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more judgment. Let him have another piece of it; and if he like the sport, we'll play a game of long bowls with him!”
“Aye, aye, sir," returned the cockswain, who, the instant he witnessed the effects of his shot, had returned to superintend the reloading of his gun; "if he holds on half an hour longer, I'll dub him down to our own size, when we can close, and make an even fight of it.”
The drum of the Englishman was now for the first time heard rattling across the waters, and echoing the call to quarters that had already proceeded from the Ariel.
“Ah! you have sent him to his guns !” said Barnstable; shall now hear more of it; wake him up, Tom - wake him up."
“We shall start him on end, or put him to sleep altogether, shortly," said the deliberate cockswain, who never allowed himself to be at all hurried, even by his commander. “My shot are pretty much like a shoal of porpoises, and commonly sail in each other's wake. Stand by — heave her breech forward —so; get out of that, you damned young reprobate, and let my harpoon alone !"
“What are you at, there, Master Coffin?” cried Barnstable; “are you tongue-tied ? "
“Here's one of the boys skylarking with my harpoon in the leescuppers, and by-and-by, when I shall want it most, there'll be a no-man's-land hunt for it in."
“Never mind the boy, Tom; send him aft here to me and I'll polish his behavior; give the Englishman some more iron.”
“I want the little villain to pass up my cartridges," returned the angry old seaman; “ but if you'll be so good, sir, as to hit him a crack or two, now and then, as he goes by you to the magazine, the monkey will learn his manners and the schooner's work will be all the better done for it. A young herring-faced monkey! to meddle with a tool ye don't know the use of. If your parents had spent more of their money on your edication, and less on your outfit, you'd ha' been a gentleman to what ye are now."
“Hurrah! Tom, hurrah !" cried Barnstable, a little impatiently; “is your namesake never to open his throat again !”
“Aye, aye, sir; all ready," grumbled the cockswain ; " depress a little ; so — so; a damned young baboon-behaved curmudgeon; overhaul that forward fall more; stand by with your match but I'll pay him ! — fire !” This was the actual commencement of the fight; for as the shot of Tom Coffin travelled, as he had intimated, very much in the same direction, their enemy found the sport becoming too hot to be endured in silence, and the report of the second gun from the Ariel was instantly followed by that of the whole broadside of the Alacrity. The shot of the cutter flew in a very good direction, but her guns were too light to give them efficiency at that distance; and as one or two were heard to strike against the bends of the schooner, and fall back, innocuously, into the water, the cockswain, whose good-humor became gradually restored as the combat thickened, remarked with his customary apathy :
“ Them count for no more than love-taps — does the Englishman think that we are firing salutes !”
“Stir him up, Tom ! every blow you give him will help to open his eyes,” cried Barnstable, rubbing his hands with glee, as he witnessed the success of his efforts to close.
Thus far the cockswain and his crew had the fight, on the part of the Ariel, altogether to themselves, the men who were stationed at the smaller and shorter guns standing in perfect idleness by their sides; but in ten or fifteen minutes the commander of the Alacrity, who had been staggered by the weight of the shot that had struck him, found that it was no longer in his power to retreat, if he wished it; when he decided on the only course that was left for a brave man to pursue, and steered boldly in such a direction as would soonest bring him in contact with his enemy, without exposing his vessel to be raked by his fire. Barnstable watched each movement of his foe with eagle eyes, and when the vessel had got within a lessened distance, he gave the order for a general fire to be opened. The action now grew warm and spirited on both sides. The power of the wind was counteracted by the constant explosion of the cannon; and, instead of driving rapidly to leeward, a white canopy of curling smoke hung above the Ariel, or rested on the water, lingering in her wake, so as to mark the path by which she was approaching to a closer and still deadlier struggle. The shouts of the young sailors, as they handled their instruments of death, became more animated and fierce, while the cockswain pursued
his occupation with the silence and skill of one who labored in a regular vocation. Barnstable was unusually composed and quiet, maintaining the grave deportment of a commander on whom rested the fortunes of the contest, at the same time that his dark eyes were dancing with the fire of suppressed animation.
“Give it them!” he occasionally cried, in a voice that might be heard amid the bellowing of the cannon; never mind their cordage, my lads; drive home their bolts, and make your marks below their ridge-ropes."
In the mean time the Englishman played a manful game.
He had suffered a heavy loss by the distant cannonade, which no metal he possessed could retort upon his enemy; but he struggled nobly to repair the error in judgment with which he had begun the contest. The two vessels gradually drew nigher to each other, until they both entered into the common cloud created by their fire, which thickened and spread around them in such a manner as to conceal their dark hulls from the gaze of the curious and interested spectators on the cliffs. The heavy reports of the cannon were now mingled with the rattling of muskets and pistols, and streaks of fire might be seen glancing like flashes of lightning through the white cloud which enshrouded the combatants; and many minutes of painful uncertainty followed, before the deeplyinterested soldiers, who were gazing at the scene, discovered on whose banners victory had alighted.
