An hour passed away.
"Hang them!" said the captain. "This is as dull as the doldrums. Gray, whistle for a wind."
And just at that moment came the first news of the attack.
"If you please, sir," said Joyce, "if I see any one am I to fire?"
"I told you so!" cried the captain.
"Thank you, sir," returned Joyce, with the same quiet civility.
Nothing followed for a time; but the remark had set us all on the alert, straining ears and eyes—the musketeers with their pieces balanced in their hands, the captain out in the middle of the blockhouse, with his mouth very tight and a frown on his face.
So some seconds passed, till suddenly Joyce whipped up his musket and fired. The report had scarcely died away ere it was repeated and repeated from without in a scattering volley, shot behind shot, like a string of geese, from every side of the inclosure. Several bullets struck the log house, but not one entered; and as the smoke cleared away and vanished the stockade and the woods around it looked as quiet and empty as before. Not a bough waved, not a gleam of a musket-barrel betrayed the presence of our foes.
"Did you hit your man?" asked the captain.
"No, sir," replied Joyce. "I believe not, sir."
"Next best thing to tell the truth," muttered Captain Smollett. "Load his gun, Hawkins. How many should you say there were on your side, Doctor?"
"I know precisely," said Dr. Livesey. "Three shots were fired on this side. I saw the three flashes—two close together— one farther to the west."
"Three!" repeated the captain. "And how many on yours, Mr. Trelawney?"
But this was not so easily answered. There had come many from the north—seven, by the squire's computation; eight or nine, according to Gray. From the east and west only a single shot had been fired. It was plain, therefore, that the attack would be developed from the north, and that on, the other three