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One of the 28th - a Tale of Waterloo

CHAPTER V.

THE BRITISH CRUISERS.

An hour passed. During this time the watchers on the hill saw that the brig had been lying alongside the three-masted vessel, and felt sure that the cargo was being transferred, then the merchantman's sails were hoisted, and she slowly sailed away. For another hour the other two crafts lay motionless, then they hoisted sail and headed for the island. There was a brisk, steady wind blowing, and they came along fast through the water.

"We shall soon see now whether your frigate has made them out," Jacques said; "but I will not wait any longer but will go and tell the captain what is going on. In another hour the others will be up here to relieve you, then you can bring down the latest news."

Left alone, Ralph watched anxiously the progress of the distant vessels, turning the glass frequently toward the other island, beyond the end of which he momentarily expected to see the white sails of the frigate appear. An hour passed. The schooner and the brig were now within about four miles of the nearest point of the island, and still there were no signs of the English ship. Presently he heard voices behind him, and two French sailors came up. Ralph was now free to return, but he thought he had better wait until the brig and schooner reached a point where they would be hidden by the island from the sight of any-one who might be watching on the hill six miles away.

In another half-hour they had reached this point. No signs had been seen of the frigate, and Ralph felt sure that she must have been anchored in some bay whose headland prevented her seeing the approaching craft; for had she noticed them she would assuredly have set out to intercept them before they reached the island, which lay almost dead to windward of them. He was just turning to go when one of the men gave a sudden exclamation. He turned round again and saw the frigate just appearing from behind the other island. She was close-hauled, and it was soon evident by her course that she was beating up for the point round which the other two ships had disappeared.

Ralph was puzzled at this; for if she had made out the brig and schooner, her natural course would have been to have made for the other end of the island, so as to cut them off as they sailed past it; whereas they would now, when they gained the extremity of the island, find themselves five or six miles astern of the other two craft. The French sailors were equally puzzled, and there was a hot argument between them; but they finally concluded that her appearance at that moment must be accidental, and she could not have made out the privateers. They had just told Ralph to run down with the news to the harbor when a light was thrown upon the mystery; for from the other end of the island from which the frigate had emerged a large schooner appeared. Every sail was set, and her course was directed toward this other end of the island upon which the watchers were standing. The two French sailors burst out into a torrent of oaths, expressive of surprise and alarm; for it was evident that from the course the schooner was taking she intended to intercept the two privateers, and engage them until the frigate came to her assistance.

"Run, boy! run for your life!" one of them exclaimed, "and tell the captain. But no; wait a moment," and he directed the glass upon the schooner. "A thousand curses!" he exclaimed. "It is the Cerf schooner the English captured from us six months ago. She is the fastest craft in these waters. Tell the captain that I am coming after you, but your legs will beat mine."

Ralph dashed off at full speed, but as soon as he had fairly distanced the French sailor he began to run more slowly. For the moment he had so entered into the feelings of his companions that he had identified himself with them, but now he had time to think, his sympathies swung round to the English ship. He did not particularly want La Belle Marie to be captured; for he had been so well treated on board her that he felt no ill-will toward her. But her capture meant his deliverance.

He thought over the matter as he ran, and wondered first why the frigate did not take the line to cut the privateers off, instead of going round by the other end of the island. He could only suppose that it was because the schooner was the fastest vessel, and was more likely to arrive in time at the point. Beside, if she showed there before the privateers reached the point they might double back again, and the frigate would make the other end of the island before they were halfway back. It might be, too, that the captain has suspected the truth, knowing that the privateers had a rendezvous somewhere in that neighborhood, and that his object in remaining so long behind the island was to give them time to enter their port in ignorance of his being in the neighborhood. At any rate, the great thing was, that the schooner and brig should enter the little harbor before knowing that they were pursued. Once in, it would be impossible for them to get out again and beat off shore with the wind blowing dead on the land, before both the schooner and frigate had rounded their respective ends of the island.

Therefore, although Ralph ran fast enough to keep well ahead of the sailor, he made no effort to keep up a greater rate of speed than was necessary for this. As soon as he reached the shore a boat rowed off from the brig to fetch him. He saw with satisfaction that although the men were all on board, no preparations were made for getting under way at once; and, indeed, the captain would have no anxiety for his own ship, as he would know that the privateers, if they saw the frigate coming out to meet them, would sail right away from the island, and the frigate would be sure to pursue until out of sight of land.

