Page:Ninety-three.djvu/51

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4
NINETY-THREE.

"Five frigates of thirty-two guns each."

The captain wrote one hundred and sixty under the first numbers.

"Pilot," he said, "you recognize them well."

"You," replied Gacquoil, "know them well, captain. To recognize is one thing, to know is better."

The captain was looking intently at his note-book, and was adding up the numbers to himself.

"Hundred and twenty-eight, fifty-two, forty, hundred and sixty."

Just at this moment, la Vieuville came up on deck.

"Chevalier," the captain cried out to him, "we are in the face of three hundred and eighty cannon."

"So be it," said la Vieuville.

"You have just been inspecting, la Vieuville; just how many guns have we fit for use?"

"Nine."

"So be it," said Boisberthelot in his turn.

He took the spyglass from the pilot's hands and studied the horizon.

The eight still, black ships seemed motionless, but they were growing larger.

They were approaching imperceptibly.

La Vieuville gave the military salute.

"Commander," he said, "here is my report. I distrusted this corvette 'Claymore.' It is always annoying to embark suddenly on a vessel which does not know you, or that does not love you. English ship—traitor to the French—that slut of a carronade proved it. I have made the inspection. Anchors good. They are not of half-finished iron, but of forged bars soldered with the trip-hammer. The flukes are solid. Cables excellent, easy to pay out, of the regular length, hundred and twenty fathoms. Ammunition in abundance. Six gunners dead. A hundred and seventy-one rounds apiece."

"Because there are only nine guns left," murmured the captain.

Boisberthelot pointed his spyglass towards the horizon. The squadron was still slowly approaching.

There is one advantage about the carronades, three men are enough to work them, but they have one inconvenience, they do not carry as far nor aim as accurately as cannon.