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A Middy of the Slave Squadron by Harry Collingwood

Then her fore topmast staysail


At

length the brigantine, with the barque less than a cable's length astern of her--both of them flying Spanish colours at their gaff-ends-- arrived within a mile of the spot where it would be necessary for her to luff up in order to fetch the anchorage, whereupon Purchase and I descended from our look-out, and, having made our final report to the skipper, went our several ways--the first to take command of the pinnace in the impending attack, and I to place myself at the head of the convalescents, my duty being to assist as might be required, and to see that the prisoners did not seize the opportunity to become troublesome.

The prisoners were all confined in outbuildings at the rear of the settlement, and it was there that my little band of armed convalescents were assembled; consequently I was obliged to station myself where I could keep an eye upon and be in touch with them. Yet I was quite determined that, even though I must keep one eye upon my own especial command, and the buildings over which they were mounting guard, I would also witness the attack upon the approaching slavers. Ultimately, after two or three unsuccessful attempts, I succeeded in finding a spot from which I could accomplish both objects, and at the same time sit comfortably in the shadow of a building.

A few minutes later, from behind the belt of trees and scrub that extended along the whole southern shore of the islet, I beheld the end

of the brigantine's flying-jib-boom slide into view, with the flying- jib, recently hauled down, napping loosely in the wind; then followed the rest of the spar, with the standing jib also hauled down, and a couple of men out on the boom, busily engaged in stowing it; then her fore-topmast staysail, beautifully cut and drawing like a whole team of horses, swept into view, followed by the fore part of a very handsome hull bearing the foremast, with the topsail still set, the topgallantsail and royal clewed up and in process of being furled, and the course hanging from the foreyard in graceful festoons. Finally came the remaining length of hull with the towering mainmast supporting a mainsail as handsomely cut and setting as flat as that of a yacht.

She was a most beautiful vessel, sitting very low in the water, and therefore, perhaps, looking even longer than she actually was. She was broadside-on to me, so I could not see what amount of beam she showed; consequently it was a little difficult to estimate her size, but, judging from her general appearance, I put it down at about two hundred and twenty tons. She was painted a brilliant grass green from her rail to her copper, and showed four ports of a side, out of which peered the muzzles of certain brass cannon that I decided were probably long nines.

The vessel reached across the narrow channel and went in stays quite close to the tree-clad northern shore of the lagoon--thus at once exhibiting her own exceedingly shallow-draught of water and her skipper's intimate knowledge of the locality--just as the barque in turn hove in sight. This last vessel had nothing at all remarkable in her appearance, except perhaps that her canvas was exceptionally well cut, but she was by no means a beauty, and to the eye presented all the characteristics of the ordinary merchantman, being painted black, with a broad white band round her upon which were depicted ten painted ports. But these appearances of honesty were deceptive, for despite the general "motherliness" of her aspect she was almost as speedy a ship as the brigantine, although she had by this time shortened down to her two topsails and fore-topmast staysail. Also, with the aid of my telescope, I was able to discern, above the blatant pretence of the painted ports, six closed ports of a side, which I had no doubt concealed as many cannon.


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