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Chapter 6 The Attack

  • As soon as Silver disappeared, the captain, who had been closely watching him, turned towards the interior of the house and found not a man of us at his pos_ut Gray. It was the first time we had ever seen him angry.
  • "Quarters!" he roared. And then, as we all slunk back to our places, "Gray,"
  • he said, "I'll put your name in the log; you've stood by your duty like _eaman. Mr. Trelawney, I'm surprised at you, sir. Doctor, I thought you ha_orn the king's coat! If that was how you served at Fontenoy, sir, you'd hav_een better in your berth."
  • The doctor's watch were all back at their loopholes, the rest were bus_oading the spare muskets, and everyone with a red face, you may be certain, and a flea in his ear, as the saying is.
  • The captain looked on for a while in silence. Then he spoke.
  • "My lads," said he, "I've given Silver a broadside. I pitched it in red-hot o_urpose; and before the hour's out, as he said, we shall be boarded. We'r_utnumbered, I needn't tell you that, but we fight in shelter; and a minut_go I should have said we fought with discipline. I've no manner of doubt tha_e can drub them, if you choose."
  • Then he went the rounds and saw, as he said, that all was clear.
  • On the two short sides of the house, east and west, there were only tw_oopholes; on the south side where the porch was, two again; and on the nort_ide, five. There was a round score of muskets for the seven of us; th_irewood had been built into four piles—tables, you might say—one about th_iddle of each side, and on each of these tables some ammunition and fou_oaded muskets were laid ready to the hand of the defenders. In the middle, the cutlasses lay ranged.
  • "Toss out the fire," said the captain; "the chill is past, and we mustn't hav_moke in our eyes."
  • The iron fire-basket was carried bodily out by Mr. Trelawney, and the ember_mothered among sand.
  • "Hawkins hasn't had his breakfast. Hawkins, help yourself, and back to you_ost to eat it," continued Captain Smollett. "Lively, now, my lad; you'll wan_t before you've done. Hunter, serve out a round of brandy to all hands."
  • And while this was going on, the captain completed, in his own mind, the pla_f the defence.
  • "Doctor, you will take the door," he resumed. "See, and don't expose yourself; keep within, and fire through the porch. Hunter, take the east side, there.
  • Joyce, you stand by the west, my man. Mr. Trelawney, you are the best shot—yo_nd Gray will take this long north side, with the five loopholes; it's ther_he danger is. If they can get up to it and fire in upon us through our ow_orts, things would begin to look dirty. Hawkins, neither you nor I are muc_ccount at the shooting; we'll stand by to load and bear a hand."
  • As the captain had said, the chill was past. As soon as the sun had climbe_bove our girdle of trees, it fell with all its force upon the clearing an_rank up the vapours at a draught. Soon the sane was baking and the resi_elting in the logs of the block house. Jackets and coats were flung aside, shirts thrown open at the neck and rolled up to the shoulders; and we stoo_here, each at his post, in a fever of heat and anxiety.
  • An hour passed away.
  • "Hang them!" said the captain. "This is as dull as the doldrums. Gray, whistl_or a wind."
  • And just at that moment came the first news of the attack.
  • "If you please, sir," said Joyce, "if I see anyone, am I to fire?"
  • "I told you so!" cried the captain.
  • "Thank you, sir," returned Joyce with the same quiet civility.
  • Nothing followed for a time, but the remark had set us all on the alert, straining ears and eyes—the musketeers with their pieces balanced in thei_ands, the captain out in the middle of the block house with his mouth ver_ight and a frown on his face.
  • So some seconds passed, till suddenly Joyce whipped up his musket and fired.
  • The report had scarcely died away ere it was repeated and repeated fro_ithout in a scattering volley, shot behind shot, like a string of geese, fro_very side of the enclosure. Several bullets struck the log-house, but not on_ntered; and as the smoke cleared away and vanished, the stockade and th_oods around it looked as quiet and empty as before. Not a bough waved, no_he gleam of a musket-barrel betrayed the presence of our foes.
  • "Did you hit your man?" asked the captain.
  • "No, sir," replied Joyce. "I believe not, sir."
  • "Next best thing to tell the truth," muttered Captain Smollett. "Load his gun, Hawkins. How many should say there were on your side, doctor?"
  • "I know precisely," said Dr. Livesey. "Three shots were fired on this side. _aw the three flashes—two close together—one farther to the west."
  • "Three!" repeated the captain. "And how many on yours, Mr. Trelawney?"
  • But this was not so easily answered. There had come many from the north—seve_y the squire's computation, eight or nine according to Gray. From the eas_nd west only a single shot had been fired. It was plain, therefore, that th_ttack would be developed from the north and that on the other three sides w_ere only to be annoyed by a show of hostilities. But Captain Smollett made n_hange in his arrangements. If the mutineers succeeded in crossing th_tockade, he argued, they would take possession of any unprotected loophol_nd shoot us down like rats in our own stronghold.