We shall follow the combatants into their misty wreath, and display to the reader the events as they occurred.
The fire of the Ariel was much the most quick and deadly, both because she had suffered less, and her men were less exhausted ; and the cutter stood desperately on to decide the combat, after grappling, hand to hand. Barnstable anticipated her intention, and well understood her commander's reason for adopting this course ; but he was not a man to calculate coolly his advantages, when pride and daring invited him to a more severe trial. Accordingly, he met the enemy half-way, and as the vessels rushed together, the stern of the schooner was secured to the bows of the cutter, by the joint efforts of both parties. The voice of the English commander was now plainly to be heard, in the uproar, calling to his men to follow him.
Away there, boarders ! repel boarders on the starboard quarter !” shouted Barnstable through his trumpet.
This was the last order that the gallant young sailor gave with this instrument; for, as he spoke, he cast it from him, and, seizing his sabre, flew to the spot where the enemy was about to make his most desperate effort. The shouts, execrations, and tauntings of the combatants, now succeeded to the roar of the cannon, which could be used no longer with effect, though the fight was still maintained with spirited discharges of the small-arms.
“Sweep him from his decks !” cried the English commander, as he appeared on his own bulwarks, surrounded by a dozen of his bravest men ;
“ drive the rebellious dogs into the sea !” “Away there, marines !" retorted Barnstable, firing his pistol at the advancing enemy; “ leave not a man of them to sup his grog again.”
The tremendous and close volley that succeeded this order, nearly accomplished the command of Barnstable to the letter, and the commander of the Alacrity, perceiving that he stood alone, reluctantly fell back on the deck of his own vessel, in order to bring on his men once more.
“ Board her ! gray-beards and boys, idlers and all !” shouted Barnstable, springing in advance of his crew; a powerful arm arrested the movement of the dauntless seaman, and before he had time to recover himself, he was drawn violently back to his own vessel by the irresistible grasp of his cockswain.
“ The fellow's in his flurry,” said Tom, “and it wouldn't be wise to go within reach of his flukes; but I'll just step ahead and give him a set with my harpoon."
Without waiting for a reply, the cockswain reared his tall frame on the bulwarks, and was in the attitude of stepping on board of his enemy, when a sea separated the vessels, and he fell with a heavy dash of the waters into the ocean. As twenty muskets and pistols were discharged at the instant he appeared, the crew of the Ariel supposed his fall to be occasioned by his wounds, and were rendered doubly fierce by the sight, and the cry of their commander to
“Revenge long Tom ! board her ! long Tom or death!” They threw themselves forward in irresistible numbers, and forced
a passage, with much bloodshed, to the forecastle of the Alacrity. The Englishman was overpowered, but still remained undaunted
he rallied his crew, and bore up most gallantly to the fray. Thrusts of pikes and blows of sabres were becoming close and deadly, while muskets and pistols were constantly discharged by those who were kept at a distance by the pressure of the throng of closer combatants.
Barnstable led his men in advance, and became a mark of peculiar vengeance to his enemies, as they slowly yielded before his vigorous assaults. Chance had placed the two commanders on opposite sides of the cutter's deck, and the victory seemed to incline toward either party, wherever these daring officers directed the struggle in person. But the Englishman, perceiving that the ground he maintained in person was lost elsewhere, made an effort to restore the battle, by changing his position, followed by one or two of his best men. A marine, who preceded him, leveled his musket within a few feet of the head of the American commander, and was about to fire, when Merry glided among the combatants, and passed his dirk into the body of the man, who fell at the blow; shaking his piece, with horrid imprecations, the wounded soldier prepared to deal his vengeance on his youthful assailant, when the fearless boy leaped within its muzzle, and buried his own keen weapon in his heart.
“Hurrah !” shouted the unconscious Barnstable, from the edge of the quarter-deck, where, attended by a few men, he was driving all before him. Revenge ! — long Tom and victory !”
“We have them !” exclaimed the Englishman; “handle your pikes ! we have them between two fires.”
The battle would probably have terminated very differently from what previous circumstances had indicated, had not a wild-looking figure appeared in the cutter's channels at that moment, issuing from the sea, and gaining the deck at the same instant. It was long Tom, with his iron visage rendered fierce by his previous discomfiture, and his grizzled locks drenched with the briny element from which he had risen, looking like Neptune with his trident. Without speaking, he poised his harpoon, and, with a powerful effort, pinned the unfortunate Englishman to the mast of his own vessel.