"They wonder what your intentions are," answered the mate. "They say that, by sailing westward, as you propose, we are more likely to meet with our enemies, than if we kept among the islands to the northward, where we have friends."
"The very reason I would avoid the locality," said Zappa. "We shall certainly be sought for there; whereas, no one will expect to find us in the broad seas to the west; and remind them besides, that where we are going, we shall, without doubt, fall in with some richly-laden merchantmen, which will amply repay all hands for their losses."
"There is reason in that, captain; I dare say it will content the men," said the mate. "But while I am on the subject, there is another complaint which they have to make."
"What is it?" asked the pirate, angrily, for he did not like his mate's tone. "I love not to hear complaints."
"The stranger lady," replied the mate.
"Well, what of her?" inquired the captain.
"She has brought us all into this scrape," continued Baldo.
"So it is said, is it?" remarked the captain, with a dark frown.
"No one knows why she was brought on board," continued the mate, speaking fast, to say what he wished, before any further interruption occurred. "Some say that Signor Paolo brought her here; but it is supposed that he did so according to your orders."
"They do, do they?" said Zappa, compressing his lips. "And now, tell we what would they have done?"
"They would have you get rid of her," answered the mate, boldly.
"It is what I am about to do," returned the captain. "I purpose landing her at Cephalonia."
"What, without a ransom!" exclaimed Baldo.
"With or without a ransom, as the case may be," said Zappa, coldly.
"If without a ransom, there would be a more speedy way of getting rid of her, and would better satisfy them," observed the mate, with a dogged look, in which a certain amount of fear was mingled, with audacity. "We want no women on board—all has gone ill when we have had them," he muttered, in a lower tone, which the captain, however, did not fail to hear.
"Speak out—what mean you?" he asked fiercely.
"That the deep sea will be the safest place for her, where she will not trouble us more," exclaimed the mate, half trembling as he uttered the words, for there was something in Zappa's look which warned him he had better not say them.
Somewhat to his surprise, however, his captain suppressed whatever feelings inspired him.
"And such is the wish of the crew, that I should destroy an innocent girl, who has trusted to me, and, perhaps, they would desire me to cast my wife also into the sea, to gratify their anger, because we have met with a reverse to which all are subject. Well, tell them I will think about the matter."
"They insist on having your instant decision, captain. Some of them have friends in an island not far off, and they declare that they will land, and leave you and the craft to take care of each other, if you refuse to grant their request. Some even venture to whisper words about deposing you, and sending you to look after your mistresses."
"And you, the loudest whisperer of them all," exclaimed the pirate, in a fierce tone, so loud, that, had not those to whom it related been absorbed in their own conversations, they must have been startled by it. "That I slay you not this instant, you have to thank the critical position in which the ship is placed. Go, tell them that I, Zappa, their chief, intend to remain their captain as long as the Sea Hawk floats proudly on the ocean, or till I absolve them from their allegiance. Go, tell them this, and think well before you again venture to be the bearer of such a message from the crew. First, get a pull on the braces; we must luff all we can, to get through yonder passage."
Baldo, without venturing to answer, hurried to execute the order; and, as soon as the yards were braced sharp up, after giving a glance at his chief, who he had so lately been accustomed, to fear, that he felt surprised at his own audacity, he went below to consult with his coadjutors what was to be done. He cunningly had taken advantage of his chief's late want of success, to ingratiate himself with the people, and had employed all the ordinary arts of a demagogue to weaken the authority of the man he wished to supplant; and he now gave the answer to their message, with such exaggerations and alterations as he judged would best suit his purpose, and inflame the minds of his hearers to the proper pitch for executing his mutinous designs. He had, somewhat to the surprise of Zappa, who, however, soon fathomed his reasons, pretended to be ignorant of the navigation of the passage, through which they were winding their way, that he might thus throw him more completely off his guard. The largest portion of the crew had been won over, and they were now summoned below to hear the decision of the rest, and to put their plan into immediate execution. This may be guessed at; it involved the instant destruction of their chief, as well as of the unprotected girl, whom he refused to sacrifice to their fears.
Baldo had marked the ill-starred Nina as his own; and Paolo, who had always been a favourite, and had never made an enemy, they intended to preserve as useful to them in his former capacity of surgeon. Thus it is, that the lawless can never depend for an instant on each other.
Zappa still stood at his post, issuing the necessary orders; and, although gloomy forebodings were on his mind, he resolutely determined to dare the worst, rather than yield. He marked the mutineers gradually gliding off below, each man eyeing him as he went, still fearful of being perceived, till, at last, the stations of many of them were deserted; and he saw that, should any duty suddenly be required of them, there were not hands to perform it.
"This must not be," he muttered. "They have already carried things too far. I must recover my authority now, or I lose it, and am destroyed."
He gave a look to windward to see that the vessel was in no danger for some minutes to come, and was advancing to the main hatchway, with his sword in his hand, intending to spring down boldly among the mutineers, and bring the matter to a crisis, by daring them to attack him, when his eye glanced, for an instant, to leeward. That instant was sufficient to create far greater alarm in his mind than had his mutinous crew.
"All hands on deck. Up men, for your lives, up! Clew up, haul down! Brace round the after-yards! Up with the helm!"
To the eastward, hitherto unobserved, a small, white cloud had appeared, no bigger than a man's hand. With almost the velocity of a thunderbolt it darted across the sky, expanding as rapidly, till, as it approached, it seemed like a vast bank of white mist, to which the rays of the sun, now past the meridian, gave a bright and shining appearance, the sea below, as if swept up by its base, curling in huge, foaming waves, and overtopping, with an angry roar, the reefs it encountered, as it bubbled and hissed in its onward course, while it sent before it, flying high into the air, a sheet of spray, which, almost as soon as seen, enveloped the doomed vessel. It was the Sea Hawk's pall. The intending mutineers, startled by the fierce ringing tones of their commander's voice, attempted, in a mass, to rush up the main hatchway; at first, with the purpose of executing their foul project; but, in an instant, as the roar of the tempest struck their ears, and they felt the motion of the vessel, with wild energy, in the hopes of preserving their worthless lives, one man impeded the other; the bond of union was no longer thought of—the fear of their own death, not the wish to destroy another, now urged them on. Those who had first seized the coaming strove to spring on deck, while those below grasped them fast; and few only succeeded in freeing themselves in the struggle, which seemed for existence.
The moment that their services might have availed was lost, if any power could have saved the vessel; those more faithful to their trust, who had remained on deck, flew to the halyards and braces; but, before they could let go the first, or haul away on the others, the white squall was upon them. The sails were taken flat aback, and the yards pressed against the mast would not start. Down, down she went over on her starboard side, like a tall reed bent by the wind. Her bowsprit and the canvas stretched on it flew to leeward. Her head turned a few points to the eastward—she made a stern-board—the water rushed in torrents up her decks and into her hold—the foam flew wildly over her side, and shrieks, and cries, and oaths, extorted by the agony of despair, escaped from her maddened crew, as they beheld their inevitable doom.
