As long as the mistico could keep well to windward, and out of gun-shot, from the closeness with which she could lay to the wind, and her fast sailing, she might carry off her prey, if such was her object, even before the eyes of those on board the English ship, without their being able to employ any means to prevent her so doing.
"Ah, the rascals know what they are about," said the master, as he watched the Greek vessel through his glass. "She is one of those piratical craft belonging to the nest of scoundrels on the island there, depend upon it; and they were trying to get hold of the boat, or to run her down, which they are just as likely to do as not, and then they'll be off again in the wind's eye, like a shot, before we can get up to them, and snug inside their rocks."
"I suspect you are right, master," said Saltwell. "And I cannot help thinking, also, that the boat has some of our friends on board. Would to Heaven the breeze would veer a few more points to the southward, and enable us to lay up to her before the mistico reaches her."
"I don't see what more we can do to go along faster," said the master. "Our canvas never stood better, nor did the brig ever make more way through the water with the same wind."
"The mistico draws very fast on the boat, and, by Jove, the villains are firing at her," exclaimed Saltwell, who had been again eagerly watching the chase through his glass. "Still she bravely holds her own. Oh, there's no doubt of her having our friends on board. See that the guns are ready, and cover her as soon as we get near enough; but we must take care not to hit the boat instead of the mistico."
The boat was now about two miles off, and the mistico threes. The former had only a sort of lug set; and, as well as could be seen at that distance, there was but the one person on board, who steered. If there were any others, they had wisely stowed themselves away at the bottom of the boat, to be more out of the reach of the enemy's shot. The breeze, though fresh, was not too strong to permit of her carrying her whole sail, and she flew rapidly before it; but the mistico went still faster, and, as Bill Hawkins, the captain of the fore-top, observed—
"The little one looks for all the world like a small bird trying to escape from a hawk just ready to pounce down on it, and I hope we shall just come in to play the big eagle, and save her out of its claws."
"She's the very same craft as we chased into harbour this blessed night, I shouldn't wonder," remarked Tom Derrick, who had been one of the cutter's crew. "It would be a real pleasure to get hold of her, to string up every one of the villains at the yard-arm, for wounding poor Mr Linton; I should be sorry, indeed, if he was to lose the number of his mess."
"So should I, old ship, and if ever we get an opportunity, won't we just pay off the murdering rascals for what they have done," said Hawkins. "My eyes, look there, how the big one is peppering the little chap; one would think she hadn't a whole plank left in her, and yet she stands on as bravely as if there warn't such a thing as a round-shot within a hundred miles of her."
Such was truly the case; the shot from the long guns of the mistico must have flown close over her, and on either side; and, probably, several had gone through her sail, but seemingly none had touched her hull. The Ione had now opened the mistico free of the boat to the northward.
"Stand by with the foremost starboard gun," cried Mr Saltwell, as they did so. This was a long nine of brass, while the other guns were carronades. "Fire!"
The gunner, who considered himself a first-rate marksman, pointed the gun, and the shot going well clear of the boat, struck the mistico on the quarter, and those who were watching her with their glasses declared that they could see the splinters flying from her. Still, so eager was she in the pursuit, that she would not haul her wind, seemingly determined not to do so till she had sunk the chase. This there appeared every chance that she would do, for she had now got awfully near her, and it was surprising that her small-arm men had not contrived to pick off the helmsman, when the boat would, of course, have broached to, and have been her own. Mr Saltwell again gave the order to fire as fast as the gun could be loaded and run out, but the skill of Mr Black did not shine so brilliantly as at the first attempt he made, though they went near enough to show the pirates what they were to expect if they persisted in their attempt.
"Have the larboard gun ready there. Hands about ship," cried the first lieutenant.
Bound came the brig, and the gun was let fly. The shot struck the mistico amidships, tearing away her gunnel, and creating the greatest confusion on board, if not destruction of life. She found that, in her eagerness, she had gone rather too far, and putting down her helm, she gave a last revengeful broadside at her tiny chase, as she hauled her wind, and away she stood on a bowline towards the island.
No sooner had she done so, than up sprung a figure in the stern sheets of the boat; and waving a cap round in his hand, seemed to be giving a cheer of derision. The incautious action was returned by the pirates with a discharge of their swivel guns, and a shower of musketry, and he dropped into the bottom of the boat.
"Poor fellow! the villains have killed him," exclaimed Mr Saltwell.
"Yes, sir; and I'm sorry to say I think from the figure it is Jack Raby. It is just the thing he would do, too," said Tompion, whose glass had been fixed on the boat at the time. "No—hurrah! the boat is standing on steadily with some one at the helm."
"Thank Heaven! so she is," exclaimed Saltwell. "Be ready there to heave the ship to, to let the boat come alongside."
In five minutes more the brig was close up to the boat, and, to the surprise of all, the person in the stern sheets, who had been so long visible, was found to be a stuffed figure, covered with a capote, and a Greek cap on the top of it, while the head of Jack Raby was seen cautiously peering above the gunnel. He very soon brought the boat alongside, when a couple of hands jumped in to assist him.
"What, Raby, my good fellow, who have you there?" exclaimed the master, who was standing at the gangway with several of the midshipmen, eager to welcome their messmate.
"I am sorry to say it is the captain, who is very badly hurt; but I was glad to get him off at any rate, for we've had a narrow escape of our lives," replied Raby, from the boat.
This announcement was received with an expression of grief from all on board. Saltwell, on hearing it, sprang to the gangway, to superintend the transfer of the captain to the deck, which was managed by lowering his own cot into the boat, and hoisting him up in it. He was somewhat revived, though he was scarcely sensible of what was occurring; and when he was carried below, all waited anxiously to hear the surgeon's report. In this anxiety about getting the captain on board, the mistico was for the time entirely forgotten; and when at last Saltwell thought of her, and ordered the foretop-sail to be again filled in chase, she had got so far to windward as to be again almost out of gun-shot. A few guns were fired after her, but the shot did not succeed in cutting away any of her spars or rigging, and she drew so fast ahead, that it was seen to be useless following her further.
The brig's helm was accordingly put up, and she stood away to the southward, towing after her Raby's boat, which was kept in case she should be required for a future occasion.
Everybody now crowded round Jack Raby, to learn from him all the events which had taken place; but Mr Saltwell summoned him, and made him go circumstantially over them to him, and he afterwards had to repeat them to all his messmates, and to the surgeon and purser, who had not heard them.
As the reader is already well acquainted with most of them, I need only commence when he began his account of his successful escape from the bay, in which it appeared that he was assisted by no other person than Paolo Montifalcone.
"You must know," he said, "that while the young Italian doctor was dressing the wounds, a fire broke out on the hill, above the bay, and the whole population rushed off to see the fire. No sooner was the coast clear, than Paolo, as they called him, said to me—
"'Now would be your time to escape, if you had anybody with you to manage a boat.'
"Of course, I told him that I could do that perfectly well by myself.
"'Well then,' he replied, 'Hasten down to the beach, you will there find a small boat which we passed on our way here. She has a sail in her, and oars, and if you are quick about it, you may get out of the harbour and join your friends before you are missed; and if you remain, you will be knocked on the head and thrown over the cliff, to a certainty.'
"'You don't mean to say that you expect me to run away and leave my captain to die hereby himself,' I exclaimed, ready to knock him down, for I saw that he was in earnest in his proposal, though the idea had only just occurred to him. 'A pretty blackguard I shall be, indeed.'
"'But I tell you he cannot live, and you will be sacrificed if you remain,' he argued.
"'I tell you what it is, Signor Paolo,' I replied; 'a midshipman's life is not reckoned of much value at the best, and I am not going to do a dirty action to save mine, I can tell you. I'm much obliged to you for what you have done, and for your good intentions; but if the captain is to die, why it will be a consolation to him to die under the British flag, on board his own ship, and if you will lend me a hand to carry him down to the boat, why I can just as easy escape with him on board as by myself. I'll trouble you also for some of your physic, and some lint and bandages, to doctor him with, and I hope he may yet do well.'
