was far too heavy for him.

“I cannot save her,” he said, and raised a shout for Dimchurch. It was
unanswered. “There,” he said, “the water is coming down; she will sink in
a minute. I cannot save her—indeed she is as good as dead already—but I
can save you,” and snatching the girl up he ran to the foot of the
companion. The water was already pouring down, but he struggled up against
it, and managed to reach the deck; but before he could cross to the side
the vessel gave a sudden lurch and went down. He was carried under with
the suck, but by desperate efforts he gained the surface just as his
breath was spent. For a moment or two he was unable to speak, but he was
none the less ready to act. Looking round he saw a hen-coop floating near,
and, swimming to it, he clung to it with one arm while he held the girl’s
head above water with the other. Then, when he had recovered his breath,
he shouted “Dimchurch!” Fortunately the gig was not far away, and his hail
was at once answered, and a moment later the boat was alongside the
hen-coop.

  [Illustration: THE RESCUE]

“Take this young lady, Dimchurch, and lay her in the stern-sheets. She
can’t be dead, for she was sensible when the ship went down, and we were
not under water a minute.”

After the girl had been laid down, Will was helped in.

“Did we save them all?” he asked.

“Yes, sir; at least I think so. They all came running on deck and jumped
straight into the boats. I was busy helping them, and did not notice that
you were missing. As the last seemed to have come up, I called to the
other boats to make off, for I saw that she could only float a minute
longer, and as it was we had only just got clear when she went down.
Indeed we had a narrow escape of it, and the men had to row. I was
standing up to look for you, and had just discovered that you were not in
any of the boats, when I heard you call. It gave me a bad turn, as you may
guess, sir, and glad I was when I saw you were holding on to that
hen-coop.”

“Now, let us try and bring this young lady round,” Will said.

They turned her over first upon her face and let the water run out of her
mouth. Then they laid her flat on her back with a jersey under her head,
and rubbed her hands and feet and pressed gently at times on her chest.
After five minutes of this treatment the girl heaved a sigh, and shortly
afterwards opened her eyes and looked round in bewilderment at the faces
of the men. Then suddenly she realized where she was and remembered what
had happened.

“Oh, it was dreadful!” she murmured. “Poor Miss Morrison was lost, was she
not?”

“If that was the name of the lady you were kneeling by I regret to say
that she was. It was impossible to save her; for though I tried my best I
could not lift her. As you call her Miss Morrison I presume she is not a
close relation.”

“No, she had been my governess since I was a child, and has been a mother
to me. Oh, to think that she is dead while I am saved!”

“You must remember that it might have been worse,” Will said; “you
certainly cannot require a governess many more years, and will find others
on whom to bestow your affection. How old are you?”

“I am fourteen,” the girl said.

“Well, here is my ship, and we will all do our best to make you
comfortable.”

“Your ship!” the girl said in surprise; “do you mean to say that you are
in command of her? You do not look more than a boy.”

“I am not much more than a boy,” he said with a smile, “but for all that I
am the commander of this vessel, and this young gentleman is my second in
command.”



                               CHAPTER VIII


                             A SPLENDID HAUL


When all were got on board, and the boats hoisted to the davits, Will
conducted the ladies down to the cabin, which he handed over to them.
Then, having ordered the cook to prepare some hot soup for the girl he had
rescued, he came on deck again and questioned the male passengers.

“We were all dressing for dinner,” one said, “when we heard a shouting on
deck. Almost immediately there was a great bump, which knocked most of us
off our feet, and we thought that we had been run into, but directly
afterwards we heard a great tumult going on above us, and we guessed that
the ship had been attacked by pirates. The clashing of swords and the
falling of bodies went on for two or three minutes, and then there was a
loud savage yell that told us that the pirates had taken the ship. Next
moment the ruffians rushed down upon us, took away any valuables we had
about our persons, and then tied us up and threw us on the sofas. After
scouring all the cabins they left us, and by the noise that followed we
guessed that they had removed the hatches and were getting up the cargo.

“This continued all night, and some time this morning we heard the brutes
going down to their boats, and thanked God that they had spared our lives.
Presently all became still; but after a time we saw the water rising on
the floor, and the dreadful thought struck us that they had scuttled the
ship and left us to perish. One of us managed, in spite of his bonds, to
make his way up the companion and endeavour to open the door. He found,
however, to his horror that it was fastened outside. Time after time he
flung himself against it, but it would not yield. The water rose higher
and higher, and we were waiting for the end when, to our delight, we heard
a bump as of a boat coming alongside the vessel, then the sound of someone
running along the deck and of the companion door being hurriedly opened.
You know the rest. The ship was the _Northumberland_ of Bristol.”

“Thank God we arrived in time!” Will said. “It was an affair of seconds.
If we had been two minutes later you would all have been drowned.”

“What has become of that terrible pirate?” asked one of the passengers.

“There he is, six miles away. I hope some day to avenge the murder of your
captain and crew.”

“But his ship looks a good deal larger than yours.”

“Yes,” Will said, “but we don’t take much account of size. We captured two
pirates in one fight, both of them bigger than ourselves.”

“And your ship looks such a small thing, too, in comparison with our
vessel!”

“Yes, your ship could pretty well take her up and carry her. Weight
doesn’t go for much in fighting.”

“And are you really her commander?”

“I have that honour. I am a midshipman, and before I got command of
_L’Agile_ I was on board His Majesty’s ships _Furious_ and _Hawke_. I had
a great deal of luck in several fights we came through, and as a result
was entrusted by the admiral with the command of this vessel. As you say,
she is small, but her guns are heavy for her size, and are more than a
match for most of those carried by the pirates.”

“Well, sir, in the name of myself and all my fellow-passengers I offer you
my sincerest thanks for the manner in which you saved our lives. How close
a shave it was is shown by the fact that you were yourself unable to get
off the ship in time and were carried down with her.”

“It was all in the way of business,” Will laughed. “We were after the
pirates, and when we saw the state of your vessel we reluctantly gave up
the chase in order to see if we could be of any assistance. I expect the
schooner wouldn’t have run away from us had she not been so full of the
cargo she got from your ship. They could not have had time to stow it all
below, and it would have hampered them in working their guns, besides
probably affecting their speed. I shall know her again when I see her, and
then will try if these scoundrels are as good at fighting as they are at
cold-blooded murder.”

“Where are you going now, sir?”

“I am cruising at present, and am master of my own movements, so if you
will let me know where you are bound for, I will try to set as many of you
down at your destination as I can.”

“Most of us are bound for Jamaica, sir, and the others will be able to
find their way to their respective islands from there.”

“Very well, then, I will head for Jamaica at once. In the meantime my
cabin and that of my second in command are at the service of the ladies.
There are the sofas, too, in the saloon, and if these are not enough I
will get some hammocks slung. I shall myself sleep on deck, and those of
you who prefer it can do the same; for the others I will have hammocks
slung in the hold.”

Most of the ladies soon came up, but the girl Will had saved did not
appear till the next morning. She was very pretty, and likely to be more
so. If he had allowed her she would have overwhelmed him with thanks, but
he made light of the whole affair. He learned from the other passengers
that she was the daughter of one of the richest merchants in Jamaica. At
the death of her mother, when she was five years old, she was sent home to
England in charge of the governess who had been drowned in the
_Northumberland_, and when this catastrophe occurred had been on her way
to rejoin her father. Although saddened by the death of her old friend,
she soon showed signs of a disposition naturally bright and cheerful. She
bantered Will about his command, and professed to regard _L’Agile_ as a
toy ship, expressing great wonder that it was not manned by boy A.B.’s as
well as boy officers.

“It must surely seem very ridiculous to you,” she said, “to be giving
orders to men old enough to be your father.”

“I can quite understand that it seems so to you,” he said, “for it does to
me sometimes; but custom is everything, and I don’t suppose the men give
the matter a thought. At any rate they are as ready to follow me as they
are the oldest veteran in the service.”

Will carried all the sail he could set, as he was anxious to get the craft
free from passengers and to be off in search of the schooner that had
escaped him. He was again loaded with thanks by the passengers when they
landed, and after seeing them off he went and made his report to the
admiral.

“How is this, Mr. Gilmore?” the admiral said as he entered the cabin; “no
prizes this time? And who are all those people I saw landing just now?”

Will handed in his report; but, as usual, the admiral insisted on hearing
all details.

“But your uniform looks shrunk, Mr. Gilmore,” he said when Will had
finished. “You said nothing about being in the water!”

Will was then obliged to relate how he had rescued the girl from the
cabin.

“Well done again, young sir! it is a deed to be as proud of as the
capturing of those two pirates. Well done, indeed! Now I suppose you want
to be off again?”

“Yes, sir, I should like to sail as soon as possible; in the first place,
because I am most anxious to fall in with that schooner and bring the
captain and crew in here to be hanged.”

“That is a very laudable ambition. And why in the second place?”

“Because I want to get off before a lot of people come to thank me for
saving their relatives, and so on, sir. If I get away at once, then I may
hope that before I come back again the whole thing will be forgotten.”

“It oughtn’t to be, for you acted very wisely and gallantly.”

“Well, sir, I don’t want a lot of thanks for only doing what was my duty.”

“Very good, Mr. Gilmore, I understand your feelings, but I quite expect
that when you do return you will have to go through the ordeal of being
presented with a piece of plate, and probably after that you will have to
attend a complimentary ball. Now, you can go back to your ship at once.
Here is a letter to the chief of the store department instructing him to
furnish you with any stores you may want without waiting for my
signature.”

“Thank you very much, sir! I hope, when I return, that I shall bring that
pirate in tow. Can I have three months from the present time?”

“Certainly, and I hope you will be able to make good use of it.”

Returning to his ship, Will at once made out the list of the stores he
required, and sent Harman on shore with it, telling him to take two boats
and bring everything back with him. At five o’clock in the afternoon the
two boats returned, carrying all the stores required. The water-tanks had
already been filled up, and a quarter of an hour later the cutter was
under sail and leaving the harbour.

Will, of course, had nothing whatever to guide him in his search for the
schooner beyond the fact that she was heading west at the time when he
last saw her. At that time they were to the south of Porto Rico, so he
concluded that she was making for Cuba. Every day, therefore, he cruised
along the coast of that island, sometimes sending boats ashore to examine
inlets, at other times running right out to sea in the hope that the
pirate, whose spies he had no doubt were watching his movements, might
suppose he had given up the search and was sailing away. Nevertheless, he
could not be certain that she would endeavour to avoid him should she
catch sight of him, for with a glass the pirate captain could have made
out the number of guns _L’Agile_ carried, and would doubtless feel
confident in his own superiority, as he would not be able to discover the
weight of the guns. Will felt that if the pirate should fight, his best
policy would be at first to make a pretence of running, in the hope that
in a long chase he might manage to knock away some of the schooner’s
spars.

One day he saw the boats, which had gone up a deep inlet, coming back at
full speed.

“We saw a schooner up there,” Harman reported; “I think she is the one we
are in search of. When we sighted her she was getting up sail.”

“That will just suit me. We will run out to sea at once; that will make
him believe we are afraid of him.”

Scarcely had the boats been got on board, and the cutter’s head turned
offshore, when the schooner was seen issuing from the inlet. Will ordered
every sail to be crowded on, and had the satisfaction of seeing the
schooner following his example. He then set the whole of the crew to shift
the long-tom from the bow to the stern. Its muzzle was just high enough to
project above the taffrail, and in order to hide it better he had hammocks
and other material piled on each side of it so as to form a breastwork
three feet high.

“They will think,” he said, “that we have put this up as a protection
against shot from his bow-chasers.”

After watching the schooner for a quarter of an hour, Will said:

“I don’t think she gains upon us at all; lower a sail over the bow to
deaden her way. A small topsail will do; I only want to check her half a
knot an hour.”

It was an hour before the schooner yawed and fired her bow-guns.

“That is good,” Will said to Dimchurch; “it shows that she doesn’t carry a
long-tom. I thought she didn’t, but they might have hidden it, as we have
done. Don’t answer them yet; I don’t want to fire till we get within half
a mile of her; then they shall have it as hot as they like.”

The schooner continued to gain slowly, occasionally firing her
bow-chasers. When she had come up to within a mile of _L’Agile_ the cutter
was yawed and two broadside guns fired; they were purposely aimed somewhat
wide, as Will was anxious that the pirates should not suspect the weight
of his metal, and did not wish, by inflicting some small injury, to deter
her from continuing the chase. The schooner evidently depended upon the
vastly superior strength of her crew to carry the cutter by boarding, and
so abstained from attempting to injure her, as the less damage she
suffered the better value she would be as a prize.

“They are not more than half a mile off now, I think, sir,” Dimchurch said
at last.

“Very well then, we will let her have it.”

The gun was already loaded, so Dimchurch took a steady aim and applied the
match. All leapt upon the bulwarks to see the effect of the shot, and a
cheer broke from the crew as it struck the schooner on the bow, about four
feet above the water. In return the schooner yawed so as to bring her
whole broadside to bear on the cutter, and six tongues of flame flashed
from her side. At the same moment _L’Agile_ swung round and fired her two
starboard guns. Both ships immediately resumed their former positions, and
as they did so Dimchurch fired again, his shot scattering a shower of
splinters from almost the same spot as the other had struck.

“You must elevate your gun a little more, Dimchurch,” said Will, “and
bring a mast about their ears. Get that sail on board!” he shouted; “I
don’t want the schooner to get any nearer.”

The order was executed, and the difference in the speed of the cutter was
at once manifest. Again and again Dimchurch fired. Several of the shot
went through the schooner’s foresail, but as yet her masts were untouched.

“A little more to the right, Dimchurch.”

This time the sailor was longer than usual in taking aim, but when he
fired the schooner’s foremast was seen to topple over, and her head flew
up into the wind, thus presenting her stern to the cutter.

“She is a lame duck now,” Will said, “but we may as well take her mainmast
out of her too. Fire away, and take as good aim as you did last time.”

Ten more shots were fired, and with the last the pirate’s mainmast went
over the side.

“Well done, Dimchurch! Now we have her at our mercy. We will sail
backwards and forwards under her stern and rake her with grape. I don’t
want to injure her more than is necessary, but I do want to kill as many
of the crew as possible; it is better for them to die that way than to be
taken to Jamaica to be hanged.”

For an hour the cutter kept at work crossing and recrossing her
antagonist’s stern, and each time she poured in a volley from two
broadside guns and the long-tom. The stern of the schooner was knocked
almost to pieces, and the grape-shot carried death along her decks.

“I am only afraid that they will blow her up,” Will said; “but probably,
as they have not done so already, her captain and most of her officers are
killed, for it would require a desperado to undertake that job.”

At last the black flag was hoisted on a spar at the stern, and then
lowered again. When they saw this the crew of _L’Agile_ stopped firing,
and sent up cheer after cheer.

“Now we must be careful, sir,” Dimchurch said; “those scoundrels are quite
capable of pretending to surrender, and then, when we board her, blowing
their ship and us into the air.”

“You are right, Dimchurch. They might very well do that, for they must
know well enough that they can expect no mercy.”

Bringing the cutter to within a hundred yards of the schooner, Will
shouted:

“Have you a boat that can swim?” and receiving a reply in the negative,
shouted back: “Very well, then, I will drop one to you.”

He then placed the cutter exactly to windward of the schooner, and,
lowering one of the boats, to which a rope was attached, let it drift down
to the prize.

“Now,” he shouted, “fasten a hawser to that boat; the largest you have.”

There was evidently some discussion among the few men gathered on the deck
of the pirate, and, seeing that they hesitated, Will shouted:

“Do as you are ordered, or I will open fire again.”

This decided the pirates, and in a short time the end of a hawser was tied
to one of the thwarts of the boat. The boat was then hauled back to
_L’Agile_, and when the cable was got on board it was knotted to their own
strongest hawser.

“That will keep them a good bit astern,” Will said; “otherwise, if the
wind were to drop at night, they might haul their own vessel up to us, and
carry out their plan of blowing us up.”

“It is wise to take every precaution, sir,” Harman said; “but I don’t
think any trick of that sort would be likely to succeed. You may be sure
we should keep too sharp a watch on them.”

While the hawsers were being spliced, Will shouted to the pirates to cut
away the wreckage from their ship, and when this was done he started with
his prize in tow. As soon as they were fairly under weigh he hailed the
prisoners through his speaking-trumpet and questioned them about their
casualties. They replied that at the beginning of the engagement they had
had one hundred and twenty men on board. The captain had been killed by
the first volley of grape, and the slaughter among the crew had been
terrible, all the officers being killed and eighty of the men. The
remainder had run down into the hold, and remained there until, after a
consultation, one of them crawled up on deck and hoisted and lowered the
black flag.

“I suppose,” Will said, “your intention was to blow the ship and
yourselves and us into the air as soon as we came on board.”

“That is just what we did mean,” one of them shouted savagely; “if we
could but have paid you out we would not have minded what became of
ourselves.”

“It is well, indeed, Dimchurch, that you suggested the possibility of
their doing this to us. But for that we should certainly have lost nearly
all our number, for, not knowing how many of the crew survived, I could
not have ventured to go on board without pretty nearly every man. It will
be a lesson to me in future, when I am fighting pirates, to act as if they
were wild beasts.”

“Well, sir, I don’t know that they are altogether to be blamed; it is only
human nature to pay back a blow for a blow, and with savages like these,
especially when they know that they are bound to be hanged, you could
hardly expect anything else.”

“I suppose not, Dimchurch, and certainly for myself I would rather be
blown up than hanged. I suppose the reason why they did not blow up the
ship when they found their plan had failed was that they clung to life
even for a few days.”

“I expect it is that, sir; besides, you know, each man may think that
although no doubt the rest will be hanged, he himself may get off.”

“Yes, I dare say that has something to do with it,” Will agreed. “I don’t
think it likely, however, that any one of them will be spared after that
affair of the _Northumberland_, and very probably that was only one of a
dozen ships destroyed in the same way.

“Now, Harman, we will put her head round and sail back.”

“Sail back, sir?”

“Certainly; I think there is no doubt that that inlet is the pirates’
head-quarters, and that they are certain to have storehouses there
choke-full of plunder. Some of their associates will in that case be on
shore looking after it, and if their ship doesn’t return they will divide
the most valuable portion of these stores among themselves, and set fire
to all the rest. We have done extremely well so far, but another big haul
will make matters all the pleasanter.”

“But what will you do with the prize?” asked Harman.

“I will cast her off eight or ten miles from the shore; they have no
boats, and the schooner is a mere log on the water. When we see what
plunder they have collected I shall be able to decide how to act. The
cutter can hold a great deal, but if we find more than she can carry we
must load the schooner also.”

“But what would you do with the pirates in that case, sir?”

“I should try to make them come off in batches, and then iron them; but if
they would not do that, I should be inclined to tow the schooner to within
half a mile of the shore, and so give all that could swim the chance of
getting away. Those of them that are unable to do so would probably manage
to get off on spars or hatchways. They have been richly punished already,
and I fancy the admiral would be much better pleased to see the schooner
come in loaded with valuable plunder than if she carried only forty
scoundrels to be handed over to the hangman.”

“But if we were to let them escape we should have to take great care on
shore while we were rifling the storehouse.”

“You may be sure that I should do that, Harman. The fellows could
certainly take no firearms on shore, and I should keep ten men with loaded
muskets always on guard, while those who are at work would have their
firearms handy to them.”

They towed the schooner to within seven or eight miles of the shore, and
then cast her off and made for the creek from which the pirates had come
out. As they entered the inlet, which was two miles long, they could see
no signs of houses, so they sailed as far as they could and anchored. Will
then landed with a party of ten well-armed men, and at once began to make
a careful examination of the beach. In a short time they found a
well-beaten path going up through the wood. Before following this,
however, Will took the precaution to have fifteen more men sent ashore, as
it was, of course, impossible to say how many of a guard had been left at
the head-quarters. When the second party had landed, all advanced
cautiously up the path, holding their muskets in readiness for instant
action. They met, however, with no opposition; the pirates were evidently
unaware of their presence. They had gone but a very short distance when
they came to a large clearing, in the middle of which they saw several
large huts and three great storehouses. They went on at the double towards
them, but they had gone only a short distance when they heard a shout and
a shot, and saw a dozen men and a number of women issue from the backs of
the huts and make for the wood.

“Now, my lads,” shouted Will, “break open the doors of those storehouses;
there is not likely to be much that is of value in the huts. You had
better take four men, Dimchurch, and set fire to them all; of course you
can just look in and see if there is anything worth taking before you
apply a light.”

Will himself superintended the breaking open of the storehouses. When he
entered the first he paused in amazement; it was filled to the very top
with boxes and bales. The other two were in a similar condition.

“There is enough to fill the cutter and the prize a dozen times,” Will
said. “I expect they trade to some extent with the Spaniards, but they
evidently had another intention in storing these goods. Probably they
proposed, when they had amassed sufficient, to charter a large ship, fill
her up to the hatchways, and sail to some American port or some other
place where questions are not usually asked.”

There was a safe in the corner of one of the storehouses; this they blew
open, and when Will examined its contents he found that they consisted of
the papers and manifests of cargoes of no fewer than eleven ships.

“My conjecture was right,” he said. “They intended, no doubt, to keep some
large merchantman they had captured, fill her with the contents of their
prizes, and then with the papers and manifests of cargo they could go
almost anywhere and dispose of their ill-gotten goods.”

“I have no doubt that is so, sir,” Dimchurch said; “I only wonder they did
not set about it before.”

“It is quite possible they have done so already,” Will said, “but they may
have taken prizes quicker than they could dispose of them, which would
account for this immense accumulation. Now, Dimchurch, I will sit down and
go through those bills of lading and pick out the most valuable goods. We
will then take these off to begin with, and can leave it to the admiral to
send a man-of-war or charter some merchantman to bring the rest. The
schooner should carry between two and three hundred tons, and we could
manage to cram eighty or a hundred into our hold. If we get all that
safely to Jamaica, we need not grieve much if we find that the rest of the
goods have been burned before the ships can come to fetch them.”

It took him three hours to go through the bills of lading, making a mark
against all the most valuable goods. Then some of the men were set to sort
these out. There was no great difficulty about this, as the goods had been
very neatly stored, those belonging to each ship being separated by narrow
passages from the rest. The remainder of the men except two were meanwhile
brought from the cutter. Sentries were then placed to watch all the
approaches to the storehouses, and while ten men got out the bales and
boxes, the remaining twenty-six carried them down the path. At night half
the men remained in the storehouses, the other half returning to the
cutter.

Before sunset Will went with a small escort to the top of a neighbouring
hill to see that all was well with the hulk of the schooner. With the aid
of his telescope he could see her plainly, and to his great satisfaction
noted that she had made but little drift.

The next morning the work was resumed, and was carried on all day with
only short breaks for meals, and so on the following two days. At the end
of that time as much had been put on board the cutter as she could carry.
Ten men were then left to guard the stores, and the rest, going on board,
sailed out to the schooner and towed her in. They did not, as was at first
intended, stop a mile outside the inlet, but came right into it and
anchored opposite the path, as the labour of continually loading the
cutter and then transferring her cargo to the hulk would have been very
great. The next morning a party of twelve men went on board her, and
found, as Will had expected, that she was entirely deserted.

“They will be too happy at having made their escape to do anything for the
next day or two,” Will said, “so we can go on working as usual.
Fortunately the fellows who were left in the huts were taken so completely
by surprise that they bolted at once and left their guns behind. If,
therefore, they are joined by their friends from the schooner, and attack
us, they will have no firearms with them, for, as the hulk is anchored
about two hundred yards from shore, it would require a marvellously good
swimmer to carry his musket and ammunition ashore with him. In future,
however, we will leave twenty men to guard the storehouses at night; there
is no boat in the inlet by means of which they could attack the cutter,
and they are not likely to try to do so by swimming. At any rate, Harman,
I will place you in command of her, and shall therefore feel perfectly
confident that we shall not be taken by surprise.”

“You can trust me for that, sir; I promise you that I will sleep with one
eye open, though I don’t think they would be likely to attempt such an
enterprise. They are much more likely to attack you at the stores. I think
it would be advisable to take twenty-five men with you and leave me with
fifteen, which would be ample. I should divide them into two watches, so
that there would always be seven on deck. Jefferson, who is an uncommonly
sharp fellow, would be in charge of one of the watches, and Williams of
the other; and as I should myself be up and down all night, there would be
no chance of our being caught napping.” Will agreed to this arrangement.

The prize was now brought close inshore, the water being deep enough to
allow of this. It was a great advantage, as the goods could be put on
board direct, and the work was thereby greatly accelerated.

Behind a pile of goods another safe was discovered, and this was found to
contain £8500 in money, nearly a hundred watches, and a large amount of
ladies’ jewellery. Many watches had also been found in the huts before
these were burned. The bales and boxes contained chiefly spices, silks and
sateens, shawls, piece-goods, and coffee.

On the night of the fourth day after the escape of the prisoners one of
the sentries perceived a dark mass moving from the wood. He at once fired
his musket, and in a minute Will and Dimchurch, with their five-and-twenty
men, were all in readiness.

“Now, my men,” Will said, “these fellows will attempt to rush us. We will
divide into three parties and will fire by volleys; one party must not
fire till they see that all are loaded. In that way we shall always have
sixteen muskets ready for them. I have no fear of the result, and even if
they close with us our cutlasses will be more than a match for their
knives. Here they come! Get ready, the first section, and don’t fire till
I tell you.”

The enemy, fully sixty strong, came on with fierce cries, knowing that the
garrison were on guard, although they could not see them in the shadow of
the storehouses. When they got within fifty yards Will gave the order to
fire, and the first eight muskets flashed out. The second eight fired
almost immediately after, and the third eight, waiting only till the first
section had reloaded, followed suit. Nearly every shot told, and the shock
was so great that it caused the advancing enemy to hesitate for a moment.
This gave the second and third sections time to reload, so that, when the
pirates again advanced, three more deadly volleys were poured into them in
quick succession. The effect of these was instantaneous. Fully
five-and-thirty had been brought to the ground by the six volleys; the
remainder halted, swayed for a moment, then turned and fled at full speed,
pursued, however, before they reached the wood, by another general
discharge.

Will was well pleased with the tremendously heavy punishment he had
inflicted.

“Out of the sixty men who attacked us,” he said to Harman the next
morning, “I calculate that forty belonged to the schooner. I don’t suppose
they were worse than the other twenty; but we had ourselves seen some of
the crimes they had committed. We have accounted for forty in all, so of
those who escaped from the schooner probably some five- or six-and-twenty
have been killed. After such a thrashing they are not likely to make
another attempt.”

He was right. The work now went on undisturbed, and at the end of a
fortnight the schooner was laden. All the hatches had been closed and made
water-tight; and so full was she that her deck was only two feet and a
half above the water, although her guns had been thrown overboard or
landed.

“Now I think we are all ready to sail,” Harman said.

“Ready to sail! We have a fortnight’s hard work before us,” said Will.
“You don’t suppose I am going to leave all these hogsheads of sugar,
puncheons of rum, and bales of goods to be burnt or destroyed by those
scoundrels.”

“How can you prevent it?”

“Very easily. There are plenty of materials on the spot to form four
batteries, one on each side of the storehouses. We will drag up eight of
the schooner’s guns and mount two on each battery; they shall be loaded
and crammed to the muzzle with grape-shot. The batteries shall be built
clear of the storehouses and in echelon, so that if one is attacked it can
be supported by the others. As a garrison I will leave sixteen men under
Dimchurch.”

Dimchurch was called up and the matter explained to him, and he readily
agreed to take charge.

“Two men,” he said, “can be on watch in each battery while the others
sleep; so there will be no chance of being taken by surprise, and you may
be quite sure that, no matter how strong a mob may come down, they won’t
stand the discharge of eight cannon loaded as you say. I suppose, sir, you
mean to form the batteries of bales of cotton. There is a whole ship-load
of them.”

“That is my intention, Dimchurch; I have had it in my mind all the time.”

The whole strength of the crew, with the exception of two to watch on
board the cutter, now went up to the storehouses, and the men, delighted
to know that all this booty was not to be lost, set to work with great
vigour. Will marked out the sites for the batteries, and the bales of
cotton were rolled to them and built up into substantial walls. It took
ten days of hard labour to do this and haul up the guns.

When the work was completed Dimchurch chose sixteen of the crew. There was
an ample supply of provisions, which had been taken out of the huts before
they were burnt; so it was not necessary to draw upon the stores of the
cutter. When all was ready the two parties said good-bye, and, with a
mutual cheer, the cutter’s crew went on board.

“It is a hazardous business, I admit,” Will said, as, having got up sail,
they moved down the inlet with the schooner in tow. “Of course I shall be
a little uneasy until we can return from Jamaica and relieve Dimchurch;
but I feel convinced that he will be able to hold his own and to give
another lesson to the pirates if necessary. When they see us sail out they
will naturally conclude that no great number can be left to guard the
stores. Still, we may be sure that they have kept a watch on our doings
from the edge of the forest, and that the sight of the guns will inspire a
wholesome dread in them. I cannot but think that eight discharges of grape
and langrage will send them to the right-about however strong they may be.
Besides, we have given the men three muskets each, in addition to their
own, from those we found on board the schooner; so if the enemy press on
they will be able to give them a warm reception. And then, even if the
attack is too much for them, they have still a resource, for we have left
an exit in the rear of each battery by which they can retire to the
storehouses. I have instructed them to carry all their muskets back with
them; sixteen men with four muskets apiece could make a very sturdy
defence. As you know, I had the doors repaired and strengthened and
loopholes cut in the walls. Still, I don’t think they will be needed.”

“How much do you think the prize will be worth?” Harman asked.

“I have really no idea, but I am sure that what we have got here and in
the schooner must be worth some thousands of pounds. What we have left
behind must be the contents of about ten vessels, as all we have been able
to take is only a full cargo for one good-sized ship.”



                                CHAPTER IX


                              A SPELL ASHORE


Ten days later they arrived at Jamaica, and Will at once went to make his
report to the admiral.

“Well,” the admiral said heartily, “you have brought in another prize, Mr.
Gilmore. She looks a mere hulk, and is remarkably deep in the water. What
is she?”

“She is the schooner that sank the _Northumberland_.”

“You must have knocked her about terribly, for she is evidently sinking.”

“No, sir, she is all right except that the stern is shattered. We have
covered it over with tarpaulins backed by battens; otherwise she is almost
uninjured.”

“I am glad, indeed, to hear that you have caught that scoundrel, Mr.
Gilmore, but I hardly think she can be worth towing in.”

“She is worth a good deal, sir, for both she and the cutter are choke-full
of loot.”

“Indeed!” the admiral said in a tone of gratification. “In that case she
must be valuable; but let me hear all about it.”

“I have stated it in my report, sir.”

“But you always leave out a good deal in your report. Please give me a
full account of it. First, how many guns did she carry?”

“Six guns a-side, sir.”

“Then you must have done wonders. Now tell me all about it.”

Will modestly gave a full account of the fight and of the steps he had
afterwards taken to prevent them from playing a treacherous trick upon
him, and of the land fight and the arrangements made to secure the goods
he found at their head-quarters.

“And now, what have you brought home this time?” the admiral asked.

“This is the list, sir. I took it from the bills of lading which we found
at the pirate head-quarters. Altogether the storehouses contained the
cargoes of eleven ships. We picked out the most valuable goods and loaded
the cutter and schooner with them, but that was only a very small portion
of the total. I have left nearly half my crew there to guard the
storehouses until you could send some ships from here to bring home their
contents. With the cutter to navigate and the schooner to tow I dared not
weaken myself further. I have left sixteen of my men there under my
boatswain, and have erected four batteries with cotton bales, each
mounting two guns, which are charged to the muzzle with grape and
langrage. I have every confidence, therefore, that the little garrison
will be able to hold its own against a greatly superior force.”

“It was a great risk,” the admiral said gravely.

“I am aware of that, sir, but it was worth running the risk for such a
splendid prize. The value of nearly eleven cargoes must be something very
great.”

“Indeed it must,” the admiral said; “what are they composed of?”

“You will see the entire list in the bills of lading, sir. I should say
that nearly half the goods are sugar, rum, and molasses; the other half
are bales and boxes, of which the details are given. Those we have brought
home are silks, satins, cloth, shawls, and other materials of female
dress, coffee, and spices.”

“Well, Mr. Gilmore, this certainly appears to be the richest haul that has
ever been made in these islands, at any rate since the days of the Spanish
galleons. I will lose no time in chartering some ships. How many do you
think will be necessary?”

“I should say, sir, that if you had five vessels you could do it in two
trips. Meanwhile I wish you would give me another thirty men to strengthen
the garrison.”

“Certainly I will do so. There are several vessels in the harbour which
have discharged their cargoes and have not yet taken fresh ones on board,
but are waiting to sail for England under a convoy. They will, no doubt,
be glad of a job in the meantime.”

Four days later the cutter again put to sea, with five merchantmen and a
frigate, which was charged to act as a convoy. When they arrived off the
inlet Will went ashore, and to his delight found the storehouses intact,
and the little garrison all well. The crews of all the ships were at once
landed, and in a short time the place was a scene of bustle and activity.
In spite, however, of their exertions it was a fortnight before all the
ships were loaded.

Before setting sail again Will told off the thirty additional men to
remain, and Harman was left in command. Dimchurch had reported that only
once had the pirates shown in force. He had allowed them to come within a
hundred yards of the battery they were facing, and then poured the
contents of both guns into them, whereupon they had at once fled, leaving
ten killed behind them.

When the little fleet arrived at Jamaica again, Will found that the goods
which he had brought in the cutter and schooner were valued at a far
higher price than his estimate.

The merchantmen were unloaded as fast as possible, and started again for
Cuba without delay. All was well with the garrison at the inlet. A serious
attack had been made on the forts the day after the fleet had sailed for
Jamaica, but the garrison had repulsed it so effectually that they had not
seen a sign of the enemy since. Even the hope of plunder was not strong
enough to induce the negroes to make another attempt, and as for the
pirates, they had been almost entirely wiped out.

After the storehouses had been emptied they were burned, and Harman and
his party returned to the cutter, and the fleet once more sailed for
Jamaica.

Will immediately started again on a short cruise. This time he met with no
adventures. At the end of three weeks he returned, and when he went to
make his report the admiral told him that the total value of the capture
amounted to £140,000.

“I must congratulate you,” he said, “as well as myself, on this haul. I
should say it would make you the richest midshipman in the service. My
share, as you know, is an eighth. You, as officer in command, and
altogether independent of the fleet, will get one quarter. Mr. Harman’s
share will be an eighth, and the rest will be divided among the crew, the
boatswain getting four shares.”

“I am astounded, sir,” Will said, “it seems almost impossible that I can
be master of so much money.”

“You have the satisfaction at any rate, Mr. Gilmore, of knowing that you
have earned it by your own exertions, courage, and skill. I think now that
it is only fair that I should send you back to your ship when she next
comes in, and give someone else a chance.”

“I agree with you, sir, and I cannot but feel deeply indebted to you for
having put me in the way of making a fortune.”

“I little knew what was coming of it,” the admiral said, “when I gave you
the command of that little craft. If I had had the slightest notion I
should assuredly have given it to an older officer.”

Will returned to the cutter in a state of bewilderment at his good
fortune. When he came on deck a little later he found waiting for him a
gentleman who advanced with open arms.

“Mr. Gilmore,” he said, “my name is Palethorpe. I am the father of the
young girl whose life you so gallantly saved when the _Northumberland_
sank. I have been trying to catch you ever since, but I live up among the
hills, except when business calls me down here, and your stay here has
always been so short that I never before heard of your arrival until you
had started again. I cannot say, sir, how intensely grateful I feel. She
is my only child, and you may guess what a terrible blow it would have
been to me had she been lost.”

“I only did my duty, sir, and I am glad indeed that I was able to save
your daughter’s life. Pray do not say anything more about it.”

“But, my dear sir, that is quite impossible. One man cannot render so vast
a service to another and escape without being thanked. I have driven down
here to carry you off to my home whether you like it or not. I called on
the admiral this morning, and he said that he would willingly grant you a
week’s leave or longer, and, in fact, that you would be unemployed until
the _Hawke_ came in, as a master’s mate would take over your command.”

Will felt that he could not decline an invitation so heartily given.
Accordingly he packed up his shore-going kit, left Harman in temporary
command, and went with his new friend ashore. A well-appointed vehicle
with a pair of fine horses was waiting for them, and as soon as they were
seated they at once started inland. After leaving the town they began to
mount, and were soon high among the mountains. The scenery was lovely, and
Will, who had not before made an excursion so far into the interior, was
delighted with his drive. So much so, indeed, that Mr. Palethorpe
gradually ceased speaking of the subject nearest his heart, and suffered
Will to enjoy the journey in silence. At last they drove up to a handsome
house which was surrounded by a broad veranda covered with roses and other
flowers. As they stopped, a girl of fourteen ran out. Will would scarcely
have recognized her. She was now dressed in white muslin, and her hair was
tied up with blue ribbon, while a broad sash of the same colour encircled
her waist. She had now also recovered her colour, which the shock of her
adventure had driven from her cheeks, and she looked the picture of health
and happiness.

“Oh, you dear boy!” she cried out, and to Will’s astonishment and
consternation she threw her arms round his neck and kissed him. “Oh, how
much you have done for us! If it hadn’t been for you father would have had
no one to pet him and scold him. It would have been dreadful, wouldn’t it,
daddy?”

“It would indeed, my child,” her father said gravely; “it would have taken
all the joy out of my life, and left me a lonely old man.”

“I have told you before,” she said, “that you are not to call yourself
old. I don’t call you old at all; I consider that you are just in your
prime. Now come in, Mr. Gilmore, I have all sorts of iced drinks ready for
you.”

Alice and Will soon became excellent friends. She took him over the
plantations and showed him the negro cabins, fed him with fruit until he
almost fell ill, and, as he said, treated him more like a baby than as an
officer in His Majesty’s service.

“The stars don’t look so bright to-night,” Will said, as he stood on the
veranda with Mr. Palethorpe on the last evening of his visit.

“No, I have been noticing it myself, and I don’t like the look of the
weather at all.”

“No!” Will repeated in surprise; “it certainly looks as if there was a
slight mist.”

“Yes, that is what it looks like, but at this time of year we don’t often
have mists. I am afraid we are going to have a hurricane; it is overdue
now by nearly a month. October, November, and the first half of December
are the hurricane months, and I fear that, as it is late, we shall have a
heavy one.”

“I have seen one since I came out, and then we were at sea and were nearly
wrecked. I saw its effects on land, however, for we spent some weeks
ashore in consequence of it. The forest was almost levelled. I certainly
should not care to see another one.”

“No, it is not a thing that anyone would wish to see a second time. Words
cannot describe how terrible they are. I hope, however, if we have one,
that it will be a light one, but I am rather afraid of it.”

Nothing more was said on the matter till they retired to bed, when Mr.
Palethorpe said, half in fun and half in earnest: “I should advise you to
have your clothes handy by your bedside, Mr. Gilmore, for you may want
them quickly and badly if a hurricane comes.”

Will laughed to himself at the warning, but nevertheless took the advice.
He had been asleep for an hour when he felt the whole house rock. A moment
later the roof blew bodily from over his head, and at the same time there
was a roar so terrible that he did not even hear the crash of the falling
timber. He leapt out of bed, seized his clothes, and hurried down. He met
Mr. Palethorpe coming from his daughter’s room, carrying her wrapped up in
her bed-clothes. They went down together to the front door. Will turned
the handle, and the door was blown in with a force that knocked him to the
floor. He struggled to his feet again and tried to get out, but the force
of the wind was so tremendous that for some time he could not stem it.
When he did manage to get through the doorway he saw Mr. Palethorpe
standing some distance from the house. He fought his way towards him
against the wind.

“Are you not going to get into shelter?” he shouted in the planter’s ear.

“It is safer here in the open,” the planter said; “I dare not get below a
tree, but I will put my daughter in a place where she will be safe.”

Struggling along against the gale he led the way to a small shed where the
gardener’s tools were kept. It was about six feet long and three broad,
and was built of bricks. The floor was some feet below the surface of the
ground, so in entering one had to descend a short flight of steps.

“Just hold my daughter on her feet,” the planter said, “while I clear this
place out.”

Much as he tried, Will was unable to keep the girl upright, and after a
vain effort he allowed her to sink down on her knees and then knelt by her
side. As soon as he had cleared away the tools Mr. Palethorpe came up and
carried her down into the shed.

“I think we are quite safe here,” he said; “the wall is only two feet
above the ground, so even this gale will not shake us. The roof is
strongly put together to keep out marauders. Now, Mr. Gilmore, there is
room for us to crouch inside; it is the only place of safety I know of,
for even in the open we might be struck by the flying branches torn from
the trees. Besides, it will be a comfort to Alice to know that we are in
safety beside her.”

They spoke only occasionally, for the roar of the tempest was deafening.
Every now and then they would hear a crash as some tree yielded to the
force of the hurricane. Towards morning the gale abated, and soon after
sunrise the wind suddenly stilled. When they looked out a scene of
terrible devastation met their eyes. Some trees had been torn up by the
roots, and branches twisted from others were strewed upon the ground
everywhere. The house was a wreck; the whole of the roof was gone, and
parts of the wall had been blown down. Inside there was utter confusion;
the furniture was scattered about in all directions, and even
looking-glasses had been torn from the walls and smashed. The planter,
however, wasted but little time in looking at the wreck.

“You had better go up and dress at once, Alice,” he said, “though you will
have some trouble in finding your clothes. I have no doubt that all the
loose ones are scattered about everywhere, and that some of the things are
miles away. I will go down with Will at once to the slave-huts; I am
afraid the damage and loss of life there has been great.”

During his passage from the house to the shed the wind had several times
threatened to tear Will’s clothes from his arms, but he had clung to them
with might and main, and succeeded in carrying them safely into shelter.
He had therefore been able to dress while they waited for the storm to
abate. Mr. Palethorpe had felt so sure that a hurricane was impending that
he had simply lain down on his bed without taking off his clothes.
Accordingly they started at once for the slave-huts. As they had expected,
the destruction there was complete. Every hut had been blown down. The
negroes, who had fled to various places for shelter, were just returning,
and Mr. Palethorpe soon learned from them that many were missing. He at
once set all hands to remove the fallen timbers, and after two hours’ work
sixteen dead bodies were recovered, for the most part children, and nearly
as many injured. Some, also, of those who had come in had broken limbs.

Alice came down as soon as she was dressed, and brought a bundle of
sheets, needles, and thread, and Mr. Palethorpe took off his coat and set
to work to bind and bandage the limbs and wounds. Alice suggested that a
man on horseback should be sent down to the town for a surgeon, but her
father pointed out that it would be absolutely useless to do so, as,
judging by what they could see, the destruction wrought in the town would
be terrible. Every surgeon would have his hands full, and certainly none
would be able to spare time to come into the country. He decided to have
all the worst cases carried down to the town and seen to there; slighter
cases he could deal with himself.

“I don’t know much about bandaging wounds,” he said, “but I know a little,
and some of the native women are very good at nursing.”

Alice, aided by the negresses, tore up the linen into strips and sewed
these together to make bandages. Canes split up formed excellent splints.
Will rendered all the assistance in his power. Now he held splints in
position while Mr. Palethorpe wound the bandages round them, and now he
helped to distribute among the wounded the soothing drinks that the
servants of the house brought down.

“What are you going to do now?” he asked as the last bandage had been
applied.

“I will drive down to the town and see how things are doing there. Peter
tells me that two of my horses are killed, but the other two seemed to
have escaped without injury, as the part of the stable in which they stood
was sheltered by a huge tree, which lost its head, but was fortunately
otherwise uninjured. You had better come down with us, Alice; we must stop
at our house in town till things are put straight here. I will, of course,
ride backwards and forwards every day.”

“Can’t I be of some help here, father?”

“None at all; by nightfall the slaves will have built temporary shelters
of canes and branches of trees. The overseer is among those who were
killed; he was on his way from his house to the huts when a branch struck
him on the head and killed him on the spot. I will put Sambo in his place
for the present; he is a very reliable man, and I can trust him to issue
the stores to the negroes daily. I am afraid it will be some time before
we get the house put right again, as there will be an immense demand for
carpenters in the town. We may feel very thankful, however, that we have
got a house there. It is a good strong one, built of stone, so we may hope
to find it intact.”

The carriage was brought round and they took their seats in it. The
planter ordered two strong negroes to get axes and to stand on the steps,
and when all was ready they started. The journey was long and broken; at
every few yards trees had fallen across the road, and these had to be
chopped through and removed before the carriage could pass. It was
therefore late in the day before they reached the town. Will could not
help grieving at the terrible destruction wrought in the forest. In some
places acres of ground had been cleared of the trees, in others the trunks
and branches lay piled in an inextricable chaos. All the huts and cottages
they passed on their way were in ruins, and their former inhabitants were
standing listlessly gazing at the destruction. Mr. Palethorpe had placed
in the carriage two gallon jars of spirits and a large quantity of bread,
and these he had distributed among the forlorn inhabitants while his men
were chopping a road through the trees.

When they arrived in the town they beheld a terrible scene of devastation.
The streets occupied by the dwellings of well-to-do inhabitants had, for
the most part, escaped, but in the suburbs, where the poorer part of the
population dwelt, the havoc was something terrible. Parties of soldiers
and sailors were hard at work here, clearing the ruins away and bringing
out the dead and injured. Will, after saying good-bye to his friends at
their door, joined one of these parties, and until late at night laboured
by torchlight. At midnight he went to Mr. Palethorpe’s house, to which he
had promised to return, and slept till morning. Two long days were
occupied in this work, and even then there was much to be done in the way
of clearing the streets of the debris and restoring order. Not until this
was finished did Will cease from his labours. He then drove up with Mr.
Palethorpe to his estate. They found that a great deal of progress had
been made there, and that a gang of workmen were already engaged in
preparing to replace the roof and to restore the house to its former
condition. The slaves were still in their temporary homes, but with their
usual light-heartedness had already recovered from the effects of their
shock and losses, and seemed as merry and happy as usual.

On his return to Port Royal, Will was the object of the greatest
attentions on the part of the other passengers of the _Northumberland_,
and received so many invitations to dinner that he was obliged to ask the
admiral to allow him to give up his leave and to take another short cruise
in _L’Agile_, promising that if he did so he would take good care not to
capture any more prizes. The admiral consented, and in a few days the
cutter set sail once more.

