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Chapter 5 The Good Hope (continued)

  • The pier was not far distant from the house in which Joanna lay; it now onl_emained to get the men on shore, to surround the house with a strong party,
  • burst in the door and carry off the captive. They might then regard themselve_s done with the Good Hope; it had placed them on the rear of their enemies;
  • and the retreat, whether they should succeed or fail in the main enterprise,
  • would be directed with a greater measure of hope in the direction of th_orest and my Lord Foxham’s reserve.
  • To get the men on shore, however, was no easy task; many had been sick, al_ere pierced with cold; the promiscuity and disorder on board had shaken thei_iscipline; the movement of the ship and the darkness of the night had cowe_heir spirits. They made a rush upon the pier; my lord, with his sword draw_n his own retainers, must throw himself in front; and this impulse o_abblement was not restrained without a certain clamour of voices, highly t_e regretted in the case.
  • When some degree of order had been restored, Dick, with a few chosen men, se_orth in advance. The darkness on shore, by contrast with the flashing of th_urf, appeared before him like a solid body; and the howling and whistling o_he gale drowned any lesser noise.
  • He had scarce reached the end of the pier, however, when there fell a lull o_he wind; and in this he seemed to hear on shore the hollow footing of horse_nd the clash of arms. Checking his immediate followers, he passed forward _tep or two alone, even setting foot upon the down; and here he made sure h_ould detect the shape of men and horses moving. A strong discouragemen_ssailed him. If their enemies were really on the watch, if they ha_eleaguered the shoreward end of the pier, he and Lord Foxham were taken in _osture of very poor defence, the sea behind, the men jostled in the dark upo_ narrow causeway. He gave a cautious whistle, the signal previously agree_pon.
  • It proved to be a signal far more than he desired. Instantly there fell,
  • through the black night, a shower of arrows sent at a venture; and so clos_ere the men huddled on the pier that more than one was hit, and the arrow_ere answered with cries of both fear and pain. In this first discharge, Lor_oxham was struck down; Hawksley had him carried on board again at once; an_is men, during the brief remainder of the skirmish, fought (when they fough_t all) without guidance. That was perhaps the chief cause of the disaste_hich made haste to follow.
  • At the shore end of the pier, for perhaps a minute, Dick held his own with _andful; one or two were wounded upon either side; steel crossed steel; no_ad there been the least signal of advantage, when in the twinkling of an ey_he tide turned against the party from the ship. Someone cried out that al_as lost; the men were in the very humour to lend an ear to a discomfortabl_ounsel; the cry was taken up. “On board, lads, for your lives!” crie_nother. A third, with the true instinct of the coward, raised that inevitabl_eport on all retreats: “We are betrayed!” And in a moment the whole mass o_en went surging and jostling backward down the pier, turning thei_efenceless backs on their pursuers and piercing the night with craven outcry.
  • One coward thrust off the ship’s stern, while another still held her by th_ows. The fugitives leaped, screaming, and were hauled on board, or fell bac_nd perished in the sea. Some were cut down upon the pier by the pursuers.
  • Many were injured on the ship’s deck in the blind haste and terror of th_oment, one man leaping upon another, and a third on both. At last, an_hether by design or accident, the bows of the Good Hope were liberated; an_he ever-ready Lawless, who had maintained his place at the helm through al_he hurly-burly by sheer strength of body and a liberal use of the cold steel,
  • instantly clapped her on the proper tack. The ship began to move once mor_orward on the stormy sea, its scuppers running blood, its deck heaped wit_allen men, sprawling and struggling in the dark.
  • Thereupon, Lawless sheathed his dagger, and turning to his next neighbour, “_ave left my mark on them, gossip,” said he, “the yelping, coward hounds.”
  • Now, while they were all leaping and struggling for their lives, the men ha_ot appeared to observe the rough shoves and cutting stabs with which Lawles_ad held his post in the confusion. But perhaps they had already begun t_nderstand somewhat more clearly, or perhaps another ear had overheard, th_elmsman’s speech.
  • Panic-stricken troops recover slowly, and men who have just disgrace_hemselves by cowardice, as if to wipe out the memory of their fault, wil_ometimes run straight into the opposite extreme of insubordination. So it wa_ow; and the same men who had thrown away their weapons and been hauled, fee_oremost, into the Good Hope, began to cry out upon their leaders, and deman_hat someone should be punished.
  • This growing ill-feeling turned upon Lawless.
  • In order to get a proper offing, the old outlaw had put the head of the Goo_ope to seaward.
  • “What!” bawled one of the grumblers, “he carrieth us to seaward!”
  • “’Tis sooth,” cried another. “Nay, we are betrayed for sure.”
  • And they all began to cry out in chorus that they were betrayed, and in shril_ones and with abominable oaths bade Lawless go about-ship and bring the_peedily ashore. Lawless, grinding his teeth, continued in silence to stee_he true course, guiding the Good Hope among the formidable billows. To thei_mpty terrors, as to their dishonourable threats, between drink and dignity h_corned to make reply. The malcontents drew together a little abaft the mast,
  • and it was plain they were like barnyard cocks, “crowing for courage.”
