"The French are signaling sir," said Mr. Bracegirdle.
"Are they by Jove!" said Sir Edward keeping his back turned to the enemy frigate and studying the Spanish coastline through narrowed eyes.
"Yes Sir? said Horatio squaring his shoulders and readying his telescope.
"Kindly see what our Frog friends have to say."
"Aye Aye sir."
The entire ship was hushed as Horatio scanned the fluttering flags. It was a tense situation and the faces of both officers and men reflected this. The Indy had anchored in the bay while a party was sent ashore for fresh water. They had been unaware of the French ship in the next inlet. When Mr. Pipps had gone scampering over the headland in pursuit of a blue butterfly he had run into a group of mushroom gathering French sailors and been captured. Now the Frogs were standing off the mouth of the bay.
"If you wish to see your officer again you will throw your guns overboard." Horatio translated.
"Scoundrels!" barked Sir Edward, "Did you hear that Mr. Bracegirdle?"
"Yes sir I*"
"Send this Mr. Kennedy. 'Return my officer before sundown or will blow you out of water.'"
"What do they say Bricquebec?" said Captain Dubois
absently curling the feathers on his oversized hat.
" They say 'return my offal before Sunday or will bowl you out of water' mon capitaine."
"Phhht! These English and their cricket. What is it Renoir? Why are you limping?"
"It is the prisoner monsieur," complained the captain of marines "we cannot take his whistle."
"Zut! Signal the English 'your wicket is sticky, drown your guns'. Come Renoir, I will speak to this child myself."
"Sticky Wicket? Pathetic!" snapped Sir Edward. "No
reply at present. Let'em stew."
"Do you think we will get Mr. Pipps back?" Archie whispered nervously to Horatio.
"No doubt about it sir."
"But we're not doing anything."
"What is it now Renoir?"
"He refuses to take a nap monsieur, and he has a pea shooter. Three of my men are with the surgeon."
"Mon Dieu!" swore the Captain. "Send another signal!"
"What do they say Mr. Hornblower?"
"Sir, they say 'half your guns in exchange for the child'. They're weakening sir."
"No reply Mr. Hornblower."
"Who is crying?" demanded Captain Dubois.
"Your personal chef monsieur. It seems that the prisoner threw the food you sent him overboard. He also said your best Camembert was 'nasty and stinky' monsieur."
"Another signal sir. "Smallest guns or oldest guns
"Very good Mr. Hornblower. Not much longer now."
"Yes Renoir?" sighed Captain Dubois.
"He will not use our heads sir. He says they are not 'proper ones' because he cannot sit down. He is threatening to write to his mamma*"
A shriek from the captain cut him off.
"There's some movement sir. They're lowering a boat and
fending it off. Mr. Pipps is aboard sir."
"They're making sail sir. Should we fire on them?"
"No Mr. Hornblower. I think they've been rattled enough don't you?"