"The Italian was silent for a few moments, when a sudden thought seemed to strike him, and he replied that he would do as I wished, though he warned me of the risk to which I was exposing the captain's life by so doing; but as he had just told me he would die on shore, I did not listen to him—in fact, I had no great confidence in the honesty of Signor Paolo. There was something in his eye, as he looked at the captain, which I did not like, and besides, I should like to know how any respectable man came to be herding with such a set of cut-throat rascals. I accordingly went outside the hut, to see how the coast lay, and I found that all was silent round us, for every man, woman, and child had gone up to the fire; and had it not been for the glare of the conflagration, the night would have been pitchy dark; so, lifting the captain up in a cloak on which he had been laid, Paolo taking the head and I the feet, we bore him, as well as we were able, down to the boat, though I was afraid every moment of letting him fall, and hurting him; indeed, nothing but the anxiety I felt would have enabled me to succeed. At length we reached the boat, and placing the captain at the bottom, I again thanked the Italian for the service he had rendered us; indeed, after all, I was afraid I was wronging him by my suspicions. Then, with a lighter heart than I had felt for some hours, I got him to assist me in shoving the boat off the beach, and with the impetus he had given her I let her drift out into the harbour. I then, as silently as I could, paddled round by the west shore, keeping clear of the brig and the two misticoes, for the one which chased us had just come in; but I had not much fear of any of them, for I knew that the few hands left on board them would be looking up at the fire, and would not observe me: though, had any one turned, they might have done so, for the bright glare from the flames fell on the boat, and would have showed her distinctly, even right across the bay. Anxious as I was to get out of the harbour, I was afraid of pulling hard, lest any one should hear the splash of the oars; and so near was I to the vessels, that every instant I expected that the alarm would be given, and that a shot would be sent right into the boat. Fortunately, no one saw me, and it was indeed a pleasant moment to me, when finding the chain lowered, I rounded the west side of the harbour, and pulled fairly out to sea. I had not hitherto been perceived; but still it was necessary to be very cautious, for, of course, I thought the pirates would be keeping a lookout, lest any of our boats might again attempt to approach the harbour, so I pulled on as hard as I could, for I no longer feared making a noise, till my arms ached so much that I could pull no longer. I then laid in my oars, and though I fancied I could still hear the voice of the people on shore, I was so far to westward that I did not think the light would be reflected on the sail, even were I to set it. I therefore stepped the mast, not without some difficulty—fortunately, the sea was smooth, or I could not have done it at all—and got the sail ready for hoisting. Before doing so, I stooped down to examine how the captain was going on, and tried to place him in a somewhat more comfortable position. His heart seemed to beat regularly, and though he was still unconscious, from the wound in his head, he did not seem to have any fever about him. This raised my spirits, and I began to hope for the best. I did not much like to give him any of Signor Paolo's doctor stuff, for at the best I have not much faith in it, and I have heard that those Italian chaps are much given to poisonous practices, so I hove it overboard, to be out of the way, and then hoisted my sail, and went aft to the helm. The breeze was still from the eastward, and I thought by keeping dead before it, I should make the island, where I expected to find you brought up. I considered that the boat was going about three knots an hour through the water; and when I had been out, as I calculated, about that time, I heard three guns fired, somewhere from the island, or near it. This did not give me any concern, and I steered steadily on, wishing for daylight, that I might see the island or you, in case you were off here, till at last, just as it came, and I was looking astern to see it, the first streaks had appeared in the sky, I beheld, to my dismay, a sail, which I was certain must be one of the pirate misticoes, running right down for me. Well, thought I to myself, it's all up with the captain and me; but never say die, while there's a shot in the locker, so I held on my course. It was not long, however, before my eyes fell on your topsails, rising out of the sea, and glad enough I was, you may be sure, when you made sail and stood towards me, for then I knew that I was seen. The rascally mistico was overhauling me fast, though, and as I feared she would get me within range of her guns before you could reach me, I thought I would give them something to shoot at instead of my head, so I rigged up a figure with a capote and cap, which I found in the boat, and stuck it up in the stern, and there fitting some lines on to the tiller, I made a berth for myself at the bottom of the boat to stow myself away in, as soon as they began to fire. It's lucky I did so, for if I had had nine lives, like a cat, I should have lost them all; and what would have been worse, the captain would have been retaken. My eyes, how the blackguards peppered at me; but you know all about that, and now, to my mind, the sooner we set to work to pay them off, and to get Miss Garden out of their hands, the better."
This account was given by Jack Raby in his berth to his messmates, that narrated to the first lieutenant was more concise, without his own remarks on the subjects; for instance, he left out how often he had kissed Marianna—and how often he had tried to learn Romaic of little Mila, and made love on the strength of it—though, to his messmates, he enlarged much on these points, and hinted that he had completely won the heart of the old pirate's granddaughter, whom he described as a perfect angel in a red cap.
It was with almost a cheer of joy, and many a sincere thanksgiving to Heaven, and a glistening of many a manly eye, that, some days afterwards, the news flew along the decks that the surgeon had positively declared that the captain was out of danger, and would soon again be fit for duty.
Mr Linton had, notwithstanding his own prognostications, very much improved; and, though still confined to his berth, there was every probability of his soon recovering.
The Ypsilante had in the mean time been dispatched to summon any British ships she could meet, to the assistance of Captain Fleetwood; who, to strengthen his claim for their cooperation—for, as a junior officer, of course he could not order them to come to him—sent by her an account of the atrocities committed by the Sea Hawk; and a statement that an English lady and her attendant were held in durance vile by the pirates, which he justly calculated would excite all the chivalric feelings of his brother-captains, for which the British navy are so justly celebrated.
He, meantime, cruised in the neighbourhood of the island, in the hope, should she attempt to make her escape, of falling in with and capturing the Sea Hawk.
CHAPTER THIRTY SIX.
Captain Fleetwood once more trod the deck of the Ione; and though his cheek was pale, and his step had not regained its usual firmness, nor his voice its strength, his health was almost re-established, and grief, more than any other cause, prevented him from entirely recovering. Linton had also returned to his duty, and had produced several poetical effusions on the subject of the fate he had anticipated for himself, productions which he threatened to inflict on his brother-officers; but, as they earnestly entreated him to keep them fresh for those who could better appreciate them, he locked the papers up again in his desk—the purser, however, who did not intend to pay him a compliment at the expense of the rest, assuring him that it would be like casting pearls before swine.
The officers had just come up on deck from breakfast, and the captain was pacing the poop with his first-lieutenant by his side, the sea was smooth, with a light air from the westward, and the brig, under her topsails, was standing to the northward—in which direction lay the pirates' island, appearing in the distant horizon like a blue hillock rising out of the water.
"Sail, ho!" was the welcome sound which reached the deck from the mast-head.
The usual question of "Where away?" was put by Mr Saltwell, in return.
"On the larboard quarter, sir," was the answer.
"What does she look like?"
"A ship right before the wind, sir."
"I trust she is a friend come to our assistance," said Captain Fleetwood. "We'll stand down to meet her. Put the ship about, Mr Saltwell."
The brig having tacked, now stood under the same easy sail as before, to the southward, so as to cut off the stranger; a bright look-out being still kept astern, lest the Sea Hawk, or either of her tenders, should appear on the northern board.
It may easily be supposed how anxiously Captain Fleetwood had been expecting the arrival of some other cruiser to assist him in making the attack he contemplated on the island. Had he consulted his own inclinations, he would, as soon as he was able to grasp his sword, have attempted the exploit with his own ship's company, whom he well knew would be ready to follow him; but he was unwilling to risk the lives of his gallant fellows on so very hazardous an expedition—especially after the sad lesson he had lately experienced—and the suffering, if not the destruction, to which he had subjected his brave companions.
Were he to make the attack and fail, he also thought the result would be too dreadful to contemplate; so he curbed his impatience as he was best able, till he could collect a sufficient force to enable him to undertake it with a certainty of success. He tried also to console himself with the hopes that the Signora Nina and her brother would protect Ada to the utmost of their power. Raby, wisely, had not told him his suspicions of Paolo—and, of course, he was ignorant of the events which had occurred in the island after he had been carried off, or he would certainly have been even less at his ease than he endeavoured to make himself.
"What do you make her out to be?" he inquired of Mr Saltwell, who had just descended from aloft, with his spy-glass over his shoulder.
"English, I think, sir. I could see to the head of her courses, and, I should not be surprised, from the look of her canvas, that she is the Vesta frigate, which was to be cruising somewhere off the Gulf of Egina."
"I trust she may be. Captain Grantham is an old friend of mine, and I know that if he received my letter he would come, if he possibly could; and welcome he will be; for, though the Vesta is but an eight-and-twenty, we may do without further aid."
Sail after sail of the stranger rose out of the blue water, till a towering mass of snow-white canvas floated above it, shining brilliantly in the rays of the forenoon sun, which fell directly on it. At last, the dark hull and bow ports, and even the thin line of glowing copper below the bends, could be perceived, and little doubt remained of the identity of the ship in sight; though, from her position, her signals could not be perceived. Had it been war time, the Ione would not have allowed a ship, so far her superior in size, to approach, without greater caution in ascertaining her nation; but, as it was, there was no danger of her proving an enemy, and, at the worst, she could be but a neutral.
While the matter was still in doubt, another sail was seen astern of her, standing in the same direction; and, in a little time afterwards, the frigate took in her studden sails, clewed up her courses, and bracing up her yards, rounded to, when the Vesta's number blew out clearly to view.
The brig, now close to her, also backed her main topsail, when the captain's gig was piped away, and Fleetwood, with a heart less depressed than he had long felt, went on board the frigate.
He was warmly received by Captain Grantham, who exclaimed, "I am delighted to see you, Fleetwood. From the accounts we received we thought it was all up with you; and I came more with the hope of avenging you, than of seeing you alive; but now you shall have that satisfaction yourself. By Jove! we must blow up the hornet's nest without delay. When did you propose to make the attempt?"
"The very moment a sufficient force was collected," replied Fleetwood, highly gratified at his friend's zeal.
"Well, what do you say to this very night?" asked Grantham. "There is the Venus coming up after me, and your Greek friend cannot be far off. I am afraid she is not likely to meet any other ship of the squadron; but we are enough, as it is, to drive every one of the rascals into the sea."
"To-night, by all means," exclaimed Fleetwood. "I could not have hoped for anything better. We shall have a sufficient force to ensure success; and as there is no moon till a late hour, we shall have less risk of discovery before we are upon them."
"Then to-night let it be; and I suppose there's no use insisting on your remaining on board, on account of your illness, and letting Rawson, of the Venus, lead the attack," said Captain Grantham. "He is a gallant fellow, and will do it well."
"I trust, Grantham, that you will give the command of the expedition to me. I shall, indeed esteem it a most especial favour if you will do so," pleaded Fleetwood. "I would, on no account, if I can help it, lose that post."
"Well, I suppose, under the circumstances of the case, we must persuade Rawson to keep the ship, though, indeed, Fleetwood, I do not think you are yet strong enough for the exertion you must go through."
