"Oh, hear me, lady!" he exclaimed passionately,—"oh, hear me, before you dismiss me for ever from your presence. I cannot unsay what I have said—I have dared to tell you that I love you with the fondest, the deepest devotion—I have done so from the first moment I saw you; but hear my excuses. I felt myself alone and desolate in the world; I beheld you, bright, innocent, and beautiful, exposed, I knew, to the most dreadful danger, and I determined to save you at all risks. I knew not then that it was love—I thought it was compassion for one so fair. I saw you brought on board the pirate vessel, the accursed Sea Hawk, unconscious of your state. My medical knowledge would, I knew, be of service: I suggested that your life hung on a thread, that the slightest agitation might destroy you, and I so worked on the fears of the miscreant chief, that I persuaded him to confide you entirely into my charge. I ventured even to administer a narcotic, to render you insensible when Zappa wished to see you, and to frighten him still more into the belief that you were on the point of death. Day after day I saw you, I felt that your safety depended on me, that I might even yet be the means of rescuing you from the thraldom under which you are placed, and day after day my love increased—I have fed upon it till it has become a part of my very existence, and can end but with my life. Then tell me, lady—tell me, how could you expect me to do otherwise than confess the love which is consuming me? I do not ask yet for a return of my devotion—I do not expect it till I have accomplished far more than I yet have done to deserve it; but yet, I do say, when my task is fulfilled—when I have placed you in safety, and can surround you with the luxuries to which you are accustomed—when I can restore you to your proper station in life, that must be my reward, or I will place a dagger in your hand, and bid you strike home to my heart; for that would be the only other boon I would ask of you—the only other happiness I could enjoy."
Ada looked at the unhappy young man with compassion, and her bosom heaved with emotion; for she saw the sincerity of his passion, and it grieved her heart to wound his feelings; but yet, she could not deceive him.
"Signor, I cannot blame you. I do not complain of your addressing me in words of love, however much I am grieved to hear them. I am grateful for all you have done for me—I would endeavour to prove to you, had I the power, how grateful I am, and for all you purpose doing for me. I feel that to you I owe my preservation from dangers too dreadful to contemplate. I venture to entreat you still to exert your generous efforts to aid me, and to enable me to return to my friends; and yet I tell you that I cannot give you more than my deep, my everlasting gratitude. My love, signor, were it a worthy recompense for your exertions, I have not to give—my heart as well as my troth belongs to another."
The fierce passions which rest in the bosoms of the inhabitants of those southern climes, have far more powerful effects than any similar emotions on the less sensitively constituted frames of the northern nations. Scarcely had Ada uttered these words, than, casting a glance at her features, as if to ascertain that he heard aright, and was not in some frightful dream, the young Italian fell prostrate on his face before her. Horrified and trembling, she gazed at him without moving, for she thought he was dead; but at length as she stepped over him, his heavy breathing assured her that he still lived, and she exerted all her strength to raise him, as she was afraid, for his sake, to call any one to her assistance. A jar of water was in the room, and she dashed some of its contents over his face, and placed him so that the air from the window might come in and revive him. It was now her turn to act the part of guardian angel; and Captain Fleetwood would have pardoned her, as she bent over him, had she felt as a sister for the pale and unhappy youth before her. At last her efforts were crowned with success. He opened his eyes and gazed at her with a look to which intelligence soon returned. As he did so, he endeavoured to rise; but the agitation of his feelings had been too violent to allow him so quickly to recover, and he again sank down on the ground, where he remained for some minutes, endeavouring to regain his scattered thoughts.
"Where am I? What dreadful event has occurred?" he at length muttered. "Methought some demon came with lightning in his hand to blast the lovely prospect which an angel had opened to my view."
He was silent—the sound of his own voice had the effect of restoring him to his senses. He rose, though with difficulty, and stood before her, supporting himself by a chair.
"Pardon me, lady," he said, his voice still faltering as he spoke; "I have been weak, and have acted wrongly, madly, I own it. The words I have uttered I should not have spoken till you were free, and had no longer more to expect from me; but oh, forget them—learn to look upon me as before I committed that fatal error. I ask no recompense for what I have done, I ask none for what I may do. All I entreat you is, to allow me to serve you faithfully—to obey your behests, whatever they may be, even though to do so break my very heart-strings. Lady, for your sake I would preserve my rival, even though the next instant I were to see you clasped in his arms."
Ada was moved, and she held out her hand to the young man; for though to English ears his language might appear overstrained, and his sentiments exaggerated and unnatural, for an Italian she knew it was composed and rational, and it gave her confidence in the sincerity of his professions.
"I trust you, signor," she answered, struggling to keep down her own emotion. "Believe me, you have my sincerest regard, and I were, indeed, base not to feel the deepest gratitude. Remember, then, that I rely on you to serve me whenever I may ask you, and place my safety and hope of ultimate escape in your hands."
"And it shall not be misplaced," answered Paolo. "But, lady, I have longed to banish from your mind the prejudice you must naturally entertain against me, at seeing me in this island, with such company; but believe me that it is sorely against my will. I am here by compulsion, a prisoner like yourself, though with more apparent liberty. To comprehend it I must tell you my unhappy history, which I would long ago have done, had I had the opportunity; but I feared to do so in presence of your attendant, on whose discretion I knew not if I could rely; and I have also, lately, been so closely watched by my oppressor, Zappa, that I have been unable to visit you when I thought you might be alone. If you will now, lady, listen to me, it will serve to calm my spirits, and will contribute towards placing me in the position I would enjoy in your estimation."
Ada assured him that even when her suspicions as to the character of the Sea Hawk had been excited, she could not suppose that he was as guilty as those with whom she found him associated, although she had not believed him altogether as blameless as she should be rejoiced to find that he in reality was.
"Thanks, lady, thanks, you already relieve my heart of a great weight, by saying so," he exclaimed, checking the passionate expression which was stealing into his tone and manner. "To convince you further that you did me but justice, I will give you a brief outline of my history:—
"You see before you the last remnant of an old, and noble, and once powerful family. My fathers were lords of a broad domain in the neighbourhood of Brindisi, among the wild and rugged mountains which form the eastern spur of the Appenines, and abut on the shores of the Adriatic. They first rose and flourished in the days when the sword of the strong hand could win lands and power, and when, whatever was lost by the extravagance or folly of one, was easily replaced by the bravery and daring of his successor. But in later years, although the former means of repairing their damaged property no longer existed, yet, still with rather frequent succession, a Lord of Montifalcone would assume the family honours, who failed not to squander away property which he had no means of replacing. Estate after estate was sold for several generations, till, at last, my father found himself the heir to a half-ruined castle on the borders of the ocean, and a few thousand acres of unproductive land in the same neighbourhood. My mother, who is now a saint in heaven, was as much so as a mortal can be when on earth; and although my noble father inherited much of the true pride of ancient ancestry, he was free from the folly and vice of his predecessors, and he resolved to exert all his energies in repairing his broken fortunes, and to hand down a fair estate to his progeny.
"By prudence and economy, he in a great manner, succeeded in doing so; and as he considered that idleness had been the cause of the ruin his ancestors had wrought on the family, he determined to give all his own children professions, which should afford them employment, and the means of support, despising the spirit which considered any employment besides that of arms beneath the dignity of a noble.
"My eldest brother was, accordingly, educated to the profession of the law, while I studied that of medicine. I had three sisters, all equally lovely, and endued, apparently, with the same amiable qualities. The eldest married young, and went to live in the neighbourhood of Naples; the second died; and the history of the third is closely interwoven with mine. By husbanding his resources, and carefully attending to the nature of the soil, my father had so improved the farms on his estate, that their produce was increased threefold; and as he spent the greater part of the income arising from it in still further improving it, devoting only what was absolutely necessary for the education of his sons, the produce went on increasing, to the surprise of all his neighbours.
"The castle had been put in sufficient repair, to make a suitable residence for the family, and thither, during the time my brother and I could escape from our professional studies, we eagerly hastened to spend it in the society of those to whom we were ardently attached. Our greatest favourite, if we loved one more than the other, was our sister Nina, for she was the youngest. She was the most fascinating and lovely, though we confessed that if she had a fault, her disposition was too yielding and confiding—guileless herself, she could not credit that guile existed in others. Hers was one of those characters which, from its very innocence, would be held more sacred in the eyes of an upright, honourable man, though it exposes its possessor to be made the dupe of the designing villain. One might have supposed that our remote and quiet home would have been free from the accursed presence of such a one. Never was a family more united or more happy. Our father was in the enjoyment of vigorous health, and proud of his family, and the success of his laudable projects. Our sainted mother rejoiced when he did, and their children had a contented present, and could look forward with confidence to the future. I have not described the castle in which we lived. It was one of great antiquity, though, as it had been added to, in subsequent years, the walls were mostly sound, and in good repair. It stood on the summit of a rocky cliff, overlooking the sea, though of no great height, so that the waves, during a wintry storm, could dash up to the very base, and send showers of the sparkling spray over the walls. There was a deep moat surrounding it, with a drawbridge over it; and, besides the main part, which was of great extent, there were walls with passages through them, and strong towers at each angle with which they communicated. So numerous and intricate were the passages, and so dark and dangerous, from their ruined condition, that even I, a son of the house, had never entirely explored them.
"Inland of the castle was an extensive and now highly-cultivated plain, the property of my father, who could thus from the summit of his tower survey the greater portion of his estates. Beyond the plain rose range above range of lofty and almost inaccessible mountains which gave a character of peculiar wildness to the scenery. Indeed, during the winter, I have never seen a spot partaking more of savage grandeur than my paternal castle; with the stormy ocean roaring on one side, and the cloud-capped Appenines towering to the skies on the other.