"What news, boy?" the captain asked as the boat came close alongside. "Is the frigate in chase of the others?"

"Yes, sir," Ralph replied; "the frigate and a schooner are both in chase."

"Which way are they bearing?"

"The privateers do not know they are chased sir. The frigate did not show round the island over there until the schooner and brig were hidden behind the end of this island. She made toward the western end, and the schooner is making for the eastern end. The sailors who came up told me to tell you that the schooner is the Cerf, one of the fastest vessels out here."

The captain uttered an exclamation of dismay, which was echoed by those standing round him.

"Row out through the entrance," he shouted to the coxswain of the boat, "and warn the others of the danger! Tell them to make straight out. If they come in here, we shall all be caught in a trap together!"

The oars dipped in the water, but before the boat was fairly in motion there was an exclamation, for the head sail of the schooner glided in past the projecting cliff. A moment later the whole vessel came into view.

"Bring the boat back alongside!" the captain shouted. "I will go on board her at once. She may get out in time yet!"

As the schooner rounded up her sails came down, and she headed straight toward the brig. The captain of the Belle Marie stood up in the stern-sheet of the boat, shouting and waving his hands and gesticulating to them to get up sail again. Those on board the schooner looked on in surprise, unable to guess his meaning.

"There are two English cruisers, one coming round each end of the island!" he shouted as he approached the schooner. "Get out again if you can, otherwise they must catch us all in here!"

The captain in the schooner at once saw the emergency, and roared out orders. The boats were all lowered at once, and the men tumbled on board. Hawsers were lowered from the bows, and they began at once to tow her head round, for there was not a breath of wind in the land-locked harbor.

"How much time have we got?" the captain asked as the schooner's head came slowly round.

"I don't know," the other captain replied. "It's a question of minutes, anyhow. Ah, here is the brig!" and the boat dashed forward and he gave similar orders to those that had been given to the schooner.

"Get them both round!" the captain shouted. "I will row out through the entrance and give you warning if these accursed cruisers are in sight."

The boat dashed through the narrow entrance, and at once felt the full force of the breeze. "Dead on shore," the captain muttered bitterly. "They will have to work right out into the arms of one or other of them."

They rowed a hundred yards out, when, beyond the furthermost point they could see to the east, the sails of the schooner were perceived.

"Take her round," the captain said sharply. "It's too late now, we have got to fight for it."

They rowed back through the entrance. The schooner slowly towed by her boats was approaching.

"It is no use," the captain said, "you are too late. The schooner has rounded the end of the island, and with this breeze will be here in half an hour. You never can work out in time. Beside, they would see you come out; and even if you got away, which you couldn't do, they would come back and capture the depot. We have got to fight for it, that's evident; and the boats of a fleet could hardly make their way in here. We had best get the three craft moored with their broadsides to the entrance. We will blow the boats to tinder if they try to come in, and then we can load up with all the most valuable goods and slip out at night-time. That is our only chance."

The captain of the schooner jumped into the boat, and they again rowed out into the entrance. He saw at once that the other's advice was the only one to be followed. It would be impossible to beat off the shore before the schooner came up and while they were talking the frigate appeared round the other end of the island. They therefore returned into the harbor. The Belle Marie's anchor was raised, and the three vessels moored head and stern across the harbor, a hundred yards from the entrance. As soon as this was done strong parties were sent ashore from each of the vessels, and six heavy ship's guns that had been landed from some captured vessel were dragged from their place near the storehouse and planted on the heights, so as to sweep the narrow channel.

It was late in the evening before this was finished, and an earthwork thrown up to shelter the men working the guns from musketry fire. In the meantime the two ships of war had met outside, and again separating cruised several times from end to end of the rocky wall, evidently searching for the entrance through which the privateers they had been pursuing had so suddenly disappeared. In the morning the French sailors were at work early, and two or three strong chains were fastened across the mouth of the passage.

"Now," the captain of the Belle Marie said exultantly, as he regained the deck of his ship, "we are ready to give them a warm reception. The boats of all the British cruisers on the station would never force their way through that gap."

Ralph had not been called upon to assist in the work of preparation, he and Jacques having done their day's work on the journey to the top of the hill and back. He saw from the exultation in the faces of the Frenchmen that they considered their position was impregnable, and he shuddered at the thought of the terrible carnage that would ensue if the boats of the English vessels should try to force an entrance. The following morning a lookout on the cliffs reported that two boats had left the ships and were rowing toward the shore. On reaching the foot of the cliffs they rowed along abreast at a distance of thirty or forty yards of the shores. They stopped rowing at the mouth of the entrance, and were suddenly hailed by the captain of the schooner, who was standing on the cliff above.

