“Not for some little time, Jack. The doctor says you’ve got four ribs broken as well as your arm.”
“Have I?” Jack said, surprised. “I know he hurt me preciously while he was feeling me about this morning; but he didn’t say anything about broken ribs.”
A broken rib is a much less serious business than a broken arm, and in ten days Jack was up and about again, feeling generally stiff and sore, and with his arm in a sling. The surgeon had talked of sending him on board ship, but Jack begged so hard for leave to remain with the party ashore, that his request was granted.
Winter had now set in in earnest. The weather was cold and wet; sometimes it cleared up overhead, and the country was covered with snow. A month after the accident, Jack was fit for duty again. Seeing what chums the lads were, the officer in command had placed them in the same watch, for here on land the same routine was observed as on board ship. The duties were not severe. The guns were kept bright and polished, the arms and accoutrements were as clean as if at sea. Each day the tars went through a certain amount of drill, and fatigue parties went daily down to the harbor to bring up stores, but beyond this there was little to do. One of the occupations of the men was chopping wood for fuel. The sides of the ravine immediately below the battery had long since been cleared of their brushwood, and each day the parties in search of fuel had to go farther away. Upon the day after Jack returned to duty, he and Hawtry were told off with a party of seamen to go down to cut firewood. Each man carried his rifle in addition to his chopper, for, although they had never been disturbed at this occupation, the Russians were known not to be far away. The sailors were soon at work hacking down the undergrowth and lopping off branches of trees. Some were making them up into faggots as fast as the others cut them, and all were laughing and jesting at their work.
Suddenly there was a shout, and looking up, they saw that a party of Russians had made their way noiselessly over the snowclad ground, and were actually between them and the heights. At the same moment a volley of musketry was poured in from the other side, and three or four men fell.
“Form up, form up,” Hawtry shouted. “Well together, lads. We must make a rush at those beggars ahead. Don’t fire till I tell you, then give them a volley and go at them with the butt-end of your muskets, then let every one who gets through make a bolt for it.”
The sailors, some twenty strong, threw themselves together, and, headed by the midshipmen, made a rush at the Russians. These opened fire upon them, and several dropped, but the remainder went on at the double until within twenty yards of the enemy, when pouring in a volley and clubbing their muskets, they rushed upon them.