A splattering fire of musketry now broke out from the brigantine. They had lessened their distance by half when they saw the brigantine, without apparent cause, heel over. Farther and farther she went until her lee rail was under water.
The firing instantly ceased, and there were loud shouts on board; then, as she came up into the wind, the square yards were let fall, and the crew ran up the ratlines to secure the sails. Simultaneously the foresail came down, then her head payed off again, and she darted away like an arrow from the boats.
These, however, had ceased rowing. Frank, as he saw the brigantine bowing over, had shouted to Purvis to put the boat’s head to the wind, doing the same himself. A few seconds afterwards the squall struck them with such force that some of the oars were wrenched from the hands of the men, who were unprepared for the attack.
“Steady, men, steady!” Frank shouted. “It won’t last long. Keep on rowing, so as to hold the boat where you are, till the yacht comes along. It won’t be many minutes before she is here.”
In little over a quarter of an hour she was seen approaching, and Frank saw that, in spite of the efforts of the men at the oars, the boats had been blown some distance to leeward. However, as soon as the lanterns were held up the Osprey altered her course, and the captain, taking her still further to leeward, threw her head up to the wind until they rowed alongside her.
Frank had by this time learned that one of the men in the bow had been killed, and that three besides himself had been wounded. Two were wounded on board the dinghy.
“So they have got some guns,” the skipper said, as they climbed on deck. “No one hurt, I hope?”
“There is one killed, I am sorry to say, and five wounded,” Frank replied; “but none of them seriously. I have got a bullet in my shoulder, but that is of no great consequence. So you got through it all right?”
“Yes, sir, it looked so nasty that I got the square-sail off her and the topsail on deck before it struck us, and as we ran the foresail down just as it came we were all right, and only just got the water on deck. It was as well, though, that we were lying becalmed. As it was, she jumped away directly she felt it. I was just able to see the brigantine, and it seemed to me that she had a narrow escape of turning turtle.”
“Yes, they were too much occupied with us to be keeping a sharp lookout at the sky, and if it had been a little stronger it would have been a close case with her. Thank God that it was no worse. Can you make her out still?”
“Yes, sir, I can see her plainly enough with my glasses.”
In a quarter of an hour the strength of the squall was spent. The wind then veered round to its former quarter, taking the Osprey along at the rate of some five knots an hour.
The wounded were now attended to. George Lechmere found that the ball had broken Frank’s collarbone and gone out behind. Both he and Frank had had sufficient experience to know what should be done, and after bathing the wound, and with the assistance of two sailors, who pulled the arm into its place, George applied some splints to the broken bone to keep it firm, and then bandaged it and the arm.