CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT.
The greater part of the population of the island residing near the harbour were assembled on the shores of the bay to enjoy, under the shade of the high cliffs, the deliriously cool air of the evening, and to welcome the return of their chief, whose mistico was seen approaching from the westward.
There were old men and women, the elders and parents, as well as the young men and maidens, who had come with happy hearts, to amuse themselves with various light sports, but chiefly to dance their favourite Romaika, which has been handed down to them from the earliest days of their heroic ancestors, when it was known under the more classic name of the Cretan or Doedalian dance.
Century after century has seen it danced by the youths and maidens of successive generations, on the self-same spots—always the most beautiful in the neighbourhood—both on the islands and on the main, since the time when Greece was young and strong—the fit cradle of the arts and sciences; when that literature was produced which will last as long as the world exists; when those temples arose, and those statues came forth from their native rock, which subsequent ages have never been able to equal; when all that the human mind could conceive most elegant had its birth; when her ships traversed all known seas, and her colonies went forth to civilise the earth; when her sages gave laws to the world, and a handful of her sons were sufficient to drive back thousands upon thousands of the vaunted armies of the East; from those glorious epochs to the time when, sunk in effeminacy and vice, despising the wisdom of her ancestors, she fell under the sway of the most savage of the tribes she had once despised—yet still, in abject slavery, while all that man cared for was destroyed, the sports of their youth were not forgotten; and what was learned in youth, the parents taught their children to revive, as their only consolation in their misery and degradation.
Thus, Homer's description of the dance in his days would answer perfectly, even to the very costume, for that danced in a remote island of the Archipelago:—
"A figure dance succeeds: A comely band Of youths and maidens, bounding hand-in-hand; The maids in soft cymars of linen drest; The youths all graceful in the glossy waistcoat.
"Now all at once they rise—at once descend, With well-taught feet, now shaped in oblique ways, Confusedly regular, the moving maze: Now forth, at once, too swift for sight they spring, And undistinguish'd blend the flying ring. So whirls a wheel in giddy circle tost, And rapid as it runs the single spokes are lost."
Among the spectators was Nina, and after much persuasion she had induced Ada Garden to accompany her, with Marianna. Ada had done so after due consideration, from believing that it would be better to appear as much as possible at her ease; and by meeting the strangers, without appearing in any way to recognise them, or to take interest in them, to disarm any suspicions she thought it probable old Vlacco might entertain.
The veteran pirate had at first grumbled at allowing her to leave her tower; but Nina silenced him by asserting that, during her lord's absence, she had the chief command; and that if he would not obey, she would complain of his cruelty and tyranny, and declare that he was no better than a Turk.
Marianna was delighted at once more finding herself looking at a crowd, and sadly wanted to go and join the dancers, though her mistress would not allow her to do so; and even Ada herself felt her spirits rise under the genial influence of others' happiness. She forgot that the handsome, spirited youths she saw before her were beings brought up to become robbers and murderers; and that the lovely maidens she gazed on were taught to consider such deeds as justifiable and praiseworthy. She saw in them, for the moment, only the descendants of the ancient Greeks; and in form and feature, and even in dress, how slight the change. Alas! that their own indolence and effeminacy should have reduced them so low that they should become the slaves of despots, and thus have all the vices inherent in a state of slavery. Nina and Ada did not venture down into the bay among the crowd, but stood apart on a ledge, raised some thirty or forty feet above the sands, at the entrance of the ravine, where they could overlook the whole scene. The old fishermen and their wives were seated in groups, either on the rocks under the cliffs, or on seats formed of the spars and planks of the boats ranged along the sands. The youths wore their gayest sashes, and their red fezzes set jauntily on one side; and the maids their best cymars, with their beautiful hair adorned with garlands of wild flowers, in rich profusion, streaming down their backs.
Many of the girls were very lovely, with tall, graceful figures, and their hair of auburn hue, which is as much prized now as of yore. The music was primitive, consisting of pipes, such as Pan might have played on, and stringed instruments like the guitar or violin. The musicians were in appearance like the bards of old, ancient men, with white locks and flowing beards; but they appeared, nevertheless, to reap as much pleasure from the scene as the rest.
They had just begun to play as Nina and Ada reached the spot, and the dancers had formed in line to commence their amusement. A pretty and graceful girl, with a chaplet composed of flowers and shells, the spoils of the sea and land, and a garland of the same nature hung like a scarf across her shoulders, led off the dance; a handsome youth, with one hand holding hers, and the other another girl's, came next, and so a chain was formed of alternately a young man and a maiden. At first the leader advanced with a slow and seemingly sedate pace, all following, in a measured time, to the musician's solemn strain. By degrees, as the music became more lively and animated, so did the movement of the dancers increase in rapidity. First, the foremost girl led her chain of dancers along the smooth sand at a rapid rate; then she suddenly turned, and setting to her partner, flew off, and darted under the upraised arms of those at the furthest extremity, dragging the rest after her; then she twisted among the rocks, on the shore, and when weary of that movement, joined her hand to that of the youth at the other end, and commenced circling round and round at as rapid a rate as the feet of the dancers could more. When all were panting and dizzy, suddenly she broke the circle, and led off again in a line towards the sea, till she reached the very brink, where the sparkling wavelets washed the shining pebbles and many-tinted shells; and watching till the water receded, she darted after it, and flew back before it caught her; though many who were in honour bound to follow her, in vain hurried their steps before the returning wave overtook them, amid the shouts of laughter of their more fortunate companions. Nothing would, however, induce them to break the indissoluble chain. Then she led them smiling and shaking their heads as they went in review before their older friends, who were seated as spectators, and the rest expected they were thus to visit all the groups; off again she darted to chase the retreating wave, and then once more to join hands in the lively wheel, and at last, overcome with their exertion, they sank on the sands exhausted, though they quickly again sprang up to renew their sport. Several other similar sets were formed at the same time; one of which, composed of the younger people, was led by little Mila; nor was it the least lively or joyous of them all.
Ada Garden looked anxiously around to discover whether Fleetwood and his companions were there, and she soon perceived him and several other persons in the costume of Maltese seamen, mixed among a number of the islanders, who considered themselves too old to dance and too young to sit quiet as spectators. Fleetwood descried her; he was afraid almost to look towards her, lest any one might suspect him. Jack Raby was near him, and he whispered to him to be prepared, should the people they were with move in that direction, to recognise Marianna, and to rush up to where she was standing. Ada watched them as they moved from place to place, now talking with some of the old people, now with others, till at last they reached a group below her. The moment was not lost. Master Jack uttered an admirable imitation of a cry of joy, and commenced scrambling directly up the cliff, in a way only a midshipman or a monkey can scramble, towards Marianna. She also played her part exceedingly well. She shrieked with joy, and bent over the cliffs, exclaiming in Maltese,—
"My dear brother, my dear brother, where have you come from? Oh, I am so delighted to see you!"
Jack answered in return with his choicest gibberish, which did perfectly well to express all the sentiments of fraternal affection he was at that moment experiencing; indeed, no one could have understood him had he spoken Maltese, and few were listening even to what was said, they were all too much occupied either with watching the dance, or the approach of their chief's mistico, which was now seen just at the opening of the mouth of the bay, and adding not a little to the picturesque beauty of the scene. Raby had no little difficulty in getting up the cliff—he had chosen so steep a place—and he was very nearly slipping all the way down again, just as he had reached the edge of the ledge, but all served to show the ardour of his affection. By a desperate effort he sprang up and rushed into Marianna's arms, and she had no reason to complain of his neglecting the promise his captain had made for him; and to do Marianna full justice, she played the part of an affectionate sister to admiration. No one would have suspected that they were not delighted to meet after a long separation, and yet they had never, to their knowledge, seen each other till that moment.