"I have a Hercules of a coxswain, and I must make him carry me, if my legs fail me," said Fleetwood, smiling sadly. "But you know, Grantham, I have motives enough to carry me through anything."
"Yes, indeed, I know, and feel for you. I suppose the fellows will show fight."
"Not a doubt of it, from the specimen we have had of them. They know that they have no mercy to expect at our hands, and that they fight with ropes round their necks."
"We must give them enough of it, then; but I suppose, with the force we have collected, we shall have no great difficulty in forcing our way into the harbour I understand they have got there, though it seems to be well fortified."
"We should be blown to atoms if we attempted it in the boats," said Fleetwood. "You have no idea how strong the place is."
"How, in the name of goodness, are we to get at them, then?" exclaimed Captain Grantham, who was more celebrated for his dash at an enemy, when once he saw him, than for originating any plan where stratagem was required. "But let me hear what you propose to do."
"I have, as you may suppose, thought much on the subject, so I may claim for it more attention than I might otherwise venture to do," said Fleetwood. "I would on no account attempt to enter the harbour; but there is at the east end of the island a small cove, with an entrance so narrow that one boat can alone pass at a time."
He spoke of the one into which the Greek captain had steered the mistico, all the circumstances of which he explained.
"Now, I propose," he continued, "that the three English ships should stand towards the place, as soon as it is dark, and there is no chance of our being seen from the shore, while the Ypsilante I will employ in another way. We will bring up close in shore, and have all the boats ready to drop into the water, at the same moment. I will lead in the Tone's cutter, and, with my men, will mount by the concealed passage, and secure the approach to the summit of the cliff. When this important point is gained, the other boats can enter; and Raby, who knows the passage, will lead the main body through it. We will then proceed, as silently as we can, to the causeway, across which we must make a dash, and, I hope, may take the pirates by surprise. I would send the Ypsilante, meantime, to approach the harbour; and when we reach the causeway, we will throw up a rocket, and she must commence a feigned attack on the mouth of the harbour, blazing away as hard as she can. This will distract the attention of the pirates, and make them fancy that they have most to fear from their enemies on that side. As soon as she opens her fire, we will rush on; and as the Greeks will have hurried to the defences of the fort towards the harbour, I hope that we may have an easy victory."
"I like your plan very much, and it has my hearty concurrence, as I have no doubt it will have Rawson's," said Captain Grantham. "We shall soon have him up with us, and when he comes on board you can explain your proposal. The Venus should be near us by this time." He rang his bell, and the steward appeared. "Mason, learn from the officer of the watch how soon the Venus will be up with us, and beg him to signalise her captain to come on board."
"She's close to us now, sir," said Mason, as he went to fulfil the rest of the order.
In about a quarter of an hour, Captain Rawson was ushered into the cabin. He was a short, fat man, with a large, round, red, good-natured countenance, and if he was a fire-eater, as he had the character of being, he certainly did not look like one, except it might be supposed that the ruddy hue on his cheeks could have arisen from that cause. He shook the hands of his brother-captains, as if he would have wrung them off, and then threw himself into a chair to recover from his exertions; but, when he began to speak, instead of the rough voice one might have expected, a soft, mellifluous tone was heard, which might better win a woman's ear than vie with the howling of the tempest. He at once waived all the right he might claim to lead the attack on the island, and cordially agreed to the plan proposed by Captain Fleetwood.
"In fact," he said, laughing, "there is no great credit due to me, Fleetwood; for I would much rather fight a ship twice the size of my own with the deck under my feet, than have to scramble up such a place as you describe, on a pitch-dark night, to thrash a few scoundrels of pirates."
"If I don't mistake, you tried the first, and with no little success," observed Grantham.
"Oh, yes! that was when I was first lieutenant of the Pan, eighteen-gun sloop, and the captain being ill below, we fell in with the French thirty-gun frigate, Liberte, and instead of her taking us, as she expected, we not only beat her off, but gave her such a drubbing, that if we had carried as long guns as she did, we should have made her our prize. But I'm afraid, Grantham, neither you nor I will see any more of that fun. Well, we've had a good deal of it in our day, and have no right to complain."
The friends, in talking over the adventures of the past, would very likely have forgotten what Fleetwood considered the much more important present, when they were interrupted by the entrance of a midshipman, who brought the agreeable intelligence that a sail, supposed to be the Ypsilante, was in sight to windward.
"Huzza, then!" exclaimed Rawson. "We shall have all your plan complete, Fleetwood,—and you think those fellows will fight? Well, on my word, I should much like to bear you company if it was not for the hill—mind, only as a volunteer though—I will keep alongside your friend, Colonel Gauntlett."
Seldom had an expedition been undertaken under better auspices than that to rescue Ada Garden and her companions, and to punish the pirate. The night was very dark, and the breeze was just sufficient to enable the ships of war to get up to their anchorage at the proper time, while being from the west, or rather from the northward of it, the sea was perfectly smooth, which would enable the boats to enter the little bay without danger.
As the dusk came on the little squadron hauled up for the island, the Greek brig standing for the port, the others keeping more to the eastward; the former had, however, sent two of her boats to accompany the Ione, and to assist in landing the men, thus rendering herself rather short handed; but, as she had only to make a feint of attacking, this was not considered of any importance, nor was it supposed for a moment that the Sea Hawk would, or even could, make an attempt to quit the harbour in face of so superior a force.
It was so dark that it was scarcely possible to distinguish the shore; but Fleetwood, who led in the Ione, as she was the smallest vessel, kept the lead going, and, as he knew the coast, he had no fears. As he thought of the certain result of the expedition, and the unspeakable joy of releasing Ada, and bearing her off in triumph from the pirates' island, the depression of spirits, from which he had so long suffered, wore off entirely, and every moment which intervened seemed an age in his sight.
"I am delighted to see you looking so well, my dear sir," said Colonel Gauntlett, as, before getting close in with the land, they sat at table with some refreshment before them, of which, by the by, the captain took but little, though his guest did ample justice to it. "I must claim a post next to you, with Mitchell as my body-guard, and we must make it our business to find out my poor niece as soon as we get into the port. You will have to attend to the business of thrashing the pirates, and taking possession of the place, you must remember, so it is fortunate you have some one to assist you in rescuing the prisoners."
"I shall be glad, indeed, to have some one with whom to place Miss Garden, as soon as she is released; but I expect that I shall be called on to perform that grateful duty at the head of my men, for round her tower, probably, the greatest resistance will be made by the pirates."
"Well, then, my boy, we'll keep together—we'll keep together, and you'll find, I hope, that an old soldier is no bad ally!" exclaimed the colonel with animation. "And now, Mitchell," (he was standing behind his master's chair, his head pressed against the deck above, and the tip of his nose just appearing from under a beam, which entirely concealed his eyes), "let me have another look at my arms. There's nothing like having one's weapons in order on an expedition of this kind, depend upon it, Captain Fleetwood. A good general always takes care that his army is well supplied with munitions of war."
While he was speaking, Mitchell brought forth from his cabin his sword and two brace of pistols, which he placed on the table. The old soldier drew his sword from its scabbard, and regarded it with a look of the greatest affection. He turned it round to the light, to see that no rust had rested on it, and then pressed its point on the deck, and let it spring up again, to assure himself that it had not lost its pliancy.
"Ah!" he said, "this and my pistols were the only things I saved from the wreck of the Zodiac and the Frenchman; for I hold that no soldier should part with his sword till the last extremity. An old friend, too, and served with me right through the campaigns in the Peninsula, till the crowning fight of Waterloo. I have reason to be proud of it, Captain Fleetwood."
"Indeed you have, sir; and I have no doubt that it will do good service to-night," said the captain.
"I hope so; and, Mitchell, recollect the same orders as I have often before given you—never let this sword be left behind, should my arm lose the power of using it."
"Yes, your honour," said Mitchell, with all the gravity of a mute, putting his hand to the beam, as he could not reach his forehead. "I'll not forget."
The captain, followed by his guest, went on deck, and, in about half an hour, the brig he considered was near enough in to anchor. A light shown over the taffrail was the signal of what he was about to do, and as he clewed up his sails, his consorts followed his example, and all three dropped their anchors within a short distance of each other—the frigate being on the outside. Not a light was allowed to be shown, lest it might be observed by any sleepless eye on shore—and as little noise as possible was made, lest any ear might hear it.
The moment the anchors were let go, the boats were got out and manned, and rapidly collected round the Ione.
Fleetwood then summoned the officers, commanding them, into his cabin, where, on the table, was spread out a rough sketch of the part of the island across which they would have to proceed, and of the port and harbour; and he then repeated briefly the plan of the attack, and assigned to each his particular duties.
The frigate and corvette had each sent two lieutenants; and Linton insisted on being as well able to undergo the fatigue as his captain; the rest of the boats were commanded by the mates and midshipmen. Tompion had the jolly boat, and Jack Raby the gig, while the frigate sent also her lieutenant of marines to command those of the other messes.
"Now, gentlemen, you clearly understand my wishes. I will go in first, and climb to the top of the cliffs, and five minutes afterwards, Mr Raby, who knows the place well, will lead in the Tone's gig, and show you the way to follow me, unless I should be attacked; and even then, do not come to my assistance till I call you. I need scarcely caution you to preserve the strictest silence among your men to the last moment— indeed, till we are actually upon the enemy; and could we surround, and take possession of the tower you see marked there, it would be of the most vital importance, though I fear the pirates will keep too brisk a watch to allow us to get thus far without discovery; and now, the quicker we set about the work the better."