After they had been out a month Will found it necessary to put in to get
water. He chose a spot where a little stream could be seen coming down
from the mountains and losing itself in the shingle, and he rowed ashore
and set some of his men to fill the barrels. When he saw the work fairly
under weigh he started to walk along the shore with Dimchurch and Tom.
They had gone but a short distance when a number of negroes rushed
suddenly out upon them. Will had just time to discharge his pistols before
he was knocked senseless by a negro armed with a bludgeon. Tom and
Dimchurch stood over him and made a desperate defence, and just before
they were overpowered Dimchurch shouted at the top of his voice: “Put off,
we are captured,” for he saw that the number of their assailants was so
great that it would only be sacrificing the crew to call them to their
assistance. They were bound and carried away by the exulting negroes.

  [Illustration: “TOM AND DIMCHURCH MADE A DESPERATE DEFENCE”]

“This is a bad job,” Will said when he came to his senses.

“A mighty bad job, Master Will. Who are these niggers, do you think?”

“I suppose they are escaped slaves; there are certainly many of them in
the mountains of Cuba. I suppose they saw us sailing in, and came down
from the hills in the hope of capturing some of us. It is likely enough
they take us for pirates, who are a constant scourge to them, capturing
them in their little fishing-boats and either cutting their throats or
forcing them to serve with them. I am afraid we shall have but very little
opportunity of explaining matters to them, for, of course, they don’t
speak English, and none of us understand a word of Spanish.”

They were carried up the hill and thrown down in a small clearing on the
summit. Will in vain endeavoured to address them in English, but received
no attention whatever.

“What do you think they are going to do with us, sir?” Dimchurch asked.

“Well, I should say that they are most likely going to burn us alive, or
put us to death in some other devilish way.”

“Well, sir, I don’t think these niggers know much about tying ropes. It
seems to me that I could get free without much trouble.”

“Could you, Dimchurch? I can’t say as much, for mine are knotted so
tightly that I cannot move a finger.”

“That won’t matter, sir. If I can shift out of mine I have got my
jack-knife in my pocket, and can make short work of your ropes and Tom’s.”

“Well, try then, Dimchurch. Half those fellows are away in the wood, and
by the sounds we hear they are cutting brushwood; so there is no time to
lose.”

For five minutes no remark was made, and then Dimchurch said: “I am free.”
Immediately afterwards Will felt his bonds fall off, and half a minute
later an exclamation of thankfulness from Tom showed that he too had been
liberated.

“Now we must all crawl towards the edge of the forest,” Will said, “and
then, instead of going straight down the hill we will turn off for a short
distance. They are sure to miss us immediately, and will believe that we
have made direct for the sea.”

They had barely got into the shelter of the forest when they heard a
sudden shout, so they at once turned aside and hid in the brushwood. A
minute or two later they had the satisfaction of hearing the negroes
rushing in a body down the hill. They waited until their pursuers had
covered a hundred yards, and then they jumped to their feet and held on
their way along the hillside for nearly a quarter of a mile, after which
they began to descend. Just as they changed their course they heard an
outburst of musketry fire.

“Hooray!” Dimchurch exclaimed, “our fellows are coming up the hill in
search of us. That’s right, give it them hot! I guess they’ll go back as
quick as they came.” They now changed their direction, taking a line that
would bring them to the rear of their friends. The firing soon ceased, the
negroes having evidently got entirely out of sight of the sailors, but by
the shouting they had no difficulty in ascertaining the position of the
party, who were pushing on up the hill, and presently Will hailed them.

“That is the captain’s voice,” one of the party exclaimed, and then a
general cheer broke from the seamen. In another two minutes they were
among their friends. Harman had landed with three-and-thirty men, leaving
only five on board _L’Agile_. Great was their rejoicing on finding that
the three missing men were all safe.

“We had better fall back now,” Will said. “There must be at least three
hundred negroes at the top, and though I don’t say we would not beat them
we should certainly suffer some loss which might well be avoided. There is
no doubt they took us for pirates and believed they were going to avenge
their own wrongs. So we may as well make our way down before their whole
force gathers and attacks us.”

They retired at once to the shore, and had but just taken their places in
the boats when a crowd of negroes rushed down to the beach. Four or five
shots were fired, but by Will’s order no reply was made. They pushed off
quietly and in a few minutes reached the cutter.

“That has been a narrow escape,” Will said when he and Harman were
together again on the quarter-deck; “as narrow as I ever wish to
experience. If it hadn’t been for Dimchurch I don’t think you would have
arrived in time, for they were cutting brushwood for a fire on which they
intended to roast us. Fortunately he was not so tightly bound as we were,
and so managed to free himself and us.”

“I cannot say how thankful I was when I heard your voice. Of course we
were proceeding only by guesswork, and could only hope that we should find
you at the top of the hill. If they had carried you any farther away we
could not have followed. I was turning this over in my mind as we
advanced, when we heard the rushing of a large number of men down the hill
towards us, and we at once concluded that you had escaped and that they
were in pursuit, and as soon as the negroes appeared we opened fire.”

“Well, all is well that ends well. It was very foolish of me to wander
away from the men. Of course there was nothing whatever to tell us that we
were being watched, but I ought to have assumed that there was a
possibility of such a thing and not to have run the risk. I’ll be mighty
careful that I don’t play such a fool’s trick again. It was lucky that
Dimchurch shouted when he did to the watering-party, otherwise we should
have lost the whole of them, and with ten gone you would have found it
very hazardous work to land a sufficiently strong party.”

“I should have tried if I had only had a dozen men. I concluded that it
must have been negroes who had carried you off, and my only thought was to
rescue you before they set to work to torture you in some abominable
manner.”

“Well, I expect it would soon have been over, Harman, but certainly it
would have been a very unpleasant ending. To fall in battle is a death at
which none would grumble, but to be burnt by fiendish negroes would be
horrible. Of course every man must run risks and take his chances, but one
hardly bargains for being burnt alive. It makes my flesh creep to think of
it, more now, I fancy, than when I was face to face with it. When I was
lying helpless on the hill, there seemed something unreal about it, and I
could not appreciate the position, but now that I think of it in cold
blood it makes me shiver. I will take your watch to-night; I am quite sure
that if I did get to sleep I should have a terrible nightmare.”

“I can quite understand that you would rather be on deck than lying down
and trying to sleep. I am sure I should do so myself, and even now the
thought of the peril you were in makes me shudder.”

For a time _L’Agile_ cruised off the shore of Cuba, effecting a few small
captures, but none of importance. Finally she fell in with three French
frigates and was chased for two days, but succeeded in giving her pursuers
the slip by running between two small islands under cover of night. The
passage was very shallow, and the Frenchmen were unable to follow, and
before they could make a circuit of the islands _L’Agile_ was out of
sight. When the cutter at length returned to Jamaica the admiral decided
to lay her up for a time, and the crew was broken up and retransferred to
the vessels to which they belonged.

Will was greeted with enthusiasm when he rejoined the _Hawke_.

“You certainly have singular luck, Gilmore,” said Latham, who was the
_Hawke’s_ master’s mate. “Here we have been cruising and cruising, till we
are sick of the sight of islands, without picking up a prize of
importance, while you have been your own master, and have made a fortune.
And now, just as there is a rumour that we are to go home you rejoin.”

A few weeks after this conversation the _Hawke_ received orders to sail
for Portsmouth, and after a long and wearisome voyage arrived home late in
the summer of the year 1793.



                                CHAPTER X


                            BACK AT SCARCOMBE


The news of their destination had created great satisfaction among the
crew, as there was little honour or prize-money to be gained, and the
vessel had been for some time incessantly engaged in hunting for foes that
were never found. Not the least pleased was Will. He had left England a
friendless ship’s-boy; he returned home a midshipman, with a most
creditable record, and with a fortune that, when he left the service,
would enable him to live in more than comfort.

On arriving at Portsmouth the crew were at once paid off, and Will was
appointed to the _Tartar_, a thirty-four gun frigate. On hearing the name
of the ship, Dimchurch and Tom Stevens at once volunteered. They were
given a fortnight’s leave; so Will, with Tom Stevens, determined to take a
run up to Scarcombe, and the same day took coach to London. Dimchurch said
he should spend his time in Portsmouth, as there was no one up in the
north he cared to see, especially as it would take eight days out of his
fortnight’s leave to go to his native place and back.

On the fourth day after leaving London the two travellers reached
Scarborough. Tom Stevens started at once, with his kit on a stick, to walk
to the village, while Will made enquiries for the house of Mrs. Archer,
which was Miss Warden’s married name. Without much trouble he made his way
to it; and when the servant answered his knock he said: “I wish to see
Mrs. Archer.”

“What name, sir?” the girl said respectfully, struck with the appearance
of the tall young fellow in a naval uniform.

“I would rather not say the name,” Will said. “Please just say that a
gentleman wishes to speak to her.”

“Will you come this way?” the girl said, leading him to a sitting-room. A
minute later Mrs. Archer appeared. She bowed and asked: “What can I do for
you, sir?”

“Then you do not know me, madam?” said Will.

She looked at him carefully. “I certainly do not,” she said, and after a
pause: “Why, it can’t be!—yes, it is—Willie Gilmore!”

“It is, madam, but no doubt changed out of all recognition.”

“I have from time to time got your letters,” said Mrs. Archer, “and
learned from them with pleasure and surprise that you had become an
officer, but never pictured you as grown and changed in this way. I hope
you have got my letters in return?”

“I only got one, Mrs. Archer, and it reached me just before we sailed from
the Mediterranean two years ago. I was not surprised, however, for of
course the post is extremely uncertain. It is only very seldom that
letters reach a ship on a foreign station.”

“Dear, dear, you have lost some fingers!” Mrs. Archer cried, suddenly
noticing Will’s left hand. “How sad, to be sure!”

“That is quite an old story, Mrs. Archer. I lost them at the attempt to
capture St. Pierre, and am so accustomed to the loss now that I hardly
notice it. It is surprising how one can do without a thing. I have to be
thankful, indeed, that it was the left hand instead of the right, as, had
it been the other way, I should probably have had to leave the navy, which
would have meant ruin to me.”

“It is all very well to make light of it,” she said, “but you must feel it
a great drawback.”

“Well, you see, Mrs. Archer, the loss of three fingers is of course
terrible for a sailor, who has to row, pull at ropes, scrub decks, and do
work of all sorts; but an officer does not have to do manual work of any
kind, and hardly feels such a loss, except, perhaps, at meals. I am going
to sea again almost directly, but the first time I have a long holiday I
shall have some false fingers fitted on, more for the sake of avoiding
being stared at than for anything else.”

“Well, I am more than pleased at seeing you again, Willie. It is so
natural for me to call you that, that it will be some time before I can
get out of it. So you have got on very well?”

“Entirely owing to you, Mrs. Archer, as I told you in the first letter I
wrote to you after I got my promotion. You taught me to like study, and
were always ready to help me on with my work, and it was entirely owing to
my having learned so much, especially mathematics, that I was able to
attract the attention of the officers and to get put on the quarter-deck.
I have, I am happy to say, done very well, and I am sure of my step as
soon as I have passed.

“I had the extraordinary good fortune,” he said, after chatting for some
time, “to be put in command of a prize that had been taken from some
pirates, and was thus able to earn a good deal of prize-money. But nothing
has given me greater pleasure since I went away than the purchasing of
this little present for you as a token, though a very poor one, of my
gratitude to you for your kindness;” and he handed her a little case
containing a diamond brooch, for which he had paid one hundred and fifty
pounds as he came through London.

“Willie!” she exclaimed in surprise as she opened it, “how could you think
of buying such a valuable ornament for me?”

“I should have liked to buy something more valuable,” he said. “If I had
paid half my prize-money it would only have been fair, for I should never
have won it but for you.”

“I have nothing nearly so valuable,” she said. “Well, now, you must take
up your abode with us while you stay here. How long have you?”

“I have a fortnight’s leave, but it has taken me four days to come down
here, and of course I shall have to allow as many for the return journey.
I have therefore six days to spare, and I shall be very pleased indeed to
stay with you. I must, of course, spend one day going over to the village
to see John Hammond and his wife. I am happy to say that I shall be able
to make their declining days comfortable. Your father is, I hope, well,
Mrs. Archer?”

“Yes, he is going on just as usual. I was over there a fortnight ago. I am
sure he will be very glad to see you; he always enquires, when I go over,
whether I have had a letter from you, and takes great interest in your
progress.”

“Tom Stevens has come back with me, and has gone on to-day to the village.
I told him not to mention about my coming, as I want to take the old
couple by surprise.”

“That you certainly will do. Of course they have aged a little since you
went away, but there is no great change in them. Ah, there is my husband’s
knock! Lawrence,” she said, as he entered, “this is the village lad I have
so often spoken to you about. He has completely changed in the three years
and a half he has been away. We heard, you remember, that he had become an
officer, but I was quite unprepared for the change that has come over
him.”

“I am glad to see you, Mr. Gilmore. My wife has talked about you so often
that I quite seem to know you myself, but, of course, as I did not know
you in those days I can hardly appreciate the change that has come over
you. One thing I can say, however, and that is that you bear no
resemblance whatever to a fisher lad.”

Will was soon quite at home with Mr. and Mrs. Archer, who introduced him
with pride as “our sailor boy” to many of their friends. On the third day
of his stay he hired a gig and drove over to Scarcombe. Alighting at the
one little inn, he walked to John Hammond’s cottage, watched on the way by
many enquiring eyes, the fisher folk wondering whether this was a new
revenue officer. He knocked at the door, lifted the latch, and entered.
The old couple were sitting at the fire, and looked in surprise at the
young officer standing at the door.

“Well, sir,” John asked, “what can I do for you? I have done with
smuggling long ago, and you won’t find as much as a drop of brandy in my
house.”

“So I suppose, John,” Will said; “your smuggling didn’t do you much good,
did it?”

“Well, sir, I don’t see as that is any business of yours,” the old man
answered gruffly. “I don’t mind owning that I have handled many a keg in
my time, but you can’t bring that against me now.”

“I have no intention of doing so, John. I dare say you gave it up for good
when that dirty little boy who used to live with you chucked it and got
into trouble for doing so. You recollect me, don’t you, mother?” he said,
as the old woman sat staring at him with open eyes.

“Why, it is Willie himself!” she exclaimed; “don’t you know him, John, our
boy Willie, who ran away and went to sea?”

“You don’t say it is Will!” the old man said, getting up.

“It is Will sure enough,” the lad said, holding out his hand first to one
and then to the other. “He has come back, as you see, an officer.”

“Yes, Parson told us that. Well, well! Why, it was only two days ago that
Tom Stevens came in. He has growed to be a fine young fellow too, and he
told us that you were well and hearty and had been through lots of fights.
But he didn’t say nothing about your having come home.”

“Well, here I am, John; and what is better, I have brought home some money
with me, and I shall be able to allow you and the mother a guinea a week
as long as you live.”

“You don’t mean it, lad!” the old man said with a gasp of astonishment; “a
guinea a week! may the Lord be praised! Do you hear that, missis? a guinea
a week!”

“Lord, Lord, only to think of it; why, we shall be downright rich!” said
his wife. “Plenty of sugar and tea, a bit of meat when we fancy it, and a
drop of rum to warm our old bones on Saturday night. It is wonderful,
John. The Lord be praised for His mercies! But can you afford it, Will? We
wouldn’t take it from you if you can’t, not for ever so.”

“I can afford it very well,” Will said, “and it will give me more pleasure
to give it you than to spend it in any other way. Now, mother, let us say
no more about it. Here is a guinea as a start, and I wish you would go to
the shop and get some tea and sugar and bread and butter and a nice piece
of bacon, and let us have a meal just as we used to do when we had made a
good haul, or taken a hand in a successful run.”

“It is three years and a half since I saw a golden guinea,” the old woman
said as she put on her bonnet, “and they won’t believe their eyes at the
shop when I go in with it. You are sure you would like tea better than
beer?”

“Much better, though if John would prefer beer, get it for him; but I
think we had better put that off till this evening, then we will have a
glass of something hot together before I start.”

“You are not going away so soon as that, Will, surely?” the old man said
when his wife had left them.

“Yes, John, this is a short visit. I have only four days, and am staying
with Miss Warden; that is to say, Miss Warden that was. I must go in and
see her father for a few minutes. We’ll have plenty of time to talk over
everything before I leave, which I won’t do till eight o’clock. I don’t
suppose you have much to tell me, for there are not many changes in a
place like this. This man, perhaps, has lost his boat, and that one his
life, but that is about all. Now I have gone through a big lot, and have
many adventures to tell you.”

“But how did you come to be made an officer, Will? That is what beats me.”

“Entirely owing to my work at books, which you used always to be raging
about. But for that I should have remained before the mast all my life.
Now in a couple of years or so I’ll be a lieutenant.”

“Well, well! one never knows how things will turn out. I did think you
were wasting your time in reading, and reading, and reading. I didn’t see
what good so much book-learning would do you; but if it got you made an
officer, there is no doubt that you were right and I was wrong. But you
see, lad, I was never taught any better.”

“It has all turned out right, John, and there is no occasion for you to
worry over the past. I felt sure that it would do me good some day, so I
stuck to it in spite of your scolding, and you will allow that I was never
backward in turning out when you wanted me for the boat.”

“I will allow that, Will, allow it hearty; for there was no better boy in
the village. And so you have been fighting, I suppose, just like Tom
Stevens.”

“Just the same, father. We have been together all the time, and we have
come back together.”

“And he didn’t say a word about it!” the old man said. “He talked about
you just as if you were somewhere over the sea.”

“I told him not to tell,” Will said, “as I wanted to take you by
surprise.”

“But he is not an officer, Will. He is just a sailor like those revenue
men. How does that come about? Didn’t he fight well?”

“Yes, no one could fight better. If he had had as much learning as I had
he would have been made an officer too; but, you see, he can hardly read
or write, and, fight as he may, he will always remain as he is. A finer
fellow never stepped; but because he has no learning he must always remain
before the mast.”

“And you have lost some fingers I see, Will.”

“Yes, they were shot off by a musket-ball in the West Indies. Luckily it
was my left hand; so I manage very well without them.”

“I hope you blew off the fingers of the fellow that shot you.”

“No, I can’t say who did it, and indeed I never felt anything at all until
some little time after.”

“I wish I had been there,” John said, “I would have had a slap at him with
a musket. That was an unlucky shot, Will.”

“Well, I have always considered it a lucky one, for if it had gone a few
inches on one side it would have probably finished me altogether.”

“Well, well, it is wonderful to me. Here am I, an old man, and never, so
far as I can remember, been a couple of miles from Scarcombe, and you,
quite a young chap, have been wandering and fighting all over the world.”

“Not quite so much as that, John, though I have certainly seen a good
deal. But here is mother.”

Mrs. Hammond entered with a face beaming with delight.

“You never saw anyone so astonished as Mrs. Smith when I went in and
ordered all those things. Her eyes opened wider and wider as I went on,
and when I offered her the gold I thought she would have a fit. She took
it and bit it to make sure that it was good, and then said: ‘Have you
found it, Mrs. Hammond, or what good fortune have you had?’

“ ‘The best of fortunes, Mrs. Smith,’ says I. ‘My boy Will has come back
from the wars a grand officer, with his pocket lined with gold, so you
will find I’ll be a better customer to you than I have been.’

“ ‘You don’t say so, Mrs. Hammond!’ says she. ‘I always thought he was a
nice boy, well spoken and civil. And so he is an officer, is he? Only to
think of it! Well, I am mighty pleased to hear it,’ and with that I came
off with my basket full of provisions. The whole village will be talking
of it before nightfall. Mrs. Smith is a good soul, but she is an arrant
gossip, and you may be sure that the tale will gain by the telling, and
before night people will believe that you have become one of the royal
family.”

In half an hour a meal was ready—tea, crisp slices of fried bacon, and
some boiled eggs—and never did three people sit down to table in a more
delighted state of mind.

“My life,” the old woman said, when at last the meal was finished, “just
to think that we’ll be able to feed every day of the year like this! Why,
we’ll grow quite young again, John; we sha’n’t know ourselves. We had five
shillings a week before, and now we’ll have six-and-twenty. I don’t know
what we’ll do with it. Why, we didn’t get that on an average, not when you
were a young man and as good a fisherman as there was in the village. We
did get more sometimes when you made a great haul, or when a cargo was
run, but then, more often, when times were bad, we had to live on fish for
weeks together.”

“Now, missis, clear away the things and reach me down my pipe from the
mantel, and we’ll hear Will’s tales. I’ll warrant me they will be worth
listening to.”

When the table was cleared the old woman put some more coal on the fire
and they sat round it, the old folk one on each side, with Will in the
middle. Then Will told his adventures, the fight with the French frigate,
the battle with the three Moorish pirates, how he had had the luck to save
the first lieutenant’s life and so obtained his promotion, and how the
next prize they took was recaptured, but that he and a portion of the crew
again overcame the Moors. Then he related how he had had the good fortune
to obtain the command of a prize, with forty men and another midshipman
under him, and gave a vivid account of the adventures he had gone through
while cruising about in her.

“Well, well!” John Hammond said, when he brought his story to a
conclusion, “you have had goings-on. To think that a boy like you should
command a vessel and forty men, and should take three pirates.”

“But the most awful part of it all,” the old woman said, “is about them
black negroes that carried you off and were going to burn you alive. Lor’,
I’ll dream of it at nights.”

“I hope not, missis,” John said. “You dream more than enough now, and wake
me up with your jumps and starts, and give me a lot of trouble to pacify
you and convince you that you have only been dreaming. I am sorry, Will,
that you told us about those niggers. I know I’ll have lots of trouble
over it. Generally all she has had to dream about has been that my boat
was sinking, or that the revenue officers had taken me and were going to
hang me; but that will be nothing to this ’ere negro business.”

“They are terrible creatures these negroes, ain’t they?” the old woman
said. “I have heard tell that they have horns and hoofs like the devil.”

“No, no, mother, they are not so bad as that, and they don’t have tails,
either. They are not good-looking men for all that, and they look
specially ugly when they are gathering firewood to make a bonfire of you.”

“For goodness sake don’t say more about them; it makes me all come over in
a sweat to think about them.”

Just at this moment Tom Stevens came in and sat and chatted for some time.
Will asked him to come in again later and to bring with him a bottle of
the best spirits he could find in the village.

“I’ll warrant I will get some good stuff,” Tom said. “There are plenty of
kegs of the best hidden away in the village, and I think I know where to
lay my hand on one of them.”

Will then went to the rectory and had a chat with Mr. Warden, who was
unaffectedly glad to see him.

“I never quite approved,” he said, “of my daughter’s hobby of educating
you, but I now see that she was perfectly right. I thought myself that at
best you would obtain some small clerkship, and that your life would be a
happier one as a fisherman. It has, however, turned out admirably well,
and she has a right to be proud of her pupil. After the way you have begun
there is nothing in your own line to which you may not attain.”

“I wanted to ask you, Mr. Warden, what you could remember about my father.
My own recollection of him is very dim. I am going to sea again in a week,
but next time I return I’ll have a longer spell on shore, and I am
resolved to make an effort to discover who he was.”

“I fear that is quite hopeless, but I will certainly tell you all I know
about him. I saw him, of course, many times in the village. He was a tall
thin man with what I might call a devil-may-care, and at the same time a
mournful expression. I have no doubt that had his death not been so sudden
he would have told you something about himself. I have his effects tied up
in a bundle. I examined them at the time, but there was nothing of any
value in them except a signet-ring. It bore a coat-of-arms with a falcon
at the top. I intended to hand this to you when you grew up, but of course
you left so suddenly that I had no opportunity to do so. I will give you
the bundle now.”

“Thank you very much, sir! That ring may be the means of discovering my
identity. Of course I have no time to make enquiries now, but when I next
return I will advertise largely and offer a reward for information. It is
not that I want to thrust myself on any family, or to raise any claim, but
I should like, for my own satisfaction, to know that I come of a decent
family.”

“That is very natural,” the clergyman said; “but were I you I should not
hope to be successful. You see, nearly thirteen years have elapsed since
his death, and he may have been wandering about for three or four years
before. That is a long time to elapse before making any enquiries.”

“That may be so, but if these arms belong, as I suppose, to a good family,
there must be others bearing them, and an advertisement of a lost member
of it might at once catch their eye, and might very possibly bring a
reply. Besides, surely there must be some place where a record is kept of
these things.”

“I do not know that, but I am sure I wish you success in your search, and
can well understand that, now you are an officer in His Majesty’s navy,
you would like to claim relationship with some big family.”

“Quite so, sir. Of course I cannot imagine how it was my father came to be
in such reduced circumstances.”

“I should say, Will, that he quarrelled with his father, perhaps over his
marriage, and left home in a passion. He was a man who, I could well
imagine, when he once quarrelled, would not be likely to take the first
step to make it up.”

“Perhaps that was it, sir. Well, I am exceedingly obliged to you, and
will, you may be sure, investigate the contents of the bundle carefully.”

Returning to the cottage, Will found Tom Stevens already there with a
small keg of brandy.

“This is good stuff, Will,” he said; “it has been lying hidden for eight
years, and was some of the choicest landed. I got it as a favour, and had
to pay pretty high for it; but I knew you would not stick at the price.”

“Certainly not, I wanted the best that could be got. Now, mother, mix us
three good stiff tumblers, and take a glass for yourself.”

“It is twenty year since I tasted spirits,” the old woman said, “though
John has often got a drop after a successful run; but this afternoon I
don’t mind if I do try a little, if it is only to put the thought of them
bonfiring negroes out of my mind.”

“I hope it will have that effect,” Will laughed.

“Now, John, I told you about my adventures; let me hear a little village
gossip.”

John’s tale was not a very long, nor, it must be owned, a very interesting
one. Mary Johnson, Elizabeth Cruikshank, Mary Leaper, and Susie Thurston
had all had boys, while there had been five girls born. It was not
necessary, however, to specify the names of their mothers, as girls were
considered quite secondary persons in Scarcombe. One small cargo had been
run, but the revenue people were so sharp that the French lugger had given
up making the village a landing-place. John Mugby and his two sons had
been drowned, and John Hawkins’s boat had been smashed up. As a result of
the decline of smuggling there had been a revulsion of the feeling against
Will, and the four men who had been the ringleaders in the movement had
made themselves so generally obnoxious that they had had to leave the
village.

At seven o’clock Will said:

“Now, father, I must be moving. Here are fifty guineas. They will last you
for nearly a year. I’ll hand another fifty to Mr. Archer, and ask him to
send you twenty pounds at a time. I’ll probably be back in England before
it has all gone, and if not I will manage to find a means of sending more
over to you.”

“I sha’n’t sleep,” the old woman said; “I never shall sleep with all that
money in the house. It is sure to get known about, and I should never feel
safe.”

“Very well, mother, take the money up to Mr. Warden, and ask him to hand
you a guinea every Monday.”

“Tom Stevens,” said the old woman, “I will ask you to go up to the rectory
with me this very evening. I daren’t keep it here, and I daren’t carry it
through the village, for there might be a pedlar about, and everybody
knows that pedlars are apt to be thieves.”

“Very well,” Tom said with a smile, “I will go with you, missis, when Will
has left. I am big enough to tackle a pedlar if we meet one on the way.”

“Thank you very heartily, Tom! I’ll be comfortable now; but I should never
get a wink of sleep with fifty gold guineas in the house.”

Will had noticed that the old couple’s clothes were sorely patched, and
the next morning he purchased a complete new outfit for both. These he
sent over by a carrier, with a note, saying: “My dear father, it is only
right that you should start with a fair outfit, and I therefore send you
and the missis a supply that will last you for some time.”

Tom Stevens came over two days later, and he and Will started together for
London. On their arrival at Portsmouth they at once joined the _Tartar_,
which was quite ready to sail, and which was under orders to join Lord
Hood’s fleet in the Mediterranean.



                                CHAPTER XI


                         CAPTIVES AMONG THE MOORS


A week later the _Tartar_ proceeded to the Mediterranean. One morning
after cruising there for some weeks, when the light mist lifted, a vessel
was seen some three miles away. The captain looked at her through his
telescope.

“That is a suspicious-looking craft,” he said to the first lieutenant, Mr.
Roberts. “We will lower a cutter and overhaul her.”

The cutter’s crew were at once mustered. Will was the midshipman in charge
of her, and took his place by the side of the third lieutenant, Mr.
Saxton. The lieutenant ordered the men to take their muskets with them.

“May I take Dimchurch and Stevens?” Will asked.

“Yes, if you like. There is room for them in the bow, and two extra
muskets may be useful.”

The two men, who were standing close by, took their places when they heard
the permission given.

“I certainly don’t like her appearance, Gilmore,” the lieutenant said. “I
cannot help thinking that she is an Algerine by her rig; and though every
Algerine is not necessarily a pirate, a very large number of them are. I
fancy a breeze will spring up soon, and in that case we may have a long
row before we overtake her.”

The breeze came presently, and the Algerine began to slip away. It was,
however, but a puff, and the boat again began to gain on her. When they
were five miles from the ship they were within a quarter of a mile from
the chase.

“Confound the fellow!” the lieutenant muttered; “but I think I was
mistaken, for there are not more than half a dozen men on her deck.”

At length the boat swept up to the side of the craft. As the men leapt to
their feet a couple of round shot were thrown into the boat, one of them
going through the bottom. The cutter immediately began to fill, and the
men as they climbed up were confronted by fully a hundred armed Moors.
Lieutenant Saxton was at once cut down, and most of the sailors suffered
the same fate. As usual, Will, Dimchurch, and Stevens held together and
fought back to back. The contest, however, was too uneven to last, and the
Moorish captain came up to them and signed to them that they must lay down
their arms.

“Do it at once,” Will said. “They evidently prefer to take us prisoners to
killing us, which they could do without difficulty. We have been caught in
a regular trap, and must make the best of it.”

So saying he threw down his cutlass, and the others followed his example.

They were taken down below with three other unwounded sailors, and the
wounded and dead were at once thrown overboard.

“This is the worst affair we have been in together,” said Dimchurch,
“since we fell into the hands of those negroes. Unless the _Tartar_
overtakes us I am afraid we are in for a bad time.”

“I am afraid so, Dimchurch, and I fear that there is little chance indeed
of the frigate overtaking us. In such a light wind this craft would run
away from her, and with fully five miles start it would be useless for the
boats to try to overtake her.”

“What are they going to do with us?”

“There is very little doubt about that. They will make slaves of us, and
either set us to work on the fortifications or sell us to be taken
up-country.”

“I don’t expect they will keep us long,” Dimchurch said grimly.

“I don’t know; they have great numbers of Christians whom they hold
captive, and it is rare indeed that one of them escapes. I suppose some
day or other we’ll send a fleet to root them out, but our hands are far
too full for anything of that sort at present. If we have a chance of
escape you may be sure that we’ll take it, but we had better make up our
minds at once to make the best of things until opportunity offers.”

“I only hope we’ll be kept together, sir. I could put up with it if that
were so, but it would be awful if we were separated; for even if one saw a
chance for escape he could not let the others know.”

“You may be sure, Dimchurch, that whatever opportunity I might see I would
not avail myself of it unless I could take you both off with me.”

“The same here, sir,” Dimchurch said; and the words were echoed by Tom.

Six days later they heard the anchor run down, and presently the hatchway
was lifted and they were told to come on deck. They found, as they had
expected, that the craft was lying in the harbour of Algiers. At any other
time they might have admired the city, with its mosques and minarets, its
massive fortifications, and the shipping in the port, but they were in no
humour to do so now. They regarded it as their jail. They and the three
sailors were put into a boat and rowed ashore, the captain of the craft
going with them. They were met at the wharf by a Moor, who was evidently
an official of rank. He and the captain held an animated conversation, and
by their laughter Will had no doubt whatever that the captain was telling
the clever manner in which he had effected their capture. Then the
official said something which was not altogether pleasing to the captain,
who, however, crossed his hands on his breast and bowed submissively. The
official then handed the six prisoners over to some men who had
accompanied him, and they were immediately marched across to a large
barrack-like building, which was evidently a prison. Two hours afterwards
a great troop of captives came in. These were so worn and wearied that
they asked but few questions of the new-comers.

“Don’t talk about it,” one said in answer to a question from Will. “There
is not one of us who would not kill himself if he got the chance. It is
work, work, work from daybreak till sunset. We have enough to eat to keep
us alive; we are too valuable to be allowed to die. We get food before we
start in the morning, again at mid-day, and again when we get back here.
Oh, they are very careful of us, but they don’t mind how we suffer! The
sun blazes down all day, and not a drop of drink do we get except at
meals. In spite of their care we slip through their hands. Sunstroke and
fever are always thinning our ranks. That is the history of it, mate, and
if I were to talk till morning I could not tell you more. I suppose by
your cut that you are a man-of-war’s-man?”

“You’re right,” Dimchurch said. “We got caught in a trap, and our nine
mates were killed without having a chance to fire a shot.”

“Ah!” the man said with a sigh, “I wish I had had their luck, and you will
wish so too before you have been here long.”

Rough food was served out, and then the slaves, after eating, lay down
without exchanging a word, anxious only to sleep away the thought of their
misery. The three friends lay down together. To each prisoner a small rug
had been served out, and this was their only bedding.

“We are certainly in a bad corner,” Dimchurch said, “but the great point
will be to keep up our spirits and make the best of it.”

“That is so,” Will agreed. “I am convinced that, however sharp a watch
they may keep, three resolute men will find some way of escape. We’ll know
a little more about it to-morrow. If there are windows to this building we
ought to be able to get out of them, and if it is surrounded by walls we
ought to be able to scale them. Besides, if we are set to work in the city
we might find an opportunity of evading the diligence of our guards. For
one thing, we must assume an air of cheerfulness while we work. In time,
when they see that we do our work well and are contented and obedient,
their watch will relax. Above all, we must not, like these poor fellows,
make up our minds that our lot is hopeless. If we once lose hope we shall
lose everything. At any rate, for the present we must wait patiently. We
have still got to find out everything; all we know is that we are confined
in a prison, and that we shall have to do some work or other during the
day.

“We have got to find out the plan of the city and its general bearings, to
learn something, if we can, of the surrounding country, and to see how we
should manage to subsist if we got away. Of course the natural idea would
be to make for the sea and steal a boat. But we came up from the shore
through an archway in the wall; it was strongly guarded, and I fear it
would be next to impossible to get down to the port. Our best plan, I
think, would be to take to the country if we can, and go down to the shore
some distance from the city. We might then light upon a boat belonging to
some fisherman. Of course all this is pure conjecture, and all we can
arrange is that we shall keep our eyes about us, and look for an empty
house in which we might hide and discover how we might leave the town on
the land side, where it is not likely the fortifications will be nearly so
strong as on the sea-face.”

The next morning the captives were deprived of their clothes, and in their
place were given dirty linen jackets and loose trousers. Their shoes were
also taken away. They then fell in with the rest of the captives. On
leaving the prison they were formed into companies, each of which, under a
strong guard, marched off in different directions. The three friends kept
close together, and were assigned to a company which was told off to clean
the streets of a certain quarter of the town. They were furnished with
brooms and brushes, and were soon hard at work. As the morning went on,
the heat became tremendous. Several men fell, but the overseers lashed
them until they got upon their feet again.

“My eye! this is like working in an oven,” Dimchurch muttered; “the dust
is choking me. We must certainly get out of this as soon as we can, sir.”

“I agree with you, Dimchurch. I feel as if I were melting away. If I were
to put a bit of food in my mouth I believe the heat would bake it in no
time.”

“I couldn’t swallow anything,” Tom said, “not even a mackerel fresh out of
the sea.”

“You know we agreed that we must make the best of everything,” Will said.
“If we work as we are doing we can’t but please our overseers, and shall
save ourselves from blows.”

“They had better not strike me,” Dimchurch said; “the man that did it
would never live to strike another.”

“That might be,” Will said, “but it would be a small satisfaction to you
if you were to be flogged to death afterwards.”

“No, I suppose not, sir; but flesh and blood can’t stand such a thing as
being struck by one of these yellow hounds.”

At twelve o’clock the gang returned, and the men drank eagerly from a
fountain in the courtyard of the prison.

“Take as little as you can,” Will said; “if you drink much it will do you
harm. You can drink often if you like, provided that you only take a sip
at a time.”

“It is easy to say, Mr. Gilmore, but it is not so easy to do. I feel as if
I could drink till I burst.”

“I dare say you do; I feel the same myself; but I am sure that to take a
lot of water just now would do us harm instead of good.”

Their abstinence so far benefited them that they felt their work in the
afternoon less than they had done in the morning, though the heat was, if
anything, greater.

That evening they examined their prison. It consisted of one great hall
supported by rows of pillars. Here the whole of the prisoners were
confined. It was lighted by windows five-and-twenty feet from the ground.
There was no guard inside, but fifty men, some of whom were always on
sentry, slept outside the hall. It was clear to them, therefore, that no
escape could be made after they were once locked up, and that if they were
to get away at all they must make the attempt when they were employed
outside.

On the third day one of the sailors from the _Tartar_, who had disregarded
Will’s advice to drink sparingly, fell down dead after drinking till he
could drink no more. Scarcely a day passed without one or more of the
captives succumbing; some of them went mad and were at once despatched by
their guards.

After working for a fortnight in the streets the gang were marched in
another direction, and were put to labour on the fortifications. This was
a great relief. They were now free from the choking dust of the streets,
and obtained a view of the surrounding country. The three, as usual,
laboured together, and showed so much zeal and activity that they pleased
the head of their guard. They had the great advantage that they were
accustomed to work together, while the majority of the gang had no such
experience. There were men of all nationalities—French, Spanish, Italians,
Maltese, and Greeks, and though most of them were accustomed to a warm
climate, they had nothing like the strength of the three Englishmen. In
moving heavy stones, therefore, the three friends were able to perform as
much work as any dozen other prisoners. They were the only Englishmen in
the gang, for the other two sailors had been from the first placed with
another party.

On the march to their work they passed by a palace of considerable extent,
surrounded by grounds which were entered on that side by a small postern
gate. “I would give a good deal to know if that gate is locked,” Will
said.

“What good would that do, sir?”

“Well, if we could get in there we might hide in the shrubbery, and stop
there till the first pursuit was over. No one would think of searching
there. I should say we might, if we had luck, seize and bind three of the
gardeners or attendants, and so issue from one of the gates dressed in
their clothes without exciting suspicion.”

“What should we do for grub, sir?”

“Well, for that we must trust to chance. There are houses that might be
robbed, and travellers who might be lightened of their belongings. I can’t
think that three active men, though they might be unarmed, would allow
themselves to starve. Of course we should want to get rid of these
clothes, and find some weapons; but the great point of all is to discover
whether that door is locked.”

“All right, sir! I am ready to try anything you may suggest, for I am sick
to death of this work, and the heat, and the food, and the guard, and
everything connected with it.”

They looked at the door with longing eyes each time they passed it. At
last one day a man came out of the gateway just as they were passing, and,
pulling the gate to behind him, walked away without apparently thinking of
locking it.

“That settles that point,” Will said. “The next most important question
is, Are there people moving about inside? Then how are we to slip away
unseen? To begin with, we will manage always to walk in the rear of the
gang. There are often rows; if some poor wretch goes mad and attacks the
guard there is generally a rush of the others to his assistance. If such a
thing were to happen near this gate we might manage to slip in unnoticed.
Still, I admit the chances are against anything of the sort taking place
just at that point, and I expect we must try and think of something
better.”

A fortnight later, just as they were passing the door, a small party of
cavalry, evidently the escort to some great chief, came dashing along at
full speed. The road being somewhat narrow the slaves and guards scattered
in all directions, several of them being knocked down.

“Now is our chance!” Will exclaimed; and the three ran to the gate and
entered the garden. There was no one in sight; evening was coming on, and
any men who might have been working in the garden had left. They closed
the gate behind them and turned the key in the lock, then ran into a
shrubbery and threw themselves down. They trusted that in the confusion
their absence would not be noticed, and this seemed to be the case, for
they heard loud orders given and then all was quiet.

“So far so good,” Will said. “The first step is taken, and the most
difficult one. To-morrow, when the gardeners come, we will spring upon
three of them and bind them. I should not think that there will be more
than that.”

Fortune favoured them, however, for an hour later three servants came
along, laughing and talking together. The sailors prepared to act, and as
the men passed their hiding-place Will gave the word, and, leaping out
upon them, they hurled them to the ground. Tom and Dimchurch both stunned
their men, and then aided Will to secure the one he had knocked down.
Without ceremony they stripped off the clothes of the fallen men, tore up
their own rags, and bound the captives securely, shoving a ball of the
material between the teeth of each, and then secured them to three trees a
short distance apart.

“That is good,” said Will, as they put on the servants’ clothes; “they are
safe till they are found in the morning. In these clothes we can boldly
venture out from the town gate as soon as it is opened. There is always
the risk that our colour may betray us, but we are all burnt nearly as
dark as mahogany and may very well pass.”

“Shall we start now, sir?”

“No, they will find out when they get to the prison that we are missing,
and there will be a keen hunt for us. And now I come to think of it, the
guards at the gate will be warned of our escape, and will probably
question us, particularly as these bright-coloured garments would attract
their attention. I really think our best plan would be to go out into the
town at once and try to get hold of other disguises.”

“It would be a good thing if we could do so, sir.”

“Dear me, how stupid I am!” exclaimed Will after a pause. “You know that
wall we were repairing to-day? It was only about fourteen feet above the
ground outside, so we should have no difficulty in dropping down.”

“That is so, sir. It is an easy drop, and by leaving in that way we’ll
avoid being questioned, and get well away before the alarm is given.”

“Then we will lose no time,” said Will. “We have to pass through a busy
quarter, but if we go separately we shall attract no notice, though no
doubt by this time the search will have begun. They will be looking,
however, for three men together. Of course they will not so much as cast
an eye upon the servants of this palace, for they will know nothing of our
doings here till to-morrow morning. I will go first when we get into the
street. You, Dimchurch, follow me forty or fifty yards behind, and Tom the
same distance behind you.”

“I hardly think they will be in search of us yet,” Dimchurch said. “It is
little more than an hour since we escaped, and they won’t find out till
they get to the prison and count the gang. When they have done that they
would have to see who it was that was missing, and then they would take
some time to organize the search.”

“That is so, Dimchurch; still, we will take every precaution.”

So saying they started. When they were half-way to the wall they saw a
number of soldiers and convict guards come running along, questioning many
people as they passed. They trembled lest they should be discovered, but
fortunately no question was put to any of them, and they kept on their
way. Presently Will emerged upon the open space of ground between the wall
and the houses, and when Dimchurch and Tom had come up they went together
along the foot of the wall until they came to the place where they had
been working.

“Keep your eyes open,” Will said as they climbed up, “there are crowbars
and hammers lying about, and, where the stone-cutters were working,
chisels. A crowbar or a heavy hammer is a weapon not to be despised.”

In a few minutes each was armed with a chisel and a light crowbar. They
then went to the edge of the wall, and, throwing these weapons down,
lowered themselves as far as they could reach and dropped to the ground.

“Thank God we are out of that place!” Will said fervently; “we won’t enter
it again alive. Now, the first thing is to get as far away as possible,
keeping as nearly parallel to the line of the coast as we can, but four or
five miles back, for we may be sure that when they cannot find us in the
town they will suspect that we have made for the coast, and a dozen
horsemen will be sent out to look for us along the shore. It is no use our
thinking of trying to get to sea until the search has been given up. Our
principal difficulty will be to live. From the walls the country looked
well cultivated in parts, and even if we have to exist on raw grain we
shall not be much worse off than when we were in prison.”

“I don’t care what it is,” Tom said, “so long as there is enough of it to
keep us alive; but we must have water.”

“I don’t think there will be much difficulty about that, Tom, as every one
of the houses scattered over the plain will have wells and fountains in
their gardens. Thank goodness, they won’t miss any we take, and we could
go every night and fetch water without exciting any suspicion that we had
been there!”

“One of the first things we must do,” said Will, “is to dirty these white
jackets and trousers so that we may look like field labourers, for then if
anyone should catch sight of us in the distance we should attract no
attention.”

They walked all night, and just as morning was breaking they saw a large
country house with the usual garden. They climbed over the wall, which was
not high, and drew some water in a bucket which they found standing at the
mouth of the well.

“This bucket we will confiscate,” Will said; “we can hardly lie hidden all
day without having a drink. Of course they will miss it; but when they
cannot find it they will suppose that it has been mislaid or stolen. One
of the gardeners will probably get the blame, but we can’t help that. Now
we will go another mile and then look for a hiding-place. There are a lot
of sand-hills scattered about, and if we can’t find a hole that will suit
us we must scoop one out. I believe they are pretty hard inside, but our
crowbars will soon make a place large enough.”

After an hour’s walk they fixed upon a spot on the shady side of a hill
and began to make a cave that would allow the three to lie side by side.
The work was completed in less than an hour, and they crawled in and
scraped up some of the fallen sand so as partially to close the mouth
behind them.

“Thank goodness, we have got shelter and water!” Will said. “As for food,
we must forage for it to-night.”

“I am quite content to go without it for to-day,” Dimchurch said, “and to
lie here and sleep and do nothing. I don’t think anything would tempt me
to get up and walk a mile farther, not even the prospects of a good
dinner.”

“Well, as we are all so tired we shall probably sleep till evening.”

In a few minutes all were asleep. Once or twice in the course of the day
they woke up and took a drink from the bucket and then fell off again. At
sunset all sat up quite refreshed.

“I begin to feel that I have an appetite,” Will said; “now I think, for
to-night, we will content ourselves with going into one of the fields and
plucking a lot of the ears of maize. Messages may have been sent out all
over the country, and the people may be watchful. It will be wise to avoid
all risk of discovery. We can gather a few sticks and make a fire in there
to roast the maize; there are sand-hills all round, so what little flame
we make would not be noticed.”

“But how about a light?” Dimchurch asked.

“I picked up a piece of flint as we came along this morning,” Will said,
“and by means of one of these chisels we ought to be able to strike a
light; a few dead leaves, finely crumbled up, should do instead of
tinder.”

“It is a good thing to keep one’s eyes open,” Dimchurch remarked. “Now if
I had seen that piece of stone I should not have given it a thought, and
here it is going to give us a hot dinner!”