"Oh, my sister, I am so delighted to see you," exclaimed Raby. "And now, Miss Garden, pray listen to me," and he gave Marianna another kiss and a hug. "The captain has fixed on a boat to run off with, and we shall easily be able to launch her, and will have her ready near those rocks to the left there exactly at midnight, when he and I will be waiting for you under your tower. He wants to know if that old rascal of a pirate locks you up every night as he did us. Pretend to be speaking to my sister here."
Marianna got another kiss. Perhaps, in that respect, Master Raby rather overdid his part; but he was a young actor, and as his captain had ordered him to do so, he was not to blame.
"I fear so," answered Ada. "Lady Nina will give him the key."
"If not, we must go the whole hog, as the Yankees say, and pick the lock, or we shall have to lower you out of the window. We are not going to be stopped by anything. You must prepare a line of some sort to haul up a rope by, which we will bring in case of necessity. No one will suspect us; for we have been working away at the mistico all day, and she isn't off yet; in fact, we took care she shouldn't be, for there is every prospect of a calm, and a pulling-boat will answer our purpose much better. The pirates, if they trouble their heads about us, think we are going to try and get away in the mistico; though my belief is, they don't intend to let us; and I should not be at all surprised but what they'll go this evening and rip off a few planks, or bore holes in her bottom, to prevent our escaping, lest we should betray the position of this island. However, Miss Garden, be of good cheer, whatever our skipper—I beg pardon, Captain Fleetwood—undertakes is sure to be right in the end."
"Tell your captain, Mr Raby, that I will be prepared," whispered Ada, looking away from where he was standing. "Tell him, that I have no fear for myself; but do try and caution him to be careful of himself; and allow me also to thank you for your generous zeal in my service, and to entreat you to be cautious."
"Oh, as for me, Miss Garden, I like the fun of the business," replied the midshipman bluntly. "I would do anything, too, to serve the captain; and as for him, he's never rash, and you must not think that he, or any of us, wouldn't gladly risk ten times the danger we now run to serve you. So now I must be off again, to tell my companions that I have found my sister. There, Miss Marianna, I think I've kissed you as much as the most affectionate of brothers would be expected to do—I'll give you a few more when I come back."
And away sprang the light-hearted youth down the hill, and, getting back to his companions, he appeared to be pointing out to them his newly-found sister, and to be expressing, with animated gestures, his delight at the discovery.
"It's all right, sir," he whispered to his captain; "Miss Garden isn't a bit afraid, and will have a line ready to haul up a rope to her window, if she cannot get out any other way. What shall I do now, sir?"
"Go back to your sister and try and learn where the chief pirate has been, and gain any other information which may be useful," replied Fleetwood. "Perhaps you will be allowed to remain altogether with her, and if you can, do so; for you will be of the greatest service in assisting Miss Garden to escape from the tower."
"With all my heart, sir. Would it be proper to give Miss Smaitch any more kisses? It seems to please her," said the midshipman, with apparent innocence, just as he was running off.
"Perfectly unnecessary, I should think," replied Fleetwood, almost laughing at the mid's pretended simplicity, which, having held the same irresponsible rank himself, he could fully appreciate. "You may overact your part."
"No fear, sir—I'll be decorous in the extreme, and if you don't see me again, suppose all goes right; I'll get shut up in Miss Garden's tower, if I possibly can."
He did not wait for further directions, but scrambled up the cliff again to where Marianna was standing, who, supposing that she was to receive him as before, threw her arms round his neck and paid him off in his own coin.
Nina, whether she believed in the relationship or not, took good care to explain to the bystanders that the Maltese attendant had found a brother among the shipwrecked crew of the mistico, and it all seemed so natural, that no one doubted the statement. Even old Vlacco, who was generally so wide awake that, in his own opinion, no one could take him in, was completely deceived, and threw no difficulties in the way of Jack Raby's accompanying Ada to the tower, when Nina requested that the brother and sister might not be parted.
As Jack was very small for his age, he looked much younger than he really was, and the old pirate, considering him a mere child, thought he could do no harm, at all events; and should it be necessary to cut the throats of the rest of the party, to ensure their not escaping, it might be as well to save him, to make him a servant to the English lady. This circumstance was of great advantage to Ada, as the lively conversation of the young midshipman, whose buoyancy of spirit nothing could damp, served to divert her mind from dwelling on the dangers of the attempt about to be made to rescue her; and she was also able to learn from him many of the events with which the reader is acquainted but of which she had hitherto, of course, remained in ignorance.
While what we have been describing took place, the Zoe was drawing rapidly in with the land. The breeze was fair to carry her close to the harbour's mouth, and then, having sufficient way on her, down came her two tapering lateen sails, and she glided up to her well-known anchorage. She was instantly surrounded with boats full of people, anxious to know what adventures she had met with during her brief cruise, and how she had weathered the storm the previous day. They soon came back, and it was speedily noised abroad that some event of importance had occurred, and much bustle and discussion took place in consequence. Two wounded men were conveyed on shore to their own cottages, or rather huts, and messengers were forthwith despatched in search of Signor Paolo, to bring him to attend on them, for he was nowhere to be found among the crowd on the shores of the bay.
Zappa himself was next seen to step into his boat, when the musicians began to play their most lively airs, the dancers to dance their best, and those who had firearms, to discharge them in his honour; the sharp report, for they were all loaded with ball, echoing from cliff to cliff around the bay. He stepped on shore with a brow less calm and a smile less sweet than usual, and returned the salutations of his followers in a manner less courteous than his wont, as he hurried on towards the entrance of the ravine leading up to his abode. He stopped short on his way, for his eye fell on Nina and Ada standing close together, and talking like two friends long acquainted. He was much puzzled. He had only been absent two days, and he was not aware that either of them knew of the other's existence; though as it was no longer important, according to his present policy, to keep them apart, the meeting did not matter; and he little knew how soon similarity of misfortune makes brothers and sisters of us all. He looked up, and made a bow to them as he passed; but he paid them no further attention, and taking Vlacco's arm, he led him up the ravine.
Poor Nina's heart sank within her. It was the first time he had treated her with cold neglect and indifference. Ada Garden saw also that something was wrong: she had observed the two wounded men landed from the mistico, and she remarked the angry brow of the pirate; so she came to the conclusion that he had been defeated in some skirmish or other, and that, very probably, he was expecting the island to be attacked by the Turks, as had been the case with others, when most of the population had been put to the sword. She mentioned her fears to Jack Raby.
"I don't think it's anything very bad, for the young pirates and piratesses are still dancing away as merrily as before," he answered. "But I'll soon know all about it."
And once more he rejoined his friends, and exchanging a few words with them, ran back to Marianna.
"It's a warmer matter than I thought; but still there is nothing to be alarmed about, Miss Garden," he said, as soon as he had recovered his breath. "The Greek officer, who is with us, hears from the people that their chief had the impudence to go on board an English brig-of-war— that he was pursued by her boats, and very nearly captured. I wish to goodness he had been—but nothing more is known on the subject. There is no doubt he has visited the Ione, and I only hope he has got no inkling of what she is there for, and what we are about. If he has, you see, why that is only a still greater reason for not letting the grass grow under our feet."
