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   Chapter 18 No.18

The Queen's Cup By G. A. Henty Characters: 30441

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


In a couple of minutes they had gained it.

"Anyone hurt?" Frank asked.

One of the boatmen had an arm broken by a bullet, and two of the sailors had received spear wounds at the hands of the villagers. They were not serious, however, and leaving George Lechmere to cover the rear, they started up the path; Dominique, as usual, leading the way, Frank following behind him with Bertha, who had hitherto not spoken a word.

"Am I dreaming?" she asked now, in a tone of bewilderment. "Is it really you, Frank?"

"You are not dreaming, dear, and it is certainly I-Frank Mallett. Now tell me how you got on."

"As well as might be, Frank, but it was a terrible time. Please do not talk about it yet. But how is it that you are here? It seems a miracle.

"Oh, how ill you are looking! And your arm is in a sling, too."

"That is nothing," he said; "merely a broken collarbone. As to my looking ill, you must remember, I have had almost as anxious a time as you."

"Then it was the Osprey, after all," she exclaimed, suddenly, "that we saw the last day that we were out sailing. We were on deck, and I was not noticing-I did not notice much then-when Anna said to me, 'That looks like an English yacht, miss. I am sure Mr. Carthew thinks she is chasing us.'

"Then I got up and looked round. I could not see for certain, but it did look like a yacht, and I thought that it was about the size of the Osprey. Those two men were standing with their backs to us looking at it through their glasses, and Carthew happened to turn round and saw me standing up, and at once said: 'You must go below. I believe that is a pirate chasing us.'

"I said that it was nothing to me if it was. One pirate was just as good as another. Then he said that if I would not go down he should be obliged to use force, and called four men aft. So as it was of no use resisting, we went down. Presently we felt that the course had been changed. Late in the evening we heard them fire the two guns, and then some musket shots. Later on the man came down and told us that the pirates had tried to attack us in their boats, and that they had beaten them off, and that there was no further danger. But for all that I could see that he was troubled."

"That was when I was hit, dear. We had not reckoned on the two guns, and with only the gig and dinghy, with one man killed and five of us wounded, it was too stiff a business, though we should have persevered, but that squall came down on us from the hills, and the Phantom, moreover, left us standing still. We believed that we should come up with the schooner in the morning."

"But how did you come here, Frank? How did you know where we had been taken?"

"It is a long story, dear. We started in pursuit four days after you had been carried off. I will tell you all about it when we get safe again on board the yacht. I am afraid we shall have some trouble yet. Now if you are quite recovered from your surprise, do you feel equal to hurrying on? Every moment is of importance."

"Oh, yes," she said. "He will be after us."

"He won't," Frank said. "George Lechmere cut him down. Whether he killed him or not I cannot say, but I don't fancy anyhow that he will be able to take up the chase. It is that rascally Obi man I am afraid of. He has great power over the people, and may raise the whole country to attack us."

"I am ready to run as fast as you like, Frank."

"We may as well go at a trot for a bit."

Then raising his voice, he said:

"We will go at double, lads, now.

"Put your arm on my shoulder, Bertha, and we can fancy that we are going to waltz."

"I feel so happy that I want to cry, Frank," she said as they started.

"Don't do that until you get on board the Osprey."

As they passed the spot where they had halted, George Lechmere told two of the blacks to pick up the stretchers and carry them along. They were merely two light poles, with a wattle work formed of giant creepers worked for some six feet in length between them.

"What are those for?" Bertha asked, as she passed them.

"Those are to carry you and Anna along when you get exhausted. It is twenty miles to the coast, you know."

"I feel as if I could walk any distance to get on board the Osprey again."

"I have no doubt that you have the spirit, Bertha, but I question whether you have the strength; especially after being over three months without any exercise at all. I felt it myself yesterday, although we did little more than ten miles."

"Oh, but then you have been wounded. And you do look so ill, Frank."

"I dare say the wound had a little to do with it," he said; "but of course the climate is trying too; though it is cooler up on the hills than it is in that bay."

"Now, Frank, the first question of all is-How is my mother? What did she do when I was missing? It must have been awful for her."

"Of course, it was a terrible anxiety, Bertha, but she bore it better than would be expected, especially as she had not been well before."

"It troubled me more, Frank, than even my own affairs. As soon as I had time to think at all, I could not imagine what she would do, and the only comfort was that she had you to look after her."

"No doubt it was a comfort, dear, that she had someone to lean upon a little.

