Page:Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates (1921).djvu/207

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Jack Ballister’s Fortunes

than half a mile of the pirates—the boat with the boatswain maybe a quarter of a mile closer. Suddenly there was a puff of smoke from the pirate sloop, and then another and another, and the next moment there came the three reports of muskets up the wind.

“By zounds!” said the lieutenant. “I do believe they’re firing on the boat!” And then he saw the boat turn and begin pulling toward them.

The boat with the boatswain aboard came rowing rapidly. Again there were three or four puffs of smoke and three or four subsequent reports from the distant vessel. Then, in a little while, the boat was alongside, and the boatswain came scrambling aboard. “Never mind hoisting the boat,” said the lieutenant; “we’ll just take her in tow. Come aboard as quick as you can.” Then, turning to the sailing master, “Well, Brookes, you’ll have to do the best you can to get in over the shoals under half sail.”

“But, sir,” said the master, “we’ll be sure to run aground.”

“Very well, sir,” said the lieutenant, “you heard my orders. If we run aground we run aground, and that’s all there is of it.”

“I sounded as far as maybe a little over a fathom,” said the mate, “but the villains would let me go no nearer. I think I was in the channel, though. ’Tis more open inside, as I mind me of it. There’s a kind of a hole there, and if we get in over the shoals just beyond where I was we’ll be all right.”

“Very well, then, you take the wheel, Baldwin,” said the lieutenant, “and do the best you can for us.”

Lieutenant Maynard stood looking out forward at the pirate vessel, which they were now steadily nearing under half sail. He could see that there were signs of bustle aboard and of men running around upon the deck. Then he walked aft and around the cabin. The sloop was some distance astern. It appeared to have run aground, and they were trying to push it off with the sweeps. The lieutenant looked down into the water over the stern, and saw that the schooner was already raising the mud in her wane.