THIS fifth trip was quite different from any of the others. In the first place, the little gallipot of a boat that we were in was gravely overloaded. Five grown men, and three of them - Trelawney, Redruth, and the captain - over six feet high, was already more than she was meant to carry. Add to that the powder, pork, and bread-bags. The gunwale was lipping astern. Several times we shipped a little water, and my breeches and the tails of my coat were all soaking wet before we had gone a hundred yards.
The captain made us trim the boat, and we got her to lie a little more evenly. All the same, we were afraid to breathe.
In the second place, the ebb was now making-a strong rippling current running westward through the basin, and then south'ard and seaward down the straits by which we had entered in the morning. Even the ripples were a danger to our overloaded craft; but the worst of it was that we were swept out of our true course, and away from our proper landing-place behind the point. If we let the current have its way we should come ashore beside the gigs, where the pirates might appear at any moment.
`I cannot keep her head for the stockade, sir,' said I to the captain. I was steering, while he and Redruth, two fresh men, were at the oars. `The tide keeps washing her down. Could you pull a little stronger?'
`Not without swamping the boat,' said he. `you must bear up, sir, if you please - bear up until you see you're gaining.'
I tried, and found by experiment that the tide kept sweeping us westward until I had laid her head due east, or just about right angles to the way we ought to go.
`We'll never get ashore at this rate,' said I.
`If it's the only course that we can lie, sir, we must even lie it,' returned the captain. `We must keep up- stream. You see, sir,' he went on, `if once we dropped to leeward of the landing-place, it's hard to say where we should get ashore besides the chance of being boarded by the gigs; whereas, the way we go the current must slacken, and then we can dodge back along the shore.'
`The current's less a'ready, sir,' said the man Gray, who was sitting in the fore-sheets; `you can ease her off a bit.'
`Thank you, my man,' said I, quite as if nothing had happened; for we had all quietly made up our minds to treat him like one of ourselves.
Suddenly the captain spoke up again, and I thought his voice was a little changed.
`The gun!' said he.
`I have thought of that,' said I, for I made sure he was thinking of a bombardment of the fort. `They could never get the gun ashore, and if they did, they could never haul it through the woods.'
`Look astern, doctor,' replied the captain.
We had entirely forgotten the long nine; and there, to our horror, were the five rogues busy about her, getting off her jacket, as they called the stout tarpaulin cover under which she sailed. Not only that, but it flashed into my mind at the same moment that the round-shot and the powder for the gun had been left behind, and a stroke with an axe would put it all into the possession of the evil ones aboard.
`Israel was Flint's gunner,' said Gray, hoarsely.
At any risk, we put the boat's head direct for the landing-place. By this time we had got so far out of the run of the current that we kept steerage way even at our necessarily gentle rate of rowing, and I
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