Page:Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates (1921).djvu/208

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Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates

Then he went forward along the deck. His men were crouching down along by the low rail, and there was a tense quietness of expectation about them. The lieutenant looked them over as he passed them. “Johnson,” he said, “do you take the lead and line and go forward and sound a bit.” Then to the others: “Now, my men, the moment we run her aboard, you get aboard of her as quick as you can, do you understand? Don’t wait for the sloop or think about her, but just see that the grappling irons are fast, and then get aboard. If any man offers to resist you, shoot him down. Are you ready, Mr. Cringle?”

“Aye, aye, sir,” said the gunner.

“Very well, then, be ready, men; we’ll be aboard ’em in a minute or two.”

“There’s less than a fathom of water here, sir,” sang out Johnson from the bows. As he spoke there was a sudden soft jar and jerk, then the schooner was still. They were aground. “Push her off to the lee there! Let go your sheets!” roared the boatswain from the wheel. “Push her off to the lee.” He spun the wheel around as he spoke. A half a dozen men sprang up, seized the sweeps, and plunged them into the water. Others ran to help them, but the sweeps only sank into the mud without moving the schooner. The sails had fallen off and they were flapping and thumping and clapping in the wind. Others of the crew had scrambled to their feet and ran to help those at the sweeps. The lieutenant had walked quickly aft again. They were very close now to the pirate sloop, and suddenly some one hailed him from aboard of her. When he turned he saw that there was a man standing up on the rail of the pirate sloop, holding by the back stays. “Who are you?” he called, from the distance, “and whence come you? What do you seek here? What d’ye mean, coming down on us this way?”

The lieutenant heard somebody say, “That’s Blackbeard hisself.” And he looked with great interest at the distant figure.