The Missing Ship - The Log of the "Ouzel" Galley
by W. H. G. Kingston
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"Did you say, sir, that all the officers and men were massacred at Fort Maria?" asked Major Malcolm, in an agitated tone.

"I have too little doubt about it, sir," answered Mr Hayward. "I can trust Tom's word, and Captain Torrens's servant assured him that he saw his master and Ensign Duck murdered with the other white gentlemen."

"Only two days ago we dined with him, little thinking what was soon to occur!" said the major, with a sigh. "Poor fellow! poor fellow! how full of life and spirits he seemed! Such may be the fate of any one of us!"

Miss Pemberton looked sad as he spoke.

"You are now convinced, Mr Thompson, that there is something in the report we heard," observed Mr Ferris to the overseer, "and that we were not foolishly alarmed?"

"How soon do you think that the band of rebel blacks can reach Bellevue, should they come in this direction?" asked the major of Mr Hayward.

"They might be here in a day—and my belief is that there are several bands much nearer at hand, and that it would be wise to prepare for an attack without a moment's delay," answered Mr Hayward.

"Preparations have already been commenced," observed the major; "but I would urge our friend here to follow your advice."

"I am glad to hear it," replied Mr Hayward. "From the way the rebels made their attack on the fort, and the rapidity and order with which they retreated, it is evident that they are no contemptible foes, besides which, they have obtained a considerable store of arms. I will remain to assist you, for my horses could not proceed a mile further; and I should wish indeed, before I go on, to ascertain the state of the country to the westward. I fear from the report Tom gave that the slaves in the whole island are in a state of revolt."

"In that case our only wise course will be to barricade the house and throw up such other fortifications as time will allow," said Major Malcolm. "Mr Twigg, will you give the order to your people to bring in sufficient planking to close up all doors and windows, and we will then form a stockade round the house. Rouse up all the hands you can muster; they must work during the night, by the light of lanterns or torches or fires, if necessary. I will answer for your safety if the work is completed in time."

The worthy planter showed that he was a man of spirit—he immediately issued the necessary orders, and the overseer, now convinced that the report of the insurrection was founded on truth, ably seconded him. Coats were thrown aside, and the carpenter's tools in the house being collected, each person took such as he could best use, and, as soon as the wood was brought in, began sawing and nailing away with might and main. Others went on with the chevaux-de-frise, while a third party dug a trench and began erecting a palisade between it and the house. Major Malcolm and Lieutenant Belt were everywhere, showing the people how to put up the palisade and lending a hand to the work. Archie Sandys was especially active; the planter and Mr Ferris laboured away with hammer and nails in barricading the windows; while the three troopers who had accompanied the officers, having cast a sufficient store of bullets, came out and gave their valuable assistance. Major Malcolm was too good a soldier to forget the importance of having timely notice of the approach of a foe, and had directed the overseer to select four trustworthy negroes, who were sent out to do duty as scouts, with orders to make their way back the moment they discovered the enemy.

"Can you entirely trust those fellows?" asked the major, after the men had been despatched.

"As to that, sir, I can't be answerable for their not running away, though I believe that they'll not willingly join the rebels," answered the overseer.

"Then we must not depend implicitly on them," said the major. "I must ask some of the young gentlemen to undertake the duty; Lieutenant Belt and one of my men will accompany them."

Archie Sandys, on hearing this, immediately volunteered, as did two other of the book-keepers. The party made their way for some distance in the direction it was expected that the rebels would appear; and, leaving Archie in a sheltered spot, the lieutenant conducted the others round, posting first one and then the other in positions in which they could command a view of the different approaches, so that on whatever side the enemy might come, time would be given to the garrison to prepare for their reception. All the men who had been collected continued diligently engaged in erecting the fortifications, and were thus employed when daylight returned. The works were by this time in a tolerably forward state, and were of a character well calculated to resist an attack by an undisciplined and ill-armed force, though they would have been useless against artillery or well-trained troops. No one proposed stopping for breakfast, for all saw the importance of getting the works completed before the arrival of the foe. The house standing high, and a good view over the country round being obtained from it, there was no necessity to keep the sentries at their posts during the daytime. The lieutenant accordingly went out to call them in. They had seen nothing of the black scouts—as the overseer had thought probable, they had run away and hidden themselves. They, however, came back during the morning, each one bringing the same account—"All right, massa, no enemy come yet."

"You hid yourselves, you rascals," said Mr Twigg.

"Ki Massa Twigg, de ossifer tell hide selves," answered one of the scouts.

"But you went to sleep, Quasho, into the bargain, I suspect," observed the planter.

"If ever shut eyes, hear all de same, massa," replied Quasho, with perfect coolness.

It was not a time to inflict punishment if it could be avoided, and the negroes were ordered to assist at the work going forward.

It was past noon before the fortifications were completed. They were in such a form that the enemy attacking any portion would be exposed either to a flanking or a cross fire. The major surveyed them with evident satisfaction.

"Provided our ammunition does not run short, we shall be able to hold out for a siege of any length against such enemies as are likely to attack us," he observed to Mr Twigg; "although, as the rebels have not appeared, I think it possible they may not come at all."

"I trust not, major; but we shall be deeply indebted to you notwithstanding," answered the planter. "Now, after your labours, come in and have some breakfast."

The major willingly accepted the invitation, and found to his satisfaction the ladies ready to receive him. Miss Pemberton gave him a grateful smile, but he thought she still looked anxious. She confessed that she was so on account of her family. Would she wish to send assistance to them? he asked.

"Indeed, I would," she answered; "for, though our house can be more easily fortified and defended than this can, there are fewer trustworthy people to form its garrison."

"Would you wish me to go, Miss Pemberton?" asked the major. "I would," he added, speaking very low, "run every risk for your sake. I, of course, would not offer to quit Bellevue unless I considered that it already possessed a sufficiently strong garrison; indeed, I think it probable that it will not be attacked, or if it is, that the insurgents will very quickly retire when they see the preparations we have made for their reception."

"Oh, it will indeed greatly relieve my mind if assistance could be carried to Walton!" exclaimed Fanny.

"Then I will go, and will leave Belt here with two of our men. Your brother will, I conclude, wish to accompany me," said the major.

"So will I," said Mr Hayward, "with my man Tom. We shall not too greatly weaken the garrison of this place, and we may render essential assistance to the Pembertons."

Mr Twigg, though he possibly might rather have kept his friends, could not object to this proposal, and Major Malcolm immediately desired that the horses might be got ready. Several white men and mulattoes had come in from two small plantations in the neighbourhood on hearing of the rebellion, knowing that it would be hopeless to attempt the defence of their homes; and three of these, who were well mounted and armed, volunteered to accompany Major Malcolm and Mr Hayward. Fanny thanked the major more by her looks than in words, as she bade him farewell. The party, throwing themselves into their saddles, rode off, setting the heat at defiance. They had been gone scarcely half an hour when Archie Sandys, who was doing duty as sentry, and had posted himself on a height from whence he could command a view of most of the approaches to the house on the and south, came hurrying in with the information that he had seen a large body of blacks moving along from the latter direction. "They looked exactly like a swarm of ants as they came over the hill," he observed. "Hark! you can already hear the shrill notes of their horns."

"Then to arms, my friends!" cried the lieutenant. "We must man our lines, but don't let a shot be fired till I give the order."

All arrangements had previously been made; each gentleman having a certain number of men placed under him, while the two orderlies were to act as the lieutenant's aides-de-camp. To each party was assigned the defence of a certain portion of the lines, so that the moment the order was issued the entire garrison knew where they were to go. Notwithstanding the absence of Major Malcolm and those who had accompanied him, they felt secure in their numbers and fortifications.

The shouts and shrieks of the rebels and the sound of their horns were now distinctly heard as they hurried on to attack the house, fully expecting to surround it, and in a few minutes to massacre the inhabitants, as they had done those of several other pens they had already attacked, little dreaming of finding it so strongly garrisoned and fortified.

"Keep under cover, my men," cried the lieutenant, as the enemy were seen marching from the wood and running forward without order into the open; "our fire will stagger them, and probably make them scamper off, if we reserve it till they come sufficiently near for each man to take a good aim. Don't throw a bullet away. Aim low, remember—aim low!"

