Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Short Stories > The Sportman's Club Afloat > CHAPTER XII. THE BANNER UNDER FIRE.
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
 While Walter and his friends were engaged in unpacking the boxes containing the carbines and ammunition, Pierre and his crew had been equally busy on deck. By the time they had turned the yacht around with her bow toward the mouth of the creek and hoisted the sails, it was pitch dark, and her captain determined to begin the voyage at once. The boys below were so intent upon their investigations, and so astonished at their discoveries, that they did not know that the yacht was in motion; but when she got out into the harbor where she felt the full force of the breeze, they speedily became aware of the fact, for the Banner, following her usual custom, rolled over until her front gunwale was almost level with the water, and Walter and his companions slid down to the lee side of the hold as easily as if the floor had been ice, and they[215] mounted on skates. Shut out as they were from view of surrounding objects, and being beyond the reach of the voices of the men on deck, they were saved the anxiety and alarm they would have felt, had they known all that happened during the next half hour. They were in blissful ignorance of the fact that they were that night under fire for the first time in their lives, but such was the truth; and this was the way it came about. Had Tomlinson and his men known all that Pierre knew, the voyage to Havana would never have been undertaken. The latter was well aware of the fact that more than one cargo of arms and ammunition had been smuggled into that very port for the use of the Cuban insurgents—he ought to have known it, for he belonged to the vessel engaged in the business—and he had also learned that the Stella was suspected, and that vigilant officers were keeping an eye on all her movements. He knew, further, that certain things had been done by Mr. Bell that afternoon, calculated to draw the attention of the Spanish officials, from the Stella to the Banner; that she would be closely watched; that she had been seen to cross the harbor and enter the creek; that an attempt would be made to board and[216] search her before she left the port; and that in case the attempt failed, a Spanish frigate was close at hand to pursue her, and the fort on the point was ready to open fire upon her. But knowing all these things as well as he did, he was willing to attempt to smuggle the Banner out of the harbor, for he was working for money.
Hugging the shore as closely as the depth of the water would permit, the yacht sped on her way toward the point, the crew standing in silence at their posts, and Pierre himself handling the wheel. With the exception of the lamp in the binnacle, and the lantern in the hold which the boys were using, there was not a light about her, and no one spoke a word, not even in a whisper. But with all these precautions, the yacht did not leave the harbor unobserved. Just as she arrived off the point on which the fort was situated, a light suddenly appeared in her course. It came from a dark lantern. The man who carried it was the same officer who had boarded the vessel in the morning, and who, for reasons of his own, had made the young sailors believe that he could not speak their language. He was standing in the stern-sheets of a large yawl, which was filled with armed men, ready to board[217] the yacht, when she came to, in obedience to his hail.
“Banner ahoy!” yelled the officer, in as plain English as Walter himself could have commanded.
“There they are, cap’n,” whispered Tomlinson, who had been stationed in the bow to act as lookout. “A cutter, and a dozen men in her. Are you going to answer the hail?”
“Leave all that to me. Come here and take the wheel, and hold her just as she is,” said Pierre; and when Tomlinson obeyed the order, the new captain hurried to the rail, and looked toward the yawl.
“Banner ahoy!” shouted the officer again, as the schooner flew past his boat.
“Yaw! Vat you want?” answered Pierre, imitating as nearly as he could the broken English of a German.
“Lie to!” commanded the officer.
“Vas?” yelled Pierre.
“Lie to, I say. I want to come aboard of you.”
“Nix forstay!”
“That won’t go down, my friend; I know you,” said the officer, angrily. “Give away, strong,” he[218] added, addressing himself to his crew. “You had better stop and let me come aboard.”
Pierre seemed very anxious to understand. He moved aft as the Banner went on, leaving the boat behind, and even leaned as far as he could over the taffrail, and placed his hand behind his ear as if trying to catch the officer’s words. But he did not stop; he knew better. The boat followed the yacht a short distance, and then turned and went swiftly toward the point, the officer waving his lantern in air as if making signals to some one. When Pierre saw that, he knew there were exciting times ahead.
