A villager who knew a nearer route guided them by it to a pass between two hills, where the Britons would be compelled to march. Sukey and Terrence were sent forward to reconnoitre, and as they came in sight of the narrow valley surrounded by hills they saw the head of the column of redcoats coming, their banner upheld to the breeze. Terrence wheeling about, ran with all speed back to the advancing soldiers, and cried:
“Come on, me boys! it’s a divil’s own time we’ll have of it in the valley, all to ourselves.”
“Halt! fix bayonets!” commanded Fernando. In a moment, the gleaming bayonets were on each gun. “Forward!—Double—Quick!”
The soldiers, at a run, dashed into the valley just as the British appeared, two volleys delivered in quick succession and they were at it steel to steel. Fernando, bareheaded, engaged a stout Briton in a hand-to-hand struggle, which a quick thrust from Sukey’s bayonet ended. Next, Captain Stevens found himself hotly engaged with his old enemy Lieutenant Matson. Their blades flashed angrily for a moment, but as the lieutenant’s men threw down their arms and begged for quarters, he realized the folly of resisting longer and yielded. His stubborn pride made the struggle hard. He offered his sword to his victor, which he politely declined.
“Keep your sword, lieutenant,” said Fernando. “Though you are my enemy, I trust you have not forgotten that you are a gentleman.”
“I trust not.”
“You shall be paroled as soon as we reach the fort.”
The Britons stacked their arms, and marched in double file under a guard to the fort. Oxen and carts were sent out for the arms and two pieces of artillery which were brought into the fort.
Silent and majestic as an uncrowned prince, seeming neither elated nor depressed by the victory, stood the gunner Hugh St. Mark by the side of the old thirty-two, with which he had fired the shots that saved the fort.
He was tall, straight, broad-shouldered, with hair once chestnut, but now almost gray. His age might be anywhere between forty and fifty years. So calm, majestic and mysterious did he seem, as, with folded arms, he stood gazing unconcernedly about him, that Fernando was constrained to ask himself:
“Who is he?”
Amid the exciting scenes which followed in such rapid succession, no one had noticed that the weather had undergone a wonderful change. By the time the prisoners were comfortably quartered the sun had set, and the sky was obscured with dark clouds from which constant flashes of lightning were emitted. The distant roll of thunder and the sighing of the wind gave warning of the approach of a storm.
“The Xenophon is in a poor condition to weather a storm to-night,” said Lieutenant Willard. “With her hull raked fore and aft a dozen times, her mizzen gone, her foremast shot through, and her rigging so cut to pieces, she can hardly be managed in good weather. A storm would surely drive her on the rocks.”