Part 7 out of 9
Yet after a minute, as though the message had taken just that time to
reach his remote brain, he answered the boy's thought.
"That's all right, Kit," he said, deliberate as in a dream. "The
Gentleman has changed his dispositions. He's withdrawn from the knoll.
Where the Gang are I don't know, but he has got the main of his
Grenadiers on the landside still."
Kit peeped out of the Downs-ward window.
The old picquet on the plain, the old cordon of pacing Grenadiers, the
old camp-fire with the drifting smoke and arms piled beside it; and
further North, from beneath a thorn, the flash of a bayonet told of an
outlying sentry posted there to watch for the relieving force no
Sick at heart, the lad turned and looked out over the Parson's
On his right front humped the knoll, an islet set in a sea of turf,
now only tenanted by dark sycamores, ruffling it in the dawn-wind.
Beneath him the greensward ran away to the shingle-bank. Beyond the
crest of it, the mast of the lugger pricked up black against the
There was neither stir nor sound, save for the ripple of the tide, and
overhead the eternal chirp of the sparrows, careless that history was
being made about them.
All was still, all deserted.
As he looked, the lad's mind flamed to a thought.
"I say!" he whispered, clutching the Parson's arm. "What about the
"Well! what about the lugger?"
"Rush her now! Here's our chance!"
The Parson turned calm eyes upon the other's splendid ones.
"Aye, lad, aye," he said, with the crushing calm a man wields so
mightily. "But give the Gentleman his due, he's not quite such a fool
as you'd make him out. He knows our aim as well as he knows his own.
We've got to get to Nelson. There's only one way left--the lugger. If
he's left that way open it's as plain as the nose on your face it's
because he wants us to take it."
Ugh, these men! the boy worshipped the man's courage and scorned his
caution. He throbbed for the relief of action. Only let him be doing!
anything, anything in the world was better than standing here to watch
Nelson sweep doom-wards.
"And suppose," he flashed, "suppose the Gentleman makes away in his
lugger now! what shall we do? Twiddle our thumbs and whistle, till the
soldiers come, I suppose! And then," with the crude irony of fifteen,
"then perhaps, if we're very brave, and the Gentleman has got
_well_ away to sea, we'll take a little stroll with a strong
escort to the top of Beachy Head to see Nelson strung up to his own
The boy's fiery insults left the other cold.
"You're young, my boy, offensively young," he said. "A bad fault, but
one you may hope to grow out of. One thing I'm sure of. You do your
friend a great injustice. He won't leave that despatch-bag in our
hands till he's forced to at the point of the steel."
"But what can we _do_?" blazed the boy--"do, do, do! There's
Nelson!" with flashing forefinger. "Here are we. He won't come to us.
We _must_ get to him. There's only one way--the lugger. It may be
a poor chance, still if it's the only one! O, sir, sir! surely it's
better to die attempting something, than stand and _rot_ to death
The words poured forth in a white-hot torrent, shaking him.
Anybody in the world but the practical Englishman would have been
He only grunted.
"I wish I knew what was going on behind that shingle-bank," he
grumbled, half to himself.
The boy's soul quenched, only to flame forth again.
"I'll be your eyes, sir!"
The Parson shook a dubious head.
"Oh let me! O do! sir! sir!"
He was hopping, trembling at the other's side.
The Parson with his slow and chewing mind was digesting the situation.
Beneath his calm, he was mad to know what was going on behind the
shingle-bank. If he went himself, who would be left in garrison?--the
Yet if he sent Kit?
Twice already he had let the boy go forth alone, and each time had
barely plucked him from the jaws of death. Could he send him forth a
third time to face what God should send?
He locked his jaws.
Duty, duty, duty! a hard mistress for those who serve her, but the
only one for an Englishman.
His mind made up, true man that he was, he wasted no time in excusing
himself to himself or to others.
Somewhat grey about the jaws, he swung about.
"Very well," shortly. "Just a peep--no more, mind!"
RUMBLINGS OF THUNDER
The boy slid down the ladder into the gloom of the kitchen.
There was no familiar silver head at its wonted place of watch by the
The old foretop-man was sitting beside the trapdoor, peering down into
the blackness of the cellar, and listening intently.
"That you, Master Kit? Would you step this way, sir? There keeps on a
kind of a rumbling like in the drain--a'most as though the gentlemen
be running a cargo. I ca'ant justly make it out."
The boy came to his side and listened. True, there was a muffled noise
of rolling in the drain, and dull banging against the door. Well, they
might bang till they were blue: they would make as much impression on
that door as the breeze on Beachy Head.
The old man looked up and saw the lad beside him in shirt-sleeves.
"Hullo, sir! what's forrad then?"
"I'm going to take a little trot over to the shingle-bank to have a
look round," said the boy, shivering. "I want you to stand by the door
to let me out and in."
The old man rolled up his sleeves, snatched his cutlass from the
corner, whetted it with the easy grace of a bird whetting its beak,
and spat on his hands.
"Then it's stand by to repel boarders! Rithe away, sir, when you are."
The Parson peered down.
"All's quiet," he whispered. "Ready, Kit?"
The boy stood up pale in the gloom.
"Then ease those bolts away. Gently, Piper!"
The old man opened quietly.
A sweet wind stole in, and with it a flood of light.
Kit peeped out.
How naked it looked, how terrible!
He bent, untied his shoe-lace, and tied it up again.
Upstairs it had seemed such an easy thing to dare this deed, so full
of the poetry and romance of war. Down here, face to face with the
bare fact, it was a different matter. A plank, as it were, had been
thrust out from solid earth over Eternity; it was his to walk that
plank; and he didn't like the job.
Piper held the door, waiting respectfully. The old man's sleeves were
rolled to the arm-pit. On one hairy fore-arm a dancing-girl was
tattooed, record of the days, now forty years since, before, in his
own simple phrase, he had larned Christ.
He knew no fear himself: for he knew that he was impregnable. But his
heart went out to this slip of a lad, who had to face Eternity alone,
and found it terrible.
The twilight of love, always in all faces the same, which comes when
at a call the Christ rises from the deeps of the heart, darkened his
He gave a shy little cough.
"There's one bower-anchor'll weather any storm, by your leave, sir,"
he said, the sailor and the Christian quaintly commingled.
The boy felt the other's strength flow into his.
"I know," he panted, and plunged.
THE DOINGS IN THE CREEK
As he ran he seemed to himself to be a body of lead borne on watery
In the sally of yesterday at least he had Knapp with him. Now he was
alone. And to dare alone is to be revealed to yourself, naked as you
A visible danger would have strengthened him. It was the horror of he-
knew-not-what coming from he-knew-not-where that made his heart
The boy's body screamed to go back. His will thrust it forward. The
shock and struggle of the two charged him as with electricity. A
touch, he felt, and he might go off in a flash of lightning.