As there were numbers of fields in the neighbourhood they soon returned
with an armful of maize each. Dried weeds and sticks were then collected,
and after repeated failures a light was at last obtained, and soon the
grain was roasted. A jacket was stretched across the entrance of their den
so that, should anyone be passing near, they would not observe the light.

“Now,” Will said as they munched some maize the next evening, “we must
start foraging. We will go in opposite directions, and each must take his
bearing accurately or we’ll never come together again.”

They were out for some hours, and when they returned it was found that
Will had come across four fowls, Tom had gathered a variety of fruit,
consisting chiefly of melons and peaches, while Dimchurch, who was the
last to come in, brought a small sheep.

“We only want one thing to make us perfect,” Will said, “and that is a
pipe of ’bacca.”

“Well, that would be a welcome addition,” Tom admitted, “but it does not
do to expect too much. I should not be at all surprised if we were to
light upon some tobacco plants in one of the gardens, but of course it
could hardly be like a properly dried leaf. I dare say, though, we could
make something of it.”

So they lived for a month, sometimes better, sometimes worse, but with
sufficient food of one sort or another. So far as they knew no suspicion
of their presence had been excited, though their petty robberies must have
been noticed. One evening, however, Will, on going to the top of the
sand-hill, as he generally did, saw a large detachment of soldiers coming
along, searching the ground carefully. He ran down at once to his
companions.

“Take your weapons, lads,” he said, “and make off; a strong party of
soldiers are searching the country, and they are coming this way. No doubt
they are looking for us.”

They had run but a few hundred yards when they heard shouts, and, looking
round, they saw a Moorish officer waving his hands and gesticulating. This
was alarming, but they reckoned that they had fully five hundred yards
start.

“Keep up a steady pace,” Will said; “I don’t expect the beggars can run
faster than we can. It will be pitch dark in half an hour, and as,
fortunately, there is no moon, I expect we’ll be able to give them the
slip.”

As they advanced they found that the vegetation became scarcer and
scarcer.

“I am afraid we are on the edge of a desert,” Will said, “which means that
there are no more fowls and fruit for us. I see, Dimchurch, that you have
been the most thoughtful this time. That half sheep and those cakes will
be very valuable to us.”

“I wasn’t going to leave them for the soldiers if I knew it, sir; they
wouldn’t have gone far among them, while they will last us some time with
care.”

They changed their course several times as soon as it became quite dark,
and presently had the satisfaction of hearing the shouts of their pursuers
fade away behind them.

“Now we can take it quietly, lads. We can guide ourselves towards the sea
by means of the stars. I fancy it must be fully twenty miles away. We must
hold on till we get to it, and then gradually work our way along among the
sand-hills or clumps of bush bordering it till we come to a village. Then
we must contrive to get a good supply of food and water, steal a boat, and
make off. If galleys were sent out to search for us they must have given
it up long ago. As for other craft, we’ll have to take our chance with
them.”

They kept steadily north and at last came down to the coast. As it was
still dark they lay down till morning. When the sun rose they thought they
could make out a village some eight miles away.

“Now it will be quite safe to cook our breakfast,” Dimchurch said.

“Yes, I think so,” Will answered, “but we must be sparing with the mutton;
that is our only food at present, and it may be some little time before we
get hold of anything else.”

After breakfast they lay down among the bushes and slept till evening.
Then they started along the shore towards the village. When they got
within half a mile of it they halted. They could see some boats on the
shore, so they felt that the only difficulty in their way was the question
of provisions. When it was quite dark they went into the village and
started to forage, but on meeting again they had very little to show.
Between them they had managed to take five fowls; but the village was
evidently a poor place, for with the exception of a few melons there was
no fruit.

“The beggars must have grain somewhere,” said Will. “They can’t live on
fowls and melons.”

“I expect, sir, they live very largely on fish.”

“That is likely enough,” Will agreed. “Let us put down these fowls and
melons under this bush, and have a nap for a couple of hours, till we are
sure that everyone is asleep. We can then go down and have a look at the
boats. Those of them that come in late may probably leave some of their
catch on board.”

When they went down to the boats they found that three of them contained a
fair quantity of fish. They helped themselves to some of these, and then
retreated some distance from the village, picking up the other provisions
on the way, and then, going into a clump of bushes, cooked a portion of
the fish.

“That pretty well settles the question of provisions,” Will said. “We must
choose a night when there is a good wind blowing offshore, so that we may
run a good many miles before morning. Then we must trust to falling in
with one of our cruisers.”

“Fish won’t keep long in this climate,” suggested Tom.

“No,” said Will, “but we can dry some of them in the sun and they will
then keep good for some time. Then we might clean half a dozen fowls and
cook them before we start.”

“The great difficulty will be water.”

“Yes, but we can get over that by stripping the gardens clean of their
melons. They weigh four or five pounds apiece and would supply us with
fluid for a week easily.”

The next evening they went down and made a more careful examination of the
boats. One in particular attracted their attention. She was nearly new,
and looked likely to be faster than the rest. She was anchored some fifty
yards from the shore. Three more evenings were spent in prowling about the
village collecting food. It was evident that the villagers were alarmed at
their depredations, for on the third evening they were fired at by several
men. In consequence of this they moved a mile farther away, in case a
search should be made, and the next night carried the provisions down to
the shore. As they were all expert swimmers they were soon alongside the
chosen craft. They pushed the provisions before them on a small raft, and
when they had put them on board they made a trip to one or two of the
other boats and brought away some twenty pounds of fish. Then they cut the
hawser and hoisted sail. As they did so they heard a great tumult on
shore, and the villagers ran down to the water’s edge and opened fire upon
them. The shooting, however, was wild, and they were very soon out of
range. Several boats put off in pursuit. This caused them some uneasiness,
and they watched them somewhat anxiously, for the wind, though favourable,
was light, and they felt by no means certain that they would be able to
keep ahead of the rowers. The stolen craft, however, proved unexpectedly
fast, and the boats, after following fifteen miles without sensibly
gaining, at last gave up the chase. About this time, too, the wind, to
their great relief, became stronger, and the little vessel flew more and
more rapidly over the sea.

“She is a fine craft,” Dimchurch said; “these Moors certainly know how to
build boats. It would require a smart cutter to hold her own with us.”

Dimchurch kept at the helm and the other two investigated their capture.
She was three parts decked. In the cabin they came upon a lantern and
flint and steel, and soon had light, which helped them greatly in their
work. In the bow ropes were stored away, while in a locker they found some
bread, which, although stale, was very acceptable. They also unearthed two
or three suits of rough sea clothes with which they were glad to replace
the light clothes they had carried away with them from the palace grounds,
for though the weather on shore was warm the sea-breeze was chilly. Among
other useful things they also discovered several long knives, and axes,
and a flat stone for cooking upon.

“Now it is all a question of luck,” Will said; “the danger will be greater
when we get a bit farther out. All vessels going up and down the
Mediterranean give the Barbary coast a wide berth. Of course those pirate
fellows are most numerous along the line of traffic, but they are to be
found right up to the Spanish, French, and Italian coasts, though of late,
I fancy, they have not been so active. There are too many of our cruisers
about for their taste, and the Spaniards, when they get a chance, show the
scoundrels no mercy.”

When morning broke not a sail was visible.

“I think, sir,” Dimchurch said, “that there is going to be a change of
weather, and that we are in for a gale.”

“It does not matter much. I fancy this boat would go through it however
severe it might be.”

“Yes, sir, but it would check our progress, and we want to run north as
fast as we can. I see, by the line you are making, that you are aiming at
Toulon, and at our present pace it would take us something like four days
to get there. If we are caught in a gale we may take two days longer.”

“That is so,” Will agreed; “but on the other hand, if the wind becomes
much stronger we’ll have to take in sail, and in that case we should have
more chance of escaping notice if we come near any of those Moorish craft.
Besides, if the sea were really rough it would be difficult for them to
board us even if they did come up with us.”

“You are right, sir; still, for myself, I should prefer a strong southerly
wind and a clear sky.”

“Well, I am afraid you will not get your wish, for the clouds certainly
seem to be banking up from the north, and we’ll get a change of wind ere
long.”

By night the wind was blowing fiercely and the sea rapidly rising. The
sails were closely reefed, and even then they felt with pleasure that the
little craft was making good way. The wind increased during the night, and
was blowing a gale by morning. Just at twelve o’clock a craft was seen
approaching which all were convinced was an Algerine. She changed her
course at once and bore down upon them, firing a gun as a signal for them
to stop.

“She is rather faster than we are,” Dimchurch said, “but we’ll lead her a
good dance before she gets hold of us. She could not work her guns in this
sea, and if she is the faster, at least we are the handier.”

For three hours the chase continued. Again and again the Algerine came up
on them, but each time the little boat, turning almost on her heel, so
cleverly was she handled, glided away from underneath the enemy’s bows.
Each time, when they saw the chase slipping away from them, the angry
Moors sent a volley of musketry after her, but the fugitives took refuge
in the cabin, or lay down on the deck close under the bulwarks, and so
escaped.

Soon the Moors were so intent on the chase that they began to take great
risks with their own vessel. In fact, they became positively reckless. For
this they paid very heavily. After many disappointments they felt that the
fugitives were at last in their clutches, and were preparing to board her
when suddenly Dimchurch put down his helm sharply. He nearly capsized the
little craft, and indeed they would rather have gone down with her than
fall into the hands of the Moors again, but she righted immediately, and
once more skimmed away from her pursuers. In the excitement of the moment
the Moorish steersman attempted the same manœuvre. If he had succeeded he
would probably have run down the cockle-shell that had baffled him so
long. But at that moment a violent squall struck his ship with its full
force, and her mainmast snapped a few feet above the deck. The three
fugitives jumped to their feet and cheered, and then calmly proceeded on
their way.



                               CHAPTER XII


                           BACK ON THE “TARTAR”


The next morning broke fair. Their late foe had dropped out of sight on
the previous evening, but now, when the sun rose, Tom made out the
top-sails of a large ship on the horizon.

“She is coming towards us, lads, and by the course she is steering she
will pass within three miles of us. Is she English or French?”

“She is too far away yet to be certain,” Dimchurch said, “but I can’t help
thinking she is French.”

“At any rate, Dimchurch, our best course will be to lower the sail, shake
the reef-points out, and have it ready for hoisting at a moment’s notice.
Now that the wind is light again I should fancy we could get away from
her; with a start of two or three miles she would have no chance whatever
of catching us.”

Suddenly Tom Stevens exclaimed:

“There is a sail coming up from behind. She looks to me close-hauled. If
both ships come on they are bound to meet; if one is French and the other
is English they are likely to have a talk to each other. In that case we
should be able to tell friend from foe by the colours, and could then make
for the English ship.”

They sat anxiously watching the two ships, and soon they saw that the
point of meeting must be very near their own position. Presently their
hulls became visible, and Dimchurch pronounced one to be a thirty-two-gun
frigate, and the other a forty or forty-two. They then made out that the
one coming up from the south was flying the white ensign, and at once they
hoisted their sail and made for her. Equally intent upon a fight, the two
vessels approached each other without paying the slightest attention to
the little craft.

“The Frenchman means fighting, and as he has ten guns to the good he may
well think he is more than a match for our ship. Do you know her,
Dimchurch?”

“I think she is the _Lysander_, sir, though I can’t be sure; there are so
many of these thirty-twos.”

The vessels, as they passed, exchanged broadsides. Then both tacked, but
the Englishman was the quicker, and he raked the French frigate as she
came round. Then they went at it hammer and tongs. The Frenchman suffered
very heavily in spars and rigging, but at last the foremast of the English
ship fell over her side. The Frenchman at once closed with her, and after
pouring in a broadside, tried to board her.

The little boat bore up to the stern of the English ship. A desperate
conflict was going on at that point, and failing to get up they moved
along the side. Here a rope, which had been cut by the French fire, was
hanging overboard, and, grasping this, they climbed up to a port-hole. The
deck was deserted, all hands having rushed up to meet the attack of the
French boarders. Without a moment’s delay they snatched cutlasses from a
rack and ran up the companion to the upper deck.

Here things were going somewhat badly. The French were much more numerous
than the English, and were forcing them back by sheer weight of numbers.
The new-comers rushed at once into the fray, and laid about them lustily.
The force and suddenness of the onslaught caused the enemy to hesitate,
and at the same time it had the effect of inspiring to fresh efforts the
English crew, who, having lost their captain and first lieutenant, were
beginning to lose heart. They answered the cheers of their strangely-clad
allies, and with one accord charged to meet them. At that moment Dimchurch
almost severed the French captain’s head from his body by a sweeping blow,
and the French, being disheartened by the loss of their leader, gave way.
The English sailors redoubled their efforts, and after ten minutes of
desperate fighting succeeded in driving their foes back to their own ship.
Then the men ran to their guns again and the cannonade recommenced. But
the spirit of the two crews had changed. The French were discouraged by
their failure, and the British were exultant over their success.
Consequently the guns of the English ship were fired with far more
rapidity and precision than those of the French. Several of the port-holes
of the French ship were knocked into one, and when at last her mainmast,
which had been hit several times, fell over her side, her flag was run
down amidst tremendous cheering from the English ship.

Immediately all hands were engaged in disarming and securing the French
prisoners. When these had been sent below, the decks of both ships were
cleared of the dead. Then the bulk of the crew set to work to cut away the
wreckage, secure damaged spars, and stop holes near the water’s edge. At
last the second lieutenant, who was now in command, had time to turn to
the strangers. Will was superintending the work, while Dimchurch and Tom
were working hand in hand with the crew.

“May I ask,” said the lieutenant, addressing Will, “who it is that has so
mysteriously come to our assistance?”

“Certainly,” said Will, laughing; “I had quite forgotten that I am clothed
in strange garments. I am a midshipman belonging to the _Tartar_. One of
my companions is a boatswain’s mate, and the other is an A.B. on the same
ship. We were sent with a lieutenant and ten men to overhaul a craft
which, though she was somewhat suspicious looking, seemed to have but a
small crew. When we got alongside her, however, we found to our disgust
that she was manned by at least a hundred Algerines. The lieutenant and
seven of the crew were killed, and three others, my two companions, and
myself were made prisoners and carried to Algiers. We three escaped, and,
capturing the small craft which you will see lying by the side of your
ship, made for the open sea. An Algerine nearly recaptured us in the gale
yesterday, but fortunately she carried away her mast and we again escaped.
This morning we saw two ships approaching us, and when we made out their
nationalities we knew there was bound to be a fight. Naturally we made for
your ship, and when we found that the French had boarded you we did our
best to aid you to drive them back. My name is Gilmore.”

“Well, Mr. Gilmore, I have to thank you most heartily for the very
efficacious aid you have rendered us. Things were going very badly, but
your unexpected appearance, your strange attire, and the strength and
bravery with which you fought, quite turned the tables. I think,” he said
with a laugh, “the French must have taken you for three devils come to our
assistance, and certainly you could not have fought harder if you had
been. You will, I hope, give us your assistance until we reach Malta, to
which port, of course, I shall carry the prize. Our third lieutenant is
severely wounded, and I have lost two of my midshipmen.”

“Certainly, sir, and I will place myself at once under your orders.”

“The two midshipmen who have fallen were the seniors,” the lieutenant
said, “and as you must be two or three years older than the others I’ll
appoint you acting-lieutenant. Our first duty here will be to rig up a
jury foremast. I’ll appoint you, however, temporary commander of the
_Camille_, which is, I see, the name of our prize. I can only spare you
forty men. We have lost forty-three killed and at least as many wounded,
and I have therefore only a hundred and ten altogether fit for service,
and must retain seventy for the work of refitting. I should not attempt to
get up a jury mainmast on the _Camille_. It will be better to clear away
the wreckage and secure her other two masts in case we meet with another
squall.”

“I understand, sir. If either of the midshipmen that have been killed is
about my size, I should be glad to rig myself out with a suit from his
chest, for my appearance at present is rather undignified for a British
officer. I should also be glad if the purser’s clerk would issue a couple
of suits for my two men. I may tell you that they have been with me in
every ship in which I have served, and indeed entered the navy with me. I
therefore regard them quite as personal friends. The bigger of the two
held the position of boatswain under me in a small craft of which I had
command in the West Indies, as well as on the _Tartar_.”

“Very well, then, by all means give him the temporary rank of boatswain on
board the _Camille_, and you can appoint the other as boatswain’s mate.”

“Thank you, sir! I am very much obliged. It would be difficult to find two
better men.”

In ten minutes Will was attired in a midshipman’s uniform, and his two
companions, to their great relief, in the clothes of British seamen. They
then crossed to the _Camille_ with the forty men whom the lieutenant had
told off as a prize crew. Work was at once begun, and before sundown the
fore and mizzen masts were as firmly secured as if the mainmast were still
in its place. Will felt that they could now meet a storm without
uneasiness. Next morning the repairs to the hull were begun, pieces of
plank covered with tarred canvas being nailed over the shot-holes, and ere
the day was done the _Camille_ had a fairly presentable appearance.
Meanwhile the crew of the _Lysander_ had been hard at work, and had got
the jury-foremast into position and securely stayed.

“You have made a very good job of the prize, Mr. Gilmore,” the lieutenant
said. “Of course she is a lame duck without her mainmast, but we’ll sail
together, and so will show a good face to any single ship we may meet.”

“I should certainly think so, sir. Should any ship heave in sight I will
get all the guns loaded on both broadsides. Of course, I should only be
able to work one side at a time, but with forty good men I could keep up a
pretty hot fire.”

“I will give you ten more, Mr. Gilmore. Now that our repairs are finished
I can manage that easily, and as the _Camille_ is a bigger ship than the
_Lysander_ you ought certainly to have as many as can be spared.”

“Thank you, sir! I am sure I could make a good fight with that number, and
as we have covered all the shot-holes with canvas, and so do not appear to
be injured in the hull, I don’t think any one ship would think of meddling
with us, unless, of course, she were a line-of-battle ship. In that case
our chance would be a small one, although, by presenting a resolute front,
we might cause her to sheer off without engaging us.”

Fortunately they fell in with no enemy on their way to Malta. When they
arrived in port the lieutenant went to the flag-ship with his report. The
admiral was greatly pleased at the capture, and he was specially
interested when he learned the share that Will and his two companions had
taken in the fight, and the manner in which Will had performed his duties
while in command of the _Camille_.

“Gilmore?” he asked. “That is the name of a young midshipman who was on
board the _Furious_. Is that the man?”

“I believe he is, sir.”

“Well, tell him to come and see me when he is disengaged.”

The lieutenant reported this when he returned, and a little later Will
went on board the flag-ship.

“Well, Mr. Gilmore,” said the admiral, “so you are still to the fore. I
read some time ago the official report of a midshipman of your name in the
West Indies who had captured two vessels, each larger than the craft he
commanded, and I wondered whether it was the lad I had met here.”

Will acknowledged that he had commanded on that occasion.

“It shows that the admiral there was as struck as I was myself with your
doings, that he should have appointed you to command that craft, when he
must have had so many senior midshipmen to select from. What had you
done?”

“It was really nothing, sir. We were lying off a pirate stronghold, but
could not get at it, as our ship was too deep for the shallow approaches.
In the course of conversation in the midshipmen’s mess I happened to
suggest that if we got hold of some native craft we might be able to beard
the lion in his den, and one of the elder midshipmen reported the idea to
one of the lieutenants, who passed it on to the captain, who put it into
execution. The result was that we captured two vessels and a very large
amount of plunder which they had stored on an island. I got a great deal
more credit than was due to me, for I had only suggested the plan when
joking with my companions, and the captain improved upon it greatly in
carrying it out. It was very good of him to mention in his report that the
original idea was mine.”

“It was a good plan,” the admiral said, “and you well deserve the credit
you got. And so it was for that that you got the command of the cutter!
Tell me about the capture of those two pirate vessels.”

Will related the story of the trap that had been formed for _L’Agile_, and
the manner in which he had captured his two opponents.

“Admirably managed, Mr. Gilmore,” the admiral said. “How much longer have
you to serve?”

“I have another year yet, sir.”

“Well, a commission is to sit here next week to pass midshipmen. I will
direct them to examine you, and will see that you get your step the day
you finish your term of service. If I had the power I would pass you at
once, but that is one of the things an admiral cannot do. But how was it
that you got on board the _Lysander_?”

Will related the story of his captivity with the Algerines and his escape.

“Just what I should have expected of you,” the admiral said. “I fancy it
would take a very strong prison to hold you. Well, tell Lieutenant Hearsey
that I shall expect him to dinner to-day, and that he is to bring you with
him. I’ll ask two or three other officers to meet you, and you shall then
tell the story of your adventures.”

A post-captain and three other captains dined that evening with the
admiral, and when Will had modestly related his adventures they
complimented him highly. Two of them happened to be on the examining
committee, and consequently Will passed almost without question. A few
days later he was appointed temporarily to a ship bound for the blockading
fleet of Toulon, where he was informed he would probably find his own
ship. When he and his two companions rejoined the _Tartar_ they were
warmly congratulated on their escape from Algiers.

“I am sorry for the loss of Lieutenant Saxton,” the captain said, when
Will had reported the manner in which they had been captured. “He was a
good officer, and in this case he was not to blame. With our telescopes we
could only see a few men on board the Algerine, and they must have kept up
the deception till the last. It is to be regretted that you followed her
so far out of reach of our guns, though, so far as his fate was concerned,
we could not have altered it even if we had been within easy range.

“At any rate, Mr. Gilmore, you were by no means to blame in the affair,
and I congratulate you on having effected your escape with your two
followers.”

They had only rejoined the _Tartar_ a short time when, on the 5th
February, 1794, the captain was signalled to proceed with a small squadron
that was to sail, under Captain Linzee of the _Alcide_, as commodore, to
Corsica, where a force under General Paoli had asked for assistance in
their endeavours to regain their freedom.

The chief strongholds of that island were the fortified towns of San
Fiorenzo, Bastia, and Calvi. These towns are near each other, and as the
troops scornfully rejected his summons to surrender, the commodore was
placed in a difficulty. The force under his command was not strong enough
to blockade the three forts at once, while they were so near each other
that to blockade one or two and leave the entrance to the other open would
have been useless. He determined at first to take Forneilli, a fortified
place two miles from San Fiorenzo, but when he opened the attack he found
that it was so much more strongly fortified than he had anticipated that
its capture could not be effected without more loss than the gain of the
position would justify.

Lord Hood then placed a squadron of frigates under Captain Nelson’s
command to cruise off the north-western coast of the island so as to
prevent supplies being introduced, and he also sailed there himself with
some of his seventy-fours and a body of soldiers under Major-general
Dundas. Before he arrived, Nelson had done something towards facilitating
his enterprise, for, having learned that the French in San Fiorenzo drew
their supplies of flour from a mill near the shore, he landed a body of
seamen and soldiers and burnt the mill, threw into the sea all the flour
contained in it and in a large storehouse close to it, and regained his
ship without the loss of a man.

When Lord Hood arrived he ordered Nelson to land on the island to prevent
supplies from getting into Bastia, and took charge of the siege of San
Fiorenzo himself. On his way Nelson captured the town of Maginaggio,
routed the garrison, and destroyed a great quantity of provisions which
were being prepared for a number of French vessels in the harbour. Lord
Hood commenced the siege by attacking the town of Mortella. The garrison
fought with great bravery and inflicted heavy loss upon the _Fortitude_,
seventy-four guns, to which the task of battering was assigned. As she was
evidently getting the worst of it the _Fortitude_ was withdrawn, but the
shore batteries were more successful, and the place being set on fire the
garrison surrendered.

The Convention redoubt was the next place to be attacked. It was fortified
in a most formidable manner, and indeed was so strongly constructed as to
withstand any ordinary attack. A short distance away, however, was a rock
rising seven hundred feet above the level of the sea, which entirely
commanded it. This the enemy had left unfortified and unguarded because
they believed it was inaccessible. In many places it was almost
perpendicular, and though there was a path leading to the summit, this was
in very few places wide enough to allow more than one person to ascend at
a time. Admiral Hood in person reconnoitred and decided that a battery
could be formed on the summit.

The next day Will was on shore in command of a party of thirty men who
were to start getting up the guns. The sailors looked at the rock and at
the guns in dismay.

“La, Mr. Gilmore,” one of them said, “we can never get them up there! In
the first place it is too steep, and in the second it is too rough. It
would take two hundred men to do it, and even they would not be much good,
for the path winds and twists so much that they could not put their
strength on together.”

Will looked at the path, and at the hill on which the new battery was to
be formed.

“You see, sir,” another said, “the path would have to be blasted in lots
of places to make room for the guns, and we have got no tools for the
job.”

Will did not answer. He saw that what the men said was correct. Presently,
however, his eye fell upon an empty rum puncheon, and at once his thoughts
flashed back to the West Indies.

“Wheel that puncheon here, men.”

Much surprised, the men did as they were ordered.

“Now knock out both ends, and when you have tightened the hoops again,
fill the barrel about a third full with sticks, grass, bits of wood,
anything you can come across.”

The men scattered at once to collect the ballast, with some doubts in
their minds as to whether the midshipman had not gone out of his senses.
In about fifteen minutes they had carried out his instructions.

“Dismount the gun,” he then ordered, “and put it inside the barrel.”

When this had, with some difficulty, been accomplished, and the barrel
surrounded the centre of the gun, he said: “Now fill up the barrel with
the rest of that rubbish.”

The sailors had now caught the idea, and very soon they had the gun
tightly packed into its novel carriage. Two long ropes were then passed
round the puncheon, the ends being carried a little way up the hill. This
formed a parbuckle, and when the men hauled upon the upper lengths of the
ropes the cask easily rolled up to the ends of the lower lengths. This
operation was repeated again and again, and gradually the cask moved up
the rock. At places it had to be hauled up lengthways, boards being placed
underneath it to give it a smooth surface over which to glide instead of
the rough rock, and men encouraging it from behind with levers. While they
were at work Nelson came up and stood watching them for some minutes
without speaking.

“Where did you learn how to do that?” he said to Will at last.

“I heard of it at the siege of St. Pierre, sir.”

“Well, you profited by your lesson. It is a pleasure to see a young fellow
use his wits in that way. But for your sharpness I question whether we
should ever have got the guns up there. I was looking at it myself
yesterday, and I doubted then whether it was at all practicable. You have
settled the question for me, and I’ll not forget you. What is your name,
sir?”

“Gilmore of the _Tartar_.”

Nelson made a note of it and walked away.

The work took two days of tremendous labour, the seamen being relieved
three times a day. Will was constantly on the spot directing and
superintending the operations, and had the satisfaction at last of seeing
six guns placed on the summit of the rock.

Next morning the besieged were astonished when the guns opened fire upon
them from the rock, for, the path being at the back, they had not seen
what was going on. As they could obtain no shelter from this attack, and
there was no possibility of silencing the guns, they hastily abandoned the
post and retreated on San Fiorenzo. The battery on the rock, however, also
commanded the town, which, accordingly, had to be abandoned on the
following day, the garrison retiring to the adjoining ridge of ground and
to Bastia, which was considered the strongest place in the island.

The capture of San Fiorenzo was the more valuable, inasmuch as in the
harbour were two frigates, the _Minerve_ and _La Fortunée_, both of which
became our prizes. The _Minerve_, thirty-eight guns, was sunk by the
French, but was weighed by our men and taken into the service, when she
was renamed the _San Fiorenzo_.

Nelson was immensely pleased with the manner in which the operation of
getting the guns up the rock had been performed, and requested the captain
of the _Tartar_ that Will should be permanently stationed on shore to act
as his own aide-de-camp, a request which was, of course, complied with.

In the meantime Nelson had reconnoitred Bastia and the neighbouring coast,
and recommended that troops and cannon be disembarked, for he was
convinced that a land force of about a thousand, in co-operation with a
few ships, would be sufficient to reduce the place. Unfortunately the
general commanding the troops was one of the most irresolute of men, and
when, after a few days, he resigned the command, in consequence of his
differences with Lord Hood, his successor, General D’Aubant, was still
more incapable. He pronounced at once that, though the force at his
command was almost double that which Nelson asked for, it was insufficient
for the work required of it. Nelson, burning with indignation, decided
that the attempt to take Bastia must be made, and that if the army would
not do it the navy must.

Lord Hood agreed with him, but even when it was decided to undertake the
siege, D’Aubant insisted on their doing without a single soldier or a
single cannon, and, retiring to San Fiorenzo, kept his men inactive while
the sailors were performing the work. On the 17th of February, 1794, the
fortified town of Mareno, a little to the north of Bastia, was captured,
and four days later a reconnaissance was made. Nelson’s ship, the
_Agamemnon_, was supported by the _Tartar_ and the frigate _Romulus_. As
they passed slowly in front of the town thirty guns opened upon them with
shot and shell. Nelson lowered his sails, and for an hour and
three-quarters peppered the forts so warmly that at last the French
garrison deserted their guns. One battery, containing six guns, was
totally destroyed. The citizens of Bastia were eager to surrender, but the
governor declared that he would blow up the city if such a step were
taken. Two days later Nelson was preparing to repeat the blow, but a
sudden calm set in, and he could not get near the town. In a short time
the opportunity for carrying the place by assault passed away, as the
French officers were indefatigable in strengthening their fortifications,
and soon rendered the town practically impregnable.

Nelson, however, maintained the blockade in spite of heavy weather, and in
the middle of March provisions were so short in the place that a pound of
bread was selling for half a crown. Nelson himself was almost as much
straitened for provisions, but the admiral contrived to send him a supply.

Nelson pitched a tent on shore and personally superintended all the
operations. A considerable body of seamen were landed, and worked like
horses, dragging guns up heights that appeared inaccessible, making roads,
and cutting down trees with which to build abattis.



                               CHAPTER XIII


                               WITH NELSON


One day during the siege Nelson said to Will: “I’ll be glad, Mr. Gilmore,
if you will accompany me on an excursion along the shore. I have my eye on
a spot from which, if we could get guns up to it, we should be able to
command the town. From what I have seen of you I believe you know more
about mounting guns than anyone here, so I’ll be glad to have your opinion
of the position.”

Will of course expressed his willingness to go, and they at once started
in the gig. They rowed on for some time, keeping a sharp look-out for
suitable landing-places. At last Nelson bade the men lie on their oars,
and pointed to the ridge of which he had spoken.

“Well, what do you say?” he asked, after Will had made a careful
examination of it from the boat.

“I am afraid it would not be possible, sir, to carry out your plan. The
labour of getting the guns up from the shore would be enormous, and
considering the rugged state of the country I question if they could be
taken across to the ridge when they were up.”

“No; I agree with you. I did not examine it so closely before; and at any
rate, underhanded as we are, we could not spare enough men for the
business. We may as well, however, row a bit along the shore. I am
convinced that if we could land three or four hundred men within five or
six miles of the town, and attack it simultaneously on both sides, we
should carry it without much trouble. The French have been fighting well,
but they must have been losing heart for some time. A Frenchman hates to
be cornered, and as they see our batteries rising they cannot but feel
that sooner or later they must give in. I fancy by this time they are
asking each other what use it is to keep on being killed when they must
surrender in the end.”

They had rowed on for a couple of hours without fixing on a suitable
place, when Nelson exclaimed: “We are going to be caught in a fog. That is
distinctly unpleasant. Have we a compass in the boat?” he said, turning to
the coxswain.

“No, sir. I thought you were only going to row out to the ship, and did
not think of bringing one with me.”

“Never forget a compass, my man,” Nelson said, “for though the sky may be
blue when you start, a sudden storm may overtake you and blow you far from
your ship. However, it can’t be helped now.”

In less than ten minutes the boat was enveloped in a dense fog. The
position was decidedly awkward. Had there been any wind they could have
steered by the sound of the surf breaking at the foot of the cliffs, but
the sea was absolutely calm, and they could hear nothing. They rowed on
for some time, and then Nelson said: “Lay in your oars, men, we may be
pulling in the wrong direction for all we know. We’ll have to remain here
till this fog lifts, even if it takes a week to clear. This is a northerly
fog,” he said to Will. “Cold wind comes down from the Alps and condenses
when it reaches the sea. These fogs are not very common, but they
sometimes last for a considerable time.”

The afternoon passed, and presently night fell. There was no food of any
kind in the boat. The men chewed their quids, but the two officers could
not indulge in that relief. At night Nelson and Will wrapped themselves in
their boat-cloaks and made themselves as comfortable as they could,
getting uneasy snatches of sleep. Morning broke and there was no change; a
white wall of fog rose all round the boat.

“This is awkward,” Nelson said. “I wish one of the batteries would fire a
few guns; that might give us some indication as to our position, though I
am by no means sure that in this thick atmosphere the sound would reach so
far. I think we were about eleven miles away when the fog caught us.”

In the afternoon a breeze sprang up.

“God grant that it may continue!” Nelson said. “Slight as it is, two or
three hours of it might raise a swell, and we might then hear the wash of
the waves on the rocks.”

Hour after hour passed, but at last the coxswain said: “I think I hear a
faint sound over on the right.”

“I have thought so some little time,” Will said, “but I would not speak
until I was sure.”

“Out oars,” Nelson ordered, “and row in that direction.” The sound became
more and more distinct as they proceeded, and soon they were satisfied
that they were heading for the land. In a quarter of an hour the boat ran
up on a sandy beach.

“I have not seen this spot before, it must therefore be farther away from
the town than the point we had reached, and as we have been nearly
twenty-four hours in the fog the current may have taken us a good many
miles. However, we will land. I am parched with thirst, and you must be
the same, lads. Leave two men in the boat; the rest of us will go in
search of water and bring some down to those left behind when we find it.
I think we had better scatter and look for some way up the cliff. If we
can find a path we must follow it until we come to some house or other.
Where there is a house there must be water. Mr. Gilmore and I will go to
the right. If any of you find water, shout; we will do the same. But
whether you find water or not, come down to the boat in three hours’ time.
Thirsty or not thirsty we must row back to the town this evening. Now, Mr.
Gilmore, we will walk along the beach until we come to a path, or at any
rate some place where we can climb. I hope, as we get higher, the fog will
become less dense.”

For an hour they groped their way along the foot of the cliff, and then,
finding a place where it seemed not so steep as elsewhere, began to climb.
When they had reached a height of some three or four hundred feet they
emerged from the fog into bright sunshine. Below them stretched a white
misty lake. On all sides rose hill above hill, for the most part covered
to the top by foliage.

“I see some smoke rising from among the trees over there to the right,
sir, a mile or a mile and a half away.”

“I will take your word for it, Mr. Gilmore. As you know, my sight is not
at all in good condition. Let us be off at once, for the very thought of
water makes me thirstier than ever.”

Half an hour’s walking brought them to the hut of a peasant. The owner
came to the door as they approached. He was a rough-looking man in a long
jacket made of goat-skin, coarse trousers reaching down to the knee, and
his legs bound with long strips of wadding. “Who are you,” he asked in his
own language, “and how come you here?” As neither of the officers
understood one word of the patois of the country they could only make
signs that they wanted something to eat and drink. The peasant understood,
and beckoned to them to come into the hut. As they entered he gave some
instructions to a boy, who went out and presently returned with a jug of
water. While the officers were quenching their thirst the boy went out
again, and the man brought from a cupboard some black bread and
goats’-milk cheese, which he set before them.

“I don’t altogether like that man’s movements, sir. He crawls about as if
he were trying to put away as much time as possible. The boy, too, has
disappeared.”

“Perhaps he has gone to get some more water,” Nelson suggested.

“He could have gone a dozen times by now, sir. It is possible that he
takes us for French officers. A peasant living in such a spot as this,
sixteen or twenty miles from a town, might not even know that there are
English troops in the country.”

Having satisfied their hunger and thirst, they tried to make the man
understand that they were willing to buy all the bread and cheese he had,
together with a large jar for carrying water.

The man showed a prodigious amount of stupidity, and although his eyes
glistened when Nelson produced gold, he still seemed unable to understand
that, having had as much as they could eat, they wanted to buy more. At
last Nelson, in a passion, said: “Look here, my man, there is a sovereign,
which is worth at least twenty times your miserable store of bread and
cheese. If you don’t choose to accept the money you needn’t, but we will
take the food whether or no,” and he pointed to his store. As he spoke
there was a sound of footsteps outside, and a moment later the door was
darkened by the entry of a dozen wild figures, who flung themselves upon
the two officers before they had time to make any effort to defend
themselves.

In vain Nelson attempted in French and Italian to make himself understood.
The men would not listen, but poured out objurgations upon them whenever
they attempted to speak. The word Français frequently occurred in their
speeches, mixed up with what were evidently expressions of hatred.

“This is awkward, Mr. Gilmore,” Nelson said quietly as they lay bound
together in a corner of the hut. “A more unpleasant situation I was never
in.”

“I was in one as bad once before. I was captured by a band of negroes in
Cuba, and they were preparing to burn me alive when I managed to escape.”

“I should not be at all surprised if that is what these gentlemen are
preparing to do now, Gilmore. I am sorry I have brought you into this.”

“It cannot be helped, sir,” Will said cheerfully; “and if they do kill us,
my loss to the nation will be as nothing compared with yours. There is no
doubt they take us for French officers who have lost their way in the
mountains, and they are preparing to punish us for the misdeeds of our
supposed countrymen. There are only two things that could help us out of
this plight so far as I can see. One is the arrival of a priest; I suppose
they have priests hereabouts with a knowledge of French or Italian. The
other is the appearance on the scene of our boat’s crew.”

“Both are very unlikely, I am afraid. The crew, you know, all went the
other way.”

“Yes, sir; but it is just possible that they may have seen the smoke of
this hut also, and be making their way here. Though I looked carefully on
all sides I could see no other signs of life.”

“It is possible,” Nelson said; “but for my part I think the priest the
more likely solution, if there is to be a solution. Well, it is a comfort
to know that we have eaten a hearty meal and shall not die hungry or
thirsty. It was foolish of us to come up here alone, knowing what wild
savages these people in the mountains are. It would have been better to
have gone on suffering ten or twelve hours longer, and to have made our
way to the fleet by following close in by the foot of the rocks.”

“I don’t think we could have done it in that time, sir. We should have had
to keep within an oar’s-length of the rocks, and so must have progressed
very slowly. Besides, we might have staved in the boat at any moment.”

“That is so. Still, we were only drifting for about twenty-four hours, and
we shouldn’t have taken so long to go back. Even twenty-four hours of
hunger and thirst would have been better than this. It is useless,
however, to think of that now.”

In the meantime the men were engaged in a noisy talk, each one apparently
urging his own view. At last they seemed to come to an agreement, and four
of them, going to the corner, dragged the two officers to their feet, and
hauled them out of the cottage. Then they bound them to trees seven or
eight feet apart, and piled faggots round them. When this was done they
amused themselves by dancing wildly round their prisoners, taunting them
and heaping execrations upon them.

“The sooner this comes to an end the better,” Nelson said quietly. “Well,
Mr. Gilmore, we have both the satisfaction of knowing that we have done
our duty to our country. After all, it makes no great difference to a man
whether he dies in battle or is burnt, except that the burning method
lasts a little longer. But it won’t last long in our case, I fancy. Do you
notice that these faggots are all lately cut? We’ll probably be suffocated
before the flames touch us.”

“I see that, sir, and am very grateful for it.”

The dance was finished, and two men brought brands from the cottage.

“Listen, Mr. Gilmore,” said Nelson at this moment. “I think I can hear
footsteps; I am sure I heard a branch crack.”

Brands were applied to the faggots, but these were so green that at first
they would not catch. At this, several of the peasants rushed into the
cottage, and were returning with larger brands, when some figures suddenly
appeared at the edge of the little clearing in the direction from which
Nelson had heard sounds. They stood silent for a minute, looking at the
scene, and then with a loud shout they rushed forward with drawn cutlasses
and attacked the natives. Four or five of the peasants were cut down, and
the remainder fled in terror.

“Thank God, your honour, we have arrived in time!” the coxswain said as he
cut Nelson’s bonds, while another sailor liberated Will.

“Thank God indeed! Now, my lads, we have not a moment to lose. Those
fellows are sure to gather a number of their comrades at the nearest
village, and I have no wish to see any more of them. Go into that hut; you
will find enough bread and cheese there to give you each a meal, and there
is a spring of water close by.”

The sailors scattered at once, and were not long in discovering the
spring. There they knelt down and drank long and deeply. Then they went
into the cottage and devoured the bread and cheese, which, although far
from being sufficient to satisfy them, at least appeased their hunger for
a time. After they had finished they all went back to the spring for
another drink. Then, taking some bread and cheese and a large jug of water
for the boat keepers, they followed Nelson and Will from the place which
had so nearly proved fatal to their officers. They went down the hill at a
brisk pace until they reached the top of the fog. After this they
proceeded more cautiously. They had no longer any fear of pursuit, for,
once in the fog, it would require an army to find them. At last they
reached the strand and found the boat. When the two men who had been left
in charge had finished their share of the food and water, Nelson said:

“Now, my lads, we must row on. If we keep close to the foot of the rocks,
that is, within fifty yards of them, the noise of the waves breaking will
be a sufficient guide to prevent our getting too far out to sea.”

“May I be so bold as to ask how far we’ll have to row?” the coxswain said.

“That is more than I can tell you. It may be a little over eleven miles,
it may be twice or even three times that distance. Now, however, that you
have had something to eat and drink you can certainly row on until we
reach the ships.”

“That we can, sir. We feel like new men again, though we did feel mighty
bad before.”

“So did we, lads. Now it is of no use your trying to row racing pace; take
a long, quiet stroke, and every hour or two rest for a few minutes.”

“It will be dark before very long,” Nelson remarked quietly to Will when
the men began to row; “but fortunately that will make no difference to us,
as we are guided not by our eyes but by our ears. There is more wind than
there was, and on a still night like this we can hear the waves against
the rocks half a mile out, so there is no fear of our losing our way, and
it will be hard indeed if we don’t reach the ships before daylight. The
boat is travelling about four knots an hour. If the current has not
carried us a good deal farther than we imagine, five or six hours ought to
take us there.”

The hours passed slowly. Sometimes the men had to row some distance
seaward to avoid projecting headlands. At last, however, about twelve
o’clock, Will exclaimed:

“I hear a ripple, sir, like the water against the bow of a ship.”

“Easy all!” Nelson said at once.

The order was obeyed, and all listened intently. Presently there was a
general exclamation as the sound of footsteps was heard ahead.

“That is a marine pacing up and down on sentry. Give way, lads.”

In a few minutes a black mass rose up close in front of them. The coxswain
put the helm down, and the boat glided along the side of the ship. As she
did so there came the sharp challenge of a sentry:

“Who goes there? Answer, or I fire.”

“It is all right, my man; it is Captain Nelson.”

“Wait till I call the watch, Captain Nelson,” the sentry replied in the
monotonous voice of his kind.

“Very well, sentry, you are quite right to do your duty.”

In half a minute an officer’s voice was heard above, and a lantern was
shown over the side.

“Is it you, sir?” he asked.

“Yes; what ship is this?”

“The _Romulus_.”

“Can you lend me a compass?”

“Yes, sir, I will fetch one in a moment.”

“Thank you!” Nelson said when the officer returned with the instrument. “I
have lost my bearings in the fog, and I want to get to my tent on shore. I
know its exact bearings, however, from this ship.”

Twenty minutes’ row brought them to the landing-place. Nelson’s first
thought was for the crew, and, going to the storehouse close at hand, he
knocked some of the people up, and saw that they were supplied with plenty
of food and drink. Then he went into his tent. Here the table was spread,
with various kinds of food standing on it. His servant being called up, a
kettle was boiled, and he and Will sat down to a hearty meal.

“Do you know what has been said about us in our absence, Chamfrey?” Nelson
asked his servant.

“No, sir; everything has been upset by this fog. They sent down from the
batteries to enquire where you and Mr. Gilmore were, and we could only say
that we supposed you were on board the ship. They sent from the ships to
ask, and we could only say that we didn’t know, but supposed that you were
somewhere up in the batteries. Some thought, when you did not return this
afternoon, that you had lost your way in the fog; but no one seemed to
think that anything serious could have happened to you.”

Nelson got up and went to where the boat’s crew were sitting after having
finished their meal.

“Coxswain, here are two guineas for yourself and a guinea for each of the
men. Now I want every man of you to keep his mouth tightly shut about what
has happened. I promise you that if any man blabs he will be turned out of
my gig. You understand?”

“Yes, sir,” they replied together. “You can trust us to keep our mouths
shut. We will never say a word about it.”

“That is a good thing,” Nelson remarked when he returned to Will. “If what
has happened came to be known, I should get abused by Lord Hood for having
gone so far away and run so great a risk. Of course, as you and I are
aware, there would have been no risk at all if that fog had not set in and
we had not forgotten to bring a compass. But, you know, a naval man is
supposed to foresee everything, and I should have been blamed just as much
as if I had rowed into the fog on purpose. I should have had all the
captains in the fleet remonstrating with me, and they would be saying: ‘I
knew, Nelson, the way you are always running about, that you would get
into some scrape or other one of these days.’ A report, indeed, might be
sent to England, enormously magnified, of course, with the headings:
‘Captain Nelson lost in a fog!’ ‘Captain Nelson roasted alive by Corsican
brigands!’ I would not have the news get about for five hundred guineas. I
don’t suppose my absence was noticed the first day. It was known, of
course, that I went off in my gig; but as I sometimes sleep here and
sometimes on board my ship, the fact that I was not in either place would
not cause surprise. As for to-day, if any questions are asked, I’ll simply
say that I lost my way in the fog and did not return here until late at
night, a tale which will have the advantage of being true.”

“You may be sure, sir, that no word shall pass my lips on the matter.”

“I am quite sure of that, Mr. Gilmore. I shall never forget this danger we
have shared together, nor how well you bore the terrible trial. I shall
always regard you as one of my closest comrades and friends, and when the
time comes will do my best to further your interests. I have not much
power at present, as one of Lord Hood’s captains, but the time may come
when I shall be able to do something for you, and I can assure you that
when that opportunity arrives I shall need no reminder of my promise.”

