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Captain Brand of the “Centipede”

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Captain Brand of the “Centipede”
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Author(s): Harry Gringo (H. A. Wise)
Date Published: 2010/10
Page Count: 288
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-239-0
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-240-6

Bound for ‘Jamaicy’ under the Skull and Crossbones

C. S. Forester and his modern day acolytes have ensured that fictional tales of adventure on the high seas from the time of Nelson’s Navy and Napoleon Bonaparte’s Wars have remained almost uniquely popular to the present time—even through the now thankfully past wilderness years for the historic novel. Equally, tales of pirates plying their dastardly trade on the Spanish Main have a healthy pedigree and it would take someone who knows nothing of books not to have childhood memories of Long John Silver and that ever famous, ‘Treasure Island’ from the able pen of Robert Louis Stevenson. So for those for whom both of the above potentially tick the boxes for reading enjoyment, Leonaur is pleased to offer this rediscovered, mid-Victorian adventure of the imaginative events that centred on Captain Brand of the ‘Centipede.’ True to the style of the day this novel contains every element of adventure one could wish for in a wonderful tale of heroes and villains in conflict on the seas and oceans of the early nineteenth century. Available in softcover and hardcover with dust jacket.

The “Scourge” had by this time forged ahead of the brig, her sails aback or shivering, as she came up and fell off from the wind, and the boats dancing with full crews toward her. No sooner, however, had the presence of the unwelcome stranger been made known on board the brig than the pirates seemed seized with a panic, and, without a second thought, they scudded to leeward, where their boat had been hauled alongside, and forgetful or indifferent for the fate of their companions below, though dragging the while their maimed comrade to the rail, they lowered him into the boat, jumped in themselves, and pulled away with all their strength toward the schooner near. They were not, however, a moment too soon; for as the last of the band disappeared, their places were supplied by a crowd of nimble sailors to windward, headed by an officer with his sword between his teeth as he swung over the bulwarks. The first sound which greeted the new-comers was from below, and from the throat of the honest skipper. Down the open companion-way leaped the officer, with half a dozen stout, eager sailors at his heels, and dashed right into the lower cabin. There was the brave old skipper, with but one arm free, shielding himself and struggling—faint and well-nigh exhausted—from the knives of the drunken brace of rascals who had been left to guard him. A pistol in the hands of one of this pair was pointed with an unsteady aim at the officer as he entered, but the ball struck the empty rum-bottle on the table and flew wide of its mark; and before the smoke of the powder had cleared away, a sword and cutlass had passed through and through both their bodies, and they fell dead upon the cabin floor.<br>
While Captain Blunt found breath to give a rapid explanation of the trouble, and while the brig was once more got under control and the wounded cared for, we will take a look at the man-of-war and the part she bore in the business.<br>
At the first sound of the warning gun from the cruiser the schooner began to show life; and drawing her head sheets, she wore short round on her heel, with every thing ready to run up her fore and aft sails, and a stay-tackle likewise rove and hanging over the low gunwale to hook on to the boat and hoist it in the moment it came alongside. Meanwhile the “Scourge” had shot ahead of the brig, and wearing round her forefoot, with her starboard tacks on board, she emerged out beyond, like a hound just slipped from the leash. As she cleared the brig, the schooner lay with bare masts about three cables’ length to windward, and the rattle of oars told that her boat had just scraped alongside. At that moment a clear, determined voice shouted through the trumpet,<br>
“Level your guns! Take good aim! Fire!”<br>
A brilliant series of sheets of flame burst forth from the corvette’s battery, lighting up the water and jet black wales, and away aloft to the great towering maze of rigging and sails to the trucks, with the topmen clustering to windward, and their very eyes and teeth lit up in the glare; then, too, the crews of the guns, in their trim frocks and trousers; the marines on the top-gallant forecastle, with their firelocks and white cross-belts; and abaft a knot of officers on the poop, with night-glasses to their eyes, all standing out as clear as day in the sudden flashes from the cannon. Then followed the concussive roar, and the next instant you could hear the hurtling rush of the iron hail as it flew singly or in bunches through the air, or skipped in its deadly flight from wave to wave, until it went crashing into the pirate’s boat, slapping with heavy thumps against the schooner’s side, or furrowing along her decks; while a shower of white splinters flew high over her low rail, and told how well the iron had done its bidding. Then, with many a groan and imprecation, the shattered and sinking boat was cut adrift, and, a moment after, the sails of the vessel were spread, the sheets hauled flat aft, and, taking the breeze, she heeled over till her lee rail was all awash, and away she walked, right up to windward.<br>
But again came the clear, commanding tones on board the cruiser, mingled with the jumping of the crew and ramming home the charges in the guns: “Load! round shot! Run out! One point abaft the beam! Fire as you bring the schooner to bear!” <br>
Out belched the red flames; the heavy globes of iron, like so many black peas in daylight, sung their deadly note as they darted on their way, and the corvette gave a little heel to leeward as the shock of the explosion was felt. One shot dropped within fifty yards of the low hull of the schooner, bounded just clear of her after-deck, knocked off the head and shoulder of a man at the tiller, and then went skipping away over the water like a black foot-ball. Another messenger cut off the schooner’s delicate fore-top-mast as clean as a bit of glass, bringing down the gaff-top-sail, and, what was equally pleasant, the fellow who was setting it—pitching him over and over like a wheel, until he fell, a bruised and lifeless lump of jelly, on the oak bitts at the fore-mast. Before, however, they were treated to another of these metallic doses, the pirates had got their craft in splendid trim; and with every stitch of her canvas spread, and tugging and straining, she rushed on with the heels of a race-horse, within three points of the wind. The “Scourge,” too, was now close hauled, her yards braced as fine as needles, and crowded with every inch of sail that would draw; while every ten minutes or so she would let slip two or more guns from a division at the chase.