As he held on, and nothing happened, mind began to ride body more
masterfully. The flesh, beaten, gave and gave; till in despair,
abandoning its backward pull, it threw forward into the work.
What was death? was it what the parsons seemed to think--a foreign
land, millions of miles away, with an old man in a temper waiting
somewhere in the middle to be nasty to him?
Heaven and earth, this world and the next! Were there indeed two? a
great gulf between them. Or were both one and everlasting? Was he,
believing himself in Time, dwelling in Eternity now? Was he immortal
His heart answered, _Now or never_.
What then to fear?
The thought whirled him forward.
The grass felt goodly beneath his feet. The sun, still pale in mist,
blessed him. A fresh wind flowed about him, flustering hair and shirt.
His heart eased.
After all his rear was fairly safe, and his flank unthreatened. As to
his front--well, he had his eyes and his dirk.
Gripping himself together, every hair alert, he ran.
He was nearly across the sward now. Tall grass-blades pricked sparsely
through the sand. The shingle-bank, roan against the sparkle of the
sea, surged before him, and behind it--what?
He was living in his eyes.
The knoll lay now to his right rear. Behind it, across the creek, rose
the Wish; and on the crest a Grenadier gazing seawards.
Opposite the little hill, standing on the bank somewhere just above
the entrance to the sluice, stood the Gentleman.
Kit dropped to his hands and knees.
The other had not seen him: for he was standing, back turned, and a
short black-snouted pistol in the hand behind him; directing
operations in the creek.
What did it all mean? what was that banging and business in the creek?
It was to find this out that he had come.
A sound close at hand drew his mind to his ears.
The crest of the shingle-bank was some twenty yards away. From the
reverse slope came the crunch and scream of disturbed pebbles.
Somebody was scrambling up the bank towards him, the pebbles pouring
noisily away beneath his feet.
What to do?--turn and bolt? He could be back across the grass before
the slow-foot Frenchman had sworn himself to the crest. Lie there out
in the open, to be made prisoner, or potted at thirty yards?
No, no, no! To retreat was shame: to stay death. But one course
remained--the riskiest, which, as he had heard the Parson say, in a
tight place is often the safest. That course was forward. Take the man
unawares as he crested the rise; dirk him; one swift glimpse at the
lugger and the doings in the creek; and then pelting home before the
enemy had realised the situation and begun to shout.
"_Francois! Francois!_" came an irritable voice.
The climber stopped.
"_Qu'as-tu donc, mon Caporal?_"
"_Nom d'un chien!_" snapped the other. "_Faut il me faire
matelot? Aidez moi un peu avec ces satanees cordes!_"
The climber slithered down on his heels, a cataract of shingle
streaming behind him.
Swift to seize his chance, Kit rushed the crest, the crash of the
Frenchman's retreat drowning his approach.
There, flat on his face, he peeped.
Beneath him, on the run of the shingle, lay the lugger. Her jib was
flapping; the mainsail set for the hoisting; every stick and stay in
place. Half a dozen burly Grenadiers, black-muzzled with a week's
beard, were busy about her, stowing their kits, laughing and
A sprightly little Corporal, balancing on the stern, was spitting
The foreign language, there on his native shore, made a discord in the
"_Quand partirons-nous?_" asked Francois, wading down the
shingle, pack on back.
"_Aussitot que tout sera pret la-bas,_" answered the corporal,
casting a glance over his shoulder. "_Bah! ces gueux d'Anglais!
Monsieur le General en a par dessus les yeux._"
Kit followed the man's eyes.
A track of feet led from the lugger to the creek across the wet sand.
Along it a tail of smugglers were trundling barrels gingerly. At the
entrance to the sluice others were hoisting and heaving. Above them
stood that slight figure against the sky-line, the ominous pistol
lurking behind him.
And it was clear the ruffians were smouldering to mutiny. Their heads
were over their shoulders as they worked, and their eyes on the
lugger. The soldiers were coming! they felt the halter tightening
round their necks; and they were mad to be away.
Only one man in the world could have held them there at all, Kit felt,
and he had all his work cut out. That slight figure against the sky-
line, so calm, so terrible, seemed compact of power.
Kit had seen his friend in many moods; now he saw him in another. And
the boy thought he loved him in this last role best, because in it he
feared him most. This was not the man of poetry, charming as April,
gay-hearted as a boy; this was the remorseless leader, iron for his
cause, brutal, if you will, as a man who deals with brutes must be.
There was a sultry silence--the silence and horror before the storm
breaks. Kit felt it and was appalled. He could almost hear the flames
of mutiny roaring in those dull and darkened hearts.
For one moment the boy forgot himself and his cause. He was a play-
goer, watching a drama. This man was the hero, valiant, lonely, a
miracle of strength. The boy felt for him a passionate sympathy. Could
he hold them?--Would they break?
Even as he watched, a man shot out of the ruck and away, scampering
furiously with the shrugged shoulders and ducked head of one expecting
It came sure as fate, and as deliberate.
Out shot the Gentleman's pistol hand.
A crack, a stab of flame, and the man was flopping on the sand like a
As the Gentleman fired, another from below stormed up the bank at him.
A flash of lightning darted at him, and struck him in the chest. The
fellow collapsed in a heap.
The boy had half risen to his elbow.
"Well done!" he cried with blazing enthusiasm. Then he remembered
where he was, and dropped.
No man had heard. The Grenadiers like himself were busy watching the
doings in the creek. A murmur of applause rose from among them.
"_Bravo, Monsieur le General! Hein! Canaille_!"
In the creek all was quiet again now. The flame of mutiny was
quenched; the Gang had resumed their work; and the Gentleman was
wiping his blade upon his sleeve.
In the loft the Parson was patting the shoulder of the lad now panting
"Another notch to the Navy," he said.... "What news, boy?"
Kit told of the lugger, ready to sail; of the business of the barrels
in the creek; of the rumbling in the drain.
The Parson listened with nodding head.
"I feel like a mouse that knows it's going to have a cat jump on its
back, but don't know quite when or just how," he muttered.
"Meantime there's Nelson, sir!" cried the boy, great-eyed and anxious.
"I know, my boy, I know. But while there's the lugger, there's hope."
He leaned out of the window. A sentry was now on the shingle-bank; and
he could see the tall-plumed bearskins of the Grenadiers busy about
The boy took up the telescope.
The mists were lifting, and the sun shone white upon the water. He
could see the frigate, faint indeed and far, stately-pacing towards
her doom; he could see the mast of the lugger, Grenadier-guarded, and
those leagues of shining waste between the two.
Where was help?