  • Nor had we much time left to us for thought. Suddenly, with a loud huzza, _ittle cloud of pirates leaped from the woods on the north side and ra_traight on the stockade. At the same moment, the fire was once more opene_rom the woods, and a rifle ball sang through the doorway and knocked th_octor's musket into bits.
  • The boarders swarmed over the fence like monkeys. Squire and Gray fired agai_nd yet again; three men fell, one forwards into the enclosure, two back o_he outside. But of these, one was evidently more frightened than hurt, for h_as on his feet again in a crack and instantly disappeared among the trees.
  • Two had bit the dust, one had fled, four had made good their footing insid_ur defences, while from the shelter of the woods seven or eight men, eac_vidently supplied with several muskets, kept up a hot though useless fire o_he log-house.
  • The four who had boarded made straight before them for the building, shoutin_s they ran, and the men among the trees shouted back to encourage them.
  • Several shots were fired, but such was the hurry of the marksmen that not on_ppears to have taken effect. In a moment, the four pirates had swarmed up th_ound and were upon us.
  • The head of Job Anderson, the boatswain, appeared at the middle loophole.
  • "At 'em, all hands—all hands!" he roared in a voice of thunder.
  • At the same moment, another pirate grasped Hunter's musket by the muzzle, wrenched it from his hands, plucked it through the loophole, and with on_tunning blow, laid the poor fellow senseless on the floor. Meanwhile a third, running unharmed all around the house, appeared suddenly in the doorway an_ell with his cutlass on the doctor.
  • Our position was utterly reversed. A moment since we were firing, under cover, at an exposed enemy; now it was we who lay uncovered and could not return _low.
  • The log-house was full of smoke, to which we owed our comparative safety.
  • Cries and confusion, the flashes and reports of pistol-shots, and one lou_roan rang in my ears.
  • "Out, lads, out, and fight 'em in the open! Cutlasses!" cried the captain.
  • I snatched a cutlass from the pile, and someone, at the same time snatchin_nother, gave me a cut across the knuckles which I hardly felt. I dashed ou_f the door into the clear sunlight. Someone was close behind, I knew no_hom. Right in front, the doctor was pursuing his assailant down the hill, an_ust as my eyes fell upon him, beat down his guard and sent him sprawling o_is back with a great slash across the face.
  • "Round the house, lads! Round the house!" cried the captain; and even in th_urly-burly, I perceived a change in his voice.
  • Mechanically, I obeyed, turned eastwards, and with my cutlass raised, ra_ound the corner of the house. Next moment I was face to face with Anderson.
  • He roared aloud, and his hanger went up above his head, flashing in th_unlight. I had not time to be afraid, but as the blow still hung impending, leaped in a trice upon one side, and missing my foot in the soft sand, rolle_eadlong down the slope.
  • When I had first sallied from the door, the other mutineers had been alread_warming up the palisade to make an end of us. One man, in a red night-cap, with his cutlass in his mouth, had even got upon the top and thrown a le_cross. Well, so short had been the interval that when I found my feet agai_ll was in the same posture, the fellow with the red night-cap still half-wa_ver, another still just showing his head above the top of the stockade. An_et, in this breath of time, the fight was over and the victory was ours.
  • Gray, following close behind me, had cut down the big boatswain ere he ha_ime to recover from his last blow. Another had been shot at a loophole in th_ery act of firing into the house and now lay in agony, the pistol stil_moking in his hand. A third, as I had seen, the doctor had disposed of at _low. Of the four who had scaled the palisade, one only remained unaccounte_or, and he, having left his cutlass on the field, was now clambering ou_gain with the fear of death upon him.
  • "Fire—fire from the house!" cried the doctor. "And you, lads, back int_over."
  • But his words were unheeded, no shot was fired, and the last boarder made goo_is escape and disappeared with the rest into the wood. In three second_othing remained of the attacking party but the five who had fallen, four o_he inside and one on the outside of the palisade.
  • The doctor and Gray and I ran full speed for shelter. The survivors would soo_e back where they had left their muskets, and at any moment the fire migh_ecommence.
  • The house was by this time somewhat cleared of smoke, and we saw at a glanc_he price we had paid for victory. Hunter lay beside his loophole, stunned; Joyce by his, shot through the head, never to move again; while right in th_entre, the squire was supporting the captain, one as pale as the other.
  • "The captain's wounded," said Mr. Trelawney.
  • "Have they run?" asked Mr. Smollett.
  • "All that could, you may be bound," returned the doctor; "but there's five o_hem will never run again."
  • "Five!" cried the captain. "Come, that's better. Five against three leaves u_our to nine. That's better odds than we had at starting. We were seven t_ineteen then, or thought we were, and that's as bad to bear."