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   Chapter 15 No.15

The Queen's Cup By G. A. Henty Characters: 29341

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


As soon as the dinghy, with Dominique and Pedro, had left the side of the yacht; the captain, by Frank's orders, set four men to work to paint the gig black, while others gave a coat of dull lead colour to the varnished oars. The order was received with much surprise by the men, who audibly expressed their regret at seeing their brightly varnished boat and oars thus disfigured.

After about three hours on shore, the dinghy returned loaded with fruit and vegetables, which Pedro had purchased, and a native mast and sail. The former was at once cut so as to step in the gig. The sail was hoisted, and was then taken in hand by one of the crew, who was a fair sailmaker, to be altered so as to stand flatter. Half an hour later the new pilot and four powerful negroes came alongside in a shore boat.

It was now late in the afternoon, so the start was postponed until the next morning. A few other arrangements were made as to signalling, and it was settled that if Frank showed a red light, a rocket should be sent up from the yacht, to show that the signal had been observed, and that they were getting up sail. They were to keep their lights up, so that Frank could make them out as they came up, and put off to meet them.

George Lechmere saw to the preparations for victualling the gig. Two large hampers of fresh provisions were placed on board, and two four-and-a-half gallon kegs of water. A bundle of rugs was placed in the stern sheets, and the boat's flagstaff was fixed in its place in the stern. The yard of the sail was at night to be lashed from the mast to the staff at a height of four feet above the gunwale, and across this the sail was to be thrown to act as a tent. A kettle, frying pan, plates, knives and forks were put in forward, and a box of signal lights under the seat aft. Canisters of tea, sugar, coffee, and all necessaries had been stowed away in the hamper, together with a plentiful supply of tobacco; and a bag of twenty-eight pounds of flour, wrapped up in tarpaulin, was placed under one of the thwarts.

As soon as it was daylight, anchor was got up, and when the yacht had sailed for seven or eight miles to the west, the gig was lowered, and the four black boatmen took their places in her. Frank took the rudder lines, and Dominique sat near him. The sail was then hoisted, and as the wind was light, the boatmen got out their oars and shot ahead of the Osprey, directing their course obliquely towards the shore.

It was not necessary to land at the coast villages here, as it was morally certain that the Phantom had not touched anywhere within twenty or thirty miles of San Domingo, and she would hardly have entered any of the narrow rivers at night. Nevertheless, they did not pass any of these without rowing up them. When some native huts were reached, Dominique closely questioned the negroes.

The pilot had, by this time, been informed of the cause of their search for the Phantom, which had, until they left San Domingo, been a profound mystery to him. Frank, however, being now fully convinced both of the negro's trustworthiness, and of his readiness to do all in his power to assist, thought it as well to confide in him, and when they were together in the boat, informed him that the brigantine they were searching for had carried off a young lady and her maid from England.

"That man must be a rascal," the negro said, angrily. "What do he want dat lady for, sar? He love her bery much?"

"No, Dominique, what he loves is her fortune. She is rich. He has gambled away a fine property, and wants her money to set him on his legs again."

"Bery bad fellow dat," the pilot said, shaking his head earnestly. "Ought to be hung, dat chap. Dominique do all he can to help you, sar. Do more now for you and dat young lady. We find him for suah. You tink there will be any fighting, sar?"

"I think it likely that he will show fight when we come up with him, but you see I have a very strong crew, and I have arms for them all."

"Dat good. Me wonder often why you have so many men. Nothing for half of dem to do. Now me understand. Well, sar, if there be any fighting, you see me fight. You gib me cutlass; me fight like debil."

"Thank you, Dominique," Frank said, warmly, though with some difficulty repressing a smile. "I shall count on you if we have to use force. As far as I am concerned, I own that I should prefer that they did resist, for I should like nothing better than to stand face to face with that villain, each of us armed with a cutlass."

"If he know you here, he go up river, get plenty of black men fight for him. Black fellow bery foolish. Give him little present he fight."

"I had not thought of that, Dominique. Yes, if he has made some creek his headquarters he might, as you say, get the people to take his side by giving them presents; that is, if he knew that we were here. However, at present he cannot dream that we are after him, and if we can but come upon him unawares we shall make short work of him."

