For a moment the Russians, as they poured from the houses, paused in ignorance of the direction of their foes, but a shout from the sentry indicated this, and a scattering fire was opened. This, however, was at once checked by the shout of the officer to dash forward with all speed after the enemy. As the mass of Russians rushed from the village, the howitzer in the bows of the launch poured a volley of grape into them, and checked their advance. However, from along the bushes on either side fresh assailants poured out.
“Jump on board, lads, jump on board!” Mr. Hethcote shouted, and each sailor, discharging his musket at the enemy, leapt into his place. “Give them a volley, Mr. Pascoe. Get your head round and row. Don’t let the men waste time in firing.”
The volley from the launch again momentarily checked the enemy, and just as she got round, another discharge from the gun further arrested them. The boats were not, however, thirty yards from the shore before this was lined with dark figures who opened a tremendous fire of musketry.
“Row, lads, row!” Mr. Pascoe shouted to his men. “We shall be out of their sight in another hundred yards.”
Desperately the men bent to their oars, and the heavy boat surged through the water. Around them swept a storm of musket balls, and although the darkness and their haste rendered the fire of the Russians wild and uncertain, many of the shot took effect. With a sigh, Mr. Pascoe fell against Jack, who was sitting next to him, just at the moment when Jack himself experienced a sensation as if a hot iron had passed across his arm. Several of the men dropped their oars and fell back, but the boats still held rapidly on their way, and in two or three minutes were safe from anything but random shot. At this moment, however, three field pieces opened with grape, and the iron hail tore up the water near them. Fortunately they were now almost out of sight, and although the forts threw up rockets to light the bay, and joined their fire to that of the field guns, the boat escaped untouched.
“Thank God we are out of that!” Mr. Hethcote said, as the fire ceased and the boats headed for a light hung up to direct then.
“Have you many hurt, Mr. Pascoe?”
“I’m afraid, sir, Mr. Pascoe is either killed or badly wounded. He is lying against me, and gives no answer when I speak to him.”
“Any one else hurt?” Mr. Hethcote asked in a moment.
The men exchanged a few words among themselves.
“There are five down in the bottom of the boat, sir, and six or seven of us have been hit more or less.”
“It’s a bad business,” Mr. Hethcote said. “I have two killed and three wounded here. Are you hit yourself, Mr. Archer?”
“I’ve got a queer sensation in my arm, sir, and don’t seem able to use it, so I suppose I am, but I don’t think it’s much.”