Meanwhile the schooner dashed rapidly along, her hull occasionally hid from the view of those assembled on the ramparts by some intervening orchard or cluster of houses, but her tall spars glittering in their covering of white canvass, and marking the direction of her course. At length she came to a point in the river that offered no other interruption to the eye than what arose from the presence of almost all the inhabitants of the village, who, urged by curiosity and surprise, were to be seen crowding the intervening bank. Here the schooner was suddenly put about, and the English colours, hitherto concealed by the folds of the canvass, were at length discovered proudly floating in the breeze.
Immediately over the gateway of the fort there was an elevated platform, approached by the rampart, of which it formed a part, by some half dozen rude steps on either side; and on this platform was placed a long eighteen pounder, that commanded the whole extent of road leading from the drawbridge to the river. Hither the officers had all repaired, while the schooner was in the act of passing the town; and now that, suddenly brought up in the wind’s eye, she rode leisurely in the offing, every movement on her decks was plainly discernible with the telescope.
“Where the devil can Danvers have hid all his crew?” first spoke Captain Erskine; “I count but half a dozen hands altogether on deck, and these are barely sufficient to work her.”
“Lying concealed, and ready, no doubt, to give the canoes a warm reception,” observed Lieutenant Johnstone; “but where can our friends be? Surely, if there, they would show themselves to us.”
There was truth in this remark; and each felt discouraged and disappointed that they did not appear.
“There come the whooping hell fiends,” said Major Blackwater. “By Heaven! the very water is darkened with the shadows of their canoes.”
Scarcely had he spoken, when the vessel was suddenly surrounded by a multitude of savages, whose fierce shouts rent the air, while their dripping paddles, gleaming like silver in the rays of the rising sun, were alternately waved aloft in triumph, and then plunged into the troubled element, which they spurned in fury from their blades.
“What can Danvers be about? Why does he not either open his fire, or crowd sail and away from them?” exclaimed several voices.
The detachment is in readiness, sir,” said Mr. Lawson, ascending the platform, and addressing Major Blackwater.
“The deck, the deck!” shouted Erskine.