As the rebel blacks advanced, they discovered that there was something unusual about the house, and at length began to suspect that it was fortified in a way to which they were unaccustomed. They accordingly halted, and were seen talking eagerly to each other, while they held their muskets pointing towards the building.

Their leader, whom Archie recognised as the ugly negro he had seen at the Jumby dance, went among them vociferating loudly, and endeavouring to induce them to advance. Thus encouraged, they rushed forward, firing their muskets; many of them, who had put the butts against their eyes, being knocked over by the recoil as they did so. Some fired at one moment, some at another, with the greatest possible irregularity, many of the bullets flying over the house, others striking the roof.

"Let them expend their ammunition as fast as they like in that style," cried the lieutenant, laughing; "they will not do us much harm. It is not worth replying to such a salute."

The lieutenant's remarks greatly encouraged his men, who waited patiently to fire in return.

"Now give it them, my lads!" he at length cried out, when the blacks had got within fifty yards of the palisade. The order was obeyed, and as the smoke cleared away the rebels were seen running off at full speed, leaving five of their number on the field; and from the way others retreated, leaning on their companions, it was evident that several more were wounded. They, however, halted immediately they got beyond gunshot, having no intention, apparently, of retreating altogether. They were now seen assembled as before, a vast amount of talking taking place among them, while their leaders rushed hither and thither urging them to renew the attack. But this it at first seemed they were little inclined to do; most of them, indeed, sat down on the ground as if determined not to advance.

"I believe if we were to sally out and charge them we might put them all to flight," exclaimed Archie Sandys, who, his Highland blood being up, was full of fight.

"Don't attempt anything of the sort," said Lieutenant Belt, who showed that he possessed the qualities so important for a soldier of coolness as well as of courage. "We might drive those immediately in our front before us, but we should have their companions on our flanks and be to a certainty cut off, or have to fight our way back again. As long as they keep where they are they can do us no harm."

It was especially trying to the garrison to see their enemies sitting down quietly just out of the reach of their bullets, without permission to attack them. The day was waning, and in all probability the blacks would make another attack at night, when they would have a better chance of getting near without being discovered. All the time their cries and shrieks, and the blowing of their horns, were heard from all sides; then came the sound of other horns in the distance, which were answered with loud blasts from the rebels surrounding the house.

"I am afraid that the rascals have been reinforced," observed Mr Twigg. "As they increase in numbers they will grow bolder, and we shall have harder work to drive them off."

"Don't be anxious about that," answered the lieutenant; "as long as our men prove true we shall have no difficulty in keeping them at bay, and we may hope in time that troops will be sent to assist us, as well as others who may be attacked. I hope that many planters will have wisely taken the precautions you have done, and fortified their houses."

"My belief is that Mr Pemberton will have done so," answered Mr Ferris; "if not, I fear that Major Malcolm will be unable to render him much assistance."

Weary from hard work as all the garrison were, they could not venture to take any rest, except such as they could obtain by sitting with their backs to the palisades or the wall of the house, with their muskets by their sides, ready for instant service. Lieutenant Belt, who felt the responsibility resting on his shoulders, divided the other gentlemen into two watches, so that one party might be continually going round to see that the sentries were on the alert. As it was fully expected that the rebels would make a sudden attack during the dark hours of night, he himself felt that he must dispense with sleep.

"I quite envy you," said Archie, who accompanied him. "I wish that I had been a soldier; this work just suits me."

"You might soon get tired of it. If it were to become the sole occupation of your life, you would begin to sigh for rest and long for a quiet life, I can tell you," was the answer.

None of the men appeared inclined to sleep at their posts, for they all well knew that their lives depended on their vigilance.

After some time had elapsed, several dusky forms could be seen creeping up towards the house, as if to ascertain what the garrison were about.

"Keep silence," whispered the lieutenant to the men, as he went his rounds; "when they get near enough we will show them that we are wide awake. The blacks can then be picked off by any good marksmen among you." As he spoke, the lieutenant's voice may have been heard, or the negroes may have observed the heads of the sentries above the palisades, for they suddenly disappeared under cover.

Towards the morning the darkness increased, and the garrison redoubled their vigilance, every moment expecting an attack, for the rebels might have got close up to the house without being discovered.

The ladies, meantime, with the nurses and children, had been placed in one of the lower rooms, into which it was believed no shot could penetrate. Mr Ferris had urged them, in case of an attack, to lie down, so that, should any balls make their way through the planking, they might pass over their heads.

"But surely we can help in some way or other," exclaimed Fanny. "We might load the muskets, even if we do not fire them; and if any of our defenders are wounded, we will come out and take their places with the rest."

"I will do my best, but I do not feel that I could try to kill the poor blacks," answered Ellen.

"They deserve to be killed," exclaimed Miss Pemberton, "for daring to rebel against their masters." She spoke as a planter's daughter.

"Perhaps we might better employ ourselves in attending to any of our defenders who are unfortunately wounded," observed Mrs Twigg, who knew Ellen's sentiments, and did not wish to enter into any discussion on the subject.

"I trust that, now they have seen the preparations made for their reception, the rebels will not attempt to attack the house," said Mr Ferris. "All I beg you to do is to remain quiet, and to keep up your spirits. Perhaps in the morning we shall find the blacks have retreated, and gone off to attack some more defenceless houses. However, if any of the people are wounded, we will place them under your care. In the mean time, let me entreat you to lie down and get some rest."

Somewhat reassured by his remarks, the ladies followed his advice; and, except the sentries and the officers on guard, the greater number of the inmates of the house might have been found fast asleep. Not a sound was heard throughout the building, nor was a light shown which might attract the notice of the rebels. Occasionally their voices and the shrill blasts of their horns could be heard rising out of the valley, but even the keenest pair of eyes among the garrison failed to detect a single object moving in any direction.

Day at length broke, and it was hoped that the enemy might have disappeared; but as the light increased, the blacks were seen amid the openings of the trees, collected in still greater numbers than on the previous evening, while in the far distance parties were observed moving across the country, some approaching the house, others going in the direction of Walton.

"I fear that the major and his companions have had some difficulty in reaching Mr Pemberton's house," observed Lieutenant Belt to Archie Sandys. "If he could not get in, he will have gone on to Montego, or some place to the westward where he might hope to obtain troops to relieve us."

"But suppose that he has encountered some such large gang of armed blacks as those we see out yonder; he and his companions must have been shot down, for what could so small a party do against a whole host of enemies?" answered Archie.

"That depends upon how his followers behave. If they prove staunch and obey his orders, they may put any number of armed undisciplined blacks to fight," said the lieutenant. "Still I own that I shall be glad to have tidings of him. What the fellows round this house intend doing, I cannot make out; but I conclude that they prefer fighting in daylight rather than in the dark, and that we must expect to be attacked before long. In the mean time, I shall be glad to have some breakfast and a few minutes' sleep. Do you take my place, and let me be called if you detect the slightest movement among the blacks." Saying this, the lieutenant went into the house, through the only door which had been left open. Preparations had also been made for barricading that, should it become necessary.

The house, it must be understood, was to form the citadel, should the outer defences be forced or should there be a prospect of their being so. With this object in view, loopholes had been formed in all the doors and windows, from whence a warm fire could be poured down upon the assailants. Still the rebels did not venture to approach nearer. Archie and the others began heartily to wish that the blacks would attack them, not doubting for a moment what would be the result. Hour after hour went by, but no movement was perceived. Still it could scarcely be hoped that the rebels had given up all intention of assaulting the house.

A stock of provisions had been collected, but there were many mouths to consume them, and no one had expected that the siege would last beyond a day or two, as all supposed that, after being defeated in the first attack, the blacks would take to flight. The consumption of water was also considerable, and it was found that nearly all had been used up. The well which supplied it was at some little distance from the house. Water, however, must be obtained at all hazards. Archie undertook to lead a party with buckets to get what was wanted: it would be more easy to do that at night than in the daytime. But thirst can be ill endured in that burning climate; Archie therefore cried out for a dozen volunteers, six to carry the buckets, and six, fully armed, to defend them should they be attacked. The well was little more than a hundred yards off, while the nearest blacks who could be seen were at the distance of four hundred yards off at least, but others might be concealed nearer at hand.

