Chapter 13


On the eleventh day the Rebiera entered the straits, and the rock of Gibraltar was in sight as the sun went down; after which the wind fell light, and about midnight it became calm, and they drifted up. At sunrise they were roused by the report of heavy guns, and perceived an English frigate about eight miles farther up the straits, and more in the mid-channel, engaging nine or ten Spanish gun-boats, which had come out from Algesiras to attack her. It still continued a dead calm, and the boats of the frigate were all ahead towing her, so as to bring her broadside to bear upon the Spanish flotilla. The reverberating of the heavy cannon on both sides over the placid surface of the water— the white smoke ascending as the sun rose in brilliancy in a clear blue sky — the distant echoes repeated from the high hills— had a very beautiful effect for those who are partial to the picturesque. But Jack thought it advisable to prepare for action instead of watching for tints— and, in a short time, all was ready.

“They’ll not come to us, Mr. Easy, as long as they have the frigate to hammer at; but still we had better be prepared, for we cannot well pass them without having a few shot. When I came up the straits in the privateer we were attacked by two, and fought them for three hours; their shot dashed the water over our decks till they were wet fore and aft, but somehow or another they never hit us— we were as low as they were. I’ll be bound but they’ll hull the frigate though. Mrs. Oxbelly and Billy were on deck the whole time— and Billy was quite delighted, and cried when they took him down to breakfast.”

“Why, Mrs. Oxbelly must be very courageous.”

“Cares neither for shot or shell, sir— laughs when they whizz over her head, and tells Billy to hark. But, sir, it’s not surprising; her father is a major, and her two brothers are lieutenants in the bombadiers.”

“That, indeed,” replied Jack— “but see, there is a breeze springing up from the westward.”

“Very true, Mr. Easy, and a steady one it will be, for it comes up dark and slow; so much the better for the frigate, for she’ll get little honour and plenty of mauling at this work.”

“I hope we shall take it up with us,” observed Jack; “how far do you reckon the gun-boats from the shore?”

“I should think about five miles, or rather less.”

“Trim sails, Mr. Oxbelly— perhaps we may cut one or two of these off— steer inshore of them.”

“Exactly. Up there, my lads, set top-gallant studding sails, topmast studdings to hand— rig out the booms — keep as you go now, my lad— we shall be well inshore of them, and out of the range of the batteries.”

The breeze came down fresh, and all sail was set upon the Rebiera. She took the wind down with her, and it passed her but little— half a mile ahead of them all was still and smooth as a glass mirror, and they neared and gained inshore at the same time. The gun-boats were still engaging the frigate, and did not appear to pay any attention to the Rebiera coming down. At last the breeze reached them and the frigate, light at first and then gradually increasing, while the Rebiera foamed through the water, and had now every chance of cutting off some of the gun-boats. The frigate trimmed her sails and steered towards the flotilla, which now thought proper to haul off and put their heads inshore, followed by the frigate firing her bow-chasers. But the Rebiera was now within half gunshot, inshore, and steering so as to intercept them. As she rapidly closed, the flotilla scarcely knew how to act; to attack her would be to lose time, and allow the frigate to come up and occasion their own capture; so they satisfied themselves with firing at her as she continued to run down between them and the land. As they neared, Jack opened his fire with his eighteen-pound carronades and long nines. The gun-boats returned his fire, and they were within a quarter of a mile, when Jack shortened sail to his topsails, and a warm engagement took place, which ended in one of the gun-boats being, in a few minutes, dismasted. The frigate, under all canvas, came rapidly up, and her shot now fell thick. The flotilla then ceased firing, passing about two cables’ length ahead of the Rebiera, and making all possible sail for the land. Jack now fired at the

  By PanEris using Melati.

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