No news whatever was obtained of the schooner until the headland of La Catarina was passed, but at the large village of Azua they learned that she had anchored for a night in the bay five days before. She had been seen to sail out, and certainly had not turned into the river Niova.

Touching at every village and exploring every inlet, Frank continued his course until, after rounding the bold promontory of La Beata, he reached the bay at the head of which stands Jaquemel.

Every two or three days they had communicated with the Osprey and slept on board her, leaving her at anchor with her sails down until they had gone some ten miles in advance. She had at times been obliged to keep at some distance from the shore, owing to the dangers from rocks and shoals. The pilot on board would have taken her through, but Frank was unwilling to encounter any risk, unless absolutely necessary.

At Jaquemel he learnt that the schooner had put in there a fortnight before, but neither there nor at any point after leaving Azua had she been seen since that time. She had sailed west.

The next night, after looking in at Bainette, some twenty miles beyond Jaquemel, Frank rejoined the Osprey.

The gig was hoisted up, and they sailed round the point of Gravois, the coast intervening being so rocky and dangerous that, although there was a passage through the shoals to the town of St. Louis, Frank felt certain that the schooner would not be in there. The coast from here to Cape Dame Marie was high and precipitous, with no indentations where a ship could lie concealed, and the voyage was continued in the yacht as far as this cape. They were now at the entrance of the great bay of Hayti.

"I take it as pretty certain," Frank said, as he, George Lechmere, the skipper, and Dominique bent over the chart; "that the schooner is somewhere in this bay. She has certainly not made her headquarters anywhere along the south coast. In the first place, she has seldom been seen, and in the second we have examined it thoroughly. Therefore I take it that she is somewhere here, unless, of course, she has sailed for Cuba. But I don't see why she should have done that. The coast there is a good deal more dangerous than that of San Domingo. He could not want a better place for cruising about than this bay. You see, it is about ninety miles across the mouth, and over a hundred to Port au Prince, with indentations and harbours all round, and with the island of Genarve, some forty miles long, to run behind in the centre. He could get everything he wants at Port au Prince, or at Petit Gouve, which looks a good-sized place.

"I should say, in the first place, that we could not do better than run down at night to the island of Genarve, and anchor close under it. From there we shall see him if he comes out of Port au Prince, or Petit Gouve, whichever side he may take; and by getting on to an elevated spot have a view of pretty nearly the whole bay. Looking at it at present, the two most likely spots for him to make his headquarters are in that very sheltered inlet behind the point of Halle on the north side, or in the equally sheltered bay and inlet under the Bec de Marsouin on the south. From Genarve we ought to be able to see him coming out of either of them. It is not above five-and-twenty miles from the island to the Bec de Marsouin, and forty to the point of Halle. We might not see him come out from there, but we should soon make him out if he were coming down from Port au Prince."

It was agreed that this was the best plan to adopt. It might lead to their sighting the schooner in a day or two, while to row round the bay and search every inlet in it would take them a fortnight. From Genarve, too, a forty-mile sail in the gig would take them into Port au Prince, which the brigantine might possibly have made its headquarters. Accordingly, after waiting until nightfall, they got up sail, and anchored at six in the morning in a small bay in the island of Genarve. Here they would not be likely to attract the notice of any ship passing up to Port au Prince, unless, which was very unlikely, one came along close to the shore.

As soon as the anchor was dropped, both boats rowed to shore. Frank, George Lechmere, Pedro, and four sailors, with a basket of provisions, started at once for the highest point in the island, some four miles distant. Dominique went along the shore with two sailors, to make inquiries at any villages they came to.

On reaching the top of the hill, Frank saw that, as he had expected, it commanded an extensive view over the bay on each side of the island, which was but some six miles across. A village could be seen on the northern shore, some three miles distant; and to this Pedro, with one of the sailors, was at once despatched. Both parties rejoined Frank soon after midday. The schooner had been noticed passing the island several times, but much more often on the southern side than on the northern. The negroes on that side were all agreed that she generally kept on the southern side of the passage, and that more than once she had been seen coming from the south shore, and passing the western point of the island on her way north.

"That looks as if she came from Petit Gouve, or the bay of Mitaquane, or that under the Bec de Marsouin," Frank said.