An awful darkness drowned his heart.
He shut the telescope with a snap.
"We're beat," he sobbed.
The other gripped his arm.
"If we're beat, England's beat. If England's beat, the Devil's won,
and the world's lost--which is absurd."
The man's stern enthusiasm fired the boy afresh.
"If you'll tell me what to do I'll do it," he said a little
tremulously. "But I don't see the way."
"There is a way, Kit. There must be. And we shall find it."
The man was indomitable. There seemed no ghost of a chance; still no
shadow of despair clouded that clear spirit. As the sea of
difficulties rose about him, his soul rose to meet it on triumphant
Yet the problem before him seemed insoluble.
Nelson there: they here: one boat between, and that boat guarded by
the pick of the Army of England.
He turned those good blue eyes of his upon the boy with a drolling
"How's it to be done?--what says the Commodore?"
The light had fled from the boy's face. Pale and still, he looked like
a young saint about to be martyred.
"There's only one way I can think of, sir."
The lad lifted the eyes of a woman.
A darkness drove across the Parson's face.
"You pray," he growled. "I'll sharpen my sword."
Turning to the corner he bowed to Polly shining among the cobwebs.
"A sweet morning, my lady," he cried. "And promise of a fair day's
The boy turned his face to the wall.
"Mr. Joy, sir!"
"There's a man on a horse."
"Rithe away oop a-top o th' hill over Willingdon--on the old drove-
road from Lewes."
The Parson sprang to his feet.
"Sharp work!" he said with a grin at Kit's back.
"Well done you, boy!"
Kit leapt to the window.
"Theer!" said Blob, pointing.
Far away on the rim of the world stood a tiny horseman.
What was he, that little speck of blackness on the horse without
legs?--ploughboy or dragoon?--alone or the leader of a troop?
"Wave!" cried the Parson at his elbow.
Sobbing and frantic, the lad fluttered his handkerchief.
As though in answer a bugle-call rang echoing down to them.
"The soldiers!" gasped Kit, his knees fainting beneath him. "O, thank
Close at hand another bugle rang out merrily.
"Nipper Knapp!" cried Piper. "Butter my wig, if it ain't!"
A shoal of silver minnows flashed and twinkled above the crest.
"Bayonets, by God!" roared the Parson. "Here they come, the little
darlings!" as a black trickle of figures poured over the crest.
Others too had seen and heard.
A shot rang out in the stillness: the Grenadier under the thorn came
back on his picquet at the double. The shot was answered ironically
from the hill-side by the English Last Post. Here in the dawn France
and England challenged each other tauntingly.
It was splendid. Kit's blood danced to it. He thought of old-time
tournays, the champion riding into the ring at the last moment. He was
half sob, half song. The wine of glory flushed his veins as at the
moment when he stormed with the crew of the _Tremendous_ at the
heels of Lushy. His eyes ran; his voice broke. Now it was a shrill
treble, now a hoarse bass.
The Parson was chewing his lip.
"Horse or foot, I wonder?"
"Foot," cried Kit, stamping up and down.
"Damnation!" grumbled the Parson. "Are they doubling?"
"Not they!" cried Kit, mad to insolence--"doing the goose-step by
numbers so far as I can see. Good old leather-stocks!"
Knapp might have heard him: for the bugle close at hand blew the
"Now they've broken into a double. Come on, you chaps! come on!"
"Well done, Knapp!" muttered the Parson, swallowing his excitement.
"Good little boy! Good little b-o-y! If he lives through this, he
shall have a pint o beer to his breakfast to-morrow, by God he shall.
Piper! how long'll they take getting here?"
"Why, sir, a little better'n half an hour, I reckon. Drop down by
Motcombe, through Upperton, and down along Water Lane."
The Parson turned to Kit.
"How long will it be before the tide will float the lugger, think
"Twenty minutes, sir."
The Parson grunted.
"Pot begins to boil," he said, and took off his coat.
"O, if they're too late!" cried Kit in swift agony, and turned to
glance at the far frigate.
"God's never too late, my boy," answered the Parson, folding his coat
Rolling up his sleeves, he was looking through the seaward window.
The Gang were streaming across the greensward, and round the cottage,
Behind them came the Gentleman. He was swinging his sword, and
chopping at the daisies. Whoever else was disturbed, it was not he.
Last the Grenadiers who formed the lugger-guard came toppling over the
The Gentleman stayed them with imperious hand.
The Parson saw it and grinned. The chap, for all his high-faluting
ways, was a soldier through and through. He missed no point, not the
smallest. The Parson respected him.
The other, crossing the sward, raised his head and saw the man at the
window. The eyes of the two met. Each smiled. Each knew the other's
"No, no," cried the Gentleman with a little wave. "I give nothing
away. I can't afford to. I know my opponent."
The Parson bowed, tightening his belt. And after all it was a pretty
compliment from the first light cavalry-man in Europe.
The Gentleman passed round the cottage and out of sight.
"What shall you do?" asked Kit hoarsely at the Parson's elbow.
"Why, the only thing there is to be done--and that's nothing."
He sat down on a broken box, took out a handkerchief and began to
furbish his blade with the delicate tenderness of a woman bathing a
Kit, fretted almost to tears, watched him with angry admiration. The
crisis had come, and this curly grey-head sat, calm as a village
Solomon in his door of summer evenings, and talked baby to his sword.
"I don't see _that_ helps much," sneered the boy--"cleaning the
"Nor does fussing for that matter," retorted the other tranquilly. "In
war, as in the world, you must do as you're done by. That mayn't be
parson's truth; but it is soldier's. And I'm a soldier for the time
being. The cards lie with the Gentleman. We shall have to follow suit
--or trump. If he's got a card up his sleeve he must play it--now or
The boy turned to the window.
The Gentleman was standing upon the broken wall, hand over his eyes,
taking in the situation.
He flung a finger here, an order there.
The Grenadiers threw forward across the plain in skirmishing order.
"Looks like business," muttered the Parson, tucking in his shirt.
"What's it going to be?"
He had not long to wait.
The Gentleman vaulted the wall, and came swiftly across the grass
THE ACE OF TRUMPS
He came rapidly across the lawn, the sun upon him.
Kit thought him the fairest figure of a man he had ever seen.
The Parson was comely with the comeliness of an apple, this man was
beautiful with the beauty of sun and sword in one.
But the boy noticed that there was more of the sword and less of the
sun than of old about him.
Was the strain telling on him too?
"Forgive me for disturbing you so early," called the gay voice. "The
Reverend Father was at his devotions doubtless!"
"No, sir," retorted the Parson. "The Reverend Father was watching the
Horse, Foot, and Artillery, pelting down the hill on top o you."