"If you try to enter," he said, "you will be destroyed at once. We don't want to harm you if you will leave us alone; but we have guns enough to blow a whole fleet out of water, and will use them if we are driven to it."

"Thank you for your warning," a voice shouted back from the boats, and then an order was given, and they rowed back to the ships.

"Well, have you found the place, Lieutenant Pearson?" the captain of the frigate asked as the young lieutenant stepped on deck.

"Yes, sir, we have found it. It is just where the boat turned and came out again."

"I can see no signs of it now," the captain said, examining the shore with his telescope.

"No, sir; you wouldn't until you were within a hundred yards of it. But rowing close in as we were we saw it some time before we got there. The rocks overlap each other, and there is a narrow channel some fifty yards long between them. Apparently this makes a sharp turn at the other end and opens out. We saw nothing of the vessels we were chasing yesterday, but on high ground facing the channel there is a battery of six guns planted so as to rake anything coming in. There are some chains across the end. While we were lying on our oars there we were hailed." And he then repeated the warning that had been given.

"Nasty place to get into—eh?" the captain said thoughtfully.

"Very nasty, sir. You see, the guns would play right down into the channel; then there are the chains to break down, and perhaps more batteries, and certainly the ships to tackle when we get inside."

"Is there width for the frigate to enter?" the captain asked.

"Just width, I should say, and no more, sir. We should certainly have to get the yards braced fore and aft, but the ship herself would go through with something to spare, I should say."

"What depth of water is there close in shore?"

"Plenty of depth sir, right up to the foot of the cliffs; but of course I can say nothing as to the depth in the channel."

"No, of course not," the captain said. "Well, it's something that we have run these pests to earth at last, but I see it is going to be no easy matter to get at them."

The captain now signaled to the captain of the schooner to come on board, and when he did so the two officers retired to the cabin together and had a long consultation. The young officer on coming on deck got into his boat, and taking Lieutenant Pearson with him rowed for the cliffs, a few hundred yards to the west of the inlet. Here they could obtain a view of the channel and its surroundings. Not a man was to be seen. The muzzles of the six guns pointed menacingly down into the passage, and the chains could be seen just above the water's edge.

"I think we will go back now, Mr. Pearson. I really think we ought to be very much obliged to those fellows for not sinking us. I wonder what was their motive in letting us off so easily?"

"I suppose they feel pretty confident that our report is not likely to encourage an attack, and they think that if they were to blow us to pieces it would only make Captain Wilson the more determined to destroy them. At least that is the conclusion I came to as I rowed back last time."

"Yes, I should think that is it," the young captain said. "It is certainly as awkward a looking place to attack in boats as I ever saw. Of course were it not for the chains my vessel could get in, and I dare say she has been in there many a time before we captured her, but it would be a very risky thing to take the frigate in without knowing anything of the depth of water either in the channel or inside."

Both returned to the frigate. "Mr. Pearson's report is fully borne out, Captain Wilson. It would be a most desperate enterprise to attack with our boats. Half of them would be sunk before they got to the chains; and even if they got past them, which I doubt, there is no saying what difficulties and obstacles may be inside."

"And now about the frigate, Captain Chambers."

"Well, sir, that is for you to decide. I am quite ready to take the schooner in; though with the plunging power of that battery raking her fore and aft I say fairly that it would be a desperate enterprise, and if she had not sufficient way upon her to carry away the chains nothing could save her. As to the frigate, it seems to me that she would run an equal risk with the schooner, with the additional danger that there may not be water enough for her."

"Well, it certainly doesn't seem to be an easy nut to crack," Captain Wilson said. "As we agreed before you started, we should not be justified in risking both our vessels in assaulting a place which is certainly extremely formidable, and where there may not be water enough for the frigate to float. Still the question remains, what is to be done? It is no use anchoring here and trying to starve them out; they may have provisions enough to last them for years, for anything we know. If the weather were to turn bad we should have to make off at once; it would never do to be caught in a hurricane with such a coast as that on our lee. I might send you to Port Royal with a letter to the admiral, asking him to send us two or three more ships; but I don't like doing that when it is a mere question of capturing two rascally privateers."