By the 11th of April, 1794, the three batteries were completed, and they
at once opened fire on the town. The garrison vigorously replied with hot
shot, which set fire to a ship that had been converted into a battery.
Still D’Aubant remained inactive. The sailors, fired with indignation,
worked even harder than before. Nelson now felt confident of success. He
predicted that the place would fall between the 11th and 17th of May, and
his prediction was fulfilled almost to the letter, for at four o’clock on
the afternoon of the 11th a boat came out from the town to the _Victory_
offering to surrender. That afternoon, General D’Aubant, having received
some reinforcements from Gibraltar, arrived from San Fiorenzo only to find
that the work he had pronounced impracticable had been done without his
assistance.

Will had spent the whole of his time during the siege on shore. He had
laboured incessantly in getting the guns up to their positions, and had
been placed in command of one of the batteries. Nelson specially
recommended him for his services, and Lord Hood mentioned him in his
despatches to the Admiralty at home.

No sooner had Bastia fallen than the admiral determined to besiege Calvi,
the one French stronghold left in the island. The news came, however, that
a part of the French fleet had broken out of Toulon, and Lord Hood at once
started in pursuit, leaving Nelson to conduct the operations.

Taking the troops, which were now commanded by General Stuart, a man of
very different stamp from D’Aubant, Nelson landed them on the 19th June
without opposition at a narrow inlet three miles and a half from the town.
A body of seamen were also landed under Will. These instantly began, as at
Bastia, to get the guns up the hills to form a battery.

The enemy were strongly protected with four outlying forts. There were
also in the harbour two French frigates, the _Melpomene_ and the
_Mignonne_. The proceedings resembled those at Bastia. The work
accomplished was tremendous, and batteries sprang up as if by magic.

At the end of June Lord Hood returned from watching the French, and the
work proceeded even more vigorously than before. As at Bastia, Nelson
animated his men by his energy and example. He himself was wounded by some
stones which were driven up by a shot striking the ground close to him,
and lost the sight of his right eye for ever. But although his suffering
was very severe he would not interrupt his labours for a single day.
Presently the batteries opened fire, and one by one the outlying forts
were stormed, and the town itself attacked. At last, on the 1st of August,
the enemy proposed a capitulation. This was granted to them on the terms
that if the Toulon fleet did not arrive in seven days they would lay down
their arms, and surrender the two frigates. The Toulon fleet was, however,
in no position to risk a battle with Lord Hood’s powerful squadron, and
accordingly on the 10th the garrison surrendered and marched out of the
great gate of the town with the honours of war. Nelson was exultant at the
thought that the capture of this town, as well as Bastia, was the
achievement of his sailors, that the batteries had been constructed by
them, the guns dragged up by them, and with the exception only of a single
artillery-man all the guns also fought by them.

Will gained very great credit by his work. He had a natural gift for
handling heavy weights, and he had thoroughly learnt the lesson that the
power and endurance of English sailors could surmount obstacles that
appeared insuperable.



                               CHAPTER XIV


                        THE GLORIOUS FIRST OF JUNE


It was while besieging Calvi that the news came of the great sea-battle
fought in the Channel by Lord Howe, and very much interested were the
sailors on shore in Corsica at hearing the details of the victory. A vast
fleet had assembled at Spithead under the command of the veteran Lord
Howe. It had two objects in view besides the primary one of engaging the
enemy. First, the convoying of the East and West India and Newfoundland
merchant fleets clear of the Channel; and next, of intercepting a French
convoy returning from America laden with the produce of the West India
Islands. It consisted of thirty-four line-of-battle ships and fifteen
frigates, while the convoy numbered ninety-nine merchantmen.

On 2nd May, 1794, the fleet sailed from Spithead, and on the 5th they
arrived off the Lizard. Here Lord Howe ordered the convoys to part company
with the fleet, and detached Rear-admiral Montagu with six seventy-fours
and two frigates with orders to see the merchantmen to the latitude of
Cape Finisterre, where their protection was to be confided to Captain
Rainier with two battle-ships and four frigates.

Lord Howe now proceeded to Ushant, where he discovered, by means of his
frigates, that the enemy’s fleet were quietly anchored in the harbour of
Brest.

He therefore proceeded in search of the American convoy. After cruising in
various directions for nearly a fortnight he returned to Ushant on the
18th May, only to find that Brest harbour was empty. News was obtained
from an American vessel that the French fleet had sailed from that harbour
a few days before. It afterwards turned out that the two fleets had passed
quite close to each other unseen, owing to a dense fog that prevailed at
the time. They were exactly the same strength in numbers, but the French
carried much heavier guns, and their crews exceeded ours by three thousand
men.

For more than a week the two fleets cruised about in the Bay of Biscay,
each taking many prizes, but without meeting. At last, early on the
morning of the 28th of May, they came in sight of each other. The French
were to windward, and, having a strong south west wind with them, they
came down rapidly towards us, as if anxious to fight. Presently they
shortened sail and formed line of battle. Howe signalled to prepare for
battle, and having come on to the same tack as the French, stood towards
them, having them on his weather quarter. Soon, however, the French tacked
and seemed to retreat. A general chase was ordered, and the English ships
went off in pursuit under full sail. Between two and three o’clock the
_Russell_, which was the fastest of the seventy-fours, began to exchange
shots with the French, and towards evening another seventy-four, the
_Bellerophon_, began a close action with the _Révolutionnaire_, one
hundred and ten guns. The _Bellerophon_ soon lost her main top-mast, and
dropped back; but the fight with the great ship was taken up, first by the
_Leviathan_ and afterwards by the _Audacious_, both seventy-fours, which,
supported by two others, fought her for three hours. By that time the
_Révolutionnaire_ had a mast carried away and great damage done to her
yards, and had lost four hundred men. When darkness fell she was a
complete wreck, and it was confidently expected that in the morning she
would fall into our hands. At break of day, however, the French admiral
sent down a ship which took her in tow, for her other mast had fallen
during the night, and succeeded in taking her in safety to Rochefort. The
_Audacious_ had suffered so severely in the unequal fight that she was
obliged to return to Plymouth to repair damages.

During the night the hostile fleets steered under press of canvas on a
parallel course, and when daylight broke were still as near together as on
the previous day, but the firing was of a desultory character, Lord Howe’s
efforts to bring on a general engagement being thwarted by some of the
ships misunderstanding his signals. The next day was one of intense fog,
but on the 31st the weather cleared, and the fleets towards evening were
less than five miles apart. A general action might have been brought on,
but Lord Howe preferred to wait till daylight, when signals could more
easily be made out. Our admiral was surprised that none of the French
ships showed any damage from the action of the 29th. It was afterwards
found that they had since been joined by four fresh ships, and that the
vessels that had suffered most had been sent into Brest.

During the 31st various manœuvres had been performed, which ended by
giving us the weather-gage; and the next morning, the 1st of June, Lord
Howe signalled that he intended to attack the enemy, and that each ship
was to steer for the one opposed to her in the line. The ships were
arranged so that each vessel should be opposite one of equal size. The
_Defence_ led the attack, and came under a heavy fire. The admiral’s ship,
the _Queen Charlotte_, pressed forward, replying with her quarter-deck
guns only to the fire of some of the French ships which assailed her as
she advanced, keeping the fire of her main-deck guns for the French
admiral, whom he intended to attack. So close and compact, however, were
the French lines that it was no easy matter to pass through. As the _Queen
Charlotte_ came under the stern of the _Montagne_ she poured in a
tremendous fire from her starboard guns at such close quarters that the
rigging of the two vessels were touching. The _Jacobin_, the next ship to
the _Montagne_, shifted her position and took up that which the _Queen
Charlotte_ had intended to occupy. Lord Howe then engaged the two vessels,
and his fire was so quick that ere long both had to fall out of the fight.
A furious combat followed between the _Queen Charlotte_ and the _Juste_,
in which the latter was totally dismasted. The former lost her
main-topmast, and as she had previously lost her fore-topmast she became
totally unmanageable.

Thus almost single-handed, save for the distant fire of the _Invincible_,
Lord Howe fought these three powerful ships. At this time a fourth
adversary appeared in the _Républicain_, one hundred and ten guns,
carrying the flag of Rear-admiral Bouvet. Just as they were going to
engage, however, the _Gibraltar_ poured in a broadside, bringing down the
main and mizzen-masts of the Frenchman, who bore up and passed under the
stern of the _Queen Charlotte_, but so great was the confusion on board
her that she neglected to rake the flagship.

The _Montagne_, followed by the _Jacobin_, now crowded on all sail; and
Lord Howe, thinking they intended to escape, gave the order for a general
chase, but they were joined by nine other ships, and wore round and sailed
towards the _Queen_. This craft was almost defenceless, owing to the loss
of her mainmast and mizzen-topmast.

Seeing her danger, Lord Howe signalled to his ships to close round her,
and he himself wore round and stood to her assistance.

He was followed by five other battle-ships, and Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse
gave up the attempt and sailed to help his own crippled ships, and, taking
five of them in tow, made off.

Six French battle-ships were captured, and the _Vengeur_, which had been
engaged in a desperate fight with the _Brunswick_, went down ten minutes
after she surrendered.

The British loss in the battle of the 1st of June, and in the preliminary
skirmishes of the 28th and 29th of May, was eleven hundred and
forty-eight, of whom two hundred and ninety were killed and eight hundred
and fifty-eight wounded.

The French placed their loss in killed and mortally wounded at three
thousand, so that their total loss could not have been much under seven
thousand.

Decisive as the victory was, it was the general opinion in the fleet that
more ought to have been done; that the five disabled ships should have
been taken, and a hot chase instituted after the flying enemy. Indeed, the
only explanation of this inactivity was that the admiral, who was now an
old man, was so enfeebled and exhausted by the strain through which he had
gone as to be incapable of coming to any decision or of giving any order.

One of the most desperate combats in this battle was that which took place
between the _Brunswick_, seventy-four guns, under Captain John Harvey, and
the _Vengeur_, also a seventy-four. The _Brunswick_ had not been engaged
in the battles of the 28th and 29th of May, but she played a brilliant
part on the 1st of June. She was exposed to a heavy fire as the fleet bore
down to attack, and she suffered some losses before she had fired a shot.
She steered for the interval between the _Achille_ and _Vengeur_. The
former vessel at once took up a position closing the gap, and Captain
Harvey then ran foul of the _Vengeur_, her anchors hooking in the port
fore channels of the Frenchman.

The two ships now swung close alongside of each other, and, paying off
before the wind, they ran out of the line, pouring their broadsides into
each other furiously.

The upper-deck guns of the _Vengeur_ got the better of those of the
_Brunswick_, killing several officers and men, and wounding Captain Harvey
so severely as to compel him to go below.

At this moment the _Achille_ bore down on the _Brunswick’s_ quarter, but
was received by a tremendous broadside, which brought down her remaining
mast, a foremast. The wreck prevented the _Achille_ from firing, and she
surrendered; but as the _Brunswick_ was too busy to attend to her, she
hoisted a sprit-sail—a sail put up under the bowsprit—and endeavoured to
make off.

Meantime the _Brunswick_ and _Vengeur_, fast locked, continued their
desperate duel. The upper-deck guns of the former were almost silenced,
but on the lower decks the advantage was the other way. Alternately
depressing and elevating their guns to their utmost extent, the British
sailors either fired through their enemy’s bottom or ripped up her decks.

Captain Harvey, who had returned to the deck, was again knocked down by a
splinter, but continued to direct operations till he was struck in the
right arm and so severely injured as to force him to give up the command,
which now devolved on Lieutenant Cracroft, who, however, continued to
fight the ship as his captain had done.

After being for some three hours entangled, the two ships separated, the
_Vengeur_ tearing away the _Brunswick’s_ anchor. As they drifted apart,
some well-aimed shots from the _Brunswick_ smashed her enemy’s rudder-post
and knocked a large hole in the counter. At this moment the _Ramillies_,
sailing up, opened fire at forty yards’ distance at this particular hole.
In a few minutes she reduced the _Vengeur_ to a sinking condition, and
then proceeded to chase the _Achille_. The _Vengeur_ now surrendered. The
_Brunswick_, however, could render no assistance, all her boats being
damaged, but, hoisting what sail she could, headed northward with the
intention of making for port. During the fight the _Brunswick_ lost her
mizzen, and had her other masts badly damaged, her rigging and sails cut
to pieces, and twenty-three guns dismounted. She lost three officers and
forty-one men killed; her captain, second lieutenant, one midshipman, and
one hundred and ten men wounded. Captain Harvey only survived his wounds a
few months.

The greater portion of the crew of the _Vengeur_ were taken off by the
boats of the _Alfred_, _Culloden_, and _Rattler_, but she sank before all
could be rescued, and two hundred of her crew, most of whom were wounded,
were drowned. Among the survivors were Captain Renaudin and his son. Each
was ignorant of the rescue of the other, and when they met by chance at
Portsmouth their joy can be better imagined than described.

                                * * * * *

The _Tartar_ returned to the blockade of Toulon after the work in Corsica
was done. When she had been there some time she was ordered to cruise on
the coast, where there were several forts under which French
coasting-vessels ran for shelter when they saw an English sail
approaching, and she was, if possible, to destroy them. There was one
especially, on one of the Isles d’Hyères, which the _Tartar_ was
particularly ordered to silence, as more than any other it was the resort
of coasters. The _Tartar_ sailed in near enough to it to exchange shots,
and so got some idea of the work they had to undertake; then, having
learned all she could, she stood out to sea again. All preparations were
made during the day for a landing; arms were distributed, and the men told
off to the boats. After nightfall she again sailed in, and arrived off the
forts about midnight. The boats had already been lowered, and the men took
their places in them while the _Tartar_ was still moving through the
water, and, dividing into three parties, made respectively for the three
principal batteries.

Dimchurch was not in the boat in which Will had a place, as he rowed
stroke of the first gig and Will was in the launch. Tom was also in
another boat, but was in the same division. No lights were to be seen, and
absolute silence reigned. Noiselessly the men landed and formed up on the
beach. To reach the batteries they had to climb the cliff by a zigzag
pathway, up which they were obliged to go in single file. They arrived at
the summit without apparently creating a suspicion of their presence, and
then advanced at a run. Suddenly three blue lights gleamed out,
illuminating the whole of the ground they had to traverse, and at the same
moment a tremendous volley was fired from the battery. Simultaneously fire
opened from the other batteries, showing that the boats’ crews had all
arrived just at the same instant, and that while the French were supposed
to be asleep they were awake and vigilant. Indeed, from the heaviness of
the fire there was little question that the force on the island had been
heavily reinforced from the mainland.

Numbers of the men fell, but nevertheless the sailors rushed forward
fearlessly and reached the foot of the fort. This was too high to be
climbed, so, separating, they ran round to endeavour to effect an entrance
elsewhere. Suddenly they were met by a considerable body of troops. The
first lieutenant, who commanded the division, whistled the order for the
sailors to fall back. This was done at first slowly and in some sort of
order, but the fire kept up on them was so hot that they were compelled to
increase their pace to a run. A stand was made at the top of the pass, as
here the men were only able to retreat in single file. At length the
survivors all reached the beach and took to the boats again under a heavy
fire from the top of the cliffs, which, however, was to some extent kept
down by the guns of the _Tartar_. The other divisions had suffered almost
as severely, and the affair altogether cost the _Tartar_ fifty killed and
over seventy wounded. Will was in the front rank when the French so
suddenly attacked them, and was in the rear when the retreat began.
Suddenly a shot struck him in the leg and he fell. In the confusion this
was not noticed, and he lay there for upwards of an hour, when, the fire
of the _Tartar_ having ceased, the French came out with lanterns to search
for the wounded. Will was lifted and carried to some barracks behind the
fort, where his wound was attended to. They asked whether he spoke French,
and as, though he had studied the language whenever he had had time and
opportunity and had acquired considerable knowledge of it, he was far from
being able to speak it fluently, he replied that he did not, a French
officer came to him.

“What is your name, monsieur?” he asked.

“William Gilmore.”

“What is your rank?”

“Midshipman.”

“Age?”

“Nearly nineteen.”

“Nationality, English” was added.

“What ship was that from which you landed?”

There was no reason why the question should not be answered, and he
replied: “The _Tartar_, thirty-four guns.”

“Ah, you have made a bad evening’s business, monsieur!” the officer said.
“When the ship was seen to sail in and sail away again, after firing a few
shots, we felt sure that she would come back to-night, and five hundred
men were brought across from the mainland to give you a hot reception.
And, parbleu, we did so.”

“You did indeed,” Will said, “a desperately hot reception. I cannot tell
what our loss was, but it must have been very heavy. You took us
completely by surprise, which was what we had intended to do to you. Well,
it is the fortune of war, and I must not grumble.”

“You will be sent to Toulon as soon as you can be moved, monsieur.”

Three other wounded officers had fallen into the hands of the enemy, and
these were placed in the same room as Will. One was the third lieutenant,
another the master’s mate, and the third was a midshipman. They were well
treated and cared for and were very cheery together, with the exception of
the lieutenant, whose wound was a mortal one, and who died two days after
the fight.

A month after their reception into the hospital all were able to walk, and
they were taken across in a boat to the mainland and sent to Toulon. They
were all asked if they would give their parole, and though his two
companions agreed to do so, Will refused. He was accordingly sent to a
place of confinement, while the other two were allowed to take quarters in
the town.

Will was privately glad of this, for, though both were pleasant fellows,
he thought that if he were to make his escape it must be alone, and had
the others been quartered with him he could not well have left them. His
prison was a fort on a hill which ran out into the sea, and Will could see
the sails of the blockading vessels as they cruised backwards and
forwards. He also commanded a view over the town, with its harbour crowded
with shipping, its churches, and fortifications. He longed continually for
the company of his two faithful followers, Dimchurch and Tom. They had
been with him in all his adventures, and he felt that if they were
together again they would be able to contrive some plan of escape. At
present no scheme occurred to him. The window of the room in which he was
confined was twenty feet from the ground, and was protected by iron bars.
In front was a wall some twelve feet high, enclosing a courtyard in which
the garrison paraded and drilled. At night sentinels were planted at short
intervals, from which Will concluded that there must be many other
prisoners besides himself in the fort. He was attended by an old soldier,
with whom he often had long chats.

“They certainly know how to make prisons,” he grumbled to himself. “If it
was not that I shall never lose hope of something turning up, I would
accept my parole.”

After he had been there for three months he was one day led out and, with
three other midshipmen, taken down to a prison in the town. He had no
doubt that prisoners of more importance had arrived, and that he and the
others had been moved to make way for them. A month later they were again
taken out, and, having been joined by a hundred other prisoners under a
strong guard, were marched out of the town. There were five officers among
them, and the rest were seamen. All were glad of the change, though it was
not likely to be for the better. Will was sorry, inasmuch as at Toulon he
could always hope that if he escaped from prison he would be able to get
hold of a boat and row out to the blockading squadron. Inland he felt that
escape would be vastly more difficult. Even if he got out of prison he
knew but little French, and therefore could hardly hope to make his way
across country. They trudged along day after day, each according to his
fancy, some sullen and morose, others making the best of matters and
trying to establish some speaking acquaintance with their guards, who
evidently regarded the march as a sort of holiday after the dull routine
of life in a garrison town. Will, who had during his imprisonment at
Toulon studied to improve his French to the best of his ability by the aid
of some books he had obtained and by chatting with his jailer, worked his
hardest to add to his knowledge of the language, and as the French
soldiers were quite glad to beguile the time away by talking with their
captives, he succeeded at the end of the journey, which lasted nearly a
month, in being able to chat with a certain amount of fluency. Verdun was
one of the four places in which British prisoners were confined. At that
time France had fifteen thousand prisoners, England forty thousand. By an
agreement between the governments these were held captive in certain
prisons, so that they could, when occasion offered, be exchanged; but
owing to the vastly greater number of English prisoners the operation went
on very slowly. The health of the prison was bad, the large number
confined in the narrow space, and the lack of sanitary arrangements,
causing a vast amount of fever to prevail.

When he got to Verdun, Will continued to devote himself to the study of
French. He knew that, should he escape, he could have no hope of finding
his way across country unless he could speak the language fluently, and
accordingly he passed the whole day in conversation with the guards and
others employed about the prison. These were inclined to regard his
anxiety to become proficient in the language as a national compliment.
Some of the prisoners also knew French well, so that at the end of four
months he could talk with perfect fluency. He was a good deal laughed at
by the English officers for the zeal he was displaying in studying French,
for, as they said, he might as well try to get to the moon as out of
Verdun. He accepted their chaff good-humouredly, and simply said: “Time
will show, but for my part I would as soon be shot as continue to live as
prisoner here.”

Many of the prisoners passed their time in manufacturing little trifles.
The sailors, for the most part, made models of ships; some of them were
adepts at sewing patchwork quilts, and got their warders to purchase
scraps of various materials for the purpose. The soldiers were also, many
of them, skilled in making knick-knacks. These were sold in the town,
chiefly to country people who came in to market, and so their makers were
able to purchase tobacco and other little luxuries. A few of the prisoners
were allowed every day to go into the town, which, being strongly walled,
offered no greater facility for escape than did the prison itself. They
carried with them and sold their own manufactures and those of other
prisoners, and with the proceeds purchased the things they required.

Several times Will was one of those allowed out, and he set himself to
work to make the acquaintance of some of the townspeople. As he was one of
the few who could speak French, he had no difficulty in getting up a
chatty acquaintance with several people, among them a young girl living in
a house close to the wall. She had looked pitifully at him the first time
he had come out with a small load of merchandise.

“Ah, my poor young fellow,” she said in French, “how hard it is for you to
be thus kept a prisoner far from all your friends!”

“Thank you, mademoiselle,” he said, “but it is the fortune of war, and
English as well as French must submit to it.”

“You speak French!” she said. “Yes, yes, monsieur, I feel it as much as
any. There is one who is very dear to me a prisoner in England. He is a
soldier.”

“Well, mademoiselle, it is a pity that they don’t exchange us. We give a
lot of trouble to your people, and the French prisoners give a lot of
trouble to ours, so it would be much better to restore us to our friends.”

“Ah! that is what I say. How happy I should be if my dear Lucien were
restored to me.”

So the acquaintance became closer and closer, and at last Will ventured to
say: “If I were back in England, mademoiselle, I might perhaps get your
Lucien out. You could give me his name and the prison in which he is
confined, and it would be hard if I could not manage to aid him to
escape.”

“Ah, monsieur, that would be splendid!” the girl said, clasping her hands.
“If you could but get away!”

“Well, mademoiselle, I think I could manage to escape if I had but a
little help. For example, from the top window of this house I think I
could manage to jump upon the wall, and if you could but furnish me with a
rope I could easily make my escape. Of course I should want a suit of
peasant’s clothes, for, you see, I should be detected at once if I tried
to get away in this uniform. I speak French fairly now, and think I could
pass as a native.”

“You speak it very well, monsieur, but oh, I dare not help you to escape!”

“I am not asking you to, mademoiselle; I am only saying how it could be
managed, and that if I could get back to England I might aid your lover.”

The girl was silent.

“It could never be,” she murmured.

“I am not asking it, mademoiselle; and now I must be going on.”

The next time he came she said: “I have been thinking over what you said,
monsieur, and I feel that it would be cowardly indeed if I were to shrink
from incurring some little danger for the sake of Lucien. I know that he
would give his life for me. We were to have been married in a fortnight,
when they came and carried him off to the war. Now tell me exactly what
you want me to do.”

“I want a disguise, the dress of a travelling pedlar. I could give you two
English sovereigns, which would be ample to get that. I want also a rope
forty feet long. Then you must let me go up through your house to the top
story. I have been looking at it from behind, and see that from the upper
window I could climb up to the roof, and I am sure that from there I could
easily jump across the narrow lane to the wall.”

“I will do it, monsieur, partly for Lucien and partly because you are kind
and gentle and,” she added with a little blush and laugh, “good-looking.”

“I thank you with all my heart, mademoiselle, and I swear to you that when
I get to England I will spare no pains to find Lucien and aid him to
escape.”

“When will you be out again, monsieur?”

“This day week.”

“I will have everything ready by that time,” she said. “You will come as
late as you can?”

“Yes, I will come the last thing before we all have to return to the
prison. It will be dark half an hour later.”

“But there are sentries on the walls,” she said.

“Yes, but not a large number. The prison is strongly guarded at night, but
not the outer walls; I have often watched. There is one other thing which
I shall want, and that is a sack in which to put this long box. I carry
it, as you see, full of goods, but to-day I have intentionally abstained
from selling any of them. I will leave the things with you if you have any
place in which to hide them.”

“I will put them under my bed,” the girl said. “My grand’mère never goes
into my room. Besides, she is generally away at the time you will arrive,
and if she is not she will not hear you go upstairs, as she is very deaf.
My father is one of the warders of the prison, and only comes home once a
week.”

Will then returned to the prison. When the appointed day arrived he put
only a few small articles into his box. For these he paid cash. Then he
said good-bye to four or five of the officers with whom he was most
friendly.

“You are mad to try to escape,” one of them said, “there is no getting
over the walls.”

“I am going to try at any rate. I am utterly sick of this life.”

“But you may be exchanged before long.”

“It is most improbable,” he said. “Only a few are exchanged at a time, and
as I have not a shadow of influence my name would not be included in the
list.”

“But how are you going to attempt it?”

“Now that I must keep to myself. A plan may succeed once, but may fail if
it is tried again. I really think I have a chance of getting through, but
of course I may be caught. However, I am going to take the risk.”

“Well, I wish you luck, but I can hardly even hope that you will succeed.”

After going about the town as usual, without making any serious effort to
sell his goods, Will made his way, towards the end of the day, to the
house in the lane. Marie was standing at the door. As he approached she
looked anxiously up and down the street, to be certain that there was no
one there, and then beckoned to him to enter quickly. He obeyed at once,
and she closed the door behind him. “Are you sure no one saw you enter,
monsieur?” she said.

“Yes,” he said, “I am quite certain.”

“Now,” said Marie, “you must go at once up to the attic in case my
grand’mère should come in. I have everything ready for you there. It will
be dark in half an hour. I hear the prison bell ringing for the return of
the prisoners who are out, but the roll-call is not made until all have
returned to their cells and are locked up for the night, which will not be
for an hour and a half, so you have plenty of time.”

“I thank you with all my heart, mademoiselle.”

He went up with her to the attic and looked out at the wall. The lane was
only some twelve feet across, and he was convinced that he could leap it
without difficulty. He emptied his box and repacked it, selecting chiefly
articles which would take up the smallest amount of room. He made quite
sure how he could best climb from the window to the roof above it, then he
waited with what patience he could until it was absolutely dark. When he
was ready to start he fastened the rope firmly round the box and said
good-bye to Marie.

His last words were: “I will do my very best for Lucien, and when the war
is over I will send you a gold watch to wear at your wedding.”

Then he got upon the window-sill, with the end of the rope tied round his
waist, and with some little difficulty climbed to the roof of the house,
and when he had got his breath began to pull at the rope and hoisted up
the box. He had, before starting, put on the disguise Marie had bought for
him, and handed her the remains of his uniform, telling her to burn it at
once, and to hide away the buttons for the present, and throw them away
the first time she left the town. “There will be a strict search,” he
said, “for any signs of me, and those buttons would certainly betray you
if they were found.”

When he got the box up he listened attentively for a little, and as, to
his great joy, he could not hear the footsteps of a sentinel, he threw it
on to the wall and jumped after it. He landed on his feet, and, picking up
the box, ran along the wall till he came to a gun. He tied the end of the
rope round this and slipped down. Then without a moment’s delay he slung
the box over his shoulder and walked away. He had two or three outworks to
pass, but luckily there were no guards, so he made his way through them
without difficulty. All night he tramped on, and by morning was forty
miles away from Verdun. He did not want to begin to ply his assumed trade
till he was still farther away, so he lay down to sleep in a large wood.
He had saved from his rations during the week a certain amount of bread,
and he had bought a couple of loaves while wandering with his wares
through the town. He slept for the best part of the day, and started again
at night. Beyond making sure that he was going west he paid but little
attention to the roads he followed, but, keeping steadily in that
direction, he put another forty miles between him and Verdun by the
following morning. Then after a few hours’ sleep he boldly went into a
village and entered an inn.

“You are a pedlar,” the landlord said, “are you not?”

“Yes,” he said, “I am selling wares manufactured by the prisoners at
Verdun.”

The news spread and the villagers flocked in to look at these curiosities.

“I bought them at a low price, and will sell at the same. They could not
be made by ordinary labour at ten times the price I charge for them.”

The bait took, and soon a good many small articles were sold. Two hours
later he again started on his way.



                                CHAPTER XV


                                 ESCAPED


So he travelled across France, avoiding all large towns. Once or twice he
got into trouble with a pompous village official on account of his not
holding a pedlar’s permit; but the feeling of the people was strong in
favour of a man who was selling goods for the benefit of poor prisoners,
and, of course, he always had some plausible story ready to account for
its absence. At last he came to Dunkirk. He had saved money as he went,
and on his arrival there had eight louis in his pocket. He took up a
lodging at a little cabaret, and, leaving his box, which was now almost
empty, strolled down to the harbour. Fishing-boats were coming in and
going out. Observing that they were not very well manned, probably because
many of the men had been drafted into the navy, he selected one which had
but four men, a number barely sufficient to raise the heavy lug-sail, and
when she made fast alongside the quay he went on board.

“Do you want a hand?” he said, “I am not accustomed to the sea, but I have
no doubt I could haul on a rope as well as others.”

“Where do you come from,” one asked, “and how is it that you have escaped
the conscription?”

“I am exempt,” he said, “as the only son of my mother. I come from
Champagne.”

“But why have you left?”

“I came away because the girl I was engaged to jilted me for a richer
suitor, and I could not stop there to see her married; I should have cut
his throat or my own. So I have tramped down here to see if I can find
some work for a time.”

“You are a fool for your pains,” the skipper said. “No girl is worth it.”

“Ah, you never could have been jilted! If you had been you wouldn’t think
so lightly of it.”

“Well, mates, what do you say? Shall we take this young fellow? He looks
strong and active, and I dare say will suit us.”

“At any rate we can give him a trial for a voyage or two.”

“Well, you may begin by helping us up into the town with our fish. We have
had a heavy catch to-day.”

Will at once shouldered a basket and went up with them to the
market-place.

“We are going to get a drink,” the fisherman said. “Let us see how well
you can sell for us. You must get a franc a kilogramme. Here are scales.”

For a couple of hours Will sold fish, attracting, by his pleasant face,
buyers who might otherwise have passed him; and when the fishermen
returned they were pleased to find that he had almost sold out their
stock, and accounted for his take to the last sou.

“I have been watching you all the time,” the captain said, “though you did
not know. I wanted to see if you were honest, and, now that I have a proof
of it, will take you willingly. The pay is twelve francs a week and a
tenth share in the sales. The boat takes a third, I take two, and the
sailors take one apiece, and you will have half a share besides your pay
till you know your business. Do you agree to that?”

“Yes,” Will said.

Accordingly he settled down to the work of a fisherman, and gave great
satisfaction. His mates were indeed astonished at the rapidity with which
he learned his work, and congratulated themselves upon the acquisition of
so promising a recruit.

A month after he had joined the smack a ship-of-war was seen sailing along
three miles from shore. The fishermen were half-way between her and the
land, and paid no great attention to her, knowing that British men-of-war
did not condescend to meddle with small fishing-boats. Will waited until
the captain and one of the men were below; then, suddenly pushing the
hatch to and throwing a coil of rope over it, he produced from his pockets
a brace of pistols which he had bought at Dunkirk out of the stock of
money he had had in his pocket when he was captured, and ordered the man
at the helm to steer for the frigate. The man let go the tiller at once,
and he and his companion prepared to make a rush upon Will. But the sight
of the levelled pistols checked them.

  [Illustration: “HE ORDERED THE MAN AT THE HELM TO STEER FOR THE
  FRIGATE”]

“You will come to no harm,” Will said. “You have but to put me on board,
and I warrant you shall be allowed to depart unmolested. I am an English
officer. Now, down with the helm without hesitation, or I will put a
bullet through your head; and do you, Jacques, sit down by his side.”

Sullenly the men obeyed his orders, and the boat went dancing through the
water in a direction which, Will calculated, would enable him to cut off
the frigate. In the meantime the captain and his companion, unable to
understand what was going on, were thumping at the hatchway. Will,
however, paid no attention to them, but stood on it, keeping his eye upon
the men in the stern. Twenty minutes brought them close to the frigate,
which, on seeing a small boat making for her, threw her sails aback to
wait for it. As they came close a rope was thrown; Will grasped it and
swung himself up the side, leaving the boat to drift away. The sailors
stood looking in surprise at him, but Will went straight up to the first
lieutenant.

“I beg to report myself as having come on board, sir. I am, or rather was,
a midshipman on board the _Tartar_. I have just escaped from Verdun.”

“Do you really mean it?” the lieutenant said. “I thought only one or two
English prisoners had ever made their escape from there.”

“That is so, sir, and I am one of the fortunate ones.”

“But how on earth have you managed to pass right through France?”

“I was detained three months at Toulon, sir, and there was allowed to buy
some French books. I was then a month on the way to Verdun, and five
months there. During that time I practised French incessantly, and picked
up enough to pass muster. At last, thanks to a French girl, I succeeded in
getting a disguise and climbing over the wall, and passed through France
as a pedlar with wares made by the prisoners.”

“Come with me to the captain’s cabin. He will, I am sure, be glad to hear
your story. How were you captured?”

“In the attack the _Tartar_ made on a battery on one of the Isles d’Hyères
I was shot through the leg and left behind in the retreat.”

“Yes, I heard of that affair, and a most unfortunate one it was. You
caught it hot there, and no mistake!”

The captain listened to the story with great interest, and then said:
“Well, Mr. Gilmore, I congratulate you very heartily on getting out of
that terrible prison. I am rather short of officers, and will rate you as
midshipman until I have an opportunity of sending you home. I have no
doubt your brother officers will manage to rig you out.”

The lieutenant went out with Will and introduced him to the officers of
the ship, to whom he had again to tell the tale of his adventure. “Now
come down below to our berth,” the senior midshipman said, “and we will
see what we can do to rig you out. We lost one of our number the other
day, and I have no doubt the purser’s clerk will let you take what you
require out of his kit if you give him a bill on your paymaster.”

Fortunately the clothes fitted Will, so he took over the whole of the
effects, as there was sufficient standing to his account on the _Tartar_
to pay for them, in addition to the pay that would accrue during the time
of his captivity.

He learned that they were on their way to the Texel, where they were to
cruise backwards and forwards to watch the flotilla of boats that Napoleon
was accumulating there for the invasion of England. It was arduous work,
for the heavy fogs rendered it necessary to use the greatest caution, as
there were many dangerous shoals and currents in the vicinity.

One dark night, when they thought that they were in deep water, the ship
grounded suddenly. The tide was running out, and though they did
everything in their power they could not get her off.

“If we have but another couple of hours,” the first lieutenant said, “we
shall float, as the tide will be turning very soon. But it is getting
light already, and we are likely to have their gun-boats out in no time.”

His anticipation turned out correct, for six gun-boats were soon seen
making their way out of the Texel. When within range they opened fire. The
_Artemis_ replied with such guns as she could bring to bear on them. She
suffered a good deal of damage, but the tide had turned and was flowing
fast. Hawsers had been run out at the stern and fastened to the capstan,
and the bars were now manned, and the sailors put their whole strength
into the work. At last there was a movement; the ship quivered from stem
to stern, and then slipped off into deep water. A joyous cheer burst from
the crew. But they did not waste time. They ran at once to their guns, and
opened a broadside fire on the gun-boats. One was disabled and taken in
tow by two others; and the rest, finding themselves no match for the
frigate, sheered off and re-entered the Texel.

The _Artemis_ continued to cruise to and fro for upwards of a month. One
evening the first lieutenant said to Will: “The captain is worried because
we were told to expect a messenger with news as to the state of affairs at
Amsterdam and in Holland generally, and none has arrived. There is no
doubt that they are adding to the number of gun-boats there, and also to
the flat-bottomed boats for the conveyance of troops. The delay is most
annoying, especially as we have orders to sail for England with the news
as soon as we get it, and we are all heartily sick of this dull and dreary
work.”

“I will volunteer to land and communicate with some of the country-people
near Amsterdam,” Will said, “if the captain would like it. We know that
their sympathies are all with us, and I have no doubt that I could get
what information is required. If my offer is accepted I should greatly
prefer to go in uniform, for, while I am quite ready to run the risk of
being taken prisoner, I have certainly no desire to be captured out of
uniform, as I should be liable to be hanged as a spy.”

The first lieutenant mentioned the matter to the captain, who at once
embraced the offer, for he, too, was sick of the work, in which no honour
was to be obtained, and in which the risks were great, as the coast was a
dangerous one. He sent for Will and said: “I hear, Mr. Gilmore, that you
are willing to volunteer to land and gain information. Have you considered
the risks?”

“I know that, of course, there is a certain amount of danger, sir, but do
not consider it to be excessive. At any rate I am ready to try it.”

“I am very much obliged to you,” the captain said, “for we are all anxious
to get away from this place; but mind, I cannot but consider that the risk
is considerable. With our glasses we constantly see bodies of horsemen
riding along the sands, and have sometimes noticed solitary men, no doubt
sentinels; and it is probably because of them that the messenger we
expected has not been able to put out. I will give you his address. He
lives within half a mile of Amsterdam, in a house near the shore of the
Texel. When are you prepared to start?”

“This evening if you wish it, sir.”

“Well, I think the sooner you go the better. If you land to-night I will
send the boat ashore to the same spot to-morrow night. They will lie off
two or three hundred yards, and come to your whistle.”

“Very well, sir.”

Will had no preparations to make for his journey. He received a letter
from the captain authorizing the man to give every information in his
power to the bearer, and with this in his pocket he took his place in the
boat after dark and was rowed towards the shore. The _Artemis_ was four
miles from the land when he embarked in the gig, the oars were muffled,
and the men were enjoined to row with the greatest care when they
approached the land. An officer went in charge, and the _Artemis_ was to
show a light an hour after they started, so that they could find their way
back to her. Will chatted in a whisper to the officer till they were, he
judged, within half a mile of the land. Then they rowed on in perfect
silence till the keel grated on the sands. At that moment a musket shot
was heard from a sand-hill a couple of hundred yards away. Will leapt out
and ran at full speed for some little distance, and then threw himself
down. The shots were repeated from point to point, and men ran down to the
water’s edge and fired after the retiring boat.

Presently the noise ceased. Whether he had been seen or not he could not
say, but he hoped that, although the sentinel had made out the boat
against the slight surf that broke on the beach, he had not been able to
see him leave it. He got up cautiously, and, stooping low, moved off until
he was quite certain that he was well beyond the line of sentries. Once or
twice he heard the galloping of parties of men, evidently attracted by the
sound of firing, but none of them came very near him, and he ran on
without interruption. In two hours he saw lights before him, and knew that
he was approaching Amsterdam. He turned to the right, and went on until he
came to a wide sheet of water, which must, he knew, be the Texel. Then he
lay down and slept for some hours. At the first gleam of dawn he was on
his feet again, and made his way to a farmhouse which exactly agreed with
the description that had been given him. He knocked at the door, and it
was presently opened by a man in his shirt-sleeves.

“Are you Meinheer Johan Van Duyk?” he asked.

“I am,” the man said. “Who are you?”

“I am the bearer of this letter from the captain of the _Artemis_, who had
expected you to communicate with him.”

“Come in,” the man said. “We are early risers here, and it is advisable
that no one should see you. Yes,” he went on when the door was closed, “I
have been trying to communicate, but the cordon of sentries along the
shore has been so close, and the watch so vigilant, that it has been quite
impossible for me to come out. I suppose you are an officer of that ship?”

“Yes.”

“Do you speak Dutch?”

“No, I speak French.”

The man read the letter.

“That is all right; I can furnish you with all these particulars when you
leave to-night, but of course in that uniform you must lie dark until
then. For some reason or other the French have suspicions of me, and they
have paid me several visits. Were you seen to land last night?”

“I do not know. They fired on the boat, and I expect they have a shrewd
idea that somebody was put on shore.”

“In that case,” the man said, “it is probable that they will search my
house to-day. By this time they know every little corner of it, so I
cannot see where I am to conceal you.”

“I observed a stack behind your house,” suggested Will.

“Yes, there is one.”

“Well, if you would at once get a ladder, and take off some of the thatch
and make a hole, I could get into it, and you could then replace the
thatch long before the soldiers are likely to come out from Amsterdam.”

“Yes, I could do that, and I could hand you in a bottle of schnapps and
some water and bread and meat.”

“That will do very well. I suppose you have men?”

“Yes, I have two, and both of them are true Dutchmen, and may be trusted.
I will give you at once the list of the gun-boats and flat-boats I have
made ready to send on the first opportunity. I shall be glad to get it out
of the house, for, though it is well hidden, they search so strictly that
they might find it. They broke all my wainscots, pulled up the flooring,
and almost wrecked the house the last time they came; and I don’t suppose
they will be less vigilant this time.”

He went to the cupboard and brought out some food and drink.

“Now, sir,” he said, “if you will eat this I will call up my two men and
set to work at once to get your hiding-place made, so that you may be
safely lodged in it before any people are about.”

Will was by no means sorry to take breakfast. He ate the food leisurely,
and just as he had finished Van Duyk came in to say that the place was
ready for him.

It was not a large hole, but sufficient to let him lie down at full length
under the thatch. He climbed up the ladder the men had used and got into
his nest, and after Van Duyk had handed him in the provisions he had
promised, the two men set to work with all speed to replace the thatch. It
was made thin, so that he had no difficulty in raising it, and could even
with his finger make a tiny opening through which he could look. The hay
that had been removed to make room for him was carried away and thrown
down in the mangers for the cows, so that there was nothing to show that
the stack had recently been touched.

Two hours later Will heard the trampling of horses, and two officers, with
a troop of cavalry, rode up.

“I bear a warrant to search your house, Van Duyk,” Will heard one of them
say.

“You have searched it three times already, meinheer, but you can, of
course, search it again if you wish. You will certainly find no more now
than you did then.”

“A spy landed last night, Van Duyk, and it is more than probable that he
is taking shelter here.”

“I don’t know why you should suspect me more than anyone else. I am a
quiet man, meddling in no way with public matters, and attending only to
my own business.”

“It is all very well to say that; we have certain information about you.”

“I am well known to my neighbours as a peaceable man,” Van Duyk repeated,
“and think it monstrous that I should be so interfered with and harried.”

“Well, we don’t want any talk. Now, men, set to work and search every
corner of the house, not only where a man could be hidden, but even a
paper. These Dutchmen are traitors to a man, and if this fellow is no
worse than others he is at least as bad.”

For an hour and a half Will, in his hiding-place, heard the sound of
smashing panels and furniture, and the pulling up of floors. At the end of
that time the troopers left the house and mounted, the officer saying:
“You have deceived us this time, old traitor, but we will catch you yet.”

“Catch me if you can. I tell you that if you level the house to the ground
you will find nothing.”

After they had ridden off, Van Duyk went out to the haystack.

“They have gone for the present, meinheer, but you had better stay where
you are. They are quite capable of coming back again in the hope that you
may have come out from some hiding-place they may have overlooked.”

Indeed, an hour later the troop galloped up again, only to find the
Dutchman smoking placidly on a seat before his house. Another search was
made, but equally without success, and then, with much use of strong
language, the party rode off.

“I think you can come down safely now,” the Dutchman said to Will.

“Thank you, but I don’t wish to run the least risk. I will remain where I
am till it gets dark; I can very well sleep the time away till then. I
sha’n’t get much sleep to-night.”

Not until it was quite dark did Van Duyk and his men come with a ladder to
remove the thatch again. It took but a minute to extricate Will from his
hole.

“We will get that filled up and mended before morning,” Van Duyk said.
“Now, can I let you have a horse?”

“No, thank you, I have but twelve miles to walk. I noted the road as I
came, and can find the spot where I landed without difficulty.”

With thanks for the Dutchman’s kindness, and handing him the reward with
which the captain had entrusted him, Will started on his walk. When he
approached the spot it was still four hours from the time at which the
boat was to arrive, and seeing a light in a cottage he went and looked in
at the window. Only a girl and an old woman were there, so he lifted the
latch and went in. “I am an English officer,” he said, “will you let me
sit down by your fire for a couple of hours? The cold is piercing
outside.”

The old woman answered in broken French, bidding him welcome, and he sat
down and began to talk to her. Her stock of French was small, and the
conversation soon languished. Presently the girl leapt to her feet and
exclaimed in Dutch: “Soldiers!” The old woman translated, and Will then
heard the trampling of horses. He jumped up, snatched a long cloak of the
old woman’s from the wall, and threw it round him. He also took one of her
caps that hung there and put it on his head. It was large, with frills,
and almost covered his face. He had but just time to reseat himself by the
fire and cower over it, as if warming his hands, when the door opened and
a French officer entered. At the sight of the two apparently old women
bending over the fire, and the girl sitting knitting, he stopped.

“Madam,” he said courteously, “it is my duty to search your house. It is
believed that a spy who landed here last night may be returning to-night.”

“You can look,” the old woman said in her quavering voice, “as much as you
like; you will not find any spy here.”

As the cottage consisted of only two rooms the search was quickly
effected.

“Thank you, madam!” the French officer said; “I am quite satisfied, and am
sorry I have incommoded you.”

“That is a civil fellow,” Will said, as the sound of the retreating hoofs
was heard. “Some of these fellows would have blustered and sworn and
turned the whole place upside down. Well, madam, I am deeply obliged to
you for the shelter you have given me and the risk you have run for my
sake. Here is a guinea; it is all the gold I have with me, but it may buy
some little comfort for you.”

“It will buy me enough turf to last me all the winter,” the old woman
said. “My son is a fisherman who is sometimes weeks from home, and our
supply of turf is running low. Thank you very much! though I would gladly
have done it without reward, for we all hate the French.”

Will went out cautiously and made his way down to the shore, listening at
every step for some sound that would tell of the presence of a sentry. He
lay down near the edge of the sea and watched. At last he saw a dim shape
lying stationary a hundred yards out. He gave a low whistle, but this was
almost instantaneously followed by the report of a musket within fifty
yards of him. He did not hesitate, but with a shout to the boat ran into
the water and struck out towards it. Another musket was fired, fifty yards
to the left, and the signal was, as before, repeated by sentry after
sentry till the sound died away in the distance. Almost immediately the
galloping of horses could be heard. The boat rowed in to meet him, and as
he scrambled on board a volley of carbines rang out from the shore. The
sailors bent to their oars and, although the firing continued for some
time, they knew that the enemy had lost sight of them. A quarter of an
hour later the sound of oars was heard. “Stop rowing,” the lieutenant in
command of the boat ordered, “and don’t move.”