As Zappa saw the fury of the squall, he felt that all his skill and all his courage would avail him as nought to save the Sea Hawk. In this, his last dire extremity, no craven fear filled his heart, and though for his own life he cared not, he remembered that there were others whose lives depended on him. To fly towards the stern before the vessel's deck had become completely perpendicular, was the work of one moment, while in the next he dragged Ada and Nina, who, almost unconsciously, were holding on, by what were now the weather bulwarks, to the outside of the vessel. In this task he was aided by Paolo, when the loud cries of "The ship is sinking, the ship is sinking," uttered by the seamen, and the roar of the tempest had aroused from his apathy, and who had sprung to the side of the two beings most dear to him on earth, with the thought rather of dying with them than of having even the power of being of any assistance to them. The dreadful position in which they were placed was sufficient to paralyse the heart of the bravest, and the terror of the two girls was further increased by the shrieks of the drowning wretches which reached their ears. They now clung with convulsive energy to the quarter-rail, their feet partly supported by the sill of the after-port, and though expecting instant death, they still, with the impulse which the weakest as well as the strongest feel, endeavoured to preserve their lives. Nina was almost unconscious, but Ada Garden still retained her faculties unimpaired, and though she thus more acutely perceived the dangers which surrounded her, she was better able to exert herself for her preservation; yet, in that wild vortex of water, and with a sinking ship alone to rest on, what hope was there? Poor girl—in that moment how many thoughts passed rapidly through her mind. Death to her could have few terrors, but life had many joys, pure and bright, and even these, presented to her mind in all their glowing colours, yet she tried to banish earthly things, to contemplate the life eternal, towards which she was hastening, to offer up a prayer to Heaven for herself, and for those who were being hurried to their doom with her—she prayed as earnestly for herself as for them, for it did not occur to her that she had less need of prayer than they, and who will venture to pronounce that she had?—her advantages had been many, theirs few. Yet, do all she could, that image of one so truly loved would present itself to her eyes, and it added many an additional pang to her heart, to feel the bitter grief her loss would inflict on him. Months, years would pass away, her fate unknown, he still would be vainly searching for her throughout those seas, till, perchance, some spars, or part of the hull, might be washed on some distant shore, and recognised, and a rumour might reach his ears of the destruction of the pirate's bark, and the suspicions of her doom might at length be confirmed. This thought was, perhaps, the most cruel she had to bear. These and many more passed through her mind more rapidly than I have taken to write them.
"She sinks, she sinks!" was the only intelligible cry which reached her ears.
"She does not sink," was heard in answer, in Zappa's deep-toned voice. "She floats still—come aft here, and aid me in lowering this quarter-boat into the water."
The men he spoke to who were in the fore-rigging, could scarcely hear his words, but they comprehended his signs and intentions. Eight of them came aft to assist him in lowering the boat, a light gig lashed to the main rigging. Paolo remained with his sister and her friend, to aid them in holding on in their perilous position, in which they were further assisted by some ropes which Zappa had fastened to the rail, and placed in their hands. The operation required great caution, as the only chance of her swimming was to launch her on the lee-side, or, as it were, in board. The attempt was made. All looked on with anxiety, for they saw that on its success their lives depended—the boat gone, they had no other hope of being preserved. The lashings were cut adrift, the boat was lifted up to stand on her keel, on the rigging, and her stern was slewed round for launching, when a wave, larger than any which had yet struck the vessel, came roaring towards them.
"Hold on for your lives, hold on," cried Zappa.
Some heard him, others, paralysed with fear, let go their hold of the rigging, and the boat, torn from their grasp, was carried over the side, and being stove to pieces, was washed far away from them, while several unfortunate wretches found at the same time a watery grave.
"Lost—all lost!" was the general cry, and this time the captain did not contradict them. The coolest and the bravest abandoned all hope. The foaming waves dashed wildly over the vessel, the wind roared, the thick mist enveloped them with its funereal pall; down, down she went, when a loud crash was heard, the stout timbers and planks were rent and torn asunder; he lifted on the summit of a wave, the bow was seen to twist and writhe, and separating from the after part, to sink in the foaming whirlpool, while the stern was cast with terrific violence on the rocks—another wave lifted it yet higher, and there it remained securely and immovably fixed, though with difficulty the few survivors could maintain their hold. Still their prospect of salvation was small indeed. Another wave might come and wash them off, or dash their last place of refuge into a thousand fragments.
Every instant they expected the coming of the fatal wave; but sea after sea whirled foaming by them, making their eyes giddy, and sickening their hearts with apprehension; yet instead of increasing, each seemed diminished in size.
The last effort of the white squall had been made—its fury was appeased with the sacrifice offered to it. Onward it passed, clothed in its mantle of glittering mist, to other realms: the blue sky appeared, the troubled sea subsided into calmness; and the trembling beings who clung to the shattered wreck beheld, close to them, a reef of black rocks rising some four or five feet above the surface of the water.
"Courage, my Nina—courage, lady!" exclaimed Zappa. They were the first words he had uttered for some time. "A seaman, with abundance of planks and a few feet of firm rock on which to plant his foot, should never despair. Stay where you are for a few minutes, while I try to find a more secure resting-place for you."
As he said this, he stood up on the side of the vessel, to examine their position. They had struck on the very centre of the reef, forming one side of the channel, through which the Sea Hawk had been endeavouring to pass, and at the only part which was any height above the water; perhaps, indeed, not another spot could have been found which could have so securely wedged in the stern, as to have prevented its following the rest of the vessel to the bottom.
The nearest land where assistance might be obtained was some ten miles off to the southward and westward, and in that direction the current I have spoken of was setting. To the north were interminable reefs and shoals, from which direction no vessel could approach them; nor was it probable, indeed, that a craft of any description would pass near them, as few even of the Greek vessels ever came that way, and the utmost they could hope for was to be seen by some fishing-boat belonging to the neighbouring island.
This occurred to the pirate as he stood up to look around him. Steadying himself, he walked to the end of the taffrail, which he found hung directly over a lodge of rock communicating with the main reef. Securing the end of a rope to the quarter-rail, he lowered himself down to the rock, and found that there was tolerably firm footing on it, and that it would be easy to carry to it a rope-ladder, from where Ada and Nina were clinging, by which they might descend with tolerable security, and from thence gain the main rock, which embraced an area of some hundred square yards or so. Having made this discovery, he again climbed up to the wreck—of the whole crew of the Sea Hawk, but six, besides himself and Paolo, now remained alive. The others had either been drowned in the hold of the vessel as she first capsized, or had subsequently been washed off, or carried away with the bow when it parted.
The corpses of some of the latter were still seen floating about in the eddy round the rocks, and a few more wretched survivors were perceived clinging to portions of the wreck, and carried by the current far away from their companions, who had no power of rendering them any assistance. Ada Garden shuddered as she witnessed their dreadful fate; and yet she felt that her own and that of those with her might not be preferable, but at the same time she and they had been as yet almost miraculously preserved, contrary to all expectation; and she could not help still indulging in the belief that, by some means or other, their deliverance might be achieved.
On Zappa's return to the wreck, he roused up his men, who still clung to it, stupified with terror, and ordered them to exert themselves for their own preservation, as well as for the rest of the survivors.
They had been so long accustomed to obey his voice, that they quickly returned to their senses. The mainmast had gone, as had the main chains, but part of the main rigging, the backstays and shrouds still hung on to the wreck, and these he ordered them to haul up, and by securing the shrouds to the stern, and carrying the other end to the rocks, he formed an easy means of communication, by which Ada and Nina could gain the main rock. They accomplished the passage without fear; and as they found their feet resting once more on firm ground, although it was a barren rock, they followed the natural impulse of their hearts, and bent down on their knees to return thanks to the Great Being who had preserved them.
The hardened pirates, unused as they were to prayer, felt the genial influence, and at the spot where each happened at the moment to be, they stopped in the work in which they were engaged, and knelt likewise in an endeavour to imitate them in act, if not in feeling.
