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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

Nat drove his dirk into the animal as he fell


there is no doubt about his pluck, Playford, and indeed I partly owe my life to him. When we captured that piratical brigantine near Santa Lucia I boarded by the stern, and she had such a strong crew that we were being beaten back, and things looked very bad until he with the gig's crew swarmed in over the bow. Even then it was a very tough struggle till they cut their way through the pirates and joined us, and we went at them together, and that youngster fought like a young fiend. He was in the thick of it everywhere, and yet he was as cool as a cucumber. Oh yes, he has the making of a very fine officer. Although I am obliged to be sharp with him, there is not a shadow of harm in the lad, but he certainly has a genius for getting into scrapes."

The two midshipmen went ashore together. "I don't know what you are going to do, Curtis, but after I have walked through the place and had a look at it, I shall hire a horse and ride out into the country."

"It is too hot for riding," the other said. "Of course I shall see what there is to be seen, and then I shall look for a seat in some place in the shade and eat fruit."

"Well, we may as well walk through the town together," Nat said cheerfully. "From the look of the place I should fancy there was not much in it, and I know the fellows who went on shore before said that the town contained nothing but native huts, a few churches, and

two or three dozen old French houses."

Half an hour indeed sufficed to explore the place. When they separated Nat had no difficulty in hiring a horse. He had been accustomed, when in England, to ride a pony, and was therefore at home in the saddle; he proceeded at a leisurely pace along the road across the flat plain that surrounded Cape Francois. On either side were plantations,--sugar-cane and tobacco,--and he occasionally passed the abode of some wealthy planter, surrounded by shady trees and gardens gorgeous with tropical plants and flowers. He was going by one of these, half a mile from the town, when he heard a loud scream, raised evidently by a woman in extreme pain or terror. He was just opposite the entrance, and, springing from his horse, he ran in.

On the ground, twenty yards from the gate, lay a girl. A huge hound had hold of her shoulder, and was shaking her violently. Nat drew his dirk and gave a loud shout as he rushed forward. The hound loosed his hold of the girl and turned to meet him, and, springing upon him with a savage growl, threw him to the ground. Nat drove his dirk into the animal as he fell, and threw his left arm across his throat to prevent the dog seizing him there. A moment later the hound had seized it with a grip that extracted a shout of pain from the midshipman. As he again buried his dirk in the hound's side, the dog shifted his hold from Nat's forearm to his shoulder and shook him as if he had been a child.

Nat made no effort to free himself, for he knew that were he to uncover his throat for a moment the dog would seize him there. Though the pain was terrible he continued to deal stroke after stroke to the dog. One of these blows must have reached the heart, for suddenly its hold relaxed and it rolled over, just as half a dozen negroes armed with sticks came rushing out of the house. Nat tried to raise himself on his right arm, but the pain of the left was so great that he leant back again half-fainting. Presently he felt himself being lifted up and carried along; he heard a lady's voice giving directions, and then for a time he knew no more. When he came to himself he saw the ship's doctor leaning over him.

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