In about three minutes a large rowing-boat, manned by a number of oars,
could be made out passing across ahead of them. The ship’s boat, however,
was so small an object in comparison that it remained unnoticed. They
waited till the beat of oars ceased in the distance and then rowed on
again.

“That was a narrow escape,” the lieutenant muttered. “Evidently she was
lying in wait to catch you, and if she had been fifty yards nearer to us
she must have made us out. I think we are safe now, for the course she was
taking will not carry her anywhere near the frigate. At any rate we have a
good start, and I have a lantern here to show in case we are chased.”

They had rowed two miles farther when they again heard the sound of oars.

“We must row for it now,” the lieutenant said. “The frigate is not much
more than a mile away.”

The men bent to their oars, and the lieutenant raised and lowered his
lantern three times. This signal was almost immediately answered by the
boom of a gun from the frigate. For a time the enemy continued the
pursuit, but on a second gun being fired they ceased rowing.

“They must know that the frigate can’t see them,” the lieutenant said,
“but they have no doubt come to the conclusion that they cannot overtake
us before we get to her. Anyhow it is certain that they have given it up
as a bad job.”

In ten more minutes they were alongside the frigate.

“Is Mr. Gilmore with you?” a voice asked from above.

“Yes, I am here, sir, safe and sound.”

“That is good news,” the first lieutenant said, as Will stepped on deck.
“The captain was afraid, after he had let you go, that he had sacrificed
you, and that, going as you did in your uniform, you would be certain to
be captured.”

“No, sir; I had two narrow escapes, but got off all right, and have
brought you the list of gun-boats and row-boats that you required. I am
afraid, though, that it will require careful opening, for I had to swim
off to the boat.”

“That will not matter as long as we can read it,” the lieutenant said.
“Now you had better come to the captain and hand it to him.”

“I am heartily glad to see you, Mr. Gilmore,” the captain said. “I have
been very uneasy about you, and I really hardly expected you to return
to-night. We knew that the boat was being chased, by the lights Lieutenant
Falcon showed, but I feared that she was coming back without you. Now tell
me what has happened to you. We knew by the firing that French sentries
saw the boat come to land last night.”

Will gave a full account of his adventures.

“Well done indeed, Mr. Gilmore! I shall have much pleasure in reporting
your conduct. Now let us examine the list.”

The words were a good deal blurred by water, but were still quite legible.

“They are stronger in gun-boats than I expected,” the captain said when he
had read it. “If they had had an ounce of pluck about them they would have
come out and fought us. A thirty-two-gun frigate is no match for sixteen
gunboats. Well, now that we have got this despatch, we can make for
Sheerness at once. Have her headed for that port, Mr. Falcon, if you
please. We won’t lose a moment before making for England.”



                               CHAPTER XVI


                             A DARING EXPLOIT


On reaching Sheerness the captain at once went ashore, accompanied by
Will, and they proceeded to London. Will took up his quarters at the
Golden Cross, and next day called at the Admiralty, where he sent in his
name to the First Lord.

“I have received a most favourable report from Captain Knowles of your
conduct in landing on the coast of Holland, and of obtaining despatches of
much value. How were you taken prisoner?”

“At the attack by a force from the _Tartar_ on some batteries on one of
the Isles d’Hyères. I was hit in the leg, and, being left behind in the
confusion of the retreat, fell into the hands of the French. I was
imprisoned for four months at Toulon, and then sent to Verdun. Six months
after leaving Toulon I effected my escape in a disguise procured for me by
a French girl. I had learned the language while in prison, and, travelling
through France in the disguise of a pedlar, reached Dunkirk. There I
worked in a fishing-boat for a month, and then, seeing the _Artemis_
cruising off the town, I shut up two of the sailors in their cabin, and
frightened the other two into taking me off to her.”

“In consideration of the valuable services you have rendered I have much
pleasure in appointing you master’s mate.”

“Thank you, sir! but I own I had rather hopes of obtaining a lieutenancy.”

“A lieutenancy!” the admiral said in a changed tone. “I am surprised to
hear you say so, when you have had no service as a master’s mate. What
makes you entertain such a hope?”

“My past services, sir,” Will said boldly.

“Captain Purfleet, will you hand me down the volume of services under the
letter G. Ah! here it is.”

He glanced at it cursorily at first, and then read it carefully.

“You were right, Mr. Gilmore, in entertaining such a hope. I see that you
have been highly spoken of by the various officers under whom you have
served; that you were most strongly recommended by the admirals both at
Malta and in the West Indies for your singular services, and also by Lord
Hood for your conduct in Corsica. You were in command of a small craft for
nearly a year, and in that capacity you not only took a number of prizes,
some of them valuable, but actually captured, in one hard-fought action,
two pirates, each of which was stronger than yourself. You have,
therefore, well shown your capacity to command. Captain Purfleet, have any
appointments been made yet to the _Jason_?”

“No, sir.”

“Very well, then appoint Mr. Gilmore to be second lieutenant of her. You
need not thank me, sir; you owe your commission to your own gallantry and
good conduct. I don’t know that I have at any time seen such strong
testimonials and so good a record for any officer of your age and
standing. I am quite sure that you will do full justice to the appointment
that I have made. As the _Jason_ will not be ready for two months I can
grant you six weeks leave.”

No sooner was this matter settled than Will took the coach to Fairham.
Thence he drove to the village of Porchester, where Marie’s fiancé was
confined. Here he put up at a little inn. He had, before starting from
London, bought and put on the disguise of a countryman, as he could hardly
have stayed in the village as a gentleman without exciting remark or
suspicion. He had, however, brought other clothes with him, so that if
necessary he could resume them, and appear either as a naval officer or as
a civilian. His first step was to make a tour of the great wall which
enclosed the castle and the huts in which the prisoners were confined. He
saw at once that any attempt to scale the wall would be useless. At the
inn he gave out that by the death of a relative he had just come into a
few pounds and meant to enjoy himself.

The inn he had selected was scarcely more than a tavern, and he had chosen
it because he thought it probable that it would be frequented by the
soldiers whose camp stood near the walls, and who supplied the guards in
the castle. This expectation was fulfilled a short time after his arrival
by four or five soldiers coming in.

“Will you drink a glass with me?” he said. “I have been telling the
landlord that I have come into a little brass, and mean to spend it.”

The soldiers, not unwillingly, accepted the invitation, and sat down at a
table with him.

“It must be slow work,” he said, “keeping guard here, and I expect you
would sooner be out at the war.”

“That we should,” one of them replied; “there is nothing to do here but to
drill all day, and stare across the water when we are off duty, and wish
we were at Portsmouth, where there is something to do and something to
amuse one. This is the dullest hole I ever was quartered in. Cosham on one
side and Fairham on the other are the only places that one can walk to. We
expect, however, to be relieved before long, and I never want to see the
place again.”

“I suppose you take recruits here?” Will said.

“Oh yes, we take recruits when we can get them.”

“How long is a recruit before he begins to be a soldier, and takes his
regular turn as guard and so on?”

“Two or three months,” the man said; “that is long enough to get them into
something like shape.”

“I should like to go in and have a look at the prisoners,” Will said after
a little chat.

“Well, there is no chance of your doing that,” the soldier replied.
“Orders are very strict, and only three or four hucksters are allowed to
go in, to sell things to them.”

“How many are there of them?”

“About three thousand.”

He chatted for some time, and then, after calling for another pint of beer
all round, sauntered out, leaving the soldiers to finish it. He saw at
once that his only possible plan in the time he had at his command was
either to bribe some of the guards, which appeared to him too hazardous a
plan to adopt, and not likely to lead to success, or to get at one or
other of the people who were allowed in.

He spent two days watching the gate of the prison. During that time five
people in civilian dress went in. One of these was a short fat woman, who
carried a large basket with cakes and other eatables. Another was
similarly laden. A third, a man of about his own height, took in a variety
of material used by the prisoners for making articles for sale. He had
needles and thread, scraps of materials of many colours for making
patchwork quilts, blocks of wood for carving out model ships, straw dyed
various colours for making fancy boxes, glass beads, and other small
articles. Will at once fixed on him as being the most likely of the
visitors to serve his purpose. He spoke to him after he had left the
prison.

“My friend,” he said, “do you want to earn fifty pounds?”

The man opened his eyes in surprise.

“I should certainly like to,” he said, “if I could see my way to do it.”

“Well, I will double that if you do as I tell you. I want you, in the
first place, to find out the hut in which Lucien Dupres is confined, and
give him a letter.”

“There will be no great difficulty about that,” the man said. “I only have
to whisper to the first prisoner I meet that I want to find a man, and
have got a letter from his friends for him, and if he doesn’t know him he
will find him out for me. That is not much to do for a hundred pounds.”

“No; but in the next place I want you to keep out of the way for a week,
and to lend me your clothes and pass. I want to go in and see the man.”

“Well, that is a more dangerous business. How could you pass for me?”

“I think I could do that without fear. We are about the same height. I
should have a wig made to imitate your hair, and should, I imagine, have
no difficulty in getting my face made up so as to be able to pass for you.
You must be so well known that they will do no more than glance at me as I
go in. The only alternative to that will be for you to take to him a rope
and other things I will give you. I tell you frankly I want to aid his
escape. Mind, a hundred pounds is not to be earned without some slight
risk.”

“Of the two things I would rather risk carrying the rope and the tools, if
they are not too bulky. Mind you, it is a big risk, for I should be liable
to be shot for aiding in the escape of a prisoner.”

“Well, look here,” Will said, “I will go into Portsmouth this afternoon
and find some man who can fake me up. There are sure to be two or three
men who make that their business, for young naval officers are constantly
getting into scrimmages, and must want to have their eyes painted before
they go back on board. Do you go to the prison to-morrow morning. Find out
the man, and deliver this letter to him. Then come into Portsmouth in the
coach. I will be waiting there till it arrives, and you can go with me,
and when I have got myself made up you shall judge for yourself whether I
shall pass muster for you. There will be no difficulty in getting whiskers
to match yours.”

“Very well,” the man said, “I will be on the coach to-morrow.”

Will at once changed his clothes to an ordinary walking suit, and went
into town. On making enquiries he found that there was a barber who made
it his business to paint black eyes and to remove the signs of bruises. He
went to him and said: “I hear you are an artist in black eyes.”

The man smiled.

“You don’t look as if you wanted my services, sir.”

“No, not in that way, but I suppose you could make up a face so as to
resemble another.”

“Yes, sir, I was at one time engaged at a theatre in London in making up
the performers, and feel sure that I could accomplish such a job to your
satisfaction.”

“I have made a bet,” Will said, “that I could disguise myself as a certain
man so well that I could take my friends in. Have you a sandy wig in your
shop?”

“Yes, sir, half a dozen.”

“And whiskers?”

“I have several sets, sir, and I dare say one would be the right colour.”

“Very well, then, I will bring the man here to-morrow, and you shall paint
me so as to resemble him as closely as possible. I don’t mind giving you a
five-pound note for the job.”

“Well, sir, if I am not mistaken I can paint you so that his own mother
wouldn’t know the difference.”

Will took a bed at the George, and at mid-day went to the inn where the
coach stopped. The man was on the outside.

“Well, sir, I have found the Frenchman, and given him the letter, so that
part of the business is done.”

“That is good. What is the number of the man’s hut?”

“Number sixty-eight;” and the man carefully described its position.

“Very well. Now we will set about the second part.”

When they arrived at the shop the barber seated them in two chairs next to
each other, in a room behind the shop, and set to work at once. He first
produced a wig and whiskers, which, with a little clipping, he made of the
size and shape of the hair on the huckster’s face. Then he set to work
with his paints, first staining Will’s face to the reddish-brown of the
man’s complexion, and then adding line after line. After two hours’ work
he asked them to stand together before a glass, and both were astonished;
the resemblance was indeed perfect. Will’s eyebrows had been stained a
grayish white, and some long hairs had been inserted so as to give them
the shaggy appearance of the pedlar. A crow’s foot had been painted at the
corner of each eye, and a line drawn from the nose to the corners of the
lips. The chin and lower part of the cheeks had been tinted dark, to give
them the appearance of long shaving. Both of them burst into a laugh as
they looked at the two faces in the mirror.

“You will do, sir,” the man said. “It would need a sharp pair of eyes to
detect the difference between us.”

“Yes, I think that will do,” Will said, “and to aid the deception I will,
as I go in, use my handkerchief and pretend to have a bad cold.”

“Is there a basket-maker’s near?” Will asked the barber.

“Yes, sir, first turning to the right, and first to the left, two or three
doors down, there is a small shop.”

“I want you at once to go and choose one the size and shape of your own,”
Will said to his companion. “When you see one, set the man to work to
weave a false bottom to it. I want it to lodge so as to leave a recess
four or five inches deep. Have it made with two handles, so that it can be
lifted in and out. How long would he be doing it, do you think?”

“About an hour and a half, I should say.”

“Very well; order the man to send it round to the George, wrapped up in
paper, to the address of Mr. Earnshaw. When you have done this, come back
here. We cannot go into the street together; our singular resemblance
would at once be noticed.”

“Now,” Will said to the pedlar when he returned, “meet me on the road a
hundred yards from where it turns down to Porchester; bring a stock of
goods with you, and I will put them in my basket. Of course you will bring
your pass, and the clothes you now have on in a bundle. I will change
there; as far as I have seen it is very seldom that anyone passes that
way.”

Will then went for a walk, and when it became quite dark he took off his
wig and whiskers and went into the town again. Here he bought a long rope,
very slender, but still strong enough to support a man’s weight, and a
grapnel which folded up flat when not in use. Then he went to the George,
having wrapped a muffler round his face as if he were suffering with
toothache. His basket was standing in the hall.

“I shall not return this evening,” he said, “so I will pay my bill.”

Then, having bought a suit of ready-made sailor’s clothes, with hat
complete, he put them into his basket, hired a vehicle, and drove to
Fairham. In the morning at nine o’clock he walked along the main road
towards Cosham till he reached the turning to Porchester, went down it a
couple of hundred yards, and sat on a grassy bank till he saw the pedlar
approaching.

“It is a foggy morning,” the huckster said when he came up.

“So much the better. I hope it will last over to-morrow, and then they
won’t be able to signal the news of the prisoner’s escape. It is only in
clear weather that the semaphores can be made out from hill to hill.”

The goods were changed from the pedlar’s basket to the one Will had
brought.

“There, then, is the hundred pounds I promised you; I hope you are
perfectly satisfied?”

“Perfectly, sir; it is the best two days’ work I have ever done.”

“Now for my clothes,” Will said; and no one being in sight he quickly
changed into the clothes the pedlar had brought.

“We are more alike than ever,” the man said with a laugh, “but you will
have to remember that I walk with a limp. I got a ball in my leg in the
fighting at Trinidad, and was discharged as being unfit for service. But I
got a small pension, and the right to sell things to the prisoners in
Porchester Castle.”

“I noticed the limp when I saw you first,” Will said, “and there will be
no great difficulty in copying it. I regarded it as rather fortunate, as
when the soldiers see me limp along they will not look farther.”

“Well, sir, I wish you luck. You are the freest-handed gentleman I ever
came across.”

Will hid his own clothes in a neighbouring bush, and then started,
imitating the pedlar’s limp so exactly that the man laughed as he looked
after him before starting for Fairham.

There were few people in the streets of the quiet little village as Will
passed through it. When he neared the castle he overtook the fat
apple-woman, who hailed him as a friend, and they walked together into the
castle. They showed their passes to the guard at the gate, but he scarcely
looked at them. They then separated, and Will, stopping now and then to
sell small articles, made his way at last to Lucien’s hut. He had in his
letter informed Lucien of his reasons for trying to get him free, and had
directed him to be leaning at that hour against the corner of the hut.
When Lucien saw the pedlar approaching, if all was clear he was to retire
into it, but if there were others inside he was to shake his head
slightly. As Will approached the hut he saw a prisoner standing there
according to his instructions, but he gave the danger signal and Will
passed on. This he did twice, but when Will returned the third time the
man went quietly into the hut.

“There is not a moment to lose,” Will said as he followed, and he at once
lifted up the false bottom and pulled out the rope and grapnel. He had
knotted the rope about every foot, to assist the prisoner in climbing, and
had covered the iron of the grapnel with strips of flannel so that it
would make no noise when it struck the wall.

“Hide them in your bed. It will be a very dark night, and you must steal
out and make your way to the middle of the south wall. There fling your
grapnel up and scale the wall. I shall be there waiting for you. It looks
as if it will be very wet as well as very dark, so you ought to be able to
avoid the sentinel.”

At this moment he heard someone at the door, and adroitly changing his
tone said: “You do not like these colours for a bed-quilt? Very well, I am
getting a fresh stock from London in a few days, and I have no doubt you
will be able to suit yourself. Good-morning!”

He then turned and offered some of his goods to the new-comer, who bought
a block for carving out a ship, and some twine and other things for
rigging her. When he left the hut he went about the yard till he had
disposed of a considerable amount of his goods, and then left the prison
and made his way back to the spot where he had hidden his clothes. On
arriving there he changed at once, rubbed the pigment from his face, threw
away the wig and whiskers, hid the basket in a place which he and the
pedlar had agreed upon, with the clothes in it and the pass in one of the
pockets, and then went back into the village, where he hired a chaise and
drove to Fairham.

“Landlord,” he said, as he drew up at the principal hotel, “I shall want a
post-chaise to-night for London. I shall be at a party to-night and cannot
say at what time I may get away, but have the horses ready to put in at
twelve o’clock. If they have to wait an hour or two you shall not be the
loser.”

After ordering dinner, he strolled about the town till he thought it would
be nearly ready. Then he asked for a room, and there changed into his
naval uniform, which he had brought with him. He ate a good dinner, and
then, putting on his cloak, started to walk back to Porchester, carrying
with him a bag in which was the sailor’s suit he had bought for Lucien.
The night was pitch dark, and the rain had set in heavily, but although
his walk was not an agreeable one he was in high spirits. In his letter to
Lucien he had told him that if anything should prevent him from making his
way to the wall that night he would expect him on the following one.
Nevertheless he felt sure that in such favourable circumstances he would
be able to get through the sentries without difficulty. He took up a
position as near as he could guess at the centre of the south wall, on the
narrow strip of ground between it and the lake. He had waited about an
hour when he heard a slight noise a few yards on one side of him. He moved
towards the sound, and was just in time to see Lucien alight. He grasped
him by the hand.

  [Illustration: “HE WAS JUST IN TIME TO SEE LUCIEN ALIGHT”]

“Thank heaven,” he said in French, “that I have got you free, as I
promised your sweetheart I would! Now let us first make our way up the
village. I have a suit of sailor’s clothes for you in this bag; you can
change into them when we get beyond the houses, and throw those you are
wearing into the pond there, with a few stones in them to make them sink.”

“Ah, monsieur, how can I thank you?” Lucien said.

“I am only paying a debt. Marie risked a good deal to aid me, and I
promised solemnly that I would, if it were at all possible, get you out of
prison in return, so there is no occasion for any thanks.”

Few words passed between them as they walked through the village, and when
they had left it behind, Lucien changed his clothes and disposed of his
old ones as Will had suggested.

“It was necessary to get rid of them,” Will said, “because if they were
found in the morning it would show that you had got a change, and instead
of looking for someone in a well-worn uniform they would direct their
attention to other people.”

They tramped along to Fairham, and reached the hotel just as it was about
to be shut up, the stage-coach having passed a few minutes before. They
had some refreshments, and then took their seats in the chaise. At once
the postilions cracked their whips, and the four horses started at a
gallop.

“We are absolutely safe now,” Will said; “they will not discover that you
have gone until the roll-call in the morning, and by that time we shall be
within a few miles of London. In such weather as this they will be unable
to signal. Before we arrive I will put on civilian clothes again, and as
soon as we have discharged the chaise we will go to a clothier’s and get a
suit for you. There are so many emigrants in London that your speaking
French will attract no attention.”

The journey was quickly accomplished. Will was very liberal to the
postilions at the first stage, and these hurried up those who were to take
the next, and so from stage to stage they went at the top of the horses’
speed, the ninety miles being covered in the very fast time, for the
period, of ten hours. At the last stage Will asked for a room to himself
for a few minutes and there changed his clothes. They were put down in
front of a private house, and, having seen the post-chaise drive off, took
their bags and walked on until they reached a tailor’s shop.

“I want to put my man into plain clothes while he is with me in town,”
Will said to the shopman.

“Yes, sir. What sort of clothes?”

“Oh, just private clothes, such as a valet might wear when out of livery!”

Lucien was soon rigged out in a suit of quiet but respectable garments,
and, putting his sailor suit into his bag, they went on. They looked about
for a considerable time before they found a suitable lodging, but at last
they came upon a French hotel. Entering, Will asked in French for two
rooms. They were at once accommodated, and after washing and dressing they
went down to the coffee-room, where several French gentlemen were
breakfasting. It had been arranged that Will should say that they were two
emigrants who had just effected their escape from France.

The next day they took the coach to Weymouth, the port from which at that
time communication was kept open with France by means of smugglers and men
who made a business of aiding the French emigrants who wanted to escape,
or the Royalists who went backwards and forwards trying to get up a
movement against the Republic. On making enquiries they heard of a man who
had a very fast little vessel, and they at once looked him up. “This
gentleman wants to go across,” Will said. “What would you do it for?”

“It depends whether he will wait till I get some more passengers or not.”

“He is pressed for time,” Will said; “what will you run him over for
alone?”

“Fifty pounds,” the man said. Will thought it advisable not to appear to
jump at the offer.

“That is rather stiff,” he said; “I should think thirty-five would be
ample.”

“It seems a good sum,” the man said; “but you see there are dangers. I
might be overhauled by a British cruiser.”

“You might,” Will said; “but when they learned your business they would
not interfere with you.”

“Then there are the port authorities,” the man said.

“Yes, but a few francs would prevent them from asking inconvenient
questions. Besides, my friend is not a royalist, he is only going over to
see his friends.”

“Well, we will say thirty-five,” the man said with a smile. “When will you
want to start?”

“He doesn’t care whether he sails this evening or to-morrow morning.”

“Well, we will say to-morrow morning at daybreak.”

“Where will you land him?”

“At Cherbourg or one of the villages near; most likely at Cherbourg if the
coast is clear, for I have friends there who work with me.”

They went to an hotel for the night. In the morning Will gave Lucien a
small package containing a very handsome gold watch and chain which he had
bought in London.

“Give this to Marie from me,” he said; “I promised that she should have
one for her wedding-day. Here are a thousand francs of French money, which
will carry you comfortably from Cherbourg to Verdun and give you a bit of
a start there. No, you need not refuse it, I am a rich man, and can afford
it without in the least hurting myself. Give my love to Marie,” he said,
“and tell her that I shall never forget her kindness.”

Lucien was profuse in his gratitude, but Will cut him short by hurrying
him down to the boat, which was lying at the quay with her sails already
hoisted. Will watched the boat till it was well out to sea, and then took
the next coach back to London, filled with pleasure that he had been able
to carry out his plan and to repay the kindness that Marie had shown him.

He had given Lucien the address of his London agent, so that on his
arrival at Verdun he could write him a letter saying how he had fared, and
when he and Marie were to be married. This letter he received on his
return from the next cruise. It contained the warmest thanks of Marie and
her lover, and the information that they were to be married the following
week, and that the young man had an offer of good employment in the town.

When he reached London, Will obtained the address of a respectable
solicitor, and called upon him to ask his advice as to advertising to try
to discover a family bearing the arms on his seal.

“I should advise you,” the lawyer said, “to leave the matter until you
return from sea again. Questions of this sort always require a good deal
of time to answer. You would have to be present to give information, and
when the matter is taken up it should be pressed through vigorously. Of
course there would be difficulties to face. The mere fact of this seal
being in the possession of your father, that is, if he was your father,
would not be sufficient to prove his identity, and there would be all
sorts of investigations to make, which would, of course, take time. If you
will leave the matter in my hands I will cause enquiries to be made as to
the arms. That will probably only take a day or two, and it would perhaps
be a satisfaction to you to know the family with which you might be
connected. It will be in the subsequent steps that delays will occur.”

“Thank you, sir! I should certainly like to know, though I quite see that,
as you say, it will be very difficult for me to establish my connection.”

The lawyer then took down what particulars Will could give him of his
early history. When he returned a week later the lawyer gave him a cordial
reception.

“I congratulate you, Mr. Gilmore,” he said. “The head of the family
carrying those arms is Sir Ralph Gilmore, one of our oldest baronets. He
has no male issue. He had one son who died six years ago. There was
another son, a younger one, of whom there is no record. He may be alive
and he may be dead; that is not known. It is, of course, possible that you
were stolen as a child by your reputed father, and that he gave you the
family name in order that when the time came he could produce you, but of
course that is all guesswork. When you return from sea again I will set
people to work to trace, if possible, the wanderings of this person; but
as I said, this will take time, and as you will be going to sea in a
fortnight the matter can very well stand over. So long as you are on board
a ship your parentage can make very little difference to you.”

Will had still a fortnight of his leave remaining. He wandered about
London for a couple of days, but he found it rather dull now that he had
finished his business, as he had no friends in town. On the second day he
was walking along one of the fashionable streets of Bloomsbury,
considering whether he should not go down by the next coach to Portsmouth,
where he was sure of meeting friends, when a carriage passed him, drawn by
a pair of fine horses. A young lady who was sitting in it happened to
notice him. She glanced at him carelessly at first, and then with great
interest. She stopped the carriage before it had gone many yards, and when
Will came up, looked at him closely. “Excuse me, sir,” she said as he was
passing; “but are you not Mr. Gilmore?” Greatly surprised he replied in
the affirmative.

“I thought so!” she exclaimed. “Do you not remember me?”

He looked at her hard. “Why—why,” he hesitated, “surely it is not—”

“But it is!” she cried. “I am Alice Palethorpe!”

“Miss Palethorpe!” he exclaimed, grasping the hand she held out. “Is it
possible?”

“Not Miss Palethorpe,” she said. “To you I am Alice, as I was nearly four
years ago. Get into the carriage. My father will be delighted to see you.
We have talked of you so often. He made enquiries at the Admiralty when he
came home, but found that you were a prisoner in France, and he has been
trying to get your name down in the list of those to be exchanged, but he
had so little interest that he could not succeed, and, indeed, for the
past two years no exchange had taken place.”

By this time he was in the carriage, and they were driving rapidly along
the busy streets. Presently they stopped before a large house in Bedford
Square.

“This is our home, for the present at any rate,” she said. “Now come in.”

She ran upstairs before him and signed to him to wait at the top.
“Father,” she said, bursting into a room, “I have taken a captive; someone
you certainly don’t expect to see. Now, you must guess.”

“How can I, my dear, when you say I don’t expect to see him? Is it—?” and
he mentioned five or six of his friends in Jamaica, any of whom might be
returning.

“No, father. You are out altogether.”

“Then I give it up, Alice.”

“It is Will,” she said.

Will heard him spring to his feet and hurry to the door.

“My dear young friend!” he exclaimed. “At least I suppose it is you, for
you have grown out of all recognition.”

“Ah, father!” the girl broke in. “You see, he hadn’t changed so much as to
deceive me. I felt sure of him the moment I set eyes upon him.”

“Well, then, your eyes do you credit,” her father said. “Certainly I
should not have recognized him. He has grown from a lad into a man since
we saw him last. He has widened out tremendously. He was rather one of the
lean kind at that time.”

“Oh, father, how can you say so? I consider that he was just right.”

“Yes, my dear, I quite understand that. At that time he was perfect in
your eyes, but for all that he was lean.”

“You are quite right, sir, I was, and I really wonder that I have put on
flesh so much. The diet of a French prisoner is not calculated to promote
stoutness. But your daughter was not only sharper-sighted than you, but
even than myself. Till she spoke to me I had not an idea who she was. I
saw that she thought she recognized me, but I was afraid it would be rude
on my part to look at her closely. Of course now I do see the likeness to
the Alice I knew, but she has changed far more than I have. She was a
little girl of fourteen then, very pretty, certainly, I thought, but still
quite a girl—” and he stopped.

“Now, you mean that I have grown into a young woman, and have lost my
prettiness?”

“I think your looking-glass tells you another story,” he laughed. “If it
doesn’t, it must be a very bad one.”

“Well, now, do sit down,” her father said. “You must have an immense deal
to tell us.”

“It is a longish story,” Will replied, “too long to tell straight off.
Besides, I want to ask some questions. When did you come home? Have you
come for good? If not, how long are you going to stay? though I am sorry
to say that the length of your visit can affect me comparatively little,
for I am appointed second-lieutenant of the _Jason_, and must join in a
few days.”

“I congratulate you very heartily, Will,” Mr. Palethorpe said. “You are
fortunate indeed to get such promotion so early.”

“I am most fortunate, sir. Though just at present I feel inclined to wish
that it hadn’t come quite so soon.”

“In answer to your question, Will, I can say that we are home for good. I
have disposed of my estate and wound up my business, principally, I think,
because this little girl had made up her mind that she should like England
better than Jamaica.”

“I am glad to hear that, sir. I shall have something to look forward to
when I return to England.”

“Where are you staying?”

“At the Golden Cross.”

“Well, then, you must go and fetch your luggage here at once. It would be
strange indeed if you were to be staying at any house but mine while you
are in London.”

As he saw that the planter would not hear of a refusal, Will gladly
accepted the invitation, and, taking a fly, drove to the hotel, paid his
bill, and took his things away.



                               CHAPTER XVII


                           ON BOARD THE “JASON”


“I won’t ask you for your story till after dinner,” Mr. Palethorpe said.
“To enjoy a yarn one needs to be comfortable, and I feel more at home in
my arm-chair in the dining-room than I do in this room, with all its
fal-lals. You see, I have taken the house furnished. When I settle down in
a home of my own, I can assure you it will look very different from this.
In fact I have one already building for me. It is at Dulwich, and will be
as nearly as possible like my house in Jamaica. Of course there will be
differences. I at first wished to have the same sort of veranda, but the
architect pointed out that while in Jamaica one requires shade, here one
wants light. So they are getting large sheets of glass specially made for
putting in instead of wood above the windows. Then, of course, we want
good fireplaces, whereas in Jamaica a fire is only necessary for a few
days in the year. There are also other little differences, but on the
whole it will remind me of the place I had for so many years.”

“The house will have one advantage over that in Jamaica, Mr. Palethorpe.”

“What is that?” he asked.

“You will be able to go to bed comfortably without fear of having the roof
taken from over your head by a hurricane.”

“Ah! that is indeed a matter to which I have not given sufficient
consideration, but it is certainly a very substantial advantage, as we
have all good reason to know.”

“I never think of it without shuddering,” Alice said. “It was awful! It
seemed as if there was an end of everything! I think it was the memory of
that night that first set me thinking of going to England.”

“Then I cannot but feel grateful to that hurricane, for if you had
remained out there it is probable that I should never have met you again.”

“I am having a large conservatory built so that we can have greenness and
flowers all the year,” Mr. Palethorpe remarked presently.

“I should think that would be charming. I hope you will be settled at
Dulwich long before I come back from my next cruise.”

“Well, I don’t know that I can say the same, Will. I hope your next cruise
will be a short one.”

When dinner was over, the chairs were drawn up to the fire, and Will
related his adventures since his return from the West Indies.

“Have you heard of your two favourite sailors?” Alice interrupted.

“Dimchurch and Tom Stevens? No, I have not. I shall feel lost without them
at sea, and sincerely hope that I may some day run against them, in which
case I am sure, if they are free, they will join my ship.”

“How terribly cut up they must have been,” the girl said, “when they got
down to the beach and found that you were missing!”

“I am sure they would be,” he replied. “I expect the rest of the men
almost had to hold them back by force.”

“Well, go on. You were hit and made prisoner.”

Will went on with his story till he came to his escape from Verdun.

“What was she like?” the girl asked. “I expect she was very pretty.”

“No, not particularly so. She was a very pleasant-looking girl.”

“I can imagine she seemed very pleasant to you,” the girl laughed; “and,
of course, before you got out of the window and climbed to the top of the
house you kissed her, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did,” Will said. “Of course she expected to be kissed. I am not at
all used to kissing. In fact, I only experienced it once before, and then
I was a perfectly passive actor in the affair.”

The girl flushed up rosily.

“You drew that upon yourself, Alice,” her father said. “If you had left
him alone he would not have brought up that old affair.”

“I don’t care,” she said. “I was only thirteen, and he had saved my life.”

“You didn’t do it again, my dear, I hope, when you met him in the street
to-day.”

“Of course not!” she exclaimed indignantly. “The idea of such a thing!”

“Very well, let this be a lesson to you not to enquire too strictly into
such matters.”

“Ah! I will bear it in mind,” she said.

“I can assure you, Alice, that it was a perfectly friendly kiss. She was
engaged to be married to a young soldier who was a prisoner at Porchester,
and during the past week I have been employed in setting him free, as you
will hear presently. I promised her I would do so if possible, and of
course I kept my word.”

“What! you, an English officer, set a French prisoner free! I am shocked!”
Mr. Palethorpe said.

“I would have tried to set twenty of them free if twenty of their
sweethearts had united to get me away from prison.”

They laughed heartily at the story of his escape as a pedlar, and were
intensely interested in his account of the manner in which he succeeded in
getting a despatch from the agent of the British Government at Amsterdam.
He continued the narrative until his arrival in England.

“Now we shall hear, I suppose, how this British officer perpetrated an act
of treason against His Most Gracious Majesty.”

“Well, I suppose it was that in the eyes of the law,” Will laughed.
“Fortunately, however, the law has no cognizance of the affair, at any
rate not of my share in it. I don’t suppose it has been heard of outside
Porchester. As His Gracious Majesty has some forty thousand prisoners in
England, the loss of one more or less will not trouble his gracious
brain.”

He then related the whole story of Lucien’s escape.

“I should have liked to see you dressed up like a pedlar, with your face
all painted, and a wig and whiskers,” the girl said, “though I don’t
suppose I should have recognized you in that disguise to-day.”

“It was a capitally-managed plan, Will, and had it been for a legitimate
object I should have given it unstinted praise. And so you saw him fairly
off from England?”

“Yes; and by this time I have no doubt he is on the top of a vehicle of
some sort, going as fast as horses can gallop to join his sweetheart.”

“I wonder,” Alice said mischievously, “whether she will ever tell him of
that kiss at the window.”

“I dare say she will,” laughed Will, “but perhaps not till they are
married. I sent her the gold watch I promised her, and when she holds it
up before his eyes I think he won’t grudge her the kiss. Still, I believe
these things are not always mentioned.”

“No, I suppose not,” she said, with an affectation of not understanding
him. “Why should they be?”

“I can’t say indeed, if you can’t.”

“Well, I am not ashamed of it one little bit, though I own that I never
have told anybody. But I don’t see why I shouldn’t. I am sure there were
at least half a dozen ladies in Jamaica who would willingly have kissed
you for what you did for them.”

“Thank you! I should certainly not have willingly submitted to the
ordeal.”

It was late when the story was finished, and they soon afterwards went to
bed.

Will spent a delightful week with his friends. Alice had grown up into a
charming young woman, full of life and vivacity, and even prettier than
she had promised to be as a girl. They went about together to all the
sights of London, for Mr. Palethorpe said that he didn’t care about going,
and young people were best left to themselves. When the time came for
parting, Will for the first time experienced a feeling of reluctance at
joining his ship. He and Alice were now almost on their old footing, and
Will thought that she was by far the nicest girl he had ever seen; but it
was not until he was on the top of the Portsmouth coach that he recognized
how much she was to him. “Well,” he said to himself, “I never thought I
should feel like this. Some young fellows are always falling in love. I
used to think it was all nonsense, but now I understand it. I do not know
why her father should object to me, as I am fairly well off. I must see as
much of her as I can when I land next time. I hope she won’t meet anyone
in the meantime she likes better.”

The _Jason_ was now lying out in the harbour, and the riggers had taken
possession of her. Will at once reported himself and went on board. The
other officers had not yet joined, but he at once took up his work with
his usual zeal, and spent a busy fortnight looking after the riggers, and
seeing that everything was done in the best manner. He was, however,
somewhat angry to find that Alice’s face and figure were constantly
intruding themselves into the cordage and shrouds. “I am becoming a
regular mooncalf,” he said angrily to himself. “It is perfectly absurd
that I can’t keep my thoughts from wandering away from my work, and for a
girl whom I can hardly dare hope to win. I shall be very glad when we are
off to sea. I’ll then have, I won’t say something better, but something
else to think of. If this is being in love, certainly it is not the thing
a sailor should engage in. I have often heard it said that a sailor’s ship
should be his wife, and I have no longer any doubt about it. But I know
I’ll get over it when I hear the first broadside fired.”

A week later the first lieutenant joined. His name was Somerville.

“Ah, Mr. Gilmore,” he said, “I see you have taken time by the forelock and
given an eye to everything! I only received my appointment two days ago or
I should have joined before. There is nothing like having an officer to
superintend things, and I feel really very much obliged to you for not
having extended your leave, which, of course, you could have done,
especially as, so far as I know, no boatswain has yet been appointed.”

“I was glad to get back to work, sir, and it is really very interesting
seeing all the rigging set up from the very beginning.”

“That is so, but for all that men don’t generally want to rejoin,” the
first lieutenant said with a smile. “The difficulty is to get young
officers on board. They hang back, as a rule, till the very last moment.
Well, if you will dine with me this evening, Mr. Gilmore, at the George, I
shall be glad to hear of some of your services. That they are
distinguished I have no doubt, for nothing but the most meritorious
services or extraordinary interest could have gained you at your age the
appointment of second lieutenant in a fine ship like this. I think it a
very good thing for the first lieutenant to know the antecedents of those
serving with him. Such knowledge is very useful to him in any crisis or
emergency.”

After dinner that evening Will gave an account of his services, the
lieutenant at times asking for more minute details, especially of the
capture of the two pirates.

“Thank you very much!” Lieutenant Somerville said when he had finished.
“Now I feel that I can, in any emergency, depend upon you to second me,
which I can assure you is by no means commonly the case, for promotion
goes so much by influence, and such incapable men are pushed up in the
service that it is a comfort indeed to have an officer who knows his work
thoroughly. I hope to goodness we shall have the captain so fine a ship
deserves.”

“I hope so indeed, sir. I have hitherto been extremely fortunate in having
good captains, as good as one could wish for.”

“You are fortunate indeed, then. I have been under two or three men who,
either from ignorance or ill-temper or sheer indifference, have been
enough to take the heart entirely out of their officers.”

On the day when the _Jason_ was ready for commission the captain came down
to Portsmouth and put up at the George, and Mr. Somerville and Will called
upon him there. He was a young man, some years younger than the first
lieutenant.

“Gentlemen,” he began, “I have pleasure in making your acquaintance. I saw
the admiral this morning, and he assured me that I could not wish for
better officers. I hope we shall get on pleasantly together, and can
assure you that if we do not it will not be my fault. We have as fine a
ship as men could wish to sail in, and I will guarantee that you will not
find me slack in using her. As you may guess by my age, I owe my present
position partly to family interest, but my object will be to prove that
that interest has not been altogether misplaced. I have already had
command of a frigate, and we had our full share of hard service. I am
afraid that with a seventy-four we shall not have quite so many
opportunities of distinguishing ourselves, but shall generally have to
work with the fleet and fight when other people bid us, and not merely
when we see a good chance. There is, however, as much credit, if not as
much prize-money, to be gained in a pitched battle as in isolated actions.
I was kindly permitted by the admiral to read both your records of
service, and I cannot say how gratified I was to find that I had two such
able and active officers to second me.”

“I am sure we are much obliged to you, sir,” Lieutenant Somerville
replied, “for speaking to us as you have done. I can answer for it that we
will second you to the very best of our power, and I am glad indeed to
find that we have a commander whose sentiments so entirely accord with our
own.”

“Now, gentlemen, we have done with the formalities. Let us crack a bottle
of wine together to our better acquaintance, and I hope I shall very often
see you at my table on board, for while I feel that discipline must be
maintained, I have no belief in a captain holding himself entirely aloof
from his officers, as if he were a little god. On the quarter-deck a
captain must stand somewhat aloof, but in his own cabin I cannot see why
he should not treat his officers as gentlemen like himself.”

They sat and chatted for an hour, and when they left, Lieutenant
Somerville said to Will: “If I am not much mistaken, we shall have a very
pleasant time on board the _Jason_. I believe Captain Charteris means
every word he says, and that he is a thoroughly good fellow. He has a very
pleasant face, though a firm and resolute one, and when he gives an order
it will have to be obeyed promptly; but he is a man who will make
allowances, and I do not think the cat will be very often brought into
requisition on board.”

One day Will was sauntering down the High Street when he saw two
country-looking men coming along. One of them looked at him and staggered
back in astonishment.

“Why,” he exclaimed, “it is Mr. Gilmore! We thought you were in prison in
the middle of France, sir.”

“So I was, Dimchurch; but, as you see, I have taken leg-bail.”

“That was a terrible affair, sir, at them French batteries. When I got
down to the shore, and found you were missing, it was as much as they
could do to keep Tom here and me from going back. You mayn’t believe me,
Mr. Gilmore, but we both cried like children as we rowed to the _Tartar_.”

“I am indeed glad to see you again, and you too, Tom. I guessed that if I
ever came across the one I should meet the other also. What are you doing
in those togs?”

“Well, sir, we put them on because we did not want to be impressed by the
first ship that came in, but preferred to wait a bit till we saw one to
suit us. I see, sir, that you have shipped a swab. That means, of course,
that you have got a lieutenancy. I congratulate you indeed, sir, on your
promotion.”

“Yes, I got it a month ago, and to a fine ship, the _Jason_.”

“She is a fine ship, sir, and no mistake. Tom and I were watching her
lying out in the harbour yesterday, and were saying that, though we have
always been accustomed to frigates, we should not mind shipping in her if
we found out something about the captain.”

“Well, I can tell you, Dimchurch, that he is just the man you would like
to serve under, young and dashing, and, I should say, a good officer and a
fine fellow.”

“And who is the first lieutenant, sir, because that matters almost as much
as the captain.”

“He is a good fellow too, Dimchurch, a man who loves his profession and
has a good record.”

“And who is the second, sir? not that it matters much about him if the
captain and first luff are all right. I suppose she has four on board, as
she is a line-of-battle ship?”

“Yes, she carries four. As to the second, I can only tell you that he is
one of the finest fellows in the service, and you will understand that
when I say that I am the second lieutenant.”

“What, sir!” Dimchurch almost shouted, “they have made you second
lieutenant on a line-of-battle ship! Well, that is one of the few times I
have known promotion go by merit. I am glad, sir. Well, I will go and sign
articles at once, and so, of course, will Tom; and what is more, I will
guarantee to find you a score of first-rate hands, maybe more.”

“That is good indeed,” Will said. “I will speak to the first lieutenant
and get you rated as boatswain, if possible. You have already served in
that capacity, and unless the berth is filled up, which is not likely, I
have no doubt I can get it for you.”

“Well, sir, if you can, of course I shall be glad; but I would ship with
you if it was only as loblolly boy.”

“The same here,” Tom said; “you know that, sir, without my saying it.”

“Is there any berth that I could get you, Tom?”

“No, sir, thank you! A.B. is good enough for me. I am not active enough to
be captain of the top, but I can pull on a rope, or row an oar, or strike
a good blow, with any man.”

“That you can, Tom; but I do wish I could get you a lift too. How about
gunner’s mate?”

“No, thank you, sir! I would rather stop A.B. I should like to be your
honour’s servant, but, lor’, I should never do to wait in the ward-room. I
am as clumsy as a bear, and should always be spilling something, and
breaking glasses, and getting into trouble. No, sir, I will be A.B., but
of course I should like to be appointed to your boat.”

“That is a matter of course, Tom. Well, I will go round to the dockyard at
once and see you sworn in, and then gladden the first lieutenant’s heart
by telling him that you will bring a good number of men along with you,
for at present we are very short-handed.”

“You trust me for that, sir. I know where lots of them are lying hid, not
because they don’t want to serve, but because they want a good ship and a
good captain. When I tell them that it is a fine ship, and a good captain,
and a good first and second, they will jump at it.”

Dimchurch was as good as his word, and the following week persuaded thirty
first-class seamen to sign on.

“At the same time, sir,” he said as they went towards the harbour, “I
would rather she had been a frigate. One has always a chance of picking up
something then, as one gets sent about on expeditions, while on a
battle-ship one is just stuck blockading.”

“That is just what I think,” Tom said. “There are no boat expeditions, no
chances of picking up a prize every two or three days, or of chasing a
pirate. Still, though the _Tartar_ was a frigate, we did not have much fun
in her, except when we were on shore. That was good enough, though it
would not have been half so good if the sailors had not done it alone. We
wanted to show these redcoats what British seamen could do when they were
on their metal. I know I never worked half so hard in my life.”

“Well, I quite agree with you. It is more pleasant commanding a small
craft than being second officer in a large one, although I must say I
could not have had a more pleasant captain and first lieutenant than I
have now if I had picked them out from the whole fleet. I am sorry that I
cannot get leave at present, for I want to make researches about my
father. According to what my lawyer said it is likely to be a long job. I
hope, however, to get it well in trim on my next spell ashore. It makes
really no difference to me now who or what my father was. I have a good
position, and what with the prize-money I made before, and shall gain now
by my share of the sale of the frigates we took at Corsica, to say nothing
of the guns and stores we captured, I have more than enough to satisfy all
my wants.”

“I have done extraordinarily well too, Mr. Gilmore,” Dimchurch said. “I
took your advice, and Tom and I have put all our prize-money aside. He has
over a thousand saved, and I have quite sufficient to keep me in idleness
all my life, even if I never do a stroke of work again.”

Mr. Somerville, on Will’s recommendation, at once appointed Dimchurch
boatswain, and he soon proved himself thoroughly efficient. “He is a fine
fellow, that sailor of yours,” the lieutenant said, “and will make a
first-rate boatswain. He has done good service in bringing up so many
hands, and good ones too, and he is evidently popular among the men.”