"It was my delight as a boy, with my gun in my hand, to hunt the wild chamois among the remote recesses and rugged precipices of the one, or to bound in my light boat over the dancing waves of the other.
"Among such scenes was I born, and I believe they gave a tone to my mind, which subsequent intercourse with the world did not altogether wear out; and such as may be supposed had a still more powerful effect on the mind of my sisters, who enjoyed less means of having their effect counteracted.
"One night during the middle of winter, when all the members of the family were assembled in the great hall, sitting round the large dish of burning embers, to keep ourselves warm, chilled as we should otherwise have been from the effects of a furious gale, which blew across the Adriatic from the snowy mountains of Albania, a report was brought in by one of the farm servants, that a vessel was driving towards a dangerous reef of rocks, which ran out to sea, at a short distance from the southward of the castle. My brother and I seized our hats and cloaks, and bidding the rest of the family not to be alarmed for our safety, we rushed out to see what assistance we might render to the hapless crew of the vessel, should any of them escape alive. She was still at some little distance, and apparently not aware of the imminence of her danger, for she was firing guns of distress to call those on the shore to her assistance, as if, in the situation she was placed, any human aid could be afforded her. The sea was running to a prodigious height, and dashing with the wildest fury on the rocky shore, and not a boat we had ever seen could have lived in it an instant. The wind too blew in awful gusts, so that we frequently could scarcely stand, and it sent the foam flying over us in showers, till we were drenched with it to the skin, as we passed along to the edge of the cliff; on our way to the spot near which we judged the hapless vessel would strike the rocks. We had collected as many of our people as we could find, and were supplied with ropes and spars to enable us to save the lives of any, should they be washed on shore from the wreck.
"Now, mark me, lady, we believed that we were performing a truly Christian and virtuous act, and yet it was the cause of all the subsequent misery! and those I loved far better than myself endured. We were hastening to preserve from destruction the accursed viper who was to sting us to death. Thus, Heaven ordained it should be, and its ways are dark and intricate, beyond my comprehension, for surely it is against all the rules one can conceive of justice that a virtuous action should be thus rewarded. Perhaps you will say that His ways are inscrutable, and, that as we have neither the power, nor have we the right to attempt to read them, so we should not venture to cavil at His ordinances, but humbly believe that the ultimate result will be for our benefit. I believe it is so, lady; or it may be for a punishment; but it is bitter, very bitter, oftentimes to bear. But I am wandering from my story. We could watch the progress of the fated vessel by the occasional flashes of her guns, and the still more vivid ones of the lightning which darted from the dark clouds, and we could see that she still had some sail set, with which she was endeavouring to haul off the shore. On she flew, plunging madly into the foaming waves, when, just as we reached the beach, she was lifted on the summit of a sea, and crashed downward on the reef. We fancied that we could hear the despairing shriek of the hapless mariners above the loud roar of the waters as the wild waves dashed over them, and their barque parted beneath their feet. A second flash revealed to us the masts falling by the board, and every timber and plank upheaving amid the foam—another came, and not a vestige of the vessel remained. We were about to leave the spot, from feeling how hopeless was the prospect of saving the lives of any of those who had the misfortune to be on board, for we believed that not one could have survived an instant after the vessel had struck, when the men who were with us asserted that they saw some of the wreck drifting towards us; and directly afterwards a chest and some planks were cast within their reach, and hauled on shore.
"This encouraged us to remain; and some other chests and boxes, bales of silk, and parts of the wreck, quickly followed. My brother and I had been endeavouring to pierce the darkness with our eyes, to discover if any of our fellow-creatures were floating among the remnants of their late home, when we perceived a spar driving along the shore, to which it gradually drew near; and as a more vivid flash of lightning than usual darted through the air, we were convinced that we saw the figure of a man clinging to it. Calling the men to our assistance, we hurried on to the spot where we judged he would come on shore. The spar, with its occupant, approached us, again to be carried off. We saw that the man was unable to help himself. My brother and I, fastening ropes round our waists, rushed into the water, and striking out against the waves, almost overpowered with their force, we seized the now nearly insensible body, just as his grasp had loosened from the spar, and dragged him ashore. So completely exhausted was he that, at first, we believed our exertions had been in vain, and that he was dead; but, on feeling his heart, we found that he still breathed; and, after looking in vain for the appearance of any of his late shipmates—though we left some men to watch, should any come on shore—we bore him to the castle. My brother and I were almost chilled to death with the cold wind, which blew through our wet clothes—for we had wrapped up the stranger in our cloaks—yet, on our reaching home, before we would attend to ourselves, we saw him stripped of his wet garments, and placed him between blankets in my bed.
"We then hurried off to change our own dripping clothes, leaving him in charge of our mother, who was engaged in pouring some warm liquid down his throat. When we returned we found that he had much revived, and was able to speak a little,—though with pain—for he confessed that he had received some severe blows from the pieces of the wreck, and was much bruised, and otherwise injured.
"I ought to have stated that, on entering the castle, we found that he was habited in the Greek costume; and that his dress was rich and costly, as were the ornaments on a dagger and brace of pistols which still were fixed in his sash. We were not, therefore, a little astonished to hear him speak Italian with a pure accent, the reason of which he soon explained, by stating that he had been educated in our country, which he had, indeed, only lately left. At first it had struck me that he seemed restless and uneasy when he heard that our men were still out for the purpose of assisting those who might come on shore.
"He made minute and constant inquiries whether any of his shipmates had been saved; and when he was informed that the men had returned, and reported their belief that he was the only survivor of the whole ship's company, though he at first gave way to expressions of great grief, he very soon recovered his composure, nor did he show further that he felt any regret at their loss.
"As he was very much hurt, I was afraid of fever setting in, which might have proved fatal; and I therefore forbade him to engage in conversation, and gave him such remedies as I thought would prove effectual in allaying it. It did not, however, do so entirely; and for some days he suffered severely.
"I sat by his side, and watched over him with the greatest care—in which work I was aided by my sisters—who were in constant attendance on him when I was called away. When he had slightly recovered, he told us, without our questioning him on the subject, that the vessel which had been lost belonged to the Greek patriot navy, which was just then forming, from those ports which had succeeded in throwing off the Turkish yoke, and that he was simply a junior officer on board, as he had not, indeed, had any great length of experience on the sea—though that, with regard to rank and family, he was equal to any in his native land.
"He then told us that he had been educated at the university of Pisa; and when he mentioned the name of Argiri Caramitzo, my elder brother, who had been there, recollected fully hearing much of him, though it struck him that he bore the character of a wild and thoughtless youth. His ultimate recovery was slow, for the injuries he had received were very severe. As, in our economical system of housekeeping, we had few personal attendants, my mother and sisters were more constantly at the side of the sick stranger's couch than would otherwise, probably, have been the case; at the same time that it would have been contrary to our notions of hospitality to leave him much to the care of menials. Indeed, his conversation was so sparkling and lively—so full of anecdote of his varied intercourse with the world—and his manners were so courteous—and his expressions were so full of gratitude, that they felt themselves amply recompensed for their attendance by the gratification they experienced in his society—especially my younger sister, to whom the great world he painted was new, and strange, and wonderful.
"My brother and I were not so much captivated by the attractions of the handsome stranger as were the rest of the family; at the same time I confess that, by his cordiality and evident anxiety to win me over, and to show his sense of the obligation he was under to me for the preservation of his life, he managed to gain my regard, if not my affection—indeed, I could not place that perfect confidence in him which I should have desired; as I frequently, in his less guarded moments, heard him express sentiments which were totally at variance with those he led my family to suppose he possessed. I had, however, no doubt of the account he gave of himself—as it was corroborated in one point by the numbers of bodies washed on shore habited in the Greek costume. To return to the night of the wreck, or rather the morning succeeding it. When he heard that none of his shipmates had escaped, he entreated us to exert ourselves in preserving from plunder such chests and boxes as came on shore, as he said he trusted that, as Providence had saved him, it had preserved his property also, and that he should hope to find his own chest among the rest; and he promised, after having examined them, to give the remainder up to those who had found them. This wish, of course, seemed very natural, and several boxes which were discovered were conveyed to the castle. It was more difficult to account for a number of bales, and pieces of silk and cloth, which drove on shore entangled with the seaweed; but when he heard of it, he stated that they had fallen in just before with a foundering merchantman, and that this was probably some of her cargo.
"His first care on recovering was to examine the chests, which he took an opportunity of doing without any witnesses. One he claimed as his own, and he showed us that it contained several rich Greek dresses, which he begged might be cleaned and dried. The remainder of the boxes had been thoroughly ransacked for the purpose, as I since have reason to know, of destroying any papers which might betray the character of his ship; and also to remove some bags of treasure which he knew they contained. He thus became possessed of considerable wealth, and the surest means of accomplishing any object he might have in view. As he partially recovered his strength, he would wander out with my mother or sisters to the sheltered garden within the walls of the castle, and afterwards to one which was situated on the outer side of the moat, and which contained orange and apple, and other productive trees. The time was approaching when my brother would be compelled to return to his practice, and I to my studies at the university. Before, however, we went, our guest was able to accompany me on a short excursion into the mountains. He seemed to enjoy it, though he was much too fatigued, he said, again to attempt so long an expedition. This observation led me to suppose that he had no present intention of quitting the castle. He expressed his regret at my intended departure, and assured me that he hoped to return again at some future period to thank me more than he had hitherto done for the service I had rendered him. A day or two afterwards, thinking the change would benefit him, I invited him to accompany me on the water; the sea was calm, the sun shone bright, and the air was almost as balmy as in summer. I mention the circumstance for the purpose of introducing the conversation which ensued, as we sat at the stern of the boat rowed by two sturdy fishermen.