"I think the admiral would be glad to send them," the younger captain said; "for these two vessels have done a tremendous lot of damage during the last year. I believe that upward of twenty ships have reported being boarded and stripped by them."

"But if they came what could they do?" Captain Wilson asked. "You see we consider it is not worth the risk of throwing away two ships two force this passage, still less would it be to risk four."

"That is so, no doubt," Captain Chambers agreed. "I should suggest that however many of us there may be we should all draw off and keep a watch at a distance. Of course it would be necessary to approach at night, and to lie behind the island somewhere in the daytime just as we did yesterday, for from the top of that hill they can see any distance round."

"Yes, and as soon as it is dusk they will have two or three hours to get away before we can come round here. Beside, with their night-glasses from the top of the cliffs they will be sure to be able to make us out. There is only one other way that I can see of getting at them, that is to find a landing-place and attack them from on shore."

"Ah! that's much more hopeful business. As far as I saw yesterday there are cliffs all round the island; but it is hard indeed if we cannot find some place where we can manage to effect a landing.

"This is the plan we must follow out. This afternoon an hour before it gets dark you get up sail and make away as if you were bound for Port Royal. I shall keep my station here. They will think you have gone off to get some more ships. As soon as it is thoroughly dark bear round and come back to the island; bring the schooner in close to the cliffs on the other side and get into a bay if you can find one. You will then be out of sight altogether unless somebody happens to look down from the edge of the cliffs above you.

"Then search the whole of the back of the island with boats, keeping at oar's length from the cliffs. There must be some places where a man can climb up, probably gulleys worn by streams. Then to-morrow night sail round and join us again. I will be waiting for you about two miles off the land, and will show a light to seaward so that you will know where to find me. Then we can talk matters over, and you can get back to the other side again before morning."

While the captains of the two English vessels were holding consultations a similar talk was going on between the three captains of the privateers, and the conclusion they arrived at was precisely similar to that of the English officers. It was agreed that no attack was likely to be made by the ships, as they would almost certainly be sunk by the plunging fire of the battery as they came along the channel; while an assault by the boats would be sheer madness.

"We have only to wait and tire them out," the captain of the schooner said, rubbing his hands. "The first gale from the north they must run for shelter, and before they can come back to their station again we shall be gone. Of course we will load well up beforehand with all that is really worth taking away, and can let them have the pleasure of destroying the rest after we have gone."

"They will know all that as well as we do," the captain of La Belle Marie said. "They will never be fools enough to try and starve us out, but you are quite mistaken if you think we are out of danger."

"Why, what danger can there be?" the others asked. "We have agreed they cannot attack us by the channel."

"No, they cannot attack us from the channel, but they can attack us from somewhere else now they know we are here. They will find some place where they can land and take us in rear."

An exclamation of dismay broke from the other captains.

"Sapriste! I never thought of that. Of course they can. I have never examined the coast on the other side, but there must be places where they could land."

"No doubt there are; and you may be quite sure that is the course they will adopt. These English are slow, but they are not fools; and I will bet ten to one that is the next move they will be up to. If you like I will take a score of my men and cross the island this afternoon, and to-morrow will examine the whole line of shore. If there are only one or two places they can land at we may be able to defend them; but if there are four or five places far apart our force won't be sufficient to hold them all, for they could land two hundred and fifty men from those two ships, perhaps a hundred more."

"That is the best thing to be done, Vipon. Of course you will send us word across directly you see how the land lies. If we find that they can land in a good many places, there will be nothing for us to do but try and make a bolt for it. Keeping close in under the cliffs at night we may manage to give them the slip, or in any case one if not two of us may get away. Better that than to run the risk of being all caught like rats in a trap here."

An hour afterward the captain of the Belle Marie started for the other side of the island with twenty picked men, carrying with them their arms, axes, and two days' provisions. The rest of the crews were employed during the day in filling up the three vessels with the most valuable portion of the booty in the storehouses, care being taken not to fill the vessels so deeply as would interfere seriously with their sailing powers. An arrangement had been made between the captains that the Belle Marie should transfer her cargo to the first vessel worth sending to France that she captured, receiving as her share one-third of its value if it reached port safely.

The captain of the Belle Marie was well content with this arrangement, for the storehouses contained the spoils of upward of twenty ships, and his share would therefore be a considerable one, and he would only have to carry the cargo till he fell in with an English merchantman. All speculation as to the British schooner's whereabouts was put an end to the next morning, by a message from Captain Vipon saying she had been discovered lying close in under the cliffs at the back of the island, and that her boats were already examining the shore. An hour later the captain himself arrived.