“He is a thoroughly good man, sir. He attached himself to my fortunes when
I was but a ship’s boy, and has stuck to me ever since. He and Tom Stevens
are, with one exception, the greatest friends I have ever had, and both of
them would lay down their lives for me.”

“A good master makes a good man,” Lieutenant Somerville said with a smile.
“Your greatest friend was, of course, the lady who pushed you on with your
education.”

“Yes, sir, certainly I regard her as the best friend I ever had.”

“Well, there is no better friend for a lad than a good woman, Gilmore. In
that sense my mother was my greatest friend. Most mothers are against
their sons going to sea. In my case it was my father who objected, but my
mother, seeing how I was bent upon it, persuaded him to let me go.”

Three weeks after being commissioned the complement of the _Jason_ was
complete, and she was ordered to proceed to the West Indies, to which
place they made a fast passage. To their disappointment they fell in with
none of the enemy’s cruisers on their way. The voyage, however, sufficed
to give the crew confidence in their commander. He was prompt and quick in
giving orders, and at the same time pleasant in manner. He paid far more
attention than most captains to the comfort of his crew, and, while he
insisted upon the most perfect order and discipline, abstained from giving
unnecessary work. In cases where punishments were absolutely necessary he
punished severely, but when it was at all possible he let delinquents off
with a lecture. So, while he was feared by the rougher spirits of the
crew, he was regarded with liking and respect by the good men.

On their arrival at Carlisle Bay, Barbados, they found that they were in
time to join a naval expedition whose object was to recover the islands of
St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Grenada, which had been captured by the French
the previous year.

A fleet had been sent from England under the command of Rear-admiral
Christian, consisting of two ships of the line and five frigates,
convoying a large fleet of transports with a strong body of troops on
board under the command of Sir Ralph Abercrombie.

At Carlisle Bay this fleet were joined by most of the ships on the West
Indian station, and on the 21st April, 1796, the augmented fleet, under
the command of Sir John Laforey, sailed to Marin Bay, Martinique, where
they anchored. On the following day Sir John Laforey resigned his command
to Admiral Christian and sailed for England. The fleet then stood across
to St. Lucia. The troops were landed at three different points under the
protection of the guns of the fleet.

The first point was protected by a five-gun battery. The fire of the
ships, however, soon silenced it, and the first division made good its
landing. The seventy-four-gun ship _Alfred_ was to have led the second
division, supported by the fifty-four-gun ship _Madras_ and the forty-gun
frigate _Beaulieu_, but the attempt was thwarted by lightness of wind and
a strong lee current. On the next day, however, a landing was effected
with little opposition. Eight hundred seamen, under the command of
Captains Lane of the thirty-two-gun frigate _Astrea_ and Ryves of the
bomb-vessel _Bulldog_, were landed to co-operate with the troops. Morne
Chabot was attacked and carried that night with the loss of thirteen
officers and privates killed, forty-nine wounded, and twelve missing.

On the 3rd of May an attempt was made to dislodge the enemy from their
batteries at the base of the mountains, but was repulsed with loss, as was
an attack on the 17th on the place called Vigie.

In the meantime the men had been busy building batteries and planting
guns, and when these opened fire on the evening of the 24th of May the
enemy capitulated, two thousand marching out and laying down their arms. A
great quantity of guns, together with stores of every description, were
found in the different forts, and some small privateers and merchantmen
were captured in the offing. Eight hundred seamen and three hundred and
twenty marines had been landed from the ships of war, and had behaved with
their usual courage and promptitude. The manner, indeed, in which they
established batteries and planted guns in places deemed almost
impracticable astonished the troops, unused as they were to exercises
demanding strength and skill.

As soon as St. Lucia had surrendered, the expedition moved to St. Vincent.
The defence here was decidedly weak, and after some skirmishing, the
enemy, composed chiefly of negroes and Caribs, capitulated. Our loss
amounted to thirty-eight killed and one hundred and forty-five wounded.
Grenada offered a comparatively slight resistance. The monster, Fedon, who
was in command there, massacred twenty white people who were in his power
in full view of the British, who were on the plain below. He and his men,
however, were hotly pursued through the forest by a detachment of German
riflemen, and the greater portion of them killed without mercy.

A detachment of British and colonial troops from the garrison of Port au
Prince in St. Domingo proceeded to besiege the town of Leogane in that
island. Covered by the guns of the fleet the troops were landed in two
divisions, while the _Swiftsure_, seventy-four, cannonaded the town, and
the _Leviathan_ and _Africa_ the forts. The place, however, was too strong
for them, and at nightfall the ships moved off to an anchorage, while
those who had landed were withdrawn on the following morning. Two of the
frigates were so much damaged that they were compelled to return to
Jamaica to refit. An attack was next made upon the fort of Bombarde, which
stood at a distance of fifteen miles from the coast. Will and a detachment
from his ship formed part of the force engaged. The road was extremely
rough, and was blocked by fallen trees and walls built across it. The
labour of getting the cannon along was prodigious.

“I must say,” Will said to Dimchurch, who was one of the party, “I greatly
prefer fighting on board to work like this. We have to labour like slaves
from early morning till late in the evening; but I don’t so much mind
that, as the fact that at night we have to lie down with only the food
that remains in our haversacks, and what water we may have saved, for
supper. Now in a fight at sea one at least gets as much to drink as one
wants.”

“I quite agree with you, Mr. Gilmore. It’s dog’s work without dog’s food.
I don’t mind myself working here with a chopper eight or ten hours a day,
but I do like a good supper at the end of it. The worst of it is, that
when it is all over it is the troops who get all the credit, while we poor
beggars do the greater part of the work. The soldiers are well enough in
their way, but they are very little good for hard work. How do you account
for that, sir?”

“I can only suppose, Dimchurch, that while they get as much food as we do,
they have nothing like the same amount of hard work to do.”

“That’s it, sir. Why, look at them at Portsmouth! They just go out of a
morning and drill on the common for a bit, and then they have nothing else
to do all day but to stroll about the town and talk to the girls. How can
you expect a man to have any muscle to speak of when he never does a
stroke of hard work? I don’t say they don’t fight well, for I own they do
their duty like men in that line; but when it comes to work, why, they
ain’t in it with a jack-tar. I do believe I could pull a couple of them
over a line.”

“I dare say you could, Dimchurch, but you must remember that you are much
stronger than an ordinary seaman.”

“Well, sir, I grant I am stronger than usual, but I should be ashamed of
myself if I could not tackle two of them soldiers.”

“Yes, but don’t forget they have been cooped up on board a ship for a
month, with nothing to keep them in health, and certainly no exercise,
while you are constantly doing hard work. If you were to put these men
into sailors’ clothes, and give them sailors’ work for six months, they
would be just as strong and useful.”

“Well, sir, if they are that sort of men why do they go and enlist in the
army instead of becoming sailors. It stands to reason that it is because
they know that they cannot do work.”

“Why, Dimchurch, I have heard that in the great towns girls think as much
of soldiers as of sailors.”

“Well, that shows how little they know about them. In a seaport, what girl
would look at a soldier if she were pretty enough to get a sailor for a
sweetheart.”

“You are a prejudiced beggar,” Will laughed, “and it is of no use arguing
with you. If you had gone as a soldier instead of taking to the sea you
would think just the other way.”

On the next morning the march was renewed, and in the evening they reached
the fort. They had had several severe skirmishes during the day, losing
eight killed and twenty-two wounded, but the garrison, consisting of three
hundred, surrendered without further resistance as soon as the place was
surrounded, and the sailors then rejoined their ships.

“Well, I am mighty glad I am back on board,” Dimchurch said to Will the
evening they re-embarked. “This marching, and chopping trees, and being
shot at from ambushes, doesn’t suit me. There is nothing manly or
straightforward about it. Hand to hand and cutlass to cutlass is what I
call a man’s work.”

“That is all very well, Dimchurch, but though you may capture ships you
will never get possession of islands or colonies in that way. If you want
them you must land and fight for them.”

“Yes, sir, that is all very good, but it seems to me that the hard work of
making batteries and mounting guns falls on the sailor, while the soldier
gets all the credit. It is not our admiral who sends the despatches, it is
the general. He may speak a few good words for the sailors, as a man
speaks up for a dog, but all the credit of the fighting, and the
surrender, and all that business goes to the soldiers. The sooner we sail
away from here, and do some fighting nearer home, where there are no
soldiers, and where the sailors get their due, the better pleased I shall
be.”

“Well, Dimchurch, I hope our turn out here is nearly finished. We may have
to take part in a few more attacks on French possessions, but as soon as
that work is over I have great hopes that we shall get sailing orders for
home again.”

Indeed, late in August a fast cruiser arrived with orders that the _Jason_
was at once to return to Brest and join the Channel fleet. To the great
delight of everyone the wind continued favourable throughout the whole
voyage, and after an exceptionally speedy passage they joined Admiral
Bridport, who was cruising off Ushant on the look-out for the French fleet
that was preparing for the invasion of Ireland.

The French fleet, under Admiral Morard-de-Galles, got under weigh from
Brest on 26th December, 1796. It consisted of seventeen ships of the line,
thirteen frigates, six corvettes, seven transports, and a powder-ship,
forty-four sail in all, conveying eight thousand troops under the command
of Generals Grouchy, Borin, and Humbert. Misfortune, however, dogged the
fleet from the very commencement, for the _Séduisant_, a seventy-four-gun
battle-ship, got on shore shortly after leaving Brest, and out of thirteen
hundred seamen and soldiers on board six hundred and eighty were drowned.

They were noticed by Vice-admiral Colpoys’ fleet, who sent off two
frigates to warn Lord Bridport, and after chasing the French for some
distance himself, sailed for Falmouth to report the setting out of the
expedition.

Admiral Bouvet, with thirty-two sail, managed to reach the mouth of Bantry
Bay, but the weather was so tempestuous that he was unable to land his
troops. After struggling for some days against this boisterous weather,
the fleet scattered, and the majority of the ships returned to Brest. The
rest reached the coast of Ireland, but not finding the main portion of
their fleet there, they returned to France.

The failure of the expedition was as complete as was that of the Spanish
Armada, and was due greatly to the same cause. Out of the forty-four ships
that sailed from Brest only thirty-one managed to return to France. The
British frigates, by the vigilance they displayed, had done good service,
cutting off four transports and three ships of war; but the stormy weather
had dispersed the expedition, and was accountable for the loss of two
battle-ships, three frigates, and a transport. It was curious that
although Lord Bridport’s fleet was constantly patrolling the Channel
during this time, the two fleets never came in contact.



                              CHAPTER XVIII


                        ST. VINCENT AND CAMPERDOWN


On the 19th of January, 1797, Lord Bridport detached Rear-admiral Parker
with five battle-ships—among them the _Jason_—and one frigate, to
Gibraltar, and on the 6th of February they joined Admiral Sir John Jervis
off Cape St. Vincent.

They were cruising along the Portuguese coast when, on the morning of the
13th of February, Nelson brought Admiral Jervis the long-expected news of
the approach of the Spanish fleet. Its exact strength he had not
discovered, but it was known to exceed twenty sail of the line, while
Jervis had but fifteen, two of which had been greatly injured by a
collision the night before. The repairs, however, were quickly executed,
and they fell into their positions. Jervis made the signal to prepare for
action. During the night the signal guns of the Spaniards were heard, and
before daylight a Portuguese frigate came along and reported that they
were about four leagues to windward. At that time the fleet were
south-west of Cape St. Vincent. The Spaniards, who had hitherto been
prevented by an adverse wind from getting into Cadiz, were ready to meet
us, not knowing that the British admiral had been reinforced, and
believing that he had but some ten ships.

The wind, however, changed during the night, and, acting in strict
obedience to his orders, the Spanish commander-in-chief determined to set
sail for Cadiz. When day broke, his fleet was seen about five miles off,
the main body huddled together in a confused group, with one squadron to
leeward. It was then seen what a formidable fleet lay before us. The
admiral’s flag was carried by the _Santissima-Trinidada_, one hundred and
thirty, and he had with him six three-deckers of one hundred and twelve
guns each, two of eighty, and eighteen seventy-fours. Our fleet had
scarcely half the ships and guns. We had two ships of one hundred guns,
three of ninety-eight, one of ninety, eight seventy-fours, and a
sixty-four. There was, however, no comparison between the men. Our own
were for the most part tried and trained sailors, while a considerable
proportion of the Spaniards were almost raw levies.

The morning of the 14th February was foggy, and neither the number nor the
size of our ships could be made out by the Spaniards until we were within
a mile of them. Then, as mid-day approached and the fog cleared off, they
saw Jervis bearing down upon them in two lines. His object was to separate
the Spanish squadron to leeward from the main body, and in this he
completely succeeded.

The _Culloden_ led the way, and the greater part of the fleet followed,
opening a tremendous fire as they came up with the Spaniards, and
receiving their broadsides in return. The Spanish vice-admiral attempted
to cut through the British line, but was thwarted by the rapid advance of
the _Victory_, which forced the admiral’s ship, the _Principe de
Asturias_, to tack close under her lee, pouring in a tremendous raking
broadside as she did so. Fortunately at this moment Commodore Nelson was
in the rear, and had a better view of the movements of the enemy than had
the commander-in-chief. He perceived that the Spanish admiral was
beginning to bear up before the wind, with the object of uniting the main
body with the second division. Accordingly he ordered his ship the
_Captain_ to wear.

Up to this time she had hardly fired a gun, but this movement gave her the
lead of the fleet, and brought her at once into action with the enemy. In
a few minutes she was attacked by no fewer than four first-raters and two
third-raters. The _Culloden_, however, bore down with all speed to her
assistance, and some time afterwards the _Blenheim_ came up to take a
share in the fight. Two of the Spanish ships dropped astern to escape the
tremendous fire of the three British seventy-fours, but they only fell in
with the _Excellent_ coming up to support the _Captain_, and she poured so
tremendous a fire into them both that one of them struck at once. She left
the other to her own devices and pressed on to join Nelson, who greatly
needed help, for the _Captain_ was now little better than a wreck.

Her chief antagonist at this time was the _San Nicholas_. Into that ship
she poured a tremendous fire, and then passed on to the _San Isidro_ and
_Santissima-Trinidada_, with which the _Captain_ had been engaged from the
beginning. The fire of the _Excellent_ had completed the work done by the
_Captain_, and the _San Nicholas_ and the _San Josef_ had collided with
each other. Nelson, being in so crippled a state that he could no longer
take an active part in the action, laid his ship alongside the _San
Nicholas_ and carried her by boarding; and after this was done the crew
crossed to the _San Josef_, and carried her also. Other prizes had been
taken elsewhere; the _Salvador Del Mundo_ and _Santissima-Trinidada_
surrendered, as did the _Soberano_. The _Santissima-Trinidada_, however,
was towed away by one of her frigates. Evening was closing in, and as the
Spanish fleet still greatly outnumbered the British, Jervis made the
signal to discontinue the action, and the next morning the fleets sailed
in different directions, the British carrying their four prizes with them.
Considering the desperate nature of the fighting the British loss was
extraordinarily small, only seventy-three being killed and two hundred and
twenty-seven wounded. Of these nearly a third belonged to the _Captain_,
upon which the brunt of the fight had fallen. For this victory Admiral
Jervis was made an earl, and two admirals baronets. Nelson might have had
a baronetcy, but he preferred the ribbon of the Bath. Also, he shortly
afterwards was promoted to the rank of Rear-admiral. Captain Calder
received the ribbon of the Bath, and all the first lieutenants were
promoted.

The captain of the _Jason_ had earned golden opinions from his crew by the
manner in which he had fought his vessel and the careless indifference he
had shown to the enemy’s fire as he walked up and down on the quarter-deck
issuing what orders were necessary. Their losses had not been heavy, but
among them, to Will’s deep regret, the first lieutenant had been killed by
a cannon-ball.

“I am grieved indeed,” the captain said the next morning to Will, “at the
death of Mr. Somerville. He was an excellent officer and a most worthy
man. It is, however, a consolation to me that I have a successor so worthy
to take his place. Since we have sailed together, Mr. Gilmore, I have
always been gratified by the manner in which you have done your duty, and
by the skill you have shown in handling the ship during your watch. It is
a great satisfaction to me that I have so good an officer for my first
lieutenant.”

It was but a few months after the battle of St. Vincent that a greater
danger threatened England than she had ever before been exposed to. The
seamen in the navy had long been seething with discontent, and all their
petitions had been neglected, their remonstrances treated as of no
account.

Rendered desperate, they at last determined to mutiny, and the first
outbreak occurred on the 15th April in the Channel fleet, which was at the
time anchored at Spithead. On Admiral Lord Bridport giving the signal to
weigh anchor, the seamen of the flagship, instead of proceeding to their
stations, ran up the rigging and gave three cheers, and the crews of the
rest of the ships at once did the same. The officers attempted to induce
the men to return to their duty, but in vain. The next day two delegates
from each ship met on the _Queen Charlotte_, the flagship, to deliberate,
and the day after all the men swore to stand by their leaders, and such
officers as had rendered themselves obnoxious to the men were put on
shore.

The delegates then drew up two petitions, one to Parliament the other to
the Admiralty, asking that their wages should be increased—they had
remained at the same point since Charles II was king,—that the pound
should be reckoned at sixteen ounces instead of fourteen, and that the
food should be of better quality. Further, that vegetables should be
occasionally served out, that the sick should be better attended and their
medical comforts not embezzled; and, finally, that on returning from sea
the men should be allowed a short leave to visit their friends.

On the 18th a committee of the Board of Admiralty arrived at Portsmouth,
and in answer to the petition agreed to ask the king to propose to
Parliament an increase of wages, and also to grant them certain other
privileges; but these terms the sailors would not accept, and expressed
their determination not to weigh anchor till their full demands were
granted.

The committee now sent, through Lord Bridport, a letter to the seamen
granting still further concessions, and promising pardon to all concerned;
but the sailors answered expressing their thanks for what had been
granted, but reiterating their demands.

On the 21st Vice-admirals Sir Allen Gardner and Colpoys and Rear-admiral
Pole went on board the _Queen Charlotte_ to confer, but they were informed
that until the reforms were sanctioned by the king and Parliament they
would not be accepted as final. This so angered Admiral Gardner that he
seized one of the delegates by the collar and swore he would hang the lot,
and every fifth man in the fleet. The delegates at once returned to their
ships, and the seamen of the fleet proceeded to load the guns. Watches
were set as at sea, and the ships were put into a complete state of
defence.

On the 22nd Lord Bridport, having received a letter from the mutineers
explaining the cause of the steps they had taken, went on board, and after
a short deliberation his offers were accepted, and the men returned to
their duty.

The fleet was detained at St. Helens by a foul wind until the 7th of May,
when news was received that the French were preparing to sail. Lord
Bridport made the signal to weigh, but the crews again refused to obey
orders, alleging that the silence that Parliament had observed respecting
their grievances led them to suspect that the promised redress was to be
withheld.

For four days matters continued in the same state, but on the 14th Admiral
Lord Howe arrived from London with full powers to settle all disputes with
an Act of Parliament which had been passed on the 9th, and a proclamation
granting the king’s pardon to all who should return at once to their duty.

After various discussions the men agreed to the terms, and on the 16th
May, all matters having been amicably settled, Lord Bridport put to sea
with his fleet of fifteen sail of the line.

Notwithstanding these concessions the sailors of the ships lying at the
Nore broke into mutiny on the 20th of May, their ringleader being a seaman
of the name of Richard Parker, one of a class of men denominated
sea-lawyers. The delegates drew up a statement of demands containing eight
articles, most of which were perfectly impossible, and the Admiralty
replied by pointing out the concessions the Legislature had recently made,
and refusing to accede to any more, but offering to pardon the men if they
would at once return to their duty. The mutineers refused, and hoisted the
red flag. They landed at Sheerness and marched through the streets, and in
many ways went to greater lengths than their comrades at Spithead. They
even flogged and otherwise ill-treated some of the officers.

This outbreak now assumed the most alarming proportions. Eleven ships
belonging to the North Sea fleet, on the way to blockade the Texel, turned
back and joined Parker, and the greatest alarm was felt in London, the
Funds falling to an unheard-of price. The Government acted, however, with
vigour; buoys were removed, and the forts were manned and the men ordered
to open fire should the fleet sail up the river. Bills were rushed through
Parliament in two days, authorizing the utmost penalties on the mutineers
and on all who aided them.

This had the desired effect, and early in June the fleets at Portsmouth
and Plymouth disavowed all complicity with Parker, and two ships—the
_Leopard_ and _Repulse_—hauled down the red flag and retreated up the
Thames, being fired on by the rest of the fleet. The example was, however,
contagious, and ship after ship deserted until, on the 14th, the crew of
the _Sandwich_ handed over Parker to the authorities.

He was tried, convicted, and hanged on board that ship on the 29th of
June. Some of the other leaders were also hanged, some were flogged
through the fleet, and some sent to prison.

The mutiny was not confined to the ships on the home stations, but it
never became serious at any point, and a display of timely severity soon
brought matters back to their usual condition of discipline and obedience
to orders.

A mutiny of a different character, as it was caused by the tyranny of the
captain, and had very different results, took place in the West Indies.

On the night of the 21st of September the thirty-two-gun frigate
_Hermione_ was cruising off Porto Rico. Its captain, Pigot, was known to
be one of the most harsh and brutal officers in the navy. On the previous
day, while the crew were reefing topsails, he had called out that he would
flog the last man down. The poor fellows, knowing well that he would keep
his word, hurried down; and two of them, in trying to jump over those
below them, missed their footing and were killed. When this was reported
to the captain he simply said: “Throw the lubbers overboard.” All the
other men were severely reprimanded. The result of this, the last of a
succession of similar acts of tyranny, was that the crew broke into
mutiny. The first lieutenant went to enquire into the disturbance, but he
was killed and thrown overboard. The captain, hearing the tumult, ran on
deck, but he suffered the same fate as his second in command. The
mutineers then proceeded to murder eight other officers, two lieutenants,
the purser, the surgeon, the captain’s clerk, one midshipman, the
boatswain, and the lieutenant of marines. The master, a midshipman, and
the gunner were the only officers spared. They then carried the ship into
the port of La Guayra, representing to the Spanish governor that they had
turned their officers adrift. The real circumstances of the case were
explained to the governor by the British admiral, but he insisted upon
detaining the vessel and fitting her out as a Spanish frigate.

Many of the perpetrators of this horrible crime were afterwards captured
and executed. Had they contented themselves with wreaking their vengeance
on their captain, some excuse might have been offered for them when the
catalogue of his brutalities was published, but nothing could be said in
condonation of the cold-blooded murder of the other officers, including
even a midshipman and the young captain’s clerk, neither of whom could
have in any way influenced their commander’s conduct.

The _Hermione_, however, was of but little use to the Spaniards. Sir Hyde
Parker, in October, 1799, hearing that she was about to sail from Porto
Cabello, in Havana, detached the _Surprise_ under Captain Hamilton, to
attempt to obtain possession of her. On arriving off Porto Cabello he
found the _Hermione_, which was manned by four hundred men, moored between
two strong batteries at the entrance to the harbour, but, nothing daunted,
Captain Hamilton resolved to cut her out. At eight o’clock in the evening
he pushed off from the _Surprise_ with all his boats, manned by one
hundred officers and men.

Undeterred by a heavy fire, the boats made for the _Hermione_ and were
soon alongside. The main attack at the gangways was beaten off, but the
captain, with his cutter’s crew, made good his footing on the forecastle,
and here he was joined by the crew of the gig and some of the men from the
jolly-boat. He then fought his way to the quarter-deck, where he was soon
reinforced by the crews of the boats that had at first been repulsed. In a
very short time, after some desperate fighting, the _Hermione_ was
captured. The cables were now cut and the sails hoisted, and under a heavy
fire from the batteries the frigate was brought off, though much damaged
both in rigging and hull. A few days later she anchored in Port Royal.

This feat stands perhaps unparalleled in naval history for its audacity
and success. The victors had only twelve wounded; the enemy lost one
hundred and nineteen killed and ninety-seven wounded. Captain Hamilton was
knighted for this achievement, the legislature of Jamaica presented him
with a sword valued at three hundred guineas, and on his arrival in
England after his exchange, for he was taken prisoner on his way home, the
common council of London voted him the freedom of the city. He was,
however, much injured in the attack, and was to the end of his life under
medical treatment.

After the battle of St. Vincent the _Jason_ required some repairs to her
hull, but as her spars were uninjured she was ordered by Admiral Jervis to
proceed to Portsmouth with despatches. Here, to Will’s great joy, he was
confirmed in his position as first lieutenant. He was unable to get leave,
as it was found the repairs would take but a short time, and after ten
days’ stay in port the _Jason_ sailed to join Lord Bridport’s fleet. On
doing so, she was at once despatched to reinforce the North Sea fleet
under Admiral Duncan, then blockading the Texel.

It was while engaged in this monotonous work that the news came of Admiral
Nelson’s disastrous attack on Santa Cruz. The expedition was a complete
failure, one hundred and forty-one being killed or drowned, and one
hundred and five wounded or missing. Among the wounded was Admiral Nelson
himself, who lost his arm.

The news of the mutinies taking place at Spithead and the Nore was a
source of great anxiety to the officers, but the men were so attached to
them that there was no real cause for uneasiness with regard to their own
ship, and when the eleven ships of Duncan’s fleet joined the mutineers at
the Nore, the _Jason_ was one of the few that remained with the admiral.

During the equinoctial gales many of the ships were so badly strained that
Admiral Duncan returned to Yarmouth Roads to gather and repair his fleet,
leaving the _Jason_ and two other ships to watch the enemy. De Winter lost
not a moment in taking advantage of his absence, and on the 7th of October
sailed out with his whole fleet, chasing the watch vessels before him. On
their way, however, they met a squadron under Captain Trollope, consisting
of Duncan’s ships which had been refitted. The Dutch fleet, on seeing
them, thought that the whole British fleet was behind, and not at the time
wishing to engage, went about and steered again for the Texel. On the 9th
the _Active_ came in sight off Yarmouth Roads with the signal flying that
the enemy were at sea. At once a general chase was ordered, and by the
time the _Active_ joined them the whole fleet was under way. Her captain
was hailed and ordered to guide the fleet to the precise spot where he had
last seen the enemy.

Captain Trollope had, as soon as the Dutch fleet went about, started in
chase of them, and kept them in sight until they approached the Texel,
when he steered to meet Admiral Duncan. He was therefore able to give the
exact position of the enemy, and at once the fleet sailed towards them. On
the morning of the 11th October, 1797, the admiral came in sight of the
enemy about nine miles from shore and nearly opposite the village of
Camperdown. The fleet, however, was greatly scattered owing to the
different speeds of the ships. De Winter, as soon as he saw the British
coming, got up his anchors and made for shore, hoping that he might be
able to get so close in among its shoals and sand-banks, which were much
better known to him than to his antagonists, as to deter Duncan from
pursuing him. He was, above all things, anxious to avoid action; not so
much because his fleet was slightly inferior to the British, as because
his instructions enjoined him to regard his junction with the French at
Brest as his chief object.

The British admiral, seeing his arrangements and divining his object,
pressed on, regardless of the scattered state of his fleet, and made the
signal for each ship to attack as she came up. Another signal intimated
that he should attempt to break the enemy’s line, so as to get between it
and the land. But this signal was not generally seen by the fleet. It was,
however, seen and acted upon by the second in command, Admiral Onslow, in
the _Monarch_, who soon after led the larboard division through the Dutch
line, three ships from the rear, and then closely engaged the _Jupiter_.
Duncan’s own ship, the _Venerable_, the leading ship of the starboard
division, marked out the _Vryhide_, De Winter’s flagship, as his own
antagonist.

The Dutch ship _States-general_, the flagship of their rear-admiral,
seeing his design, pressed so close up to his chief that the British
admiral was compelled to change his course and pass astern of her; but as
he did so he poured so terrible a fire into her stern that she was glad to
fall back and leave the _Venerable_ free to attack the _Vryhide_. Others
of our ships followed the example of their chief, breaking the Dutch line
at several points. At one o’clock the battle became general, and was
carried on with unsurpassed courage on both sides. The two biggest Dutch
frigates, which carried as heavy guns as the British line-of-battle ships,
crept forward into the fight and fought gallantly, the _Mars_ raking the
_Venerable_ severely while she was engaged with no fewer than three Dutch
line-of-battle ships.

The crew of the _Venerable_ had been particularly anxious to fight, their
ship having been for the past five months engaged in the dreary work of
blockading the Texel; and when they had seen the Dutch with their topsails
bent, as if intending to come out, they had offered to advance into the
narrow entrance to the Texel, and in that position stop the way against
the whole fleet, or at least fight their ship till she sank. Now they
proved that their offer had been no empty boast, for, although fighting
against overwhelming odds, they stuck to their guns with unexampled
devotion.

More than once every flag they hoisted was shot away, and at last one of
the sailors went aloft and nailed the admiral’s colours to the stump of
the main topgallant mast. The _Vryhide_ also fought with desperate
courage. Other British ships, however, came up, and the disparity in
numbers turned the other way. The _Ardent_ attacked her on the other side,
and the _Triumph_ and _Director_ poured a raking fire along her decks. One
after another her masts fell, and the wreck rendered half her guns
unworkable. Her crew were swept away, until De Winter was left alone on
her quarter-deck, while below there were hardly enough men left to man the
pumps. Then the gallant admiral with his own hand hauled down his colours,
having fought to the admiration of the whole British fleet. The
_States-general_, almost disabled by the fruitless attempt to foul the
_Venerable_, maintained a vigorous conflict for some time against a
succession of adversaries, during which she lost above three hundred men
killed and wounded, until at last her captain was compelled to strike. No
one, however, attempted to take possession of her, and, gradually dropping
astern until clear of both fleets, she rehoisted her colours and made off
to the Texel.

  [Illustration: “AT LAST HER CAPTAIN WAS COMPELLED TO STRIKE”]

Ship after ship struck, and of the whole Dutch fleet but six ships of the
line and two frigates managed to reach the Texel, and this was only due to
the fact that several of the Dutch vessels, knowing that the orders had
been that they were not to fight, stood aloof and disregarded their
admiral’s signal to engage. The entire casualties among our men exceeded a
thousand. Many of the ships were completely riddled by shot, and on some
of them the men were employed day and night at the pumps to keep them
afloat till they could cross the Channel to our own harbours. Two
seventy-fours, five fifty-fours, two gun-ships, and two frigates remained
in our hands, but all were so battered that not one of them could ever be
made fit for service. The two fleets were nearly equal in strength, the
British being about one-twelfth the stronger. Some of the Dutch ships took
no share in the action, but the same is true of the British. Some of them
arrived too late, the hazy weather having prevented the signals of the
_Venerable_ from being seen by them. For one of them, however, the
_Agincourt_, no excuse could be found, so her captain was tried by
court-martial and declared incapable of serving in the navy for the
future.

The _Jason_ had taken her share in the battle. She had at once placed
herself alongside the _Brutus_, a battle-ship of the same size as herself.
All the afternoon the duel was continued, and both ships lost some masts
and spars and had their hulls completely shattered. It was not until the
engagement had almost ceased elsewhere that the enemy hauled down her
colours. The battle was a desperate one, and Will had felt the strain
greatly; there was comparatively little for him to do, for both ships
sailed along side by side, and there was no attempt at manœuvring. He had,
therefore, simply to move about, encouraging the sailors and directing
their fire. So incessant was the cannonade that it was with difficulty he
could make his orders heard, and, cool as he was, he was almost confused
by the terrible din that went on around. It was found, after the _Brutus_
surrendered, that her loss had been one hundred and twenty killed and
wounded, while on board the _Jason_ little over half that number had
suffered.

As soon as the prize surrendered, parties were put on board to take
possession, while the rest of the men were engaged in attending to their
own and the Dutch wounded. The next day jury-masts were got up, and the
_Jason_, with her prize in tow, sailed with the rest of the fleet for
England. When they arrived at Sheerness the _Jason_ was found to require a
complete refit. The crew were therefore ordered to be paid off, and Will
was promoted to the rank of captain, and at once appointed to the command
of the frigate _Ethalion_, thirty-four guns, which had just been fitted
ready for sea.

He had no difficulty in manning his ship, as a sufficient number of the
_Jason’s_ old crew volunteered, and he was soon ready for service.

He was at once despatched to join Lord Bridport’s fleet, and for nearly
nine months was engaged in the incessant patrolling which at that time the
British frigates maintained in the Channel.

Towards the end of July, 1798, the vigilance of the frigates, if possible,
increased, for it became known that two French squadrons were being
prepared with the intention of landing troops in Ireland. On the 6th of
August a small squadron slipped out of Rochefort, and, eluding the British
cruisers, succeeded, on the 22nd, in landing General Humbert and eleven
hundred and fifty men at Killala Bay, and then at once returned to
Rochefort.

The attempt ended in failure; the peasantry did not join as was expected,
and on the 8th of September General Humbert surrendered at Ballinamuck to
Lieutenant-general Lake.

Another fleet sailed from Brest on the 16th of September, 1798, consisting
of one ship of the line, the _Hoche_, and eight frigates, under Commodore
Bompart. It had on board three thousand troops, a large train of
artillery, and a great quantity of military stores. It had set sail for
Ireland before the news of the failure of Humbert’s expedition had
arrived, and it was certain that as soon as it reached its intended place
of landing in Ireland it would endeavour to return without delay. Two or
three days earlier the _Ethalion_ and the eighteen-gun brig _Sylph_ had
joined the thirty-eight-gun frigate _Boadicea_, which was watching Brest.
At daybreak a light breeze sprang up, and the French made sail. Leaving
the _Ethalion_ to watch the French fleet, the _Boadicea_ sailed to carry
the news of the start of the expedition to Lord Bridport.

At two o’clock on the 18th the _Ethalion_ was joined by the _Amelia_, a
thirty-eight-gun frigate, and at daylight the French directed their course
as if for the West Indies. At eight o’clock they bore up, and five of
their frigates chased the English ships. Presently, however, finding that
they did not gain, they rejoined the squadron, which bore away to the
south-west. On the 20th the two frigates were joined by the forty-four-gun
frigate _Anson_. At noon the French were nearly becalmed. There was now no
doubt that the destination of the squadron was Ireland, and the news was
despatched by the _Sylph_ to the commander-in-chief of the Irish station.

On the 26th the French ships turned on the frigates, but gave this up
about noon, and proceeded on their way. The sea now became so rough that
all the ships shortened sail. On the 29th the weather moderated, and the
French squadron again started in chase. About nine o’clock the French
battle-ship, the _Hoche_, sprung her main-topmast, and one of the French
frigates carried away her top-sail yard. At this both the French and the
British ships shortened sail. The French ships wore away to the
north-west, and the British again followed them; but the _Anson_ had
sprung her topmast, and in the evening the _Hoche_ lowered hers. The
weather now became very bad, and the frigates hauled up and soon lost
sight of the enemy. A week later the _Amelia_ left them, but three days
after, they fell in with the squadron that had been despatched from
Cawsand Bay when the _Boadicea_ arrived with news of the start of the
French squadron from Brest. They were also joined by the frigates
_Melampus_ and _Doris_, which while at Lough Swilly had received news from
the _Sylph_ of the destination of the French squadron. The whole were
under the command of Sir John Warren.

With the hope that he had now shaken off his pursuers, Admiral Bompart
bore away for Killala Bay, but as he neared the land his leading frigate
signalled the appearance of the British squadron. Sir John Warren
immediately gave the signal for a general chase, but a heavy gale set in
that evening, during which the _Anson_ carried away her mizzen-mast
main-yard and main-topsail-yard. The _Hoche_, however, was even more
unfortunate, for she carried away her main-topmast, and this in its fall
brought down the fore and mizzen-topgallant-masts. A few hours later the
_Résolue_ signalled that she had sprung a leak which she could not stop,
and the admiral signalled orders to her captain to sail towards the coast,
and by burning blue lights and sending up rockets to endeavour to lead the
British squadron after him, and so allow the rest of the fleet to make
off.

Admiral Bompart now changed his course, but at daybreak found himself
almost surrounded by the British vessels. Both squadrons waited, but with
very different feelings, the order to commence action. The _Robust_ led
the way, followed closely by the _Magnanime_, and was received with a fire
from the stern-chasers and the quarter guns of the French frigates
_Embuscade_ and _Coquille_. A few minutes later the _Robust_ returned the
fire, and bore down to leeward for the purpose of engaging the _Hoche_,
which, like herself, was a seventy-four-gun ship. In half an hour all the
French frigates that could get away were making off. The _Hoche_ by this
time was a mere wreck, having suffered terribly from the fire of the
_Robust_; her hull was riddled with shot, she had five feet of water in
her hold, twenty-five of her guns were dismounted, and a great portion of
her crew were killed and wounded. After the battle had raged for three
hours she struck her colours. The _Embuscade_ had also surrendered. The
other British vessels set out in pursuit of the fugitives. The _Coquille_,
after a brave resistance, was forced to haul down her colours, and the
_Ethalion_ pursued and captured the _Bellone_. Five French frigates
attempted to escape, and in doing so sailed close to the _Anson_, which
had been unable to take part in the action owing to the loss of her
mizzen-mast, and as they passed ahead of her, poured in such destructive
broadsides that she lost her fore and main masts, and had much other
serious damage. Of the ships that had escaped, the _Résolue_ was captured
two or three days later. The _Loire_ made a good fight; she was pursued by
the _Mermaid_, and _Kangaroo_. The latter, which was an eighteen-gun brig,
engaged her, but lost her fore-topmast. The _Mermaid_, a thirty-two-gun
frigate, continued the pursuit.

At daybreak the _Loire_, seeing that her pursuer was alone, shortened
sail. As the _Loire_ was a forty-gun ship the fight was a desperate one,
and both vessels were so badly injured that by mutual consent they ceased
fire. The _Mermaid_ lost her mizzen-mast, main topmast, and had her
shrouds, spars, and boats cut to pieces. She was also making a great deal
of water, and was therefore necessarily obliged to discontinue the fight.
The _Loire_, however, was out of luck, for a day or two later she fell in
with the _Anson_ and _Kangaroo_, and in consequence of her battered
condition she had to surrender without resistance. Similarly, the
_Immortalité_, while making her way to Brest, fell in with the _Fisgard_,
a vessel of just the same size. The _Immortalité’s_ fire was so well aimed
that in a short time the _Fisgard_ was quite unmanageable. Repairs,
however, were executed with great promptness, and after a chase the action
was recommenced. At the end of half an hour the _Fisgard_ had received
several shots between wind and water and she had six feet of water in her
hold. Nevertheless she continued the fight, and at three o’clock the
_Immortalité_, which was in a semi-sinking state, and had lost her captain
and first lieutenant, hauled down her colours.

Thus seven out of the ten vessels under the command of Commodore Bompart
were captured.

In the combat with the _Bellone_ Will had been slightly wounded, and as he
was most anxious to proceed with his investigation with regard to his
relations, he applied for leave on his arrival at Portsmouth.

This was at once granted, and at the same time he received his promotion
to post rank in consequence of his capture of the _Bellone_.



                               CHAPTER XIX


                                CONCLUSION


Will’s first visit, after arriving in London, was to Dulwich. He had
visited the house with Mr. Palethorpe when it was in progress of building,
and had been favourably impressed with it, but now that it was complete he
thought it was one of the prettiest houses that he had ever seen. The
great conservatory was full of plants and shrubs, which he recognized as
natives of Jamaica, and the garden was brilliant with bright flowers.

“I am delighted to see you again, Will,” Mr. Palethorpe said, as he was
shown in. “Alice is out at present, but she will be back before long. I
must congratulate you on your promotion, which I saw in the _Gazette_ this
morning.”

“Yes, sir, my good fortune sticks to me, except for this wound, and it is
nothing serious and will soon be right again.”

“Don’t say good fortune, lad. You have won your way by conduct and
courage, and you have a right to be proud of your position. I believe you
are the youngest captain in the service, and that without a shadow of
private interest to push you on. I am very glad to hear that your wound is
so slight.”

“You are not looking well, sir,” Will said, after they had chatted for a
time.

“No, I have had a shock which, I am ashamed to say, I have allowed to
annoy me. I came home with £70,000. Of that I invested £40,000 in good
securities, and allowed the rest to remain in my agent’s hands until he
came upon some good and safe security. Well, I was away with Alice in the
country when he wrote to me to say that he strongly recommended me to buy
a South Sea stock which everyone was running after, and which was rising
rapidly. I must own that it seemed a good thing, so I told him to buy.
Well, it went up like wildfire, and I could have sold out at four times
the price at which I bought. At last I wrote to him to realize, and he
replied that it had suddenly fallen a bit, and recommending me to wait
till it went up again, which it was sure to do. I didn’t see a London
paper for some days, and when I did get one I found, to my horror, that
the bubble had burst, and that the stock was virtually not worth the paper
on which it was printed. The blow has affected me a good deal. I admit now
that it was foolish, and feel it so; but when a man has been working all
his life, it is hard to see nearly half of the fortune he has gained swept
away at a blow.”

“It is hard, sir, very hard. Still, it was fortunate that you had already
invested £40,000 in good securities. After all, with this house and
£40,000 you will really not so very much miss the sum you have lost.”

“That is exactly what I tell myself, Will. Still, you know, a dog with two
bones in his mouth will growl if he loses one of them. Nevertheless
£40,000 is not to be despised by any means, and I shall have plenty to
give my little Alice a good portion when she marries.”

“That will be comfortable for her, sir, but I should say that the man
would be lucky if he got her without a shilling.”

“Well, well, we’ll see, we’ll see. I have no desire to part with her yet.”

“That I can well understand, sir.”

“Ah, here she is!”

A rosy colour spread over the girl’s face when she saw who her father’s
visitor was.

“I expected you in a day or two,” she said, “but not so soon as this. When
we saw your name in the _Gazette_ we made sure that it would not be long
before you paid us a visit. I am glad to see that your wound has not
pulled you down much.”

“No indeed. I am all right; but it was certain that I should come here
first of all.”

“And what are your plans now?” Mr. Palethorpe asked.

“I am going to set to work at once to discover my family. I have not been
to my lawyer yet, so I don’t know how much he has done, but I certainly
mean to go into the business in earnest.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter to you much now, Will, whether your family are
dukes or beggars. You can stand on your own feet as a captain in the royal
navy with a magnificent record of services.”

“Yes, I see that, sir; but still I certainly do wish to be able to prove
that I come of at least a respectable family. I have not the least desire
to obtain any rank or anything of that kind, only to know that I have
people of my own.”

“I do not say that it is not a laudable ambition, but I don’t believe that
anyone would think one scrap better or worse of you were you to find that
you were heir to a dukedom.”

Will slept there that night, and the next morning drove into the city to
his lawyer’s office. “Well, Captain Gilmore?” said that gentleman as Will
entered his private room. “I am glad to see you. I have been quietly at
work making enquiries since you were last here. I sent a man down to
Scarcombe some months ago. He learned as much as he could there, and since
then has been going from village to village and has traced your father’s
journeyings for some months. Now that you are home I should suggest
employing two or three men to continue the search and to find out if
possible the point from which your father started his wanderings.
Assuming, as I do, that he was the son of Sir Ralph Gilmore, I imagine
that he must have quarrelled with his father at or about the time of his
marriage. In that case he would probably come up to London. I have
observed that most men who quarrel with their parents take that step
first. There, perhaps, he endeavoured to obtain employment. The struggle
would probably last two, or three, or four years. I take the last to be
the most likely period, for by that time you would be about three years
old. I say that because he could hardly have taken you with him had you
been younger.

“It is evident that he had either no hope of being reconciled to his
father or that he was himself too angry to make advances. I therefore
propose to send men north from London to enquire upon all the principal
roads. A man with a violin and a little child cannot have been altogether
forgotten in the villages in which he stopped, and I hope to be able to
trace his way up to Yorkshire. Again, I should employ one of the Bow
Street runners to make enquiries in London for a man with his wife and
child who lived here so many years ago, and whose name was Gilmore. I am
supposing, you see, that that was his real name, and not one that he had
assumed. I confess I have my doubts about it. A man who quits his home for
ever after a desperate quarrel is as likely as not to change his name.
That of course we must risk. While these enquiries are being made I should
like you to go back to your old home; it is possible that other mementoes
of his stay there may have escaped the memory of the old people with whom
you lived. Anything of that kind would be of inestimable value.”

“I will go down,” Will said. “I am afraid there is little chance of my
finding them both alive now. I fancy they were about fifty-five when I
went to live with them, which would make them near eighty now. One or
other of them, however, may be alive. I have not been to my agent yet, and
therefore do not know whether he still sends them the allowance I made
them.”

After leaving the lawyer he went to his agent and found that the allowance
was still paid, and regularly acknowledged by a receipt from the
clergyman. He supposed, therefore, that certainly one, if not both, of the
old people were still alive. He went back to Dulwich and said that he had
taken a seat on the north coach for that day week. “I could not bring
myself to leave before,” he said, “and I knew you would keep me.”

“Certainly, my boy. I don’t think either Alice or myself would forgive you
were you to run away the moment you returned.”

When the time came Will started for the north, though he felt much
reluctance to leave Alice. He acknowledged now to himself that he was
deeply in love with her. Though from her father’s manner he felt that when
he asked for her hand he would not be refused, about Alice herself he felt
far less confident. She was so perfectly open and natural with him that he
feared lest she might regard him rather as a brother than as a lover, and
yet the blush which he had noticed when he first met her on his return
gave him considerable hope.

On arriving at Scarborough he stopped for the night at the house of his
old friend Mrs. Archer. She and her husband listened with surprise and
pleasure to his stories of his adventures in spite of his assurances that
these were very ordinary matters, and that it was chiefly by luck that he
had got on. He was a little surprised when, in reply to this, Mrs. Archer
used the very words Mr. Palethorpe had uttered. “It is of no use your
talking in that way, Will,” she said. “No doubt you have had very good
fortune, but your rapid promotion can only be due to your conduct and
courage.”

“I may have conducted myself well,” he said warmly, “but not one bit
better than other officers in the service. I really owe my success to the
fortunate suggestion of mine as to the best method of attacking that
pirate hold. As a reward for this the admiral gave me the command of
_L’Agile_, and so, piece by piece, it has grown. But it was to my good
fortune in making that suggestion, which really was not made in earnest,
but only in reply to the challenge of another midshipman, that it has all
come about. Above all, Mrs. Archer, I shall never forget that it was the
kindness you showed me, and the pains you took in my education, that gave
me my start in life.”

