On their regaining the deck of the _Phoenix_ McKeller manifested great
anxiety to hear the result of the interview, and the master had a
greatly interested audience as he proceeded to describe the scene with
many embellishments and quaint touches of his own. What seemed to have
struck him most was Kirke´s helpless rage, and the speechless anger he
exhibited at the attack upon his courage and capacity.
Gervase lay against the bulwarks listening without a word; his eyes were
fixed on the square tower of the Cathedral rising through the pall of
smoke that overhung the city. In thought he saw the haggard gunners on
the war-torn battlements, and the sorrowing crowd pouring out from the
morning service. His mind was filled with the horror and misery of it,
and his heart was bitter within him. He suddenly started and cleared his
eyes as if he could not trust his sight; then he looked again. “Merciful
God!” he cried, “the flag is down.”
The little knot of men round him turned to look too, and they saw with
sinking hearts that the flag, the garrison´s token of defiance, was no
longer waving on the Cathedral tower. A great silence fell upon them
all–a silence in which one heard the lapping of the water about the
bows and the distant scream of the sea-birds, startling and shrill.
“God´s curse light on all traitors and cowards!” cried McKeller.
Then they saw two jets of fire spurt forth from the tower, and a little
later the sullen roar of the ordnance, and the hope came into their
hearts that it was only in sign of their dire extremity that the
garrison had hauled down the flag. And they waited and watched, and
again they heard the thunder of the cannon pealing from the tower. Then
above the crown of smoke they saw the crimson flag run up the staff, and
they knew the city was still inviolate. An involuntary cheer broke from
the crew of the _Phoenix_, which was taken up by the other vessels, and
a minute or two afterwards the _Swallow_ fired a salvo in response.
“They have awakened up at last,” cried the master. “Now we´ll even go
below and try the boiled beef, and mayhap a runnel of grog.”
“Not a drop of grog,” cried McKeller, “but what boiled beef you like.
The wind is freshening from the north, and the Lord may want sober men
for this day´s work.”
The captain was not destined to join in their midday meal; hardly had
they sat down and hardly had McKeller, who generally acted as chaplain
by reason of his superior gravity, finished the long grace by which the
meal was introduced, than a messenger came from Kirke, that Douglas was
to hasten with all expedition on board the _Swallow_.
“The more haste the less speed,” cried the Captain, to whom the summons
was by no means a welcome one, and who had no taste for a further
interview with Kirke. “I´ll have to answer for your speech, Mr. Orme,
I´m thinking. I wish McKeller there was in my shoes.”
“You were still good to McKeller,” laughed the mate, “but this time
you´ll have to do your own business.”
“I hope,” said Gervase, “that this time it means business and not more
speech. And I think it does. Bring us the news, Master Douglas, that you
are to lift your anchor, and I´ll not forget you as long as I live.”
“Please Heaven, you may look for your night-cap in Derry to-night.”
“With a sound head to put it in.”
“The boat is waiting, and so is the General,” added the mate.
The captain hurried out of the round-house, and Gervase and the mate sat
down to finish their midday meal with but little appetite for their
repast. The conversation between them flagged, and then the mate went
out and presently returned with his prayer-book under his arm, from
which he began to read in a low monotonous tone, following the words,
like a backward schoolboy, with his forefinger. He never looked up but
sat with his rough unkempt head bent over the book.
Half an hour passed in this way, when they heard the sound of the boat
alongside and the Captain´s voice shouting to get the mainsail set.
Presently he burst into the cabin, his face all glowing with excitement
and his small blue eyes dancing in his head. He ran forward and caught
Gervase in both his arms, “It´s come at last, dear lad, ´tis come at
last. Your speech hath done it, and we´ll moor by the quay to-night with
the blessing of God. This is no time for books, McKeller, no time for
books. The Lord be praised! We´re up the river in an hour. Browning and
myself and the old _Dartmouth_, with Leake to give us the lead.”
Gervase and McKeller were on their feet shaking one another by the hand.
They could hardly believe the good news. Then, overcome by his feelings
so long pent up, Gervase burst into tears and sobbed aloud. The captain
stood aghast, but the mate laid his hand on the young fellow´s shoulder
and said with rugged kindliness: “I like you all the better for your
tears, Mr. Orme; you have shown that you can do a man´s work, with a
man´s heart under your jacket; ´twill do you good,–rain on the parched
grass, as the book has it. Now, you old sea dog, what are you staring
at? Go on with your story and let us know what we have to do.”