Everybody expressed their full comprehension of Captain Fleetwood's directions, and he led the way on deck, followed by Colonel Gauntlett and Mitchell, and descended to his boat. There his big coxswain, Tommy Small, was waiting for him. Small had charge of the signal rocket, which the captain had, however, determined not to let off, unless they were first discovered by the pirates.
One by one the other officers stepped silently into their boats as they dropped alongside, and, with muffled oars, shoved off after the gig; and no one, two cables' length off the ships, would have supposed that nearly two hundred armed men were about to land on the coast.
Fleetwood's heart beat quick as he approached the shore, he felt sure that he could not have mistaken the spot; but still very great caution was necessary; and the entrance between the rocks was so narrow, that, even in the day time, it was difficult to find. Twice he pulled up to the black towering rocks, and was obliged to back off again disappointed in finding the passage. High above their heads they rose, looking like some impenetrable wall, the confines to a world.
"Give way again, my lads," he whispered. "Port the helm a little, Small. That will do; I see it on the starboard bow. Now, give way gently, my men. In with your oars."
And the boat was seen to disappear, as it were, into the very rocks. She glided, however, between them, and slid with a slight grating noise on to the soft sand, close to where still lay the mistico, which it seemed the pirates had not got off. All hands jumped out, with the exception of the boat-keepers, and Captain Fleetwood lost not a moment in leading the way to the cavern, which he feared to find blocked up. With cautious steps he groped his way to it, and to his great satisfaction discovered that it was open, and feeling for the steps he ascended them.
"Pass the word along for all hands to keep their left shoulders against the cliff, and there is no fear," he whispered to Small, who followed him closely with his drawn cutlass, ready to guard him from any who might attack him.
This was, perhaps, the most hazardous part of the undertaking, for two or three resolute men stationed at the top might have kept the whole party at bay, or, indeed, have tumbled them all headlong down the cliffs. He well knew the cunning of the Greeks, and should they have discovered the ship by any chance, this was the point they would defend, in the hopes of destroying all those engaged in the expedition together. Darkness was around them, the rugged cliff on one side, a precipice on the other, and beneath their feet a steep path or rough steps, and yet no one hesitated to follow where he led. The most perfect silence reigned over the scene, except the sound of their tread, which could just be heard above the dash of the water on the rocks below, and the scream of some wild sea-bird as it winged its flight at a distance through the calm night-air. On he went—a few more steps would place him on the summit of the cliff, in comparative safety. His hand touched the grass at the very edge of the upper step—he sprang upwards and gained a footing on the top—he breathed more freely, and his followers, one by one, ascended and took their place by him. He then advanced a little distance to defend the position and to allow the rest of the party space to assemble as they came up. The five minutes passed away, and Raby led on, followed in a line by the other boats, for there was no room for two to pass abreast, and as they entered they all ran up side by side on the beach. Raby led them with the same good success as his captain, though the marines with their muskets had some difficulty in getting up, and ran no little risk of falling over again; but no casualty occurred. It was, however, a long business, thus getting up in a single file at so slow a pace, but at last the whole body were drawn up together. Captain Fleetwood, for greater convenience, separated them into two divisions, he leading the first, and Jack Raby, who was delighted with his own importance, acting at; guide to the second. It wanted just half an hour to midnight when they were put in motion. He found the greatest difficulty in passing over the rough ground, and keeping the direct path near the cliff, without the risk of some of his followers slipping from the precipice to their left. He had, it must be remembered, gone over the same path several times in the day, and once on the night of his attempted escape, when he and his friends went to get the rope, and the arms, and provisions, or it would have been almost impossible for him to find the way. On the party went, silent as the dead, and though the sound of the marines' heavy and regular tread might have been heard at a distance, had any one been on the watch for them, the footsteps of the blue-jackets, as they sprang from rock to rock, were light almost as those of Indian warriors on any similar exploit. The weather, which had hitherto been serene, with a gentle and balmy breeze blowing from the west, now gave symptoms of being about to undergo a change. A low moaning sound was heard as the night wind blew among the pointed rocks, and it struck with the chilly feel of the north on the right cheeks of the adventurers. It served, however, rather to raise their spirits and strengthen their muscles; they knew that their ships were in safety, if the anchorage was tolerable on the lee side of the island, so they thought or cared little about the matter.
Two miles had thus to be travelled, every instant expecting discovery; for it was scarcely to be supposed that the pirates, after their late deeds, would not be on their guard against an attack. Now Fleetwood halted and listened, now he had literally to feel his way with the point of his sword, lest he should have inadvertently gone too close to the edge of the cliff, and in this manner upwards of an hour had passed away, slowly, indeed, to those eager to know the result. At length, with a beating heart, he stood on the causeway, while a tower, the one in which he believed Ada was to be found, was faintly perceptible, rising, like some tall spectre, in the gloom before him. A light for an instant glimmered through a casement of the story in which she resided— it was to him the beacon of his hopes, and served to confirm him in the belief that he had reached the approach to the castle, of which, otherwise, he was somewhat uncertain.
"Shall I let off the rocket, sir?" whispered Tommy Small, who had kept close to him all the time, ready to support him had he stumbled. They were the first words which had been spoken since the heights had been gained.
"Not till the enemy discovers us," answered his captain—"then fire."
He had been careful not to halt his men; for he had often observed, that while the actual tread, from breaking gradually on the ear, might not be noticed, the stop and the fresh start were nearly always heard. On a sudden, however, he met with an impediment he had not expected—a high embankment ran directly across the causeway, with a ditch before it. To slip down the side of the ditch, and to climb the opposite bank, was, to seamen, the work of a moment, and, without being discovered, the first few stood on the summit. Some noise, however, scarcely to be heard, was made, and as Captain Fleetwood, with Small on one side, closely followed by the gallant old colonel, was on the point of leaping down into the ramparts, they found themselves confronted by a number of the islanders, who started up from between the guns, where they had been sleeping.
To fire the pistols was the first impulse of the pirates, and the flash aroused their comrades, as well as showed them to their assailants, who dashed down among them before they had time to unsheath their swords, and cut them down without mercy.
"Now, Small, off with the rocket," exclaimed Captain Fleetwood, as their first opponents were disposed of.
At the word, the coxswain, who had been expecting the order, let the beautiful firework fly into the air. Up it soared, making a curve towards the sea, into which it sent down a shower of glittering sparks, which had scarcely been extinguished before the Ypsilante, in gallant style, opened her fire on the harbour, making as much blaze and noise as she could. The British seamen, believing that all necessity for further silence was at an end, gave three hearty, soul-stirring cheers, which rung among the rocks, even above the roar of the artillery, and they then rushed on into the fosse after their companions. The sound, though it struck a panic into the hearts of the more timid of the pirates, at the same time showed them where the most imminent danger lay. The chain was across the harbour, and they knew no vessel could enter, and that their guns on that side would sink her when she attempted it, so many of the bravest hurried to the causeway, to defend the approach to the fort, while others manned the guns above the harbour, and began to return with interest the fire of the Greek brig.
All was now uproar, confusion, fire, smoke, shrieks, shouts, and curses—the roar of the brig's guns, and the sharp reports of fire-arms. The latter, however, were but little used by the English, who trusted more to their cutlasses and the points of their bayonets.
The defenders of the causeway fought with the greatest bravery, the voice of their chief encouraging them to persevere, and none gave way till they were cut down or slain. The British poured on in overwhelming force, but still the pirates struggled obstinately, strengthened by the arrival of their comrades from other parts.
Fleetwood and Colonel Gauntlett both knew the voice of Zappa.
"On, on," they exclaimed, trying to cut their way up to the spot, where at intervals, as pistols were flashing near him, they could see him flying from spot to spot, and encouraging his men, "Seize that man, their chief—take him alive!"
The seamen did their best to come at him, but his followers, with a devotion worthy of a better object, rallying round him, kept them at bay. At last the voice which had been heard so loud was silent, and though fire-arms flashed on each side, his figure was not to be seen. Yet the pirates did not give way, they even seemed to fight with more desperation than before, as if to make amends for his absence, or to revenge his loss. Nothing, however, could withstand the determined courage of the English; though, had not the pirates incautiously lost the post which Zappa had so judiciously formed, they might, perhaps, have been kept at bay till daylight, and, at all events, must have suffered a severe loss.
Fleetwood and the other officers encouraged their men to fresh exertions, and led the way. The pirates could no longer withstand the onset, and, within five minutes after they had leaped the ramparts, the British had gained the open space under the fort, and the enemy were flying in all directions before them, some to conceal themselves among the ruins, others throwing themselves over the cliffs, to avoid, as they supposed, another death; and the greater number, still facing round, retreating by the path down the ravine. A small, but more desperate, band, under old Vlacco, not active enough to run, and too brave to yield, had entrenched themselves among the ruins, on the point directly above the harbour; and while some of them were firing away on the Ypsilante, and thus defending to the last the entrance to their port, the rest had slewed round some of the smaller guns towards the interior of the fort, prepared to fire the moment they could distinguish their enemies from their friends.
Meantime, Charles Fleetwood, eager in pursuit of the great object which had at first brought him to the island, the rescue of Ada Garden, led on his men to the tower. He heard the scream of a female,—the gate was open—he rushed up the steps, followed by the colonel and several others—he reached the chamber she had inhabited, a light burnt on the table—it showed the confusion around; a slight form was on one of the couches—Fleetwood flew to it. Could it be his Ada?