Six white men, book-keepers and others, volunteered to accompany Archie; the remainder, who were to carry the buckets, were blacks. They crept along till they got directly opposite the path which led to the well; headed by Archie, they at once rushed down towards it. The rebels at first made no movement, apparently not understanding what they were about; then some of those in front began to retreat, thinking that they were to be attacked, and evidently not prepared for this. They soon, however, discovered the object of the garrison; it showed them also, what they might not before have been aware of, that there was a scanty supply of water in the house. Summoned by their leaders, they began to advance, and as they did so fired at Archie and his companions. In the mean time, the bucket-bearers had obtained the water, and were retreating up the hill.

"Don't fire," cried Archie, "till their bullets come whizzing about our ears. Steady now!" And his men retreated towards the house, looking over their shoulders to see how far off the enemy still were. As soon as the slaves had carried the water safely inside, the armed men turned round and fired a volley which stopped the advance of the rebels. Then, making a rush, Archie and his companions leaped over the palisades, the whole garrison at the same moment opening fire on the advancing enemy, who, having failed in their object of cutting off the watering party, took to their heels.

None of the rebel blacks were killed, though some apparently were hit, but not one of the garrison was hurt. This was the chief event of the day. Enough water to last them four and twenty hours at least was obtained, and Archie proposed getting some more at night, when it could be done with less risk. Food, however, began to grow scarce; the fresh meat and fowls had become uneatable, and much anxiety was felt as to the means of obtaining more provisions. The kitchen garden and the yam grounds, being at the foot of the hill, were in possession of the rebels. Of course the garrison was put on an allowance both of food and water, the ladies setting the example to the rest. They now began to look out anxiously for relief. The news of the insurrection must have reached Kingston and the other large towns where soldiers were quartered; and of course troops, with the militia and even the maroons, who it was hoped would prove loyal, would at once be despatched to disperse the rebels. Should Major Malcolm not have reached Walton, but have made his way to Montego, he would there, it was supposed, take command of some of the garrison of the fort and the militia, who mustered in pretty strong numbers, and would quickly return.

The day was drawing towards its close. The blacks had made no movement, nor could any friends be seen approaching from the west. The planter and his overseer and Archie made frequent visits to the roof of the house, whence they could obtain the most extensive view, and Archie, who was the last to go up, watched the sun sinking into the west and darkness come on without having any satisfactory intelligence to give on his return, he felt more out of spirits than he had ever before done in his life. Not on his own account, however, for he wished that the blacks would attack the house, as he was ready to fight to the death, and felt confident that they would be driven off. He was sincerely attached to Mr Twigg's family, and he thought of the two young ladies— especially of Ellen, to whom he had lost his heart—and dreaded the hardships to which they all might be exposed; indeed, he could not conceal from himself that they might be in still more terrible danger than at present. Lieutenant Belt, who had wisely taken some hours' sleep, rose refreshed and ready for the work before him. He forthwith went round among the men, urging them to be on the alert, and telling them that he fully believed the blacks would make an attack before long.

"Don't be daunted by their shrieks and cries, my men," he said. "Depend upon it, they will not stand before a few well-aimed volleys from your muskets. Don't fire till you get them well in view, and then aim at their bodies. 'Let every bullet have its billet,' and I will answer for it we shall beat them off."

The men answered with a cheerful "Ay, sir."

Still the rebels hung back. Perhaps they guessed that the garrison were in want of provisions, and had wisely determined to starve them out. Their proceedings were evidently conducted by chiefs who well understood the art of savage warfare. Midnight arrived; the faint moon, though it had lasted longer than on the previous night, had disappeared. Archie proposed again leading out a party to obtain water, and he was on the point of starting, when one of the sentries cried out, "The enemy are coming!" The warning was repeated by others, and a black mass could be seen stealing up the hill, the men bending low in the hope of escaping discovery till they had got close up to the fortifications.

"Don't let them know that we see them," whispered the lieutenant, as he went round to the men; "the effect will be the greater when they receive our fire."

The little garrison stood to their arms.

Onward marched the insurgents, moving up the hill like a dark wave rolling slowly forward. They could be clearly distinguished, all bending low to the ground, as they crossed the more open places exposed to the bright moonlight. On and on they came, but still not a sign was shown by the garrison that they were perceived. They must have known, however, that they could not get close up to the fortifications without being discovered. Suddenly, at a signal from their leaders, up they rose to a man, uttering the most terrific shrieks and howls, and, rushing forward, fired their muskets. Thick as hail the bullets came rattling against the palisades and the upper portions of the house, some chipping off splinters from the tops of the timbers, others sticking in the wood, others penetrating through the interstices. None of the garrison, however, were killed, but several were slightly wounded, though not in a way to compel them to leave their posts.

"Now, give it the rascals!" cried the lieutenant, as the blacks were within a dozen yards of the palisades. Every man fired, and many of the blacks were seen struggling back or falling to the ground. Their companions, excited to fury by the rum they had obtained from some of the plundered estates, sprang forward without noticing them, shouting and shrieking and throwing themselves desperately against the chevaux-de-frise, forgetting the hedge of prickly-pear which had been entwined amidst it. With cries of dismay as the sharp points pierced their legs and wounded their hands, they fell back in spite of the efforts of their chiefs to urge them on, thus giving the garrison time to reload.

"Now fire at them, my lads, and the day is ours," cried the lieutenant. His men obeyed the order, and once more the negroes rushed away helter-skelter, nor would listen to the entreaties of their leaders to stop till they reached the bottom of the hill. "I think we have done for them this time," exclaimed Lieutenant Belt, in a tone of exultation. The same opinion was expressed by most of the garrison.

"There are some desperate fellows among them, or they would not have come on in the way they have already done," observed the overseer.

Many of the slaves had lately been imported from Africa, and were likely to pursue their native mode of fighting, which, it was too probable, would enable them to obtain that success which they had hitherto failed to gain. A short time passed away, during which the blacks maintained a perfect silence. It was hoped by many within the house that they were about to retreat, when lights were seen suddenly to burst forth along the whole line, and gradually to approach. It appeared at first as if a dark wall was rising out of the valley, but this shortly resolved itself into huge faggots carried at the end of poles. Between every two or three of the faggots was seen a torch, too evidently for the purpose of kindling the wood.

"Good heavens! they are going to try and set our fortifications on fire, and the house also, I fear, if they can," exclaimed Mr Twigg.

"And they will succeed too, I am afraid," said the overseer gloomily. "I was sure they had some accursed trick in contemplation."

"What do you advise, Lieutenant Belt?" asked Mr Ferris, who remained more collected than any one else.

"We must make a sortie and drive them back before they reach our lines," answered the lieutenant. "I will lead it myself, and I am sure I shall not want followers."

Archie was the first volunteer, and nearly a dozen more white men immediately sprang forward. Not a moment was to be lost.

"Come on, my lads," cried the lieutenant. "We must make our sortie by the outlet leading to the well. We will then get round and attack them on the flank; and, remember, the remainder of the garrison must keep up a hot fire as they come on at the rest of the line, aiming at the black fellows' bodies, not at their faggots, which they will hold before them as shields."

Saying this, he led out his brave band of followers, Archie keeping close to him. They had got within sixty yards or so from the blacks before they were perceived, when, firing their muskets—the garrison, meantime, not neglecting their duty, but blazing rapidly away—they drew their cutlasses and threw themselves fiercely on the enemy. So little did the negroes appear to expect the attack that they threw down their bundles of wood, to which their torches, let drop at the same time, set fire, and retreated in confusion. As they ran off, they encountered another well-armed party of their friends, who were coming up the hill, either to support them or to attempt carrying the fortification by assault during the confusion they expected the blazing stockades would produce. On seeing the white men before them, they fired a volley. Instead of running away, however, they still advanced boldly up the hill.