“I´ll clap you in irons for a rank mutineer,” laughed the captain. “Lord
love you, when I got aboard Kirke was like a lamb; not a damn in him,
but all ‘By your leave´ and ‘At your pleasure´. The council of officers
had resolved to attack the passage that afternoon, the wind and the tide
being favourable, and the messenger, that being you, Mr. Orme, having
brought news that rendered their instant moving imperative, and more
stuff of that kind. I could have laughed in his face, but for the cruel
white and red in his eye. I don´t like a man to have too much white in
“Go on with your story.”
The _Dartmouth_ goes first, and draws the fire at Culmore; we go on with
what speed we can till we get to the barrier. That must give way by hook
or crook, and then up the river. A good day´s work, I´m thinking, but
the little _Phoenix_ will do her share if Andrew Douglas be alive to see
“With the help of God we´ll all see it,” cried the mate. “This will be a
great day for all of us.”
“Serve out a measure of rum to every man-jack on board, and get under
way with all the haste ye can. In a quarter of an hour ye´ll see the
little _Phoenix_ slipping through the water like a seagull. Come, Mr.
Orme, and lend a hand with the weapons. I take it you are well used to
Gervase followed the captain on deck where the men were busy with the
halliards, and all was lively confusion and disorder. The seamen were
already swarming on the yards of the _Dartmouth_, and the long boat of
the _Swallow_ was in the water, with the carpenters hammering upon the
rough barricado with which they were protecting her sides. The wind
which from the morning had been blowing in quiet airs from the
north-west, had gone round to the north and had freshened somewhat. In
the summer sky there was hardly a cloud; the waves leapt and flashed in
the sunshine, and the vessels were beginning to plunge at their cables
in the livelier sea.
By the time that Gervase had finished his scrutiny of the cutlasses and
muskets, and had seen to the loading of the three guns that the
_Phoenix_ carried, McKeller and the men had the vessel under sail. Then
the windlass was manned, and it was only when the anchor had been
lifted, and the little vessel was slipping through the water that
Gervase felt their work was really begun and his task was about to be
completed. The captain himself had taken the tiller, standing square and
firm, with his coat thrown aside, and the sleeves of his shirt rolled up
and showing his brown, muscular arms.
“There goes the _Dartmouth_,” he cried to Gervase, who was standing near
him, “well done, and seamanly. And the _Mountjoy_–she has the lead of
us, being weightier and more strongly timbered. I don´t grudge it to
Browning; he´s a good fellow and a gallant seaman. We´ve sailed together
ere now. And the old _Jerusalem_–she´ll come up when the eggs are
boiled. We´ll have to knock once or twice before they let us in.”
The _Dartmouth_ led the way with her ports open and the iron muzzles of
her guns all agrin, the white sails on her lofty spars swelling out
under the freshening wind. She did not wait for her consorts, but held
her way steadily toward the river´s mouth where the castle of Culmore
guarded the entrance. The _Mountjoy_ outsailed the _Phoenix_ much to the
chagrin of Douglas, and three cables´ lengths already divided them. The
men leaned over the bulwarks watching the fort where they could see the
soldiers hastening to the guns, and could hear the drums beating the
alarm. As yet the _Dartmouth_ was not within range of the cannon, but
already a round shot or two had come skipping along the water and had
fallen short. As they drew toward the river´s mouth the breeze had grown
lighter, and Gervase feared that the afternoon would set in a stagnant
calm. But they had the tide with them, and the wind blew fairly up the
“There´s the music now,” cried Douglas, as the guns of the fort flashed
along the ramparts; “there´s a hole in the royal yonder, but ´twill take
more than that to turn old Leake. Will he never let them hear him?”
The _Dartmouth_ was already within range, but she held on her way
gallantly, never answering the fire that was poured upon her. Again and
again the guns of the fort flashed out, and the frigate´s canvas was
torn by the shot, but her spars remained untouched. Still Leake held on
steadily, his guns still silent and his men sheltering themselves as
best they could behind the bulwarks. Only when he came within close
range so that every shot might tell, his guns spoke for the first time.