"To work, my friends," exclaimed Zappa. "We have no prospect of release from hence, unless we can construct a raft by which we may escape, while the calm which has now returned continues. I tell you, one hour's moderate gale would render the spot on which we stand untenable, and we must all perish; but do not despair, we may, if we employ our time to advantage, form out of the wreck a raft, which will, with perfect security, convey us to yonder island, where we may find shelter and protection among friends who will gladly receive us."
The men, on hearing their chief's address, expressed their willingness to obey him. His first care was to collect such articles as were floating about in the water near them, and others which had been thrown on different parts of the rock. Among them were chests, and casks, and spars, some of the running rigging, and two or three of the lighter sails, which had floated attached to the spars. The most welcome and the most important prize was a cask of water—the second was a cask of biscuit which had been taken out of an English vessel, and there were two or three of olives; some boxes of figs, rather the worse for their immersion in salt water, but still very acceptable, and two trunks of wearing apparel, which had come on board with the biscuits—altogether, on surveying the provisions, there appeared sufficient to last them with care for several days. Tools, with which to cut up the wreck to form the raft, were the next great desideratum, and the carpenter's chest could not be found. They hunted in all directions without success, till at last, in despair, they began to tear up the bulwarks with their hands, as making a commencement of collecting materials. On doing so, great was their satisfaction on finding three boarding axes secured with beckets to the side. They had now tools to enable them to progress faster with the work. They ripped off all the planking from the bulwarks, and cut up as much of the deck as was above water, and by this means got into one of the larboard cabins just before the bulkhead of the state cabin. It had been occupied by the chief mate, and in it were found another axe, some nails, and several carpenters' tools, as well as a coil of small line, which was very useful for lashing the various parts of the raft together. As the materials were collected they were carried to the rock, and in a short time the captain considered that they had sufficient to commence operations, as with the few people it would have to carry, a small raft only was necessary. They first lashed some of the spars they had saved, together, forming an oblong square, while others where placed diagonally to strengthen the framework, and the stoutest was secured beneath to form a keel. As their strength would afterwards have been unequal to the task, they were obliged to launch it before they commenced planking it over, and they then secured it on the west side of the reef, as it was in that direction they proposed going, and the water was there much smoother than on the other, where it was still agitated by the effects of the squall.
The spar used for the keel was the upper part of the mainmast, or rather the topmast—for, it must be remembered, she was a polacca-rigged craft—and which had been broken completely off when the lower shrouds went over it; and as this was considerably longer than the raft, planks were fastened to each corner of the square to both the ends, so as to form a pointed bow and stern.
Several casks were picked up which had lost their contents, and these were now bunged up afresh, and secured on either side of the framework, and this being done, the business of planking over the whole now commenced. Nails were little used or required, and it was found more secure and expeditious to lash the ends of each plank down to the framework, securing it also in the middle; and on the top of these, others were placed at right angles, and either lashed or nailed down to them, till the whole was exhausted, thus forming a solid and somewhat strong mass of planking, sufficient, it was to be hoped, to bear them to the island they wished to reach.
On the top of this the chests were placed on either side to serve as bulwarks, one being secured in the centre on a platform of planks, for Ada and Nina to sit on, and round it were arranged the casks of water and provisions which had been hauled out of the water. Some of the smaller spars had been reserved for other purposes. Out of one was formed a mast, out of another a yard, on which the main top-gallant-sail, somewhat reduced, was spread to form a sail. From three oars, a rudder and two oars were manufactured, and a fourth was kept to pole off from any rocks towards which they might be driven. Altogether, a very complete raft was constructed, much superior to many which have borne wave-tossed mariners for days or weeks together on the broad waters of the Atlantic. Not till every arrangement was made did Zappa and his followers desist from their labour.
Meantime Ada and Nina had not been neglected, and the pirate seemed to be endeavouring to make such amends as were in his power for his past conduct. On the further end of the rock a tent was erected with some of the sails, which had been saved, and a case of female wearing apparel was placed within it to enable them to clothe themselves, while their own dresses were drying in the sun, which, when spread out on the hot rock, a very few minutes sufficed to do. Paolo had also collected small pieces of wood, which dried quickly, and he then piled them together to be in readiness to light a fire should it be required.
The formation of the raft afforded them ample matter of interest, and as they sat there, secure and without discomfort, on that solitary rock, with the ocean smiling calmly around them, the awful event, which so short a time before had cast them there, seemed almost like a dream, which is, with difficulty, recalled to the recollection.
Such food as could be prepared, they were supplied with; but, as may be supposed, they were little inclined to partake of it, nor would they, perhaps, have done so, had they not felt the importance of sustaining their strength to enable them to undergo the dangers and exposure to which they saw they would most probably be subjected.
Thus the day passed rapidly away, and the sun was already verging towards the horizon, by the time the raft was completed. It was now too late, Zappa asserted, to embark, and by waiting for the early dawn, they might have the whole of a day to perform the voyage without the risk of being exposed at night on the raft, and might hope, with certainty, to reach the island before sunset.
The men willingly agreed to their chief's proposal, while the remainder of the party had no choice, but to submit had they objected to it; but it seemed so reasonable, that, anxious as they were to reach a more secure position, they uttered no complaint at his decision.
The tent was, therefore, secured and strengthened, and a flooring formed inside it, on which were placed the portions of sail which had been collected and dried, and the clothing from the chests, so as to make a couch, which, although very rude, afforded a resting-place, for which the two poor girls were most grateful.
Paolo stationed himself outside the tent, at a short distance only from them, and Zappa arranged a resting-place among the casks of water, and the provisions, and chests, which he had taken care should not be embarked. The men, after a supply of food had been served out to them, huddled together, wrapped up in their capotes, on the bare rock, near where they had been working, and held a whispered conversation together, which lasted for some time after darkness covered the face of the deep. Paolo's mind, troubled and unhinged with the thoughts of the past, and the darkening prospect of the future, for long refused to allow sleep to visit his eyelids. He listened to ascertain whether his sister and Miss Garden were still awake; but from the perfect silence in their tent, he trusted that they had been more blessed. He then stood up to look round the rock. The irate chief was sitting on a chest, with his arms folded across is breast, and apparently, from his upright position, still full of care, and on the watch on all around. The people had thrown themselves down where they had been sitting, and seemed to be fast asleep. The sea was calm, as it had been in the morning before the squall; and, though no moon was up, the myriads of stars, which glittered in the sky, threw a light over it even to a far distance, and enabled him to discern many of the reefs and rocky islets which surrounded them, while close at hand was seen, like a skeleton of some huge monster of the deep, the last remnant of the once gallant Sea Hawk.
Wearied with standing, Paolo again sunk down on the rock. He was awoke by a voice which he knew to be that of Zappa.
"Rouse up, Paolo!" he said. "You have taken your share of sleep, and I would fain snatch some moments of rest to prepare me for the toils of to-morrow; and yet I dare not sleep without leaving some one in whom I can confide on the watch."
"Why, what mean you?" asked Paolo, starting up. "I will gladly watch— but what have you to fear? Surely, no enemies are near us."
"Ah! you know not what was nearly occurring this morning, or you would not ask the question," said Zappa, in a tone of bitterness. "See you yonder six men. Are they, think you, friends or enemies? I tell you I do not trust them. Not long ago, I would have trusted them, as I would have trusted their comrades who have gone to their account; and yet they were about to destroy those two defenceless girls and you, and me, their chief. Ah! you start! You doubtless think the shipwreck we have suffered is a misfortune; and yet, I tell you, Paolo, that I believe by it our lives have been preserved. I can trust to you, Paolo; and while I sleep you must watch. To add to our security, light a small fire with the wood you collected, and keep yourself awake by feeding it. Should any of them move, they will clearly be seen; and perceiving that you are awake, it will make them hesitate what to do. They know also that I have arms—and that my pistols are never unloaded—and that you can call me in a moment, to use them. Two hours' sleep will be sufficient for me—you can, I hope, watch for that time."