There he beheld a sight to sicken his heart—it was the body of poor little Mila: a ball had entered her forehead, and, as in too many cases, the innocent life had been taken. What might be the fate of her he loved best? His eye fell on Marianna, who was kneeling on the ground in an agony of terror. She lifted her head with alarm, expecting that some of the pirates had entered to wreak their vengeance on her; but when she saw who it was, she gave a shriek of delight, exclaiming—
"Oh! save my mistress, signor captain,—save my poor mistress. They have carried her away—the traitor, the false man, Signor Paolo—he and the chief. You will never see her more."
"Where, where! which way, girl, speak?" cried Fleetwood, with feelings which no words can in any degree express.
"Oh! I don't know, signor," answered the Maltese girl, weeping with fright and agitation, increased by the tone of his voice. "Down through the door, signor, she and Signora Nina."
"But, my girl, did they neither speak nor say where they were going?" asked Fleetwood.
"Oh! yes, yes. They said the Sea Hawk,—the Sea Hawk. They will escape. Oh, Mother of Heaven! have mercy on us," replied Marianna, through her tears.
"Enough. Down the ravine, my men. Follow me," shouted Fleetwood, as he rushed down the steps. "Colonel, do you remain at this tower, and prevent the pirates entering, if any rally."
At the bottom he fortunately met Dawson, the first lieutenant of the Vesta, and second in command.
"Dawson," he exclaimed, "take charge of the high ground with half our men, and clear the point there of those fellows firing down on the harbour. The first division follow me: on, my men!"
Uttering these words, he led the way to the path winding down the ravine, followed eagerly by seventy or eighty of the blue jackets. As may be supposed, he flew rather than ran, and even Tommy Small could scarcely keep up with him. He had too good a cause to know the path, every turning of which he had noted with the greatest care, so he had no fear of missing his way. As he went on, he found the wind blowing strongly down the ravine; and this circumstance showed him, to his sorrow, that the Sea Hawk would have no difficulty in running out of the harbour, if the Ypsilante did not prevent her. Still the pirate could only have had a short start of him. All he could do was to shout, "On, on," and to wish, though in vain, that he could move faster.
He might yet reach the shore, even before the boats could shove off, and Ada might be rescued. This thought supported him. The wind rapidly increased, and its howl was heard even above the shouts of his followers. At length he reached the shores of the bay; he rushed to the edge; he could distinguish some boats floating on the surface of the water, and further on, there was a sound as if men were engaged in shoving others into it; yet he dared not allow any one to fire, for he could not tell what boat might contain his Ada. He led on his party in that direction. The pirates had seen him, and defended themselves bravely. Some sacrificed themselves while their comrades were escaping, and, by the time they were overpowered, only three boats remained on the shore. Into these, Fleetwood did not for a moment hesitate to throw himself as soon as they were launched, with as many of his men as they could contain, but the oars of two only could be found, and in vain were those of the other hunted for. With a hearty cheer the gallant fellows gave way after the enemy. The retreating pirates fired on them as they advanced out into the bay. He could just distinguish, by the flashes of the guns, the brig, and the two misticoes in the centre of it. As he looked, their sails were loosened and swelled to the gale; the pirates waited not to secure their boats, as they leaped on board. The cables were cut, and the two misticos darted out through the narrow passage into the open sea. Old Vlacco must have known what they were about, for the fire from the fort towards the Ypsilante seemed to be redoubled in warmth, preventing her from aiming at them as well as she might have done.
The Sea Hawk had still several boats round her, and towards her Fleetwood now steered. His men urged on the boat to their utmost strength; he felt a hope that he might reach her, when her fore-topsail was let fall, and sheeted home. A spring was on her cable, her head turned rapidly round, her yards were squared away, the cable cut, and she darted out from among a crowd of boats, among which she left the English entangled, just as they were on the point of running alongside her, and following her tenders out to sea, discharging her broadside full at the Ypsilante, as she passed her. The Greek behaved gallantly, and instantly put up her helm, and bore away in chase.
Fleetwood, his heart almost broker with agony at his disappointment, saw that it would be in vain for him to pursue, and he also remembered that the Ypsilante, with her reduced crew, and severely handled as she had been by the fort, was in no way a match for the Sea Hawk, though her shot might injure her, who was, he feared, on board.
There was, however, a doubt, on board which of the vessels Ada had been carried, if she really had again been torn, almost as it were, from his arms, and he dared not entertain a hope to the contrary.
Quick in action as in thought, these ideas passed through his mind as he returned to the shore, with the purpose of hastening back to the ships, and getting them to start in chase of the pirates.
At least, he thought, the Ypsilante will know what direction the Sea Hawk has taken, and be able to direct us in the pursuit. Before, however, he could return to his ship, he had numerous important duties to perform as leader of the expedition, and, indeed, from the firing which still continued on the heights, he saw that even the fort was not yet entirely their own.
For him the great object of the enterprise had failed, totally, miserably failed. Not only was Ada Garden again lost, but she would certainly be placed in a position infinitely worse than that in which she had hitherto been. He scarcely dared to think what act the pirate might commit, now that he was driven to desperation; she had no longer her attendant with her, and the Signora Nina might have lost the little influence over him she had before possessed. He bitterly cursed the mistake he had made in not dispatching one at least of the British ships round to assist the Ypsilante in blockading the entrance; but he checked himself, as it occurred to him that, had he done so, Ada might have been placed in still greater peril, as Zappa might still have attempted to carry her off, and, on finding himself completely entrapped, without a hope of escape, might have blown up the Sea Hawk, with all on board her, and he remembered the principle which had often sustained him through adversity and sorrow, though he could not accuse himself of having, through his own conduct, brought on the misfortune, or the cause of grief, that Heaven ordains everything for the best, and that it is impious to repine at its decrees. With a far different feeling did he climb up the path than that with which he had rushed down it, and though his spirits, disappointed and agitated as he was, did not fail him, his bodily strength almost did, and, had it not been for Small, he would scarcely have accomplished the undertaking against the fierce gale which was blowing down the ravine.
As they climbed up, the occasional roar of the big guns, and the rattle of musketry, was still heard, and on the summit a sight met his view which he had scarcely expected, and which grieved him sorely. Some of the huts I mentioned as having been built to contain the pirates' provisions and other stores, had caught fire, and lighted up the whole scene. Hedged up on the outer promontory were the band of islanders, under old Vlacco, who, without the remotest prospect of victory or escape, yet refused to yield or ask for quarter. The old pirate had saved his chief; he had enabled him to escape by the gallant way he had held the post. He was now fighting on his own account for revenge, and to sell his life as dearly as he could. He was determined the victory the British had obtained should not be bought cheaply; he and his men worked the guns with the greatest courage; while one party were engaged in loading them, the others would rush forward and defend them, and then retire at the moment they were fired, and be at their posts again before the British could reach them.
Their numbers were being gradually thinned; but, in the meantime, they were committing great havoc; and the ground in front of their entrenchment was strewed with the dead and dying marines and seamen, who had, with equal gallantry and true courage, ventured to attack them. The numbers of the British seemed, to Fleetwood, to be awfully decreased; the marines and a few seamen only appearing to keep the pirates in check, when a loud shout proclaimed the cause of it; and he saw Colonel Gauntlett at the head of a large party, dragging forward one of the guns from another part of the fort. They halted, and, opening on either side, the gun was fired directly at the centre of the gang of pirates.
"Now, on, my friends!" shouted the colonel.
"On, on!" cried the lieutenant; and, at the same moment, Fleetwood led on his party towards the devoted desperadoes. Not one cried for quarter; but they could not, for an instant, withstand such an attack; every one was cut down or driven towards the edge of the cliff, where, still inspired by their desire of revenge, they seized their opponents, and endeavoured to drag them over with themselves. Almost the last survivor was old Vlacco; and exerting all the remaining strength which age had left him, for he was still unwounded, he fixed his death grasp on the arm of one of the foremost of his assailants; slowly he stepped back, as he was forced to retreat, enticing his antagonist on, till, feeling his left foot over the edge, he sprang forward to grasp him.
"In Heaven's name, hold me back!" shouted a voice, which Captain Fleetwood thought he recognised as Bowse's. The old pirate threw himself back with all his might, in the hopes of overbalancing the man whose arm he held, and dragging him with him. For himself he had no hope, no expectation but instant death, and the gratification of his revenge against one of those who had caused the destruction of himself and many of his comrades. Bowse was a powerful man; but he had been weakened by long confinement, and the pirate was large and heavy. Once he drew himself back, lifting the old man with him; but again Vlacco forced him forward, pressed as he was by others behind, who did not see their nearness to the dreadful precipice, and he felt that the despairing pirate was dragging him, with himself, to instant destruction; his feet lost their hold of the ground, and he was falling forward, when he, at length, sung out for help—though scarcely expecting it; but at that instant he felt himself dragged back by a powerful hand, and a sword descending, severed, with a blow, the arm of the old pirate, who, with a cry of rage, disappeared into the dark obscurity of the abyss below; and Bowse, turning round to thank his preserver, found that he was his old shipmate, Tommy Small.
This was the last resistance the British had to encounter; and, unfortunately, it had cost them very dear. The second lieutenant of the Vesta, a mate of the Venus, and six seamen and marines, had been killed, and ten men wounded, as well as four officers. About fifteen pirates only were found dead, but a larger number had been seen to throw themselves over the cliffs; and the wounded had probably destroyed themselves in the same manner, for five only, who were unable to move, were discovered alive. About twenty, who had either wanted resolution to destroy themselves, or thought they were less guilty, and, therefore, likely to escape punishment, were dragged out from the holes among the ruins, where they had concealed themselves—these were the only remnant of the force who had made so stout a resistance; the rest had either escaped in the vessels, or their mangled corpses were to be found at the bottom of the cliffs. Although Captain Fleetwood was most anxious to be off, he considered that it would not do to evacuate the place till it had undergone a strict examination, he determined, therefore, to leave the Vesta's lieutenant of marines, with thirty marines and twenty seamen, in charge, while he led the rest back to embark on board their ships, where he knew, should the gale increase, their services would be required.
