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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

She is not so fast as the schooner in a light wind


would, sir, I quite felt that, but it seemed to me the only possible thing to do. Of course, if I had known that the boats would have come early in the evening, I should have remained on board and beat them off before making a landing, although our chances of success would then have been much smaller. The party who were to attack in the boats were to have been composed of men from the plantation. Their comrades would doubtless have come down to the shore to see us captured, and when they saw their friends beaten off they would have been on the watch, and not improbably, in their fury and disappointment, have massacred all the captives in their hands at once. But I thought it likely that the boats would not put off before they believed us to be asleep, and that I should therefore have time to go up to the plantation and fetch the captives down before they arrived. At any rate, by moving the schooner close inshore I hoped that the boats might not find her. There was no moon, and under the shadow of the rock it was next to impossible to see her, unless a boat happened to pass within a few paces. Having struck the topmasts, the forest behind on steep ground prevented the masts from showing above the sky-line. It was, of course, the choice of two evils, and I took the one that seemed to me to give the greater promise of success."

"You did excellently, the oldest officer in the service could not have done better. I shall be obliged if you will write

as full and detailed an account of both affairs as you have given me. I shall send it home with your official report, and with my own remarks upon them. And now about the merchantman; she looks a fine barque. What is her tonnage?"

"Six hundred tons, sir. She is a nearly new vessel, and sails fast for a ship of that kind. Her first mate told me that she has a very valuable cargo on board, principally, I think, tobacco, sugar, coffee, wax, copper, mahogany, and cedar from Cuba. Her passengers are all Spanish."

"She seems to be a valuable prize, and as recaptured from the pirates there will be a handsome sum to be divided, and it is fortunate for you and your officers that the little craft was commissioned independently, not as a tender to one of the frigates. As it is, except the flag's share, it will all fall to yourselves and your crew. How many men have you lost?"

"None at all, sir; though, as you will see by my report, in the two affairs the greater part of them received more or less severe wounds. Mr. Turnbull was somewhat severely wounded, Mr. Lippincott nearly lost an ear, and I escaped altogether."

"Well, it was your turn, Lieutenant Glover. You have come back three times more or less severely hurt already. You say that the brigantine is fast?"

"Yes, sir. She is not so fast as the schooner in a light wind, nor so weatherly, but in anything like strong winds I have no doubt that she would overhaul us."

"Was there anything in her hold?"

"There are a good many bales and cases, sir. I have not opened them, but by their marks they come from three different ships, which she had no doubt captured and sunk before we fell in with her. I questioned one of the prisoners, and he told me that it was only a month since she came out, and he declared that they had not yet chosen any place as their head-quarters. As others questioned separately told the same story, I imagine that it was true."

"Where did she hail from?"

"She came from Bordeaux. They said that she had taken out letters of marque to act as a privateer in case of war breaking out with us, but I fancy that she was from the first intended for a pirate, for it seems that she had only forty hands when she started, and picked up the others at various French ports at which she touched before sailing west. I should say, from the appearance of her crew, that they are composed of the sweepings of the ports, for a more villainous set of rascals I never saw."

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