Paolo assured Zappa that he would keep a faithful watch, for all their sakes; and then, aided by him, he lighted a fire between themselves and the men, while he kept a store of wood on their side to feed it as it began to decay. The pirate, wrapping himself in a cloak, immediately threw himself down among the stores, and was instantly fast asleep. As Paolo stood by the fire he thought that he beheld the tall masts and white sails of a ship gliding by, but she took no notice of the fire and disappeared in the darkness. Thus the night passed on. He no longer felt any sleepiness; and, as the pirate chief slept soundly, he could not bring himself to awaken him. The first faint streaks of dawn had just appeared in the sky when Zappa started up.
"What has occurred? Why did not you summon me. Paolo?" he exclaimed. "Ah! you were unwilling to awaken the angry lion. I thank you, though, for your consideration. You have kept our watch-fire in well, I perceive. Throw more wood on it, and we will presently kindle such a blaze as will light us on our way before the sun arises. Go, call your sister and the English girl, your voice will alarm them less than mine. I will rouse up my traitorous followers—for we must be away from hence without delay. We know not what weather the morning's sun may bring."
It was still almost as dark as at midnight, when Paolo summoned the two ladies. They soon made their appearance, prepared for their perilous voyage, and refreshed by their night's slumber, notwithstanding their extraordinary position and the rudeness of their couch.
Zappa's first care was to arrange the provisions in the centre of the raft; over them he erected the tent, which, though much reduced in size, afforded sufficient shelter for the ladies. He then summoned them to take the seats he had arranged; but it was not without some fear and hesitation that they left the firm rock for so frail an ark, and it was not till Ada recollected the danger of remaining, that she could persuade herself to go on board, followed by Nina.
Leaving them under charge of Paolo, Zappa summoned his men, and each of them was seen to take a bundle of the burning embers in their hands, and to proceed with them to the ship. Once again they came back for more embers, and the remainder of the wood, and almost before they could return to the ship, a bright volume of flame was seen to burst forth from every part of the wreck. The pirate hurried on board, followed by his men. Two went on either side to work the oars; the others tended the halyards and sheet, while he stood at the helm. The ropes which secured the raft to the rock were cast off, the crew gave way with the oars, the sail was hoisted to catch a light northerly air, and a strong shove sent it gliding through the water at a rapid rate.
"Farewell, farewell," exclaimed Zappa, turning round to gaze at the burning wreck. "No enemy can now boast that they have made a prize of the bark which has for so long been the terror of the seas, nor even of her shattered timbers. Long, long will it be before your like is met with again."
The raft glided onward, guided by the flames. The light was seen far off by many eyes; but little wist they at the time that there was consuming the last remnant of the long much dreaded Sea Hawk.
CHAPTER THIRTY NINE.
The bright sun at length arose, and as his warming rays fell on the raft, they served to cheer the hearts of the adventurers. The raft had made but little way, for the wind had failed them completely, and the sail had been lowered as totally useless, so that they had to depend entirely on their oars, to make progress towards the south, while the current still carried them along at a faster rate to the westward. The pirates were, as may be supposed, excessively anxious to get on shore as soon as possible, it mattered little to them where, because, while they remained afloat, they might, at any moment, be fallen in with by one of the vessels in pursuit of them; and even should they be met by any merchantman, they were perfectly unable to defend themselves, and should they be recognised, they would equally be delivered up to justice. So fast, however, did the current run, that it appeared very probable, not only that they would be carried far to the westward, but that they might pass the island altogether, and be obliged to attempt to gain another. Zappa spoke but little; his mind was troubled with many thoughts, though the present earnestly claimed his attention; he saw that if they could not fetch the island, their voyage would be much prolonged, and they would be exposed to many additional risks; and pointing this out to his men, he entreated them to exert themselves to the utmost. From the muttered words and growls he heard, he perceived that he must still be on his guard against them, for they had conceived the idea, he had no doubt, that if they could once free themselves of the ladies, whom they believed to be the origin of their disasters, they should no longer be pursued; but it did not occur to them, that unless the English lady was restored, in safety, to her friends, their case would in no way be bettered. Luckily, their intended victims did not understand them, and Zappa would not alarm them by warning them of what he had heard. He told Paolo to be on his guard, and kept his own weapons ready to be used at a moment's notice. On went the raft, a thin pillar of smoke marking the spot whence it had been launched.
Zappa had been silent for some time.
"Nina," he said at last, "you have endeavoured lately to induce me to quit the life I have hitherto led. Your persuasions have influenced me greatly, and I would now gladly follow your wishes; but, alas! all the wealth I possess in the world went down in the hold of the Sea Hawk, and I am now again a penniless adventurer. I could never consent to depend on you, even had you wealth to support me, and I shall therefore once more be driven to follow my old calling on the ocean. Not my own will, but fate, drives me to it."
"Oh, no, no; neither fate nor necessity drives you to it!" exclaimed Nina. "Had the wealth, for which you mourn, not been lost, I would not have consented to use it. My brother and I have sufficient in our own country for all our wants; what is mine, surely is yours also."
"And I have in my own power a sum which some would consider an ample fortune," said Ada; "it is more, probably, than would have been demanded as my ransom, and yet I will gladly make it over to you, provided you quit for ever your lawless calling, and place your wife in safety in her native country."
"Refuse the generous offer," said Nina, rising from her seat, and placing her hand on his arm. "Do not be tempted to rob the fatherless orphan. We shall have enough, without depriving her of her property."
"Peace, girl," said the pirate. "I will not now further speak on the subject. It is folly to speak of the future when the present demands all our care."
He spoke truly. His attention, while the conversation I have described was going forward, had been less occupied than was requisite during the last few minutes, in guiding the raft, and observing the direction in which she was drifting; when, looking up, he saw on the starboard side, at no great distance from them, a ledge of black rocks, whose heads were just flush with the water, which broke over them in a line of hissing foam, threatening to wreck the raft should it once be driven against them. The pirate urged his men to exertion, for every instant the raft drifted nearer and nearer the danger. All hands went to the oars, for they saw that by their own exertions alone could they hope to escape.
The end of the reef, which it was necessary to clear before they could be again in comparative safety, was still a considerable way off; and yet it seemed scarcely possible, at the rate at which the raft could be urged on, to avoid striking it. Never did Zappa more anxiously wish for a breeze to carry them clear; for though, to the inexperienced eye, the danger appeared but slight, he knew that, if the raft, for an instant, struck the ledge, it would be forced on to it by the current, then the slightest increase of wind would form waves which would quickly sweep them all off to destruction. So slight, however, was the surf, that, at a little distance, it had not been perceived; and even now, as Ada and Nina watched it, the expression of the countenances and the eager gestures of the men alone assured them of the risk to which they were exposed.
Several times Zappa had looked astern, in the hopes of seeing the signs of a breeze coming up in that direction.
"Ah, our good genius has not deserted us," he exclaimed, at last. "Row on, my men—row on. The wind will come in time; but we must not slacken in our exertions till it reaches us."
These encouraging words had their due effect; the crew, already beginning to weary, aroused themselves afresh, the raft glided on, her head turned off from the rocks; yet still she neared them, and the side almost touched the outer ones, when the voice of the chief was again heard.