Again and again the living sheet of flame leapt from the open ports, and
the great shot went crashing into the fort. As the fire of the enemy
slackened perceptibly the seamen set up a great cheer, which was caught
up by the men of the _Mountjoy_ that had now come nearly alongside and
was holding its way up the river. Lying abreast of the fort and within
musket shot the crew of the frigate plied the fort with cannon and with
small arms, while the _Mountjoy_, followed by the _Phoenix_, came
drifting slowly up channel past the castle and safely out of range of
its guns. Then the _Dartmouth_, her work being done, was moored in the
bend of the river above Culmore, while the merchant ships went slowly up
the narrow and winding channel, and the men in the _Swallow´s_ long boat
kept them company and bent to their oars with a will. The great guns in
the earthen forts along the river gave them welcome as they came, and
the musket balls went singing by their ears.
It was a sight to see Douglas at the tiller, with a broad smile on his
face and the dancing light of battle in his eyes. Once or twice he
laughed aloud as some of the smaller spars came tumbling to the deck.
And now in the pauses of the great guns and above the rattle of the
muskets, they could hear in the summer air the shouts of the citizens
from the walls–shouts of triumph and delight. On that scene the
chroniclers have dwelt with some pride and much pathos. Every man who
could drag himself to the wall was gathered there that summer day. Gaunt
and hollow-eyed; so hunger-stricken that they could scarcely stand,
wasted by fever and by wounds, they took up the joyous shout of triumph.
Stout soldiers gave way to tears upon the necks of their comrades. Their
anguish and despair were swallowed up in the hope of present
deliverance. Here and there little groups were kneeling as in prayer for
the safety of those who were bringing them succour, and never was prayer
more earnest offered to the God of battles.
Meanwhile the _Mountjoy_ and the _Phoenix_ were coming close upon the
boom, and the forts on either side were plying them with shot. Douglas
never moved. One of the seamen was struck down beside him, but he never
turned his head. The wind was coming in little airs, but the tide was
running hard. Gervase saw the _Mountjoy_ through the smoke, a cable´s
length ahead, suddenly strike upon the wooden barrier that lay across
the river. Then the gallant little vessel swung round and grounded in
the narrow channel. A great cheer went up from the banks, while they saw
the redcoats hastening to their boats to board the stranded ship. “Now,
McKeller, see what you can do with the long gun,” cried Douglas, as the
mate with Gervase´s assistance brought the cannonade to bear on the mass
of men who were moving to the bank. But the master of the _Mountjoy_ was
a stout seaman and knew his work. Quickly his guns were brought to the
landward side, and at the discharge the little vessel slipped into the
channel again, and went floating toward the boom with the running tide.
Meanwhile the _Swallow_´s long boat under the boatswain´s mate had been
laid alongside the barrier, and the bluejackets were plying it with
cutlasses and hatchets. Every man did his best that hour, and as the
_Mountjoy_ struck the boom a second time, the great barrier cracked and
broke and went swinging up the river.
McKeller leapt upon the bulwarks regardless of the risk he ran, and
waved his hat with fine enthusiasm: “God save Their Majesties,” he
cried, “and down with Popery.”
Every man on board knew that the work was done and the city was saved.
But the wind had fallen with the afternoon and it was a dead calm. Only
with the tide the vessels came slowly up the river; then the long boats
of the _Swallow_ took them in tow, and with the setting sun the vessels
came drifting into Ross´s bay. It was ten o´clock at night when the
_Phoenix_, Andrew Douglas, Master (and a proud man was he!), came to its
moorings at the little quay close by Ship Quay Gate.
* * * * *
No man has such gift of speech as to describe the scene when the master
stepped ashore and raised his hat in presence of the thronging crowd.
Men and women went frantic in their joy. Falling upon each other´s necks
and wringing one another by the hand, they forgot that stern reserve
that marks their race and people. Bonfires were lighted upon the
ramparts, and the bells rang out a joyous peal, and all the while the
unlading of the ship went on, till all men were satisfied, and the
terror of the morning seemed like a dream that had passed away.
Gervase left the _Phoenix_ unnoticed in the tumult, and made his way
through the deserted streets to his old lodging. The door was lying
open, but the house was deserted. Simon and all his family were in all
likelihood among the crowd at the quay. Then he lighted his lamp and sat
down to enjoy his golden dreams alone. His heart was filled with the
thought of what he had done and of the reward he hoped to win.
He would call upon Dorothy in the morning–Dorothy, whose sweet face had
kept him company through his perils, and the thought of whom had moved
him in his dangers. She had told him that she loved him.
The darkness was gone and they had come into the sweet sunshine at last.
And so he dreamed his dreams till Mistress Sproule returned laden with
her spoils, and gave him a joyous welcome as to one who had come back