Page:Ninety-three.djvu/24

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NINETY-THREE.

BOOK SECOND.

THE CORVETTE "CLAYMORE."




CHAPTER I.

ENGLAND AND FRANCE.

In the spring of 1793, at the time when France, attacked on all her frontiers at once, was touchingly diverted by the fall of the Girondists, this is what took place in the Channel Islands.

One evening, the first of June, in Jersey, in the little lonely bay of Bonne-nuit, about an hour before sunset, during one of those fogs convenient for escape, because they are dangerous for navigation, a corvette was preparing to set sail. The crew of this vessel was French, but it belonged to the English fleet stationed on the lookout at the eastern point of the island. The Prince of la Tour-d'Auvergne, who belonged to the house of Bouillon, commanded the English Fleet, and it was by his orders, and for an urgent and special service, that the corvette had been detached.

This corvette, enrolled at Trinity House as the "Claymore," was to all appearances a merchant ship, but in reality was a sloop of war. She had the clumsy, peaceful aspect of a merchantman; this was a mere blind, however. She had been built for a double purpose, deception and strength: to deceive, if possible; to fight, if necessary. For the service that she had to perform this night, her cargo between decks had been replaced by thirty carronades of heavy calibre. Either because a storm was in prospect, or to give an innocent appearance to the vessel, these thirty carronades were shut in, that is securely fastened within by triple chains, and the mouths pushed up against the closed port-holes; there was nothing to be seen from the outside; the port-holes