The news brought by the midshipman of course alarmed Ada very much, as she saw all the dreadful consequences which would too probably ensue, should Zappa discover who he had in his power. He had the reputation of being treacherous, vindictive, and cruel; and he was not likely to grow merciful towards men who had ventured into his island in disguise, for the purpose, he would naturally suspect, not only of rescuing her, but of observing his means of defence, in order afterwards to attack him.
The evening was drawing to a close—the dancers had grown weary, and the elders had begun to retire to their homes; so Ada gladly acceded to Nina's wish to turn their steps up the ravine.
They parted at the foot of Nina's tower; and, as Ada bade her new friend farewell—as she believed, for the last time—her heart bled for her unhappy position and too probable fate. Ada hurried to her tower, followed by Jack Raby and Marianna, fearful of meeting with the pirate, lest he should stop to question the young midshipman; but, luckily, he did not appear; and as soon as they reached her chamber, they set themselves to work to prepare for their flight.
CHAPTER TWENTY NINE.
Captain Fleetwood and his companions had carefully kept out of the way of Zappa when they saw him land, lest, by any unfortunate chance, he should recognise them; and, when they heard of the expedition on which he had been engaged, they had reason to rejoice that they had taken this precaution. As soon as the islanders had returned to their homes to feast and make merry, and to indulge in the juice of the grape—which, on such occasions, is the great resource of the men, as it was in the days of their ancestors—they set themselves down on the rocks to consult as to their future proceedings, taking care that no eavesdropper was within hearing to discover that they were not talking Maltese. They were well aware that the risk they ran was much increased by the pirate's knowledge that the Ione was in the vicinity—for it was natural he should suspect that she was there with some design against him, even though he might not have gained any information respecting their expedition. They hesitated, therefore, about returning to the castle; and the Greek, Captain Vassilato, gave it as his opinion, that it would be more prudent to seek for food in the village, and to pretend to be anxious to procure lodgings for the night; that instead, however, of entering any house, they should, as soon as the inhabitants were retiring to rest, slip out and return to the bay; and that, while they were engaged in getting the boat ready, Captain Fleetwood should go up to the tower and bring down Miss Garden.
"We could not have selected a better night for our attempt," he observed; "for, fortunately for us, the greater portion, if not the whole, of the male population will be drunk, and are not likely to interfere with us. Had it not been for this, we might have found much difficulty in getting away unperceived out of the bay."
"What is your opinion, Mr Bowse?" said Fleetwood.
"I am inclined to agree with Captain Vassilato," answered Bowse, "who seems to know the habits of the people, unless you have any reason to offer against it."
"I should prefer facing the lion in his den; or, hearing that there are strangers in the island, he may suspect, and send for us, if we avoid him. Besides, I fear we may have difficulty in enabling Miss Garden to escape from the tower; and I should wish to visit the mistico to procure a rope and block to lower her, if necessary, from the window. The bay is not more than two miles from the tower, and it will excite less suspicion if we are seen going there, as if with the intention of sleeping on board the mistico; and the old pirate knows, perfectly well, that we cannot get her off without his assistance. I propose that we remain on board the mistico till an hour before midnight, and while you go on to prepare the boat, I will remain to assist Miss Garden in escaping from the tower, and we will then follow directly after you."
"Well, sir, I think your plan is the safest and best, because we shall then be independent of everybody," said Bowse. "It will be somewhat more fatiguing, perhaps, for it will give us a long walk over very rough ground; but that is not a matter to be thought of with the object we have in view. But, by Heavens, sir! here comes that rascally old pirate, and I should not be surprised if his object is to tell us that we must all go and be locked up again, as we were yesterday night, and then we are regularly done for, I fear."
As Bowse spoke, old Vlacco was seen at the mouth of the ravine, at least, as well as they could distinguish in the dark, whence he began descending the rocks to the sands.
"I trust that, even if we are locked up, everything is not lost," said Fleetwood. "At all events, he is coming towards us, and it is our best policy to exhibit no unwillingness to accompany him if he desires it."
The others agreed that such was certainly their only resource; and directly afterwards old Vlacco came up to them.
"I have been directed by our chief to desire the presence of you Maltese, forthwith, at the castle. He wishes to examine you as to certain things, about which you can give him information, and if you satisfy him, he will probably allow you to depart hence to-morrow. Tell this to your comrades," he said, looking at Captain Vassilato, who forthwith translated it into English, carefully making the words sound as much like Maltese as possible.
"We will gladly give him any information in our power," returned the Greek captain. "We were contemplating paying our respects to him; and if you lead on, we will follow you."
"Humph," muttered Vlacco, as he began to climb the ravine, "the fellow gives a ready answer, and I suspect we have got the wrong sow by the ear." Or at least he made use of an equally elegant expression answering to the above in the Romaic.
"We must adhere firmly to our story," said Captain Vassilato, as they followed the pirate. "But I wonder whether, among his other accomplishments, our friend Zappa understands Maltese; if so, you, Pietro, must act as spokesman, and remember, the more dull and stupid you appear, the better. If, however, we find he does not, I must continue to play the interpreter. It will be dangerous, however, to speak English in his presence, for depend upon it he knows the sound of the language too well to be deceived."
"Your caution is very important," observed Fleetwood. "Mr Bowse and I will keep in the back ground, and be silent; and do you, Pietro, put yourself forward, and answer all questions put to us, if he speaks your native tongue; but if he talks Greek, Captain Vassilato will do so."
It would be absurd to say that the whole party did not feel the full danger of their position; but they were brave men, and had strung up their nerves to encounter whatever might happen; the expected interview they saw would prove as critical as any part of their adventure, and they were accordingly proportionately anxious for the result. It was, fortunately, perfectly dark by the time they reached the summit of the cliff, and old Vlacco led them to the building they had inhabited on the previous night.
"There, go in, and I will inform our chief that you are come," he said, pointing to their room. "In the mean time, some supper, I suppose, won't come amiss; and if he should not wish to see you this evening, the eating it will do to pass the time till you go to sleep."
They were agreeably surprised to see little Mila and an old woman, who had before attended on them, enter with a supply of provisions, to which they did as much justice as they were able, and while they were discussing them, Vlacco returned.
"Well, I told our chief that I believed you were as honest as most men, and I don't think he'll trouble himself about you till to-morrow," he observed, as he sat down at the table, and helped himself to a cup of wine. "Let me tell you, if you were the rogues he first thought you might be, he would have sent every one of you flying over the cliffs, without the slightest ceremony."
The old pirate seemed in a facetious mood, and laughed, and drank, and talked, in a way very different to what appeared to be his usual habit; but it struck his guests that it was assumed to throw them off their guard, and that he was eyeing them all the time, much in the way that a hungry cat does a trapful of mice, which she knows will shortly be thrown to her to torment. After some time, he took his departure, and they heard him lock and bolt the doors behind him. There they were, then, once more prisoners, at the very moment it was all important to them to be free.
Fleetwood at first was in hopes that the Signora Nina might come to liberate them; but he then recollected that, her lord being returned, she would scarcely be able to escape from the tower without being observed; and felt that they must depend on their own exertions to free themselves. To open the door was out of the question, so they commenced operations by examining the window. A small lamp had been left there, which they had not on the previous night, and Pietro observed that Mila had placed it on the table, at the moment her grandfather's back had been turned to quit the room, and he suspected that she had done so by the direction of the Italian lady.
