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PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS.
270. g. 556
A confused and unintelligible jabbering, but which from the sound seemed to be in a barbarous Portuguese idiom, was the only response. A second and a third time she was hailed with the same result. While this colloquy was going on, by the dexterous management of her sails, she (to use the nautical phrase) walked round our stern, although no increase of wind was perceptible by our own canvas. As she again came round upon our starboard-quarter, our captain ordered one of the stern-guns to be fired across her bows; but no notice was taken of the salute, and our mysterious visitant at length bore away from us, and was speedily lost sight of. There was no doubt as to her being one of the noted piratical vessels which carried on this nefarious traffic between the Spanish main and those islands, chiefly Cuba and St Domingo, where they had their haunts. They were built expressly for the purpose, with low hulls and immensely long spars, fitted to catch whatever current of wind might be prevailing in the upper regions of the atmosphere, and which the less elevated sails of other vessels might fail to reach. Some of their hulls, I was also told, were so constructed that, by turning certain screws, the sea could be allowed to rush into their false keels or bottoms, by which their speed was accelerated in an amazing degree. All this to me appeared extraordinary at the time, but I afterwards had practical reasons for knowing the truth of the information.
As may be imagined, we continued on the alert during the night, but heard no more of the strange schooner. Dawn was fast approaching, when our attention was once more aroused by the flash, followed by the report, of a gun right ahead of us. From the loudness of the explosion, as well as the rapidity with which it followed the flash, it was easy to perceive that the vessel could be at no great distance, as well as that she must be a large man-of-war. After a few minutes' interval, another shot boomed along the deep, rapidly succeeded by several others of the same formidable loudness. At length these were replied to by other guns evidently of a less calibre, and proceeding from a different quarter.
They are at it!-they are at it! now for the first time shouted our skipper, who had served his time, and held a lieutenant's commission in the royal navy; ‘I'll stake my life, some of our cruisers have taken the pirate in tow! Will she do nothing ?'-(to the man at the wheel, for we were still completely becalmed)—. What would I not give, were it but to have a view of them ?'
She minds the helm no more than if she were a brute bcast !' responded the helmsman in a tone and key in happy syinpathy with our captain's impatient query, while he kept rocking from foot to foot with the rapidity of a stop-watch mainspring.
It is impossible to describe the excitement which prevailed amongst the crew, most of whom were old manof-war's men. After some time, the sound of the large guns entirely ceased, while that of the smaller ones incessantly continued-implying, as was natural to suppose, that the latter had silenced the others, and that the crew of the supposed pirate were following up their advantage. At this crisis, a deputation of about twenty of our crew came aft, and entreated the captain's permission to hoist out a couple of boats, and allow them to pull to the scene of action. But the skipper understood his duty too well to give way to the enthusiasm of his men, although evidently gratified at their disinterested courage.
Morning at length dawned, and the nature of the conflict became distinctly visible, as also that the island of St Domingo was about two leagues to lecward of us. A British frigate lay about a mile alead of us, with the pational flag drooping from the mizen-peak, but without any other rag upon her spars. At about two miles' distance was the identical schooner that had alarmed us so much during the night, her long mainmast being entirely bare excepting her royals, which, however, were now entirely useless, as not a breath of air lifted them. But long sweeps had been put in requisition, and were every moment increasing the distance betwixt her and her assailant. The latter, however, had got out the jolly-boat, which, with a couple of large swivels fixed on her bois, maintained