Notwithstanding the great disparity of numbers, the little crew of the schooner had for some time a considerable advantage over their enemies. At the first onset of these latter, their pistols had been discharged, but in so random a manner as to have done no injury—whereas the assailed, scrupulously obeying the order of their Commander, fired not a shot until they found themselves face to face with an enemy; the consequence of which was, that every pistol ball killed an American, or otherwise placed him hors de combat. Still, in despite of their loss, the latter were more than adequate to the capture, unless a miracle should interpose to prevent it, and exasperated as they were by the fall of their comrades, their efforts became at each moment more resolute and successful. A deadly contest had been maintained in the gangway, from which, however, Gerald was compelled to retire, although bravely supported by his handful of followers. Step by step he had retreated, until at length he found his back against the main-mast, and his enemies pressing him on every side. Five of his men lay dead in the space between the gangway and the position he now occupied, and Sambo, who had not quitted his side for an instant, was also senseless at his feet, felled by a tremendous blow from a cutlass upon the head. Hit force now consisted merely of the five men remaining of his own party, and three of those who had been detached, who, all that were left alive, had been compelled to fall back upon their commander. How long he would have continued the hopeless and desperate struggle, in this manner is doubtful, had not a fresh enemy appeared in his rear. These were the crews of two other boats, who, having boarded without difficulty, now came up to the assistance of their comrades. So completely taken by surprise was Gerald in this quarter, that the first intimation he had of his danger was, in the violent seizure of his sword arm from behind, and a general rush upon, and disarming of the remainder of his followers. On turning to behold his enemy, he saw with concern the triumphant face of Desborough.
“Every dog has his day, I guess,” huskily chuckled the settler, as by the glare of several torches which had been suddenly lighted, he was now seen casting looks of savage vengeance, and holding his formidable knife threateningly over the head of the officer whom he had grappled. “I reckon as how I told you it would be Jeremiah Desborough’s turn next.”
“Silence fellow, loose your hold,” shouted one whose authoritative voice and manner, announced him for an officer, apparently the leader of the boarding party.
Awed by the tone in which he was addressed, the settler quitted his grasp, and retired muttering into the crowd behind him.
“I regret much, sir,” pursued the American Commander seriously, and turning to Gerald, “that your obstinate defence—should have been carried to the length it has. We were given to understand, that ours would not be an easy conquest—yet, little deemed it would have been purchased with the lives of nearly half our force. Still, even while we deplore our loss, have we hearts to estimate the valour of our foe. I cannot give you freedom, since the gift is not at my disposal; but at least I may spare you the pain of surrendering a blade you have so nobly wielded. Retain your sword, sir.”