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.