"'So, Signor Paolo,' he said, 'I understand that you are studying the science of medicine—a very important one, though but little understood in my country.'
"My answers are immaterial, so I will not repeat them.
"'A somewhat dull life, though, you are destined to lead, if you are to be shut up in one of the smaller cities of Italy, and employed in tending old dowagers and sick babies. I should have thought that such an occupation were somewhat derogatory to one with the noble blood which flows through your veins. Each man to his fancy, Signor Paolo. Now, were I to recommend, I should advise you to claim your patrimony from your father, and to wander forth and see the world. Instead of returning to your college, accompany me to Greece, where I must soon go; and I will show you some of the glorious sport of war, and introduce you to the land where the arts and sciences flourished when Italy was but a desert. When you grow weary you can return to your studies; but I promise you that you will find by far too much excitement and interest in the life you will lead to make you wish to go back to the dull routine from which I shall have emancipated you.'
"Such was the tenor of his conversation; and though I declined accepting his offer, it made an impression which I should not at the time have supposed possible.
"I had for some time past observed that he seemed to pay more attention to my youngest sister, Nina, than to the other members of the family, and she used to listen to his words, and to watch his looks with an eagerness which ought to have warned those about her of the too probable result.
"I, at length, the day before I left home, informed my mother of my fears that the stranger was becoming attached to my sister, and entreated her to be on her guard. She assured me that my alarm was groundless; that she had not remarked anything particular in Signor Caramitzo's manner; and that at all events Nina was far too well brought up to give her affections to one of whom she knew so little. We left our beloved and happy home—my brother, alas! never to return. We were the only two of the family the stranger feared; for he saw that we did not thoroughly trust him.
"Our parents treated him with all the courtesy due to an honoured guest; and it was against all their notions of hospitality to hint to him that as his strength was re-established, he should take his departure. He now began his accursed employment of winning and enslaving the pure affections of my young sister, in order to allure her from her father's home. He found the task of making her love him, not very difficult, for she knew nothing of the perfidy of man; but when he first proposed her flying with him, she was startled and horrified, and would have betrayed him, had he not assured her that he had mentioned the subject merely to try her, and that it was far from his intention to make her do anything of which she might repent.
"He still continued urging his suit in secret, and winding himself deeper and deeper into her affections, till she no longer lived or breathed, except for his sake. He at last really and truly loved her as much as his nature was capable of; and I believe that if any compunction ever visited his mind, it was at what had been his intention with regard to that sweet girl.
"Two weeks after I left the castle a letter reached me, with the information that the stranger had taken his departure on board a vessel which put into the neighbouring port, and what seriously alarmed me was, that my sister Nina had been seized with a dangerous illness. I would have flown home, but my father forbade me; and the next account spoke of her recovery—though she remained in a low and melancholy state most unusual for her. It was at this time my eldest sister married a nobleman of high character, greatly to our parents' satisfaction; and soon afterwards the first misfortune which had yet happened to our hitherto prosperous family occurred. Our second sister was seized with a mortal malady, which terminated her existence.
"The shock was so great to our mother, worn out as she already was with watching over Nina, that she could not rally; and she herself fell a victim to the same fatal disease.
"I returned home to find my father prostrate by the double blow. For months I anxiously watched over him, and at length, to my great joy, he partially recovered his health and strength. Nina's spirits appeared to me to have been much restored, her eye brightened, and often her lips wore the same smile as of yore. I never ventured to mention the name of Argiri Caramitzo to her, nor did she herself ever allude to the circumstance of his shipwreck and stay at our castle; and I trusted that she had banished him from her mind. Such happiness as the world can give was about, I hoped, to revisit the remnant of our family. Alas! how fallacious were my expectations."
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.
"One summer's evening, my sister and I were seated with our father at an open window of our apartment in the castle, whence we could enjoy a view of the calm waters of the Adriatic. He was more cheerful than he had been for a long time; and Nina took her guitar, and sang to him some of the songs in which he used formerly to delight.
"While we sat there I observed a white sail in the far distance; and it seemed to me to approach nearer and nearer the land. I pointed it out to Nina; and it struck me afterwards that she grew pale as I spoke, and placed her hand on her heart, as if to stop its throbbing. Yet at the time I thought nothing of it. For a few minutes she was silent, and lost in meditation, but at length recovered herself, and continued singing. I remarked this, and I remember rallying her on the subject, saying that her songs were all those she knew of a sad and plaintive character.
"The time for sleep arrived, and we retired to our chambers. Nina kissed our father's cheek, and was going, but went back and kissed him again, and he blessed her at parting. I had slept some hours, I know not how long, when I awoke, feeling hot and feverish. I tried again to sleep, but could not; and at length I arose for the purpose of taking a walk round the battlements, thinking that the cool night air, which came off the sea, would calm and refresh me.
"On my way to the small turret gate, which led from a tower to the top of the castle wall, I had to pass Nina's chamber. The door was open. I looked in—the chamber was vacant. Surprised, though not much alarmed, for I thought she had, unknown to me, gone to occupy the one which had been our sister's, I continued my progress.
"As I opened the gate, the night air, which blew in and circled round the bower, struck my feelings as peculiarly cold and damp, and a low, moaning sound came across the waters. There was no moon, and the stars were obscured by a veil of clouds which had gathered in the sky, so that, to my eyes, accustomed to the light of the lamp I had carried thus far, the darkness seemed almost palpable. I, however, could have gone round the walls blindfold, so that this was to me a matter of indifference, and I stepped out on the battlements. I had proceeded some way, when I was startled by seeing the bright rays of a light flashing across the courtyard before me. I stopped, and watched, with astonishment, for I could not surmise who could be in that part of the castle at that hour of the morning. I must state that on the side of the castle nearest the sea, within the outer walls, was a small chapel, dedicated to our Lady of the Rock, and here, on saints' days and Sundays, and on certain other occasions, the priests from a neighbouring convent used to come and perform the services of the Church; for my father did not keep a regular chaplain, as is generally the custom. He was not a man to support the drones they usually are. The light, I was convinced, whose beams I saw, was in the chapel, through the windows of which it must come. By going on a little further along the battlements, I had a more extensive view of the chapel; and I now beheld a bright light streaming from all the windows. My astonishment was still further increased by hearing the voices of persons within: they were silent, and I then distinguished the voice, I thought, of a priest, engaged in the performance of a service. From a turret, some way on, a stone stair led down into the chapel; and as the key of the door was attached to the one I held in my hand, I determined at once to solve the mystery. Hastening on, I opened the door in the turret, and descended noiselessly. I reached the bottom of the steps, and a few paces more brought me to the door which opened into the chapel.
"I confess that, at that moment, all the stories I had ever heard of the power of the spirits of evil to assume the human form, or of the departed to return on earth, or of horrors mysterious and undefined, rushed into my mind, and, for a time, I stood irresolute and trembling.
"At length, I mustered courage and burst open the door. The scene which met my sight made me recoil with a feeling very different to what I expected.
"A priest was at the altar—a stranger, whom I knew not; and before him stood my young sister Nina, her hand clasped in that of the man whose life I had saved—of whom I had now so many dark suspicions, Argiri Caramitzo. I rushed forward with a cry of rage, and would have borne Nina off from him. He put me aside with a contemptuous smile, for I was unarmed, and far weaker than he. I snatched a dagger from a man standing near, and would have plunged it in his heart, when the voice of the priest arrested my hand, uttering the word—
"Nina had looked confused and alarmed; she shrieked out—
"'Oh! injure him not, Paolo, he is my husband—my life; till me, if I have done wrong; but he would have it so.'
"'She speaks truly,' said the priest. 'She is the wedded wife of Signor Argiri Caramitzo, or by whatever name this signor is known.'
"'I can bear much from you, Paolo,' said Caramitzo, speaking to me for the first time; 'but you must not interfere in a case of this sort. Your sweet sister has bestowed on me her hand, as she has long given me her heart; and this very night I bear her hence to my home upon the waves.'
"As he said this, he pressed Nina to his bosom, and seemed about to bear her away, while he stretched out his other hand, as if to prevent my approach. 'Whether wife or not, she leaves not this castle without her father's consent—with one, too, whose name and profession are doubtful,' I again exclaimed, springing forward, and attempting to seize her.
"'If you will have it so, you must take the consequences,' he replied, in the same cool tone. 'Seize that young signor, and bring him along; I will not be interfered with.' He turned, and spoke to a number of men who stood round, armed to the teeth, and whom I had not before remarked. They immediately seized me, and I saw at once that resistance would be useless.
"'It is folly, Nina, to be alarmed,' I heard the Greek say, in answer to my sister's tears and remonstrances. 'No injury shall be done him, and we will shortly return and claim your father's pardon, and explain the reasons of my present proceedings.'
"Nina was not convinced, for she had not expected to be thus suddenly carried off; and she made every resistance in her power to what was being done, entreating also that I might be set at liberty.