The next day he drove over to Scarcombe, and to his pleasure, on entering
the cottage, found John and his wife both sitting just where he had last
seen them. They both rose to greet him.

“Thank God, Will,” John said, “that we have been spared to see you alive
again! I was afraid that our call might come before you returned.”

“Why, father, I don’t think you look a year older than you did when I last
saw you. Both you and mother look good for another ten years yet.”

“If we do, Will, it will be thanks to the good food you have provided for
us. We live like lords; meat every day for dinner, and fish for breakfast
and supper. I should not feel right if I didn’t have a snack of fish every
day. Then we have ale for dinner and supper. There is no one in the
village who lives as we do. When we first began we both felt downright
fat. Then we agreed that if we went on like that we never could live till
you came back, so we did with a little less, and as you see we both fill
out our clothes a long way better than we did when you were here last.”

“Well you certainly do both look uncommonly well, father.”

“And you ain’t married yet, Will?”

“No, I’ve not done anything about that yet, though perhaps it won’t be
very long before I find a wife. I am not going to apply to go on service
again for a time, so I’ll have a chance to look round, though I really
have one in my mind’s eye.”

“Tell us all about it, Will,” the old woman said eagerly; “you know how
interested we must be in anything that affects you.”

“Well, mother, among the many adventures I have been through I must tell
you the one connected with this young lady.”

He then told her of his first meeting, of his stay at her father’s house,
and of the hurricane which they experienced together.

“Well, mother, I met her again unexpectedly more than two and a half years
ago in London. Her father had come over here to live, and has a fine house
at Dulwich. I have just been staying there for a week, and I have some
hope that when I ask her she will consent to be my wife.”

“Of course she will,” the old woman said quite indignantly. “How could she
do otherwise? Why, if you were to ask the king’s daughter I am sure she
would take you. Here you are, one of the king’s captains, have done all
sorts of wonderful things, and have beaten his enemies all over the world,
and you are as straight and good-looking a young gentleman as anyone wants
to see. No one, who was not out of her mind, could think of saying ‘No’ to
you.”

“Ah, mother, you are prejudiced! To you I am a sort of swan that has come
out of a duck’s egg.”

They chatted for some time, and then Will said:

“Are you quite sure, John, that the bundle the clergyman handed over to me
contained every single thing my father left behind him?”

“Well, now I think of it, Will, there is something else. I never
remembered it at the time, but when my old woman was sweeping a cobweb off
the rafters the other day she said: ‘Why, here is Will’s father’s fiddle’,
and, sure enough, there it was. It had been up there from the day you came
into the house, and if we noticed it none of us ever gave it a thought.”

“I remember it now,” Will exclaimed. “When I was a young boy I used to
think I should like to learn to play on it, and I spoke to Miss Warden
about it. But she said I had better stick to my lessons, and then as I
grew up I could learn it if I still had a fancy to do so.”

He got on to a chair, and took it from the rafter on which it had so long
lain. Then he carefully wiped the dust off it.

“It looks a very old thing, but that makes no difference in its value to
me. I don’t see in the least how this can be any clue whatever to my
father’s identity. Still, I will take it away with me and show it to my
lawyer, who is endeavouring to trace for me who my father was.”

“And do you think that he will succeed, Will?”

“I rather believe he will. At any rate he has found a gentleman, a
baronet, who has the same name and bears the same coat of arms as is on
the seal which was in my father’s bundle. We are trying now to trace how
my father came down here, and where he lived before he started. You see I
must get as clear a story as I can before I go to see this gentleman.
Mind, I don’t want anything from him. He may be as rich as a lord for
anything I care, and may refuse to have anything to do with me, but I want
to find out to what family I really belong.”

“He must be a bad lot,” John said, “to allow your father to tramp about
the country with a fiddle.”

“I would not say that,” Will said; “there are always two sides to a story,
and we know nothing of my father’s reasons for leaving home. It may have
been his fault more than his father’s, so until I know the rights and
wrongs of the case I will form no judgment whatever.”

“That is right, my boy,” the old woman said. “I have noticed that when a
boy runs away from home and goes to sea it is as often his fault as his
father’s. Sometimes it is six of one and half a dozen of the other;
sometimes the father is a brute, but more often the son is a scamp, a
worthless fellow, who will settle down to nothing, and brings discredit on
his family. So you are quite right, Will, not to form any hard judgment on
your grandfather till you know how it all came about.”

“I certainly don’t mean to, mother. Of course I have so little
recollection of my father that it would not worry me much if I found that
it were his fault, though of course I would rather know that he was not to
blame. Still, I should wish to like my grandfather if I could, and if I
heard that my poor father was really entirely to blame I should not grieve
much over it.”

“I can’t help thinking that he was to blame, Will. He was a
curious-looking man, with a very bitter expression at times on his face,
as if he didn’t care for anyone in the world, except perhaps yourself, and
he often left you alone in the village when he went and wandered about by
himself on the moor.”

“Well, well,” Will said, “it matters very little to me which way it is. It
is a very old story now, and I dare say that there were faults on both
sides.”

Will spent a long day with the old people and then returned to
Scarborough, taking the violin with him. When he told how he had found it
Mr. Archer took the instrument and examined it carefully.

“I think really,” he said at last, “that this violin may prove a valuable
clue, as valuable almost as that coat of arms. That might very well have
been picked up or bought for a trifle at a pawnshop, or come into the
hands of its possessor in some accidental way. But this is different;
this, unless I am greatly mistaken, is a real Amati, and therefore worth
at least a couple of hundred guineas. That could hardly have come
accidentally into the hands of a wandering musician; it must be a relic of
a time when he was in very different circumstances, and may well have been
his before he left the home of his childhood.”

“Thank you very much for the information, Mr. Archer! I see at once that
it may very well be a strong link in the chain.”

Two days later he returned to London. Mr. Palethorpe was greatly pleased
to hear that he had found so valuable a clue.

“I don’t care a rap for family,” he said, “but at the same time I suppose
every man would like his daughter—” Here he stopped abruptly. “I mean to
say,” he said, “would like to have for his son-in-law a man of good
family. I grant that it is a very stupid prejudice, still I suppose it is
a general one. You told me, I think, that your lawyer had found out that
this Sir Ralph Gilmore had only two sons, and that one of them had died
suddenly and unmarried.”

“That is so, sir.”

“Then in that case, you see, if you prove your identity you would
certainly be heir to the baronetcy.”

“I suppose so, sir. I have never given the matter any thought. It is not
rank I want, but family. Still, I might not be heir to the baronetcy, for
even supposing that my father was really the other son, he might have had
children older than I am who remained with their grandfather.”

“That is possible,” Mr. Palethorpe said, “though unlikely. Why should he
have left them behind him when he went out into the world?”

“He might not have wished to bother himself with them; he might have
intended to claim them later. No one can say.”

“Well, on the whole, I should say that your chance of coming into the
baronetcy is distinctly good. It would look well, you know—Captain Sir
William Gilmore, R.N.”

“We mustn’t count our chickens too soon, Mr. Palethorpe,” Will laughed;
“but nevertheless I do think that the prospects are favourable. Still, I
must wait the result of the search that my lawyer has been carrying on.”

“Well, you know my house is your home as long as you like to use it.”

“Thank you, sir! but I don’t like to intrude upon your kindness too much,
and I think that I will take a lodging somewhere in the West End, so that
I may be within easy reach of you here.”

“Well, it must be as you like, lad. In some respects, perhaps, it will be
best so. I may remind you, my boy, that it is not always wise for two
young people to be constantly in each other’s society.” And he laughed.

Will made no answer; he had decided to defer putting the question until
his claim was settled one way or the other.

In a few days he again called upon his lawyer.

“I have found out enough,” the latter said, “to be certain that your
father started from London with his violin and you, a child of three. I
have considerable hopes that we shall, ere long, get a clue to the place
where he lived while in London. The runner has met a woman who remembers
distinctly such a man and a sick wife and child lodging in the house of a
friend of hers. The friend has moved away and she has lost sight of her,
but she knows some people with whom the woman was intimate, and through
them we hope to find out where she lives.”

“That is good news indeed,” Will said. “I had hardly hoped that you would
be so successful.”

“It is a great piece of luck,” the lawyer said. “I have written to my
other agents to come home. It will be quite sufficient to prove that he
journeyed as a wandering musician for at least fifty miles from London. Of
course if further evidence is necessary they can resume their search.”

“I have found a clue too, sir,” Will said; and he then related the
discovery of the Amati, the possession of which showed that the minstrel
must at one time have been in wealthy circumstances.

“That is important indeed,” the lawyer said, rubbing his hands. “Now, sir,
if we can but find out where the man lived in London I think the chain
will be complete, especially if he was in comparatively good circumstances
when he went there. The woman will also, doubtless, be able to give a
description of his wife as well of himself, and with these various proofs
in your hand I think you may safely go down and see Sir Ralph Gilmore,
whom I shall, of course, prepare by letter for your visit.”

Four days afterwards Will received a letter by an office-boy from his
lawyer asking him to call.

“My dear sir,” he said as Will entered, “I congratulate you most heartily.
I think we have the chain complete now. The day before yesterday the Bow
Street runner came in to say that he had found the woman, and that she was
now living out at Highgate. Yesterday I sent my clerk up to see her, and
this is his report. I may tell you that nothing could possibly be more
satisfactory.”

The document was as follows:

“I called on Mrs. Giles. She is a respectable person who lets her house in
lodgings. Twenty-five years ago she had a house in Westminster, and let
the drawing-room floor to a gentleman of the name of Gilmore. He was
rather tall and dark, and very variable in his temper. He had his wife
with him, and two months afterwards a child was born. It was christened at
St. Matthew’s. I was its god-mother, as they seemed to have very few
friends in the town. Mr. Gilmore was out a good deal looking for
employment. He used to write of an evening, and I think made money by it.
He was very fond of his violin. Sometimes it was soft music he played, but
if he was in a bad temper he would make it shriek and cry out, and I used
to think there was a devil shut up in it. It was awful! When he came to me
he had plenty of money, but it was not long before it began to run short,
and they lived very plain. He had all sorts of things, whips and books and
dressing-cases. These gradually went, and a year after the child was born
they moved upstairs, the rooms being cheaper for them. A year later they
occupied one room. The wife fell ill, and the rent was often in arrears.
He was getting very shabby in his dress too. The child was three years old
when its mother died. He sold all he had left to bury her decently, and as
he had no money to pay his arrears of rent, he gave me a silver-mounted
looking-glass, which I understood his mother had given him, and he said:
‘Don’t you sell this, but keep it, and one day or other I will come back
and redeem it.’ ”

“This is the glass, sir,” the lawyer said. “My clerk redeemed it after
telling her that her lodger had died long ago. He went round to St.
Matthew’s Church and obtained the certificate of the child’s baptism. So I
think now, Mr. Gilmore, that we have all the evidence that can be
required. Mrs. Giles, on hearing that the child was alive, said she would
be happy to come forward and repeat what she had said to my clerk. She
seemed very interested in the affair, and is evidently a kindly
good-hearted woman. I fancy the silver frame is of Italian workmanship,
and will probably be recognized by your grandfather. At any rate, someone
there is sure to know it. Now I think you are in a position to go down and
see him, and if you wish I will write to him to-day. I shall not go into
matters at all, and shall merely say that the son of his son, Mr. William
Gilmore, is coming down to have an interview with him, and is provided
with all necessary proofs of his birth.”

The next morning Will took the coach and went down to Radstock, in
Somersetshire. He put up at the inn on his arrival, and next morning hired
a gig and drove to the house of Sir Ralph Gilmore. It was a very fine
mansion standing in an extensive park.

“Not a bad place by any means,” Will said to himself; “I should certainly
be proud to bring Alice down here.”

He alighted at the entrance and sent in his name, and was immediately
shown into the library, where a tall old man was sitting.

“I understand, sir,” he said stiffly, “that you claim to be the son of my
son, William Gilmore?”

“I do, sir, and I think the proofs I shall give you will satisfy you. You
will understand, sir, please, before I do so, that I have no desire
whatever to make any claim upon you; I simply wished to be recognized as a
member of your family.”

The old man looked him up and down, and then motioned him to take a seat.

“And what has become of your father, supposing him to be your father?” he
asked with an evident effort.

“He died, sir, nearly twenty years ago.”

The old man was silent for some little time, and then he said: “And you,
sir, what have you been doing since then? But first, in what circumstances
did he die?”

“In the very poorest. For the last two years of his life he earned his
living and mine as a wandering fiddler.”

“And what became of you?”

“I was brought up, sir, by a fisherman in the village in Yorkshire in
which my father died.”

“Your manner of speech does not at all agree with that, sir,” the old man
said sharply.

“No, sir,” Will said quietly. “I had the good fortune to attract the
interest of the clergyman’s daughter, and she was good enough to assist me
in my education and urge me on to study.”

“And what is your trade or profession, sir?”

“I have the honour, sir, to be post-captain in His Majesty’s navy.”

“You a post-captain in His Majesty’s navy!” the old man said scornfully.
“Do you think to take me in with such a tale as that? You might possibly
be a very junior lieutenant.”

“I am not surprised that you think so, sir. Nevertheless I am indeed what
I say. My name appeared in the _Gazette_ a month ago.”

“I remember now,” the baronet said, “there was a William Gilmore appointed
to that rank. The name struck me as I glanced through the _Gazette_. I had
noticed it before on several occasions, and I sighed as I thought to
myself how different must have been his career from that of my unfortunate
son. Now, sir, I beg that you will let me see your proofs.”

“In the first place, sir, there is this seal with your armorial bearings,
which was found upon him after his death. This is a looking-glass, one
which I believe was given to him by his mother. This is the violin with
which he earned his living.”

The old man stretched his hand out for the violin, with tears in his eyes.

“I gave it to him,” he said, “when he was eighteen. I thought it a great
piece of extravagance at the time, but he had such a taste for music that
I thought he deserved the best instrument I could get. The looking-glass I
also recognize, and of course the seal. Is there anything more, sir?”

“This, sir, is the certificate of my baptism at St. Matthew’s Church,
Westminster. This is a statement of my lawyer’s clerk, who interviewed the
woman in whose house my father and mother lived, and my mother died.”

The baronet took it and read it in silence.

“I can produce also,” Will went on, as the old man laid it down with a
sigh, “the evidence of the lady who educated me, and to whom I owe all the
good fortune that has befallen me. The old fisherman and his wife who
brought me up are still alive, though very old. I have means of obtaining
abundant evidence from my shipmates in the various vessels in which I have
sailed that I am the boy who left that village at the age of fifteen, and
entered as a ship’s boy in one of His Majesty’s vessels.”

“And you are now—?” the baronet asked.

“I am now twenty-three, sir.”

“And a captain?”

“That is so, sir. I was made a midshipman before I had been three months
on board, partly because I saved the first lieutenant’s life, and partly
because I understood enough mathematics to take an observation. Of course
I served my time as a midshipman, and a year after passing I was made a
second lieutenant. By the death of my first lieutenant at the battle of
St. Vincent I succeeded to his post, and obtained the rank of captain for
my share in the battle of Camperdown. I received post rank the other day
when, in command of the _Ethalion_, I brought the _Bellone_, a frigate of
Admiral Bompart’s fleet, a prize to Portsmouth.”

“Well, sir, your career has indeed been creditable and successful, and I
am proud to acknowledge, as my grandson and heir to my title, a young
gentleman who has so greatly distinguished himself. For I do acknowledge
you. The proofs you have given me leave no doubt in my mind whatever that
you are the son of my second son. You were, of course, too young to
remember whether he ever spoke to you of me.”

“Yes, sir. I was but five at the time of his death, and have but a very
faint recollection of him.”

“Of course, of course,” the baronet said; “it was a sad affair. Perhaps I
was to blame to some extent, though I have never thought so. Your father
was, as doubtless you know, a second son. Although somewhat eccentric in
disposition, and given to fits of passion, I had no serious occasion to
complain of him until he went up to Oxford. There he got into a wild and
dissipated set, and became the wildest and most dissipated among them. His
great talent for music was his bane. He was continually asked out. After
being two years up there, and costing me very large sums in paying his
debts, he was sent down from the university. He would not turn his hands
to anything, and went up to London with the idea of making his way
somehow. He made nothing but debts, got into various scandalous affairs,
and dragged our name through the dust. At last he came home one day and
calmly informed me that he had married a woman in a rank of life beneath
him. She was, I believe, the daughter of a horse-dealer of very doubtful
character. He also said that he wanted £1200 to enable him to start fair.
I lost my temper and said that he should not have another pound from me.
We had a desperate quarrel, and he left the house, taking with him all his
belongings. It was four years before I took any steps to bring him back.
Then his elder brother died, and on that I took every means to find him
out. That he would ever be a credit to me I did not even dare to hope, but
at least he could not be allowed to live in poverty. I advertised widely
and employed detectives for months, but all without result. I have long
since given up any hopes of ever seeing him again. I am glad, indeed, to
find that the title, at my death, will not go to a distant cousin, but to
my grandson, a gentleman in every way worthy of it. You are not married, I
hope?”

“I am not married, sir; but I think, if you had asked the question, I
should have replied that I was engaged, or rather had hopes of being
engaged soon.”

“Who is she?” the baronet asked quickly.

“She is the only daughter of a successful West Indian planter, a man of
the highest standing in the colony, who has now returned and settled
here.”

The baronet heaved a sigh of relief.

“That is well,” he said; “and considering that you have been all your life
at sea, and have had no opportunity of making the acquaintance of ladies
of titled families, it is better than I could have expected. As I do not
know the procedure in these matters I had better consult my lawyer as to
the best way of using these relics and the proofs you have given me that
you are my grandson. It may be that my recognition of you is sufficient,
but it would be as well to make sure that at my death there will be no
opposition to your succession. You will stop here for a day or two, I
hope, before going up to town to arrange the little affair you spoke of,
and I think if your chances were good before, they will be still better
now that you are recognized as heir to a baronetcy and one of the finest
estates in England.”

“I have never thought of that, sir. I have my profession and nearly
£40,000 of prize-money, which will enable us to live in great comfort; and
indeed I anticipate that her father will wish us to reside with him, or,
at any rate, that she shall do so while I am away on service.”

“I hope you will not think of remaining at sea. It would be monstrous for
a man heir to £10,000 a year, besides very large accumulations, to be
knocking about the world and running the risk of having his head taken off
with a round-shot every day. I earnestly entreat you not to dream of such
a thing.”

“I will think it over. I am fond of the sea, but shall certainly be fonder
of my wife, and I feel that your wishes in the matter should weigh with
me.”

“Well, I hope you will at least spend a portion of your time here. It will
be your future home, and it is well that you should acquaint yourself with
your duties. Besides, remember the years that I have been a lonely man.”

“I would rather not give a promise, but I shall certainly take your wishes
into consideration.”

“Well, I am content with that, my boy. You will stay here now a few days,
I hope. I have so much to hear of your life, and of course I wish to
become better acquainted with you.”

Will remained a week, during which time he made a great advance in the
baronet’s affections, and the old man seemed to gain some years of life as
he walked in the garden and drove through the country with his young heir,
whom he was delighted to introduce to everyone.

When he returned to London he at once drove over to Dulwich.

“Well, Will, what is the result of it all?” Mr. Palethorpe asked, for Will
had purposely abstained from going to their house after his last interview
with his lawyer. “Alice has been imagining all sorts of things: that you
had been run over, or had run away with some girl.”

“Father! I never thought that for a moment,” his daughter said
indignantly, “though I have been very anxious, for it is nearly a
fortnight since he was here.”

“I have done a good deal in the time,” Will said. “I did not write to you,
because I wanted to tell you. I am acknowledged as the grandson and heir
to the title and estates of Sir Ralph Gilmore.”

Both gave an exclamation of pleasure.

“And now,” he said, taking her hand, “I only need one thing to complete my
happiness, and that is, that you will share my good fortune with me. May I
hope that it will be so?”

“Certainly you may, Will. I think I have loved you ever since I was a
little girl, and acknowledge that my principal reason for inducing father
to come to live in England was that I believed I should have more chance
of meeting you again here than in Jamaica.”

“I am heartily glad, too, that it is all settled,” Mr. Palethorpe said. “I
have seen it coming on ever since you met us the first time in London, and
I may say that I have seen it with pleasure, for there is no one to whom I
would sooner trust her happiness than you. Now I will leave you to
yourselves.”

It need hardly be said that Alice was as anxious as Sir Ralph Gilmore that
Will should quit the navy, and he consequently yielded to their
entreaties. He wrote to his grandfather to tell him of his engagement, and
the baronet wrote back by return of post to Mr. Palethorpe, begging him to
come down with his daughter and Will for a time.

“I only half know him at present,” he said, “and as I understand that just
at present he will not want to leave the young lady of his choice, you
will gladden an old man if you will all three come down to stay with me.”

Three months later the marriage took place from the house at Dulwich. Sir
Ralph Gilmore came up for the ceremony, and the change that the three
months had effected in him was extraordinary. He was the gayest of the
party.

Among those present at the ceremony were also Will’s two devoted friends,
Dimchurch and Tom Stevens. The baronet was greatly pleased with their
affection and pride in Will, and offered both good posts on the estate. So
none of the comrades went to sea again.

The baronet gave into Will’s hands the entire management of the estate and
house, so his death, seven years later, made practically no difference to
Will’s position. Will took to country pursuits, and became one of the most
popular landlords in Somersetshire, while his wife was quite one of the
most popular ladies in the county. Her father, up to the time of his
death, spent most of his time down there, and they used the house at
Dulwich as their abode when they stayed in London during the season. Mrs.
Archer came more than once to stay with them, as their most honoured
guest. Stevens and Dimchurch both married. The former became
head-gamekeeper on the estate, a post in which he showed great talent. The
latter took a small cottage with a bit of land just outside the park
gates, for he was able to live very comfortably on the interest of his
prize-money. He had no children of his own, and his great pleasure was to
wander about with Will’s, telling them of their father’s adventures in the
great war.

It was not till well on in the sixties that Sir William Gilmore, captain,
R.N., departed this life, a few weeks after the death of his wife, leaving
behind him a large family to carry on the old name.



                                 THE END



“English boys owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Henty.”—_Athenæum_.

                            Blackie & Son’s
                         Illustrated Story Books

                              --------------

_HISTORICAL TALES BY_

G. A. HENTY

With the Allies to Pekin: A story of the Relief of the Legations.
Illustrated by WAL PAGET. With a Map. 6_s._

On the outbreak of the Boxer movement Rex Bateman, by a daring stratagem,
rescues some relatives from an outlying village, and conducts them into
Pekin. Then he makes his way down to Tien-tsin and joins Admiral Seymour’s
column. When the advance of this force is checked he pushes on alone to
the capital, where his courage and ready invention are invaluable to the
defenders. On the declaration of an armistice, however, he again succeeds
in eluding the Boxer bands, goes through the storming of Tien-tsin, and
marches with the allied army to Pekin.

  “The hero contrives and performs all kinds of exciting undertakings, and
  a clever story is woven into an accurate account of the various
  expeditions.”—_School Guardian_.

  “A boy could have no better guide to that story of British pluck and
  energy.”—_Spectator_.


Through Three Campaigns: A Story of Chitral, the Tirah, and Ashanti.
Illustrated by WAL PAGET. With 3 Maps. 6_s._

The hero of this story, the son of an officer, joins the Chitral
expedition secretly as a private soldier, but the enormous difficulties
which have to be overcome in the course of the march soon call forth his
noble qualities, and before the end of the campaign he qualifies for a
commission. His subsequent career is a series of brilliant successes. He
takes part in the storming of the Dargai heights, is more than once
captured by the enemy, and by a heroic sacrifice wins the V.C.

  “Every true boy will enjoy this story of plucky adventure.”—_Educational
  News_.

  “Gives animation to recent history, and its confident art and abundant
  spirit will greatly satisfy the intelligent and spirited boy.”—_Dundee
  Advertiser_.


For the Temple: A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem. Illustrated by SOLOMON J.
SOLOMON, A.R.A. With a Map. 3_s._ 6_d._

Mr. Henty weaves into the record of Josephus an admirable and attractive
plot. The troubles in the district of Tiberias, the marches of the
legions, the sieges of Jotapata, of Gamala, and of Jerusalem, form an
impressive historic setting to the figure of the lad who passes from the
vineyard to the service of Josephus, becomes the leader of a guerrilla
band of patriots, fights bravely for the Temple, and after a brief term of
slavery at Alexandria returns to his Galilean home with the favour of
Titus.

  “A good tale of early Bible times, told with a verve and vigour that
  keeps the interest sustained to the very end.”—_Academy_.


—With Kitchener in the Soudan: A Tale of Atbara and Omdurman. With 10
Illustrations by W. RAINEY, R.I., and 3 Maps. 6_s._

In carrying out various special missions with which he is entrusted the
hero displays so much dash and enterprise that he soon attains an
exceptionally high rank for his age. In all the operations he takes a
distinguished part, and adventure follows so close on adventure that the
end of the story is reached all too soon.

  “Mr. Henty has collected a vast amount of information about the
  reconquest of the Soudan, and he succeeds in impressing it upon his
  reader’s mind at the very time when he is interesting him
  most.”—_Literary World_.


—With the British Legion: A Story of the Carlist Wars. With 10
Illustrations by WAL PAGET. 6_s._

The hero joins the British Legion, which was raised by Sir de Lacy Evans
to support the cause of Queen Christina and the Infant Queen Isabella, and
as soon as he sets foot on Spanish soil his adventures begin. Arthur is
one of Mr. Henty’s most brilliant heroes, and the tale of his experiences
is thrilling and breathless from first to last.

  “It is a rattling story told with verve and spirit.”—_Pall Mall
  Gazette_.


—The Treasure of the Incas: A Tale of Adventure in Peru. With 8
Illustrations by WAL PAGET, and a Map. 5_s._

The heroes of this powerful story go to Peru to look for the treasure
which the Incas hid when the Spaniards invaded the country. Their task is
both arduous and dangerous, but though they are often disappointed, their
courage and perseverance are at last amply rewarded.

  “The interest never flags for one moment, and the story is told with
  vigour.”—_World_.

  [Illustration: THE LATE G. A. HENTY]

  [Illustration: _From WITH THE ALLIES TO PEKIN_
  BY G. A. HENTY (See page 1)]


With Roberts to Pretoria: A Tale of the South African War. With 12
Illustrations by WILLIAM RAINEY, R.I., and a Map. 6_s._

The hero takes part in the series of battles that end in the disaster at
Magersfontein, is captured and imprisoned in the race-course at Pretoria,
but escapes in time to fight at Paardeberg and march with the victorious
army to Bloemfontein. He rides with Colonel Mahon’s column to the relief
of Mafeking, and accomplishes the return journey with such despatch as to
be able to join in the triumphant advance to Pretoria.

  “In this story of the South African war Mr. Henty proves once more his
  incontestable pre-eminence as a writer for boys.”—_Standard_.


—Both Sides the Border: A Tale of Hotspur and Glendower. With 12 page
Illustrations by RALPH PEACOCK. 6_s._

The hero casts in his lot with the Percys, and becomes esquire to Sir
Henry, the gallant Hotspur. He is sent on several dangerous and important
missions in which he acquits himself with great valour.

  “With boys the story should rank among Mr. Henty’s best.”—_Standard_.

  “A vivid picture of that strange past ... when England and Scotland ...
  were torn by faction and civil war.”—_Onward_.


—Through Russian Snows: or, Napoleon’s Retreat from Moscow. With 8 page
Illustrations by W. H. OVEREND. 5_s._

Julian Wyatt becomes, quite innocently, mixed up with smugglers, who carry
him to France, and hand him over as a prisoner to the French. He
subsequently regains his freedom by joining Napoleon’s army in the
campaign against Russia.

  “The story of the campaign is very graphically told.”—_St. James’s
  Gazette_.

  “One of Mr. Henty’s best books, which will be hailed with joy by his
  many eager readers.”—_Journal of Education_.

  “Is full of life and action.”—_Journal of Education_.


—Out with Garibaldi: A Story of the Liberation of Italy. With 8 page
Illustrations by W. RAINEY, R.I., and two Maps. 5_s._

Mr. Henty makes the liberation of Italy by Garibaldi the groundwork of an
exciting tale of adventure. The hero is an English lad who joins the
expedition and takes a prominent part in the extraordinary series of
operations that ended in the fall of the Neapolitan kingdom.

  “A first-rate story of stirring deeds.”—_Daily Chronicle_.

  “Full of hard fighting, gallant rescues, and narrow escapes.”—_Graphic_.


At the Point of the Bayonet: A Tale of the Mahratta War. With 12
Illustrations by WAL PAGET, and 2 Maps. 6_s._

Harry Lindsay is carried off to the hills and brought up as a Mahratta. At
the age of sixteen he becomes an officer in the service of the Mahratta
prince at Poona, and afterwards receives a commission in the army of the
East India Company. His courage and enterprise are rewarded by quick
promotion, and at the end of the war he sails for England, where he
succeeds in establishing his right to the family estates.

  “A brisk, dashing narrative.”—_Bookman_.


—Under Wellington’s Command: A Tale of the Peninsular War. With 12 page
Illustrations by WAL PAGET. 6_s._

In this stirring romance Mr. Henty gives us the further adventures of
Terence O’Connor, the hero of _With Moore at Corunna_. We are told how, in
alliance with a small force of Spanish guerrillas, the gallant regiment of
Portuguese levies commanded by Terence keeps the whole of the French army
in check at a critical period of the war, rendering invaluable service to
the Iron Duke and his handful of British troops.

  “An admirable exposition of Mr. Henty’s masterly method of combining
  instruction with amusement.”—_World_.


—To Herat and Cabul: A Story of the first Afghan War. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by C. M. SHELDON, and Map. 5_s._

The hero takes a distinguished part in the defence of Herat, and
subsequently obtains invaluable information for the British army during
the first Afghan war. He is fortunately spared the horrors of the retreat
from Cabul, and shares in the series of operations by which that most
disastrous blunder was retrieved.

  “We can heartily commend it to boys, old and young.”—_Spectator_.


—With Cochrane the Dauntless: A Tale of his Exploits. With 12 page
Illustrations by W. H. MARGETSON. 6_s._

It would be hard to find, even in sensational fiction, a more daring
leader than Lord Cochrane, or a career which supplies so many thrilling
exploits. The manner in which, almost single-handed, he scattered the
French fleet in the Basque Roads is one of the greatest feats in English
naval history.

  “As rousing and interesting a book as boys could wish for.”—_Saturday
  Review_.

  “This tale we specially recommend.”—_St. James’s Gazette_.


Redskin and Cow-Boy: A Tale Of the Western Plains. With 12 page
Illustrations by ALFRED PEARSE. 6_s._

Hugh Tunstall accompanies a frontiersman on a hunting expedition on the
Plains, and then seeks employment as a cow-boy on a cattle ranch. His
experiences during a “round up” present in picturesque form the toilsome,
exciting, adventurous life of a cow-boy; while the perils of a frontier
settlement are vividly set forth. Subsequently, the hero joins a
wagon-team, and the interest is sustained in a fight with, and capture of,
brigands.

  “A strong interest of open-air life and movement pervades the whole
  book.”—_Scotsman_.


—With Buller in Natal: or, A Born Leader. With 10 page Illustrations by W.
RAINEY, R.I., and a Map. 6_s._

The heroic story of the relief of Ladysmith forms the theme of one of the
most powerful romances that have come from Mr. Henty’s pen. When the war
breaks out, the hero, Chris King, and his friends band themselves together
under the title of the Maritzburg Scouts. From first to last the boy
scouts are constantly engaged in perilous and exciting enterprises, from
which they always emerge triumphant, thanks to their own skill and
courage, and the dash and ingenuity of their leader.

  “Just the sort of book to inspire an enterprising boy.”—_Army and Navy
  Gazette_.


—By England’s Aid: or, The Freeing of the Netherlands (1585–1604). With 10
page Illustrations by ALFRED PEARSE, and 4 Maps. 6_s._ & 3_s._ 6_d._

Two English lads go to Holland in the service of one of “the fighting
Veres”. After many adventures one of the lads finds himself on board a
Spanish ship at the defeat of the Armada, and escapes from Spain only to
fall into the hands of the Corsairs. He is successful, however, in getting
back to Spain, and regains his native country after the capture of Cadiz.

  “Boys know and love Mr. Henty’s books of adventure, and will welcome his
  tale of the freeing of the Netherlands.”—_Athenæum_.


—Condemned as a Nihilist: A Story of Escape from Siberia. With 8 page
Illustrations by WAL PAGET. 5_s._

Godfrey Bullen, a young Englishman resident in St. Petersburg, becomes
involved in various political plots, resulting in his seizure and exile to
Siberia. After an unsuccessful attempt to escape, he gives himself up to
the Russian authorities. Eventually he escapes, and reaches home, having
safely accomplished a perilous journey which lasts nearly two years.

  “The escape from Siberia is well told and the description of prison life
  is very graphic.”—_Academy_.


The Lion of St. Mark: A Tale of Venice, with 6 page Illustrations. Cloth
elegant, 3_s._ 6_d._

A story of Venice at a period when intrigue, crime, and bloodshed were
rife. The hero, the son of an English trader, displays a fine manliness,
and is successful in extricating his friends from imminent dangers.
Finally he contributes to the victories of the Venetians at Porto d’Anzo
and Chioggia.

  “Every boy should read The Lion of St. Mark.”—_Saturday Review_.


—The Dragon and the Raven: or, The Days of King Alfred. With 8 page
Illustrations by C. J. STANILAND. 5_s._

In this story the author gives an account of the desperate struggle
between Saxon and Dane for supremacy in England. The hero, a young Saxon,
takes part in all the battles fought by King Alfred, and the incidents in
his career are unusually varied and exciting.

  “We have nothing but praise for this story, which is excellently
  written, and will make the history of the period to which it relates a
  reality to its readers.”—_School Guardian_.


—The Bravest of the Brave: or, with Peterborough in Spain. With 8 page
Illustrations by H. M. PAGET. 5_s._

There are few great leaders whose life and actions have so completely
fallen into oblivion as those of the Earl of Peterborough. He showed a
genius for warfare which has never been surpassed. Round the fortunes of
Jack Stilwell, the hero, and of Peterborough, Mr. Henty has woven a
brilliant narrative of the War of the Spanish Succession (1705–6).

  “The adventures of the aide-de-camp, Jack, will probably be found to be
  no less interesting than the marvellous operations of the General
  himself, in which he takes a leading part.”—_Spectator_.


—For Name and Fame: or, To Cabul with Roberts. With 8 page Illustrations.
5_s._

After being wrecked and going through many stirring adventures among the
Malays, the hero of this story finds his way to Calcutta, and enlists in a
regiment proceeding to the Afghan Passes. He accompanies the force under
General Roberts to the Peiwar Kotal, is wounded, taken prisoner, and
carried to Cabul, whence he is transferred to Candahar, and takes part in
the final defeat of the army of Ayoub Khan.

  “The book teems with spirited scenes and stirring adventures, and the
  boy who reads it attentively will acquire a sound knowledge on subjects
  that are of vital importance to our Indian Empire.”—_School Guardian_.


—Maori and Settler: A Story of the New Zealand War. With 8 page
Illustrations by ALFRED PEARSE. 5_s._

The Renshaws lose their property and emigrate to New Zealand. Wilfrid, a
strong, self-reliant lad, is the mainstay of the household. The odds seem
hopelessly against the party, but they succeed in establishing themselves
happily in one of the pleasantest of the New Zealand valleys.

  “A book which all young people, but especially boys, will read with
  avidity.”—_Athenæum_.


—Beric the Briton: A Story of the Roman Invasion of Britain. With 12 page
Illustrations by W. PARKINSON. 6_s._

Beric is a boy-chief of a British tribe which takes a prominent part in
the insurrection under Boadicea: and after the defeat of that heroic queen
he continues the struggle in the fen-country. Ultimately Beric is defeated
and carried captive to Rome, where he succeeds in saving a Christian maid
by slaying a lion in the arena, and is rewarded by being made the personal
protector of Nero. Finally, he escapes and returns to Britain, where he
becomes a wise ruler of his own people.

  “He is a hero of the most attractive kind.... One of the most spirited
  and well-imagined stories Mr. Henty has written.”—_Saturday Review_.

  “His conflict with a lion in the arena is a thrilling chapter.”—_School
  Board Chronicle_.

  “Full of every form of heroism and pluck.”—_Christian World_.


—The Dash for Khartoum: A Tale of the Nile Expedition. With 10 page
Illustrations by JOHN SCHÖNBERG and J. NASH. 6_s._

In the record of recent British history there is no more captivating page
for boys than the story of the Nile campaign, and the attempt to rescue
General Gordon. For, in the difficulties which the expedition encountered,
and in the perils which it overpassed, are found all the excitement of
romance, as well as the fascination which belongs to real events.

  “The Dash for Khartoum is your ideal boys’ book.”—_Tablet_.

  “It is literally true that the narrative never flags a
  moment.”—_Academy_.

  “The Dash for Khartoum will be appreciated even by those who don’t
  ordinarily care a dash for anything.”—_Punch_.


—With Wolfe in Canada: or, The Winning of a Continent. With 12 page
Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 6_s._

Mr. Henty tells the story of the struggle between Britain and France for
supremacy on the North American continent. The fall of Quebec decided that
the Anglo-Saxon race should predominate in the New World; that Britain,
and not France, should take the lead among the nations.

  “A moving tale of military exploit and thrilling adventure.”—_Daily
  News_.


—Held Fast for England: A Tale of the Siege of Gibraltar. With 8 page
Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 5_s._

The story deals with one of the most memorable sieges in history. The
hero, a young Englishman resident in Gibraltar, takes a brave and worthy
part in the long defence, and we learn with what bravery, resourcefulness,
and tenacity the Rock was held for England.

  “There is no cessation of exciting incident throughout the
  story.”—_Athenæum_.


—In the Irish Brigade: A Tale of War in Flanders and Spain. With 12 page
Illustrations by CHARLES M. SHELDON. 6_s._

The hero is a young officer in the Irish Brigade, which for many years
after the siege of Limerick formed the backbone of the French army. He
goes through many stirring adventures, successfully carries out dangerous
missions in Spain, saves a large portion of the French army at Oudenarde,
and even has the audacity to kidnap the Prime Minister of England.

  “A stirring book of military adventure.”—_Scotsman_.


—At Agincourt: A Tale of the White Hoods of Paris. With 12 page
Illustrations by WAL PAGET. 6_s._

Sir Eustace de Villeroy, in journeying from Hampshire to his castle in
France, made young Guy Aylmer one of his escort. Soon thereafter the
castle was attacked, and the English youth displayed such valour that his
liege-lord made him commander of a special mission to Paris. This he
accomplished, returning in time to take part in the campaign against the
French which ended in the glorious victory for England at Agincourt.

  “Cannot fail to commend itself to boys of all ages.”—_Manchester
  Courier_.


—A Final Reckoning: A Tale of Bush Life in Australia. With 8 page
Illustrations by W. B. WOLLEN. 5_s._

The hero, a young Englishman, emigrates to Australia, where he gets
employment as an officer in the mounted police. A few years of active work
gain him promotion to a captaincy. In that post he greatly distinguishes
himself, and finally leaves the service and settles down as a squatter.

  “A stirring story capitally told.”—_Guardian_.



“Young reader have no better friends than Blackie & Son.”—_Westminster
Gazette_.

                             Blackie & Son’s
                           Story Books for Boys

                              --------------

G. MANVILLE FENN

Quicksilver! or, The Boy with no Skid to his Wheel. With 6 page
Illustrations by F. DADD. 3_s._ 6_d._

Dr. Grayson has a theory that any boy, if rightly trained, can be made
into a gentleman. He chooses a boy from the workhouse, with a bad
reputation but with excellent instincts, and adopts him, the story
narrating the adventures of the mercurial lad. The restless boyish nature,
with its inevitable tendency to get into scrapes, is sympathetically and
humorously drawn.

  “Quicksilver is little short of an inspiration. In it that prince of
  story-writers for boys—George Manville Fenn—has surpassed himself. It is
  an ideal book for a boy’s library.”—_Practical Teacher_.

  “Not only a most engrossing story, but full of noble impulses and
  lessons.”—_Newcastle Journal_.


—In the King’s Name. Illustrated. 3_s._ 6_d._ _New Edition._

A spirited story of the Jacobite times, concerning the adventures of
Hilary Leigh, a young naval officer on board the _Kestrel_, in the
preventive service off the coast of Sussex. Leigh is taken prisoner by the
adherents of the Pretender, amongst whom is an early friend and patron,
who desires to spare his life, but will not release him. The narrative is
full of exciting and often humorous incident.

  “Mr. Fenn has won a foremost place among writers for boys. This is, we
  think, the best of all his productions in this field.”—_Daily News_.


—The Golden Magnet: A Tale of the Land of the Incas. With 12 page
Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 3_s._

The tale is of a romantic youth, who leaves home to seek his fortune in
South America. He is accompanied by a faithful companion, who, in the
capacity both of comrade and henchman, does true service, and shows the
dogged courage of an English lad during their strange adventures.

  “There could be no more welcome present for a boy. There is not a dull
  page, and many will be read with breathless interest.”—_Journal of
  Education_.


Capt. F. S. BRERETON, R.A.M.C.

Foes of the Red Cockade: A Story of the French Revolution. Illustrated by
WILLIAM RAINEY, R.I. 6_s._

Two English lads, wrecked at St. Malo, are persecuted as Aristocrats. They
see the Reign of Terror in all its horror, but fortunately escape to the
château of an uncle in La Vendée. A quarrel with a cousin ensues, and
fighting occurs at the same time with the Republicans. As a scout the
elder does gallant service till captured and taken to Paris, where he
confronts Robespierre and falls into his cousin’s hands. Again, however,
he escapes, and after many exciting experiences finally reaches safety and
friends.

  “Cannot fail to give great enjoyment to many boys and girls, and not a
  little profit.”—_Literary World_.


—In the Grip of the Mullah: A Tale of Adventure in Somaliland. Illustrated
by CHARLES M. SHELDON. With a Map. 5_s._

The hero organizes a search-party and advances into Somaliland to rescue
his father, who has fallen into the hands of the Mullah. The little force
is opposed from the outset, but undaunted they push forward, and in spite
of many difficulties and dangers succeed in accomplishing their object.
The interest increases as the story advances, and becomes intense when the
hero penetrates alone into the heart of the Mullah’s camp.

  “A fresher, more exciting, and more spirited tale could not be wished
  for.”—_British Weekly_.


—One of the Fighting Scouts: A Tale of Guerilla Warfare in South Africa.
Illustrated by STANLEY L. WOOD. With a Map. 5_s._

This story deals with the guerrilla aspect of the Boer War, and shows how
George Ransome is compelled to leave his father’s farm and take service
with the British. He is given the command of a band of scouts as a reward
for gallantry, and with these he punishes certain rebels for a piece of
rascality, and successfully attacks Botha’s commando. Thanks to his
knowledge of the veldt he is of signal service to his country, and even
outwits the redoubtable De Wet.

  “Altogether an unusually good story.”—_Yorkshire Post_.


—Under the Spangled Banner: A Tale of the Spanish-American War. With 8
Illustrations by PAUL HARDY. 5_s._

Hal Marchant is in Cuba before the commencement of hostilities. A Spaniard
who has been frustrated in an attempt to rob Hal’s employer attacks the
hacienda and is defeated, but turns the tables by denouncing Hal as a spy.
The hero makes good his escape from Santiago, and afterwards fights for
America both on land and at sea. The story gives a vivid and at the same
time accurate account of this memorable struggle.

  “Just the kind of book that a boy would delight in.”—_Schoolmaster_.


HERBERT STRANG

Tom Burnaby: A Story of Uganda and the Great Congo Forest. Illustrated by
CHARLES M. SHELDON. With 3 Plans. 5_s._

  Field-Marshal Lord Wolseley writes:—“It is just the sort of book I would
  give to any school-boy, for I know he would enjoy every page of it.”

  The Rev. Dr. Wood, Head-master of Harrow, writes:—“I have read it
  through with interest. It is an excellent book for boys, full of vigour
  and romance.”

  “The fierce struggles between the Bahima and the Arabs, with their
  Manyema allies, are told with a vigour and enthusiasm that will stir the
  heart of any boy.... When we add that Mr. Strang gives us a really
  graphic and thrilling impression of travel in the forests of Africa, and
  an almost living acquaintance with Arab and Negro, it is scarcely
  necessary to recommend it to boys as a delightful story of African
  adventure.”—_Spectator_.


Dr. GORDON STABLES, R.N.

In the Great White Land: A Tale of the Antarctic Ocean. With 6
Illustrations by J. A. WALTON. 3_s._ 6_d._

This is a most fascinating story from beginning to end. It is a true
picture of what daring healthful British men and boys can do, written by
an author whose name is a household word wherever the English language is
spoken. All is described with a master’s hand, and the plot is just such
as boys love.

  “The narrative goes with a swing and a dash from start to
  finish.”—_Public Opinion_.


ERNEST GLANVILLE

In search of the Okapi: A Story of Adventure in Central Africa.
Illustrated by WILLIAM RAINEY, R.I. 6_s._

Two school chums join an expedition into the unexplored reaches of the
vast central forest which the Okapi inhabits. The search for the strange
animal, however, serves merely as an excuse for the journey, and once the
little party is afloat on the Congo they go whither fortune leads them,
and many and exciting are their adventures in the unknown wilds.

  “A story to make a boy’s heart throb with eager interest.”—_Birmingham
  Gazette_.


The Diamond Seekers: A Story of Adventure in South Africa. With 8
Illustrations by WILLIAM RAINEY, R.I. 6_s._

The discovery of the plan of the diamond mine, the dangers incurred in
reaching the wild, remote spot in an armoured wagon, and the many
incidents of farm and veldt life, are vividly described by an author who
knows the country well.

  “We have seldom seen a better story for boys.”—_Guardian_.


FREDERICK HARRISON

The Boys of Wynport College. With 6 Illustrations by HAROLD COPPING. 3_s._
_New Edition._

The hero and his chums differ as widely in character as in personal
appearance. We have Patrick O’Flahertie, the good-natured Irish boy; Jack
Brookes, the irrepressible humorist; Davie Jackson, the true-hearted
little lad, on whose haps and mishaps the plot to a great extent turns;
and the hero himself, who finds in his experiences at Wynport College a
wholesome corrective of a somewhat lax home training.

