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A Middy of the Slave Squadron by Harry Collingwood

Transfixed by a broad bladed spear


We

reached the scene of the struggle so much sooner than I had expected that it was impossible to avoid the conclusion that our people were being steadily forced back in the direction of the camp; and this I afterwards found to be correct; but the appearance of the skipper with his reinforcements soon put another face upon the matter. It was evident that the foe--consisting of some hundreds of negro savages had been under the impression that they were fighting the entire strength of the British, but when we came up they at once discovered their mistake, which, with the knowledge that, for aught they could tell, there might be further reinforcements waiting to take a hand in the game, somewhat damped their courage. Not by any means at once, however; indeed it was not for perhaps two or three minutes after our appearance upon the scene that the first actual check upon their advance occurred. For they appeared to number seven or eight to every one of us, and moreover they were all picked warriors in the very prime of life, brave, fierce, determined fellows, every one of them, and well armed with spear, shield, war-club, and, in some cases, a most formidable kind of battle- axe.

"Spread out right and left, and cut in wherever you can find room," ordered the skipper as we plunged, stumbling and gasping, into the midst of the fray. And there was no difficulty in obeying this order; for, narrow as the sand spit was, it was yet too wide for Mr Purchase

and the port watch to draw a close cordon across it; there were gaps of a fathom or more in width between each of our men, and those gaps were rapidly widening as some poor wretch went down, transfixed by a broad- bladed spear, was clove to the shoulder by the terrific blow of an axe, or had his brains dashed out by a war-club. But as our contingent arrived each man chose an enemy--there was no difficulty in doing that-- and pulled trigger upon him, generally bringing him down, for we were too close to miss; after which it became literally a hand-to-hand fight, some using their discharged muskets as clubs while others flung them away and trusted to their cutlasses, and one or two at least--for I saw them close alongside me--depended entirely upon the weapons with which nature had provided them, first dealing an enemy a knock-out blow with the clenched fist and then dispatching him with one of his own weapons. As for me, I still had the brace of pistols and the cutlass with which I had provided myself when setting-out upon our ill-starred boat expedition up the river, and I made play as best I could with these, bowling over a savage with each of my pistols and then whipping out my cutlass. For a time I did pretty well, I and those on either side of me not only holding our ground but actually beginning to force the enemy back; but at length a huge savage loomed up before me with his war-club raised to strike. My only chance seemed to be to get in a cut or a thrust before the blow could fall, and I accordingly lunged out at his great brawny chest. But the fellow was keen-eyed and active as a cat; he sprang to one side, avoiding my thrust, and at the same instant brought down his club upon my blade with a force that shattered the latter like glass and made my arm tingle to such an extent that for the moment at least I was powerless in the right arm. Then, quick as thought, he swung up the huge club again, with the evident determination to brain me. Disarmed and defenceless, I did the on'y thing that was possible, which was to spring at his great throat and grip it with my left hand, pressing my thumb hard upon his wind-pipe. But I was like a child in his hands; he shook me off with scarcely an effort; and as I went reeling backward I saw his club come sweeping down straight for the top of my head. At that precise instant something seemed to flash dully before my eyes in a momentary gleam of starlight, a sharp _tchick_ came to my ears, a few spots of what felt like hot rain spattered in my face, and the great savage, his knees doubling beneath him, reeled backward with a horrible groan and crashed to the sand, with Cupid's axe quivering in his brain, while the club, flying from his relaxed grasp, caught me on the left forearm, which I had instinctively flung up to defend myself, snapping the bone like a carrot, and then whirling over and catching me a blow upon the head that stretched me senseless. But before I fell I had become conscious that through the distracting noises of the fight that raged around me I could hear the sound of renewed firing spluttering out from the direction of the boats.


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