Books > Old Books > Mr Midshipman Hornblower (1950)


Page 144

CHAPTER SIX - THE FROGS AND THE LOBSTERS

feeble to meet with company volleys; at the word of command sections here and there gave fire to the more determined groups. Hornblower saw one man - an officer, judging by his gold lace - rein up before the bayonets and pull out a pistol. Before he could discharge it, half a dozen muskets went off together; the officer's face became a horrible bloody mask, and he and his horse fell together to the ground. Then all at once the cavalry wheeled off, like starlings over a field, and the march could be resumed.
`No discipline about these Frogs, not on either side,' said Edrington.
The march was headed for the sea, for the blessed shelter of the Indefatigable, but it seemed to Hornblower as if the pace was intolerably slow. The men were marching at the parade step, with agonizing deliberation, while all round them and far ahead of them the fugitive emigres poured in a broad stream, towards safety. Looking back, Hornblower saw the fields full of marching columns - hurrying swarms, rather - of Revolutionary infantry in hot pursuit of them.
`Once let men run, and you can't do anything else with them,' commented Edrington, following Hornblower's gaze.
Shouts and shots over to the flank caught their attention. Trotting over the fields, leaping wildly at the bumps, came a cart drawn by a lean horse. Someone in a seaman's frock and trousers was holding the reins; other seamen were visible over the sides firing muskets at the horsemen hovering about them. It was Bracegirdle with his dung cart; he might have lost his guns but he had saved his men. The pursuers dropped away as the cart neared the columns; Bracegirdle, standing up in the cart, caught sight of Hornblower on his horse and waved to him excitedly.
'Boadicea and her chariotl' he yelled.
`I'll thank you, sir!' shouted Edrington with lungs o brass, `to go on and prepare for our embarkation.'
`Aye aye, sir !'

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