Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/400

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ting go his broadside. The situation was ticklish in the extreme, but the narrative explains it quite calmly:


Captain Shelvocke then cut his cable, when the ship falling the wrong way, he could just clear the admiral; but there was a great damp cast on the spirits of his people, at seeing a ship mounting fifty-six guns, with four hundred and twenty men, opposed to the Speedwell which had only twenty then mounted, with seventy-three white men and eleven negroes. Some of them in coming off, were for leaping into the water and swimming ashore, which one actually did.


Drifting under the admiral's lee, the Speedwell was becalmed for an hour, while the powder-smoke obscured them both, the guns flamed, and the round shot splintered the oak timbers. Captain Shelvocke's ensign was shot away, and the Spanish sailors swarmed upon their high forecastle and cheered as they made ready to board; but another British ensign soared aloft, and then a breeze drew the privateer clear, and she bore for the open sea. Her rigging was mostly shot away, there was a cannon-ball in the mainmast, the stern had been shattered, guns were dismounted, and the launch had been blown to match-wood by the explosion of a pile of powder-bags; but she clapped on sail somehow and ran away from the Spanish flag-ship, which came lumbering out after her.