"I've been watching em too," replied the other. "And sorry I am I
shan't be here to entertain em--I've a soft place for the soldiers
myself. But I'm just off for a day on the water. A pretty morning!"
"Yes; as pretty a morning to hang a play-actor on as ever I saw."
The other waved a hand.
"Ah, but I'm not going to hang you, dear Padre. I have other views for
He was fascinating, but somehow he was fearful too. He was the python:
they were the rabbits. He had power: and that power was none the less
terrible because it was mysterious.
The Parson leaned out, bold and bluffing.
"I take you. The game's up. And you've come to surrender, eh?"
The other shook his head.
"No. I just stepped across to say good-bye, and see if I couldn't
perhaps persuade you to come with me."
"No, sir, thank you all the same. I'm a land-animal myself. Besides
I'm too cosy here."
The other stood silent a full minute, nodding a slow head.
"Alas, poor ghost!" he said at length half to himself, and made as
though to turn.
The Parson was staggered.
Had he no card then? was he merely bluffing?
"What's it mean?" he whispered fiercely to Kit.
"It means he's going--and Nelson's last chance with him!" panted the
boy. "O, _make_ him stay!"
The Parson leaned out again.
"I hope you'll come back to see your friends hung, my lord!" he
The Gentleman turned again.
"Well, aren't they your friends?--Lord Alfiriston, Sir Harry Dene, and
the rest. I gathered they were from the despatch-bag you're so good as
to leave in my hands."
"I'm leaving no despatch-bag in your hands."
The Parson jumped round.
What did the fellow mean? Had he somehow?...
No, there it was on the staple, the tarpaulin bag stamped with the
He took it down.
"This is the boy I meant. Won't you leave this with us?"
The Gentleman shook his head.
"What you going to do with it?" mockingly.
"What I'm going to do with you."
Man and boy, hugging close in the window, each felt the other tauten.
The other rolled his eyes heavenward.
The Parson was breathing through his nose.
"What ye mean?"
A tiny smile broke about the Gentleman's lips. He raised a finger, and
drew nearer on his toes, stealthy as a child about to reveal a secret
to its mother; and there was a horror about him.
"_Hush, and I'll whisper you!_"
The horror grew upon the man. The Parson shivered.
The very air was listening.
The laughter bubbled up in his eyes, and rippled about his face. He
was a child, a cruel child, who springs a carefully-prepared surprise
on a comrade, and dwells wantonly on the effect.
"Not vairy nice, is it?" he bantered. "I _do_ feel for you."
He stood beneath the window, hands clasped before him, chin down, the
little maiden, demure yet malicious: the little maiden and yet--the
"So sorray. But I do not want those despatches to fall into the hands
of bad men. You forgive?" winningly.
The Parson drew a great breath. It was so sudden, so aweful, so utter.
It was Piper who broke the silence from below.
"We're settin on a powder-mine, sir. Is that it?"
"Ah, well," came the philosophic voice. "Short and sweet--bless God.
Better'n lingerin on it out."
"Nelson!" and swooned.
When he came round the Gentleman was approaching slowly across the
He bantered no more. Maiden and Devil were dead. He was man, and grey
"Captain Joy," he was saying quietly. "Let us face facts. Samson is
bound. Over there," pointing to Beachy Head, "are the liers in wait.
That frigate's the _Medusa_. Nelson's aboard of her. She can't
The words stung Kit to new life.
"She can't escape perhaps," he shouted. "But can't she fight?"
The other shook his head.
"Why?" persisted Kit, hot for the honour of his Service. "Why can't
"She can't fight," said the Gentleman slowly, "because her powder's
"What!" bellowed the Parson--"more traitors!"
"The Gunner is mine," replied the Gentleman briefly.
"Oh, the Navy! the Navy!" cried the Parson, rocking.
"But, I don't believe it!" screamed Kit. "Let him prove it! Let him
tell us how he's worked it."
The Gentleman walked slowly up and down before the window.
"We needn't enter into that," he said, cold as death.
The Parson launched a slow laughing sneer, terrible to hear.
"What! more gentlemanliness from our Gentleman!"
The words whipped the other's face white.
He stopped in his walk, and lifted slow eyes.
"It may be that I have loved my country better than my God," he said.
A smile flashed across his face--"_But what a country to be damned
Slowly he came towards the cottage.
"To return to the point. Nelson is lost. No power on earth can save
"I do not look to any power on earth for help," replied the Parson
"Let us talk as men," answered the other as solemn. "You have nothing
to gain by holding out, and everything to lose. All that an honourable
soldier could do you have done. Is it not now the part of true courage
to accept the inevitable? For the last time, will you surrender?"
The great veins started on the Parson's forehead.
"Never!" he bawled. "Do your d'dest!"
The Gentleman turned and turned again.
"The blood of those boys be on your head, Mr. Joy!"
"Let the boys answer for themselves," retorted the Parson, short and
The Gentleman paused.
"Little Chap," he called, "will you come?--France is a fair country.
You shall have Monsieur Moon-calf there for squire. Myself I will see
to it that you are happy."
"I would rather be dead in England than alive in France," the boy
answered passionately. "What about you, Blob?"
"Here Oi be and here Oi boide," replied Blob doggedly, and dulled the
romance of the statement by adding--"Oi aren't got ma money yet."
"Think twice, Little Chap!" called the Gentleman. "You are young. You
are happy. The day is before you. The night is not yet. It is early to
draw down the blinds."
The Parson had turned his back to the window.
"Ask the ass for time," he whispered. "We must have time."
The boy leaned out.
"May I have ten minutes to think it over, sir?"
"Two, my boy."
"Oh, sir!" pitiful, appealing.
The Gentleman glanced across his shoulder, and turned again.
"Ah, well! five be it."
He took out his watch, and sat on the wall with dangling legs.
"I must have a word with Piper."
The Parson was down the ladder in a flash.
The old foretop-man, humming his hymn in the eternal twilight, turned.
"You've heard, Piper?"
"I've hard, sir. And if so be a common seaman might make so bold,
there's but one thing for it, and that's the cold steel."
He laid his Bible aside and took up his cutlass.
"It's a forlorn hope, Piper."
"It's the only one, sir."
The Parson swung round.
"And there's another thing," he cried in terrible agony. "What about
you, Piper? We shall take it in the open; but _you_, you'll have
to wait for it. I _can't_ leave you to fall alive into the hands
of those--those--O my God! my God!" stamping up and down.
There was quiet thrill in the voice that answered,
"They ca'an't touch me, sir. I'm safe in Jesus." The old man seemed to
shine in the darkness.
"It's not death I fear for you!" cried the Parson. "No Christian fears
that for his friend. It's--it's the old game--the Gap Gang."