"It is as I feared," he said when he joined the other captains; "there are three bays about two miles apart and at all of these a landing could be easily effected. The land slopes gradually down to the edge of the sea. They might land at any of them, and of course the guns of the schooner would cover the landing if we opposed it."

"Still we might beat them back," one of the others said. "We can muster about three hundred men between us, and they are not likely to land more than that."

"I don't think that would be a good plan," Captain Vipon said. "To begin with, we can't tell which of the three places they may choose for landing at. We certainly cannot hurry through the woods anything like so fast as they can row along the shore, so that would place us at a disadvantage. In the second place, you know very well that we can't rely upon our men defeating an equal number of these John Bulls; and in the last place, we should not gain much if we did. We should lose a tremendous lot of our men, and the schooner would go off and fetch two or three more ships of war here, so that in the end they must beat us. I think that there is no question that it will be better for us to take our chances of escape now."

"Either the schooner will come back to-night and tow the boats of the frigate round the other side of the island, or she will send a boat with the news that she has found a landing-place, and then the frigate will send all her boats. I don't think the attack will take place to-night; but it may be made. It certainly won't if the schooner comes round, for the wind is very light. She will not leave her anchorage until it is quite dark; and by the time she has got round to the frigate, and the boat's crews are ready to start, and they all get to the back of the island, it will be morning. If they send a boat it would reach the frigate after three hours' rowing; give them an hour to get ready and start, and three hours to row back, so that brings it to nearly the same thing. Beside, I don't suppose in any case they would land before morning, for they would run the risk of losing their way in the woods. So my proposal is that at about two o'clock in the morning we make a start, separate as soon as we get out of the harbor, and each shift for himself. The frigate will have more than half her crew away, and being so short-handed will not be so smart with her sails, and will not be able to work half her guns; so that at the outside two out of the three of us ought to get safely off."

"But suppose that the schooner happens to be round here, and they make up their minds to wait a day before attacking, we should have two of them after us then; and that schooner sails like a witch."

"I have thought of that," Captain Vipon said. "My idea is to put a man on the top of the cliff just above where the schooner is anchored. If she is lying there he is to light a fire a short distance back from the edge of the cliff. There should be another man on the top of the hill. When he sees the fire he shall show a lantern three times. We will return the signal to let him know that we see it. If the schooner goes away early in the evening the lookout is not to light the fire until he sees her returning, at whatever hour it may be. The moment we see the light we will set sail.'

"But how about the two signallers?" one of the other captains said. "They would be left behind and might not get the chance of rejoining us again."

"I have thought of that too," Captain Vipon, said. "I have an English lad on board whom I picked up in the channel. He is a smart lad, and has been working as one of the crew. He would of course be glad to stay behind, because it will give him the chance of rejoining his friends."

"That would do capitally. But how about the other man? You see, if he showed himself he would be made prisoner and sent to England; if he didn't show himself he might be on this island for years before he got a chance of joining a French ship. It would need a high bribe to induce anybody to run such a risk as that."

This was so evident that there was silence for two or three minutes, then Captain Vipon spoke again. "I have a man who would be more likely to do it than any one else I think, because he has taken a strong fancy to this young English boy. He is a good hand, and I don't like losing him; still the thing is so important that I should not hesitate at that. Still we must offer him something good to run the risk, or rather the certainty of imprisonment. I propose that his name shall be put down on the books of all three ships, so that if he ever gets back to France again he will have a fair certainty of a good lot of prize money, for it will be hard luck if two out of the three of us do not manage to get back safely." The other captains agreed to this.

"He will be here in half an hour," Captain Vipon said. "The men were sitting down to a meal when I came away, and I ordered them to make their way back as soon as they had done. If he refuses, the only other way I can see will be for all the men to cast lots, when, of course, whoever stays would get his three shares as we agreed."

Half an hour later the twenty men arrived from the other side of the island. As soon as they came on board Captain Vipon called Jacques into the cabin and told him that it would be necessary to leave two men behind, explaining the duties they would have to perform.

"Now Jacques," he said when he had finished, "I thought that perhaps you would be more likely than any other man on board the three ships to volunteer for this work."

"I volunteer!" Jacques said in astonishment. "What should make you think of such a thing, captain?"

