The enemy, lately, had caused great annoyance by firing at the ridge 32-pound rockets, a large store of which they had found in the magazine, and as they were unused to discharging these dangerous missiles, the rockets at first, by their rebound, inflicted more damage on the rebels than on us; but, gaining experience through long practice, they every evening and during part of the night fired them at the ridge, one or two falling right amongst the tents in camp.
At 8 in the morning several of the enemy's shot struck the Kent at the same time; one entered near the foremast, and set fire to two or three 32-pound cartridges of gunpowder, as the boys held them in their hands ready to charge the guns.
We also took in our guns, 26 in number, of the following calibre 18 32-pound carronades, 6 18-pound ditto, and 2 long 9-pounders, with a full proportion of shot. We also received, on the day after, as much powder as could be put in the magazines. On Monday, the 9th, we left our moorings, and proceeded down the Thames, anchoring for the night.
The officer in the boat had no sooner sprung on board than he was caught by two strong hands, gagged, and thrown down the main hatchway. "Heave," cried a voice, "and with a will!" and four cold 32-pound shot were hove at once into the boat alongside, which, crashing through her bottom, swamped her in a moment, precipitating the miserable crew into the boiling sea.
I had seen and noted them before while in Sierra Leone harbour, and I was convinced that the craft was none other than the British man- o'-war schooner Gadfly, armed with eight 12-pound carronades and a long 32-pound pivot-gun on her forecastle, with a crew of eighty men under the command of Lieutenant Peters, than whom there was not a more dashing and enterprising officer on the Coast.
Nor, bad as this was, was it all, for poor Willoughby, who was standing by my side, had the top of his skull literally shot away, and fell dead into my arms. The next moment the carpenter came to me with the report that we had been hit between wind and water by a 32-pound shot, and that the schooner was making water fast.
And this was precisely what Henderson and I most feared; for so long as the pirates chose to play the game of long bowls they might blaze away at us at their leisure, and in perfect safety, their 32-pound shot flying over and over us at a distance far beyond the range of our 9-pounders.
He had scarcely disappeared, and I was looking round for the telescope, when a flash of flame and a cloud of white smoke suddenly burst from the schooner's forecastle, and presently a 32-pound shot dashed into the water within half-a-dozen fathoms of our rudder.
Now, too, it began to dawn upon us that we had caught a Tartar, for the Dutchman mounted forty guns 32-pound and 28-pound carronades against our 24-pounders and 8-pounders, while the close range at which we were fighting about a pistol-shot distance enabled her heavier metal to punish us severely.
The bark was soon set free of her wreckage, and prepared to make her way in still further, under the protection of the fort batteries. Captain Kemp was too busy for any kind of conversation, and Señor Zuroaga came aft, to where Ned was curiously studying the work of the 32-pound shot at the stern.