"Hoist the sail, my men," he exclaimed. "Be quick about it, and we are safe."
The sail was hoisted, and bulging out with the first breath of the wind aided to keep the raft from the threatened danger. Again the wind fell, and they once more glided towards the rock; but a stronger puff came, and they rapidly increased their distance, till Zappa was able to steer on a parallel line with the reef, and they shortly had the satisfaction of seeing the dangerous point far astern. In this manner the greater part of the voyage was accomplished, and the day drew on; but still they were at some distance from the land.
The breeze, however, continued, and there was now little or no prospect of their passing the island, and drifting out to sea. They were about four miles off the nearest island, and were going at the rate of perhaps two knots an hour through the water, when, as Nina was watching the ever-changing countenance of the pirate, as troubled thoughts passed through his mind, she saw him start, and shading his eyes with his hand, cast an anxious glance towards the west. Long he looked, and as he, at length, turned his face once more towards her, she observed a fierceness in his eye and a stern frown on his brow, which at once aroused all her fears.
"I see that something is again amiss," she said, looking timidly up at him. "Oh, tell me what it is has agitated you?"
"Look there," he said. "A cause sufficient to make many a bold man, circumstanced as I am, tremble," he replied, in a slow, determined tone, pointing, as he spoke, towards the north-west. "Do you see yonder stranger, which has just hove in sight?"
"I see the sails of a ship above the horizon. But what harm can she do to us?" said Nina. "If she sees us, and takes us on board, she will carry us to some land, whence we may proceed to Italy."
"You forget that, to the hunted pirate, all men are enemies," answered Zappa, bitterly. "I could not venture on board a merchant-vessel, without the risk of being recognised, and, if my eyes deceive me not, yonder craft is no peaceful trader, but rather a British ship of war."
"Heaven forbid it," exclaimed Nina. "But should she be, still the raft is so low in the water, that, at the distance we are off from her, we surely shall scarcely be recognised."
"I wish that I could think so," said Zappa; "but on board that craft there are numerous sharp eyes on the look out, and our sail may long since have been seen from her mast-heads. She is also, I well know, one of the very ships sent in chase of the Sea Hawk, and will not allow us to pass unquestioned."
"Even should she be an enemy, are we not so near the shore that you may easily escape thither?" asked Nina, who was unwilling to acknowledge, even to herself, the danger to which Zappa was exposed.
"She is standing this way, and, by the manner in which her sails rise from the water, she is making rapid progress towards us," murmured the pirate, speaking to himself rather than answering Nina's question. "Ah! I know her now; and long ere we can reach the shore she will be upon us. Well, we will strive to the last. Fate may, for this once, favour us. The wind may fail, or, by chance, we may not be seen; and if, when I have done all that I can to escape, rather than be captured, to hang alongside those wretches I saw not long ago on the fortifications of Malta, I have but the brave man's last resource to fly to, and the wave on which I have so long loved to float shall be my grave."
Ada Garden had heard the previous part of the conversation with feelings between hope and fear. She trusted that the ship in sight was a friend; and yet she could not tell what effect it might have on the pirates when they discovered that such was the case. She deeply regretted, also, the fate which she feared might await Zappa, were he captured, notwithstanding the efforts she purposed to make to preserve his life, more certainly for Nina's sake than for his own; yet she was grateful to him for the forbearance he had shown towards her.
It was an anxious time for her—indeed, the joy and satisfaction she would otherwise have felt at the thoughts of her own deliverance was much alloyed by grief for poor Nina, who, at the moment of realising her fondest hopes of reclaiming her husband, found them rudely torn from her.
The crew had not yet observed the stranger, as they were occupied at the oars, or tending the sail, and Zappa was unwilling to alarm them before it was necessary; for he knew their caitiff nature, and though ferocious enough when they were sure of victory, he could not now depend on their courage, and he thought that they were very likely, when they saw that all chance of escape was gone, to quit their oars, and refuse to exert themselves further.
On came the stranger till her hull rose out of the water, and the report of one of her guns was the first intimation the crew had of her vicinity. They all looked round with astonishment, not unmixed with terror; but the calm bearing of their chief reassured them.
"Bow on, my comrades," he said. "That ship will not fire at us, and in another short hour we may be among our friends on shore."
The stranger was, as she drew near, seen to be a brig of war, and the ensign which blew out from her peak showed her to be British.
"I know her," he muttered in Romaic. "She is no other than the accursed Ione, which has already wrought me so much injury. To escape from her is hopeless, and naught remains for me but to execute my last resolve. Paolo, come here." He now spoke in Italian. "You know well how to steer, so take the helm and keep the raft for yonder headland."
Paolo came aft and took the pirate's place at the helm, who, putting his hand on his arm, continued in a whisper, "Now show your manhood, for to you I commit the charge of those men. Save their lives, if you can; and you yourself, with the testimony your sister and yon fair girl can give, will run no hazard. Say that Zappa refused to fall alive into the hands of his enemies, and bravely met the fate he had awarded to so many. Farewell."
Whether the act of giving up the helm to Paolo, or the expression of the pirate's countenance, made Nina suspect his intentions, she herself could scarcely tell, but her eye was upon him, while her limbs shook with dread, and, just as he was about to take the fatal leap from the raft, she sprung up, and grasped him convulsively by the arm, while her brother seized him on the other side, so that, without running the risk of upsetting the raft, or dragging them both into the water, he could not execute his dreadful purpose.
"You shall not—you shall not!" exclaimed Nina, trembling in an agony of fear, and scarcely able to utter the words she wished to speak. "Commit not so dire a crime, or fill the cup to the brim, and drag me with you. In destroying yourself, you slay me likewise."
As the unhappy girl said this she clung to him, endeavouring to draw him to the centre of the raft.
Ada had been afraid of leaving her seat, for she saw the risk to which all were exposed by the struggle, and that the weight of another person thrown on the spot might complete the catastrophe, though her agitation was scarcely inferior to that exhibited by Nina.
"Stay, stay, signor," she exclaimed—"before you commit the impious deed you threaten, listen to me. You would seek a certain death, and certain punishment in another world, to avoid the risk you run of meeting it at the hands of my countrymen in this—now listen to me. I have already promised Nina to intercede in your behalf, and I now solemnly vow to you to employ every means in my power to preserve your life, and I feel almost certain of success. A petition made by me under the circumstances of the case will, I am confident, be attended to, and you may yet enjoy many years of happiness with one who is so well able to afford it you."
"Lady," said Zappa, "again you have conquered me. Unworthy as I am to live, I accept life at your hands, and confide in your promise, though something tells me it will avail me but little. Nina, you need not thus so fearfully clasp my arm. I will not attempt to escape you, girl."
As he said this, he allowed himself to be led forward by Nina, and sat himself down on a chest, where he remained for some minutes with his face buried in his hands, and bent down on his knees. Paolo steered as he had been directed, and as the raft had for some time passed all the rocks and shoals to be feared, the task was not difficult. Ada, meantime, watched anxiously, the approach of the English brig; but the wind, she thought, was lighter than it had been, for the distance between them did not appear to decrease so rapidly as at first, and as she looked alternately from the brig to the shore, she thought that there was more than a probability of their reaching it before they were overtaken. The pirate seemed indifferent to his fate, but he was once more aroused to exertion by a shout from his men, and guided by what they said, he turned his eyes towards the shore, whence, from behind the headland towards which they were steering, the long low hull of a mistico was seen stealing forth, with her pointed lateen sails hauled close on a wind.
