You are here

قراءة كتاب Wacousta : a tale of the Pontiac conspiracy — Volume 3

تنويه: تعرض هنا نبذة من اول ١٠ صفحات فقط من الكتاب الالكتروني، لقراءة الكتاب كاملا اضغط على الزر “اشتر الآن"

‏اللغة: English
Wacousta : a tale of the Pontiac conspiracy — Volume 3

Wacousta : a tale of the Pontiac conspiracy — Volume 3

تقييمك:
0
No votes yet
المؤلف:
دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 8

hear overhead?"

"It's Jack Fuller, no doubt, your honour; I sent him up to clear away the branches from the main topmast rigging." Then raising his head, and elevating his voice, "Hilloa! aloft there!"

The only answer was a groan, followed by a deeper commotion among the rustling foliage.

"Why, what the devil's the matter with you now, Jack?" pursued the boatswain, in a voice of angry vehemence. "Are ye scared at another ghost, and be damned to you, that ye keep groaning there after that fashion?"

At that moment a heavy dull mass was heard tumbling through the upper rigging of the schooner towards the deck, and presently a human form fell at the very feet of the small group, composed of the two officers and the individual who had last spoken.

"A light, a light!" shouted the boatswain; "the foolish chap has lost his hold through fear, and ten to one if he hasn't cracked his skull-piece for his pains. Quick there with a light, and let's see what we can do for him."

The attention of all had been arrested by the sound of the falling weight, and as one of the sailors now advanced, bearing a dark lantern from below, the whole of the crew, with the exception of those employed on the fallen tree, gathered themselves in a knot round the motionless form of the prostrate man. But no sooner had their eyes encountered the object of their interest, when each individual started suddenly and involuntarily back, baring his cutlass, and drawing forth his pistol, the whole presenting a group of countenances strongly marked by various shades of consternation and alarm, even while their attitudes were those of men prepared for some fierce and desperate danger. It was indeed Fuller whom they had beheld, but not labouring, as the boatswain had imagined, under the mere influence of superstitious fear. He was dead, and the blood flowing from a deep wound, inflicted by a sharp instrument in his chest, and the scalped head, too plainly told the manner of his death, and the danger that awaited them all.

A pause ensued, but it was short. Before any one could find words to remark on the horrible circumstance, the appalling war-cry of the savages burst loudly from every quarter upon the ears of the devoted crew. In the desperation of the moment, several of the men clutched their cutlasses between their teeth, and seizing the concealed matches, rushed to their respective stations at the guns. It was in vain the boatswain called out to them, in a voice of stern authority, to desist, intimating that their only protection lay in the reservation of the fire of their batteries. Goaded and excited, beyond the power of resistance, to an impulse that set all subordination at defiance, they applied the matches, and almost at the same instant the terrific discharge of both broadsides took place, rocking the vessel to the water's edge, and reverberating, throughout, the confined space in which she lay, like the deadly explosion of some deeply excavated mine.

Scarcely had the guns been fired, when the seamen became sensible of their imprudence. The echoes were yet struggling to force a passage through the dense forest, when a second yell of the Indians announced the fiercest joy and triumph, unmixed by disaster, at the result; and then the quick leaping of many forms could be heard, as they divided the crashing underwood, and rushed forward to close with their prey. It was evident, from the difference of sound, their first cry had been pealed forth while lying prostrate on the ground, and secure from the bullets, whose harmless discharge that cry was intended to provoke; for now the voices seemed to rise progressively from the earth, until they reached the level of each individual height, and were already almost hotly breathing in the ears of those they were destined to fill with illimitable dismay.

"Shiver my topsails, but this comes of disobeying orders," roared the boatswain, in a voice of mingled anger and vexation. "The Ingians are quite as cunning as ourselves, and arn't to be frighted that way. Quick, every cutlass and pistol to his gangway, and let's do our best. Pass the word forward for the axemen to return to quarters."

Recovered from their first paroxysm of alarm, the men at length became sensible of the presence of a directing power, which, humble as it was, their long habits of discipline had taught them to respect, and, headed on the one side by Captain de Haldimar, and on the other by Sir Everard Valletort, neither of whom, however, entertained the most remote chance of success, flew, as commanded, to their respective gangways. The yell of the Indians had again ceased, and all was hushed into stillness; but as the anxious and quicksighted officers gazed over the bulwarks, they fancied they could perceive, even through the deep gloom that every where prevailed, the forms of men,—resting in cautious and eager attitudes, on the very verge of the banks, and at a distance of little more than half pistol shot. Every heart beat with expectancy,—every eye was riveted intently in front, to watch and meet the first movements of their foes, but not a sound of approach was audible to the equally attentive ear. In this state of aching suspense they might have continued about five minutes, when suddenly their hearts were made to quail by a third cry, that came, not as previously, from the banks of the river, but from the very centre of their own decks, and from the top-mast and riggings of the schooner. So sudden and unexpected too was this fresh danger, that before the two parties had time to turn, and assume a new posture of defence, several of them had already fallen under the butchering blades of their enemies. Then commenced a desperate but short conflict, mingled with yellings, that again were answered from every point; and rapidly gliding down the pendant ropes, were to be seen the active and dusky forms of men, swelling the number of the assailants, who had gained the deck in the same noiseless manner, until resistance became almost hopeless.

"Ha! I hear the footsteps of our lads at last," exclaimed Mullins exultingly to his comrades, as he finished despatching a third savage with his sturdy weapon. "Quick, men, quick, up with hatchet and cutlass, and take them in the rear. If we are to die, let's die—" game, he would perhaps have added, but death arrested the word upon his lips; and his corpse rolled along the deck, until its further progress was stopped by the stiffened body of the unhappy Fuller.

Notwithstanding the fall of their brave leader, and the whoopings of their enemies, the flagging spirits of the men were for a moment excited by the announcement of the return even of the small force of the axemen, and they defended themselves with a courage and determination worthy of a better result; but when, by the lurid light of the torches, now lying burning about the decks, they turned and beheld not their companions, but a fresh band of Indians, at whose pouch-belts dangled the reeking scalps of their murdered friends, they at once relinquished the combat as hopeless, and gave themselves unresistingly up to be bound by their captors.

Meanwhile the cousins experienced a renewal of all those horrors from which their distracted minds had been temporarily relieved; and, petrified with alarm, as they lay in the solitary berth that contained them both, endured sufferings infinitely more terrible than death itself. The early part of the tumult they had noticed almost without comprehending its cause, and but for the terrific cry of the Indians that had preceded them, would have mistaken the deafening broadsides for the blowing up of the vessel, so tremendous and violent bad been the concussion. Nay, there was a moment when Miss de Haldimar felt a pang of deep disappointment and regret at the misconception; for, with the fearful recollection of past events, so strongly impressed on her bleeding heart, she could not but acknowledge, that to be engulfed in one general and disastrous explosion, was mercy compared with the alternative of falling into the hands of those to whom her

Pages