The window was a mere aperture in the highest part of the building; but it was secured with strong iron bars, so firmly fixed in the wall, that they soon found it would be impossible to remove them without files or tools to work with. They next tried the roof. On examination, they saw that it was very rudely put together, and that a great part of it was formed simply of the rough planks torn from the sides of a vessel— probably some unfortunate craft cast on their shore, or brought there as a prize. This they judged would be easily removed, if they could raise a scaffolding to work from.
"Before we do anything, let us put a screen before the window, lest any one from without should observe our proceedings," said Fleetwood, who was the chief suggester of what should be done, though his companions were not behind-hand in conceiving as well as executing the details of their plan.
They waited for upwards of an hour, till they hoped old Vlacco would be fast asleep; occupying themselves meantime in cutting up a small wooden bench into wedges and levers, to rip open the boards. They then hung a cloak across the window, and placed the table against the wall which they calculated formed the outer side of the building. On it, they piled two empty casks, which were ordinarily used as seats, and thus, with the remaining bench, they were able, without difficulty, to reach the ceiling. This platform was only sufficiently large to allow two to work at a time; so while Captain Fleetwood and Bowse mounted on it, the other two held it firm, and handed up the wedges and cross bars they had manufactured. As they were, of course, afraid to make any noise by hammering in the wedges, they first worked away with their knives, till they had formed grooves to insert the edge of several; they then placed the ends of the handspikes against them, and pressing those with all their force, they had the satisfaction of seeing that the planking began to separate. They persevered in their efforts, and the planks being fortunately old and rotten, and exceedingly dry, from the heat of summer, the nails easily drew out, and they were soon able to insert their cross bars. They had begun making the hole in the roof, some little way from the wall, and it was fortunate they had done so. In a quarter of an hour they had removed enough of the planking to enable Fleetwood to draw himself through, when he found that heavy stones were placed on the outer edges to keep them down on the wall, and that they had had a narrow escape of their coming tumbling through upon their heads; or of having sent them crashing over, with a loud noise, on the ground on the outside. As it was, a quantity of rubbish had fallen through, and they found that the whole roof was covered with it, and that they had by chances selected the spot where it lay the thinnest.
Bowse followed Captain Fleetwood to the roof, and they then assisted their Greek friend and Pietro to ascend, after the latter had extinguished the light, replaced the table bench and casks as before, and swept the rubbish under the straw. As he was a light, active man, by stretching down their hands as he stood on one of the casks, they were able to drag him through on the roof. They then carefully closed down the planking, and swept some rubbish over it, so that it would require a little examination, to discover by what means they had made their escape.
So far, they were once more in the open air and at liberty to proceed, if they could reach the ground. The night was like the previous one, with a clear sky and the stars shining brightly, while the moon had become much too small to give more light than just sufficient to enable them to find their way.
The hazard now was to descend without making a noise, for the night was so serene that the slightest sound would, they feared, be heard; though the distance did not appear more than an active man could leap without danger. But the walls were broken and crumbling, and it was difficult to find a spot on which they could depend, to take their last hold of before dropping off. After proceeding a few paces to the right, however, the wall appeared more even.
"Now, my friends," whispered Fleetwood, "I will lead the way, and try the depth—the ground below seems free from stone—and, by grasping the ends of your handkerchiefs, I may fall without the fear of breaking my legs."
On this, the other three, as proposed, formed a rope with their handkerchiefs; and all of them leaning over the wall.
Fleetwood threw himself off; and, grasping the handkerchiefs, lowered himself till he reached the end, and then dropped. The fall was considerably greater than he expected—for the ground sloped away on that side of the ruin, in a manner on which they had not calculated; and he had great reason to congratulate himself on the precaution he had taken. The other two adventurers insisted on Bowse, who was the heaviest man of the party, following next. He could now better judge of the depth; and Fleetwood, having rolled away all the loose stones, he fell without injury. The Greek came next, and was caught in the arms of his companions; and Pietro, in like manner, dropped down, the rest saving him as he fell. This feat accomplished, they all breathed more freely; and crouching down on the ground to avoid being seen, they listened attentively to ascertain if any one was moving, before they again put themselves in motion. Not a sound disturbed the silence of the night; and, satisfied that they were not discovered, they crept cautiously on towards the eastward, under the shadow of the wall, in the manner Nina had led Fleetwood on the previous night. It still wanted an hour and a half to the time he had desired Ada to be prepared; and he resolved to employ the interval in ascertaining whether the door of her tower was locked; and, if he found it so, to proceed to the mistico, and procure the cordage which might be required. Leaving his companions, therefore, seated on the ground, in a sheltered rock, he walked to the tower alone.
He first looked carefully on every side; and, having ascertained that no one was near, he approached the door. It was locked—as he feared it might be—and, after the most minute examination, he could discover no means by which he could open it. He then went under the window, and, in vain, tried to attract the attention of the inmates. They were, apparently, too busily employed within. At last, he threw up some small stones, and after numerous efforts, one entered the casement.
"Who's there?" said a voice, which he recognised as Raby's.
"Ione" replied the captain, in a loud whisper.
"Is it you, sir?" exclaimed the midshipman, to whom the answer was familiar. "I'll be down at the door directly."
And Fleetwood heard him hurriedly descending the steps.
"You are much sooner than we expected, sir," said the lad through the chinks of the door. "Can you open the door from the outside?"
"No; can you open it from within?" asked Fleetwood on return.
"No, sir," said the midshipman; "I tried for a whole hour to pick the lock, but could not do it; so I have fitted a chair, strengthened with some ropes which came with Miss Garden's baggage, and there will be no more difficulty in getting down from the tower than from the deck of a frigate."
"You have done admirably," replied Fleetwood. "I will not stop to thank you,—but tell Miss Garden everything is going on well—and I will return in an hour."
The adventurers had some difficulty in picking their way among the rocks to the little bay where the mistico lay on the sand; but they succeeded in reaching it without encountering any one; and, as they had discovered the means of descending to it in the morning by the secret path I mentioned, leading through the cavern, they easily got down. They found that the vessel had not been disturbed—indeed, old Vlacco, having claimed her for their chief, no one would have ventured to take anything from her. They were thus not only able to procure the rope and blocks, but to provide themselves with some arms they had stowed away where they had not been discovered; and some provisions which, should they miss the Ione's boats, might be very important. Although, from the peculiar rig of the mistico, her halyards were too short to be of any service, and her sheets too thick, a coil of small rope was found of sufficient length for the purpose; and, loaded with their treasures, they bade farewell to the little craft which had served them in such good stead.
"I should like to burn her, to prevent the rascals benefiting by her," said Captain Vassilato, as they walked along the sand to the entrance of the cave. "But, as the so doing would probably betray us to them, we must leave her to them as a gift; and may she drown some of them before they have done with her."
"I would rather we could catch her again with a few of them in her," observed Bowse. "I never like to wish an enemy worse luck than a good thrashing, if I can meet him in fair fight; but, to be sure, from what we hear of these fellows, they don't deserve much mercy from civilised men, though we have no reason to complain of the way they have treated us."
"Stay till they discover what we are about, and they would cut our throats without ceremony," replied Captain Vassilato. "We shall do wisely not to trust them."