"Load, my lads, and meet them bravely," cried the lieutenant—"you have time for it—but do not retreat, or we are lost." As he spoke, Archie, who was near him, heard the thud of a bullet, and had just time to catch the brave young officer in his arms before he fell.

"We must not let these savages get hold of him," exclaimed Archie to his companions, taking the lieutenant up on his back. "You keep the enemy in check, and I will carry him to the house."

He instantly did as he proposed, the blacks shouting and shrieking after him as he ran, but not daring to advance farther, while the rest of the party, loading and firing as they retreated—the garrison at the same time redoubling their fire—kept the enemy in check, and Archie succeeded in bringing in the wounded officer. The intention of the blacks was thus frustrated; for, though most of the faggots were blazing away, they were at a safe distance from the house.

The lieutenant was carried into a room and laid on a bed, where Mrs Twigg and Martha immediately came and examined his wound. It was in the shoulder, and though the sudden pain had made him drop, as far as they could judge, it did not appear to be serious. He soon recovered after taking a stimulant. He begged them to bind up his shoulder that he might go forth and resume his command. The operation was soon performed, and as he again appeared he was received with warm congratulations. The other people who had been hurt had also gone in to have their wounds dressed. Happily none had been killed, notwithstanding the number of bullets fired at them.

Every one now believed that the blacks would abandon their enterprise, but, though foiled so frequently, no signs could be perceived of their retreating. They had managed to carry off those of their number who had been killed, and were now bewailing their loss in African fashion, with shrieks and cries which came up sounding mournfully from the valley below.

"I think we have given the rebels a lesson, and need no longer fear an attack," observed Mr Ferris.

"We must not make too sure yet," said the overseer. "Had we only island-born blacks to deal with, the case would be different; but there are a lot of Coromantees, the most savage of the African people, who are at the bottom of all this, and they will fight like tiger-cats as long as life remains in them. They won't be satisfied, if they can have their will, till they burn us and the house in a heap. They will try it again, or I am much mistaken."

The events which have just been described occupied but a few short minutes. The blazing faggots went out without setting fire to the plantations, of which there was imminent risk, and all was again quiet. Even the blacks had ceased shrieking and howling. Though the garrison had hitherto been successful, if they were to hold out for a protracted siege more water and food must be procured, and again Archie Sandys volunteered to obtain both. By taking due precautions he was able to lead a party down to the well, and to get back without being discovered by the rebels. In another direction, and rather further from the house, was a plantation of yams. A few basketfuls would afford subsistence to all the party for a day or more. Of course, rather than starve, they must kill one of the horses which were tethered at the back of the house within the lines. The companions of Archie's previous expedition volunteered to accompany him, but he considered it more prudent to take only the blacks, who might dig up the roots and carry them in, while he stood sentinel to warn them to fly should they be discovered.

"You're a brave fellow," said Lieutenant Belt, "and I wish you success, but I tell you I think your expedition a hazardous one."

"Nothing worth having is to be obtained without trouble," answered Archie. "I have a good pair of legs, and can jump a fence with any one. The food must be procured, and I will get it if I can; only, should I be pursued, cover me with your fire, but take care none of our people shoot me or any of my companions."

Saying this, Archie set out, followed by his six blacks, carrying baskets and spades. He had his cutlass by his side, a brace of pistols in his belt, and his musket in his hand. As there was ample shelter down to the yam ground, the lieutenant hoped that his friend would not be discovered. One thing was very certain, that, should the enemy come upon them, the slaves would scamper away in all directions, and very likely make their escape.

Before Archie set out, every man had been stationed at his post, to be ready for the rebels should they approach. They stood anxiously waiting his return. At length one of the slaves appeared, loaded with a basket of yams; a second and a third followed, and they repelled that Massa Sandys had made them fill one basket at a time, and had sent them off so as at all events to secure some. They were looking out for a fourth man, when two people were seen rushing up the hill without baskets on their heads. A third followed, but scarcely was he visible, when a shot was heard and he dropped to the ground.

"We must go and rescue Mr Sandys," cried the lieutenant; "he must have fallen into the hands of the rebels."

"If so, the poor fellow is dead by this time," said the overseer.

The report of the two blacks who now came tended to confirm this latter opinion. A party of negroes had suddenly sprung out from a neighbouring cover as they had just got their baskets on their heads to come away, when, throwing down their loads, they had made off, though the hindermost had been nearly caught; and it was more than probable that Mr Sandys, who was stopping to cover their retreat, had been unable to escape. This was the saddest event which had hitherto occurred, and all sincerely grieved for his loss.



Major Malcolm, influenced by the admiration he felt for Fanny Pemberton—if a deeper feeling had not already inspired him—had set out from Bellevue for the purpose of warning her family of the danger to which they were exposed, and, if he found it necessary, remaining to assist in their defence. He had intended, immediately he could do so, to ride on to Montego, to bring up such forces as he could collect, and to disperse the rebels wherever they could be found; but from the information his companions gained as they rode along, that large bands of rebels were already in arms in the intermediate country, he feared that he should be unable to force his way through them unless with a stronger party than he now had with him. He was acting according to his judgment for the best. He certainly could, not leave his friends at Bellevue without as soon as possible sending them assistance, while most of his present companions were bound to go on to Walton with young Pemberton. As they pushed forward as fast as their horses could go, they frequently caught sight of negroes, three and four together, who invariably ran away from them. A few old men and women in a great state of alarm were, however, found in the villages. They said that the younger men had run off to hide themselves, asserting that they were afraid of the rebels. But it seemed doubtful whether such was the case, or whether they had gone to join them. Jack Pemberton, who acted as guide, now told the major that they were approaching Walton Hall, and pointed out a house situated on an eminence, the ground sloping round it. On one side, up which the road led to the front door, the ascent was more gradual than on the others.

"I am in great hopes, sir, that the rebel negroes, notwithstanding what we heard, have not got here yet," said Jack Pemberton. "If they have we must look out for them, for they cannot be far off, and we shall see them as soon as we have passed this wood."

He led the way to the left round a grove of tall trees, when, in an open space which intervened between the wood and the foot of the hill on which the house stood, a large body of blacks were seen marshalling their forces, evidently preparing to attack the place. The party of horsemen were soon discovered, and the negroes, three or four hundred in number at least, faced about, and seeing a few white men, with their usual shrieks and shouts advanced to attack them.

"Now, my friends," exclaimed the major calmly, "we must cut our way through these fellows. Trust to your swords, keep close together, and follow me. Forward!" and putting spurs to his horse, he dashed on. In another minute he was up to the black mass; and striking right and left with his sword, he quickly cleared a broad way for his companions, who, following close at his heels, had scarcely to use their weapons. A few shots only were fired at them, as the band apparently had but a small supply of muskets or pistols. The trooper brought up the rear, and as he saw the blacks attempting to close on him, quickly again drove them back.

"On! on!" shouted the major, "make your horses breast the hill, and we shall soon be under shelter."

Before the negroes had recovered from their astonishment the whole party were up the hill, and the doors being thrown open by those within, who saw their approach, they forced the horses up the broad steps into the house. Here they were of course heartily welcomed by the planter and his family.

His first question was for his daughter. "We have had dreadful reports about Bellevue, that it was about to be attacked by the whole army of insurgents; and I was on the point of setting off to assist our friends, when those fellows down there made their appearance," said Mr Pemberton, a portly, handsome-looking man with a bald head.

The major replied that he had done his best to place the house in a state of defence, and, as no enemy had appeared, that he had come at the request of Miss Pemberton to the relief of Walton, which it was also reported was to be attacked.

"I am afraid, however, as the rebels have favoured us with a visit, that the rumour with regard to Bellevue is also likely to prove true," said Mr Pemberton, after warmly expressing his gratitude to Major Malcolm. "But with your assistance we can easily beat off our assailants. The house has stout walls, and we have, as you see, barricaded the windows and doors. We are amply provisioned, and have a supply of ammunition, so that we can hold out during a long siege should the insurgents venture to remain in our neighbourhood, which is not, I think, likely. But perhaps, major, as a soldier, you will think fit to look round the house, and see if we have left any weak points unguarded."

