In Clive's Command eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 515 pages of information about In Clive's Command.

On board the smallest gallivat were now Desmond, five of his companions, and eleven helpless Marathas.  He had just directed one of the Biluchis to cast loose the lashings between the vessels, and was already congratulating himself that the main difficulties of his venture were past, when he suddenly heard shouts from the direction of the fort.  Immediately afterwards the deep notes of the huge gong kept in Angria’s courtyard boomed and reverberated across the harbor, echoed at brief intervals by the strident clanging of several smaller gongs in the town.

Barely had the first sound reached his ears when he saw a light flash forth from the outermost bastion; to the left of it appeared a second; and soon, along the whole face of the fort, in the dockyard, in the town, innumerable lights dotted the blackness, some stationary, others moving this way and that.  Now cries were heard from all sides, growing in volume until the sound was as of some gigantic hornet’s nest awakened into angry activity.  To the clangor of gongs was added the blare of trumpets, and from the walls of the fort and palace, from the hill beyond, from every cliff along the shore, echoed and re-echoed an immense and furious din.

For a few seconds Desmond stood as if fascinated, watching the transformation which the hundreds of twinkling lights had caused.  Then he pulled himself together, and with a word to the Biluchi who had loosed the lashings, bidding him hold on to the next gallivat, he sprang to the side of this vessel, and hurried towards Angria’s.  Fuzl Khan had not returned; Desmond almost feared that some mishap had befallen the man.

Reaching the center vessel, he peered down the hatchway, but started back as a gust of acrid smoke struck him from below.  He called to the Gujarati.  There was no response.  For an instant he stood in hesitation; had the man been overcome by the suffocating fumes filling the hold?  But just as, with the instinct of rescue, he was about to lower himself into the depths, he heard a low hail from the vessel at the end of the line nearest the shore.  A moment afterwards Fuzl Khan came stumbling towards him.

“I have fired another gallivat, sahib,” he said, his voice ringing with fierce exultation.

“Well done, Fuzl Khan,” said Desmond.  “Now we must be off.  See, there are torches coming down towards the jetty.”

The two sprang across the intervening vessel, a dense cloud of smoke following them from the hatchway of Angria’s gallivat.  Reaching the outermost of the line, Desmond gave the word, the anchor was slipped, the two Biluchis pressed with all their force against the adjacent vessel, and the gallivat moved slowly out.  Desmond ran to the helm, and the Gujarati with his five companions seizing each upon one of the long sweeps, they dropped their blades into the water and began to pull.

Desmond was all a-tingle with excitement and determination.  The shouts from the shore were nearer; the lights were brighter; for all he knew, the whole garrison and population were gathering.  They had guessed that an escape was being attempted by sea.  Even now perhaps boats were setting off, bringing rowers to man the gallivats, and oars to send them in pursuit.

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In Clive's Command from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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