"Ah, they won't have no time for no larks," interposed the other with
a comfortable chuckle. "They can do their muckiest. It won't last
long. The soldiers'll stop that."
The words, and the way of saying them, quickened the Parson to
"You're right, old friend," he cried, his voice naming in the gloom.
"Death to face, but nothing to fear."
"Death to face," echoed the old man, "and Christ to follow."
"I'm distressed to disturb you," came a cold voice from without. "But
time's nearly up."
"You said five minutes, sir!" called Kit.
"You've had three, my boy. You've got two."
"And we'll make good use of em," gasped the Parson, and raced up the
Snatching the despatch-bag from the staple, he tumbled the contents on
the floor, and set the whole ablaze. The papers curled and crackled;
and their dreadful secret escaped joyfully in merry little flames.
"May God deal so with all traitors in his own good time!" prayed the
He trod out the flames, and turned to the boys.
"I'm goin for em."
"So'm I, sir--and Blob."
"So be it!" said the Parson, short and fierce. "Out knives. Off coats.
He was on his knees, stuffing his coat into the empty despatch-bag,
working in a white fury.
"Now ask no questions, but listen, and obey! I'm going to undo the
back door _noisily_. You'll undo the front door _quietly_. I
shall sally, the despatch-bag slung across my shoulders--so--see?--
Give me a good start. Choose your moment. Then follow."
The words came swift as hail. The Parson was at his best--the
Englishman in action, back to the door, face to Eternity. The shock
and storm of circumstance made lightning in the dark of his mind. He
saw all before him clear as a landscape at night in the flashes of a
"Directly they begin to close on you, you'll get a panic--a screaming
panic. Bolt back for the cottage; slam the door; lock and bar; through
the house, out at the front, and make for the lugger! You may not be
seen--the cottage'll cover you: and I'll keep em occupied as long as I
can. If all goes as I hope, you'll find the lugger unguarded. The rest
I must leave to you and the Almighty. It's a poor chance, but the only
"Gentlemen, gentlemen!" came the warning voice from without.
The Parson slid down into the darkness.
"Piper," he cried, hoarse and dry. "I believe--I believe these lads
will win through. It's God's battle. He _must_ help."
"He will, sir," replied the old man, firm as faith.
"I'm a clergyman. You're a good man. This is a desperate business.
Will you give us your blessing?"
He was down on his knees, in his white shirt, his sword a gleam of
silver on the slabs before him.
The boy, swift to grasp his meaning, knelt beside him, pulling Blob
An arm stole round him; his stole round Blob.
So they knelt in the twilight, hugging close in that aweful sense of
loneliness that comes to men when the Gates of Death are seen to swing
back to let them through.
Kit thought of his Confirmation six months ago.
Now the end was come--so soon.
Well, well, he had often died before. And how clearly it all came back
to him, this final stage in the little pilgrimage, these last few
steps, solemn, beautiful, and slow, up to the familiar threshold; then
the old door, the old smile, and--the old forgetfulness.
He had no regrets, and was strangely calm, strangely uplifted. He
could look back without shame, and forward without fear. Now he was
thankful that in these days of his ordeal he had been true to himself
and to his trust. He had done his best. There was little more to do.
That little should be done as became the son of his father.
In the gloom they knelt before this unanointed Priest of Jehovah.
His office sat upon that white old man, native to him as his soul.
He spread his great-knuckled hands above them, a patriarch, a prophet,
an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.
"God bless you, sir--and you, Master Kit--and you, Boy Hoad." He drew
his hand across his mouth.
"So be. Amen," he added solemnly.
"Amen," said they all.
The Parson rose.
He gripped the old man's hand.
Blob he patted on the back.
"Kit," he said, and, drawing the boy towards him, kissed him.
THE PARSON'S SORTIE
"Time!" came the stern voice from without.
The Parson slammed back the last bolt with a clang, and whipped up his
The man was in a white flame, roaring for battle.
Time had stopped: Eternity was there.
"_Then God help us all to die!_"
He flung back the door and plunged.
It was a venture of despair; but there was no despair in that heart of
Swift as a flood, and as silent, he made for the wall, the despatch-
bag flopping in the small of his back. And his silence added to the
terror of his coming.
The white-hearted crew huddling behind the wall felt it. Here and
there a scared head dodged up only to duck again.
One man alone left cover and went out to meet the solitary swordsman.
The Gentleman vaulted the wall, and came across the sward with steady
eyes, twisting his sword-knot about his wrist.
There was a rimy look about his face, and a snarl in the voice that
shouted to the crew behind him,
"Come! close in there! You've got to finish this job before you go.
The soldiers are on your heels, remember."
Close at hand a sudden drum rolled.
It smote the guilty hearts of the Gang like a summons to the Last
They rose up like dead men and looked behind them. It was not much
they saw, but it was sufficient.
Close in their rear, on a rise of the ground, a man stood against the
sky, thundering fatally on a monster drum.
He wore a red coat; he was a soldier.
And as they gazed, he beat a furious rat-a-tan-tan and charged.
That was enough. The Gang broke.
The Gentleman flashed round to meet the new danger.
He saw a pair of twinkling legs, a huge drum, belly-borne, and two
drum-sticks, brandished vaingloriously, driving a rout of men before
The humour of the thing seized him.
"Well done, Soldier!" he laughed, and was back over the wall in a
trice, attempting to stop the rout.
He might as well have attempted to stay the tide. A torrent of men
tumbled past him in howling tumult.
He stood like a lighthouse in the tide-way.
"What! one man lick the lot o you!" came the whipping voice. "O, good
God!" with a passion of scorn--"you sweeps! you swine!"
His blade flashed and fell.
"Pretty stroke!" shouted the Parson, flying the wall. "At em again,
sir!" He cut in fiercely on the flank. "Come on, Knapp!--That's the
style! Bellyful for once! Bellyful for the boy!"
"I'm there, sir!" cried Knapp, very brisk and bright.
He had flung aside his drum, and was tearing up, wielding his drum-
sticks like battle-axes.
"Into em!" bellowed the Parson. "Give em the glory o God! Give em the
Lord's own delight!"
He was hounding at the heels of the last smuggler, and the Gentleman
was hounding at his.
"Ow's that-a-tat-tat? ow's that?" cried Knapp, racing up from behind,
and came down with a flourish and a thump on the swordsman's head as
Down went the Gentleman in sprawling ruin.
"That's a little bit o better, ain't it?" chirped the Cockney, and
skipping over the fallen man, he was at the Parson's side, in the
thick and fury of it, bringing down his drum-sticks to the battle-cry
"Ow's that-a-tat-tat? ow's that?"
The old man and the boys watched from the cottage. The door was ajar.