Fleetwood walked on ahead without speaking. His mind was too much occupied with the importance of the undertaking, and the risk to her he loved, to allow him to enter into conversation; and, indeed, he wished his friends would be silent, for, though it was not probable any of the islanders were within hearing, it was possible that some one might be out, and they might betray themselves. The same thing struck them at last, and they followed in silence. The most difficult part of the journey was where they had to mount the rude steps cut in the cliff, and where the slightest slip might have proved fatal. They, however, reached the open door in safety, and then proceeded more briskly on their way. Wherever they could, they kept as much as possible under shelter; but they had several open spaces to pass, where they could not avoid exposing themselves to view; though, as there were no habitations in the neighbourhood, they did not fear any danger from this circumstance.
Any one who has been engaged in an undertaking, on which not only their own life and safety depends, but also that of others, and among them of one dearer than life itself, will understand the feelings which animated Fleetwood's bosom, as the most difficult and dangerous part of the work was about to be accomplished. The happiness, the pride, the joy unspeakable which would be his, should he succeed in placing her in safety, urged him dauntlessly on; at the same time the thought of what would be the result of failure made him grave and serious; his own speedy death, but that he set at naught; her misery and continued captivity, and, perhaps, even a fate too horrible for him to contemplate; and he did not forget that he had companions also, who had generously risked their lives to assist him, and that they also would be involved in his destruction. Fortunately the difficulties of the road, the necessity of looking out for the best path among the rocks, and of watching for the approach of any person who might interrupt them, prevented him from dwelling so deeply on the subject as to unfit him for the work.
His heart beat quick as he approached the tower; and, wringing his friends' hands as they hurried on to prepare the boat they had fixed on, he remained under Ada's window with the coil of rope, promising to follow, as soon as possible, with Miss Garden and her companions. Jack Raby was on the watch, and appeared at the window as he got under it. So well had the midshipman arranged everything, that not a word was spoken. He let a line down, which he had made by unstranding a piece of rope, and twisting up some bits of the carpet; and, though composed of so many materials, it was sufficiently strong for the purpose; and with it he hauled up the end of the rope and the block through which it was to run. The block he at once, with a sailor's quickness, securely fastened on to the iron bar; and, reeving the rope through it, he fastened one end to the chair he had arranged, and then, putting the chair out of the window, he jumped into it, holding on by the other part of the rope, and lowered himself down to Fleetwood's feet.
"All right, sir," he whispered. "I thought it better to try the length of the rope and the strength of my chair, before we trusted Miss Garden in it. She is in capital heart, sir, and so is my new sister. Now, sir, if you will stand by the end, I'll go up again to help her into the chair, and bear it off the wall. I can't ask you to haul me up, sir."
"No, no, jump in, my lad, and be careful, in Heaven's name, that you secure Miss Garden properly," said Fleetwood, pressing his hand; and he quickly hauled him up again to the window, and the chair once more appeared, with Ada seated in it, a shawl thrown round her, in true man-of-war fashion. Raby had taken care to have everything properly prepared.
"Now, sir, lower away gently, if you please," he whispered, as he leaned out of the window; and Ada Garden safely descended into Fleetwood's arms. A silent embrace was all he would allow himself, before he hauled up the chair to lower down Marianna, who accomplished the transit with the same speed as her mistress. Jack Raby did not immediately descend, but, hauling up the rope, he cast off the block, and then passed the rope over the bar, and descended by it.
"I won't delay you a moment, Captain Fleetwood," he said. "But I am determined the pirates shall not find out how we escaped, and, as there is a cliff close here, which overhangs the sea, I will, with your leave, heave the chair, and rope, and block, over it, and they will never discover them there; or if they do, they will think that we got over the cliffs."
As Fleetwood considered the delay would not be of consequence, and that no harm could arise from allowing the midshipman to have his way, he gave him leave to do as he proposed, and in two minutes he returned, having accomplished his object.
"There, sir," he said, laughing quietly. "If the pirates miss one of the chairs, they may look for it long enough before they find it or the rope, and in the mean time they will fancy English young ladies can jump forty feet to the ground without hurting themselves. When they try to open the door, too, they'll think we are inside, for I barricadoed it with everything I could find, and there'll be a pretty smash when they shove it open."
"You have done admirably, and now take Marianna's arm, and follow me," said Fleetwood, leading the way with Ada.
When Ada Garden found herself once more by Fleetwood's side, she returned her grateful thanks to Heaven for having thus restored her to liberty; for so strong was her confidence in her lover's courage and judgment, that she felt as if all difficulty and danger were over, and that success must await them.
Fleetwood also uttered a silent thanksgiving to Heaven, and a prayer for protection during the still greater danger he knew they must encounter in their endeavour to get out of the harbour; but, of course, he did not tell her this. Neither spoke; they both were confident of the sentiments of each other's heart, and Ada felt it would be useless at that moment to express her gratitude, when she hoped to prove it during the remainder of her life; and he in like manner knew that there would be no necessity to tell her of his love and joy at finding her, when his acts were giving her such convincing evidence of it. They walked on under the shadow of the wall, as noiselessly and rapidly as they could move, towards the commencement of the steep path leading down the ravine. In doing so they had to pass close to Nina's tower. Fleetwood looked up; no light was seen streaming from the casement, nor was any one heard stirring within.
On they went, and, Fleetwood tenderly supporting Ada, they commenced descending the path. They had got about a quarter of the way down, when Fleetwood fancied he heard the sound of a distant footfall. Could it be the echo of their own feet? he thought, then made a sign to Raby to stop while they listened. There could be no mistake about it. Footsteps were rapidly approaching, and, on looking back, they saw, to their dismay, a dark figure on the cliff above them. Fleetwood drew back under the shadow of an overhanging rock, and he could feel Ada, who had also seen the figure, as she clung closer to his arm, tremble with alarm, which she in vain endeavoured to overcome. Marianna uttered a faint shriek, and was going to repeat it, when Jack Raby gave her a pinch, which effectually recalled her to her senses, and, in a whisper, he threatened to give her another if she made the slightest noise. A minute or two of the most intense anxiety passed away, which, under the circumstances, appeared nearly an hour, and no one appeared.
"If we emerge from where we are, we cannot escape being seen, should the person remain where he was," replied Fleetwood. "It will be better to confront him boldly, and learn his intention in following us, than to allow him to go back and to give information of our attempt. I will leave you, Ada, in charge of Mr Raby, and will return instantly."
"Oh, do not quit me!" exclaimed Ada. "I will go with you—indeed, I am not alarmed for myself; but I know not what may happen to you. They may kill you, Fleetwood—oh, do not go."
"It is absolutely necessary that something should be done, dearest, and there is no greater danger to be feared in going than remaining," answered Fleetwood. "Ada, I must force myself from you—it must be done."
"You are right, Charles, I was weak. Go, and I will remain as you wish," she whispered, relinquishing his arm, and he sprang up the path.
Jack did his best to comfort Ada, by assuring her that his captain could easily manage to thrash a dozen Greeks, and that he was not likely to suffer any harm from a single pirate, at all events. Every moment Ada expected to hear the noise of a struggle, a pistol-shot, or the clash of swords. She listened with breathless eagerness, trembling in every limb, and she would have followed her lover, had she not known that her so doing would be against his wish, and could be of no advantage to him, but might cause great harm. It appeared to her an age since he left her, and her anxiety became almost too great to be borne.
"Oh, Mr Raby, cannot you go up and see what has become of Captain Fleetwood? Some accident has happened to him, I am certain," she whispered to the midshipman.