"Dat is it, sar," Dominique agreed. "If she want to go north side of bay from Port au Prince, she would have gone either side of island. I expect she lie under de Bec. Fine, safe place dat, no town there, plenty of wood all round, and villages where she get fruit and vegetables; sure to be little stream where she can get water."

The watch was maintained until sunset, but, although a powerful telescope had been brought up, no vessel at all corresponding to the appearance of the brigantine was made out.

At six o'clock the next morning Frank was again at the lookout, and scarcely had he turned his telescope to the south shore than he saw the brigantine come out from behind the Bec de Marsouin and head towards the west. The wind was blowing from that quarter, and after a few minutes' deliberation, Frank told the men to follow him, and dashed down the hill. In half an hour he reached the shore opposite the yacht, and at his shout the dinghy, which was lying at her stern, at once rowed ashore.

"Get up the anchor, captain, and make sail. I have seen her. She has just come out from the Bec, and is making west. As the wind is against her, it seems to me that he would never choose that direction to cruise in unless he was starting for Cuba, and I dare not let the opportunity slip. If he once gets clear away we may have months of work before we find him again, and as the wind now is, I am sure that we can overhaul him long before he can make Cuba. Indeed, as we lie, we are nearer to that coast than he is, and can certainly cut him off."

In five minutes the Osprey was under way, with all sail set. The wind was nearly due west, and as Cuba lay to the north of that point, she had an advantage that quite counter-balanced that gained by the start the Phantom had obtained. In two hours the lookout at the head of the mast shouted down that he could perceive the brigantine's topsail.

"She is sailing in towards the land on that side," he said. "She has evidently made a tack out, and is now on the starboard tack again."

"It will be a long leg and a short one with her, sir," the skipper said. "I think that if we were in her place we could just manage to lay our course along the coast, but with those square yards of hers, she cannot go as close to the wind as we can. As it is, we can lay our course to cut her off."

"It would be rather a close pinch to do so before she gets to the head of the bay," Frank said.

"Yes, sir, and I don't suppose that we shall overhaul her before that, but we certainly shan't be far behind her by the time she gets there. I think that we shall cut her off if the wind holds as it does now. At any rate, if she should get there first, we should certainly lie between her and Cuba, and she will have either to run back, or to round the cape, or to run east or south. I wish the wind would freshen; but I fancy that it is more likely to die away. Still, she is walking along well at present."

Even Frank, anxious as he was, could not but feel satisfied as he looked at the water glancing past her side. She was heeling well over, and the rustle of water at her bow could be heard where they were standing near the tiller. Andrews, the best helmsman on board the yacht, held the tiller rope, and Perry was standing beside him.

From time to time Frank went up to the crosstrees.

"We are drawing in upon her fast," he said, "but she is travelling well, too; much better than I should have thought she would have done with that rig. I think she has got a better wind than we have. She has only made one short tack in for the last two hours."

The captain's prognostication as to the wind was verified, and to Frank's intense annoyance it gradually died away, and headed them so much that they could no longer lie their course.

"What shall we do, sir? Shall we hold across to the south shore and work along by it, as the schooner is doing, or shall we go about at once?"

"Go about at once, Hawkins. You see we can see her topsails from the deck; and of course she can see ours. I don't suppose she has paid any attention to us yet, and if we stand away on the other tack we shall soon drop her altogether; while if we hold on she will, when we reach that shore, be three or four miles behind us. Of course, she will have a full view

of us."

They sailed on the port tack for an hour and then came round again. The brigantine could no longer be seen from the deck, and could only just be made out from the crosstrees.

"I think on this tack," the skipper said, as he stood by the compass after she had gone round, "we shall make the point, and I think that we shall make it ahead of her."

"I think so too, Hawkins. What pace is she going now?"

"Not much more than four knots, sir."

"My only fear is that we shan't get near her before it is dark."

"I think that we have plenty of time for that, sir. You see we got up anchor at half-past six, and it is just twelve o'clock now. Another five hours should take us up to her if the wind holds at this."

By two o'clock the topsails of the brigantine could be again made out from the deck. She was still working along shore, and was on their port bow.

"Another three hours and we shall be alongside of her," the skipper said; "and if I am not mistaken we shall come out ahead of her."