"Very willingly," was the answer; and the planter led his visitor through the building.

The front of the house was well fortified, but when they arrived at the back premises Major Malcolm pointed out more than one place through which a subtle enemy might easily find an entrance during the hours of darkness.

"See," he observed, "they might make their way along under the shelter of that wall and reach this window and door, which might easily be forced with a few strokes of a roughly constructed battering-ram. I don't know if these negroes have sense to use such an engine of war, but the knaves with whom I had to do in India would very certainly have made the attempt."

The place pointed out was accordingly more strongly barricaded, and the major suggested a few other improvements.

"I feel satisfied," he said at length, "that you are perfectly secure as long as your provisions and ammunition hold out. My only regret is that Miss Pemberton did not accompany us. She was more anxious about you than about herself, as we fully believed that Bellevue was sufficiently well fortified to resist any attack the rebels are likely to make against it."

The worthy planter was much pleased with Major Malcolm, and especially grateful to him for coming to his assistance and bringing back his son.

Of course a watch was kept on the movements of the rebels, sentinels being stationed on the roof at each side of the house to give due notice of their nearer reproach. They showed no disposition to attack it during the daytime. It was naturally expected, however, that they would do so at night, should they entertain any hope of success. It was difficult otherwise to account for their remaining in the neighbourhood.

Major Malcolm expressed his wish to continue his journey, and Mr Hayward was anxious to accompany him, that they might carry out their intention of collecting all the available military and militia for the purpose of attacking the rebels wherever they could be met with. Mr Pemberton, as might be supposed, was desirous of retaining them.

"My dear sir," he observed, "it is a very different thing to cut your way up to a fortress in the gallant style you did, and to force a road through an enemy on leaving it. In the one case, you at once gain shelter, and in the other are open to the pursuit of the foe. Your party, too, will be diminished, and you may be surrounded by overwhelming numbers, in contending with whom the most determined bravery will not avail."

Major Malcolm saw the force of this reasoning, and agreed to remain till the following morning. Besides the book-keepers, overseers, drivers, and other free persons employed on the estate who formed the garrison of the house, there were several guests, planters and their families, from the neighbouring small properties, who had come to Walton for protection, knowing that they could not hold out should they be attacked in their own houses. They all brought rumours of the massacre of numerous families of whites. On still more distant estates one or two like Mr Hayward had narrowly escaped with their lives. Notwithstanding this, when they all assembled round Mr Pemberton's hospitable board, few of them looked like people who had been exposed to fearful danger, and were at any moment liable to have to fight with a savage foe. Some of them, it is true, uttered threats of bitter vengeance on the heads of the villainous slaves, as they called the blacks; but they passed the bottle freely, and talked, and even laughed, as if nothing special was happening.

Major Malcolm was surprised at their apparent indifference to danger.

"Carpe diem is my motto," observed a jovial, bald-headed gentleman, who sat next to him. "It does not do to think too much of to-morrow. 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.' Of course our pockets will suffer, but the rebellion will be quickly put down, and all things will come right in the end."

"I only hope so," observed the major; but he thought to himself, "If you were to treat your slaves justly, and do your utmost to instruct them, there would be less fear of outbreaks for the future." He did not say this aloud, however, for he saw that his neighbour was not in a mood to listen calmly to such a remark.

Major Malcolm was more pleased with the lady of the house than with any of her guests. He had a good deal of conversation with her, the most interesting subject being her daughter, of whom she was justly proud, and she expatiated on her perfections with all a mother's fondness. He won the good opinion both of his host and hostess, who begged that he would again favour them with a visit on the first opportunity, when they hoped that the country would be restored to peace.

The evening passed away quietly. So little was an attack expected that some of the guests proposed retiring to their rooms.

"You will run the risk, my friends, of being roused up in an unpleasant manner," said their host in a warning voice; "the very silence of the rebels is, I suspect, ominous of their evil intentions."

Major Malcolm agreed with him, and advised that a vigilant watch should be kept, offering to take command of the fortress. Jack begged that he might be allowed to act as his aide-de-camp. Like a good officer as he was, the major made frequent rounds of the house, seeing that the sentries kept a good look-out, and again examining every portion of the building to assure himself that no point remained unguarded through which an enemy might force his way. He went also, occasionally, on the roof, whence he could command an extensive view over the country. On each occasion he turned his glance especially in the direction of Bellevue, though he discovered nothing to cause him anxiety. He was about to descend, when, as he looked down into the valley, it appeared to him that a number of dark objects were creeping up the hill. He watched them till he was convinced that they were men.

Slowly and cautiously they came along. He had no longer any doubt that the house was about to be attacked. He hurried down and, going from room to room, warned the defenders to be prepared, while he sent Jack Pemberton to other parts of the building. As he looked out through a loophole on the side which the rebels were approaching, he saw that several carried ladders, and others bundles of firewood, though, for fear of betraying themselves, they had no lighted torches.

"Mr Pemberton," he said to his young aide-de-camp, "tell the people to aim at the fellows with the ladders, and not to trouble themselves about the others—they can do no harm. The moment a man touches a ladder, shoot him down. Say those are my orders—they must be obeyed."

The importance of the advice was soon evident. The insurgents, knowing that they must be discovered, now rushed forward, uttering fierce shrieks and yells. As they did so they lifted up the ladders with the intention of placing them against the walls, their object being evidently to throw the brands on the roof and set it in flames. Without waiting for further orders, the defenders fired, and every man carrying a ladder was shot down. Others took their places, most of whom shared the same fate; but one succeeded in fixing his ladder, a dozen others following fast at his heels, and instantly began to ascend.

Scarcely, however, had the first got half-way up, carrying a torch in his hand, than a shot struck him. He fell headlong among his companions. Another, notwithstanding, made the attempt, followed by a third; but they both met with the same fate, being exposed to the aim of the two best marksmen in the fortress, the rest of the assailants in the mean time firing away, aiming at the loopholes and roof. As few of them had before handled muskets, their bullets flew wide of the mark, while the garrison kept pouring down a continual fire among them. Even more experienced troops might have retired before such a reception.

The blacks showed the most desperate courage, and it was some time before they discovered that their attempt was hopeless. A few of them, indeed, again endeavoured to place the ladders against the wall, but as all of those who did so were shot, the rest, finding that so many of their companions had fallen, were seized with a panic and began to rush down the hill. The braver fellows among them lifted the slain and wounded, and, in spite of the bullets which flew about their ears, carried them off.

"If all the insurgents behave as these rascals have done it will be no easy task to subdue them," observed Major Malcolm to his host.

Not a single person in the house had been injured, but they could not help acknowledging that the case would have been very different had they met the insurgents in the open field, for it would have been no easy task to drive back a host of savages who displayed the desperate courage their assailants had done, as Major Malcolm was afterwards to find.

No one expected that another attack would be made during the night, but of course a watch was kept as before, though many of the gentlemen threw themselves on the cane sofas and chairs, or went to sleep on the ground overcome with fatigue.

The next morning, when daylight enabled them to discern objects at a distance, not a black could be seen. Jack Pemberton and several other young men, on this, volunteered to go out and ascertain if the rebels had really retreated. They had been gone for some time, and fears began to be entertained that they had been cut off. However, they at length were seen coming up the hill. They gave the satisfactory report that not a black was to be discovered in the neighbourhood. "In what direction have they gone?" asked Major Malcolm. They had not thought of making any observations on the subject. "Then I must beg you and a few of your friends to accompany me that we may ascertain the point," he said. Jack would go with the greatest pleasure.

They set out, and in a short time Major Malcolm expressed his opinion that they had gone northward, in the direction of Bellevue. He returned to the house and begged Mr Pemberton to allow him to take as many volunteers as he could obtain, that he might push his way on to Montego, to gather as large a force as could be collected, in order to attack the rebels without delay. Mr Hayward assured him that it would be hopeless to gain assistance in any other direction, as from certain information he had obtained the whole of the intermediate country was in a state of rebellion. Jack was very eager to go, but this his father would not allow. Six other young men, for whom horses could be provided, volunteered, and they, with the major's servant and Mr Hayward's follower, made up a party of ten.

