Their work was so far accomplished. Thompson ceased, and all was silence and anxiety; in a few minutes the sentinel was again heard in conversation, and the voices receded, as if he had removed to a greater distance.
“Now, brother,” said the low voice under the aperture.
In a minute the whole of the prisoners were clear of the walls, and followed their guide in silence, until they reached the landing-place.
“There is the boat, and provisions sufficient,” said the freemason, in a low tone; “you will have to pass the sentries on the rocks: but we can do no more for you. Farewell, brother; and may you and your companions be fortunate!” So saying, their friendly assistant disappeared.
The night was so dark, that although close to the boat, it was with difficulty that its outlines could be discerned. Newton, recommending the strictest silence and care in entering, stepped into it, and was followed by the rest. Roberts, whose eyesight was a little affected from the wounds in his head, stumbled over one of the oars.
“Qui vive?” cried out one of the sentries on the rock.
No answer was made; they all remained motionless in their seats. The sentry walked to the edge of the rock and looked down; but not distinguishing anything, and hearing no further noise, returned to his post.
For some little while Newton would not allow them to move: the oars were then carefully lifted over the gunnel, and their clothes laid in the rowlocks, to muffle the sound; the boat was pushed from the landing-place into the middle of the narrow inlet. The tide was ebbing, and with their oars raised out of the water, ready to give way if perceived, they allowed the boat to drift out of one of the narrow channels which formed the entrance of the harbour.
The rain now beat down fast: and anxious to be well clear of the coast before daylight, Newton thought they might venture to pull. The oars were taken by him and Collins; but before they had laid them three times in the water, one of the sentries, hearing the noise, discharged his musket in the direction.
“Give way, now, as hard as we can,” cried Newton; “it’s our only chance.”
Another and another musket was fired. They heard the guard turned out; lights passing on the batteries close to them, and row-boats manning. They double-banked their oars, and, with the assistance of the ebb-tide and obscurity, they were soon out of gun-shot. They then laid in their oars, shipped their mast, and sailed away from the coast.
It was nine o’clock in the evening when they started, and at daylight the French coast was not to be seen. Overjoyed at their escape, they commenced an attack upon the provisions and a small keg of wine; and perhaps a more joyful breakfast never was made. The sun rose in vapour, the sky threatened, but they were free and happy. The wind freshened, and the boat flew before the gale; the running seas topping