The breeze was fresh, the cutter was always an excellent sailer, and in a very short space of time she was running down Long Reach with Erith and its adjacent shores out of sight, past the round of land where Dartford creek is to be found. Joe Westlake then called a council. Robins was at the tiller; Plum and Tuck came aft, and the four debated at the helm.
"I've heerd," said old Joe, "of this tailor afore. His name's Sloper. I've never larnt why he mounted them guns, or where the little rooting hog got his pluck from to fire 'em. But there can be no shadder of a doubt, mates, that his object in firing to-day was to insult that there flag."
He pointed with an immensely square forefinger to the masthead.
"Ne'er a shadder," said Plum.
"For why," continued old Joe, "did the smothered rag of a chap wait for us to come right abreast afore firing?"
"Ah! that's it, ye see," exclaimed Bob Robins. "There ye've hit it, Mr. Westlake."
"The little faggot's game," old Joe we