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A Middy of the Slave Squadron by Harry Collingwood

For the cauffle that is arriving is a big one


"Ah,

Monsieur Anglais, if we had but known--" answered one of the Frenchmen, with a rather rueful smile. "However," he continued, shrugging his shoulders, "although you have contrived to get hold of us--and the captain--you have not yet got the ship; and before you can get her you will be obliged to use a great deal more guile than sufficed for our capture; for Monsieur Favart is a sharp one, I assure you, and not to be so very easily deceived."

"I can well believe it," I answered lightly. "All the same, I am very much obliged to you for the hint, and will do my best to profit by it."

Whereupon, as I turned on my heel to quit the house, the garrulous Frenchman's three shipmates fell upon him, figuratively, tooth and nail, heaping reproaches upon the unhappy man's head for having warned me against the chief mate's astuteness. I did not wait to hear how the matter ended, but, leaving the house briskly, as though I were the bearer of an important message, I hurried across to the wharf and, dropping into the dinghy, cast off her painter and sculled her across to _La Belle Estelle_, alongside which I coolly went, and, making fast the painter, ascended the gangway ladder and stepped in on deck before anybody condescended to take any notice of me. There were some twenty men, or thereabout, busying themselves about the deck in a very leisurely manner, taking off hatches, hauling taut the running rigging, and so on, under

the supervision of a very smart, keen-looking man, dressed, like the skipper of the ship, in white. This man I took to be Monsieur Favart, the chief mate; so stepping up to him where he stood, at the break of the monkey poop, I raised my hat politely and said:

"Have I the pleasure to address Monsieur Favart, the chief mate of this vessel?"

"Certainly, monsieur," he answered, bringing his piercing black eyes to bear upon me. "And who may you be, my friend, that you find it necessary to ask such a question? I thought I had been here often enough to enable every dweller upon yonder island to at least know Jules Favart by sight. But I do not seem to remember ever having seen you before."

"You have not, monsieur," I answered. "I am quite a new recruit, and only joined just in time to witness the destruction of that pestilent British man-o'-war, the wreck of which you doubtless observed as you entered the river."

"We did," he answered; "and we guessed, of course, that it was the wreck of the _Psyche_. So that affair came off all right, eh? Well, I didn't very well see how it could possibly fail, for we all had a hand in the devising and arranging of it, and we chopped and trimmed away at the plan until I flatter myself that it was as perfect as human ingenuity could make it. But I take it that you did not come aboard here to discuss that matter with me?"

"No, indeed," I answered. "My business with you has reference to quite another affair. I bring a message to you from Captain Lenoir, who is at present discussing with Senor Morillo the matter of the expected arrival of the cauffle this afternoon. We find ourselves in something of a difficulty over that matter; and your arrival in the nick of time proves most opportune. For you must know that when the _Psyche_ was cut adrift and came ashore, her crew were compelled to camp on the beach, yonder; and Senor Morillo considered that the opportunity to give the English a thorough drubbing was far too good to be let slip; he therefore attacked them in the dead of night, and punished them severely; but I regret to say that our side also suffered very heavily, with the result that a good many of our best men are at this moment on the sick list and unfit for duty. This puts us in a very awkward position; for the cauffle that is arriving is a big one, and rather difficult to handle--so we learn. Therefore, in order to avoid all possibility of trouble, Senor Morillo has arranged with Captain Lenoir that the latter shall land his crew to lend a hand in keeping the slaves in order when they arrive; and my instructions from the captain are to request that you will at once land, bringing all hands except the idlers with you."


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