"The Greek, however, was deaf to all her entreaties, and soon succeeded in pacifying her fears. Had I indeed been able to arouse the other inmates of the castle, it would have been of no avail, for it was now completely in the power of Caramitzo, as I have hitherto called him—for under that name I then knew him; though I need scarcely tell you that he was no other than the pirate Zappa. He had, it appeared, during his former stay at our castle, secured the key of a small postern-gate, through which he and his followers had gained admittance. For a long time his arrival had been looked forward to by my deluded sister, as he had arranged the means of communicating with her before his departure; and he had persuaded her of the necessity of a private marriage, all the arrangements of which he promised to make, provided she would undertake to follow his directions. The priest he had brought with him from a distant part of the coast, having induced him, by high bribes, to accompany him, and, I believe, keeping him in ignorance as to the place to which they had come, or who was the lady he had married. A book, however, was left on the altar in the chapel, with the signatures of the married couple, the priest, and witnesses; either intended as a consolation or an insulting mockery to the unhappy father who had been deprived of his child. My eyes were instantly blindfolded, and I felt myself lifted up and carried along for some distance, till I was placed in a boat, from which, after rowing for some distance I was hoisted on board a vessel, and placed by myself in a cabin, the door of which was fastened on me. After a vain attempt to get out, I threw myself down on a couch in the cabin, and considered how I should proceed to liberate my poor sister and myself. The rippling noise of the water against the sides of the vessel showed me that she was under weigh, and I felt how hopeless was our fate. The morning must have been far advanced when the door of the cabin was opened by two powerful men, with arms in their belts. A third person appeared behind them, who spoke a little broken Italian.
"'We have come,' he said, 'Signor Paolo, to request you to take the oath; without signing which no person is allowed to remain alive on board this vessel beyond twelve hours. When you have been longer with us you will see the necessity of our rule. You will not refuse to take it.'
"'I shall certainly refuse to take any oath which may restrain my liberty,' I answered; 'I desire that my sister and myself be at once restored to our home.'
"'Whatever we may ultimately do, it is necessary for you to take the oath before you can quit the cabin. It is the rule of the ship, and the captain himself, as well as any of his friends must abide by it.'
"'What is the character of the ship I am on board, then?' I asked—the dreadful truth for the first time flashing across my mind.
"'That you will be told when you have taken the oath,' replied the interpreter. 'The captain has brought you on board, and will not have you injured; but we claim our privilege, which he cannot refuse us. The oath to betray neither vessel nor crew, by sign, by word, or deed; to obey our chief in all things, and to abide by the laws of the ship, or,'—and the two men drew out their glittering daggers from their sashes—'death. You preserved our captain's life, he says; but he cannot save yours, unless you accept our terms, and then, on that account, we will gladly receive you as a brother.'
"I considered, as well as I was able, under the circumstances, how I should act. I was young—life seemed full of charms. They were in earnest, and I saw nothing unreasonable in the oath they imposed on me. I had no longer any doubt that I was on board a piratical vessel. I could not expect her crew to act otherwise than they were doing towards me; and the true character of Caramitzo now appearing more evident, I felt that there was greater reason to rescue my betrayed sister from his power; and I thought that the only way of so doing would be to affect no hesitation even in joining them.
"'I consent to take the oath,' I replied, with as firm a voice as I could command. Had I known the abject slavery to which those words would reduce me, I would have died sooner than utter them.
"'Come,' said the men, 'we are prepared to administer it without delay,' and, blindfolding me, they led me into another cabin, where I was ordered to kneel down on a cushion, and a book was placed in my hands, which I was told was the Bible. The oath was then administered, and it made me call down the most dreadful maledictions on my head, and on the heads of all those dear to me, should I ever break it. The bandage was then removed from my eyes, and I found myself in a large cabin, surrounded by men with drawn swords in their hands, and at the head of them appeared the pirate Zappa.
"A cross was then formed by the swords of the two men standing nearest to me, which I was compelled to kiss, and then to sign my name in a book with my own blood. The ceremony completed, I was told to rise, a sword was placed in my hands, and I was hailed as a comrade. I shuddered at the name. Zappa then advanced towards me, and, with the same smile which had once fascinated me, he exclaimed. 'Welcome, my dear Paolo, now doubly my brother. I have been compelled to use a little gentle force to win you to me as I have long been anxious to do. You are yet unable to appreciate the advantages I can offer you, so I will not complain of your angry looks. Now come on deck, and I will introduce you to your brother officers—for I consider you one of this ship, and I will try and make a seaman of you.'
"I was meditating, while he spoke, whether I should fly at him, and endeavour to wreak the bitter vengeance I felt at the moment; but the oath I had just uttered came to my mind, and for my sister's sake, by a violent effort, I restrained my passion.
"'I cannot pretend, Signor Caramitzo, not to complain of the violence to which you have subjected me, and of the deceit you have practised on my sister,' I replied; 'yet, I am in your power, and I trust to your honour to make the best amends you can—to treat her with tenderness, since she has given herself to you—and to allow me the opportunity of communicating with our unhappy father, and of endeavouring to mitigate the grief he will feel at the loss of his children.'
"'I do not forget that you saved my life, Paolo, and that alone would make me obey your wishes,' he answered, in a mild, conciliating tone. 'Your sister is dearer far than that life, and, therefore, you need not fear for her. I will not pretend to disguise from you, Paolo, what I am; but that she need not know. The world calls me and my companions pirates.—Let them—the lion is a nobler animal than the beast on which it preys. Ours is a glorious life; you will learn to think so, too. There is danger, it is true. But there is excitement far higher than that the gambler, who stakes his fortune on a cast, can enjoy, and who generally, when he loses, seeks the worst that can befall us—a speedy death. But I will not now stay to sing the praises of the life I have destined you to lead, till, grown weary, we some day retire from the busy scene, and become honoured chiefs and nobles in our own country, with lands and wealth, and surrounded by our family and dependents. Eh, Paolo, I draw the picture well! But we will on deck, and see how our barque speeds over the waters.'
"I repeat his words, to show the character of the man in whose power my unhappy sister was placed. For myself I feared not, nor grieved—I could easily break my bonds; but she, alas! hers were indissoluble. Fortunately for her, she did not guess who he was, nor the character of his ship. She believed, and I trust, to this day believes, that he commanded a Greek man-of-war, and is all he represented himself to her.
"We sailed on, meeting with various adventures, till we reached this island, where, in a neighbouring tower, he at once established my sister. I felt also that it would be cruelty to undeceive her, and would answer no good object. My sister, I believe, he really loves, or did love, as far as his nature would allow; but lately I have fancied his affection was decaying, and he has always treated me without severity, and generally with kindness, though my spirit has rebelled against the shackles which galled me, but which I had no power to shake off.
"My story is drawing to an end; but I have still more to say. I urged Zappa, day after day, to allow me to return to my paternal home, and endeavour to comfort my father, if consolation was still to be found for him on earth, and to explain to him the cause of my sister's absence, with the wish of palliating the folly of her conduct in his eyes, vowing solemnly at the end of four months again to return to the island. To my surprise, he at last consented to comply with my wish, undertaking to land me on the coast of Italy, and to call again for me at a spot and a period he would afterwards fix on. His object in so doing was, not to allow me to know the position of this island. He fulfilled his promise, and I at length returned to the castle. Alas! though my father still lived, I saw at once by the pallor on his cheek, and trembling voice, that his days were numbered. I appeared to him like one returning from the dead; for he had believed that I was slain in endeavouring to prevent my sister from being carried off. He blamed her not—he pardoned her weakness and folly, and his longing desire was to see her once more before he died.
"I had yet another blow to receive. My eldest brother, whom I loved dearly, had been slain by the dagger of an assassin at Naples, and I became the heir to the family property, which I neither wished for nor could enjoy. My whole anxiety was now to return to the island, and to endeavour to persuade the pirate to allow my sister to accompany me back to see our father ere he died.
"At last I received a letter desiring me to repair to a certain port, where I was to be met by a person who would convey me on board a felucca, whence I was to be transferred to the pirate vessel. I thought not of the dangers and difficulties of the undertaking, but, embracing my father, with a bleeding heart I tore myself from him, and hastened to the appointment. Zappa received me cordially, and I was in hopes, would consent to my request; but when I at length made it, he at once positively refused to grant it.
"He said that Nina was now happy and contented; and that she knew not of her father's illness; and that if she was allowed to leave him she would hear things to his prejudice, and might refuse to return; and that, as she was only going to see her father die, it could not possibly benefit her. The more I urged my request, the more he appeared determined to refuse it, till at length I saw that all attempts to gain him to consent would be worse than futile, so I ceased from importuning him. I did not the less meditate how I could best accomplish my object.
"As soon as I reached the island, I told Nina, the first time I was alone with her, of our father's wish to see her, at the same time binding her not to mention the subject to her husband, as I assured her he would not consent to part from her. As soon as I explained our father's state to her, and told her he was heartbroken at her loss, she wept bitterly, and promised to enter into any plan I might arrange to enable her to visit him, fully intending again to return here. My purpose was, to separate her from the pirate for ever, by informing her, though at the risk, I knew, of blasting her happiness, of his true character; but yet, signora, I knew that the evil day must come, and that, when he deserted her, I might not be by to protect her.
"I had brought a considerable sum of money with me, which I had concealed about my person for any emergency, and with it I bribed two men of the village on the opposite side of the bay, to prepare a boat, in which, with their aid, I hoped to reach either the main land, or one of the larger islands, or to get on board some vessel which would convey us to some civilised place, whence I might find the means of reaching Italy. I waited for an occasion when Zappa should have gone on one of the piratical expeditions he was in the habit of taking, and when, according to custom, he would have compelled me to accompany him. To avoid this I had planned to feign illness, and, as soon as I saw the preparations making for embarking, I pretended to be seized with a dangerous sickness. He expressed great regret, and so convinced me that he regarded me with affection, that I felt some qualms of conscience at deceiving him, stained, though I knew him to be, with a thousand crimes. He even delayed his departure, and I saw it would be necessary to pretend to recover to get him off.