Among the wounded was Colonel Gauntlett. His grief on hearing that his niece had been carried off by the pirate was very great.
"It is a sad thing for that poor child; and though I have had much sorrow in my time, never has anything pained me more," he said, as the captain told him what had occurred. "And for you, Fleetwood, I feel most deeply. You loved the girl, and you deserve her for the exertions you have made to recover her. In Heaven's name, get back to your ship and pursue the scoundrel round the world, if he goes so far. For myself, I will remain here, and have my old carcass doctored; and if, as you think there is a possibility of her being concealed somewhere in the island, I will discover her, and shall be here to take charge of her, while you, at all events, will have the satisfaction of punishing the pirate."
Thus it was arranged; indeed, the colonel was unfit to be moved, and was likely to fare much better in the tower, under the care of Mitchell, and a surgeon, who was left to look after the wounded, than on board the brig in a gale of wind.
Marianna, however, entreated that she might not be left behind on the island. She urged that her mistress must have been carried away in the Sea Hawk, and that as the Ione was going in search of that vessel, her services would certainly be required when she was recovered, which she felt positive she would be, as she would serve as a chaperone to Ada, should he be blessed by finding her. Fleetwood was glad to take her with him. The first person he inquired for, after the pirates had been overcome, was his friend Captain Vassilato.
Bowse said that he had been released with him and the Maltese, Pietro, from the dungeon under the tower, by Colonel Gauntlett's party, and that he had seen him charging the last band of pirates who had resisted. It was for some time feared that he was one of those who had gone over the cliffs, either dragged over by the pirates, or in the eagerness of pursuit; but at length he was discovered under a wall, where he had managed to crawl to be out of the way of the scuffle, after receiving a severe wound on the leg from the wind of a round shot.
His delight at seeing Fleetwood, whom he thought had been killed, he declared, restored him to health; and he insisted on being carried on board the Ione, to get sooner on board his own vessel, that he might go in chase of the pirate. Bowse also begged to be allowed to accompany the captain.
All their arrangements being made, Fleetwood set off at the head of his men to return to the little bay, where the boats were left. The march back was less difficult and more rapid than the advance, as they were now able to light their lanterns, which had been brought, and to use some torches which had been discovered in the fort. They reached the boats in safety; but although the bay was to leeward, as the gale was blowing strong, there was a good deal of swell setting into the little cove, and they experienced considerable difficulty in embarking, and no little danger in getting out to sea. The ships, however, showed plenty of lights to guide them on board; but the way the lights moved showed that there was a heavy swell, and the loud roar of the surf warned them that they would have breakers to pass through before they could get on board.
"It must be done, Small," said the captain, as her crew were getting the cutter afloat. "We have gone through many a worse surf, but never through so narrow a passage in so dark a night."
"I've always managed to see the way out of any place I've got into, sir," replied Small. "Please Heaven, sir, we'll get out of this too."
"Very well," said the captain. "Gentlemen, I will lead, and let the boats follow at a sufficient distance from each other not to run the risk of fouling."
Captain Vassilato was lifted into the cutter, she was shoved off through the surf, and the impetus almost sent her up to the entrance. A high black mound appeared to rise before her, obscuring the view even of the lights on board the ships, and seeming to block up all exit. Small's eyes were keen, he exactly hit the passage, and the boat, rising on the surge, her oars almost touching the rocks on either side, darted out into the open sea. For an instant only, Fleetwood went alongside the Ione to put his Greek friend on board, and to order Saltwell to get everything ready for weighing the instant he returned, and he then pulled off to the frigate to make a report of what had occurred, and to advise the instant pursuit of the pirate.
Captain Grantham was very much grieved to hear of the loss of so many men, and that the young lady had been again spirited away, and promised, as soon as it was daylight, to go in chase of her; but in the dark, he considered it worse than useless to move from his comparatively snug berth. He was glad a nest of such determined pirates had been routed out; but, independent of more humane motives, he regretted to have to send up to the Admiralty so long a list of casualties. It showed, however, that it was no trifling affair, and he might truly state, that it was impossible to count the number of the enemy killed.
"You, Fleetwood, do as you think best," said Captain Grantham. "If you wish to get under weigh, do so; but, tell me, what plan do you propose to pursue?"
"I think, while the present gale lasts, of standing across to examine the island to the westward of this; and when it moderates, or if the wind shifts, I shall stand to the northward, towards the Gulf of Salonica, where there are numerous hordes of pirates, with whom Zappa is certain to find friends."
"I am not quite so sure of that—remember, two of a trade can never agree. However, it is as well to try in that direction. I will stand to the southward and westward, and will send Rawson to the eastward, and we will then rendezvous off this island, unless we happen to catch sight of our friend in the meantime, in a week or ten days—Heaven grant that we may have success!"
CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN.
When Zappa saw, by the overwhelming number of his enemies who poured into the fort, that he must perish or make good his retreat from the island, he ordered those of the Sea Hawk's crew who were on shore to accompany him; and retreating from the fight, he left them below while he rushed up into Ada's tower, and gained the chamber where the terrified females were assembled.
"Fond girl, I will not leave you to perish or to be branded as the pirate's mistress," he exclaimed, clasping Nina in his arms. "I will not quit you till I can place you in safety—come with me."
"We will live or die together," murmured Nina, forgetting, in that moment of defeat and disaster, all the cruelty of which he had been guilty towards her.
"Lady, your friends have gained the day," he continued, turning to Ada. "You have brought rain on my head, and you have your revenge—farewell."
Miss Garden's heart beat quick with hope. The moment of her emancipation had at last arrived, and he whom she loved had come to her rescue. At the instant the pirate disappeared, a person rushed forward, and seizing her in his arms, exclaimed,—"Haste, signora, from hence, or destruction awaits us."
She knew Paolo Montifalcone's voice; and believing that the pirate had intended to blow up the tower, she fancied that he had come to save her, nor attempted to struggle in his grasp. She shrieked out to Marianna to follow her, but the poor girl was so petrified with horror at the death of little Mila, which had just taken place, that she could not move, and in vain Ada implored the Italian to stop for her attendant. His only reply was—"It will be too late, and we shall be destroyed—on, on."
He seemed to be endowed with strength almost superhuman; he gained the bottom of the steps, and rushing on, was soon among the body of the retreating crew of the Sea Hawk, who were following their captain. They all recognised Paolo, who was a favourite among them, and aided him in supporting his burden.
"Oh where are you taking me to?" exclaimed Ada, when, too late, she heard the sounds of the strange voices round her, and found that she was descending the ravine.
"To happiness and freedom," he answered passionately, and pressed her closer in his arms.
Ada, with horror, saw that she was cruelly betrayed. She shrieked aloud, and struggled to get free; but he who bore her had pictured the only joy he could hope for in possessing her, and intense misery without her, and he could not bring himself to relinquish what he valued more than life itself.
"Hear me, sweet Ada," he exclaimed, as he still bore her on. "He whom you loved is dead, and a heart devoted as mine, is alone worthy to occupy the place he held."
Still Ada entreated him to have mercy on her, to take her back to her friends, who must even now be in the tower she had just quitted; but he was deaf to all her prayers.
The gentle, timid Paolo had been sadly changed by the scenes he had witnessed, and the burning love to which, he had madly resigned his soul. She saw at length that all appeals to his generosity or better feelings were vain, and overcome with horror, she fainted.
When they reached the beach, Zappa and Nina had already embarked; he placed Ada in another boat, with the rear-guard of the pirates. They were quickly alongside, and she was lifted on deck, still insensible, and, without the chief seeing her, Paolo carried her in his arms below. Instantly the brig was under weigh, and darting out of the harbour, was hotly engaged with the Ypsilante.
Once on the open sea, the pirates breathed more freely, and sail after sail, notwithstanding the strength of the breeze, was let fall from the yards. The shot of the fort had already damaged their enemy, and now bringing their broadside to bear on her just before she kept away in chase, they raked her fore-and-aft, killing many of the people, and cutting away much of her rigging.
The Sea Hawk was celebrated for her speed, and the rigging of the Ypsilante was much cut up, but her commanding officer was a gallant fellow, and crippled as he was, determined, if he could, not to lose sight of the enemy; and was soon after her, firing his bow-chasers with little or no effect, as the Sea Hawk was rapidly running from them, firing her stern guns in return.
Meantime the Sea Hawk winged her rapid flight over the foaming waters. She had received but slight damage from the cannonade, opened on her by the Ypsilante, during the storming of the fort, and none after she got outside the harbour, so that the pirates were able to laugh at the efforts of her pursuer.
Zappa having run the Ypsilante out of sight, shaped as northerly a course as the wind would allow him, towards that part of the Archipelago where the islands cluster the thickest, that, among their many intricate and dangerous channels, well known to him and his crew, he might have a greater chance of avoiding his enemies; and would be certain to find friends ready to assist him. The two misticos, not being able to look up so well to the gale, had to run before it till it moderated, and they then hauled up in the same direction. From their rig and appearance being that of the ordinary craft of the Mediterranean, they ran less risk of recognition than the brig, or of detection, from being able to conceal themselves in any nook or bay, or behind any reef which might offer itself, so that an enemy might pass close to them, without their being seen.
