John Paul Jones: Man of Action

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI
The Battle in the Moonlight

From the sails the dew did drip -- Till clomb above the eastern bar The Horned Moon, with one bright star Within the nether tip.


I

THE ships came together very slowly, neither, in the gathering twilight, being yet certain of the other's nationality. On the men of the Bon Homme Richard fell a profound silence. Few of them had anything to gain by a battle, and no small part of them were Englishmen looking desolately across the six miles of blue water to "England, home and beauty."

The moon rose and in its light Jones called Richard Dale and Pierre Gerard, his French orderly, to his side. Through their telescopes they studied the big ship approaching on an opposite tack. About seven o'clock they made her out to be the British ship Serapis, forty-four guns, but actually carrying fifty. Her crew was smaller, but she threw a much superior weight of metal. She was a new ship; her yellow sides and brasses gleamed in the moonlight. The sound of her name ran swiftly from mouth to mouth of the Richard's crew. The Americans were not sure, says John Kilby, how her name should be pronounced. They knew nothing about the Egyptian goddesses for which the more classical English loved to name their ships.

"Look out, men," bawled a voice, "here comes the Sea Raper."

That broke the leaden spell of silence. A raucous chorus of

-148-

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