"The Zoe, the Zoe," shouted the pirates. "Our comrades come to our assistance."
There could be little doubt that the mistico in sight was the Zoe.
"But is she manned by our friends?" thought Zappa, whose suspicions were keenly alive to treachery. "If she were, would she thus venture out in the very face of an enemy?" The men, however, seemed convinced that she came as a friend, and welcomed her with every extravagant sign of joy. Though so near them, she had to make several tacks before she could reach them, whereas the brig of war, being before the wind, came down steadily towards them, and was rapidly approaching within range of her guns. Zappa watched them both. The mistico was manned by Greeks, for their picturesque costume was easily distinguishable, but he was not certain that they were friends; and far rather would he have fallen into the hands of the English, than into the power of his own countrymen. Should he continue his course, and should they prove enemies, the moment he was recognised would probably be his last, and those with him would be sacrificed; but, on the other hand, if he lowered the sail and attempted to pull up to the brig, he might lose the chance of saving himself and his followers. He saw the risk of having to trust to the clemency of the British authorities, whom he had so often, by his misdeeds, offended. He was decided on continuing his course by seeing the mistico get out her sweeps, and from the point where she then was, she could lay almost up for them. In a short time all doubt was at an end, well-known faces were recognised on board, and greetings, loud and frequent, were exchanged between them. A universal cry of sorrow was uttered as the loss of their favourite Sea Hawk was announced, though their chief was warmly welcomed, as they saw that he was among those saved, and no mutinous feeling was perceptible among them. The sail was lowered, and he raft was soon alongside the mistico. The crew jumped on board, and pointing to the approaching brig, urged their friends to instant flight, but Zappa still remained with the rest.
"Lady," he said, addressing Ada, "I leave you here, whence you will speedily be rescued by your own countrymen, and to your charge also I leave this poor girl; you will, I feel assured, see her safely restored to her country and her home; and Nina, listen to me; should I succeed in escaping my enemies, I will join you there, and in peace and safety forget the dangers we have passed."
"Listen, Nina," said Ada. "You cannot serve him by accompanying him, while with me you will speedily, I trust, be in safety."
"What, leave him now in danger and in difficulty!" she exclaimed. "No, no, I am not so light of feeling as to do that. Farewell, sweet lady. You have loaded me with a debt of gratitude I cannot hope to repay."
She stooped as she spoke, and kissed Ada's brow, then sprang back towards Zappa, who was stepping on board the mistico, for the pirates loudly summoned him, and with good cause, for at that moment another square-rigged vessel was seen coming round the east end of the island. Nina was in time to clasp the pirate's arm.
"Oh, take me with you!" she cried. "Your lot I will share, your fate shall be mine."
He clasped her round the waist, and seizing the stay of the mast, leaped with her on board. Paolo stood irresolute a moment. He looked at Ada, she turned her face from him. He saw his sister among the pirates. He recollected his devoted love for her, and the sacrifice she had already made, besides which he felt the hopelessness of his passion, and just as the raft was being cast off, he followed her on board the mistico.
The next moment Ada Garden found herself the only occupant of the raft, drifting on the face of the water.
The Ione had in vain chased the Sea Hawk. She had examined every island in her course, and searched in every bay and nook, and behind every rock and headland, but the pirate still evaded her, till captain, officers, and men were almost worn out with their labours. Fleetwood, it may be supposed, did not save himself, and it could scarcely be expected that he should allow his officers to do so; in truth, however, every man and boy on board was almost as eager in the pursuit as he was, and fatiguing as it was, never was any duty performed more willingly, though, as they could relieve each other, they were not so much exhausted with fatigue. Night and day he was on deck, and it was with difficulty he could be persuaded to take any food or rest, expecting, as he did, that the next few hours would place the Sea Hawk in his power. Thus day after day passed away. Sometimes a sail hove in sight, and they stood after her in chase, but only to come up with her to find that she was some English trader to the Bosphorus, or Greek man-of-war, of perhaps little less doubtful character than the Sea Hawk herself. The inhabitants of the islands either knew nothing about her, or would give no information, nor could any clue be obtained from any craft they fell in with; so at last Captain Fleetwood resolved to return south again, keeping close along by the Greek coast, to examine the dense group of islands and islets of which I have spoken.
The wind had been light all night, and the Ione had made little progress; but as the morning broke a breeze sprang up from the northward, and she hauled in a little to fetch the easternmost of the islands, among which she was about to cruise. A Greek pilot had been taken on board on the Zone's first entering the Archipelago. He was a clever old fellow, and he undertook to carry the ship in safety through all the dangers with which she would be surrounded. Zappa had once plundered a ship of which he had charge, and he was doubly anxious to get hold of him. All the officers were on deck with telescopes in hand, sweeping the horizon, while the captain, as was his custom every hour, had just gone aloft with his glass to take a wider sweep, and to assure himself, with his own eyes, whether any sail was or was not in sight.
"Poor fellow," said Linton, "I am afraid the captain will never live through it. He is worn almost to a skeleton, and he looks as if a fever were consuming him. Should anything dreadful have occurred, I am afraid it will kill him when he hears of it."
"I fear so too, and it would be the last way I should wish to gain my commission," said Saltwell, with much feeling. "I wish to Heaven we could fall in with this phantom rover."
"It takes a great deal of worry to kill a man," observed the doctor, who had no great faith in the effect of any but physical causes on the body, the consequences of a limited medical education, though he was a very fair surgeon. "If he persists in going without food and sleep, of course he will grow thin."
"That's very well for you to say, doctor; but when a man's heart is sick he can't eat," answered Linton. "It is the uncertainty of the thing is killing him. Let him once find the young lady, and he will pluck up fast enough; or, let him know the worst, and, as he is a man and a Christian, he will bear his affliction like one, I'll answer for him."
"Deck, ahoy!" hailed the captain, from aloft. "Keep her away one point more to the southward."
"Ay, ay, sir," answered Saltwell, and every telescope was pointed in the direction the ship was now steering.
Nothing, however, was to be seen from the deck; but the captain still kept at the mast-head with his glass, intently watching some object still below the horizon. At last he descended, and summoned the pilot, with the first lieutenant and master, into his cabin, where a chart was spread out on the table.
"And we may stand safely on towards that island on our present course without fear of rocks or shoals, pilot?" he asked.
The answer was in the affirmative.
"There is a strong current setting from the eastward, you say, and you have known many vessels wrecked attempting the passage? Then, Mr Saltwell, pack all sail on the brig. There is a large boat, or a raft, with a square sail, to the south-east of us, which we will overhaul without delay."
Royals and studding-sails, alow and aloft, were now set, and away the Ione flew before the breeze. Now the wind fell, and now it freshened; but the brig gained rapidly on the chase, which, by the little way it made, was soon suspected of being a raft. Then came all the horrible doubts and fears, naturally suggested to Fleetwood's mind—but we will not dwell on them.
"Sail, ho!" sung out the hand at the foremast-head.
"A felucca-looking craft right under the land ahead of us," was the answer to the usual questions.
Saltwell himself went aloft to ascertain more clearly her character, and soon returned with the report that she was a mistico beating up for the raft.
"She will be up to it, too, sir, I am afraid, long before we can reach it," he observed. "Shall we get a gun ready to fire, sir?"
"In mercy's name, no!" exclaimed Fleetwood. "We do not know what innocent people might be injured."
"I meant to fire at the mistico, sir," said the lieutenant. "She is, I am certain, a piratical craft, and if those on the raft are of the same kidney, she will assist them to escape; or if not, her people will rob and murder them under our very eyes."
