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A Middy of the Slave Squadron by Harry Collingwood

And the gradual transition from the ruddy


While

the sun still hovered a degree or two above the tree-tops on the western bank of the stream, the moon, now nearly full, sailed gloriously into view above the clumps of vegetation that shrouded the eastern bank; and the gradual transition from the ruddy, golden light of the dying sun to the flooding silver of the brilliant moon, with the ever-changing effects that accompanied the transition, presented a spectacle of enchanting beauty such as I had never up to that time beheld, even at sea. But, beyond a low muttered word or two and a grunt, apparently expressive of deep satisfaction at the appearance of the unclouded moon, the savages took no notice of the magical loveliness of the scene; and while I sat entranced and practically oblivious of everything else, they merely paddled the harder, conversing in low tones among themselves. Of course I did not understand a single word of what was said, yet, so much did I gather from the glances that they flung about them, and the emphasis and accent of their speech, that I shrewdly suspected them of anticipating the possibility of attack from the shore.

This suspicion was strengthened, a little later on, by the fact that as we approached a certain bend in the river our timoneer edged the canoe in toward the eastern bank, until we were completely plunged in the deep shadow of the vegetation that grew right down to the water's edge, as though he were desirous of escaping observation; at least there was

no other reason that I could think of for such a manoeuvre, for by this time the current was running up quite strongly, and under ordinary circumstances it would have been to our advantage to have remained in mid-channel, where the full strength of it would be felt. But if this was his object he was only partially successful; for we presently arrived abreast of a bay, or it may have been the wide entrance of a creek, many of which branched off the main stream on either hand, where the forest receded so far that, for the distance of fully half a mile, we were compelled to traverse a space of water completely flooded by the brilliant rays of the moon, and before we had accomplished half the passage a quick ejaculation of mingled annoyance and dismay from the steersman caused me to glance toward the western bank, from an opening in which half-a-dozen canoes were darting out with the evident determination to intercept us if possible. Fortunately for us, however, we had already passed the spot from which the pursuing canoes were emerging, this spot now bearing well upon our port quarter; but, on the other hand, our pursuers would presently obtain an important advantage over us, since they would soon reach the deep channel, where the upward current was now running strongly. I feared that when they arrived in that channel they would turn the bows of their craft up-stream and avail themselves of the advantage afforded by the strong current to endeavour to pass ahead of us and cut off our retreat; but in the eagerness of their pursuit they seemed to lose sight of this advantage, for they continued to head straight for us, while we, impelled by the full strength of our thirty paddles, now plied with desperate energy by our freely perspiring crew, gradually drew out and threw our pursuers still further on our quarter. Yet they were steadily nearing us, and I did not see how we could scrape clear without something in the nature of a fight.

All this time we were heading straight for a low, heavily timbered point which


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