The gale continued blowing with undiminished fury till daylight, when it gave signs of abating. It had been the means of saving Zappa and his comrades, and he wished it to continue rather longer to carry him entirely clear of his pursuers. Men with sharp eyes were sent aloft to look out on every side, to discover if any vessels were in sight. They reported one hull down in the northern board, the heads of her topsails only seen, which was, doubtless, the Ypsilante, and two on the larboard quarter, which seemed like the two misticos. As the sun rose, his beams seemed to calm the rage of the tempest, the wind fell, the clouds dispersed, and the sea went down, and Zappa no longer felt the anxiety he had at first experienced for the fate of his vessel. He now mustered his crew, and found that some of his bravest and best men had fallen when attempting to defend the fort against the first attack of the English; the remainder promised to stand by him as long as the Sea Hawk floated on the waves. Every arrangement which circumstances would admit of being made for the future, he dismissed all but the necessary watch on deck, to take the rest they so much needed.
Among those who appeared was Paolo. He hitherto had had no time to speak to him—he now summoned him to his side.
"What," he exclaimed, "are you not yet weary of a rover's life, that you return again to the Sea Hawk—or did you fear a pirate's fate, if you had remained on shore?"
The Italian looked conscience-stricken and miserable. He could not meet the glance of the pirate's eye; he dared not confess what he had done; and yet he knew it must be instantly discovered.
"Could I leave my sister?" he asked. "Could I leave one whom I love dearer than life itself to perish amid the raging fight, when my arm might save her? Do you suppose that my eye is so dull, my heart so callous, that I could behold the rare beauty which almost won your affections from her who had sacrificed all to you, and yet feel no impression? Know, that he whom you have treated as a tyrant does his slave, whom you have scorned and deceived, has a heart capable of burning with a passion far more intense, far brighter, far purer, and more enduring than the flickering flame which yours can alone nourish."
"What is this rhapsody about?" exclaimed Zappa, thinking that Paolo had gone mad.
"When you go below, you will discover," answered the Italian, and walked to the other side of the deck.
When Ada Garden came to her senses, she found herself in the cabin of the Sea Hawk, and Nina bending over her, and applying such restoratives as she had at command. She was soon sufficiently recovered to explain to her astonished friend the means by which she had come there.
"And Paolo could have done this. He who professed to be ready to die for you, to tear you from the very arms of your friends, when they were on the point of recovering you. Alas! my unhappy brother—his mind must have forsaken him."
"Whatever the cause, I have sorely suffered, and I have no one to trust to now but you, Nina. Through you alone can I now hope to be restored to my friends."
As Ada was speaking, the pirate chief entered the cabin. He started back, on seeing her, and an angry frown came over his brow. "What! and my suspicions are true," he exclaimed, in a voice of passion. "And that mad youth has ventured to bring you on board. You, lady, who have been the cause of the disaster we have suffered, who have already so nearly proved my destruction."
He ground his teeth as he spoke, and the two defenceless girls saw that he was working himself up to the same awful pitch of fury to which he had given way when he so barbarously wounded Nina.
"But where is this wretched youth?" he continued. "Here, Momolo— Balbo," calling to some of his officers, "seize Signor Paolo, and drag him here. Take care that he does not leap overboard to avoid you. He has performed an act, by which he has well merited death, and he knows his guilt is discovered."
While those he spoke to were absent obeying his orders, he stood at the door of the cabin, grasping his sword, as if he meditated a dire and speedy vengeance. Nina sprung towards him and clasped his arm.
"Oh! you will not injure him—you will not—you cannot kill my brother! He has committed a great fault—but his death will not remedy it. Say, for my sake—say, for her sake—for she wishes not his destruction—you will forgive him?"
While Nina was thus pleading for her brother, he was brought in by four of the crew, who, supposing that he had been found guilty of treachery— the only crime in a pirate's eye—stood over him with their drawn daggers in their hands, to execute, at the moment, the chief's commands. Zappa shook her off without answering her.
"So, signor, you have dared to drag hither the glittering bait which has already allured a host of enemies to attack us; and while I would have left her as their prize, and escaped in safety from what you have done, they will still continue their pursuit, nor desist till they have destroyed us all. From the number of men engaged in the attack, there must, doubtless, be many ships in chase of us, whereas, had you not committed this mad act, we might have gone our way unmolested. Such is your crime and its consequences; and if I deliver you up to the crew, and explain what you have done, they will save me the trouble of being your executioner. Take him on deck," he said, in Romaic, to the men who held Paolo. "I will follow shortly; and you may, meantime, make preparations to deal with a traitor."
The pirates were dragging the miserable man away, when Ada, who though she knew not the words which were used, comprehended their meaning, sprang from her seat and grasped Paolo's arm, to prevent his being carried off.
"Stay," she cried, appealing to Zappa. "Do not condemn this unhappy man to death. Towards me he has acted the most cruel part—but I forgive him. For your own sake, I implore you to do so likewise, for the sake of that sweet girl. Oh! do not commit so black a crime. It will be a murder, for he had no intention of injuring you or your followers. Blinded by an unhappy passion for me, he has done this, fancying that the man to whom I was to be united is no more; and has been led on in the vain hope of one day possessing me, and winning the worthless love I should have to give. Let me now swear that nothing shall ever induce me to become his—and let it be part of his punishment that he knows what he has done is in vain; and if, by any means, I can remedy the evil he has committed, I will do so, if you will allow him to live."
"A lady who pleads so energetically should have her prayers granted," said the pirate, with a tone of irony. "But let him beware how he behaves—unhand him," he said to the men, in their own tongue. "These ladies have pleaded for the prisoner, and are answerable for his conduct. And tow, signora," he said, in a blander tone, addressing himself to Ada, "by what means do you propose to remedy the fault of that madman?"
Ada was silent for some minutes, during which the pirate stood regarding her attentively.
"It is fitter for you to point out the means by which I can serve you, than for me to propose them," she at length replied. "Indeed, I can do nothing till I am restored to my friends; I am sure that any ransom you may propose, which they have the power to pay, they will gladly give for my liberty."
"It is a pity that was not thought of before; but, are you aware, lady, that it is usual to secure the ransom before the prisoner is restored?" observed Zappa.
"Touch then at one of the Ionian Islands, where there are English authorities, and let me write letters in different directions, and before long, I doubt not, the money will be raised, and will be deposited wherever you desire. If you will allow me to go on shore, I will promise to do my very utmost to place the money in your hands, and will send word to the British cruiser, now in search of this ship, that I am in safety; and will at the same time exert all the influence I may possess with my friends to obtain your pardon, should you be captured. This I promise to do most faithfully."
"Oh, listen to her!" exclaimed Nina, springing towards the pirate, and seizing his hands. "Land her in safety and honour among her own people, and she will pay you the money if you demand it, and I—I will be responsible that she does so with my life—but why demand it? you have already more wealth than you require on board this vessel, and no rest nor safety can you expect, or hope to find, while you follow your present pursuits; your hand against every man, and the hand of every man against you,"—(Nina knew not that she was quoting the words of the sacred book to describe her husband)—"but oh, my husband, remember that there is a land across the narrow Adriatic, where your deeds are unknown, and where we may henceforth live unsuspected in tranquillity, and with such happiness as we can enjoy—that land, the land of my birth—there, in the home which I deserted for your sake, you will be secure; there I will watch over you, will tend you, will strive to make you forget the past in the contentment of the present; and should you be discovered, should any one attempt to tear you from me, I will give my life with joy for yours. Oh say that you will do this—say you will abandon the evil course you are leading, and you will make my heart beat lighter than it has done for many a day, and bless the words you utter."
The pirate was somewhat softened.
"Nina," he said, looking at her with a glance of more affection than she had for a long time seen, "you know not what you ask me to do. You know not the difficulty, the almost impossibility of accomplishing what you wish. Even were I seized with the humour to turn virtuous, I cannot abandon my vessel and my crew; they are bound to me and I to them; and were I to quit them, they would be captured, to a certainty, and in just revenge for my desertion, they would inform all they met of my retreat. If I proposed to leave them they would not let me, and from that instant I should lose all my authority. And then think, should I even succeed in commencing the existence you propose, how is it likely to suit one, accustomed from his earliest days to the dissipation of cities, or the wild excitement of a rover's life—how should I, who have so long commanded a band of men, regardless of all laws but those I have framed, and yet obedient to me as children, submit to the dull, plodding business of a country farmer engaged in superintending bumpkins in their daily toil? No, Nina, you must not expect it; I feel it cannot be."
He was silent, and seemed lost in thought. His lips moved, but his words were almost inaudible.
"The vision was too bright and beautiful ever to be realised," he murmured. "Alas, alas, I have for ever cut myself off from such happiness—and that fond girl too—oh, it is a cruel fate for her to be linked for ever to one so lost. Yet it might be done. I might again seek out the speronara of the Sicilian Alessandro, and he should land us on some part of the coast I would select, nor should he know whither we went. Ah—but is he to be trusted? Would he not, if he saw our wealth, be tempted to destroy us for the sake of possessing himself of it?— would he not, even if we concealed it ever so carefully, or even had it not, suspect that we had it, and equally attempt our destruction? Who is to be trusted? In whom can I, especially, of all men, dare to confide? Alas! on no one. Every one of my fellow men, except the ruffians who surround me, and a few like them, would glory in betraying me. I might, it is true, find some stranger bound for the Italian coast, and with a well-invented tale about the vessel I had quitted, persuade them to carry me whither I may determine to go."