"You forget, Mr Saltwell, that we cannot be certain of that craft being a pirate, and till we are, we have no right to fire," said the captain. "Besides, our shot might strike the raft, or the pirates, if such they are, might fire on it in revenge."
The cry of "a sail on the larboard bow" interrupted the conversation, and, as the glasses were turned in the direction indicated, the sails of a lofty ship were seen appearing above a headland, which ran out from the east end of the small island which lay before them. The mistico could not yet see the stranger, so she stood on fearlessly towards the raft. The people on the raft were then seen to quit it, and to go on board the mistico, which directly kept away, and ran to the westward, evidently to avoid the stranger which she must have just then seen for the first time.
The ship made the number of the Venus, and after standing on some little time, tacked and stood towards the Ione. The mistico, it must be understood, was now about a mile from the shore, and little more than the same distance from the west end of the island, while the Ione was another mile to windward of her, so that if she sailed well, she might easily get round the point, and then by keeping away among the cluster of islands and rocks further to the south, very likely escape altogether.
To avoid this, Fleetwood made the signal to the Venus to bear up and run round to the south end of the island, to intercept the chase, trusting to his senior officer following his wishes. Old Rawson was not a man to stand on etiquette, and if a midshipman had signalised him he would have obeyed the order, and he instantly put up his helm, and ran back again out of sight, though the mistico was already too far to the westward to profit by the change by dodging round in the same direction.
"We must leave the raft to take its chance, sir, while we chase the mistico, I suppose," asked Saltwell.
"Yes, by all means—haul up a couple of points on the starboard tack."
"Port the helm. Larboard fore braces. Starboard after braces," cried Saltwell.
"Avast," exclaimed Captain Fleetwood, who had been looking at the raft through his glass. "Starboard the helm again. Keep her as she was. The Venus will look after the mistico. There is some one on the raft. It is the figure of a female, and by heavens she is waving to us. It is, it must be—"
His agitation was so great, that he was obliged to support himself on Saltwell's arm, who sprang to his side to catch him, thinking that he was about to fall to the deck.
The brig ran on till she neared the raft, a boat was lowered—her captain threw himself into it. He was speedily alongside the raft; in another moment Ada Garden lay fainting in his arms, overcome with excess of joy and gratitude to Heaven, and love for him, who had rescued her. Thus he bore her up the side of his ship, and was about to carry her below when the report of a gun was heard booming along the water. It seemed to have the effect of arousing Ada; for at that instant she opened her eyes, and gazing into her lover's face as she pressed the hand which clasped hers, she whispered—
"Oh, do not let them kill him, Charles. For his sake, for he treated me well; for the sake of that poor girl—spare him—I promised him. Oh, hasten to save him!"
Her earnestness might have made a less sensible man jealous; but Fleetwood knew her too well, and loved her too well, to have any other idea than the true one, that she was anxious to fulfil a promise to the letter, and in the spirit with which it was received.
"I will do my utmost, dearest," he answered; "I will do all you can wish, but I know not whence that gun can have come; for the Venus has gone round the other side of the island. Keep her after the mistico, Mr Saltwell, and hoist a white flag at the fore, to show her we mean her no harm. Fire a gun also away from her to draw her attention, and she will perhaps stand back towards us."
These orders were given as he stood at the top of the companion-ladder before he conveyed Ada into his cabin, where little Marianna, almost out of her senses with delight, was arranging a sofa on which to place her. She again went off into a fainting fit, during which, while Marianna was searching for restoratives, and the surgeon was making his appearance, Fleetwood, as he knelt by her side, and called on her name, could not resist the temptation of bestowing many a kiss on her fair brow and lips, while he pressed her cold hands within his. The remedy was efficacious—perhaps Marianna thought it would be so, by the long time she was in procuring any other, as probably did the surgeon; for Ada had opened her eyes, and was able to sit up before he entered the cabin with the implements of his calling under his arm, which he had brought, not that he expected there would be any use for them, but as a plausible excuse for his dilatoriness.
At length, however, Captain Fleetwood tore himself away from Ada's side, and left her to the exclusive care of the surgeon and her maid, while he hurried on deck to endeavour to overtake the mistico before she got under the guns of his consort, who, of course, was not likely to treat her with the leniency he had undertaken to do. A generous man, when he gets an enemy, especially a personal enemy, possessed of courage or any other noble quality, into his power, has a pride and satisfaction in pardoning him, and shielding him from punishment, and such was very much the feeling which animated Fleetwood, when he endeavoured to induce Zappa to return under the guns of the Ione. The pirate had certainly been, to him, a very great enemy, but he had been an open and bold one; he had caused him much misery and suffering, both bodily and mental, yet he had behaved with forbearance towards those in his power, and now that his beloved Ada was once more in safety, Fleetwood felt not only willing, but anxious, to preserve him. When he reached the deck he soon ascertained from whence the firing had proceeded, for another vessel had appeared on the scene. She was a brig, which had evidently come round the south side of the island, and was now rather more than three miles to leeward, standing up towards the unfortunate mistico, which she had just got under her guns. The mistico was by this time nearly two miles from the Ione, and with her sheets eased off, was standing along close in shore, with the hopes of getting round the west end of the island, and thus again away to the eastward, inside of her new enemy, not knowing that the Venus had already gone round there to intercept her.
"What brig is that, Mr Saltwell?" asked the captain, as he came on deck, his countenance expressing very different emotions from any which had appeared there for many a long day.
"She carries the Greek colours, sir, and we make her out to be our old friend the Ypsilante. I think she can be no other," was the answer.
"It is her, there can be no doubt," said Fleetwood; "but I wish my friend Captain Vassilato would understand our signal. I am afraid that he will destroy the mistico and kill those on board before we can get up to her."
"There can be little to regret in that, sir," said Saltwell. "It will save the hangman some work, if he sends them all to the bottom together."
"You would not say so, Mr Saltwell, I am sure, did you know that there is an unfortunate girl on board, the wife of the pirate, who has rendered great service to Miss Garden, as well as her brother, a young Italian, whom I am most anxious to save, as I am also the pirate himself," answered Fleetwood.
"Then I am sure, sir, every one on board will be most anxious to second your wishes," said the first lieutenant. "And allow me, in the name of the officers and the ship's company, to congratulate you, Captain Fleetwood, on the fortunate issue of our adventures in the recovery of Miss Garden. We all feel as we ought to feel—the most sincere joy and satisfaction at your happiness, and, perhaps, you'll understand what we want to express without my making a longer speech about it, but the fact is, we haven't had time to cut and dry one, and I didn't like to put off saying this longer than we could help."
"And I, on my part, must not lose a moment in thanking you, Mr Saltwell, and the officers and ship's company, for the zeal and perseverance you have exhibited on this very trying occasion," returned Captain Fleetwood, putting out his hand and pressing that of his first lieutenant, warmly. "You have all done me the greatest service any men could render another, and I am most sincerely grateful to you all. Pray say this to all hands, for I cannot now more publicly express my feelings. We must settle some way to mark the day as a bright one on board, but we shall have time to think about that by-and-by, and we must now see how the mistico gets on."
It promised to fare badly enough with the unfortunate mistico. Either Zappa did not see, or did not comprehend, the Ione's signal, for instead of attending to it, he continued running down the west shore of the island, directly into the jaws of the Greek; but he reckoned probably that he should be able to hug the shore so close that she could not come near him, and he then hoped, it seemed, to get away among the rocks and reefs to the southward, where she could not venture to follow. This the Greek was equally resolved to prevent her doing, and no sooner had she got her within range of the guns, than she opened the fire of her whole broadside on her.
