“I’m sorry to treat a guest so roughly, Captain Montague,” said Gascoyne, in a low tone, as the unfortunate officer was carried aft; “but the safety of my vessel requires it. They will carry you to my stateroom, where you will find my steward exceedingly attentive and obliging; but, let me warn you, he is peculiarly ready with the butt end of his pistol at times, especially when men are inclined to make unnecessary noise.” He turned on his heel as he said this, and went forward, looking over the side in passing and telling the crew of the gig to remain where they were till their captain should call them.
This order the men felt constrained to obey, although they were surprised that the captain himself had not given it on quitting the boat; their suspicions were further awakened by the active operations going on upon deck. The sounds apprised them of these, for the bulwarks hid everything from view. At length, when they heard the cable slipping through the hawsehole, they could stand it no longer, but sprang up the side in a body. Of course they were met by men well prepared. As they were armed only with cutlasses, the pirates quickly overcame them, and threw them into the sea.
All further attempt at concealment was now abandoned. The man-of-war’s boat, when it came up, was received with a shot from Long Tom, which grazed its side, carried away four of the starboard oars, and just missed dashing it to pieces by a mere hair’s-breadth. At the same time the sails of the schooner were shaken out and filled by the light breeze, which, for nearly an hour, had been blowing off shore.
As the coming up of the gig and the large boat had occurred on that side of the schooner that was furthest from the Talisman, those on board of the latter vessel could not make out clearly what had occurred. That the schooner was a pirate was now clearly evident; for the red griffin and stripe were suddenly displayed, as well as the blood-red flag; but the first lieutenant did not dare to fire on her while the boats were so near. He slipped the cable, however, and made instant sail on the ship; and when he saw the large boat and the gig drop astern of the schooner, the former in a disabled condition, he commenced firing as fast as he could load; not doubting that his captain was in his own boat.
At such short range the shot flew around the pirate schooner like hail; but she appeared to bear a charmed existence; for, although they whistled between her spars and struck the sea all around her, very few indeed did her serious damage. The shots from Long Tom, on the other hand, were well aimed, and told with terrible effect on the hull and rigging of the frigate. Gascoyne himself pointed the gun, and his bright eye flashed, and a grim smile played on his lips as the shots whistled round his head.