"Halt!" he broke off suddenly, as there was the sound of a stick breaking among the trees close by. "Stand to your arms, men, and gather closely.

"Bertha, do you and Anna take your place in the centre, and please lie down."

"I cannot do that, Frank," she said, positively. "Here you are all risking your lives for us, and now you want me to put myself quite safe while you are all in danger."

"I want to be able to fight, Bertha, free of anxiety, and to be able to devote my whole attention to the work. This I can't do if I know that you are exposed to bullets."

"Well, I can't lie down anyhow, Frank; but Anna and I will crouch down if you say that we must when they begin to fire."

They were silent for two or three minutes, and no sounds were heard in the wood.

"We shall be attacked sooner or later," Frank said quietly to the men. "We will take to the trees on our right if we are attacked from the left, and to those on the left if they come at us from the right. If we are attacked on both sides at once, take to the right.

"George, do you and Harrison and Jones get behind trees, next to the path. It will be your business to prevent anyone from passing on that side. I, with the other two, will take post behind trees facing the other way. The four boatmen with Dominique will shelter themselves in the bushes between us, with Miss Greendale and her maid in the middle. They will be the reserve, and if a rush is made from either side, they will at once advance and beat it back.

"You understand, Dominique?"

"Me understand, sar. If those fellows come we charge at them. These fellows no used to shoot, sar. Better give muskets to others. We do best with our swords."

"That is the best plan.

"You take one of the muskets, George, and give one to Harrison. The two men on my side had better have the others, as I can't use one.

"You understand, lads. These will be spare arms. Keep them in reserve if possible, so as to check the fellows when they make a rush. Now do you all understand?

"You explain it to your men, Dominique.

"Now we will go on again, and at the double. It will be as much as those fellows can do to keep up with us in this thick wood."

Ten minutes passed. Then there was a loud shout and the blowing of a deep horn on their left, followed by a yell from the wood on both sides.

"To the right," Frank shouted, and the party ran in among the trees.

"Get in among that undergrowth with Anna," he said to Bertha.

"Gather there, Dominique, with your men. We shall want you directly. They are sure to make a rush at first.

"Now, lads, one of you take that tree; the other the one to the right," and he placed himself behind one between them. On glancing round he saw that George had already posted his two men, and had taken up his station between them.

"All hands kneel down," he said. "These bushes will hide us from their sight. If we stand up we may be hit by shots from behind."

A moment later there was a general discharge of firearms round them, and then some forty negroes rushed at them.

"On your feet now, men," Frank shouted. "Take steady aim and bring down a man with each shot."

A cheer broke from the sailors. Four shots were fired from Frank's side, and five from George Lechmere's, and with them came the cracks of Frank's revolver, followed almost directly afterwards by those of the pistols carried by the men, and George Lechmere's revolver.

Scarce a shot missed. Ten of the negroes fell, and those attacking from the right turned and bolted among the trees. The negroes on the left, however, inspired by the roaring of the horns and the shrieking yells of the Obi man, came on with greater determination and dashed across the path.

"Now, Dominique, at them!" Frank shouted, as with the two sailors he rushed across.

The numbers now were not very uneven. Of the twenty negroes on that side, five had fallen under the musketry and pistol fire, and two others were wounded; and as Frank's party and the blacks fell upon them they hesitated. The struggle was not doubtful for a moment. Six of the negroes were cut down, and the rest fled.

"Don't pursue them, men," Frank shouted; and the sailors at once drew off, but Dominique and his black boatmen still pursued hotly, overtaking and cutting down three more of their assailants.

"All is over for the present," Frank said, going to the spot where Bertha and Anna were crouching. "Not one of us is hurt as far as I know, and we have accounted for sixteen or seventeen of these rascals."

Bertha got up. She was a little pale, but perfectly calm and quiet.

"It is horrid, being hidden like that when you are all fighting, Frank," she said, reproachfully.

"We were hidden, too, till they came at us," he said; "and very lucky it was, for some of us would probably have been hit, bad shots though they are."

"No, Frank, not before all these men," she remonstrated.

"What do I care for the men?" he laughed. "Do you think if they had their sweethearts with them they would mind who was looking on?

"There, I must be content with that for the present. We must push on again."

Dominique had returned now with his men, and the party started again at a trot, as soon as the firearms had all been reloaded.

"We shan't have any more trouble, shall we?" Bertha asked.