"For this reason, Jacques: I have settled to leave the English lad here as one of the signallers. Of course he will gladly undertake the job, as it will enable him to join his friends when they land; and as you like him and he likes you, he might be able to make things easy for you. In the second place we have determined that the name of whoever stops shall be borne on the ship books of all three vessels to the end of their cruise, so that there would be a good bit of money coming even if only one out of the three ships gets back, and enough to set you up for life if all three get back safely. Of course you may have a spell of imprisonment; but it is likely that one at least of the ships may be caught going out to-night, and if it happened to be ours you would get the prison without the prize-money."

"That is so," Jacques agreed. "If you give me half an hour to think it over I will give you an answer. It's come upon me sudden-like. I will talk it over with the boy. I suppose I can tell him, captain?"

On regaining the deck Jacques looked about for Ralph.

"Come and sit along with me out on the bowsprit, lad, I want to have a private talk with you."

Somewhat surprised Ralph followed his friend out on to the bowsprit.

"Now, boy," he said, "I have got a bit of news to tell you that will be pleasant to you. That's the first thing; and the next is, I want your advice. You are a sensible young chap, you are, although you are but a lad, and I should like to know what you think about it."

"Well, what's the good news, Jacques?"

"The good news is this; you are likely, before this time to-morrow, to be with your friends." Ralph gave such a start of delight that he nearly slipped off the bowsprit.

"How is that Jacques? It seems too good to be true."

"This is the way of it," Jacques said. "The three vessels are all going to cut and run to-night. That schooner of yours is round the other side of the island, and we want to be sure she is stopping there, then there will only be the frigate to deal with, and in these light winds and dark nights we ought to be able to give her the slip; but the only way to be sure the schooner keeps the other side is to watch her. So one man is to be placed on the cliff above her, and at two o'clock in the morning, if she is still there, he is to light a fire well back from the cliff, so that the light will not be seen by her. Another man is to be on the top of the hill, where we were together with a lantern. You see, we can just see the top of the hill from here. When he sees the fire he is to show a light three times. If he sees it answered here he will know it's all right, and his work is done; if not, of course he shows the lights again until it's answered. Now, they are going to leave you as one of the two signallers, and of course all you will have to do will be to wait for a bit, and then come down and join your friends."

"That is capital," Ralph said. "Nothing could be better. Now, what is the other matter that you want my advice about, Jacques?"

"Well, you see, it will be awkward for the other man, for he will either have the choice of coming down and giving himself up and being carried off as a prisoner, or of stopping on this island perhaps for years till a French ship happens to come along; for once off the Marie will continue her cruise to the Indian seas, and the other two will make straight for France. Of course there is another course which might be taken. A boat might be hidden away for him, and he might go for a cruise on his own account and take the chance of being picked up.

"Well, they have offered to the man as stops to put his name down on the books of all the three craft. That means, of course, that he will get a share in the prize-money of all three ships if they get back. That's a pretty good offer, you know. You see, a fellow on board may get captured or killed in battle or wrecked, and in that case there would not be a penny of prize-money. The man who stops here is sure of prize-money if only one of the three craft get back to France. Now, they ask me if I will undertake it. I should be better off than the others; because in the first place I shall have you to talk with till I get to prison, and in the next place as I can talk English I can get on a good deal better in prison than other fellows would do. Now, what's your advice, lad?"

"I should say certainly accept the offer, Jacques. You see, I can tell them all what a good friend you have been to me, and it maybe they will let you go free; but even if they don't I could make it pleasant for you with the men, and you may be sure that if they take you to an English prison I will do all I can to get you out of it. You see, when you get back to France you would have really a good sum coming to you from these three ships. The two that have been out here have collected a tremendous lot of valuable plunder, and the Bell Marie is likely to get quite as much if, as you say, she is going to spend two years out in the Indian seas. So I really think you would be wise to take the offer. Another thing, if you like I will not show myself at all, but will stop here with you, and we will take a boat together and make for some port, where we can give out that we are shipwrecked sailors."

"No, lad, that wouldn't do; though I thank you for your offer. You might get a ship back to England, but I should have very little chance of getting one for France."

"No; but we might get one together for America, and from there you might get to France easily enough."

Jacques thought for some minutes. "No, lad; I will give myself up with you. We might get lost in a boat, seeing that neither of us know the geography of these seas; we might get short of water, or caught in a hurricane. No, I will give myself up. I know the worst that way, anyhow. Another spell in an English prison; but from that I may either get exchanged, or escape, or the war come to an end. So that's the best thing for me to do."

 


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