Five minutes were sufficient to make the preparations, and the captain came up and reported that all was ready.
“I have heaped up all the bedding on the floor, sir, and poured plenty of oil over it,” he said.
“Very well, then, take two men aft, and begin there and work your way forward, and finish with the fo’c’sle hammocks. You can begin at once.”
In a minute there was a glare of light through the stern cabin skylight, while almost at the same moment a dense cloud of smoke poured up the companion. Then the light shone up through the bull’s-eyes on deck of the other staterooms. Then the captain and the two hands ran through the saloon forward. Frank went to the fo’castle hatch, and stooping down saw the captain apply the fire to a great heap of bedding.
“That will do, Hawkins,” he said. “Come up at once with the men, or you will be suffocated down there.”
They ran up on deck, and a minute later a volume of flame burst out through the hatch. Frank went to the guns, and lighting two matches gave one to Hawkins.
“Now,” he said, “both together.”
The two reports were blended in one, and as the smoke cleared away Frank could see, by the cabin lamp that was still burning, a spurt of water shooting up from a ragged hole at the back of the sofa. Fired at such a short distance, the bullets with which the guns were crammed had struck like solid shot.
“Into the boats, men!” Frank shouted.
“Shall we take these chaps off with us, sir?” the captain said. “They will be keepsakes.”
“All right, Hawkins, in with them.”
The tongue of fire leaping up from the forecastle, followed by the discharge of the guns, had been the first intimation to those on the Osprey of what had happened. Bertha and her maid ran up on deck at the sound of the cannon.
“What is that?” the former asked, in alarm.
“It is all right, Miss Greendale,” George Lechmere said, leaving the side and coming up to her. “The Major has captured the brigantine almost without fighting. There was only one pistol shot fired. I did not hear a single clash of a sword, and the blacks on board jumped straight into the water. I was just coming to call you as you came up. The brigantine is well on fire, you see.”
“But I thought I heard the cannon.”
“Yes, the Major has fired them down the skylight, so as to make sure of her. Do you see, miss, they are putting the guns in the boat now. They will be back here in a few minutes.”
By the time the boat came alongside, the flames from the after skylight had lit the mainsail and were running up the rigging. A minute later they burst out from the companion and the skylight.
“Thank God that is all over, Frank,” Bertha said, as they stood together watching the sight.
The inlet was now lit up from side to side. On shore a state of wild excitement prevailed. The boats had reached the shore, and the negroes there had rushed down to hear what had taken place, and to inquire after friends. Above the yells and shouts of the frenzied negroes sounded the deep roar of the horns, and the angry beating of the Obi drums. Numbers of torch bearers were among the crowd, and although nearly half a mile away, the scene could be perfectly made out from the yacht.