"Give way, then," cried the captain. "We mustn't mind if we swamp her now. If we can't get ashore, all's up."
"Only one of the gigs is being manned, sir," I added, "the crew of the other most likely going round by shore to cut us off."
"They'll have a hot run, sir," returned the captain. "Jack ashore, you know. It's not them I mind; it's the round-shot. Carpet bowls! My lady's maid couldn't miss. Tell us, Squire, when you see the match, and we'll hold water."
In the mean while we had been making headway at a good pace for a boat so overloaded, and we had shipped but little water in the process. We were now close in; thirty or forty strokes and we should beach her; for the ebb had already disclosed a narrow belt of sand below the clustering trees. The gig was no longer to be feared; the little point had already concealed it from our eyes. The ebb-tide, which had so cruelly delayed us, was now making reparation and delaying our assailants. The one source of danger was the gun.
"If I durst," said the captain, "I'd stop and pick off another man."
But it was plain that they meant nothing should delay their shot. They had never so much as looked at their fallen comrade, though he was not dead, and I could see him trying to crawl away.
"Ready!" cried the squire.
"Hold!" cried the captain, quick as an echo.
And he and Redruth backed with a great heave that sent her stern bodily underwater. The report fell in at the same instant of time. This was the first that Jim heard, the sound of the squire's shot not having reached him. Where the ball passed not one of us precisely knew, but I fancy it must have been over our heads, and that the wind of it may have contributed to our disaster.
At any rate the boat sank by the stern, quite gently, in three feet of water, leaving the captain and myself, facing each other on our feet. The other three took complete headers, and came up again, drenched and bubbling.