They huddled behind it, peering. Beside them lay the table, a musket
across it. In the silence they could hear each other's hearts.
"Say, Maaster Sir!" whispered Blob. "Be you fear'd?"
"Ask no questions, and you'll be told no lies," replied Kit. "Be you?"
"Oi dun knaw," replied the cautious lad. "Moi insoide seems koind o
"Then stand by to lend a hand with this table when I give the word,"
was all Kit's answer.
He was watching with all his eyes.
Parson and Gentleman were about to clash.
Then a little figure rose out of the earth, and sullen thunder smote
on the silence.
Piper drew a deep breath.
"I thart so," he said, comfortably.
"Who is it?" asked Kit.
"Jack Knapp, sir," said the old man, picking his teeth. "Sneaked a
drum from a travellin showman by the look on it, and tow-rowin like a
rigiment. See him thump it. Ho! ho! That's joy to Jack, I knaw. Now
he's for chargin em, drum and all. Ha! ha!"
Whoever else might escape there was no hope for that wingless old man.
His fate was certain, his end was already come. Within five minutes at
most the great doors would have slammed on him for ever. And here he
sat chuckling like a boy at a fair.
It is something to be a saint, thought Kit, something to be as sure as
that. This old man had built his house upon the Rock indeed.
They watched the stampede, and the Gentleman's vain attempt to stay
it. Their hearts surged to the Parson's battle-cry, and sank to the
Gentleman's thrust, to surge again as Knapp felled his man.
"Knapp'd him a nice un," chuckled the old man, not above a pun at
death's door. "Reglar revellin in it is Knapp, I knaw."
"Our time's coming!" panted Kit. "Stand by, Blob!"
The Gentleman was down, the Gang upon the run. "Now, sir!" cried
Piper. "Now's your chance."
"Now, Blob!--nippy with the table there!"
Out they rushed, and dumped the table down on the left of the door.
"That'll do, sir, thank you," said the old man, trundling out after
them. "That'll cover my flank nicely.... Butter-my-wig!" with kindling
eyes on the battle, "but Mr. Joy's busy."
"Come on, Blob!" yelled Kit.
"Come along, boys!" roared the Parson. "Pretty work forrad, and plenty
The Gentleman rose white-faced from his knees.
"A moil a moil" he shouted, waving.
Behind him Kit heard a yell, and the crash and scatter of men storming
down the shingle-bank.
Then silence as they took the grass.
He flung his head across his shoulder as he ran.
The lugger-guard, loosed at last, were hurling across the greensward
at him, bayonets at the charge.
Such tall and terrible men!--and how they strode along, bearskins a-
bob, savage eyes smouldering, snapping fierce phrases at each other
as they came!
Kit loosed his soul in a ghastly scream.
It was well done, and not difficult to do. He had but to utter the
horror that was in him.
"O, Kit!" came the Parson's resentful bellow.
"I'm afraid!" screamed the lad. "I can't help it. O-o-o-h!"
He ran with huddled head, clutching at the boy before him.
"_Attrapez ces gaillards! Ne tirez pas!_" shouted the Gentleman.
"_Un deux d'entre vous leur coupent le chemin! Les autres, par
"_Ah, oui, mon General!_" panted the Corporal. "_Francois!
Two men sprang away from the rest and raced to intercept the boys.
What a pace they ran! Their black-gaitered legs seemed to skim the
The boy had not allowed for such speed.
"_Toi de l'autre cote de la chaumiere. Moi ici!_" called the
swifter of the two.
He flashed behind the cottage, and flashed up again round the gable-
Kit recognised him. It was Francois, his friend of the dawn.
"Tiens! c'est toi, mon gars!" cried the man, with a quick smile.
A simple countryman, this Francois, he was a soldier because he had to
be. That business beyond the wall, where the swords and shouts were,
was little to his liking. This was a job after his own heart. He was a
boy playing prisoner's base with another boy. Neither would be hurt.
So as he slewed round the gable-end he smiled.
Kit saw the smile and resented it. It angered him that this fellow did
not take him seriously. He had not to resent it for long.
The smile died a swift and terrible death on Francois' face.
"_Dame!_" he screamed, and slithered back on his heels. A musket
barrel was thrusting into his flank.
"_Pray!_" said a solemn voice.
There was a horrible plop as the man collapsed, coughing.
THE LAST OF OLD FAITHFUL
The old man clapped his smoking musket down, and snatched his cutlass.
"Any more for me, sir?"
"Another on your right, Piper!"
"Very good, sir."
The old man spun himself to the corner, and waited behind the wall.
The boy, running with all his might, watched fascinated.
Round the corner the doomed man whirled with a grin. The cutlass
swooped. The fellow sprawled over his slayer, the shock of the onset
rolling the chair back. The old man shook off the body, as he might
have shaken off a cloak, and backed himself, cutlass bloody in his
"In with you, Master Kit!"
"You too!" panted Kit, thrusting the chair before him.
"No, sir, no!" fiercely. "I can do a bit o business here yet." He was
loading swiftly, eyes on the battle. "Starn agin the door, larboard in
the loo'th, and cutlass-room all round--what better can a seaman
"Sharp, sir!--No time to waste. Here they come."
The Gentleman had gathered his Grenadiers in his hand, and was
swinging them back at the cottage.
"In with you, sir!" urged the old man, ablaze. "Bolt and bar."
"O Piper!" whimpering.
The word went home. The boy shot in, and slammed the door. All again
was darkness, and Blob breathing heavily at his side.
"I'm through! I'm through!" came a triumphant yell.
Kit's eye was at a crack.
The Parson had broken away from the rout, and was making for the
hills, the despatch-bag flopping in his back.
The Gentleman, leading the charge at the cottage, turned.
"_Abattez moi eel homme la!_" he sang.
A Grenadier dropped to his knee.
Outside the door a musket cracked.
The Grenadier leapt to his feet, whirled round with floating tails,
bowed to his executioner in absurdest doll-fashion, and subsided
languidly into death.
The Parson was away, the Gentleman after him with sleuth-hound
The bunch of Grenadiers stormed on for the cottage.
Kit shot the bolts.
He was banging the door of life on that maimed old man, and he would
as soon have slammed the gate of heaven in his mother's face.
"Good-bye, _dear_ old Piper!" he whispered.
"Good-bye, sir," cheerily. "And if I might make so bold my sarvice to
Lard Nelson--Ralph Piper, old _Agamemnon_."
There was silence: then the patter of feet and deep breathing of men
racing to kill.
Kit could see the back of the old man's head on a level with his eye,
and just beyond, growing hugely on his gaze, the face of the leading
Grenadier, livid beneath his bearskin.