After a hurried breakfast they set off, and were seen from the house galloping rapidly to the westward.

The remainder of the day passed off quietly. Not a negro was seen moving about in the neighbourhood of the house, and, except that here and there blackened patches showed that the cane-fields had been visited by the ruthless bands of the insurgents, there were no signs visible of the fearful rebellion raging throughout the country. Mr Pemberton, however, had become very anxious to obtain news from Bellevue, for although Major Malcolm had assured him that the house was well fortified, he was alarmed at hearing that the blacks who had so fiercely assaulted Walton had gone off in that direction. Bellevue, from its position and the character of the house, was less capable of offering an effectual resistance to a determined attack than Walton, and should the rebel slaves have resolved on its destruction, he dreaded lest they might by persevering attacks accomplish their object.

On going to the roof of the house he could see, both to the northward and eastward, dense columns of smoke ascending to the blue sky—too clear evidence that the insurgents had possession of the country, and were burning the plantations and residences of the settlers. Several of his guests thus witnessed the destruction of their homes and property, while they gave vent to their bitter feelings by uttering threats of vengeance, though they had ample cause to be thankful that they had escaped with their lives.

Proposals were made by the more daring to sally forth and disperse the rebels, but the greater number thought it wiser to remain in a place of safety. Mr Pemberton himself was unwilling to leave the house without defenders, lest some fresh bands, discovering that it was unguarded, might visit it during his absence.

No news had come from Bellevue, and at length his son Jack and three other men volunteered to make their way very cautiously in that direction and ascertain the state of affairs. If the rebel slaves were attacking the house, or were in the neighbourhood, so that they could not approach it without the risk of being cut off, they were to return; but if not, they had leave to go on and visit their friends, and report that all had gone well at Walton.

"Remember, my lads, you are to be cautious and not expose yourselves to the risk of losing your lives by getting between the savages and the road by which you can retreat to this house. Discretion, in this case, is the better part of valour. By the time you return we may perhaps have obtained further assistance, and we will then, if Bellevue is really besieged, do our best to go to the relief of our friends. The slaves are, I suspect, especially bent on revenging themselves on Thompson, the overseer, who is looked upon by them as a hard man and a severe taskmaster, though our friend Twigg thinks well of him, and is satisfied with his management of the estate. A slave who has become one of their leaders—Cudjoe, I am told by our people, is his name—was flogged some time back by Thompson, and the savage has ever since threatened to revenge himself on the overseer. This makes me fear that they will persevere longer than under other circumstances they might have done, but if our friends at Bellevue can hold out it will be an advantage, by occupying the slaves who would otherwise have been roaming through the country and devastating other estates. You may, Jack, if you have an opportunity, warn Thompson to beware of Cudjoe when the rest of the slaves have been again brought under subjection, for the savage is not likely to forego his desire of vengeance, even should the overseer escape at this time."

These remarks were made while Jack was preparing for his expedition. He promised strictly to obey his father's directions.

He and his friends, well armed, forthwith set out. They were all spirited young men, who had been educated in England, but had been long enough in the country to be well acquainted with its ways, and had also been accustomed to field sports. They were thus admirably suited for the task they had undertaken. Well aware of the danger they were running, they advanced cautiously, keeping as much as possible under cover of the hedges and trees, and looking out well ahead that they might not suddenly come upon the enemy. They had wisely agreed to keep shoulder to shoulder, or back to back, as the case might be, should they be attacked, and being stout-hearted and confident in the use of their weapons, they had little doubt that they should be able to beat back any number of assailants.

The sun struck down with tremendous force in the open places they had to pass, but they were lightly clad, with thick straw hats on their heads, and none of them cared much for the heat. When passing across the open country they pushed on rapidly, but moved forward more leisurely in the shade. As they avoided the villages, they met no one. The whole country indeed had, it seemed, suddenly become a desert. They wished to avoid falling in with any slaves who might give notice to the rebels of their whereabouts, and also had resolved not to rely on any reports they might hear, but to trust only to their own observations.

It took them nearly two hours, from the circuitous route they followed, to reach the neighbourhood of Bellevue. They now proceeded more cautiously. All seemed quiet. No shots were heard, and they began to hope that they should reach their friends without difficulty.

"We must not trust to appearances, however," observed Jack. "The rebels may possibly be investing the house, and, judging from our own experience, they may yet not venture to attack it in the daytime. You lie down under these bushes while I creep forward, as from the top of this rise I shall get a sight of Bellevue, and be able to ascertain more accurately the state of affairs."

Saying this, while his companions followed his advice, Jack made his way to the top of the hill, bending low, that should any of the enemy be posted in the intermediate valley, he might run less risk of being seen. At length the house came in view. All seemed quiet around it, but he was still not perfectly satisfied. He advanced a little further towards a bush, through the branches of which he could see into the valley without exposing himself. As he bent aside the boughs with the barrel of his musket to look through them more easily, he caught sight of a number of black heads moving here and there some five or six hundred yards below him. There could be no doubt that they were rebels, and that they were, after their fashion, laying siege to the house.

Presently he saw a party issue from the stockades, and he thought even at that distance he could recognise Archie Sandys. The leaders were white men, and were followed by several blacks with buckets on their heads. He at once divined their object. For some time, apparently, they were not discovered by the rebels, but presently one of the latter, doing duty as a sentinel in advance of the rest, saw what was taking place. He giving notice to the others, a number of them started forth, and, dashing up the hill, began firing away at the white men. Jack witnessed the gallant way in which Archie defended his followers, and had the satisfaction of seeing them regain their fortifications without any of them apparently being wounded.

While this scene was being enacted, as the rebels' eyes were turned toward the house, he was able, without much risk, to creep forward and get a more complete view of their position.

"We should not have the slightest chance of getting in, that's very certain," he said to himself; "but if we remain here, we shall run a great risk of being caught." And, not without some fear that he might be seen by the blacks, who now covered the opposite hill, he hurried back to his friends.

They agreed with him that the sooner they were off the better, but that if they could collect a sufficient force of white men and trustworthy mulattoes, they might without difficulty out their way through the undisciplined band of savages, with some prospect also of putting them to flight.

"In my opinion, if they are attacked in a determined way, they will very quickly take to their heels," said Jack.

Their return occupied a shorter time than they had before taken, for, as they cared less for being seen, they were able to follow the highroad. On their way, about a mile distant from Walton, they passed through a village which appeared to be entirely deserted. Looking into one of the huts, however, they saw a boy of about twelve years old sitting on the ground, crying and looking very miserable.

"What is the matter?" asked Jack, who recognised him as the son of one of the Walton slaves.

"Me out in de fields, and when come back find fader gone, me not know where, but s'pose rebels take him away to kill him, for dey kill eberybody else who not get off and hide," answered the boy, who was evidently an unusually intelligent little fellow.

"Well, Quashie," said Jack, who was kind-hearted as well as brave, "you had better come along with us, and we will take care of you till father comes back—as I hope he will. Where is your mother?"

"Mother lib wid Massa Twigg—she call Martha," he answered.

"Oh, then I know her. She nurses the children. All right, Quashie. Cheer up; you shall have something to eat as soon as we get back," said Jack.

Quashie started up, and accompanied the young gentleman without further questioning.

Glad as Mr Pemberton was to get his son and young friends back again, he was made very anxious on hearing of the state of affairs at Bellevue.

"The rebels are evidently bent on taking the place, and from the desperate character I hear of Cudjoe, I fear that he will not give up the enterprise as long as he has a hope of success," said Mr Pemberton.

The matter was talked over by himself and the other planters. Before any desperate enterprise was undertaken to afford relief to their friends, it was important to ascertain how much they required it.

"I will try what can be done by means of Quashie, the boy Jack just now brought in," said Mr Pemberton. "He would make his way where a man would fail; and as his mother is a slave of the Twiggs, he can, I should think, be trusted, for I will let him understand she will be benefited as well as her master and mistress."

"A good idea, perhaps. Not that I fancy these slaves have any natural affection," observed one of the party.