"There is one advantage in the course we are taking, Hawkins. Viewing us, as she will, pretty nearly end on till we get nearly abreast of her, she won't be able to make out our rig clearly."

By four o'clock they were within five miles of the brigantine. The wind then freshened, and laying her course as she did, while the brigantine was obliged to make frequent tacks, the Osprey ran down fast towards her.

"They must have their eyes on us by this time," the captain said. "Though they cannot be sure that it is the Osprey, they can see that she is a yawl of over a hundred tons, and as they cannot doubt that we are chasing them, they won't be long in guessing who we are. Shall we get the arms up, sir?"

"Yes, you may as well do so. The muskets can be loaded and laid by the bulwarks, but they are not to be touched until I give the order. No doubt they also are armed. I am anxious not to fire a shot if it can be helped, and once alongside we are strong enough to overpower them with our cutlasses only. With the five blacks we are now double their strength, and even Carthew may see the uselessness of offering any resistance."

They ran down until they were within a mile of the shore, not being now more than a beam off the brigantine. Two female figures had some time before been made out on her deck, but they had now disappeared. It was evident that the Osprey was being closely watched by those on board the brigantine. Presently two or three men were seen to run aft.

"They are going to tack again, sir. If they do they will come right out to us."

Frank made no reply, but stood with his glass fixed on the brigantine. Suddenly he exclaimed:

"Round with her, Hawkins!"

"Up with your helm, Andrews. Hard up, man!" the skipper shouted, as he himself ran to slack out the main sheet. Four men ran aft to assist him.

"That will do," he said, as she fell off fast from the wind. "Now, then, gather in the main sheet, ready for a jibe. Slack off the starboard runner; a couple of hands aft and get the square sail out of the locker.

"Mr. Purvis, get the yard across her, lower her down ready for the sail, and see that the braces and guys are all right.

"Now in with the sheet, lads, handsomely. That will do, that is it. Over she goes. Slack out the sheet steadily."

"She is round, too," Frank said, as the boom went off nearly square. "We have gained, and she is not more than half a mile away."

The manoeuvre had, in fact, brought the yachts nearer to each other. Both had their booms over to starboard.

"Quick with that square sail," Frank shouted. "She is drawing away from us fast."

Two minutes later the square sail was hoisted, and the foot boomed out on the port side. Every eye was now fixed on the brigantine, but to their disappointment they saw that she was still, though very much more slowly, drawing ahead.

"That is just what I feared," Frank said, in a tone of deep vexation. "With those big yards I was certain that she would leave us when running ahead before the wind. However, there is no fear of our leaving her. What are we doing now? Seven knots?"

"About that, sir, and she is doing a knot better."

"What do you think that she will do now, Hawkins?"

"I don't see what she has got to do, sir. If she were to get five miles ahead of us, and then haul her wind, she would know that she could not go away from us, for we should be to windward; and we are evidently a good bit faster than she is when we are both close hauled. The only other thing that I can see for her to do is to run straight on to Port au Prince. At the rate we are going now she would be in soon after daylight tomorrow. We should be seven or eight miles astern of her, and he might think that we should not venture to board her there."

"I don't think that he would rely on that, Hawkins. Now that he knows who we are, he will guess that we shall stick at nothing. What I am afraid of is that he will lower a boat and row Miss Greendale and her maid ashore. He might do it either there, or, what would be much more likely, row ashore to some quiet place during the night, take his friend and two or three of his men with him, and leave the rest to sail her to Port au Prince."

"I don't think that the wind is going to hold," the skipper said, looking astern. "I reckon that it will drop, as it generally does, at sunset. It is not blowing so hard now as it did just before we wore round."

In half an hour, indeed, it fell so light that the Osprey was standing through the water only at three and a half knots an hour. The light wind suited the Phantom, with her great sail spread. She had now increased her lead to a mile and a half, and was evidently leaving them fast.

"There is only one thing to be done, George. We must board them in boats."

"I am ready, Major; but it will be a rather risky business."

Frank looked at him in surprise.

