which time the two fleets, estimating from the centre of each, were, about five miles apart, successive signals were made for the British van, centre, and rear, to engage the van, centre, and rear of the enemy.
Several of the French ships, as if M. Villaret expected an immediate attack, were observed to exchange places in the line ; and, although many of the heavy sailers among the British ships were a long way astern, a general action might probably have been brought on that evening. But the scene of confusion, that had occurred two days before, induced the British admiral to prefer a daylight contest, when there could be no difficulty in understanding the signals ; and he accordingly, at a few minutes past 7 p.m., hauled to the wind on the larboard tack, to put that plan into operation.
Considering it likely that the French admiral, in order to weather the British fleet on the opposite or starboard tack, would make sail after dark, Lord Howe ordered that every ship should carry commanding sail all night, and judiciously stationed the Phaëton and Latona frigates about a mile to leeward of his own fleet, for the purpose of watching the motions of that of M. Villaret ; to whom we shall now pay some attention, leaving Lord Howe to complete his arrangements for the awful business of the ensuing morn.
When the French admiral, in the battle of the 29th, wore round to support his rear, he was followed, as already stated, by every ship except the Montagnard : the latter stood on upon the larboard tack, and, keeping that course too long, parted company. The Seine frigate was sent to bring her back ; but neither ship, owing, we may suppose, to the foggy state of the weather, was able to rejoin the fleet. At 8 p.m. two ships, answering to the description of the Montagnard and Seine, were descried from the mast-heads of some of the British ships, at a great distance to windward, close hauled on the starboard tack, the French fleet then equally distant to leeward, and consequently out of sight of the former. At 8 h. 30 m. p.m. the 74-gun ship Trente-un-Mai, Captain Honoré Ganteaume, one of the Cancale squadron, joined Admiral Villaret ; as, on the following day, did Rear-admiral Nielly, with the Sans-Pareil, Trajan, and Téméraire, formerly mentioned.* M. Villaret took this opportunity of sending home the crippled ship Indomptable, attended, as it would appear, by the Mont-Blanc 74, to see her safe into port.
The French admiral was thus left with 26 sail of the line ; and M. Villaret had certainly no reason to feel less confident in his strength from what he had witnessed at the last meeting. Nor was the bringing to of the British fleet, on the evening of the 31st, calculated to inspire the French officers and crews with any higher opinion of their adversaries. The French officers,
* See p. 127.
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