"Not for the present," he said. "We have fairly routed the blacks who came here with you, and the villagers, and they certainly won't attack us again until they are largely reinforced; which they cannot be until we get down towards the sea, for there are no villages of any size in the hills."

After keeping up the pace for a mile, Frank ordered the men to drop into a walk again.

"Now, Frank, about my mother?" Bertha asked again as soon as she had got her breath; and Frank related all that had taken place up to the time that the Osprey sailed.

"Then she is all alone in town? It must be terrible for her, waiting there without any news of me. It is a pity that she did not go home. It would not have mattered about me, and it would have been so much better for her among her old friends. They would all have sympathised with her so much."

"I quite agreed with her, Bertha, and think still that it was better that she should stay in London. I am sure the sympathy would do her harm rather than good. As it is, now she will be kept up by the belief that she is doing all in her power for you, by saving you from the hideous amount of talk and chatter there would be if this affair were known."

"Of course, it would be horrid, Frank, and perhaps you are right, but it must be an awful trial."

"I have done all I could to set her mind at rest," Frank said. "I wrote to her directly I arrived at Gibraltar, and again as soon as I got the letter from Madeira saying that the brigantine had touched there. I wrote from Madeira again with what news I could pick up, and again from Porto Rico, from the Virgin Islands, and from San Domingo. Of course, from there I was able to say that the scent was getting hot, and that I had no doubt I should not be long before I fell in with the brigantine. Then I sent another letter from Jaquemel. That seems to me a long time ago, for we have done so much since; but it is not more than ten days back. We will post another letter the first time that we touch anywhere, on the off chance of its going home by a mail steamer, and getting there before us."

"It was wonderful your finding out that I had been carried off in the Phantom. That was what troubled me most, except about mother. I did not see how you could guess that the brigantine we had both noticed the day before was the Phantom. I felt sure that you would suspect who it was, but I could not see how you would connect the two together."

"You see, I did not guess it at first," he replied. "I felt sure that it was Carthew from the first minute when I found that you had not landed, and it was just the luck of finding out that the Phantom's crew had returned, and that they had been paid off at Ostend, that put me on the track. Of course, directly I heard that she had been altered and turned into a brigantine, I felt sure that she was the craft that we had noticed; and as soon as I learned through Lloyd's that she had sailed south from the Lizard, I felt certain that she must have gone up the Mediterranean, or to the West Indies. I felt sure it was the latter. However, it was a great relief when I got a letter from Lloyd's agent at Madeira, telling me that the brigantine had touched there, and I felt certain that I should hear of you either here or at one of the South American ports."

They kept on until they reached the hut at the point where the path forked. It was found to be empty.

"Open the basket," Frank said. "We must have a meal before we go further. We have come about half the distance.

"Now, Bertha, there is the bay, you see, and it is all downhill, which is a comfort. Do you feel tired, dear?"

"Not tired," she said, "but my feet are aching a bit. You see, I had thin deck shoes on when we were hurried ashore, and they are not good for walking long distances in."

"Well, we will have a quarter of an hour's rest," he said. "It is getting dark fast, and by the time we go on it will be night, and will be a great deal cooler than it has been."

"I can go on at once if you like," she said.

"No, dear; there is no use in hurrying. We may as well stop half an hour as a quarter. Don't you hear that?"

The girl listened.

"It is a horn, is it not?" she asked, after a pause.

"Yes, I can hear it in half a dozen directions," he said. "That scoundrel of an Obi man is down there ahead of us, and that unearthly row he and his followers are making will rouse up all the villagers within hearing. We will try to give him the slip. I intend to take the path we came by for four or five miles, a

nd then to strike off by one to the right, and hit the main road to Port au Prince, a good bit to the east of where we quitted it. The country is all cultivated there, and we will strike down towards the bay and make our way through the fields, and if we have luck we may be able to get down to the place where the gig will be waiting for us without meeting any of them."

"Oh, I do hope there will be no more fighting, Frank! You may not all get off as well as you did last time."

"We must take our chance of that, dear. At any rate the country will be open, and we shall be able to keep in a solid body, and I have no doubt that we shall be able to beat them off."

"Could we not go down to the shore, and get a boat somewhere, and row to the yacht?"

"Yes, we might manage that, perhaps. That is a capital idea, Bertha. There is a place called Nipes, twelve or fourteen miles east of our inlet. It won't be very much further to go, for we have been bearing eastward all the way here. Making sure that we shall go straight for the yacht, they will gather in that direction first, and won't think of giving the alarm so far east. There was a path, if I remember right, that came up from that direction a quarter of a mile further on. We will turn off by it."

