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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

Turnbull and Lippincott were anxiously awaiting Nat's return


have always reckoned upon their coming upon us by one of the main roads from the hills," one of the gentlemen said.

"So I see, monsieur; but some of the mulattoes with them are men of considerable intelligence, and would be hardly foolish enough to try to break down the door that you have closed against them when they know that there is an open entrance at the back. If there is a man with the smallest spark of military genius about him he will commence the attack by a feint in considerable force against the batteries, and then, under cover of the smoke of your guns and his own--for I hear from Monsieur Pickard that they are said to have fifteen or twenty guns which they have taken at small places on the coast--will send round the main body of his force to fall on the native town. That is my opinion, gentlemen. I know very little of military matters, but it seems to me that is the course that any man of moderate intelligence would pursue, and I therefore should strongly advise that at least half your volunteer force should take post to defend the native town, and so give time to the remainder to come up and assist in the defence. I shall post my sailors in a position where they can best aid in the defence in this direction, and shall have the guns of my ship in readiness to open fire on the native town if you are driven back."

"Thank you, sir. We shall have another meeting late this evening, and I shall do my

best to urge the committee to act as you suggest."

Nat returned on board the _Agile_. Already most of the ships in the port had anchored a short distance outside the brigantine, and a few that had kept on until the last moment taking their cargo on board were being towed by their boats in the same direction. Turnbull and Lippincott were anxiously awaiting Nat's return. Retiring into the cabin, he told them the result of his investigation of the defences and the position on shore.

"I think we shall have hot work to-morrow," he went on. "If the negroes are not absolute fools they will not knock their heads against the batteries. There are twenty cannon in position, for the most part ships' guns, and as I hear that they have plenty of ammunition, and especially grape, they would simply mow the niggers down if they attacked them. There is only one battery with three guns covering the native town, and the blacks ought to have no difficulty in carrying this with a rush. We have learnt by experience that, whatever their faults, they can fight furiously, and are ready enough to risk their lives. Thus, this battery may be taken in a few minutes. If a hundred of the volunteers held the huts behind it they might check them for a time, but as the negroes are several thousands strong the resistance cannot be long. The best point of defence will be that street facing us here. Our guns will come into play, and it is there that I shall join the French as they fall back.

"I shall get you, Mr. Lippincott, to row round this evening to all these craft near us, and to request the captains, in my name, to send all the men provided with muskets they may have, on board us, as soon as firing is heard. You will remain on board in charge, Turnbull; with your arm in a sling, you are not fit for fighting on shore. With your twenty men you ought to be able to work the guns pretty fast. Between their shots the men with muskets would aid. Of course you would use grape. If their attack lulls in the least send a few round-shot among the houses on their side. Pomp and Sam had better go ashore with us and act as boat-keepers. I will take the boat higher up than those of the townspeople, for if a panic seizes them there would be a mad rush to get on board. We will go a couple of hundred yards farther, and the boat will lie a short distance out, and not come in close till they see us running towards it. In that way we can make sure of being able to get on board."

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