"The night at last came, in which the enterprise was to be attempted. I left my room, to which I was supposed to be confined by illness, and, going down to the bay, I found the boat and the men in readiness. I then returned to my sister's tower, whence I bore her trembling with alarm, and overwhelmed with grief at the thoughts of quitting the man whom she so fatally loved, we safely reached the boat. We were not observed, for no one suspected us, and we launched forth into the deep. I had arranged for an ample supply of provisions, and I had previously carried down the means of sheltering my sister from the weather; so we were prepared for a long voyage. For three days we steered to the west and south, with the sea calm, and the wind favourable and moderate, passing only small islands, where the men assured me we should have no chance of assistance. By this calculation, it would take us two days more before we could reach the main land; when, on the fourth day, as the morning broke, I discerned a vessel standing towards us. As she drew nearer, my horror, as well as that of the islanders, may be supposed, when they pronounced her to be Zappa's own brig, the Sea Hawk. It was hopeless to expect to escape her by outstripping her in sailing; so, we lowered the sail on the chance of our remaining unobserved, while Nina and I crouched down in the bottom of the boat, in order that, if the pirate vessel should pass at some little distance, we might be mistaken for one of the fishing-boats of the neighbouring islands. All our care was futile. On so smooth a sea, and in so bright an atmosphere, an object as large as we presented might be seen at a great distance, and we had not escaped the vigilant eyes of the pirates. On came the vessel. Nina was bathed in tears; the Greeks trembled, for they knew their lives were at stake. I nerved myself for the worst, for I knew not what the rage of Zappa might prompt him to do, though I feared for my sister more than for myself.
"The boat was not only seen but recognised, and the Sea Hawk ran up close to us. The men were ordered to pull alongside, and we all soon stood on the deck of the brig.
"'Such, then, is the love you bear me, that the first moment of my absence you would desert me,' said the pirate, looking reproachfully at Nina, without taking any notice of me and my companions. 'I believed, I felt sure, that you loved me, but now I know that I was bitterly mocked.'
"'Oh, no, no!' exclaimed Nina, who had stood trembling and abashed before him, 'I loved you better than life itself. I love you now, and no human power should have prevented me from returning to you. Do with me as you will, but do not wring my heart with greater anguish than now it suffers by believing that I do not love you. My duty to a dying parent would alone have prompted me to take the step I have done.'
"'I believe you, Nina,' said Zappa, taking her in his arms. 'I will not part with you. As to you, Paolo, you have deceived me, and have instigated your sister to leave me. I shall take means to prevent your behaving thus in future.'
"Saying this, he carried my sister below, and placed her in his cabin; he then returned on deck, and walked up to where the two Greeks were standing, awaiting their sentence. I had never before seen his fiercer passions aroused.
"'You know what you have to expect,' he exclaimed, in a voice of thunder. 'You have broken the laws of our community. You would have deprived me of the two persons I most regard in the world, and purposed—nay, deny it not—for I know your vile natures, to have murdered them for the sake of the gold still in their possession. Take, therefore, the consequences.'
"As he uttered these words he drew two pistols from his belt, one in each hand, and, levelling them at the heads of the men, they uttered a shriek for mercy, as their eyes caught the direction of his hands; but it was too late. Ere they could spring back, he fired, and they fell dead at his feet.
"'Cast the bodies overboard, and let their boat go adrift. We will keep no memorial of the wretches,' he exclaimed; then, turning to me, he observed, 'You see, Paolo, how we treat traitors; and let me tell you, you have had a narrow escape; and your sweet sister—I tremble to think what her fate would have been. Had I not fortunately found you, you would not have been allowed to live another day, and let this be a lesson to you for the future.'
"Two days afterwards we reached the island, and Zappa quieted my sister's anxiety, by promising to gain information respecting our father's health. He did so, and the reply was, that he was dead. I remained still subservient to the pirate. I would not desert my unhappy sister, and I could not break through the fetters the pirate had thrown around me. He confides in me, and insists on my accompanying him on his expeditions, when I can render great assistance to his men from my knowledge of surgery; and I am at times able to mitigate the fate of those who fall into his power. Had I the will also, my oath would prevent my betraying him, and thus, signora, you will be able to account for my appearance on board the speronara, and afterwards in the Sea Hawk. Such, lady, is the outline of my unhappy history—"
"And one on which it would have been wiser for you to have held silence!" exclaimed a voice behind him; and, looking up, he and Ada beheld the tall form of Zappa standing in the doorway. He advanced into the room, making a low reverence towards her, at the same time that he stretched out his hand in the direction Paolo was standing. "Go, foolish youth!" he exclaimed, in a tone in which contempt blended with anger. "You will some day try my patience more than I can bear."
The young Italian stood for an instant irresolute—his bosom heaving with emotions of pride and indignation, and his lips parted, as if he would have defied his tyrant; he felt, too, that he was in the presence of the woman for whom he had declared his love, and all the more manly qualities of his nature rose up to his aid; but he had been too long accustomed to yield to the influence which the pirate had gained over him—he quailed before the stern, unrelenting eye fixed on him, and his soft, unresisting character, too similar to that of his unfortunate sister, made him falter in his half-formed purpose. With an expression of agony, of shame, and humiliation on his countenance, he turned and fled down the steps.
Ada at once felt the importance of maintaining her own dignity. She rose, and as calmly as she could command her voice, she asked,—"May I know, signor, to what cause I am indebted for this visit?"
"Beautiful lady!" said the pirate, still standing at a distance, which would have showed respect had his words been different, "can you suppose it possible that I should always resist the influence of your attractions. Am I to be the only one in this island who is to be debarred the happiness of basking in your smiles? Is yon weak youth ever to be preferred to me?"
"In pity's name, cease this insulting mockery, signor," said Ada, her heart at the same time sinking with a fear she had hitherto happily not yet experienced. "Does not every manly quality of your heart rebel at the thought of thus addressing one so totally unprotected, so helpless as I am. With regard to the unhappy gentleman who has just quitted the room, I am innocent of any other feeling than profound pity for his misfortunes; and with regard to yourself, how can you expect me to feel other than indignation at the outrage to which you have subjected me. Every day that I am kept here a prisoner can but serve to increase that feeling; and my only request is, that I may not be insulted by the presence of one who has been the cause of the misery I endure."
There is a majesty and dignity, a commanding power in the eye and expression of a pure, high-minded, resolute woman, which will abash even the boldest and most unscrupulous men. That is their shield and buckler, their defence against the attacks of the profligate. It is like the steadfast gaze of a dauntless man, which is said to have the power of awing even the fiercest of the beasts of the forest; but let her beware how for an instant she withdraws it, how she allows the softer feelings of her woman's nature to shake her firmness; her opponent is ever watchful, and should she allow the faintest gleam of hope to enter his bosom, the potent charm is broken. Thus, in the bright dignity of her nature, stood Ada Garden.
The blood-stained, reckless pirate advanced not a step nearer; he stood abashed and confused, nor gave utterance to a word of remonstrance at her resolution. He seemed to feel that it was she, indeed, whose right it was to command—his duty to obey. He hesitated as he spoke.
"Pardon me, signora, I came not to offend you, but to endeavour to win your regard and esteem. Time may reconcile you to your lot—may soften your feelings—may create a tenderer sentiment in your heart than you are now disposed to entertain. I am not one who is in the habit of yielding a point on which I have once determined; I must be content, however, to look forward to the future, while I submit to your dictates for the present. Farewell, signora, I acknowledge myself conquered; but another time, be not too confident that you will gain the victory."
Ada endeavoured to maintain her composure, but the tone assumed by Zappa alarmed her more than he was probably aware of. Silence she felt was now her best safeguard. She placed her hands before her eyes to shut out his hateful sight, while she endeavoured to nerve herself for what might next occur.
The Greek, however, it appeared, had no wish to proceed to extremities. Perhaps he really felt affection for her; perhaps he calculated on receiving a handsome ransom for her. Whatever was his motive, he determined to persecute her no more for the present, and he took the opportunity to quit the chamber.
When she removed her hands from her eyes she was alone. She heard the pirate descending the steps of the tower, and when she had ascertained that he had to a certainty left it, she knelt down, and her deep sobs told of her outraged feelings, and the anguish of her heart. She was aroused by the return of Marianna, who promised never again to be tempted to leave her.
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.
Zappa had hitherto contrived to prevent the meeting of Ada and Nina, by compelling both of them to remain shut up in their respective parts of the castle. The cause of this conduct it is scarcely necessary to explain. His object was to keep Nina ignorant of the presence of her rival, and he also hoped to bend Ada's haughty spirit by the confinement to which she was subject. It could not, however, be supposed that Nina should not hear rumours of the presence of a stranger in the island, although Paolo had been careful not to hurt his sister's feelings needlessly, by speaking of her. Little Mila, the only personal attendant with whom she could converse, had been warned not to mention the arrival of Ada and her attendant; and for some time she kept the secret which was burning on her tongue; but as she suffered somewhat from that infirmity which is said, I suspect unjustly, to be peculiar to her sex, she at last began to think that she had kept it long enough. She did not, however, at once announce the information she had to communicate, but reserved to herself the pleasure of giving it out by driblets.
"We shall have the whole castle built up as it used to be, one of these days, I suspect, signora," she observed, as she was assisting Nina to dress. "It would be difficult, though, to arrange a more handsome room than this."
"No, Mila, scarcely could anything be more beautiful than this. But why should you say so?" asked Nina, whose suspicions had already been aroused by her attendant's previous remarks.
"Why, signora, I was comparing it with a room I have seen elsewhere, which is also very magnificent," returned Mila.
"You have seen! Why, you have never been off this island," exclaimed Nina.
"That is true, signora," said the Greek girl; "but the room I speak of is on the island, and I confess it is at no great distance from this tower."