Kit shut his eyes as he rammed the last bolt home. Close to his ear,
he heard a voice, low as the sea and as deep. It was humming
Soldiers of Christ arise.
That too ceased.
Old Faithful was spitting on his hands.
ON THE SHINGLE-BANK
A crash and grunt covered the noise of the front door opening.
Kit peeped out. The way was clear.
"Now, Blob! for your life."
Out the boys sped.
How still it was on this side after the other!
There was a fury of fighting in the distance and a dreadful smothered
worry against the back door; here a tranquil sward, trees bowing, and
the shingle-bank a roan breast-work against a background of silver.
"Run quietly, boy! On your toes like me. You run like a walrus."
"Tidn't me," gasped Blob. "It's ma legs. They keep on a-creakin."
Swiftly they fled across the grass.
Was there anybody at the lugger?--were they free?
The boy was sick with hope.
Behind him he could hear far yells and the occasional clash of steel.
Kit guessed what had happened. The Parson, wary old man of war, his
ruse successful, the enemy drawn off, had flung back into the fight.
So far his plan had worked to a miracle.
The boy recalled Piper's last words.
His sarvice to Lard Nelson!
Piper never doubted then. Piper had been sure.
And Piper was right. The Lord was on their side. He felt it, and his
spirit began to sing.
Then the song died, and his soul with it.
He could hear voices behind the shingle-bank. A double-sentry at the
least had been left over the lugger.
Well, they must go through with it now.
"Knife ready?" he croaked.
The grass was growing sparse about them. He began to hear his feet. So
did the men beyond the bank. There was the click of a cocking musket.
The fellow was ready: the fellow would pot them at twenty yards as
they came over the crest.
Thought was lost in lightning action.
"Hola, l'ami!" he yelled.
"_Qui vive?_" came the unseen voice.
"Ami! a moi!"
Feet crashed up the shingle. As he topped the crest, a Grenadier, all
eyes and bayonet and bristling chin, was plunging up the steep,
another at his heels. The first flashed his eyes up in the boy's.
"_Sapristi!_" he cried, and tried to come down to the ready. The
shingle roared away beneath his feet. Back he slithered. And as he did
so, Kit launched down on him.
"_Sacre nom!_" the fellow screamed, and toppled back on the
bayonet of his mate.
Kit ran over his falling body into the arms of the other.
"Take the man behind!" he yelled back.
Arms wound about him: a stertorous breathing was at his ear: for a
moment the two rocked, then fell.
The boy was buried alive. A stifling carcase blotted out the sun. His
arms were pinioned, but his hands remained free.
Short-handling his dirk, he turned it in.
"_Assassin!_" muttered the man, in his ear.
Kit pressed and slowly pressed. The man writhed and tried to rise. The
boy's lithe young arms, though they could not squeeze to death, could
hold; and hold they did. The man saw it, ceased to struggle, and
Thank God the boy had the under-grip. His arms protected him. Else he
must have burst.
A groan was squeezed out of him.
"_Quittez donc!_" in his ear.
He pressed and pressed. The man hugged and hugged. One must give.
Which should it be? Not he, not he, not he, though he fainted. Piper
had been _sure_.
A warm gush spouted out upon his fingers, and trickled down his fore-
It was horrible. He felt it to be murder, not war. Yet that python-
embrace was squeezing the heart out of his mouth.
Great heavens!--was the man made of iron?--would he never have enough?
Then he felt a prick in his own flesh. Perforce he stayed his hand.
Well, he had done his best. And even at that moment, his brain
swimming to a death-swoon, his humour flashed out of the darkness to
If that didn't stop the chap, hang it! he deserved victory.
But it did.
Gently, very gently, the arms relaxed. He could feel the man fading
away and away in his embrace. All that power and stress of life was
pouring out into infinity. The man was dying at his ear. Lying his
length upon the boy, he shuddered from head to heel.
"_Marie_," he sighed.
There was a last ripple of life, and the boy knew he was holding
He wriggled out into the light with throbbing temples.
His hand and shirt-cuff caught his eye. He started back. They followed
him. He tried to fling his hand away. It would not be flung. He
stared, breathing like a frightened horse.
His jaw dropping, he looked at his handiwork.
The fellow was lying on his face, long legs wide. But for the hilt of
the dirk sticking out of his loins, he looked much as other men. Yet--
he was not. Think! A minute ago--and now! How wonderful it all was,
and how terrible! The mystery of it made chaos in his brain.
He was frightened at himself, even more than at the dead man, or his
Leaning back on his hands, the man he had killed at his feet, those
instant questions which oppress us all in the rare moments when we
stand still and are compelled by the shock of circumstance to look
inward on ourselves, drummed at his brain.
What was he?--where was he?--why was he?
He staggered to his feet, pressing his hands to his eyes, to try to
recollect his meaning.
He failed, only recalling his mission of the moment.
Shutting his eyes, he grasped the dirk.
"Awful sorry," he whispered hoarsely. "I must," and plucked it forth
with a shudder.
Then he looked up.
The first Grenadier lay spread-eagled on the slope above him.
Blob was crawling out from beneath him, his pink muzzle thrust up with
an air of grave and innocent amazement.
Kit pointed a finger.
"Ha! ha! you do look funny!" he laughed madly. "You're like one of
Magic's puppies poking out to have a first peep at the world."
"Oi loike killin better'n bein kill'd," Blob announced solemnly, and
crept out on hands and knees, a tip of pink tongue travelling about
his lips. Then he turned to his dead.
Kit wound up again.
"Never mind about him," he said, staggering to his feet. "He'll keep.
This way. Bring his musket along. Quick!"
He picked up the musket of his own dead, and swayed blindly down
towards the lugger.
Blob followed at first reluctantly. Then some memory amused him, and
he began to brim slow mirth.
"Er says--'Dear! dear!' and Oi says--'Theer! theer!' and plops it in,
and plops it in."
Still adrift on the sea of his emotions, Kit paid no heed.
He was swimming down the shingle-bank, aware of nothing but the tip of
his nose and vague bad dreams at the back of his heart.
The lugger was lying on the steep of the shingle, poised as though for
The swarthy jib was bellying seaward. She was yearning for the water.
The slope was with them; the wind was with them; the very boat was
with them. And the tide, running in with a splash, already flopped
about her keel.
How soon would she float?
Two minutes might do it--or twenty.
THE RACE FOR THE LUGGER
There was not a moment to be lost.
"Throw your musket aboard her!" cried Kit, bringing up against the
lugger. "Now put your shoulder to and heave with a will! heave!"
They might as well have tried to move a mountain. Yet even as the boy
strained, a wave shot up and sluiced his feet. And how that cold clasp
warmed his heart!
The tide was tumbling in, the Lord God thrusting it. A minute, a
little minute, and they would be away.