"I must obey orders, Miss Garden, and wait for the captain's return," was the answer, in the same low tone. "You need not be alarmed, I can assure you—he has not been gone two minutes."
He had scarcely spoken when Ada's quick ear caught the sound of footsteps, and she could scarcely restrain her cry of joy, as she sprang forward to meet him. He placed his arm tenderly round her to support her, as he led her on.
"It is very extraordinary," he said; "I could find no one, though I searched the very spot where I had seen him standing. But, come on, dearest, we have time to reach the boat, and to get outside the harbour before the spy, if such he was, can send people to pursue us."
"I am able to walk much faster," said Ada, hastening her steps, "I dread any delay in this dreadful place."
They had not, however, proceeded many paces, when, on turning one of the many angles of the winding path, a person, the same, they fancied, whom they had before seen, appeared suddenly before them, and laid a hand on Fleetwood's arm.
"Stay, signor," he said in a low, deep voice, speaking in the Italian language. "You are already suspected by one who knows not mercy, and if he were to discover your wild attempt to carry off that lady, your death would be the consequence. Return and abandon it; for ere you can get beyond the sound of the waves, as they dash on the cliffs below, you will be pursued and overtaken."
"I know not who you are, signor," said Fleetwood; "but, as I believe your warning is given in kindness, I thank you. To follow your advice is impossible, and I must beg you, as a favour, not to detain us—I need not ask you, I trust, not to betray us."
"I feel sure that Signor Montifalcone will not do so," exclaimed Ada, recognising at once the voice of the young Italian. "He will rather exert himself to assist us—I am not mistaken in his generosity."
Paolo was silent a minute, when, releasing his grasp of Fleetwood's arm, he sighed as if his heart would break, and took Ada's hand. "Lady," he said, in a tone of deep melancholy, "you sign my death-warrant; but it shall not prevent me from obeying your wishes. I will accompany you to your boat, if you have one prepared, and, when you have gone, I will endeavour to deceive those who attempt to follow you. Further, I know not how to aid you."
"We are grateful to you for your promised aid," said Fleetwood; "and now, lead on, we can ill afford further delay."
"It is for the lady's sake I act," muttered Paolo, beginning to move onward down the path.
Ada overheard him. "It is because you are generous, and would preserve the lives of others, even though you risk your own," she said, in a low tone, touching his arm. "But if there is danger in remaining here, come with us. You can be conveyed in safety to your native country, and can ascertain if your father yet lives."
"What! and leave my unhappy sister to her fate?" said the young man, turning round his countenance towards her, which, even with the faint light afforded by the moon, she observed wore an expression of the deepest grief. "I have but one object to live for,—for her sake alone I consent to endure existence. Do not ask me to quit her."
"Oh that she would have come too," said Ada. "She might yet be saved."
"She would not accompany you, lady," answered Paolo. "Pirate though he is, Zappa is still her husband, and no power would now make her quit him. But I delay you, and increase the risk of discovery, already sufficiently great, by speaking. I will say no more, but that I pray, when in safety in your native land, you will not forget the unhappy exile whom once you knew, and who would gladly have died to serve you."
He spoke as they walked on, and a few minutes more brought them to the mouth of the ravine, whence a full view of the moonlit bay lay before them.
The Sea Hawk and two misticos were at their anchors. No light appeared on board either of them, nor was there any one moving, that Fleetwood could discover, on their decks; nor was the slightest noise heard, except the low, gentle ripple of the untiring water on the sands; yet so smooth and glass-like was the sea, that every star in the heavens seemed reflected on its surface. He could distinguish, also, the dark boats drawn up on the beach; but he looked in vain for the one his friends were to secure, in which to make their escape.
"They have, with due caution, carefully concealed her," he said to himself. "When we get more to the left, we shall doubtlessly see her."
On descending to the sands, they turned, therefore, sharp round to the left under the cliffs, which, it must be remembered, was the direction of the spot agreed on where the boat was to be in readiness. At length they reached the black rock, alongside of which Fleetwood expected to find her, and, to his great satisfaction, he saw that she was there; and his friends directly after rose from her bottom, where they had concealed themselves while waiting for his coming.
"We were alarmed for your safety, Captain Fleetwood," said Bowse, leaping out to meet them. "We waited so long for you; but everything is in readiness. If you will assist Miss Garden on board, I will take care of Marianna. But who is this stranger with you?"
"One to whom I owe much," said Ada, stretching out her hand. "Farewell, Signor Montifalcone, may Heaven reward you for what you have done for me."
"Farewell, lady, and may you never know the grief I am doomed to bear," returned the Italian; and before Fleetwood, who would have thanked him, could speak, he had retired to a distance; and as they quickly embarked, and urged the boat from the shore, they could see him standing watching them, still as a marble statue.
"Thank Heaven, you are so far safe, dearest," said Fleetwood, as he placed Ada in the stern sheets of the boat, by the side of Jack Raby, who, it was arranged, should steer, while he took the stroke oar, his companions pulling the others.
With heartfelt gratitude did Ada thank Heaven, for having thus far conducted them in safety through the perils which surrounded them, and implored protection for herself, and for the gallant men, her deliverers, through those they had still to encounter.
They had well employed the time spent in waiting, by carefully muffling the oars, so that they should make no noise as they worked in the rullocks, and it was now only necessary to take care to let the blades fall into the water, and to draw them out again with as little splash as possible.
Marianna sat opposite to her mistress; and if not the most delighted of the party at the success which had hitherto attended them, she, at all events, gave more vehement expression to her feelings; and Raby had to apply his former remedy to keep her quiet.
At a sign from Fleetwood, the boat was sent gliding off from the rock; but instead of at once steering out into the bay, she was kept close in shore, under the shadow of the cliffs: the blades of the oars just clearing the sand as they went along.
The boat was a very rough specimen of naval architecture, and wore they to have depended on her speed, the chance of escape would have been small indeed. She was built to pull six oars, with a high bow and stern, and though well suited to serve as a fishing-boat, or to live in the short seas of the Archipelago, was not intended to be used when rapid progress was important. The adventurers had, indeed, selected her, not on account of the qualities she possessed adapted for their purpose, but because she happened to be moored close into the shore, near the east side of the bay, and, what was very important, had her oars left on board her. Pietro, who was a good swimmer, had, it appeared, gone off with his knife in his mouth, and cutting her cable, towed her close enough in for the other two to step into her. They had then brought her round, with the same cautious silence, to where Fleetwood had found her.
The hearts of all beat quick with hope, not unmixed, however, with apprehension, as the boat glided along the shore close to the cliffs.
Fleetwood's glance was roving watchfully round, to notice the first sign of their being discovered, and of any preparations made for their pursuit. The figure of the unhappy Paolo Montifalcone was the only one discernible, as he stood at the end of the rock, to catch a last glimpse of the faint outline of her on whom he had so devotedly set the affection of his ardent nature, without a prospect of return, and his figure soon faded away in the obscurity.
From the shore, the adventurers had now, they thought, less cause to fear; but they looked with suspicious eyes towards the brig, and the two misticos, on the decks of which, at least, one person ought to have been on the watch; but neither of them gave any signs of having life on board.
"If we had suspected the sort of watch there rascals keep, we should have had little difficulty in taking them by surprise," thought Fleetwood. "We may profit by our knowledge on another occasion, but I am afraid they will not forget the lesson I hope we shall give them, to be more vigilant in future."