"I don't mean for us, sir," George said, with a smile, "but for Miss Greendale. You may be sure that those fellows will fight hard, and as we come up behind we shall get it hot. Now, sir, if anything happens to you, you must remember that the Osprey will be as good as useless towards helping her. You as her owner might be able to justify what we are doing, but if you were gone there would be no one to take the lead. Carthew would only have to sail into Port au Prince and denounce us as pirates. I hear from the pilot that these niggers have got some armed ships, and they might sink us as soon as we came into the harbour, and then there would be an end to any chance of Miss Greendale getting her liberty."

"That is true enough, George, but I think that it must be risked. Now that he knows we are here, he has nothing to do but to send her ashore under the charge of his friend and two or three of the sailors, and take her up into the hills. Or he might go with her himself, which is perhaps more likely. Then when we came up with her at Port au Prince the skipper would simply deny that there had ever been any ladies on board, and would swear that he had only carried out two gentlemen passengers, as his papers would show, and might declare that he had landed them at Porto Rico. Of course, they are certain to fight now, for they can do so without risk, as they can swear that they took us for a pirate.

"How many do you think that the gig will carry, Hawkins?"

"Well, sir, you might put nine in her. You brought ten off at Southampton; but if you remember, it put her very low in the water, and we should run a good deal heavier than your party then."

"Yes, I think that we had better take only nine. If we overload her she will row so heavily that we shall be a long time overhauling them."

"I am not quite sure that we shall overhaul them anyhow, sir. Look at those clouds coming over the hills. They are travelling fast, and I should say that we are likely to have a squall. No doubt they get them here pretty often with such high land all round."

"Well, we must chance that, Hawkins. If one does come you must pick us up as we come along. I agree with you; it does look as if we should have a squall. It may not be anything very serious, but anyhow, if it comes it will take her along a great deal faster than we can row.

"Purvis, I suppose that the dinghy will carry seven?"

"Yes, she will do that easily."

"Very well, we can but try; that will give sixteen of us, which is about their strength. You must remain on board. Purvis shall command the dinghy; Lechmere will go with me. Pick out thirteen hands. You and Perry can manage with seven and the five negroes, but keep a sharp lookout for that squall. Remember that you will have very short warning. We are only a mile from the shore, and as it is coming down from the hills you may not see it on the water until it is quite close to you."

The boats were lowered, and the men, armed with musket and cutlass, took their places. Frank and George Lechmere each had a cutlass and a revolver buckled to the waist.

"Now give way, lads," Frank said. "She is about two miles ahead of us, and we ought to overtake her in half an hour."

It was now getting dusk, the light fading out suddenly as the clouds spread over the sky. Frank's last orders to the skipper before leaving were:

"Edge her in, Hawkins, until you are dead astern of the brigantine. Then if the squall comes down before we reach her, we shall be right in your track."

"I have put a lighted lantern into the stern sheets of each boat, sir, and have thrown a bit of sail cloth over them, so that if she leaves you behind, and you hold it up, there won't be any fear of our missing you."

The men rowed hard, but the gig had to stop frequently to let the dinghy come up. They gained, however, fast upon the brig, and in half an hour were but a few hundred yards astern. Then came a hail from the brigantine in French:

"Keep off or we will sink you!"

No reply was made. They were but two hundred yards away when there were two bright flashes from the stern of the brigantine, and a shower of bullets splashed round the boats. There were two or three cries of pain, and George Lechmere felt Frank give a sudden start.

"Are you hit, sir?"

"I have got a bullet in my left shoulder, George, but it is of no consequence.

"Row on, lads," he shouted. "We shall be alongside before they have time to load again.

"I never thought of their having guns, though," he went on, as the men recovered from their surprise, and dashed on again with a cheer. "By the sharp crack they must be brass. I suppose he picked up a couple of small guns at Ostend, thinking that they might be useful to him in these waters."

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.

One of the sailors had a wound in the cheek, the ball in its passage carrying off part of the ear. One of the men sitting in the bow had a broken arm, but only one of the others was seriously hurt. Frank went on deck again as soon as his shoulder was bandaged and his left arm strapped tightly to his side.

"I suppose that she is still gaining on us, Hawkins?"

"Yes, she is dropping us. I reckon she has gone fast, sir, fully half a knot, though we have got all sail set."

"There is one comfort," Frank said. "The coast from here as far as the Bec is so precipitous, that they won't have a chance of putting the boat ashore until they get past that point, and by the time they are there daylight will have broken."

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