"I was not aware that any other part of the castle was inhabited, except the tower and the house close to it," observed Nina.
"There you are mistaken, signora. The other old tower to the east of this, has had a room lately fitted up, very much like this, and there lives there a good-natured, lively girl, who tells me—for we manage to talk very well together—that she was born in an island like this, only larger. I like her very much, though she is not at all pretty; but she has a mistress, a young lady, who also lives in the tower, who is a complete angel—so fair, and kind, and beautiful, though she does not speak much, as she does not understand a word of Romaic; but I loved her the moment I saw her, and I am sure you would do so also, signora, were you to see her."
"A lady! young, and fair, and beautiful," repeated the Italian girl, a feeling gushing into her bosom which was very far from being allied to love. "Who is she? how long has she been here? what is she like?"
"As to who she is, signora, all I know is, that they say she belongs to a people who have big ships, and have never been slaves to the Turks; then she has been here ever since our chief came back; for he brought her in his vessel with Signor Paolo, your brother, who knows more about her than I do; and I suspect, loves her also not a little. And with regard to what she is like—she is not so tall as you are, signora; but her skin is as clear as yours, and fair as the foam blown across the ocean in a winter's storm, with some of the hue stolen from the rose on her cheeks; and her eyes—so soft they are, and of the same tint as the brightest spot in the cloudless sky above our heads."
How long little Mila, having now ventured once to let her tongue run loose on the forbidden subject, would have continued recapitulating the praises of the stranger lady—little dreaming of the wounds she was inflicting on the feelings of her older friend and mistress—it is impossible to say, had not Nina interrupted her.
"I must go and see this stranger lady!" she exclaimed, in a tone which startled the little girl, and taught her that it would have been wiser to have obeyed orders, and not mentioned her. "Come, Mila, we will go at once, and you shall run up into her room, and announce me."
"Oh, dear! signora, that will never do," answered the Greek girl. "You forget that the directions of our chief forbid you to quit your tower; and what would he say, were he to hear that you had visited that of the stranger lady. He is certain to come back, and find you there."
Nina had, however, so determined to satisfy her jealous suspicions, that she overruled all Mila's scruples.
"If I find them fatally true, a speedy death will be my only resource, or, ah! that of my rival;" so ran the current of her thoughts. "I could not let her live in the triumphant enjoyment of what I had lost—his love. I could not bear to think that other ears but mine own hear the tender accents of his voice, which speaks so eloquently to me of love. 'Twould be madness to know that I were flung aside for one more young and beautiful, perchance, but one who could not feel for him one tenth part of the intense love I bear him. I must go and see her. If she is—oh! God, what?" And her hand touched, unconsciously, the hilt of a small dagger she wore in her girdle.
Ada Garden was sitting in her chamber when little Mila hurried into her presence, and intimated, as well as she could, that a lady desired to see her, flying out at the same speed with which she entered.
As it happened, Ada did not, in the least, understand what she meant, and supposing it was a matter of no importance, continued the perusal of a work she held in her hand. She was startled by hearing a deep sigh, and looking up, she saw a graceful female figure standing at the other end of the room, with her eyes fixed intently on her. For the first moment, the idea glanced across her mind, that her senses must have deceived her, so statue-like was the form—so rigid was the gaze; but a few seconds served to assure her that a human being was in her presence. Her own look, as she lifted up her eyes, betokened surprise, though not alarm, and there was that sweet and tranquil expression, that purity, the consciousness of innocence, in her countenance, which the beautiful Italian—for she was the intruder—interpreted aright. Nina did not utter a word for some moments; but with the passionate impulse which had, unhappily, too often guided her, she advanced towards her supposed rival, and knelt down before her, bending her head to the ground. She soon looked up, and gazed in her countenance with an expression of earnest inquiry, as if she would read her thoughts.
"Lady," she at length exclaimed, "I have wronged you—I feel—I know— you cannot be the base, the cruel being I have believed you. You would not seek to estrange the affections of a husband from one who lives for him alone. Say you do not love Argiri Caramitzo, the chief of this island—you do not wish to win his love."
Astonishment prevented Ada from answering this extraordinary address, and she hesitated, while she considered in what terms she should speak, so that she might quickly tranquillise the agitated feelings of her visitor, and, at the same time, avoid wounding them.
Nina seemed to mistake her silence for an acknowledgment of guilt, for she sprang to her feet, and her dagger-blade flashed in her hand. In another moment, it would have been stained with blood, had not Ada exclaimed—
"Indeed you do me wrong, signora. I would not rob you of your husband's love, for all the world can give. I am not mistaken in supposing you to be the sister of Signor Paolo Montifalcone; and if so, I already know your history, and, far from seeking to injure you, would do all in my power to preserve you from harm."
"You can but injure me in one way, and that you might do unknowingly and unwillingly," exclaimed the Italian, still regarding her with a glance of distrust; while she clutched the weapon in her right hand, which hung down by her side, the other being stretched out before her, as if to prevent her supposed rival from approaching her.
Ada felt an unusual courage come to her aid. She neither trembled nor turned pale, nor did she show any attempt to defend herself from Nina's mistaken vengeance; but she lifted her mild blue eyes, full of commiseration, towards the now flashing orbs of the Italian, and, in a sweet, calm voice, she said—
"There is a Power above, which, if we seek, will arm us both—you against such vain fears, me against the guilt, unknowing though it may be, of winning affections which should be your alone."
A fresh impulse seized the unhappy Nina; flinging away her weapon, she rushed forward, and throwing herself on her knees, clasped Ada's hand and covered it with kisses.
"I have not the heart to injure you, though you should prove my destruction," she exclaimed. "But you will not allow him to pour the words of tender endearment into those ears; nay, if he does but think or utter one word of love, remember, the time has come to act for your own safety. Here, take this weapon, and promise me to employ it, should the necessity arrive, for should you fail to do so, neither your beauty, nor his shielding arm could save you from the maddened impulse of my hand— the last dying effort of my strength."
As she spoke, she rose, and lifting her dagger from the ground, she returned with it towards Ada.
"Nay, fear not, lady," she said, as she saw Ada start. "It is harmless now. Take the dagger, and keep it as remembrance of the unhappy Nina Montifalcone."
Nina presented the weapon, as she said this, with the hilt towards Ada, who considered it would be more politic to accept the gift, though, indeed, she shuddered as she did so; but she felt that she might herself unhappily be driven to the dire necessity of employing it. She took it, therefore, and placed it on the table by her. She then raised the excited and unhappy girl, who had again sunk on her knees, and placed her on a seat by her side, when, after some time, she succeeded, by slow degrees, in completely tranquillising and re-assuring her mind.
"You are no stranger to me, Nina," said Ada Garden, affectionately holding her hand. "Your brother has told me the whole of your history, and his own unhappy fate. His devotion to you seems unparalleled. Do you feel that you give it a just return?"
"Alas! no," answered Nina. "He has, I fear, sacrificed himself to me from that dreadful night when I left my native home, confused, bewildered, and little dreaming that it was to be for ever. But I do not detain him; if he wishes to return he may do so."
"He came with you, and without you he will not go back," observed Ada.
"While my father lived, I would have returned to see him, at the risk of my life—at the risk of the displeasure of one dearer than life; but now that he is no more, no earthly power should make me quit my husband."
"But your brother has doubts of the truth of the report of your father's death, and would still induce you to accompany him," said Ada.
"What! and allow you to remain?" whispered Nina, her fears, in a moment, rushing back to the baneful course from which they had been diverted. "No, lady, that were folly too great even for me to commit."
Ada saw that she was touching on dangerous ground.
"Indeed, again you wrong me, Nina," she said, tenderly pressing her hand. "I did not believe my intentions could be so misconstrued; but I will not mention a subject which is so painful to you."
"There are few which are not, lady," returned Nina, again appeased; "for the very language we speak reminds me of the home I have lost, the misery I have caused—it reminds me that I may be stigmatised as a murderess; that the death of the best, the kindest of fathers, may be laid to my charge; and often would such thoughts drive me to madness, and to seek a speedy end to all my misery from the summit of yonder cliff; but for what I have lost, I have gained a prize which recompenses me for all—the love of one without which death would have been welcome; a love I value more than all the earth's brightest treasure. They say the maidens in your country are calm and cold as the snow on the Appenines, and it were in vain, therefore, for you, lady, to attempt to conceive what that love is. He might abandon me—he might forget me—he might spurn me, but still I should love him, though I slew him for his perfidy; and should die happily on the tomb to which I had consigned him. Then do not speak to me again of quitting him;—he is my world, and all else I have abandoned for him."
Ada, after this, did not again attempt to renew the subject—indeed, pirate though he was, Zappa, she remembered, was, there existed every reason to believe, the young Italian's husband; and though utterly unworthy of her devoted affection, as she had herself too strong a proof to doubt, Nina still owed to him the duty of a wife. She had severed other sacred ties, in a way they can never be severed without ultimately bringing grief and remorse to the heart of the guilty one; but she now must abide by the consequences of her fault, and had no power to quit him to whom she had bound herself, even to visit the deathbed of a father. It was painful, however, to Ada, to reflect what must be the ultimate fate of her lovely and interesting companion, when the pirate's already waning love was burnt out—when the cast on which she had staked her all on earth was lost for ever; or, should the lawless adventurer meet the fate his daring expeditions seemed to court, and when death should claim his own, she should learn that he whom she had so truly loved was a murderer, and a robber, and had died the death of a malefactor, what anguish, what shame, was in store for her—what a dreary future.