Of course, it is difficult to describe the sensations which alternately filled Ada's bosom, as the boat progressed round the harbour; hope, joy, gratitude, love, and fear, all were there; and those who would understand what they were, must either have been placed in a similar position, or must endeavour to fancy themselves so placed. At length the eastern point of the harbour was passed, and with the towering cliffs of the entrance rising above them on either side, the clear boundless sea appeared ahead. Jack Raby, with the natural impulse of his age, forgetting his own lessons to Marianna, was very nearly giving way to a shout of joy as he found the boat floating freely on the ocean he had learned to love and to confide in; but he recollected himself in time, and merely uttered a whispered "hurra," which could not have been heard above the splash of the water on the rocks close above them.
"Port your helm, Raby, and let us shut out the bay as fast as we can," whispered his captain. "We shall still keep under the shadow of the cliffs for a short distance, to avoid the risk of being seen from the eastern towers. That will do, steady.
"Keep up your courage, my sweet Ada, for a few minutes more," he said, turning his eyes to her countenance, from which, indeed, his glance had never been absent longer than was necessary to watch for their safety. "We may now congratulate ourselves on having every chance of escape. In less than half an hour we shall fall in with the Ione's boats, and then we may defy the whole nest of pirates to stop us."
"I shall have no further fear when we have lost sight of that dreadful vessel, which looks even now like some slumbering monster about to awake and rush after us," she answered, pointing to the Sea Hawk, which lay still open inside the harbour's mouth.
She had scarcely uttered these words when a loud shout was heard, which seemed to proceed from some one on board her, and a musket was discharged at them. The shouting was repeated, and words were clearly distinguished.
"We are discovered," exclaimed the Greek captain. "Pull, pull, as hard as we can, the watch on deck is calling on us to come into the harbour. He has evidently just woke up, and is yet uncertain what we are, though he suspects us. He threatens to fire the guns at us if we do not obey him, and that will have the effect, though we escape the shot, of waking up the rascals in all quarters, and we shall have a whole fleet of boats after us: stay, I will hail in return, and pretend we are fishermen."
On this he stood boldly up in the boat, and cried out in Romaic, at the top of his voice—
"What fool is that on board the Sea Hawk, who has been sleeping on his watch these four hours past, and now makes so much noise, because others more industrious get up early in the morning to follow their avocations? We should have little fish to eat if we were to trust to you for the supply."
"Who is it?" exclaimed the same voice. "Is it you, Balbo?"
"Yes, yes," answered Captain Vassilato; "I should have thought you would have known my voice."
"Who is it?" hailed another person, apparently on shore.
"Gerasimo Listi," answered the watch on the Sea Hawk's deck.
"No, no, the old fellow lies drunk at home!" exclaimed the second speaker. "Treachery, treachery. They are the spies endeavouring to escape."
"It is hopeless to deceive them," said Captain Vassilato, when he heard these words, which he translated to his companions as he resumed his seat and oar. "We must pull for our lives; we have a good start, and it may be some time before any boats' crews can be collected to pursue us."
It is needless to say with what energy all hands bent to their oars— concealment was of no further use, and they were able to put their whole strength into their strokes. There was no time to be lost. The brig was swinging with her broadside across the mouth of the harbour, and as soon as those on her deck could procure matches, they rushed to the guns, and discharged them in quick succession; and Ada could scarcely restrain a shriek of terror as she saw their bright flashes lighting up the mouth of the harbour—the sides and rigging of the vessel now crowded with people—and heard their loud report echoing among the cliffs, as also the rushing noise of the shot as they came flying by— some over their heads, some close astern, and others ahead of them; for though the pirates' aim was very uncertain, yet, as from the narrow entrance of the bay, the only shot which could reach them must come between the cliffs, they could not go far distant from them. One or two, apparently, from the peculiar noise they made, hit the cliffs, and rebounded back into the bay. Marianna, whose fears had completely overcome her, crouched down at the bottom of the boat, where she thought she should be more secure; and Fleetwood entreated Ada in that respect to follow her example, desiring Jack Raby to place her as low down as possible, where a shot was less likely to strike the boat. Though she was unwilling to be more sheltered from danger than he was, yet she saw that her so doing would relieve him from some of his fear for her safety, and she complied with his wishes; reclining on some jackets and cloaks which Jack Raby spread out for her, she saw no more of what took place, though the noise of the firing soon ceasing told her that they had shut in the brig by the western cliffs.
"Remain where you are, dearest," said Fleetwood, as she was about to rise. "We may still have some shot sent after us, when the boats, which will probably pursue us, get outside; and though, with the start we have, they are not likely to take good aim, a fatal one may come on board; and think, Ada, of how little use would be the risk we have run, if you were to be the victim. But do not be alarmed; no enemy has yet approached."
I do not know if I have explained clearly the position of the boat: she was at this time about an eighth of a mile from the lofty cliffs which formed the western side of the bay, with her head to the west, going at the rate of between four and five knots an hour, which was the utmost speed with which, with all their exertions, they could urge her through the water. The cleft in the rock, as now the entrance of the harbour appeared to be, was seen over their starboard quarter, and in that direction their eyes were anxiously turned for the appearance of the boats they fully expected would follow them. A new danger also appeared from a quarter they had not expected, for along the summit of the cliffs, as seen against the bright blue sky, they could discern some figures running at full speed, and they were not left long in doubt as to their intentions. The persons halted, and the bright barrels of their guns gleamed in the moonlight, as they brought them to their shoulders and fired. Several balls flew by them, and one struck the gunnel of the boat, though, fortunately, no other damage was done. The pirates kept shouting out their threats of vengeance, and firing away, apparently to intimidate the fugitives, little understanding the character of the people with whom they had to deal.
Here, of course, Ada was exposed to as much danger as the rest; and though Fleetwood would have joyfully interposed his own person to preserve her, it was impossible for him to do so, and all he could do was to entreat her to remain down as much as possible under the seat, and to redouble his efforts at the oar.
"We shall soon be beyond the range of those fellows' guns!" he exclaimed. "But ah, there's a boat's bow creeping out from between the rocks. We've a good start of her, however. Give way, gentlemen. We'll lead her a long chase, and find her a warm reception at the end of it, I hope."
"She's not alone, though!" exclaimed Bowse, whose eyesight was remarkably keen. "There's another close astern of her, and, by heaven, there's another just rounding the point. We shall have enough of them to look after us, at all events."
"It matters little how many, provided we keep ahead of the leading one," said Captain Fleetwood, in a cheerful tone, not as much for the object of encouraging his rude companions, as for the sake of keeping up Ada's spirits. "I don't think any of them are likely to pull much faster than we do."
These remarks were made slowly and at intervals, and perhaps even fewer words were really used, as any one who has pulled a heavy oar, for life and death, will know the utter impossibility of carrying on an unbroken conversation, as I have written it down.
They had by this time nearly doubled the distance they were from the shore when the first boat was seen, and had thus gained the best part of half a mile from the harbour's mouth. The nearest of the pirate's boats was rather more than a quarter of a mile off, which in a stern chase, with slow-pulling boats, was a considerable distance.
The other boats they would not have seen at that distance, had not, as they pulled out, a gleam of moonshine fallen on their bows, and tinged their foaming wake with a line of gold, as they rounded the point before they could stand to the westward in pursuit. The night remained as calm and beautiful as at first, and the moon, though still young, afforded sufficient light to enable the pursuers and pursued to distinguish each other, as they urged their boats through the water.
