The Amateur Gentleman (Chapter 8, page 2 of 3)


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Chapter 8

"And every minute their fire grew hotter, and their aim truer--down
came our mizzen-topgallant-mast, and hung down over our quarter;
away went our bowsprit--but we held on till we struck their line
'twixt the 'Santissima Trinidado' and the 'Beaucenture,' and, as we
crossed the Spanisher's wake, so close that our yard-arms grazed her
gilded starn, up flashed his Honor's sword, 'Now, lads!' cried he,
hailing the guns--and then--why then, afore I'd took my whistle
from my lips, the old 'Bully-Sawyer,' as had been so patient, so
very patient, let fly wi' every starboard gun as it bore, slap into
the great Spanisher's towering starn, and, a moment arter, her
larboard guns roared and flamed as her broadside smashed into the
'Beaucenture,' and 'bout five minutes arterwards we fell aboard o'
the 'Fougeux,' and there we lay, young sir, and fought it out
yard-arm to yard-arm, and muzzle to muzzle, so close that the flame
o' their guns blackened and scorched us, and we was obliged to heave
buckets o' water, arter every discharge, to put out the fire. Lord!
but the poor old 'Bully-Sawyer' were in a tight corner then, what
wi' the 'Fougeux' to port, the 'Beaucenture' to starboard, and the
great Spanisher hammering us astarn, d' ye see. But there was our
lads--what was left o' 'em--reeking wi' sweat, black wi' powder,
splashed wi' blood, fighting the guns; and there was his Honor the
Cap'n, leaning against the quarter-rail wi' his sword in one hand,
and his snuff-box in t' other--he had two hands then, d'ye see,
young sir; and there was me, hauling on the tackle o' one o' the
quarter-guns--it happened to be short-handed, d'ye see--when, all at
once, I felt a kind o' shock, and there I was flat o' my back, and
wi' the wreckage o' that there quarter-gun on this here left leg o'
mine, pinning me to the deck. As I lay there I heerd our lads a
cheering above the roar and din, and presently, the smoke lifting a
bit, I see the Spanisher had struck, but I likewise see as the poor
old 'Bully-Sawyer' were done for; she lay a wreck--black wi' smoke,
blistered wi' fire, her decks foul wi' blood, her fore and mainmasts
beat overboard, and only the mizzen standing. All this I see in a
glance--ah! and something more--for the mizzen-topgallant had been
shot clean through at the cap, and hung dangling. But now, what wi'
the quiver o' the guns and the roll o' the vessel, down she come
sliding, and sliding, nearer and nearer, till the splintered end
brought up ag'in the wreck o' my gun. But presently I see it begin
to slide ag'in nearer to me--very slow, d'ye see--inch by inch, and
there's me pinned on the flat o' my back, watching it come. 'Another
foot,' I sez, 'and there's an end o' Jerry Tucker--another ten inches,
another eight, another six.' Lord, young sir, I heaved and I
strained at that crushed leg o' mine; but there I was, fast as ever,
while down came the t'gallant--inch by inch. Then, all at once, I
kinder let go o' myself. I give a shout, sir, and then--why
then--there's his Honor the Cap'n leaning over me. 'Is that you,
Jerry?' sez he--for I were black wi' powder, d' ye see, sir. 'Is
that you, Jerry?' sez he. 'Ay, ay, sir,' sez I, 'it be me surely,
till this here spar slips down and does for me.' 'It shan't do that,'
sez he, very square in the jaw. 'It must,' sez I. 'No,' sez he.
'Nothing to stop it, sir,' sez I. 'Yes, there is,' sez he. 'What's
that,' sez I. 'This,' sez he, 'twixt his shut teeth, young sir. And
then, under that there hellish, murdering piece of timber, the Cap'n
sets his hand and arm--his naked hand and arm, sir!' In the name o'
God!' I sez, 'let it come, sir!' 'And lose my Bo'sun?--not me!' sez
he. Then, sir, I see his face go white--and whiter. I heerd the
bones o' his hand and arm crack--like so many sticks--and down he
falls atop o' me in a dead faint, sir."

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