  • Presently they would be fit for any extremity of injustice or ingratitude.
  • Dick began to mount by the ladder, eager to interpose; but one of the outlaws,
  • who was also something of a seaman, got beforehand.
  • “Lads,” he began, “y’ are right wooden heads, I think. For to get back, by th_ass, we must have an offing, must we not? And this old Lawless - ”
  • Someone struck the speaker on the mouth, and the next moment, as a fir_prings among dry straw, he was felled upon the deck, trampled under the feet,
  • and despatched by the daggers of his cowardly companions. At this the wrath o_awless rose and broke.
  • “Steer yourselves,” he bellowed, with a curse; and, careless of the result, h_eft the helm.
  • The Good Hope was, at that moment, trembling on the summit of a swell. Sh_ubsided, with sickening velocity, upon the farther side. A wave, like a grea_lack bulwark, hove immediately in front of her; and, with a staggering blow,
  • she plunged headforemost through that liquid hill. The green water passe_ight over her from stem to stern, as high as a man’s knees; the sprays ra_igher than the mast; and she rose again upon the other side, with a_ppalling, tremulous indecision, like a beast that has been deadly wounded.
  • Six or seven of the malcontents had been carried bodily overboard; and as fo_he remainder, when they found their tongues again, it was to bellow to th_aints and wail upon Lawless to come back and take the tiller.
  • Nor did Lawless wait to be twice bidden. The terrible result of his fling o_ust resentment sobered him completely. He knew, better than any one on board,
  • how nearly the Good Hope had gone bodily down below their feet; and he coul_ell, by the laziness with which she met the sea, that the peril was by n_eans over.
  • Dick, who had been thrown down by the concussion and half drowned, rose wadin_o his knees in the swamped well of the stern, and crept to the old helmsman’_ide.
  • “Lawless,” he said, “we do all depend on you; y’ are a brave, steady man,
  • indeed, and crafty in the management of ships; I shall put three sure men t_atch upon your safety.”
  • “Bootless, my master, bootless,” said the steersman, peering forward throug_he dark. “We come every moment somewhat clearer of these sandbanks; wit_very moment, then, the sea packeth upon us heavier, and for all thes_himperers, they will presently be on their backs. For, my master, ’tis _ight mystery, but true, there never yet was a bad man that was a goo_hipman. None but the honest and the bold can endure me this tossing of _hip.”
  • “Nay, Lawless,” said Dick, laughing, “that is a right shipman’s byword, an_ath no more of sense than the whistle of the wind. But, prithee, how go we?
  • Do we lie well? Are we in good case?”
  • “Master Shelton,” replied Lawless, “I have been a Grey Friar - I prais_ortune - an archer, a thief, and a shipman. Of all these coats, I had th_est fancy to die in the Grey Friar’s, as ye may readily conceive, and th_east fancy to die in John Shipman’s tarry jacket; and that for two excellen_ood reasons: first, that the death might take a man suddenly; and second, fo_he horror of that great, salt smother and welter under my foot here” - an_awless stamped with his foot. “Howbeit,” he went on, “an I die not a sailor’_eath, and that this night, I shall owe a tall candle to our Lady.”
  • “Is it so?” asked Dick.
  • “It is right so,” replied the outlaw. “Do ye not feel how heavy and dull sh_oves upon the waves? Do ye not hear the water washing in her hold? She wil_carce mind the rudder even now. Bide till she has settled a bit lower; an_he will either go down below your boots like a stone image, or drive ashor_ere, under our lee, and come all to pieces like a twist of string.”
  • “Ye speak with a good courage,” returned Dick. “Ye are not then appalled?”
  • “Why, master,” answered Lawless, “if ever a man had an ill crew to come t_ort with, it is I - a renegade friar, a thief, and all the rest on’t. Well,
  • ye may wonder, but I keep a good hope in my wallet; and if that I be to drown,
  • I will drown with a bright eye, Master Shelton, and a steady hand.”
  • Dick returned no answer; but he was surprised to find the old vagabond of s_esolute a temper, and fearing some fresh violence or treachery, set fort_pon his quest for three sure men. The great bulk of the men had now deserte_he deck, which was continually wetted with the flying sprays, and where the_ay exposed to the shrewdness of the winter wind. They had gathered, instead,
  • into the hold of the merchandise, among the butts of wine, and lighted by tw_winging lanterns.
  • Here a few kept up the form of revelry, and toasted each other deep i_rblaster’s Gascony wine. But as the Good Hope continued to tear through th_moking waves, and toss her stem and stern alternately high in air and dee_nto white foam, the number of these jolly companions diminished with ever_oment and with every lurch. Many sat apart, tending their hurts, but th_ajority were already prostrated with sickness, and lay moaning in the bilge.
  • Greensheve, Cuckow, and a young fellow of Lord Foxham’s whom Dick had alread_emarked for his intelligence and spirit, were still, however, both fit t_nderstand and willing to obey. These Dick set, as a body-guard, about th_erson of the steersman, and then, with a last look at the black sky and sea,
  • he turned and went below into the cabin, whither Lord Foxham had been carrie_y his servants.