Narrative Continued by the Doctor: The Jolly-boat's
THIS fifth trip was quite different from any of the
others. In the first place, the little gallipot of a
boat that we were in was gravely overloaded. Five
grown men, and three of them--Trelawney, Redruth, and
the captain--over six feet high, was already more than
she was meant to carry. Add to that the powder, pork,
and bread-bags. The gunwale was lipping astern.
Several times we shipped a little water, and my
breeches and the tails of my coat were all soaking wet
before we had gone a hundred yards.
The captain made us trim the boat, and we got her
to lie a little more evenly. All the same, we were
afraid to breathe.
In the second place, the ebb was now making--a strong
rippling current running westward through the basin,
and then south'ard and seaward down the straits by
which we had entered in the morning. Even the ripples
were a danger to our overloaded craft, but the worst of
it was that we were swept out of our true course and
away from our proper landing-place behind the point.
If we let the current have its way we should come
ashore beside the gigs, where the pirates might appear
at any moment.
"I cannot keep her head for the stockade, sir," said I
to the captain. I was steering, while he and Redruth,
two fresh men, were at the oars. "The tide keeps
washing her down. Could you pull a little stronger?"
"Not without swamping the boat," said he. "You must
bear up, sir, if you please--bear up until you see
I tried and found by experiment that the tide kept sweeping
us westward until I had laid her head due east, or just
about right angles to the way we ought to go.
"We'll never get ashore at this rate," said I.
"If it's the only course that we can lie, sir, we must
even lie it," returned the captain. "We must keep
upstream. You see, sir," he went on, "if once we dropped
to leeward of the landing-place, it's hard to say where we
should get ashore, besides the chance of being boarded by
the gigs; whereas, the way we go the current must slacken,
and then we can dodge back along the shore."
"The current's less a'ready, sir," said the man Gray,
who was sitting in the fore-sheets; "you can ease her
off a bit."
"Thank you, my man," said I, quite as if nothing had
happened, for we had all quietly made up our minds to
treat him like one of ourselves.
Suddenly the captain spoke up again, and I thought his
voice was a little changed.
"The gun!" said he.
"I have thought of that," said I, for I made sure he
was thinking of a bombardment of the fort. "They could
never get the gun ashore, and if they did, they could
never haul it through the woods."
"Look astern, doctor," replied the captain.
We had entirely forgotten the long nine; and there, to
our horror, were the five rogues busy about her,
getting off her jacket, as they called the stout
tarpaulin cover under which she sailed. Not only that,
but it flashed into my mind at the same moment that the
round-shot and the powder for the gun had been left
behind, and a stroke with an axe would put it all into
the possession of the evil ones abroad.
"Israel was Flint's gunner," said Gray hoarsely.
At any risk, we put the boat's head direct for the
landing-place. By this time we had got so far out of
the run of the current that we kept steerage way even
at our necessarily gentle rate of rowing, and I could
keep her steady for the goal. But the worst of it was
that with the course I now held we turned our broadside
instead of our stern to the HISPANIOLA and offered
a target like a barn door.
I could hear as well as see that brandy-faced rascal
Israel Hands plumping down a round-shot on the deck.
"Who's the best shot?" asked the captain.
"Mr. Trelawney, out and away," said I.
"Mr. Trelawney, will you please pick me off one of
these men, sir? Hands, if possible," said the captain.
Trelawney was as cool as steel. He looked to the
priming of his gun.
"Now," cried the captain, "easy with that gun, sir, or
you'll swamp the boat. All hands stand by to trim her
when he aims."
The squire raised his gun, the rowing ceased, and we leaned
over to the other side to keep the balance, and all was so
nicely contrived that we did not ship a drop.
They had the gun, by this time, slewed round upon the
swivel, and Hands, who was at the muzzle with the
rammer, was in consequence the most exposed. However,
we had no luck, for just as Trelawney fired, down he
stooped, the ball whistled over him, and it was one of
the other four who fell.
The cry he gave was echoed not only by his companions
on board but by a great number of voices from the
shore, and looking in that direction I saw the other
pirates trooping out from among the trees and tumbling
into their places in the boats.
"Here come the gigs, sir," said I.
"Give way, then," cried the captain. "We mustn't mind
if we swamp her now. If we can't get ashore, all's up."
"Only one of the gigs is being manned, sir," I added;
"the crew of the other most likely going round by shore
to cut us off."
"They'll have a hot run, sir," returned the captain.
"Jack ashore, you know. It's not them I mind; it's the
round-shot. Carpet bowls! My lady's maid couldn't
miss. Tell us, squire, when you see the match, and
we'll hold water."
In the meanwhile we had been making headway at a good
pace for a boat so overloaded, and we had shipped but
little water in the process. We were now close in;
thirty or forty strokes and we should beach her, for
the ebb had already disclosed a narrow belt of sand
below the clustering trees. The gig was no longer to
be feared; the little point had already concealed it
from our eyes. The ebb-tide, which had so cruelly
delayed us, was now making reparation and delaying our
assailants. The one source of danger was the gun.
"If I durst," said the captain, "I'd stop and pick
off another man."
But it was plain that they meant nothing should delay
their shot. They had never so much as looked at their
fallen comrade, though he was not dead, and I could see
him trying to crawl away.
"Ready!" cried the squire.
"Hold!" cried the captain, quick as an echo.
And he and Redruth backed with a great heave that sent
her stern bodily under water. The report fell in at the
same instant of time. This was the first that Jim heard,
the sound of the squire's shot not having reached him.
Where the ball passed, not one of us precisely knew, but
I fancy it must have been over our heads and that the wind
of it may have contributed to our disaster.
At any rate, the boat sank by the stern, quite gently, in
three feet of water, leaving the captain and myself, facing
each other, on our feet. The other three took complete
headers, and came up again drenched and bubbling.
So far there was no great harm. No lives were lost,
and we could wade ashore in safety. But there were all
our stores at the bottom, and to make things worse,
only two guns out of five remained in a state for
service. Mine I had snatched from my knees and held
over my head, by a sort of instinct. As for the
captain, he had carried his over his shoulder by a
bandoleer, and like a wise man, lock uppermost. The
other three had gone down with the boat.
To add to our concern, we heard voices already drawing
near us in the woods along shore, and we had not only
the danger of being cut off from the stockade in our
half-crippled state but the fear before us whether, if
Hunter and Joyce were attacked by half a dozen, they
would have the sense and conduct to stand firm. Hunter
was steady, that we knew; Joyce was a doubtful case--a
pleasant, polite man for a valet and to brush one's
clothes, but not entirely fitted for a man of war.
With all this in our minds, we waded ashore as fast as
we could, leaving behind us the poor jolly-boat and a
good half of all our powder and provisions.