"Aboard her, Blob!" he panted. "That's right, clumsy! Noisy does it!
Now chuck every single thing you can lay hands on, overboard--except
the muskets, idiot!"
Fiercely the boys set to work. Kits and cans, ballast and blocks,
spare spars and tackle, higgledy-piggledy overboard they went, some on
the shingle, some splashing into the tide, to be snatched and tumbled
As yet they were not discovered. Kit working madly in the belly of the
boat could see nothing; but afar he could hear the Parson's terrible
roar, and Knapp's crisp,
"_Ow's that-a-tat, ow's that?_"
Somehow, only the Lord knew how, those two inspired warriors still
kept the ring.
It was great, but it could not last. The end must come, and it must
Anxiously the boy peeped over the side. The tide seemed to mock them.
With what a swoop it rushed to their rescue, and with what a scream of
derision it withdrew again! Kit compared it unconsciously to the to
and fro of the emotions in his heart, now surging him heaven-high, now
leaving him stranded.
Then he spied a greased bat for launching lying on the slope. In a
trice he was overboard, had seized it, and racing down the streaming
shingle as a wave withdrew, thrust the bat beneath the keel. The wave
curled, stemmed by the advancing water, and swept about him to the
As it clasped the lugger, a puff of wind leapt from the land, and
skirmished across the sea.
The jib filled to it, and strained seaward.
Was he wrong?--or did she stir and tremble, like a girl to her lover?
How to help her?
If they could hoist the main-sail!
He was back over the side in a moment.
The boat was clean-swept now of everything but the muskets and a mess
of shingle for ballast at the bottom. The anchor had gone over the
stern and trailed on the slope. Even Blob had disappeared.
Kit pushed at the boom to thrust it over.
"Blob! Blob! where are you?"
"Here Oi be!" panted a voice forward.
Kit turned to see Blob, his shoulders rounded, and arms taut, heaving
at the main-mast.
"She wun't budge!" he cried, his face crimson with honest effort.
"Seems she's grow'd in loike."
"Fool!" he cried. "Lend a hand with the boom here! Shove, boy, shove!
--Now on to the main-brace! No, fool, no!--Here--on to this! Now all
together--heave! heave! heave!"
The great sail rose, groaning terribly.
Heaven send the smugglers hadn't heard!
But they had.
So much a far scream told them.
"We're seen!" panted Kit. "Now whistle for the wind, my boy, and hand
me that musket."
The water was slopping all about the lugger. Empty as a barrel she
began to rock to the rocking of the tide. A puff would launch her.
The boy glanced seaward.
Over there was that white glimmer, clearer now. It was like the arm of
a drowning woman flinging up for help. The glimpse of it inspired the
"I'm coming, sir," he called across the waters. "One more fight
He hitched his belt. Now he had no doubt of the issue. Here his
friend, the sea, was beside him, whispering to him, loving him,
taunting him. She was his hope, his heart, his strength. And for the
first time it flashed upon the lad what the fight was really for. It
was for her, the World's Woman. She went to the Victor, and she was on
his side: for he was England, and England had won her first, and, true
woman that she was, she clove to her first conqueror.
They were coming.
He thrilled to them.
"Now, Blob! you take that side. I'll take this. Pick off a man as he
comes over the crest. Then out knives, and do your best!"
He leapt on to the taffrail, balancing by the mizzen. Tiptoeing so, he
could just see over the crest of the shingle-bank.
And he was never to forget the sight he then saw.
Towards him across the greensward, a torrent of men streamed like a
tide-race, silent all.
A huge Grenadier led them. Behind in a bunch came the smugglers, Fat
George shambling along in the midst with a fury of arm-work. As his
swifter comrades passed him, he clutched at them covetously.
"_Ands off!_" screamed a lanky lad.
The fat man's knife flashed. The lad fell.
The others raced on. What was it to them?
As they came, they tossed up tormented faces. Their eyes were peep-
holes. Through them he stared into the bottomless pit, and there
beheld things not meant for human vision.
His eyes passed with relief to the wholesome ugliness of the little
Englishman pounding at the smugglers' heels.
Knapp had dropped his drumsticks, and was limping along now naked-
fisted. His eyes were shut, and his running drawers red in patches as
his tunic. He was merry no more, his head on one shoulder, labouring
painfully in his stride. It was clear that he was hard-hit, and just
as clear that he meant going through to the finish.
Behind him three Grenadiers, one behind the other, strung out across
the green. The Parson coursed the last of them; the Gentleman coursed
They were all running swiftly, but the last two were the swiftest.
The Parson was gaining on the Grenadier, and the Gentleman on the
It was such a race as Kit had never seen before.
Which would reach his man first?
On that, it seemed to his prophetic vision, hung all.
He tried to yell,
"Come on, sir!"
But his voice stuck as in a nightmare, and seemed to suffocate him.
A blade soared and swooped.
"_One!_" came the Parson's voice, clear across the green, as he
took the falling man in his stride.
The Gentleman, hard at his heels, tripped over the dead man.
Collected as always, he snatched the fellow's musket, and sprawling on
his face, fired at the Parson's back.
A smuggler fell.
"_Thank ye!_" gasped the Parson. "_Two!_" as the second
Grenadier went down.
Then the flight of men, pursuer and pursued, dipped out of sight; but
Kit could hear the stampede of feet behind the bank racing towards
him, then a hiss and stumbling fall.
"_Three!_" panted the Parson's voice, and in a dying roar,
"_Mind yourselves, boys! They're on you_."
The boy was white as steel.
He had no body. He was not afraid.
Nelson was calling him, and he should not call in vain.
Over the crest stormed the leading Grenadier, monstrous-seeming
against the sky.
Kit fired at the man's cross-belts.
Down the shingle the fellow sprawled, whether dead or alive, wounded
or whole, Kit knew not till he splashed into the water, and lay still
in the flop of the tide.
Behind him came the smugglers.
As they topped the crest a star hung above their heads, then fell,
"_Four--and--five!_" came the Parson's voice.
"He's on us!" screamed Dingy Joe. "Sword and all!"
They broke away to right and left along the ridge like a covey of
partridges when the hawk swoops.
Anything to get away from that avenging voice roaring out of a
whirlwind of lightnings!
"After em, Knapp!"
Slung along by his own impetus, the Parson hurled down the steep.
"Warm work!" he panted, grinning luridly at the boy, and he brought up
with a bang against the lugger.
As he shocked against the boat, the great tan sail filled. Shock and
wind together gave the necessary impulse. The lugger, light as a
bubble, swayed, slithered, crunched down the shingle, felt the greased
bat, and took the water with a dip and lovely curtsey.
"We're through!" roared the Parson, sprawling upon the side.