As soon as the meal was over they started again. They found the path Frank had spoken of, and followed it down until they came among trees. Then Dominique lighted his lantern again.

For a time the two women kept on travelling, but after five miles Bertha was compelled to stop and take off her shoes altogether. For two miles further she refused the offers to carry her, but at last was forced to own that she could go no further.

The two litters were at once brought up, and the four sailors, Dominique and the three uninjured boatmen, lifted them and went along at a trot, George Lechmere leading the way with a lantern. The weight of the girls, divided between four strong men, was a mere trifle, and they now made much more rapid progress than they had before, and in three quarters of an hour arrived at Nipes.

As they got to the little town, Bertha and Anna got out and walked, so as to attract as little attention as possible among the negroes in the streets. Dominique answered all questions, stating that they were a party belonging to a ship in Marsouin Bay, that they had been on a sporting expedition over the hills, and had lost their way, and now wanted a boat to take them back.

As soon as they reached the strand half a dozen were offered to them. Dominique chose the one that looked the fastest. He told the boatman that the ladies were very tired, and they wanted to get back as soon as possible, and he must, therefore, engage ten men to row, as the wind was so slight as to be useless.

As he did not haggle about terms, the bargain was speedily concluded, and in a few minutes they put off. The men, animated by the handsome rate of pay they were to receive, rowed hard, and in a little over two hours they entered the inlet at the end of which the Osprey was lying. As they neared the end the boatmen were surprised at seeing a large number of people with torches on the rising ground, and something like panic seized them when they heard the Obi horns sounding. They dropped their oars at once.

"Tell them to row on, Dominique," Frank said, "and to keep close along the opposite side. Tell them that if they don't do so we will shoot them. No; tell them that we will chuck them overboard and row on ourselves."

"There is the place where we landed," Frank said presently to Bertha (the men had resumed their rowing), "just under where you see that clump of torches."

"Ah, there is our boat," he broke off suddenly, as it appeared in the line of the reflection of the torches on the water.

It was half a mile away, lying a few hundred yards from shore. He took out the dog whistle that he used when coming down to the landing stage to summon the boat from the yacht, and blew it. There was a stir in the boat, and a moment later it was speeding towards them.

"Row on, Dominique. She will pick us up in no time."

And long before they reached the Osprey the gig was alongside.

"Thank God that you are back, sir," they cried as they came abreast. "We have been in terrible anxiety about you. Have you succeeded, sir?"

"Don't cheer. I want to get back to the yacht before they know that we are here. Yes, thank God, I have succeeded. Miss Greendale and her maid are on board."

A low cheer, which even his order could not entirely suppress, came from the three men in the boat. The mate was himself rowing stroke.

"We did not dare bring any more hands, sir," he said. "There has been such a hubbub on shore for the last hour and a half that we thought it likely that they and the Phantom's people might be going to attack us. We rowed to the landing at ten o'clock, as you ordered us, but in a short time a party of men came along close to the water, and as soon as they saw us they opened fire on us, and we had to row off sharp. We have been lying off here since. We did not see how you could get down through that lot, but we thought it better to wait. I did think there was just a hope that you might make your way down to the coast somewhere else and come on in a shore boat.

"Well, here we are, sir."

As he spoke they came alongside the Osprey.

"Is it you, sir?" Hawkins asked eagerly.

"Look here, lads," Frank replied, standing up, "above all things I don't want any cheering, or any noise whatever. I don't want them to know that we have got on board. I know that you will all rejoice with me, for I have brought off Miss Greendale, and none of our party except one of the boatmen has been wounded in any way seriously."

There was a murmur of deep satisfaction from the crew. As Bertha stepped on deck the men crowded round with low exclamations of "God bless you, miss! This is a good day indeed for us!"

Bertha, in reply to the greeting, shook hands all round.

"I see you have not put out the lights in the cabin yet, Hawkins. I will just go down with Miss Greendale and see that she is comfortable, and then I will come up again."

"Oh, Frank!" the girl exclaimed, bursting into tears as they entered the saloon, "this is happiness indeed. I feel at home already."

Frank remained with her for three or four minutes.

"Now, dear, take possession of your old cabin again. No doubt Anna is there already. She had better share it with you.

