« ForrigeFortsæt »
as the need arose. The one that was already shut, I secured in this fashion; but when I was proceeding to slide to the other, Alan stopped me.
"David,” said he "for I cannae bring to mind the name of your landed estate, and so will make so bold as call you David--that door, being open, is the best part of my defences."
"It would be yet better shut,” says I.
“Not so, David," says he. "Ye see, I have but one face; but so long as that door is open and my face to it, the best part of my enemies will be in front of me, where I would aye wish to find them."
Then he gave me from the rack a cutlass (of which there were a few besides the firearms), choosing it with great care, shaking his head and saying he had never in all his life seen poorer weapons; and next he set me down to the table with a powder-horn, a bag of bullets, and all the pistols, which he bade me charge.
“And that will be better work, let me tell you," said he, "for a gentleman of decent birth, than scraping plates and raxing drams to a wheen tarry sailors."
Thereupon he stood up in the midst with his face to the door, and drawing his great sword, made trial of the room he had to wield it in.
“I must strick to the point,” he said, shaking his head; "and that's a pity, too. It doesn't set my genius, which is all for the upper guard. And now," said he, "do you keep on charging the pistols, and give heed to me."
I told him I would listen closely. My chest was tight, my mouth dry, the light dark to my eyes; the thought of the numbers that were soon to leap in upon us kept 1 Reaching.
my heart in a flutter; and the sea, which I heard washing round the brig, and where I thought my dead body would be cast ere morning, ran in my mind strangely.
"First of all,” said he, “how many are against us?"
I reckoned them up; and such was the hurry of my mind, I had to cast the numbers twice. "Fifteen," said I.
Alan whistled. "Well," said he, "that can't be cured. And now follow me. It is my part to keep this door, where I look for the main battle. In that, ye have no hand. And mind and dinnae fire to this side unless they get me down; for I would rather have ten foes in front of me than one friend like you cracking pistols at my back.”
I told him, indeed I was no great shot.
"And that's very bravely said,” he cried, in a great admiration of my candor. “There's many a pretty gentleman that wouldnae dare to say it."
“But then, sir,'' said I, “there is the door behind you, which they may perhaps break in.”
“Ay," said he, "and that is a part of your work. No sooner the pistols charged, then ye must climb up into yon bed where ye're handy at the window; and if they lift hand against the door, ye're to shoot. But that's not all. Let's make a bit of a soldier of ye, David. What else have ye to guard?"
“There's the skylight,” said I. "But indeed, Mr. Stewart, I would need to have eyes upon both sides to keep the two of them; for when my face is at the one, my back is to the other."
“And that's very true," said Alan. “But have ye no ears to your head?”
“To be sure!" cried I. "I must hear the bursting of the glass !"
"Ye have some rudiments of sense,” said Alan, grimly.
But now our time of truce was come to an end. Those on deck had waited for my coming till they grew impatient; and scarce had Alan spoken, when the captain showed face in the open door.
“Stand l” cried Alan, and pointed his sword at him.
The captain stood, indeed; but he neither winced nor drew back a foot.
“A naked sword ?" says he. “This is a strange return for hospitality.”
“Do you see me?” said Alan. “I am come of kings; I bear a king's name. My badge is the oak. Do you see my sword? It has slashed the heads off mair Whigamores than you have toes upon your feet. Call up your vermin to your back, sir, and fall on! The sooner the clash begins, the sooner ye'll taste this steel throughout
The captain said nothing to Alan, but he looked over at me with an ugly look. “David," said he, “I'll mind this”; and the sound of his voice went through me with a jar.
Next moment he was gone.
"And now," said Alan, "let your hand keep your head, for the grip is coming.”
Alan drew a dirk, which he held in his left hand in case they should run in under his sword. I, on my part,
, clambered up into the berth with an armful of pistols, and set open the window where I was to watch. It was a small part of the deck that I could overlook, but enough for our purpose. The sea had gone down, and the wind was steady and kept the sails quiet; so that there was a great stillness in the ship, in which I made sure I heard the sound of muttering voices. A little after, and there came a clash of steel upon the deck, by which I knew they were dealing out the cutlasses and one had been let fall; and after that silence again.
I do not know if I was what you call afraid; but my heart beat like a bird's, both quick and little; and there was a dimness came before my eyes which I continually rubbed away, and which continually returned. As for hope, I had none; but only a darkness of despair and a sort of anger against all the world that made me long to sell my life as dear as I was able. I tried to pray, I remember, but that same hurry of my mind, like a man running, would not suffer me to think upon the words; and my chief wish was to have the thing begin and be done with it.
It came all of a sudden when it did, with a rush of feet and a roar, and then a shout from Alan, and a sound of blows and some one crying out as if hurt. I looked back over my shoulder, and saw Mr. Shuan in the doorway, crossing blades with Alan.
“That's him that killed the boy!" I cried.
“Look to your window !" said Alan; and as I turned back to my place, I saw him pass his sword through the mate's body.
It was none too soon for me to look to my own part; for my head was scarce back at the window before five men, carrying a spare yard for a battering-ram, ran past me and took post to drive the door in. I had never fired with a pistol in my life, and not often with a gun; far less against a fellow-creature. But it was now or never; and just as they swung the yard, I cried out, “Take that!" and shot into their midst.
I must have hit one of them, for he sang out and gave back a step, and the rest stopped as if a little disconcerted. Before they had time to recover, I sent another ball over their heads; and at my third shot (which went as wide as the second) the whole party threw down the yard and ran for it.
Then I looked round again into the deck-house. The whole place was full of the smoke of my own firing, just as my ears seemed to be burst with the noise of the shots. But there was Alan, standing as before; only now his sword was running blood to the hilt, and himself so swelled with triumph and fallen into so fine an attitude, that he looked to be invincible. Right before him on the floor was Mr. Shuan, on his hands and knees; the blood was pouring from his mouth, and he was sinking slowly lower, with a terrible, white face; and just as I looked, some of those from behind caught hold of him by the heels and dragged him bodily out of the round-house. I believe he died as they were doing it.
“There's one of your Whigs for yel” cried Alan: and then turning to me, he asked if I had done much execution.
I told him I had winged one, and thought it was the captain.
“And I've settled two," says he. “No, there's not enough blood let; they'll be back again. To your watch, David. This was but a dram before meat."
I settled back to my place, recharging the three pistols I had fired, and keeping watch with both eye and ear.
Our enemies were disputing not far off upon the deck, and that so loudly that I could hear a word or two above the washing of the seas.
"It was Shuan bauchled it," I heard one say. 1 Bungled.