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."