"Now I must go up and finish with the Phantom at once. Do not be afraid, I shall take them by surprise, and there will be very little fighting."

And without waiting for remonstrance he hurried on deck.

"Are the men armed, Hawkins?"

"That they are, sir. We have been expecting an attack every minute. There have been three or four shore boats going off to the brigantine within the last quarter of an hour."

"I am going to be beforehand with them, Hawkins."

"They've got both those guns pointing this way, sir."

"I am not coming from this way to attack them, Hawkins. I am going to put all hands in that native craft I came in, row off a little distance from this side, then make a circuit, and come down on the other side of them. I will leave George Lechmere here with four men, with three muskets apiece, so that if they should start before we get there they can keep them off until we arrive. If I can get a few of the boatmen to enlist I will do so."

He spoke to Dominique, who went to the side and asked:

"If any of you are disposed to stop here to guard the craft for a quarter of an hour, in case she is attacked, the gentleman here will pay twenty dollars a man; but remember that you may have to fight."

The whole crew rose. Twenty dollars was a fortune to them.

"Come on board, then," Dominique said.

"I don't know whether these fellows are to be trusted, George, but I hope you won't be attacked. Keep these fifteen muskets for yourselves. Put four apiece by the bulwarks and station yourselves by them. Keep your eyes on these boatmen, put the oars of the boat handy for them, and let them arm themselves with them. If you are attacked an oar is not a bad weapon for repelling boarders."

"All right, Major. I will station two of them between each of us."

By this time the captain had picked out the four men that were to remain, and had the rest drawn up in readiness to get into the boat.

"Get in quietly, lads," Frank said. "Ten of you man the oars. We will put an end to the Phantom's wanderings tonight."

"That we will, sir," was the hearty rejoinder of the men.

Frank took the tiller, and they rowed straight away from the Osprey for a hundred yards, when Frank steered towards the right bank, where there were no torches, and where all was quiet. The brigantine could be seen plainly, standing up against the glare of the torches on the other side. They rowed three or four hundred yards beyond her, then taking a turn approached her on the side opposite to that facing the Osprey. Three native boats like their own were lying beside her, and there was a crowd of men on her deck.

Frank brought her round alongside of these boats. He had already ordered that firearms were not to be used in the first place.

"I don't want to kill any of these blacks," he said. "They have nothing to do with the affair, and they believe us to be pirates. I expect that we shall get on board unnoticed. Then with a cheer go at them with the flat of your cutlasses. You can use the edge on the whites if they resist. But I expect that the blacks will all jump overboard in a panic, and that then the whites, seeing that they are outnumbered, will surrender."

No one, indeed, noticed them. There was a great hubbub and confusion, and the captain was endeavouring to get them into something like order; when suddenly there was a loud cheer, and Frank's party fell upon them. Yells of terror rose as the sailors, Dominique, and his blacks sprang among them, striking heavily with the flat of their cutlasses, and the sailors using their fists freely. Frank had brought with him a heavy belaying pin, and used it with great effect.

The blacks in the panic fell over each other, and rushing to the side jumped overboard, some into their boats, and some into the water. The white sailors, carried away by the stampede, and separated from each other, were unable to act. The captain, drawing a brace of pistols from his belt, fired one shot, but before he could fire another Frank hurled the iron belaying pin at him. It struck him in the face, and he fell insensible. The Belgian sailors, seeing themselves altogether outnumbered, and without a leader, threw down their arms.

"Tie their hands and feet," Frank ordered, "and bundle them into one of the native boats."

Two of these had pushed off and lay fifty yards away, and the sea was dotted with the heads of swimmers making towards them. The Belgian sailors were placed in the other boat.

"Put their captain in, too," Frank said. "He will come round presently.

"Now four of you jump into our boat and cast her off.

"Captain, will you look about for the oil, and pour it over all the beds, but don't set them on fire until I give the order.

"Now, lads, two of you run below, and get the cushions off the starboard sofa.

"Purvis, get the skylight open on the port side, and wheel the two guns round, and point them down into the cabin. I will train them myself on the same spot just at the back of that seat. They might come off and extinguish the fire, though I don't think they will; but we will make sure by blowing a hole through her side under the water line."

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.

The boatmen had received their promised pay as soon as Frank had reached the yacht, and had taken their places in their boat, but Dominique told Frank that they would not go till the Osprey sailed, as they were afraid of being pursued and attacked by the villagers' boats if they did so.

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