The two girls, both equally beautiful in their separate styles, sat together, without speaking, for some time, lost in their own reflections. Both were sad—for one was a prisoner, without a prospect of release: to the mind of the other, a picture of the home of her youth, and her deserted, dying father, had been conjured up with the vividness with which they had never before presented themselves, and some pangs of remorse were agitating her mind. They were startled by a loud peal of thunder, which reverberated through the sky, and looking out through the casement they beheld the whole air of heaven covered with dark rolling clouds, and the sea a mass of white foam, which a blast, like a whirlwind, blew furiously over the surface; while the sullen roar of the lately aroused waves was heard as they lashed the rocks beneath the cliffs. One of those sudden tempests had arisen, which at times visit the shores of the Mediterranean with peculiar fury; their anger, like the rage of a human being, though short, yet causing havoc and destruction wherever it falls. The wind, as it increased, howled and whistled through the ruined building; the lightning darted, with vivid flashes, from the lowering sky; and the waves, worked into fury, rose every instant higher and higher, till they appeared like the water of a boiling cauldron, as their white-headed crests leaped up towards the tower, which they seemed to shake to the very base.
Marianna, followed by little Mila, rushed into the room, shrieking with alarm; crying out that the building was going to fall about their heads; at the same time, the rain descended so furiously, that they were afraid to venture into the open air.
"Oh! signora, we are all going to be washed into the sea, and we shall never more be heard of; oh! Santa Maria, have mercy on us," cried the Maltese, rushing up to Ada, and crouching down by her side.
The Greek girl was not so much alarmed, as she had witnessed similar tempests before, and knew how speedily they terminated; so also had Nina, who gazed at it devoid of all fear; and whose agitated state of mind it seemed rather to allay than increase.
"Do not be alarmed, lady," she said, smiling, as she turned to Ada. "You may also quiet the fears of your attendant, for the masonry with which we are surrounded has already stood firm for several hundred years through many a fiercer storm than this; and the shocks we now feel are not likely to shatter these old towers. They are caused by the waves dashing under the caverned rocks beneath our feet. How furiously the waters rage and foam at the opposition this little island makes against them. It was during a storm like this that Argiri Caramitzo was first brought to my father's castle. Heaven grant that he may not have been tempted out on the sea this morning. Mila, do you know if your chief left the harbour since I came here?"
The latter sentence she spoke in her broken Romaic, and in a tone which showed her agitation.
"Yes, lady," answered the Greek girl, "He went on board one of the misticos as soon as he reached the harbour, and immediately set sail."
"Great heaven, and is even now on yon troubled waters," exclaimed the poor girl almost fainting with agitation. "And I am here, nor even till this instant thought of him. Cannot we send out the other mistico to assist him. Surely some of his brave followers will be found ready to search for him. I myself will accompany them."
"Alas, signora, it would be in vain now to attempt to put to to sea," replied Mila, who knew more about nautical affairs than did Nina. "Yet we need not fear for the safety of our chief—he is even now probably taking shelter under some of the neighbouring islands. He and those who are with him are too well accustomed to the signs of the weather not to have perceived this storm in time to have escaped from its fury."
"Ah, I think I see a white sail flying before the wind, like a sea-bird's wing on the summit of the waves," exclaimed Marianna, who had been looking through the telescope at the object of which she spoke.
"Oh, it must be the mistico, then," cried Nina joyfully, hastening to the telescope, through which she saw the white canvas, closely reefed, of a small vessel standing for the island.
"Oh, it is the mistico," she exclaimed eagerly. "I know her by the shape of her sails. It must be her, and they are returning in safety."
As soon as Nina had withdrawn her eye from the glass, which she did not do for a long time, till she had fully persuaded herself that the vessel in sight was the one she hoped, with her husband on board, Ada's curiosity and interest were excited to watch the progress of the mistico. On she came, careering across the foaming sea, now lifted on the summit of a curling wave, now sunk into the deep trough between the watery mountains, where she would remain, her sail alone visible, apparently about to be overwhelmed by the wave which lifted its crested head close astern of her; but again she would rise once more on the summit of another, and as it were seated on it would fly onwards for a long distance, again to plunge down to the dangerous depths from which she had just emerged. To Ada the little vessel appeared in the most imminent danger, and she expected every instant to see it disappear beneath the waves, and wondered how she could have so long continued to buffet them successfully. As she watched, she observed that the mistico, instead of steering towards the west end of the island, so as to fetch the mouth of the bay, was gradually verging towards the east; and it struck her also that she was smaller than the mistico she had been accustomed to see from the stern windows of the brig, while she was living on board. But of that, of course, she was not able to form any correct judgment, as from so great a height and distance the eye even of the most experienced is easily deceived. She feared therefore that the sail in sight was a stranger, and would, to a certainty, be wrecked on the coast, without the chance of receiving any aid from the inhabitants, who were much more likely to murder any of the unfortunate crew who might escape the perils of shipwreck, for the sake of their clothes, and any money they might have about them, than to assist in preserving their lives.
Nina also had been watching, with still more intense interest, the progress of the sail, now seen without the aid of the glass; but so persuaded was she that it was her husband's mistico, that she did not remark the difference of size, nor that she was not steering directly for the harbour.
"Ah, he will be here soon, and in spite of the storm I must return to my tower, to receive him when he comes on shore," she exclaimed in a cheerful voice. "Lady I must bid you farewell, and as I cannot now tell you all the love and gratitude I feel for you, I must entreat you to allow me to visit you again. You will forget my passion and folly, and remember only any redeeming traits you may have discovered in me. Say you will do this, my sweet friend, before I leave you."
"Indeed I will," answered Ada, pressing both the hands which were held out to her. "I shall think of you always with the affection of a sister; but I must not let you go even now; for I fear greatly you will be disappointed in your expectations. See, yonder bark; mark how her head is turned; and tell me if she is steering for the harbour."
"Alas! that is not our chief's mistico, after all," exclaimed little Mila, corroborating the opinion Ada had formed. "She will be wrecked, too, and all in her will, to a certainty, perish."
"I cannot think that it is not his," said Nina. "He has some reason for approaching the further end of the island, if, indeed, he is not about to enter the harbour—perhaps he may purpose going round it to anchor on the northern side."
"That vessel, as she now steers, would not get round the island, lady," observed the Greek girl. "I wish my grandfather were here—and he would understand clearly all about it. Ah, there he is; and now the rain is over I may venture out and call him up here. He will explain matters clearly to us."
Saying this, without a thought of the consequences either to herself or to her, should the morose old pirate think fit to inform his chief of Nina's visit to the stranger lady, out ran the lively girl into the open air.
She was almost blown away down the ravine by a furious gust of wind, which caught her just as she got outside the door; but, undaunted, she managed to work on her way, shouting loudly all the time to her grandfather to come to her assistance; but as he was to windward, and rather deaf, he did not hear her.
At last she reached him, and seized him by the arm to support herself, after her fatiguing run, while she insisted on his accompanying her back to the apartment of the stranger lady.
He looked very angry at first at being asked to go; but little Mila's eloquence conquered, and she led him in triumph back, holding on by his arm; but this time it was to prevent herself from being fairly lifted off her feet, and blown along over the ground.
He made a somewhat unwilling salute to the two ladies, as he entered the room, while Mila dragged him up to the window.
"Now tell these ladies what you think about that mistico there, which is driving towards the shore—let me see, where is she? Alas! she has come frightfully near."
"That mistico, why she must be a stranger to these parts, or she would not venture near our shore; and she has a crew on board who know very little about their calling, for they are going to wreck themselves as clearly as possible, somewhere at the east end of the island. They could not do it better if they were to try; and as there are only two places on the whole coast where they have a chance of escaping, probably in a few minutes they will have gone to the other world."
"Then you think that she is not my husband's mistico," said Nina.
"Think! why no, of course not; she is not unlike her either, lady," answered the old pirate. "They are strangers, who, as they are not invited to come here, will probably have their throats cut for their intrusion, if, by chance, they happen to get in shore alive."
"But your chief—what think you of your chief?" exclaimed Nina eagerly.
"He is safe enough under shelter of one of the islands, and will be back here right enough to-morrow morning," answered the old man.
"Grant heaven it may be so," ejaculated Nina. "And now, Vlacco, you must obey me in this. Collect all the men you can, and hasten along the shore, to where that vessel will be wrecked. Remember, the life of your chief was preserved in a similar manner, and it were impious to allow any to perish whom we can save. Bring such as escape safe to my tower; and beware that no one robs or injures them."
The old man, who had found that he had been very much too severe to Nina during the last absence of Zappa, was glad of an opportunity of regaining her favour, and accordingly promised to obey her directions.
In spite of the violence of the storm, he immediately set out to collect some more youthful and active men to attend him; and he was soon again seen crossing the causeway in the direction of the place towards which the vessel was driving.
As it was scarcely possible for Nina to reach her own tower, she continued, with Ada Garden, watching the awful progress of the mistico.
On came the little vessel, scarcely visible, amid the foam and spray which surrounded her.
She had now got completely to the east side of the tower, whereas, when first seen at the greatest distance, she was in the south-west. Her course must, therefore, have been about northeast, as nearly as possible, directly before the wind; and whatever old Vlacco might have said to the contrary, she must have been steered by no timid or ignorant hands.
"She may even now get round the east end of the island!" exclaimed Nina, whose eye had seldom been off her. "If she can once do that, the unhappy men on board her may yet escape with their lives."
"But suppose she does not, will not the old Greek and his followers be able to rescue them?" asked Ada; who, though less apparently excited, felt an equal, if not a greater interest in the fate of the stranger.
"Ah! she appears even now to be full a mile short of the point. And see yonder wave which lifts her up—in another instant, it will dash her on those frowning rocks, and all on board must perish. Oh! Heaven, have mercy on them. There—there—they are lost."
