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Page 147

CHAPTER SIX - THE FROGS AND THE LOBSTERS

guarded one flank of the gap down to the beach while the other was guarded by a steep and inaccessible headland on whose summit a small block of redcoats established themselves. In the gap between the two points the remaining four companies formed a long line just sheltered by the crest of the beach.
The boats of the squadron were already loading with e±nigres among the small breakers below. Hornblower heard the crack of a single pistol-shot; he could guess that some officer down there was enforcing his orders in the only possible way to prevent the fear-driven men from pouring into the boats and swamping them. As if in answer came the roar of cannon on the other side. A battery of artillery had unlimbered just out of musket range and was firing at the British position, while all about it gathered the massed battalions of the Revolutionary infantry. The cannon balls howled close overhead.
`Let them fire away,' said Edrington. `The longer the better.'
The artillery could do little harm to the British in the fold of ground that protected them, and the Revolutionary commander must have realized that as well as the necessity for wasting no time. Over there the drums began to roll - a noise of indescribable menace - and then the columns surged forward. So close were they already that Hornblower could see the features of the officers in the lead, waving their hats and swords.
`43rd, make ready!' said Edrington, and the priming pans clicked as one. `Seven paces forward - march!'
One - two - three - seven paces, painstakingly taken, took the line to the little crest.
'Present! Fire!'
A volley nothing could withstand. The columns halted, swayed, received another smashing volley, and another, and fell back in ruin.
`Excellent!' said Edrington.

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