"Nina, I will think about it," he said, aloud. "I would please you if I could; but though my power to do evil has been great, alas! the means I possess of doing good are small indeed."
"Oh, do more than think of it," exclaimed Nina, looking up imploringly in his face. "Resolve with your determined will to execute what you think of—resolve to overcome all difficulties—to be daunted by no dangers, and she and I will bless you to our dying day, and our prayers will ascend to heaven to implore forgiveness for the crimes which now weigh down your soul and prevent you from perceiving clearly where true peace and happiness can alone be found."
"Enough, Nina, enough, or you will make me act the woman," exclaimed Zappa, releasing his hands from her grasp, and rushing on deck, where his voice was heard, immediately after, issuing some orders in his usual firm and loud tones.
"You will conquer, my sweet Nina; you will persuade him to abandon a pirate's life, and happiness may yet be in store for you," said Ada, kissing the cheek of her friend, who sat pale and trembling on the couch by her side.
Nina shook her head sorrowfully.
"Alas!" she replied, "you know not the wayward spirit which possesses him, or you would not speak to me of hope."
CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT.
Several days had passed, and the Sea Hawk was still among the clustering islands of the Archipelago. Twice she had attempted to escape from them on her voyage to Cephalonia; but each time she had been driven back by the appearance of suspicious sails to the westward, which her captain believed to be British men-of-war, cruising in search of him.
Men were stationed all day and night on the yard-arms, and topmast-heads to look out for the first faint outline of a ship; yet, not as before, in the hopes of falling in with a richly-laden merchantman, but for the purpose of avoiding her, lest she should prove to be one of the many enemies on the watch to destroy them. The wind also no longer favoured them, but shifting to the westward, had aided to baffle them in their efforts to escape. Zappa prayed again for the gale, which had so opportunely arisen to enable him to force his way out of the harbour of Lissa; but now when he equally needed it, and had no evil purpose in view, when better intentions had been formed and better feelings had arisen, it refused to blow. Either contrary winds or calms had always been met with, and till he had a prospect of a quick run, it would be folly to venture out from amid the islets, which now sheltered him. He was afraid of anchoring, or of remaining off any place for an hour together, lest an enemy should suddenly appear and give him no time to make sail to escape. He seldom went below, but wrapped in his cloak he threw himself on the deck, when weary nature required rest, to be ready at a moment's call. His days and nights were full of toil, care, and watchfulness, and thus the time wore on. It was a lovely day; the sky was of the most intense blue, without a cloud or speck to dim its brilliancy; the sea calm as a mirror, and reflecting the hue of the bright canopy above, was of so crystal a clearness that the eye seemed capable of piercing to its very lowest depths; the sun shone forth with glowing splendour, and the wind of the gentle zephyr, which came from the west, blew with a balmy softness, incapable of ruffling the water, or of forcing through it the pirate brig. Her sails, spread to catch the first breath of a stronger breeze, now hung almost idle from the yards, or ever and anon gave a loud flap of impatience against the masts.
Blue islands rose out of the water on every side of the ship; some extending a considerable distance along the horizon, others, mere hillocks, appearing above it; and besides the more distant islands, several islets were seen, mostly barren rocks, some of a mile in length, and others of a few hundred yards; the largest only being of a height sufficient to conceal a vessel behind them. Some were broken into picturesque forms, and their sides sprinkled with moss and lichens, or coarse grass, and a few low shrubs looked green and inviting at a little distance—a deception which a nearer approach quickly dissipated. Here and there also black lines and spots might be seen on the surface, being the summit of coral reefs, which, with any sea, were entirely concealed by the wild foaming surf breaking over them; and though the greater number of these were almost flush with the water, or below it, a few rose as much as five or ten feet above it. As may be supposed, no vessel would venture into this locality, unless those on board were well acquainted with its numerous hidden dangers.
To increase them still further, strong currents set among the islands, running towards various quarters, accordingly as they encountered the opposition of the rocks, either above or below the surface, so that it was impossible, from the appearance of the land, to say in which direction the vessel, exposed to their influence, would next be carried. Into one of these currents, the Sea Hawk had now got, and though she appeared to be stationary in the water, she was being driven on at a rapid rate past the land to the westward. Her captain, however, apprehended no danger—he had every rock and shoal mapped out in his mind far more correctly than on any chart in existence, and he felt confident of being able to avoid them; and thus, though the airs came from the westward, the brig was carried bodily to windward, and steerage way was just kept on her.
The heat of the cabin was so great, that Ada and Nina had been forced on deck, over the after part of which an awning had been spread to shelter them from the sun—and there they sat, silent and sad, for the long delay which had occurred had depressed their spirits, and filled their imaginations with forebodings of coming evil.
Paolo stood by himself, leaning over the quarter-rail, and gazing, with a vacant listlessness, at the sea; no one speaking to him, and he noticing no one.
Zappa slowly paced the deck, every now and then stopping to watch the progress of the vessel, and to issue his orders to the helmsman or sail trimmers, who were at their stations ready for any emergency; but though every sail, to her royals, were set, with that light wind, a few hands only were required to box about the yards, as it became necessary to keep the vessel away, or haul her more up, to avoid the rocks and shoals as they presented themselves.
Looking at that beautiful fabric, as she floated proudly on the waters, and observing the skill with which she was handled, it was difficult to suppose that danger of any kind, beyond what I have mentioned, could menace her.
Zappa himself felt secure, for he knew that none of his enemies could here approach him unawares; or, if they daringly ventured into that labyrinth of dangers, he could easily elude them, or entice them to their destruction. However, a strict look out for the appearance of any sail was, as usual, kept; but all his attention was occupied in conning the vessel through the intricate passage he had selected, in order thus to make some progress on his voyage.
"If this dreadful state of uncertainty endure much longer, I feel that it will kill me," said Nina, taking Ada's hand, and looking into her face, as if to read the effect her words produced. Her dim, sunken eye, and the hectic spot on her faded cheek, gave sad token that her words were too likely to be fulfilled. "For your sake, dear friend, I will try to live, and for his sake also. I would not quit him, even for another and a better world, till I was assured that he had forsaken the sinful and dangerous path he has, alas, so long followed. It is an awful thing to think that he whom one loves, better far than one's-self, may be speedily hurried to his eternal doom, without a prayer for forgiveness—a hope in the future. I would not be separated from him, and yet I dare not wish to bear him company; though I feel that, black as are his crimes, my guilt is even greater. I deserted a fond father— I broke his heart, Ada, and can such a one as I hope for Heaven? Will the suffering, the agony of heart, I have endured, be any atonement in the sight of God? Oh, promise me, Ada, that should death claim me as his own, you will strive, by every means in your power, to lead him back to virtue—to preserve him from the ignominy, the punishment which, even I acknowledge, he has deserved at the hands of his fellow-men."
Ada Garden roused herself from her own despondency, to soothe the feelings of her friend. She endeavoured to persuade her that her prognostications regarding her own death were probably groundless; and though she did not seek to lessen her horror of the crime she had committed, she pointed out to her the merciful promises held forth in the sacred writings, that her repentance was of more value than her sufferings; that the latter was sent by a kind Heaven to produce the former feeling, and that, trusting in Him who died for all, she might hope confidently for pardon, and remission of her sins. She assured her of her own belief, that Heaven is not deaf to those who pray that those they love may be made to repent; and she entreated her, if on that account alone, to live for her husband's sake.
"And, Nina," she continued, "what a weak girl—what one situated as I am can do, I will do for your husband; and more, I will entreat Captain Fleetwood, not only to save him from punishment, but to use every means in order to persuade him to repent of the past, and to follow a noble and virtuous course of life."
In this manner the two lovely girls had conversed for some time in tones not above a whisper, lest it should be heard by him whom it most concerned, when an exclamation of terror escaped the lips of Nina, and, seizing Ada's arm with a convulsive grasp, she pointed over the larboard side of the vessel, where a sight met their view, which was, indeed, sufficient to make the stoutest heart quail.
Meantime the captain stood near the weather gangway, directing, as I said, the course of the vessel, with his first mate by his side, whom he had called to him to point out the danger yet to be passed; while, as a precautionary, and, indeed, usual measure on such occasions, hands were stationed at the jib-boom end, and at the weather foreyard-arm, to give timely notice of any rocks which might lie in their course beneath the water, from the beautiful clearness of which they were discernable, even though many feet from the surface, at a considerable distance. The brig's head was to the southward, and all eyes were thus turned to windward, or in the direction towards which she was drifting with the current, and no one thought of looking on the lee side, from which no possible danger was apprehended.
"We have done well to come here, Baldo," observed Zappa to his mate. "We are here far more secure than in any harbour in the world; for no one but a mariner of our own islands would venture his ship among these reefs. See yonder black ledge, which shows its threatening summit a few feet only above the water—there is a passage between it and another reef further to the southward, through which we shall easily pass, provided the wind does not fail us altogether; and if so, we must rouse the hands up and take to our sweeps."
"It is a dangerous place, though, captain, and one I would rather not venture into, unless I was very sure of my weather," replied the mate. "Even now, if it was to come on to blow, it would be no easy matter to get clear."
"No fear of that, my friend; I who brought the craft into this place will take her safely out again, let the wind blow with its greatest fury. A gale is what we have day and night been praying for; and let one come, the gallant Sea Hawk will brave it, and laugh at her enemies. But tell me, Baldo, how do the people like this hide-and-seek life? It is not what they have been accustomed to under my command."