"But, Ready, did you not do wrong to steal the Hottentot's musket?"
"No, William; in that instance it could not be considered as a theft. We were in an enemy's country, trying to escape; we were therefore just as much at war with the country as we were when they took us prisoners, and we no more stole the musket than they could be said to have stolen our ship. Am I not right, Mr. Seagrave?"
"I believe you are justified in what may seem extreme acts for the recovery of your liberty, after you have been made prisoners. It has always been so considered."
"Well, sir, to go on: we waited till dusk, and then we continued our march towards False Bay as fast as we could. We knew that there were farmers down in the valley, or rather on the sides of the hills, and we hoped to obtain, by some means or other, two more muskets. It was near twelve o'clock at night, with a bright moon, when we had a sight of the water in False Bay, and soon afterwards we heard the baying of a large dog, and not far from us we distinguished two or three farmhouses, with their cattle-folds and orchards. We then looked for a hiding-place, where we might remain till the morning; we found one between some large pieces of rock. We agreed that one should watch while the other two slept; this Hastings undertook to do, as he was not inclined to sleep. At daylight he woke Romer and me, and we made our breakfast. From the place we were concealed in, we had a bird's-eye view of the farmhouse, and of what was going on.
"The farmhouse and buildings just below us were much smaller than the other two, which were more distant. We watched the people as they went about. In about an hour the Hottentots came out, and we perceived that they were yoking the oxen to the waggon; they yoked twelve pair, and then the Hottentot driver got in and drove off towards Cape Town. Soon after that, another Hottentot drove the cows up the valley to feed; and then a Dutch woman came out of the house with two children, and fed the poultry.
"We watched for another hour, and then the farmer himself made his appearance, with a pipe in his mouth, and sat down on a bench. When his pipe was out, he called to the house, and a Hottentot woman came to him with more tobacco and a light. During the whole of the day we did not see any other people about the house, so we concluded that there were no more than the farmer, his wife, the Hottentot woman, and two children. About two hours after noon the farmer went to the stable and led out his horse, mounted, mid rode away; we saw him speak to the Hottentot woman when he rode off, and she soon after went down the valley with a basket on her head, and a long knife in her hand. Then Hastings said it was time that we moved, for there was but one woman in the house, and we could easily overpower her and get what we wanted; still there was a great risk, as she might give the alarm, and we should have to escape in the day-time, and might be seen and taken prisoners again. However, as it was our only chance, we resolved to go down to the farmhouse very cautiously, and be all ready to seize any opportunity. We crept down the hill, and gained the fence, which was at the back of the farmhouse, without being discovered: we remained there for about a quarter of an hour, when, to our great joy, we observed the farmer's wife go out of the house, leading a child in each hand; apparently she was going to visit one of her neighbours, for she went in the direction of one of the other farms. As soon as she was a hundred yards off, Hastings crept softly through the fence, and entered the farmhouse by the back-door; he came out again, and made a sign for us to come in. We found him already in possession of a rifle and a musket, which had been hanging over the fire-place, and we soon handed down the powder-horns and ammunition pouches, which were hung up at a different part of the room, away from the fire-place.
"Having gained these, Hastings set me to watch at the front door, lest anybody should return, while Romer and he looked out for something else in the way of provisions. We got possession of three hams, and a large loaf of bread as big as a small washing-tub. With these articles we made our way safe back to our retreat. We then looked round, and could see nobody in any direction, so we presumed that we were not discovered. As there was a sort of ravine full of rocks dividing the hill, which we were obliged to pass before we could get into the valley, unless we went down close to the farmhouse, we agreed that it would be better at once to cross it during the day-time, so that we should get that difficulty over, and, at the same time, be further from the farmhouse. We did so; and found a very secure hiding-place, where we lay down, waiting for the sun to set before we started on our journey into the interior. I think I had better leave off now, William, as it is getting late."
The fishpond was commenced the next morning. Ready, Mr. Seagrave, and William went down together to the beach, and, after much examination, chose a spot about one hundred yards from the turtle-pond as most eligible for the purpose; the water being shallow, so that at the part farthest from the shore there would not be more than three feet.