Humphrey Blunt had volunteered. As his cries split the air of the calm afternoon, that was the only consolation Lieutenant General Gates and Captain Yardley had.
Approaching Point Comfort in the pinnace Discovery, they had found the fort’s longboat broken free from its moorings. “Let me go after it,” Blunt had said. “I can take the little canoe and catch her, tie her line round my waist, and tow her back in a trice.” Small and agile, he had been a waterman on the Thames River when he was twelve.
Now the Indians had him.
A sudden and contrary wind had blown his canoe and the longboat against the sandy riverbank on the Nansemond side, and before he could push off, there was a wild, gleeful shouting from the woods, and nine Indians wearing the heads of bears and foxes ran out. Two of the tallest ones took Humphrey Blunt by the arms and dragged him out of the canoe. On the deck of the Discovery, Thomas Gates, George Yardley, and the rest of the men could do nothing but watch in horror.
Gates, his knuckles white on the hilt of his sword, cursed himself for letting Blunt go. There was nothing they could do now. By the time they could load and fire a round from the ship’s demi-culverins, poor Blunt would be dead and the Indians long gone.
“Shall I order the men to fire, sir?” Yardley asked.
“No. No point wasting powder and shot.” Gates pounded both first helplessly on the Discovery’s gunwale.
“Save it for later,” he said through his teeth.