As she spoke, a huge wave came rolling on, lifting the little vessel on its curling summit, and, with a loud roar, bore her, with the wildest impetuosity, towards the frowning cliffs. Downward it came with a terrific crash, its crest flying upwards in showers of foam, and hurling the bark, she was lost to sight among the rocks. All the females, as they beheld the sad spectacle, uttered a cry of horror, and they fancied that they could hear, amid the howling of the storm, the despairing shrieks of the drowning mariners, and could distinguish, among the foam, their dying forms, with their arms stretched out, in their agony, for assistance, where none could come.
"They are all lost!" cried Nina, hiding her face in her hands to shut out the dreadful sight her imagination had conjured up. "May the saints intercede for their souls!"
Her example was followed by Marianna and Mila, while Ada, though pale and trembling, had pointed the telescope towards the spot, for the purpose of discovering whether any human beings had succeeded in gaining the shore. Not a vestige of the wreck could she see; but on the summit of the cliff, above where she supposed the vessel must have struck, she beheld a person, whom she concluded was old Vlacco, waving, as if to some one below. He and his followers then disappeared down the cliffs.
"There is hope yet, Nina—there is hope yet!" she exclaimed joyfully. "Thank Heaven! some may have escaped."
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.
The morning preceding the storm I have described was very lovely, and the pirate chief had gone out at an early hour; and was standing on the edge of the cliff overlooking the harbour and the sea, while he meditated on the plan of some future predatory expedition he had proposed to himself to undertake on board the Sea Hawk. He was interrupted in a short time by the appearance of one of his followers, who had come up the ravine from the bay below.
"Pardon, chief, for my thus coming on you without warning; but I have tidings of importance to communicate," said the man, making a reverential obeisance.
"What is it, Baldo?" asked Zappa. "Haste, I am always impatient of news."
"It is this, chief. A boat arrived this morning, soon after break of day, from the island of Naeiri, and a man, who has come in her, Gerassimo Listi, one of the scouts, states that a British ship of war has been anchored some days at the farther end of it, and that he suspects—"
"Where is the man, this Gerassimo Listi?" exclaimed Zappa, interrupting him suddenly. "I want not to hear his suspicions—I will examine him— where is he, I say?"
"Under the walls of the tower, chief, waiting your return," replied the man.
"Send him hither instantly," said Zappa. "Then go in search of Vlacco, and tell him I would speak with him—I may have need of his counsel."
The man hurried off to obey the orders he had received, while Zappa stood, with his arms folded on his bosom, waiting the coming of the messenger.
"A ship of war, and British," he muttered. "There must be some cause for her coming here. She may possibly be in search of me; but yet, how can it be known where I am to be found? and that English merchant vessel, I took good care that neither she nor any on board should tell tales. Well, friend, what news do you bring me?" he asked, turning to a man in the costume of a Greek fisherman, who now approached. "Haste, tell it me."
"Why, chief, for the last six days, in a sheltered bay, to the west end of our island, a brig of war, carrying eighteen guns, has been at anchor. When she first came in, I thought she had come to remain one or two nights only, to supply herself with water, for there is a fine spring there, and perhaps with fuel; but she hoisted no flag, and seemed to have no intention of communicating with the shore; and, instead of going away, there she remained, day after day, till my suspicions of her intentions were excited. I watched her narrowly for some time, and even pulled close round her two days ago; and I am convinced, from her appearance, and the language I heard spoken, that she is British. Now, it struck me, knowing what sort of character were the people of that nation, that she had come there for the purpose of looking out after the Sea Hawk, or the mistico; and as soon as I arrived at this conclusion, I hurried off to bring you the information."
"I believe your suspicions are turned in the right direction; and it will be necessary to be on our guard," replied the pirate, who had listened somewhat impatiently to the man's account.
"But here comes Vlacco—we will hear what is his opinion on the subject."
The consultation between the pirate and his lieutenant-governor—for so we may designate old Vlacco—was earnest and brief.
The result was that Zappa instantly descended the cliffs, down to the bay, where the loud blast of a horn speedily collected a large number of his followers, always ready to undertake any exploits in which he led them.
He selected as many as he required for his purpose, and ordered them to prepare for embarking in the mistico, called the Zoe, in the space of a quarter of an hour. Meantime, he despatched a messenger to the tower to bring his arms and some dress, which might serve him as a disguise should it be necessary.
The island spoken of lay about thirty miles to the westward of the harbour; and, towards it, the mistico, as she emerged from between the cliffs, shaped her course under all sail, with the wind on the larboard beam. The little vessel flew across the water at a rapid rate; for, though the sea was smooth, there was a fresh breeze to fill the sails.
All the crew were in high spirits—they invariably were when Zappa led them, as they believed he would always show them where plunder was to be obtained; and they were not a little disappointed when he thought fit to inform them that he now required them to perform a service not only of no profit, but with considerable danger attending it; and yet one which was absolutely necessary, as the safety of the island demanded it.
"You must understand, my friends, that, if the brig we have heard of, is, as I have every reason to believe, a British man-of-war, her purpose is either to watch for our Sea Hawk, and to attack her the next time she goes out of harbour, or to destroy our strongholds on shore. How, though, in the latter point, I do not think she would have any chance of success, we should find her a remarkably disagreeable antagonist to the brig; in fact, to confess the truth, it would be wiser to run away than to fight her. Those English are determined fellows; they will tight as long as their own ship is afloat; and, on your decks afterwards, if they can manage to get there. Now, if I find that my suspicions are correct—and I shall venture on board even to ascertain their purpose— my proposal is, that we treat the enemy as we treated the Turks; we will watch our opportunity; and, during some dark night, we will let a fire-ship float down across their bows when they are not dreaming of any such thing—and we will blow them all up together. We must be near to knock on the head any stragglers, who are not killed at once by the explosion; and then, as no one will survive to say how the accident happened, it will be supposed her magazine caught fire; and we shall escape all suspicion."
This speech which was made in choice Romaic—and which, doubtless, sounded much more heroic and elegant in that idiom than in simple English, was highly applauded by his followers—indeed, had they ever heard of Homer, they would have considered it equal in substance and talent to anything ever uttered by the most valiant of the heroes he speaks of. It was scarcely concluded, however—and they were still discussing the subject, when the man at the helm, who had kept his eye to windward, exclaimed that he saw a black cloud to the south-east, which he was certain betokened a sudden storm, and would advise the postponement of all discussions till they got safely into port. He was an old Levant mariner, who, unlike his race in general, was rather fonder of action than words; and, though he had no objection to cut a throat, or plunder a ship, he did not approve of talking about it. Though he was a sulky old rascal, Zappa had great confidence in his sagacity, and accordingly turned his eye in the direction to which he pointed. He there saw, too certainly, a mass of black clouds which had, by this time collected, and which, every moment adding others to their number, came sweeping towards them.
"We must look out for ourselves, my men," he exclaimed. "Lower the sails while we have smooth water, and close reef them. We will try to get under the lee of the land, till the fury of the tempest has passed."
The order was no sooner given than obeyed; and the sails were closely reefed and hoisted again before the first blast of the tempest struck the vessel. She had by this time performed rather more than two-thirds of her voyage, so that she had some eight miles more to go over before she could get under shelter of the land. If she could succeed in doing this before the height of the storm came on, she would be in comparative safety; and if not, she might be driven far up the gulf, before she could get under the lee of any other shore. The safest plan would be at once to run back for their own port, which there was every probability of their reaching, though not quite a certainty, as a shift of the wind might possibly drive them to the northward of it. As, however, Zappa was anxious to ascertain all about the English ship, he determined to persevere. I have already described one or two storms, and may probably have to introduce two or three more, so I will not weary my readers by telling them how the waves leaped and tumbled, and foamed; and the wind roared and the vessel struggled madly through them. It is enough to say that it blew a very hard gale, and that the oldest mariners on board never wished to be out in a harder. Even Zappa himself, who was accustomed to take things very philosophically, began to think, when it was too late, that it would have been wiser to have gone quietly home again.
They had, fortunately, kept well to windward of their course, and were thus able to keep well away to fetch the north of the island; thus bringing the wind and the sea abaft the beam. Two or three seas came rolling up after them, just before they got well in with the land, and very nearly swamped the Zoe, and drowned Zappa and all his crew; which event would, doubtless, have been a very great benefit to society in general, although, fortunately for the interest of my history, which it would have materially injured, it did not occur; but the pirate and his followers got safely into a little bay, where they dropped their anchor, and offered up their thanksgivings to their patron saints, for having preserved them from the great danger they had just encountered.
After having thus piously performed their religious duties, they set to work to prepare the materials for a fire-ship, with which they purposed to blow the English brig and all her crew to the devil. The storm had soon spent its fury, and in the evening they again got under weigh, and beat round to the south side of the island to the bay, where they had at first intended anchoring, it being, by far the safest, as the wind was very likely to shift round, and blow with almost equal violence down the gulf. Among the islands of the Archipelago, the gales generally come from the northward, and it is consequently considered always more prudent to anchor under a southern shore. The pirates now recollected, as they were congratulating themselves on their own escape, that the English brig had been seen anchored in a bay to the south-west of the island; and they began piously to hope that she might have been driven on shore, and lost with all her hands, which would have saved them the expense and trouble of fitting up their fire-ship, and the risk of attempting to use it. Before, however, they took any steps in that direction, Zappa determined to pull up into the bay, where she was reported to have been, and to ascertain what she was, and her purpose in coming there. By daylight next morning, for he was an early man when work was to be done, he was prepared to set out on his expedition.