"I do not agree with you there, my friend," observed Mr Pemberton. "Both fathers and mothers are very fond of their children in their way; and I will answer for it that Quashie will manage to carry any message we may send, and bring back an answer safely."

Quashie being called, he without hesitation undertook to do what was required of him. He begged only that he might take his own time and mode of proceeding, and grinned when some one remarked that he might be caught by the rebels.

"Me git in and me come back, neber fear," he answered.

The only question was how to send a note. Mrs Pemberton proposed writing what was necessary, and, the paper being rolled up tightly and covered with black stuff, to conceal it among his thick crop of woolly hair. "Were he caught, the rebels might search him thoroughly and not discover it in the way that I will manage," she said.

Quashie was perfectly content with the proposal, and was evidently proud of the confidence placed in him. He confessed that he had heard of the intended outbreak, and had given his mother the information which she had sent to her master and mistress.

Quashie, having had a good supper, declared that he should be ready to set out that night if required; but as it was hoped that during the next day a plan might be organised more effectually to help their friends than could be then done, it was agreed that it would be better to wait till the following evening. From Jack's report they were at present, at all events, in no distress, and were likely to hold out against any attack.

Another night went by, and the next morning Jack and his companions expressed their wish to set off again to ascertain how their friends at Bellevue were getting on; but Mr Pemberton would not allow them to go. The risk, he said, was far too great for the advantage to be obtained. They could render no assistance, and would run a great chance of falling into the hands of the rebels and being put to death. In the course of the day, he hoped that Major Malcolm, with some troops, or at all events a body of militia, would appear, and that their first task would be to attack the rebels besieging Bellevue and relieve their friends. In that case, it would not be safe to leave Walton without a garrison, as the fugitives, if they found it unguarded as they made their way to the mountains, would to a certainty in revenge destroy it. "We must wait patiently till the evening, and then Quashie shall go and bring us word what they are about," he added. He spoke with more confidence perhaps than he felt, yet on one point he had made up his mind, that he would not allow his son to run the risk of losing his life.

The day drew drearily on. The feelings of the ruined inmates of the mansion can better be imagined than described. Their friends slaughtered, their crops and houses destroyed, and their slaves (the most valuable part of their possessions) in revolt, and, if not killed, possibly never again to be reclaimed—what the future had in store for them no one could say. The more confident asserted that the rebellion would quickly be quelled, but others thought that the slaves, joined by the maroons and other free coloured and black people, might overrun the country, and compel all the whites who might escape slaughter to quit it for ever.

Mr Pemberton laughed at such a notion. "Depend on it, as soon as the troops and militia can be collected, the slaves will fly from them as chaff before the wind, or will, if they resist, to a man be cut to pieces," he observed. "It will be a bad look-out for us, I confess, for we shall become bankrupt; but our estates will remain, and we must procure fresh labourers from other countries, Irish or Germans, who would stand the climate almost as well as blacks, and do twice as much work."

Though the worthy planter talked and went about trying to keep up the spirits of others, he felt his own sinking when darkness came on, and no troops appeared.

Quashie was sent for, and Mrs Pemberton secured the note, done up, as proposed, in his woolly head. She had written it at her husband's dictation, in a small, delicate hand, so that it occupied little more space than a quill.

It mentioned Major Malcolm's arrival, the attack and defence of the house, the flight of the rebels, the fact that the major had gone to collect troops who might be expected every hour, Jack's visit to the neighbourhood of Bellevue, and his having witnessed Archie's expedition to obtain water. "We conclude," it continued, "that you are well able to hold out; but if not, send us word, and, should the military fail to arrive, we will make an expedition to your relief, and will advise you to sally forth and cut your way through the savages. They will not for a moment stand our united attack, and there will be but little or no danger in the undertaking. We cannot leave Walton unprotected, but we can muster twenty well-armed men. Be prepared, and directly you see our signal—a flag flying on the top of the hill—dash out of the house, with the women and children in your centre. Should the rebels threaten to attack you, we will charge down upon them; if not, we will be ready to protect your retreat, and keep the savages at bay till you have got to a safe distance. I propose this in the possibility of your not having a sufficient store of provisions, or being unable to obtain water to stand a long siege. We have an ample supply of food for several weeks. Our love to Fanny. We were much pleased with Major Malcolm, who appears to be greatly struck by her."

Quashie evidently felt the importance of the message confided to him, and was proportionately proud.

"Neber fear, massa, I git into de house and out again, and no one see me," he said, strutting about after the note had been concealed in the top of his woolly pate. "Look here, massa, you no see it now, or neber anybody else till moder get it."

"Well, then, away you go, my boy, and a dollar shall be yours when you come back," said Mr Pemberton.

"Ki! dat's good," exclaimed Quashie, eager to be off.

The planter took him down to a back-door, by which he let him out that he might creep away, lest any prowling foe might be watching the house; not that there was much risk of that, or Jack and his friends would not have performed their expedition so securely.

Quashie ran on along the well-accustomed road till he got near his own village, when, taking off the few clothes he wore, he did them up in a bundle and stowed them away in the hollow of a tree to be ready for his return, leaving only a piece of black stuff round his waist, with which Mrs Pemberton had supplied him at his request. The sharpest of eyes only could have detected Quashie as he crept along under the hedges: he felt confident there was very little risk of his being discovered. Few of his age could outstrip Quashie, and making good use of his legs, he got over the ground in a third of the time Jack Pemberton had taken to accomplish the distance. He now moved more cautiously, stopping to listen every now and then for the sound of voices which might warn him of the whereabouts of the rebels.

At first he began to fancy that they must have decamped. Creeping down the hill, he suddenly found himself close to a group of men lying stretched on the ground fast asleep, while as he peered over a bush he observed others in the same position. He stole silently back, making his way to the left at a cautious distance from the besieging force, if they could be dignified by such a title. Presently, again he drew near, looking out for some opening in their line through which he might make his way, but they appeared to have extended themselves so as completely to encircle the house. Again and again he got up close to the line; still he was not to be daunted. He had undertaken to get through them, and he intended by some means or other to do so. Suddenly he heard a shot, followed by several others. The blacks close to him started to their feet, and hurried off in the direction from whence the shot came.

Now was his opportunity. He darted forward down the hill, springing up the opposite declivity like a hunted hare, at the same time keeping his body almost bent to the ground; and before he was perceived, he was close to the chevaux-de-frise. In vain, however, he endeavoured to find his way through it. The garrison were too much occupied with what was going forward on the other side of the house to observe him; indeed, his small, black, lithe body could scarcely have been perceived. He ran on like a mouse, looking for a hole through which to escape, and considering whether he should not cry out for assistance and ask to be taken in. At last he got to an opening, and in he darted, just as two men rushed up from the lower ground, no one in the darkness perceiving him. As soon as the men were in the inside, several persons filled up the gap, and he made his way undiscovered within the palisades and through the door of the house.

The first person he met was Martha, who had come out to learn what was going forward. Their delight was mutual. Tears streamed from the eyes of his mother as she pressed him to her heart. The planter who had lately expressed an opposite opinion would have acknowledged that the slaves, degraded as they were, were capable of human affection.

His errand was soon told, and Martha, proud of his performance, took him to her master, who was naturally very much surprised at seeing him.

"I bring message from Massa Pemberton," he said.

"Where is it?" asked Mr Twigg.

"Here, massa," answered Quashie, presenting his woolly pate. "You take it out, please."

Martha, however, performed the operation; and the note being eagerly read, a consultation was held on its contents, which considerably raised the spirits of the besieged party, lowered as they had been by the loss of Archie Sandys.

None of them, however, were disposed to attempt cutting their way through the rebels. Lieutenant Belt was almost disabled—for though, in spite of much suffering, he still continued the command in the fortress, he could not use his sword—while the gallant young Scotchman was lost to them. Mr Ferris was willing to make the attempt if others wished it, but he feared the risk to which the ladies would be exposed; and it was finally determined to hold out till the arrival of the troops.

"The small quantity of yams we have secured will not last us long," observed Mr Twigg, "and we must remember that we are threatened with starvation, as well as with another attack from the savages."