“Give me the wheel, now,” said he; “and do you go for’ard and heave the lead until I tell you to stop. Station a man in the waist to pass the word, and tell him not to speak too loud. Tell two others to stand by the sheets, and send Bob aloft to unfurl the topsails. We have need of all the rags we can spread now.”
“What’s up?” asked Tomlinson, with some anxiety.
“There’ll be a good deal up if we don’t get away from here in a hurry,” replied Pierre; “more than you think for. But if you do as I tell you, I will[219] bring you through all right. That fort will open on us in less than five minutes, and if that don’t stop us, we’ll have to run a race with a man o’ war.”
Tomlinson waited to hear no more. Resigning the wheel into Pierre’s hands, he ran forward, and the latter, as soon as the men had been stationed at the fore and main sheets, changed the yacht’s course, heading her across a bar at the entrance to the harbor, and standing close along shore. The wisdom of this man?uvre was very soon made apparent. In less than ten minutes afterward, there was a bright flash behind them, accompanied by a shrieking sound in the air, and a twelve pound shell went skipping along the waves and burst far in advance of the yacht. Had she been in the channel, which vessels of large size were obliged to follow in going in and out of the harbor, she would have been directly in range of it. Another and another followed, and finally every gun on the seaward side of the fort was sending its missiles in the direction the Banner was supposed to have gone. The deserters looked and listened in amazement; but finding that they were out of reach of the shells, their alarm began to abate.
“Now, this is like old times,” exclaimed Bob, placing his left hand behind his back, extending his right, and glancing along the yacht’s rail, in the attitude of the captain of a gun when about to pull the lock-string. “Don’t I wish this craft was the old Indianola, as good as she was the day she ran the batteries at Vicksburg, and I had one of those eleven-inch guns under my eye, loaded with a five-second shell?”
“You’ll wish for her many a time to-night, for the fun isn’t over yet,” observed Pierre. “It is only just beginning. Now keep silence, fore and aft, so that I can hear what Tom has to say about the water.”
For an hour Tomlinson kept heaving the lead, passing the word back to Pierre with every throw, and all this while the Banner, with every inch of her canvas spread, bounded along as close to the shore as her captain dared to go. For fifteen minutes of this time the fort continued to send its shots and shells along the channel, and then the firing ceased and all was still again. Pierre kept close watch of the shore as the yacht flew along, and finally turning into a little bay, sailed up within sight of a stone jetty that put out from the shore,[221] and came to anchor. This was Don Casper’s wharf Pierre knew it, for he had often been there; and he knew too that a short distance away, among the negro quarters, was a storehouse containing an abundance of corn-meal, flour and bacon. This was the place to secure the provisions.
“There!” exclaimed the captain, as the Banner swung around with her head to the waves, “we’re so far on our way to Havana, and we haven’t been long getting here, either. Now we’ve no time to lose. Who’s the best swimmer in the party?”
“I am,” said Tomlinson confidently.
“Well, then, come here. Do you see that wharf out there, and the yawls lying alongside of it? Just swim out and bring one of ’em back, and we’ll go ashore and get the grub. Be in a hurry, for we want to get our business done and put to sea again before that man-o’-war comes up and blockades us.”
Tomlinson at once divested himself of his pea-jacket, overshirt and shoes, and plunging fearlessly into the waves made his way to the shore. While there, notwithstanding Pierre’s suggestion that haste was desirable, he took it into his head to reconnoitre the plantation. He found the storehouse, and saw the overseer—the same man who liberated Chase[222] and Wilson from the wine-cellar—serving out provisions to the negroes. After noting the position of the building, so that he could easily find it again, he secured one of the yawls, hoisted a sail in it, and returning to the yacht brought off his companions. Pierre knowing more than the deserters, and believing that it might not be quite safe to trust himself too far away from the yacht, remained at the wharf, while Tomlinson and the rest of the deserters, armed with handspikes which they had brought from the vessel, went to the storehouse after the provisions.
And what were the boys in the hold doing al............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved