We all received very great credit for what the papers were pleased to term our "dashing exploit;" Captain Brisac being rewarded with post rank, while Mr Sennitt was made a commander, and Mr Clewline moved a step up the ratlines.
"In the meantime, however," remarked Sennitt, who had his glass constantly at his eye, "unless I am greatly mistaken, he is gradually creeping away from us; his rigging does not show out as plainly as it did ten minutes ago, yet there is more light."
"I think we are now near enough to venture upon a return of the compliment, Mr Sennitt," said the skipper. "Let Tompion see what he can do with the stern-chaser, in the way of knocking away some of the fellow's spars. It seems a pity to spoil so pretty a picture, but better that than for us to experience the delights of a French prison."
"Which makes her a very fair match for us," he contentedly remarked. "We will engage her at close quarters, Mr Sennitt," said the skipper; "be good enough, therefore, to have every gun double-shotted. Let no man fire until I give the word; we will wait until we are fairly abreast of her, and then give her our whole larboard broadside at once. Luff, you may!" to the master, who had taken the wheel.
The "green" hands were by this time not quite so verdant as they had been a few days before, Mr Sennitt having drilled them most remorselessly at every available opportunity and as they had been very judiciously intermingled with the experienced "salts," in appointing them to their various stations, the work went on with, as Captain Brisac remarked, "very creditable celerity."
The lee sail was completely buried in the sea, which boiled in over the lee bow and surged aft along the deck like a mill-race; while ever and anon an ominous crack aloft told of the severity of the strain upon the overtaxed spars. Mr Sennitt kept glancing uneasily upward, as these portentous sounds smote upon his ear; which Captain Brisac observing, he turned to the first lieutenant and said,
"Hurrah, lads!" he shouted; "give it them right and left; drive the rascals below or overboard, and push forward to meet Mr Sennitt."
Our skipper was standing just abaft the main-rigging, conning the ship, with one hand on the topmast backstay all ready for a spring, while he signalled the helmsman with the other. Sennitt was forward, also ready for the rush; while Mr Clewline, who with a dozen hands was to remain on board and take care of the ship, was in the waist.
"Do not be alarmed, Sennitt; it is only the spars settling into their berths; they " Crash!
"If you please, Mr Sennitt; and, not to be behindhand with them, let them see the colour of our bunting before you do anything else." The order to clear for action was received with enthusiasm; and the little round ball which immediately soared aloft, breaking abroad and displaying the naval ensign as it touched the main truck, was greeted with a rousing cheer.