"We have food sufficient for another day," remarked Lieutenant Belt; "before the end of that time, relief may be sent to us."

"But should it not come, what then are we to do?" inquired Mr Ferris.

"Act as our friend Pemberton suggests," said Mr Twigg. "To-morrow evening, as soon as it is dark, we will send off Quashie. We must take care in the mean time that the rebels do not see him, or they will know that by some means or other he got in, and will be on the watch for him. We may depend on Pemberton's carrying out his plan, and I should advise that the attempt be made in the night-time."

Quashie was rather disappointed at finding that he was not to set off at once, as he was eager to get his dollar. His mother consoled him by assuring him that he would be allowed to go the following night, and Mr Twigg made him perfectly happy by at once giving him a dollar, so that he would become the possessor of two dollars, should he accomplish his return journey.

The garrison were not allowed to rest in quiet. The blacks, growing impatient, made several attempts to surprise them, but, in consequence of the severe punishment they had received, were more wary than at first. Each time, on finding that they were discovered, they retreated so rapidly that few, if any, of them were shot.

Morning at length arrived; the blacks had retreated to their cover, and, except that a few shots were at times wantonly fired from a distance at the house, the day went on as the previous ones had done. Much as they wanted food, it would be evidently a dangerous undertaking to attempt procuring it from the yam ground.

The arrival of Major Malcolm was eagerly looked for, but in vain, and it was resolved to send Quashie off at dark, with an account of their now truly desperate condition. He was confident of being able as before to get through the enemy's lines.

In accordance with Mr Pemberton's suggestion, it was resolved in the mean time to get up a flagstaff at the top of the house, with a flag hoisted half-mast high as a signal of their distressed condition. This would hasten the arrival of friends to their relief, should any be in the neighbourhood. It would not, however, prevent the necessity of sending off Quashie to urge that aid might at once be despatched. Fortunately a long pole, which Mr Twigg had intended to put up for that purpose on a neighbouring height, had been brought to the house to be prepared by the carpenter. It was at once carried indoors, and, the lower end being fixed in a beam of the ceiling of the upper story, was run through the trap which led to the roof. Here, under the direction of Mr Ferris, who had some nautical knowledge, it was stayed up by ropes to the corners of the house, halliards having previously been rove through the sheave at its summit. The difficulty was to obtain a flag. None was to be found, till Mrs Twigg remarked that she and the young ladies had some light dresses which would answer the purpose.

"Let us have them at once, then," exclaimed Mr Twigg eagerly; "there is no time to be lost."

Ellen and Fanny, hurrying to their room, quickly returned with a couple of cambric dresses, such as are generally worn in that warm climate. Before they had time to take their scissors and cut them open as they had intended, Mr Twigg seized them, and hurried with them up to the roof, where Mr Ferris was superintending the erection of the flagstaff.

"Here they are," exclaimed Mr Twigg. "Run them up at once; they will tell our tale better than any more perfect flag."

Mr Ferris, with a ball of rope yarn in his hand, fastened the dresses forthwith to the halliards by the skirts, allowing the full sleeves to blow out.

"There!" he exclaimed, with a touch of his native wit. "Faith, they will show that there are ladies in distress, and if there is any gallantry in the heart of the islanders, we shall soon have them running a race to our assistance."

The dresses thus hoisted flew out to a brisk breeze which blew from the eastward. Just then several shots were heard, and two or three bullets fell on the roof, which, though spent, warned those on it that should the marksmen approach somewhat nearer their position would become dangerous. Mr Ferris, therefore, calling his assistants down, they all quickly got under shelter.

Notwithstanding the signal flying from the roof, the day passed without any one coming to their relief. Their provisions were almost exhausted, and affairs were becoming serious. Another consultation was held, when it was determined to beg Mr Pemberton to come as he proposed, the garrison undertaking to attempt cutting their way through the rebels, and abandoning the house to destruction. A note to that effect was accordingly written, and secured, as the former one had been, in Quashie's woolly head. About an hour after sundown he crept out at the back of the house, and the instant after was lost to sight. Even his mother felt no fear for his safety, and every one believed that he would make his way without difficulty back to Walton.

After he had gone the enemy recommenced their system of annoyance, coming up under cover and firing at the house. Though the garrison aimed in return at the points from which the flashes of the rebels' muskets were seen, the latter so rapidly retreated that it was supposed none of them were hit. Nothing could be more trying. Sometimes for several minutes together they would remain quiet, when suddenly a shower of shot would come pattering against the walls. The enemy would then again retreat, and single shots would be fired, now from one point, now from another; then again another shower would come, as if the enemy had made a general advance.

"Let them fire away as much as they like," observed Lieutenant Belt, laughing. "I only wish they would fire much oftener at so safe a distance, as they must thus at last expend their powder."

Still those unaccustomed to warfare could not fail to experience uncomfortable sensations as the bullets in rapid succession struck the walls, although as yet they had done but little damage, five of the people only, besides Lieutenant Belt, having been slightly wounded in their shoulders or faces. At length the rebels appeared to have grown tired of that style of amusement, and perfect silence reigned around the house.

Towards morning, when most of the little garrison were lying down, worn out with constant alarms and watching, the cry was raised that the blacks were again coming on; and they were seen rushing up the hill, carrying not only faggots but ladders, evidently intending to attack the house as they had done at Walton, and to set both it and the stockades on fire. Should they succeed, nothing could save the lives of the inmates.

The shrieks and yells uttered by the blacks for the purpose of intimidating the garrison were certainly terrific, and even the gallant lieutenant began to fear that all the efforts made to resist them would be in vain. On inquiry, too, he found that the ammunition was running short, a large proportion having been expended during that and the previous night. Still undaunted, he went round among the people, inspiring others with his own cool courage.

"We have more serious work than hitherto, my friends," he said; "but if we are true to ourselves, we shall beat the enemy as before. Never mind though they burn the chevaux-de-frise, they will not venture through the flames, depend on that; and if we fail to put out the fire, we must retreat into the house. As I told you before, do not throw a shot away. Here they come."

As he spoke, the savages carrying the faggots rushed forward with the intention of casting them over the outer line against the stockades. Many, however, were shot down before they succeeded in doing this; others were killed or wounded after they had thrown forward their loads. A number of men now advanced, carrying candlewood torches.

"Those fellows must be picked off," shouted the lieutenant.

In some cases the command was obeyed; but many of the blacks, now leaping on one side, now on the other, eluded the bullets aimed at them, and threw the burning brands amid the bundles of wood, which catching fire began to blaze up in all directions, the smoke almost concealing the combatants from each other. Whenever it lifted, however, the flames exposed the shrieking mass of blacks clearly to view, and many were shot down in the moment, as they supposed, of their triumphant success.

As Lieutenant Belt had expected, none of them ventured through the burning mass; but here and there the stockades were catching fire, and it appeared too probable that they would be burnt through and afford an ultimate ingress to the foe. The scene was indeed terrible to those standing in the narrow space within the stockades—the crackling of the burning wood, the lurid flames, the dense mass of smoke, and outside the shouting, shrieking savages eager to break through the defences and massacre all within.

Efforts were made to extinguish the fire, and had there been an ample supply of water, it might easily have been done, for it was only in spots where the flames blew against the woodwork that they produced any effect. Still the back and sides of the house were protected, and until the stockades were destroyed the besiegers could make no use of their ladders.

"I do not think we need fear them," said Lieutenant Belt. "We must watch narrowly where they are placed, and shoot down the people from the windows immediately they attempt to mount."

The blacks, as before, carried off their dead and wounded, and it was difficult to ascertain how much they had suffered. Already a good many had retreated, but others were seen coming up with more faggots, which they attempted to throw amid the already burning mass. By this time the whole house was surrounded by a hedge of flames, and Mr Twigg, who had exerted himself as much as any one, made his way up to the lieutenant, and advised that they should retreat into the house while the enemy were unable to follow them.

"Let us make another attempt to drive them off," was the answer. "They are afraid themselves of the flames they have kindled, and will not venture through them. Now, my lads, give them one more volley," he shouted, "and if I mistake not they will turn tail."

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