Though she had not seen the people getting on board from the raft, she had no doubt of her character, and seemed determined to award her the pirate's fate. The Ypsilante, it must be understood, was on the starboard tack, with her head about north-west, while the mistico was running about south, and about to haul up as soon as she could round the island on the larboard tack, so that the attempt to escape was not altogether so hopeless as might at first have appeared, had not the Venus gone round to intercept her. Zappa, of course, recognised the Ypsilante, and, knowing that her gunnery was not first-rate, he probably hoped that, as she could not venture into the shoal water, where the mistico was, she would not knock away any of his spars, and that he might manage to escape clear of her. The wind, however, as the two vessels approached each other, came more from the eastward, and at the same time fell considerably, thus exposing the mistico much longer to the fire of the brig, which now opened upon her at the same time with musketry. Several of the shot had told with dire effect, and those on board the Ione could perceive that many of the pirates had been killed or wounded. At last a round shot struck the mainmast, and down came the mainsail on deck. The pirates, seeing that all hopes of escaping in the vessel were gone, were observed to leap overboard in an endeavour to gain the shore by swimming, in which many of them succeeded, though some in the attempt were swept out by the current, which still set to the westward, and sunk to rise no more.
The mistico, deprived of the guiding power of the helm, and without any after sail, ran off the shore before the wind, in the direction the current was likewise drifting her. She thus passed at no great distance from the Ione, which had reached her too late to prevent the catastrophe. Captain Fleetwood, and all on board, were anxiously watching her as she drew near them. On her deck two forms only were seen. Near the shattered mainmast lay the pirate Zappa; the hue of death was on his countenance, and his side, torn and mangled by a round-shot, told that he was beyond all human help. He was not deserted in his utmost need. The unhappy Nina, faithful even to death, knelt over him. His hand was locked in hers. Her eyes watched the last faint gleam of animation which passed over those much-loved features. She recked not of her own agony, for a purple stream issuing from her neck, told where a bullet had done its fatal work on her.
In vain she tried to conceal it from her husband. It was the last sight he beheld, and it added to his dying pangs to know that she also had suffered for his crimes. Once more he opened his eyes, now growing dim with the shades of death. He beheld the look of unutterable love fixed on him, and in that, his last moment, he understood what he had before so little prized. He attempted to press her hand, but his strength failed him in the effort, his fingers relaxed their hold, and Nina, wildly calling on his name, received no answering look in return. Again and again she called, then with an agonised scream, which was heard even on board the ships of war, and which made the hearts of the rough seamen sink within them, so fearful did it sound, she fell prostrate across the lifeless body of the pirate.
The Ione soon ran close to the mistico, and a boat being lowered, Fleetwood leaped into it, and went on board her, accompanied by the surgeon, who had discovered that Miss Garden had very little occasion for the exercise of his skill. They lifted up poor Nina, but they had come too late to save, for death had kindly released her from the misery which would too probably have been her future lot. Fleetwood, believing that it would gratify Ada, had the bodies carried on board the Ione, to be interred on shore; and as no other had been found on her decks, the pirates had probably thrown their slain comrades overboard. He searched in vain for Paolo Montifalcone; he could scarcely believe that he would have deserted his sister at such a moment, and he was fain to conclude that he had been among those killed by the first broadside of the Greek brig. She had hove too close in shore, and had sent her boats in chase of the fugitive pirates, but none of them were overtaken.
The two brigs then ran round to meet the Venus, when Captain Rawson ordered the Zoe to be burnt in sight of the island, as a warning to its piratical inhabitants.
It was proposed by Captain Vassilato to make an expedition inland, to hunt them up; but Captain Rawson considered that it would not be worth the loss of time, as their chief was killed, observing that, after all, they were, probably, not much worse than a large proportion of their fellow-islanders, and as their vessel was destroyed, they could do no more harm, for the present.
The three vessels then made sail for the island of Lissa, where the Vesta had just before arrived.
The seamen and marines, who had formed the garrison, were then ordered to embark on board their respective ships, first having dismantled the rude fortifications, and tumbled all the guns over the cliffs.
The bodies of Nina and the pirate chief were conveyed on shore, in two coffins, and buried, side by side, in a green spot, under the shade of the only remaining tower, which, to this day stands as a monument to their memory.
The island, where so many of the stirring events I have described took place, is once more silent and deserted, except by a few harmless fishermen, among whom, however, the name and deeds of the famous pirate, Zappa, and his stranger bride, are not forgotten; and, as they point to their graves, they say her spirit may be seen in bodily form, on calm moonlight nights, standing on the summit of the cliff, watching for the bark to convey her to her distant home.
Colonel Gauntlett's delight on getting on board the Ione, and finding his niece in safety, and with the hue of health once more returning to her cheek, showed the affection he felt for her. He wrung Fleetwood's hand warmly.
"I have done you and your profession a wrong," he exclaimed, as he did so; "and I am not ashamed to own it. From what I have seen of you and your brother-officers since this work has been going forward, I am convinced that there are as fine fellows in the British navy as there are in the army; and while both remain firm and loyal to their sovereign and their country, as I am sure they ever will, we may defy the world in arms against us. But to the point—as you, Miss Ada, happen to prefer a blue jacket to a scarlet one, however much I might, when I was a youngster, have pitied your taste, egad, you have chosen so fine a fellow inside it, that I promise, when I slip my cable (as he would say), to leave you and him every rap I possess; for from what I have seen of him, I am very certain that he loves you for yourself (which, by the bye, shows his good taste), and does not care one pinch of snuff for the gold he knows that I am reputed to possess."
Ada, on this, threw her arms round her uncle's neck, and thanked him over and over again for his kindness; while Fleetwood assured him, with a frank honesty which could not be mistaken, that he only spoke the truth, and that he intended to have done his best to marry her with or without his consent, though he expected to forfeit every chance of getting a penny with her.
The Ione touched at Cephalonia on her voyage to Malta, where the colonel found that, as he was supposed to be lost, another officer had been appointed to his post. This, however, was much to his satisfaction, as he was anxious to return to England to make arrangements for the marriage of his niece.
On reaching Malta, the Ione was ordered home; and as Ada was not yet his wife, Fleetwood was able to carry her and her uncle to England, where, without the usual vexatious delays, his happiness was soon after completed.
Of our characters, all I can say is, that most of our naval friends got on in their profession, and that the greater number are now post captains.
After the conclusion of the Greek war, in which he greatly distinguished himself, Captain Teodoro Vassilato paid a visit to England to see his old friends, Captain and Mrs Fleetwood, and he is now an influential person in his native country.
Our honest friend, Captain Bowse, must not be forgotten. He returned to England in the Ione, and soon supplied the loss of the Zodiac with an equally fine brig, in which he made numerous voyages to all parts of the world, and was able to lay by, for his old age, a comfortable independence, which, I am happy to say, he still enjoys.
At the end of nearly every voyage, he used to run down to pay a visit to Captain and Mrs Fleetwood, at their place in Hampshire; and, on one occasion, he persuaded the lady to allow him to take her eldest boy, who was a little sickly, a short summer cruise.
Young Charles was so delighted with his trip, that nothing would satisfy him till he was allowed to enter his father's noble profession, to which he promises to be an ornament, and is now a lieutenant of two years' standing. Among other accomplishments, he is a first-rate hand at spinning a yarn, and often amuses his shipmates with an account of his father's adventures in chase of the Sea Hawk.