  “A book which no well-regulated school-boy should be
  without.”—_Whitehall Review_.


LÉON GOLSCHMANN

Boy Crusoes: A Story of the Siberian Forest. Adapted from the Russian by
LÉON GOLSCHMANN. With 6 page Illustrations by J. FINNEMORE, R.I. 3_s._
6_d._

Two Russian lads are so deeply impressed by reading _Robinson Crusoe_ that
they run away from home. They lose their way in a huge trackless forest,
and for two years are kept busy hunting for food, fighting against wolves
and other enemies, and labouring to increase their comforts, before they
are rescued.

  “This is a story after a boy’s own heart.”—_Nottingham Guardian_.


MEREDITH FLETCHER

Every Inch a Briton: A School Story. With 6 page Illustrations by SYDNEY
COWELL. 3_s._ 6_d._

This story is written from the point of view of an ordinary boy, who gives
an animated account of a young public-schoolboy’s life. No moral is drawn;
yet the story indicates a kind of training that goes to promote veracity,
endurance, and enterprise; and of each of several of the characters it
might be truly said, he is worthy to be called, “Every Inch a Briton”.

  “In Every Inch a Briton Mr. Meredith Fletcher has scored a
  success.”—_Manchester Guardian_.


EDGAR PICKERING

In Press-Gang Days. With 4 Illustrations by W. S. STACEY. 2_s._ 6_d._ _New
Edition._

In this story Harry Waring is caught by the Press-gang and carried on
board His Majesty’s ship _Sandwich_. He takes part in the mutiny of the
Nore, and shares in some hard fighting on board the _Phœnix_. He is with
Nelson, also, at the storming of Santa Cruz, and the battle of the Nile.

  “It is of Marryat, that friend of our boyhood, we think as we read this
  delightful story; for it is not only a story of adventure, with
  incidents well-conceived and arranged, but the characters are
  interesting and well-distinguished.”—_Academy_.


FRED SMITH

The Boyhood of a Naturalist. With 6 page Illustrations. 3_s._ 6_d._ _New
Edition._

Few lovers of Nature have given to the world a series of recollections so
entertaining, so vigorous, and so instinct with life as these delightful
reminiscences. The author takes the reader with him in the rambles in
which he spent the happiest hours of his boyhood, a humble observer of the
myriad forms of life in field and copse, by stream and hedgerow.

  “We cannot too highly recommend the book to all readers.”—_Guardian_.


—The World of Animal Life. Edited by FRED SMITH. Profusely Illustrated
with Engravings after F. SPECHT and other eminent artists. 5_s._

The aim of _The World of Animal Life_ is to give in non-scientific
language an account of those inhabitants of the land, sea, and sky with
whose names we are all familiar, but concerning whose manner of life the
majority of us have only the haziest conceptions.

  “An admirable volume for the young mind enquiring after
  Nature.”—_Birmingham Gazette_.


J. CHALMERS

Fighting the Matabele: A story of Adventure in Rhodesia. Illustrated by
STANLEY L. WOOD. 3_s._ _New Edition._

A story of the great Matabele rising in 1896. The hero and his friends are
surprised by the revolted natives in the heart of the Matopo mountains,
and after many stirring adventures make their way back to Buluwayo. The
hero subsequently joins the Africander Corps, and distinguishes himself in
the operations by which the insurrection is crushed.

  “The stormy times of the recent insurrection in Matabeleland are
  described with a piquantness which will ensure the book becoming a
  favourite.”—_Liverpool Courier_.


CLIVE PHILLIPPS-WOLLEY

Gold, Gold in Cariboo: A Story of Adventure in British Columbia. With 4
Illustrations by G. C. HINDLEY. 2_s._ 6_d._ _New Edition._

Ned Corbett, a young Englishman, and his companion set out with a
pack-train in order to obtain gold on the upper reaches of the Fraser
River. After innumerable adventures, and a life-and-death struggle with
the Arctic weather of that wild region, they find the secret gold-mines
for which they have toilsomely searched.

  “It would be difficult to say too much in favour of _Gold, Gold in
  Cariboo_. We have seldom read a more exciting tale of wild mining
  adventure in a singularly inaccessible country. There is a capital plot,
  and the interest is sustained to the last page.”—_The Times_.


ROBERT LEIGHTON

The Wreck of the Golden Fleece. Illustrated by FRANK BRANGWYN. 3_s._ _New
Edition._

The hero is apprenticed on board a Lowestoft fishing lugger, where he has
to suffer many buffets from his shipmates. The storms and dangers which he
braved are set forth with intense power. The narrative deals with a
highway robbery, the trial of the accused fisherman, his escape, and the
mad chase after the criminal out upon the high seas.

  “Excellent in every respect, it contains every variety of incident. The
  plot is very cleverly devised, and the types of the North Sea sailors
  are capital.”—_The Times_.


S. BARING-GOULD

Grettir the Outlaw: A Story of Iceland in the days of the Vikings. With 6
page Illustrations by M. ZENO DIEMER. 3_s._

A narrative of adventure of the most romantic kind. No boy will be able to
withstand the magic of such scenes as the fight of Grettir with the twelve
bearserks, the wrestle with Karr the Old in the chamber of the dead, the
combat with the spirit of Glam the thrall, and the defence of the dying
Grettir by his younger brother.

  “Has a freshness, a freedom, a sense of sun and wind and the open air,
  which make it irresistible.”—_National Observer_.


C. J. CUTCLIFFE HYNE

The Captured Cruiser: or, Two Years from Land. With 6 page Illustrations
by F. BRANGWYN. 3_s._ 6_d._

The central incidents deal with the capture, during the war between Chili
and Peru, of an armed cruiser. The heroes and their companions break from
prison in Valparaiso, board this warship in the night, overpower the
watch, escape to sea under the fire of the forts, and finally, after
marvellous adventures, lose the cruiser among the icebergs near Cape Horn.

  “The two lads and the two skippers are admirably drawn. Mr. Hyne has now
  secured a position in the first rank of writers of fiction for
  boys.”—_Spectator_.


—Stimson’s Reef: With 4 Page Illustrations by W. S. STACEY. 2_s._ 6_d._

This is the extended log of a cutter which sailed from the Clyde to the
Amazon in search of a gold reef. It relates how they discovered the
buccaneer’s treasure in the Spanish Main, fought the Indians, turned aside
the river Jamary by blasting, and so laid bare the gold of _Stimson’s
Reef_.

  “Few stories come within hailing distance of _Stimson’s Reef_ in
  startling incidents and hairbreadth ’scapes. It may almost vie with Mr.
  R. L. Stevenson’s _Treasure Island_.”—_Guardian_.

  [Illustration: _From IN THE GRIP OF THE MULLAH_
  BY CAPT. F. S. BRERETON     (See page 10)]

  [Illustration: _From THE DISPUTED V.C._
  BY FREDERICK P. GIBBON     (See page 15)]


PAUL DANBY

The Red Army Book. With many Illustrations in colour and in
black-and-white. 6_s._

This book includes chapters on the various branches of the regular army,
and also on such attractive subjects as “Boys who have won the V.C.”,
“Pets of the Regiment”, “The Colours”, “Famous War Horses”, &c. Each
chapter, besides dealing generally with its subject, is full of capital
anecdotes, and the book as a whole is excellently illustrated with colour
and black-and-white illustrations.

  “Every boy would glory in the keeping and reading of such a
  prize.”—_Daily Telegraph_.


FREDERICK P. GIBBON

The Disputed V.C. Illustrated by STANLEY L. WOOD. 5_s._

  “A tale of the Great Mutiny which should stir a boy’s blood, and will
  tell him all he cares to know of that memorable death-struggle for our
  supremacy.... Even Lord Roberts scarcely gives a more spirited account
  of the defence of Delhi, of the difficulties to be overcome, and of the
  good service of the gallant little army which so long held stubbornly to
  the Ridge.”—_Times_.


A. J. CHURCH

Two Thousand Years Ago. Illustrated. 3_s._ 6_d._ _New Edition._

Lucius Marius, a Roman boy, has a very chequered career, being now a
captive in the hands of Spartacus, again an officer on board a vessel
detailed for the suppression of the pirates, and anon a captive once more
on a pirate ship. He escapes to Tarsus, is taken prisoner in the war with
Mithridates, and detained in Pontus for a number of years.

  “Adventures well worth the telling. The book is extremely entertaining
  as well as useful, and there is a wonderful freshness in the Roman
  scenes and characters.”—_Times_.


OLIPHANT SMEATON

A Mystery of the Pacific. Illustrated by WAL PAGET. 3_s._ _New Edition._

The _Fitzroy_, a small sailing vessel, discovers an extraordinary island
in the South Seas, that has been hidden for ages behind a wide belt of
sea-weed. The country is peopled by descendants of colonists from Imperial
Rome, and by a yet older race who trace their origin to the long-lost
Atlantis. In graphic language the author describes the strange experiences
that befell the crew of the _Fitzroy_ among these remarkable people.

  “A tale of unprecedented adventure in unknown lands.... Boys will revel
  in the book.”—_Birmingham Gazette_.


R. STEAD

Grit will Tell: The Adventures of a Barge-boy. With 4 Illustrations by D.
CARLETON SMYTH. Cloth, 2_s._ 6_d._

A lad whose name has been lost amidst early buffetings by hard fortune
suffers many hardships at the hands of a bargeman, his master, and runs
away. The various adventures and experiences with which he meets on the
road to success, the bear-hunt in which he takes part, and the battle at
which he acts as war correspondent, form a story of absorbing interest and
after a boy’s own heart.

  “A thoroughly wholesome and attractive book.”—_Graphic_.


HARRY COLLINGWOOD

The Pirate Island. With 6 page Illustrations by C. J. STANILAND and J. R.
WELLS. 3_s._ _New Edition._

By a deed of true gallantry the hero’s whole destiny is changed, and,
going to sea, he forms one of a party who, after being burned out of their
ship in the South Pacific, are picked up by a pirate brig and taken to the
“Pirate Island”. After many thrilling adventures, they ultimately succeed
in effecting their escape.

  “A capital story of the sea; indeed in our opinion the author is
  superior in some respects as a marine novelist to the better-known Mr.
  Clark Russell.”—_Times_.


FLORENCE COOMBE

Boys of the Priory School. With 4 page Illustrations by HAROLD COPPING.
2_s._ 6_d._

The interest centres in the relations of Raymond and Hal Wentworth, and
the process by which Raymond, the hero of the school, learns that in the
person of his ridiculed cousin there beats a heart more heroic than his
own.

  “It is an excellent work of its class, cleverly illustrated with ‘real
  boys’ by Mr. Harold Copping.”—_Literature_.


JOHN C. HUTCHESON

Afloat at Last: A Sailor Boy’s Log. With 6 page Illustrations by W. H.
OVEREND. 3_s._ 6_d._

From the stowing of the vessel in the Thames to her recovery from the
Pratas Reef on which she is stranded, everything is described with the
accuracy of perfect practical knowledge of ships and sailors; and the
incidents of the story range from the broad humours of the fo’c’s’le to
the perils of flight from, and fight with, the pirates of the China Seas.

  “As healthy and breezy a book as one could wish.”—_Academy_.



                            Blackie & Son’s
                          Story Books for Girls

                              --------------

KATHARINE TYNAN

A Girl of Galway. With 8 full-page Illustrations by JOHN H. BACON. 6_s._

When Bertha Grace is on the threshold of young womanhood, she goes to stay
with her grandfather in Ireland, with the trust from her mother of
reconciling him and his son, Bertha’s father. Bertha finds her grandfather
a recluse and a miser, and in the hands of an underling, who is his evil
genius. How she keeps faith with her mother and finds her own fate,
through many strange adventures, is the subject of the story.

  “Full of the poetic charm we are accustomed to find in the works of that
  gifted writer.”—_World_.


—The Handsome Brandons. Illustrated by G. D. HAMMOND, R.I. 3_s._ 6_d._
_New Edition._

A delightful story of an ancient Irish family. Every one of the nine young
Brandons was handsome, and every one was spirited and lovable. The shadows
in the picture hang ominously over Castle Angry and its inmate, the
vindictive Sir Rupert de Lacy. The story ends happily for “The Handsome
Brandons” with the re-establishment of the family fortunes.

  “A really excellent piece of work, ... the literary quality of Miss
  Tynan’s work is its chief distinction.”—_Spectator_.


CAROLINE AUSTIN

Cousin Geoffrey and I. With 6 full-page Illustrations by W. PARKINSON.
3_s._

The only daughter of a country gentleman finds herself unprovided for at
her father’s death, and for some time lives as a dependant upon her
kinsman. Life is saved from being unbearable to her by her young cousin
Geoffrey, who at length meets with a serious accident for which she is
held responsible. She makes a brave attempt to earn her own livelihood,
until a startling event brings her cousin Geoffrey and herself together
again.

  “Miss Austin’s story is bright, clever, and well developed.”—_Saturday
  Review_.


ELLINOR DAVENPORT ADAMS

A Queen among Girls. With 6 Illustrations by HAROLD COPPING. Cloth, 3_s._
6_d._

Augusta Pembroke is the head of her school, the favourite of her teachers
and fellow-pupils, who are attracted by her fearless and independent
nature and her queenly bearing. She dreams of a distinguished professional
career; but the course of her life is changed suddenly by pity for her
timid little brother Adrian, the victim of his guardian-uncle’s harshness.
The story describes the daring means adopted by Augusta for Adrian’s
relief.

  “An interesting and well-written narrative, in which humour and a keen
  eye for character unite to produce a book happily adapted for modern
  maidens.”—_Globe_.


—A Girl of To-Day. With 6 page Illustrations by G. D. HAMMOND, R.I. 3_s._
6_d._

“What are Altruists?” humbly asks a small boy. “They are only people who
try to help others,” replies the Girl of To-Day. To help their poorer
neighbours, the boys and girls of Woodend band themselves together into
the _Society of Altruists_. That they have plenty of fun is seen in the
shopping expedition and in the successful Christmas entertainment.

  “It is a spirited story. The characters are true to nature and carefully
  developed. Such a book as this is exactly what is needed to give a
  school-girl an interest in the development of character.”—_Educational
  Times_.


FRANCES ARMSTRONG

A Girl’s Loyalty. With 6 Illustrations by JOHN H. BACON. Cloth, 3_s._
6_d._ _New Edition._

When she was still but a child, Helen Grant received from her grandfather,
on his death-bed, a secret message. The brief words remained fast in her
memory, and dominated her whole career. She was loyal to her trust,
however, and to her friends in the hour of their need. For the girl was
possessed of that quick courage which leaps up in a shy nature when
evil-doers have to be unmasked, and wrongs made right.

  “The one book for girls that stands out this year is Miss Frances
  Armstrong’s A Girl’s Loyalty.”—_Review of Reviews_.


MRS. HERBERT MARTIN

The Two Dorothys: A Tale for Girls. Illustrated. 2_s._ 6_d._

In this story the shy, dreamy, unselfish Dorothy Heriot comes to live with
her great-aunt, the other Dorothy. This old lady is kind enough, but her
discipline is unsympathetic. But the younger Dorothy’s loving, unselfish
nature wins upon the proud old lady, and the end is happiness.

  “Will not only interest and please all girls, but will also stimulate
  and encourage to better and higher things, youthful hopes and
  ambitions.”—_The Lady_.


ETHEL F. HEDDLE

Strangers in the Land. Illustrated by HAROLD COPPING. 6_s._

Two old maiden ladies and their charming young friend, Elspeth Macdonald,
voyage to the beautiful island of Java on a quest that involves a story of
uncommon interest. In the course of a series of exciting adventures,
Elspeth unwittingly makes a discovery which seriously affects her friends.
Towards the close the narrative is darkened by tragedy, but a flood of
sunshine is thrown on the final chapter by the happy ending of a pleasant
love-story.

  “Apart from providing the best of entertainment, this book is noteworthy
  as stimulating high ideals of life and action, and renewing faith in
  lofty and chivalrous sentiment as a factor in human service.”—_Dundee
  Advertiser_.


—An Original Girl. With 8 full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 6_s._

Christobel Beauchamp makes her living by typewriting in an office till
chance throws her across the path of Lady Anne Prideaux, her grandmother.
Her mother had made a _mésalliance_ by marrying an actor. Lady Anne
desires to adopt Christobel, but the girl prefers to help her father. The
story tells how the poor actor at last receives his “call”, and ends with
the promise of good fortune for Christobel and her devoted lover.

  “A very clever, well-constructed tale is this, and we wish it
  success.”—_British Weekly_.


—A Mystery of St. Rule’s. With 8 Illustrations by G. DEMAIN HAMMOND, R.I.
6_s._

  “The author has been amazingly successful in keeping her secret almost
  to the end. Yet the mystery attending a stolen diamond of great value is
  so skilfully handled that several perfectly innocent persons seem all
  but hopelessly identified with the disappearance of the gem. Cleverly,
  however, as this aspect of the story has been managed, it has other
  sources of strength.”—_Scotsman_.

  “The chief interest ... lies in the fascinating young adventuress, who
  finds a temporary nest in the old professor’s family, and wins all
  hearts in St. Rule’s by her beauty and her sweetness.”—_Morning Leader_.


SARAH DOUDNEY

Under False Colours. With 6 Illustrations. 3_s._ 6_d._

A story which will attract readers of all ages and of either sex. The
incidents of the plot, arising from the thoughtless indulgence of a
deceptive freak, are exceedingly natural, and the keen interest of the
narrative is sustained from beginning to end. _Under False Colours_ is a
book which will rivet the attention, amuse the fancy, and touch the heart.

  “This is a charming story, abounding in delicate touches of sentiment
  and pathos. Its plot is skilfully contrived. It will be read with a warm
  interest by every girl who takes it up.”—_Scotsman_.


ROSA MULHOLLAND (LADY GILBERT)

Cynthia’s Bonnet Shop. With 8 Illustrations by G. DEMAIN HAMMOND, R.I.
5_s._

Cynthia, one of three charming lively sisters of an impoverished Connaught
family, desires to make money for the sake of her delicate mother. Cynthia
and her star-struck sister Befind go to London, the former to open a
bonnet shop, which becomes a great success, and the other to pursue the
study of astronomy. How both girls find new interests in life, more
important even than bonnet shop or star-gazing, is described with mingled
humour and pathos.

  “Just of the kind to please and fascinate a host of girl
  readers.”—_Liverpool Mercury_.


—The Girls of Banshee Castle. With 6 Illustrations by JOHN H. BACON. 3_s._
6_d._ _New Edition._

Three girls, with an old governess, migrate from Kensington to the West of
Ireland. Belonging as they do to “the ould family”, the girls are made
heartily welcome in the cabins of the peasantry, where they learn many
weird and curious tales from the folk-lore of the district. An interesting
plot runs through the narrative, but the charm of the story lies in its
happy mingling of Irish humour and pathos.

  “Is told with grace, and brightened by a knowledge of Irish folk-lore,
  making it a perfect present for a girl in her teens.”—_Truth_.


—Giannetta: A Girl’s Story of Herself. With 6 full-page Illustrations by
LOCKHART BOGLE. 3_s._

The story of a changeling who is suddenly transferred to the position of a
rich English heiress. She develops into a good and accomplished woman, and
has gained too much love and devotion to be a sufferer by the surrender of
her estates.


ANNIE E. ARMSTRONG

Three Bright Girls. With 6 full-page Illustrations by W. PARKINSON. 3_s._
6_d._

By a sudden turn of fortune’s wheel the three heroines are brought down
from a household of lavish comfort to meet the incessant cares and worries
of those who have to eke out a very limited income. The charm of the story
lies in the cheery helpfulness of spirit developed in the girls by their
changed circumstances.

  “Ever bright and cheerful, they influence other lives, and at last they
  come out of their trials with honour to themselves and benefits to all
  about them.”—_Teachers’ Aid_.


ELIZA F. POLLARD

For the Red Rose. With 4 Illustrations by JAMES DURDEN. 2_s._ 6_d._

A gipsy finds a little girl in the forest of Wimbourne, after the sacking
of the castle by the Yorkists. He carries her to the camp and she is
adopted by the tribe. The story tells how, when some years later Margaret
of Anjou and her son are wrecked on the coast of England, the gipsy girl
follows the fortunes of the exiled queen, and by what curious chain of
events her own origin is discovered.

  “This is a good story, and of special interest to lovers of historical
  romance.”—_Court Circular_.


—The Doctor’s Niece. With 6 Illustrations by SYDNEY COWELL. 3_s._ 6_d._

The scene of this charming story is laid in Brittany at the end of the
eighteenth century. The heroine is educated considerably above her
station. When she is about sixteen she becomes companion to a little girl
at a neighbouring château. Her charge mysteriously disappears during a
peasant rebellion, and she goes out into the woods to find her. The result
of the adventure is that Rosette discovers her mother, who proves to be
the rightful owner of the château, and the tale ends happily.

  “Full of mystery, adventure, and a winning simplicity.”—_Bookman_.


—The King’s Signet: The Story of a Huguenot Family. With 6 Illustrations
by G. DEMAIN HAMMOND, R.I. 3_s._ 6_d._

This story relates the adventures of a noble Huguenot family, driven out
of their château by the dragoons after the Revocation of the Edict of
Nantes. A friend of the family, Claudine Malot, who is also a Huguenot,
but a protégée of Madame de Maintenon, possesses a talisman, by means of
which she saves many lives; but this brings trouble upon her, and she has
to leave France. The adventures lead to the battle of the Boyne, and to
the happy reunion of the scattered family in Ireland.

  “A stirring tale of the persecution of the Huguenots clearly and
  touchingly told.”—_Guardian_.


BESSIE MARCHANT

Three Girls on a Ranch: A Story of New Mexico. Illustrated. 2_s._ 6_d._

The Lovell family emigrate from England to New Mexico. Mr. Lovell is
delicate and unfit for farming, but the three eldest girls take upon
themselves the burden of working the ranch. They have adventures of a
perilous kind, and the story of their mishaps and how they overcame them
is throughout both exciting and stimulating.

  “A story with a fresh, bright theme, well handled.”—_Nottingham
  Guardian_.


E. EVERETT-GREEN

Little Lady Clare. Illustrated. 2_s._ 6_d._

The little Lady Clare inherits the responsibilities of an ancestry and a
family feud, but the estates and title of her father fall to the hated
branch of the family. The child, however, works out for herself the
problem of the divided house, which is at last united again in a romantic
manner.

  “Reminds us in its quaintness and tender pathos of Mrs. Ewing’s
  delightful tales. The characters are very real and lifelike. Is quite
  one of the best stories Miss Green has yet given us.”—_Literary World_.


SARAH TYTLER

A Loyal Little Maid. With 4 page Illustrations by PAUL HARDY. 2_s._ 6_d._

This pretty story is founded on a romantic episode of Mar’s rebellion. A
little girl has information which concerns the safety of her father in
hiding, and this she firmly refuses to divulge to a king’s officer. She is
lodged in the Tolbooth, where she finds a boy champion, whom in future
years she rescues in Paris from the _lettre de cachet_ which would bury
him in the Bastille.

  “Has evidently been a pleasure to write, and makes very enjoyable
  reading.”—_Literature_.


—Girl Neighbours. With 6 Illustrations. 3_s._

A story for girls, told in that quaint, delightful fashion which has made
Miss Tytler’s books so popular and attractive. The introduction of the two
young ladies from London, who represent the modern institutions of
professional nursing and schools of cookery, is very happily effected.

  “One of the most effective and quietly humorous of Miss Sarah Tytler’s
  stories. Very healthy, very agreeable, and very well written.”—_The
  Spectator_.


ALICE CORKRAN

Margery Merton’s Girlhood. With 6 full-page Illustrations by GORDON
BROWNE. 2_s._ 6_d._

The experiences of an orphan girl who in infancy is left by her father—an
officer in India—to the care of an elderly aunt residing near Paris. The
accounts of the various persons who have an after influence on the story
are singularly vivid.

  “_Margery Merton’s Girlhood_ is a piece of true literature, as dainty as
  it is delicate, and as sweet as it is simple.”—_Woman’s World_.

  [Illustration: _From THE FOUR MISS WHITTINGTONS_
  BY GERALDINE MOCKLER     (See page 23)]

  [Illustration: _From CYNTHIA’S BONNET SHOP_
  BY ROSA MULHOLLAND     (See page 20)]


GERALDINE MOCKLER

The Four Miss Whittingtons: A Story for Girls. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by CHARLES M. SHELDON. 5_s._

This story tells how four sisters, left alone in the world, went to London
to seek their fortunes. They had between them £400, and this they resolved
to spend on training themselves for the different careers for which they
were severally most fitted. On their limited means this was hard work, but
their courageous experiment was on the whole very successful.

  “A story of endeavour, industry, and independence of spirit.”—_World_.


ALICE STRONACH

A Newnham Friendship. With 6 full-page Illustrations by HAROLD COPPING.
3_s._ 6_d._

A sympathetic description of life at Newnham College. After the tripos
excitements, some of the students leave their dream-world of study and
talk of “cocoas” and debates and athletics to begin their work in the real
world. Men students play their part in the story, and in the closing
chapters it is suggested that marriage has its place in a girl graduate’s
life.

  “Foremost among all the gift-books suitable for school-girls this season
  stands Miss Alice Stronach’s A Newnham Friendship.”—_Daily Graphic_.


BESSIE MARCHANT

A Heroine of the Sea. Illustrated by A. M‘LELLAN. 3_s._ 6_d._

Maudie’s home was on the wild westerly shore of Vancouver Island, and she
earned her living by fishing in the Inlet, heartily despising all merely
feminine occupations, and not even knowing that she was beautiful. Then
changes come, and Maudie awakes to the charm of a domestic life. Clouds
gather about the home, and many troubles intervene before the mystery is
at last happily cleared away.

  “A genuine tale of adventure for girls, and girls will thoroughly enjoy
  it.”—_Academy_.


—Three Girls on a Ranch: A Story of New Mexico. With 4 page Illustrations
by W. E. WEBSTER. 2_s._ 6_d._

The Lovell family emigrate from England to New Mexico, where they settle
on a ranch. Mr. Lovell is delicate and unfit for farming, but the three
eldest girls take upon themselves the burden of working the ranch. They
have adventures of a perilous kind, and the story of their mishaps and how
they overcame them is throughout both exciting and stimulating.

  “A story with a fresh, bright theme, well handled.”—_Nottingham
  Guardian_.

  “A rousing book for young people.”—_Queen_.


MRS. HENRY CLARKE

The Fairclough Family. With 6 Illustrations by G. D. HAMMOND, R.I. Cloth,
3_s._ 6_d._

It was matter for amazement when Ronald Hammersley fell in love with Kathy
Fairclough, who was considered a blue-stocking, instead of with her
younger sister Nell, whom Mrs. Hammersley had chosen for him. Why Mrs.
Hammersley desired her wealthy stepson to marry one of Dr. Fairclough’s
penniless daughters was a secret. How the secret became known, and nearly
wrecked the happiness of Kathy and Ronald, is told in the story. But all
ends well, and to the sound of marriage bells.

  “One of those stories which all girls enjoy.”—_World_.


J. M. CALLWELL

A Little Irish Girl. Illustrated by H. COPPING. 2_s._ 6_d._

An orphaned family inherit a small property on the coast of Clare. The two
youngest members of the party have some thrilling adventures in their
western home. They encounter seals, smugglers, and a ghost, and lastly, by
most startling means, they succeed in restoring their eldest brother to
his rightful place as heir to the ancestral estates.

  “Sure to prove of thrilling interest to both boys and girls.”—_Literary
  World_.


E. EVERETT-GREEN

Miriam’s Ambition. With Illustrations. 2_s._ 6_d._

Miriam’s ambition is to make someone happy, and her endeavour carries with
it a train of incident, solving a mystery which had thrown a shadow over
several lives. A charming foil to her grave elder sister is to be found in
Miss Babs, a small coquette of five, whose humorous child-talk is so
attractive.

  “Miss Everett-Green’s children are real British boys and girls, not
  small men and women. Babs is a charming little one.”—_Liverpool
  Mercury_.


ELLINOR DAVENPORT ADAMS

Those Twins! With a Frontispiece and 28 Illustrations by S. B. PEARCE.
2_s._ 6_d._

Two little rogues are the twins, Horatio and Tommy; but loyal-hearted and
generous to boot, and determined to resist the stern decree of their aunt
that they shall forsake the company of their scapegrace grown-up cousin
Algy. So they deliberately set to work to “reform” the scapegrace; and
succeed so well that he wins back the love of his aunt.



                            Blackie & Son’s
                      Illustrated Books for Children

                              --------------

CHARLES ROBINSON—WALTER JERROLD

The Big Book of Nursery Rhymes. Selected and edited by WALTER JERROLD.
With nearly 400 Illustrations in Colour or Black-and-White by CHARLES
ROBINSON. Large 4to, cloth elegant, gilt edges, 7_s._ 6_d._ net.

This beautiful volume, in which Mr. Charles Robinson has interpreted with
delightful humour and rare artistic skill the old familiar rhymes of the
nursery, will be an unfailing source of pleasure to children of all ages.
The pictures are bold, clear, and direct, as befits a book intended in the
first place for little folk, but they exhibit at the same time a power of
draughtsmanship that will give the volume a permanent artistic value.

  “This is a really magnificent gift-book for quite little
  children.”—_Saturday Review_.


JOHN HASSALL—CLIFTON BINGHAM

Six and Twenty Boys and Girls. Pictures by JOHN HASSALL; Verses by CLIFTON
BINGHAM. 25 pages in full colour, and 24 pages of letterpress. Picture
boards, 9 inches by 11¼ inches, cloth back, 3_s._ 6_d._; also cloth
elegant, 5_s._

Most of us know some at least of the little girls and boys portrayed by
Mr. Hassall in this amusing picture-book. As depicted with Mr. Hassall’s
inimitable skill, and described in humorous verse by Mr. Bingham, they may
challenge comparison with the classic Struwwelpeter. Each picture is not
only attractive and amusing in itself, but furnishes a hint of virtues to
be imitated or faults to be avoided.

  “A most original picture-book.”—_World_.


MRS. PERCY DEARMER

Roundabout Rhymes. With 20 full-page Illustrations in colour by Mrs. PERCY
DEARMER. Imperial 8vo, cloth extra, 2_s._ 6_d._

A charming volume of verses and colour pictures for little folk-rhymes and
pictures about most of the everyday events of nursery life.

  “The best verses written for children since Stevenson’s _Child’s
  Garden_.”—_The Guardian_.


STEWART ORR—JOHN BRYMER

Gammon and Spinach. Pictures by STEWART ORR. Verses by JOHN BRYMER. Cover
design and 24 pages in Full Colour. Picture boards, cloth back, 6_s._

In _Gammon and Spinach_ Mr. Stewart Orr has produced a picture-book unique
of its kind. Nothing could be more droll than the situations in which he
represents the frog, the pig, the mouse, the elephant, and the other
well-known characters who appear in his pages. Little folk will find in
these pictures a source of endless delight, and the artistic skill which
they display will have a special appeal to children of an older growth.

  “Merry and handsome enough to make thousands of friends among little
  folk, what with its original verses and its amusing pictures.”—_Literary
  World_.

  “The book should attain a wide popularity in the nursery.”—_Morning
  Post_.


—Two Merry Mariners. Pictures by STEWART ORR. Verses by JOHN BRYMER. Cover
design and 24 pages in full colour. Picture boards, cloth back, 6_s._

This delightful volume tells in picture and verse how Dick and his friend
the Hare sailed to the Downy Isle, the adventures they met with in that
strange country, their encounter with the Dragon, and their remarkable
voyage home. Mr. Orr exhibits in these designs a rare combination of
humorous invention with brilliant draughtsmanship and command of colour,
and the author supports him with a series of racy verses.

  “The illustrations are masterpieces of drollery.”—_Manchester Courier_.

  “The verses are very funny and original.”—_World_.


FRED SMITH

The Animal Book. A Natural History for Little Folk with a Coloured
Frontispiece and 34 full-page Illustrations by F. SPECHT. Crown quarto,
11¼ inches by 9½ inches, picture boards, cloth back, 2_s._ 6_d._

This book consists of a series of bright and instructive sketches of the
better-known wild beasts, describing their appearance, character and
habits, and the position they hold in the animal kingdom. The text is
printed in a large, clear type, and is admirably illustrated with
powerful, realistic pictures of the various creatures in their native
state by that eminent animal artist F. Specht.

  “A work of the greatest value to the young.”—_Eastern Morning News_.

  [Illustration: _From THE BIG BOOK OF NURSERY RHYMES_
  BY CHARLES ROBINSON—WALTER JERROLD     (See page 25)]

  [Illustration: _From MY BOOK OF TRUE STORIES_
  (See page 31)
  SIR PHILIP SIDNEY AND THE DYING SOLDIER
  (_Reduced from a Colour Illustration_)]


H. B. NEILSON—CLIFTON BINGHAM

The Animals’ Academy. With 24 full-page Colour Illustrations and many
Black-and-White Vignettes. Picture-boards, cloth back, 3_s._ 6_d._; cloth,
5_s._

In _The Animals’ Academy_ Mr. Neilson and Mr. Bingham have again combined
their forces, and have turned out a picture-book which for fun and variety
will be difficult to equal. In bright, musical, “catchy” verse Mr. Bingham
tells of the many amusing events that take place at a school in which the
elephant is master and other well-known animals are the scholars, and Mr.
Neilson illustrates the story as only he can illustrate animal frolics.

  “A humorous, clever, and delightful book. The pictures of the dressed-up
  animals will captivate little children.”—_British Weekly_.


H. B. NEILSON—JOHN BRYMER

Games and Gambols. Illustrated by HARRY B. NEILSON; with Verses by JOHN
BRYMER. 26 pages in colour, and 24 pages of letterpress. Picture boards, 9
inches by 11¼ inches, cloth back, 2_s._ 6_d._; also cloth elegant, 3_s._
6_d._

Mr. Neilson surpasses himself in these irresistible colour pictures
representing the animal world at play. The great test match between the
Lions and the Kangaroos, Mrs. Mouse’s Ping-Pong Party, Mr. Bruin playing
Golf, Towser’s Bicycle Tour, and the Kittens _v._ Bunnies Football Match,
are a few among the many droll subjects illustrated in this amusing and
original series.

  “Mr. Neilson has a positive genius for making animals comic.”—_Academy_.

  “Children will revel in his work.”—_Daily Graphic_.


S. R. PRAEGER

How They Went to School. With 24 full-page pictures in full colour.
Picture-boards, cloth back, 2_s._ 6_d._; cloth extra, 3_s._ 6_d._

A pretty picture-book for the little ones, full of quiet humour and shrewd
observation of child life. The book tells in picture and story how Hal and
Kitty, two tiny scholars, set out on their way to school, and the various
adventures that happen to them on the road.

  “Quite the most charming book we have yet seen.”—_Daily News_.


OUR DARLING’S FIRST BOOK

Bright Pictures and Easy Lessons for Little Folk. Quarto, 10⅛ inches by 7¾
inches, picture boards, 1_s._; cloth, gilt edges, 2_s._

An interesting and instructive picture lesson-book for very little folk.
Beginning with an illustrated alphabet of large letters, the little reader
goes forward by easy stages to word-making, reading, counting, writing,
and finally to the most popular nursery rhymes and tales.

  “The very perfection of a child’s alphabet and spelling-book.”—_St.
  James’s Budget_.


ELLINOR DAVENPORT ADAMS

Those Twins! With a Frontispiece and 28 Illustrations by S. B. PEARSE.
Cloth elegant, 2_s._ 6_d._

Two little rogues are the twins, Horatio and Tommy; but loyal-hearted and
generous to boot, and determined to resist the stern decree of their aunt
that they shall forsake the company of their scapegrace grown-up cousin
Algy. So they deliberately set to work to “reform” the scapegrace; and
succeed so well that he wins back the love of his aunt, and delights the
twins by earning a V.C. in South Africa.

  “A merry story for young and old.”—_World_.


A. B. ROMNEY

Little Village Folk. With 37 Illustrations by ROBERT HOPE. 2_s._ 6_d._

A series of delightful stories of Irish village children. Miss Romney
opens up a new field in these beautiful little tales, which have the
twofold charm of humour and poetic feeling.

  “A story-book that will be welcomed wherever it makes its
  way.”—_Literary World_.


MY NEW STORY-BOOK

Stories, Verses, and Pictures for the Little Ones. 290 pages, of which 48
are in colour. Cloth; 2_s._ 6_d._

A treasury of entertainment for the nursery. The contents are extremely
varied both as regards the text and the illustrations, and carefully
designed to meet the tastes of the little ones. The many bright colour
pictures will be in themselves a never-failing source of delight.

  “A fascinating little volume, well filled with stories and quaint and
  pretty illustrations.”—_Guardian_.



                       STORIES BY GEORGE MAC DONALD

                        (NEW AND UNIFORM EDITION)

                              --------------

A Rough Shaking. With 12 page Illustrations by W. PARKINSON. Crown 8vo,
cloth elegant, 3_s._ 6_d._

Clare, the hero of the story, is a boy whose mother is killed at his side
by the fall of a church during an earthquake. The kindly clergyman and his
wife, who adopt him, die while he is still very young, and he is thrown
upon the world a second time. The narrative of his wanderings is full of
interest and novelty, the boy’s unswerving honesty and his passion for
children and animals leading him into all sorts of adventures. He works on
a farm, supports a baby in an old deserted house, finds employment in a
menagerie, becomes a bank clerk, is kidnapped, and ultimately discovers
his father on board the ship to which he has been conveyed.


At the Back of the North Wind. With 75 Illustrations by ARTHUR HUGHES, and
a Frontispiece by LAURENCE HOUSMAN. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, 3_s._ 6_d._

  “In _At the Back of the North Wind_ we stand with one foot in fairyland
  and one on common earth. The story is thoroughly original, full of fancy
  and pathos.”—_The Times_.


Ranald Bannerman’s Boyhood. With 36 Illustrations by ARTHUR HUGHES. Crown
8vo, cloth elegant, 3_s._ 6_d._

  “Dr. Mac Donald has a real understanding of boy nature, and he has in
  consequence written a capital story, judged from their stand-point, with
  a true ring all through which ensures its success.”—_The Spectator_.


The Princess and the Goblin. With 30 Illustrations by ARTHUR HUGHES, and a
Frontispiece by LAURENCE HOUSMAN. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, 3_s._ 6_d._

In the sphere of fantasy George Mac Donald has very few equals, and his
rare touch of many aspects of life invariably gives to his stories a
deeper meaning of the highest value. His _Princess and Goblin_ exemplifies
both gifts. A fine thread of allegory runs through the narrative of the
adventures of the young miner, who, amongst other marvellous experiences,
finds his way into the caverns of the gnomes, and achieves a final victory
over them.


The Princess and Curdie. With Frontispiece and 30 Illustrations by HELEN
STRATTON. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, 3_s._ 6_d._

A sequel to _The Princess and the Goblin_, tracing the history of the
young miner and the princess after the return of the latter to her
father’s court, where more terrible foes have to be encountered than the
grotesque earth-dwellers.



                          NEW “GRADUATED” SERIES

      _With coloured frontispiece and black-and-white illustrations_

                              --------------

No child of six or seven should have any difficulty in reading and
understanding _unaided_ the pretty stories in the 6_d._ series. In the
9_d._ series the language used is slightly more advanced, but is well
within the capacity of children of seven and upwards, while the 1_s._
series is designed for little folk of somewhat greater attainments. If the
stories are read _to_ and not _by_ children, it will be found that the
6_d._ 9_d._ and 1_s._ series are equally suitable for little folk of all
ages.

*“GRADUATED” STORIES AT A SHILLING*

      Holidays at Sunnycroft. By ANNIE S. SWAN. _New Edition._
      At Lathom’s Siege. By SARAH TYTLER.
      Fleckie. By BESSIE MARCHANT.
      Elsie Wins. By ELLINOR DAVENPORT ADAMS.
      Bears and Dacoits. By G. A. HENTY.
      Crusoes of the Frozen North. By DR. GORDON STABLES.
      A Saxon Maid. By ELIZA F. POLLARD.
      Uncle Bob. By MEREDITH FLETCHER.
      Jack of Both Sides. By FLORENCE COOMBE.
      Do Your Duty! By G. A. HENTY.
      Terry. By ROSA MULHOLLAND (Lady Gilbert).

*“GRADUATED” STORIES AT NINEPENCE*

      Gipsy Dick. By Mrs. HENRY CLARKE.
      Two to One. By FLORENCE COOMBE.
      Cherrythorpe Fair. By MABEL MACKNESS.
      Little Greycoat. By ELLINOR DAVENPORT ADAMS.
      Tommy’s Trek. By BESSIE MARCHANT.
      That Boy Jim. By Mrs. HENRY CLARKE.
      The Adventures of Carlo. By KATHARINE TYNAN.
      The Shoeblack’s Cat. By W. L. ROOPER.
      Three Troublesome Monkeys. By A. B. ROMNEY.
      The Little Red Purse. By JENNIE CHAPPELL.

*“GRADUATED” STORIES AT SIXPENCE*

      Hi-Tum, Ti-Tum, and Scrub. By JENNIE CHAPPELL.
      Edie’s Adventures. By GERALDINE MOCKLER.
      Two Little Crusoes. By A. B. ROMNEY.
      The Lost Doll. By JENNIE CHAPPELL.
      Bunny and Furry. By GERALDINE MOCKLER.
      Bravest of All. By MABEL MACKNESS.
      Winnie’s White Frock. By JENNIE CHAPPELL.
      Lost Toby. By M. S. HAYCRAFT.
      A Boy Cousin. By GERALDINE MOCKLER.
      Travels of Fuzz and Buzz. By GERALDINE MOCKLER.
      Teddy’s Adventures. By Mrs. HENRY CLARKE.



                       NEW CHILDREN’S PICTURE-BOOKS

                              --------------

                           Grimm’s Fairy Tales

In this beautiful series of picture-books the best of these fairy tales
are given. The text is printed on good paper in a large and clear type,
and the many illustrations in colour and in black-and-white are by Miss
HELEN STRATTON.

                            HALF-CROWN SERIES

                _Picture-boards, 13½ inches by 10 inches_

                          *Grimm’s Fairy Tales*

This handsome volume contains a large selection of the most popular
stories by the brothers Grimm. The cover and no fewer than thirty pages
are in full colour. Also in cloth, 3s. 6d.

                           ONE SHILLING SERIES

                _Picture-boards, 13½ inches by 10 inches_

                 *Hansel and Grettel* | *Cherryblossom*
                           *Roland and Maybird*

Besides the title story each volume contains several of the most popular
of _Grimm’s Fairy Tales_.

                              --------------

                         Historical Picture-Books

This novel series comprises those stories in English History that will
interest and amuse little children. The tales are told in such a manner as
to attract children, dates and anything that might even in the slightest
way suggest the lesson-book being carefully avoided.

                           ONE SHILLING SERIES

            _Picture-boards. Quarto, 10⅛ inches by 7¾ inches_

                        *My Book of True Stories*

This book contains over thirty full-page drawings and a large number of
smaller illustrations by Mr. T. H. Robinson. The cover and about twenty
pages are in colour. Also in cloth, gilt edges, 2_s._

                             SIXPENNY SERIES

            _Picture-boards. Quarto, 10⅛ inches by 7¾ inches_

                      *True Stories of Olden Days*
                      *True Stories of Great Deeds*
                         *My Book of Noble Deeds*

Each book contains seven or eight pages in colour and many black-and-white
illustrations. The text is printed in bold type.

                              --------------

                         Scripture Picture-Books

This excellent series includes several books of New Testament stories
simply told. The illustrations are by eminent artists, and the text,
which, besides incidents in the life of Christ, includes most of the
Parables, has been specially written by Mrs. L. Haskell, one of the most
popular authors of stories for little folk.

                           ONE SHILLING SERIES

            _Picture boards. Quarto, 10⅛ inches by 7¾ inches._

                    *Stories from the Life of Christ*

This interesting volume contains over thirty full-page drawings, and a
large number of smaller illustrations. The cover and no fewer than twenty
pages are in colour. Also in cloth, gilt edges, 2_s._

                             SIXPENNY SERIES

            _Picture boards. Quarto, 10⅛ inches by 7¾ inches_

                     *Glad Tidings* | *Gentle Jesus*
                           *The Good Shepherd*

Each book contains an average of six full-page illustrations, many
vignettes, and eight pages in colour. The text is printed in bold type.

                              --------------

                           Animal Picture-Books

This is certainly the best series of Animal Picture-books published at the
price. The pictures, which are all drawn by eminent artists, will form an
endless source of pleasure to little folks. The text is written in very
simple language.

                           ONE SHILLING SERIES

            _Picture-boards. Quarto, 10⅛ inches by 7¾ inches_

             *A Picture-Book of Animals* | *Faithful Friends*

These bright and attractive volumes contain over thirty full-page
drawings, and a number of smaller illustrations. The cover and about
twenty pages are in colour. Also in cloth, gilt edges, 2_s._

                             SIXPENNY SERIES

            _Picture-boards. Quarto, 10⅛ inches by 7¾ inches_

             *Talks about Animals* | *Bow-wow Picture-Book*
                *Animals of All Lands* | *Cats and Kits*
               *My Book of Animals* | *Friends at the Farm*

Each contains seven or eight pages in colour and many black-and-white
illustrations. The covers, also in colour, are very attractive.



                            TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE


The following typographical errors were corrected:

      page 54, “been” changed to “been on”
      page 54, “mast.” changed to “mast?”
      page 60, “clergyman” changed to “clergyman.”
      page 96, “operation.” changed to “operation?”
      page 97, “may” changed to “many”
      page 251, “coxwain” changed to “coxswain”
      page 252, “as well” changed to “a swell”
      page 319, “kine” changed to “kind”
      page 341, “Colpoy’s” changed to “Colpoys’”
      advertisements, page 12, “success” changed to “success.”

In addition, many missing or wrong quote marks have been standardized.

Inconsistent use of hyphens and capitalization of military ranks has been
retained as in the original.

One illustration, which was between pages 32 and 33 in the original
edition, has been moved to page 65, as indicated in the list of
illustrations.





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