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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

Nat saw a number of blazing brands


One

by one the captives were got out. There were still two men left when the door opened, and three or four negroes appeared with blazing brands.

"We have come to fetch one of you out to give us a lillie fun. Bake 'im some ober de fire."

Then he broke off with a shout of astonishment as he saw that the hut was almost untenanted, and he and the others were about to rush forward at the two men still there when Nat thrust his arm through the opening. Two shots cracked out, one after the other. The two leading negroes fell, and the others with a yell of terror rushed out of the hut.

"Quick, for your lives!" he said to the two men, one of whom was already half through the window. "We shall have them all on us in a few minutes."

In a few seconds the men were out, and Nat and the two seamen ran with them to the edge of the wood, to which the other captives had been passed on as soon as they were freed. By this time the air was ringing with yells and shouts.

"Now, men, move along a little farther so as to get a view of the fire, and then we will give them a volley."

The negroes were rushing forward, yelling and shouting, when twenty-five muskets rang out with deadly aim, for the blacks were not more than thirty yards away.

"Load again, lads! that will

sicken them for a bit," he shouted; and indeed the negroes with yells of astonishment and fear had run back, leaving some fourteen or fifteen of their number on the ground.

"Are you all loaded?"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"Then down the hill you go. Have the three ladies gone on?"

"Yes, sir; the two blacks went down with them."

"Have the Frenchmen got their pikes? That is good; now keep as close as you can together. They are coming up by scores, and will make a rush in a minute or so."

As fast as they could the sailors and the rescued men made their way down the hill, but owing to the thickness of the trees it was impossible to run. They had gone but a short distance when there was an outburst of yells round them, and, looking back, Nat saw a number of blazing brands.

"You had better have kept in the dark," he muttered. "You would not have come so fast, but more of you would go back alive. Don't hurry, men," he said; "take it coolly. Take care of the trees. They are sure to come up to us, for they can see their way; but they won't be in such a hurry when we open fire again."

They were half-way down the hill when he gave the order: "You four men next to me turn round and pick off some of those fellows with torches. The rest halt in case they make a rush."

The four shots were fired one after the other. As many negroes fell.

"Are you ready, lads? Four more fire!"


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