Fleetwood's arrangements had been as follows: Provided the weather was sufficiently moderate, in Mr Saltwell's opinion, with whom all authority rested, to permit him to venture to sea, with safety, in an open boat, he was to get under-weigh, in the Ione every evening; to stand in till within sight of the island, and to send the boats on with all hands, well armed, to within about two miles of the island, due west of the harbour, or much nearer if the night should prove dark; but they were especially to avoid any risk of being seen from the island. As morning dawned they were to retire gradually, keeping a bright look-out for him, and they were then to return on board, and the Ione was to stand back to her anchorage.
As the night was decidedly bright, Fleetwood did not expect to find the boats nearer than within the distance he had fixed on, and they had then a mile and a half at least to sail before they could come up with them; but he hoped that the firing would have attracted their attention, and that, suspecting its true cause, they would have pulled closer in. Raby stood up as he steered, to peer into the darkness, but no sign could be seen of the wished-for boats.
"May I hail, sir?" he asked. "The pirates will only think that we are laughing at them, and perhaps some of those with Mr Linton may know my voice."
"Yes, hail if you like; but we are still too far off for them to hear you," said Fleetwood.
On this, Jack Raby, putting his hand to his mouth, gave a long shrill cry, which might have been heard a mile off; and it must have made the pirates think that one of them was wounded; but no answering hail was given.
The pirates' boats, though so suddenly manned, were pulled well, and were decidedly overhauling the fugitives. Fleetwood remarked it, but he said nothing. He still hoped that as the distance was short between them, and when they might not only obtain assistance, but retaliate on the enemy, they might gain it before they were overtaken.
"It's surprising that the pirates in the boats don't fire on us," observed Bowse. "They must see us clearly enough to take good aim at this distance. I suspect they have no fire-arms with them."
"Depend on it, they are not without them," replied Captain Vassilato. "His rifle was the first thing every man snatched up, as he left his hut and sprang on deck to jump into his boat. No, no, they make sure of coming up to us, and anticipate too much satisfaction in cutting our throats, to throw away a shot on us."
"They would be less chary of their powder if they knew how short a distance our friends are from us," said Fleetwood.
It occurred to him, also, that probably Zappa himself was on board one of the boats, and that he would not fire for fear of injuring Ada; for, judging from his own feelings, he had from the first, thought, and justly too, that the pirate was influenced to carry her off, more by his admiration of her than for the sake of her ransom, and this caused him still more anguish, when he saw the probability of her again falling into his power.
"I think there is a slight air springing up from the eastward, sir," said Jack Raby, as he sat down again to steer. "I wish we had a sail to drive her on faster."
"I fear, indeed, that there is a breeze getting up," said Fleetwood, in a tone which ill concealed the apprehensions he felt. "The other boats, however, may not have sails. They must all have come off in a great hurry."
"I see something which has a sail, though," exclaimed Bowse. "The rascals have towed out one of their cursed misticos, and we shall have her after us presently. I see her white canvas, even now, gleaming in the moon-light. She does not feel the breeze yet, for there is a little northerly in it, and the cliffs becalm her."
"I fear you are right, Bowse," said Fleetwood. "I have just now, also, caught a glimpse of her; but the breeze is still very light, and will not send her faster through the water than the boats can pull, so we need not fear her, I hope. It convinces me, also, that the boats have no sails; but that they believe we have, and might, if the wind increases, get away from them. Courage, my friends, we must not despair."
"We may give them a tough job to take us, sir, even if they come up with us," exclaimed the young midshipman, glancing over the boats, which were clearly overhauling them. "There are five of us,"—he reckoned himself a man in strength, as he was in courage—"and, with arms in our hands, we may thrash a few dozen rascally pirates, any day. But it may be as well to sing out again, and let our friends know our whereabouts."
He jumped up as he said this, and shouted at the top of his voice; but no hail was heard in return; and it now became too probable that, owing to the calm which had prevailed all day, the Ione had been delayed, and that her boats had not reached their station; for, otherwise, as Fleetwood suggested, they would most certainly have pulled towards them directly they heard the guns of the Sea Hawk. Again and again Jack Raby hailed, with the same result; and it now became very certain that they must not depend on the speedy assistance of their friends. To say that Fleetwood's heart sank within him, as this circumstance became evident, would be wrong; at the same time that he saw clearly the very great danger to which he and those with him were exposed.
"That they have refrained from firing shows that they will not injure Ada; and when she tells the pirate that a large ransom is ready to be paid for her, he will send her, unharmed, on board the Ione; and, for ourselves, we must sell our lives dearly, as brave men should do."
He thought this, as he saw the leading Greek boat rapidly gaining on them, and now little more than two-thirds the distance she had been before; while they had pulled rather more than a mile from the shore, which now rose dim and frowning astern of them. At the same rate they might thus pull two additional miles before they were overtaken; but then it was utterly impossible that their strength would enable them to continue urging the boat through the water at the same speed they had hitherto been doing. Could they indeed do so, it would be, they soon saw, to little purpose, for every instant the breeze increased, and the mistico was already up to the sternmost boats. They now saw that she had her sweeps out, as well as her canvas set—which, of course, still further lessened their chances of escape.
"I fear the knaves will have the best of it, sir," exclaimed Bowse, incautiously, forgetting the effect his observation might have upon Ada. "But, never fear, sir, we'll fight it out as long as we've hands to move. I'm sure Captain Vassilato and Mr Raby will, and I'll answer for Pietro and myself."
"Thanks—thanks—my friends; I fear it must come to that," said Fleetwood. "Raby, have you got the muskets ready? We will give them a few shot, to show that we do not intend to yield, and at the same time the report may be heard by our friends."
"Yes, sir; there are three muskets here," replied the midshipman. "I suppose they are loaded."
"Oh, never fear; Captain Vassilato and I examined them after we got down to the boat, and we loaded them on board the mistico," said Bowse. "Take a steady aim when you fire, sir. If you can but hit one or two of the men at the oars, it will throw them into great confusion."
"Shall I fire, sir?" asked Jack of his captain.
"No, wait till they get nearer; we must not throw a shot away," was the answer.
Ada had heard, with the most intense anxiety, all the observations which had been made, and she could resist speaking no longer, which she did, in a voice weak and trembling with agitation and alarm.
"Oh, Fleetwood, I implore you, do not, for my sake, resist," she said. "The pirates must inevitably overpower us, from what I hear; and you can do no good by fighting, but will certainly sacrifice your own life and that of your friends. Yield, without striking a blow, and they will not injure you; and you will surely find another opportunity to escape, while I must bear my lot as I best can. For myself I have no fears."
"Ada, it is not death I fear; but the thought of losing you almost unmans me," exclaimed Fleetwood. "And even if I felt, which I do not, that my life would be safe, were I again in the pirate's power, I could not yield without fighting, nor would those with me, I am sure. I know all you feel, my beloved Ada; but were we this moment to cease pulling, and to allow the pirates to come alongside, it would but hasten our fate."
Ada saw that further remonstrance would be useless, and relying, as she justly did, on Captain Fleetwood's discretion and judgment, and feeling he was acting for the best, she said nothing, but waited in silence and dread the coming contest. Poor little Marianna, though her fate was less cruel than that of her mistress, as a short captivity was all she had to fear, was not the less alarmed, and lay at the bottom of the boat, giving way to her fears in floods of tears without attempting to rise.
The first boat approached within three cables' length of that of the fugitives.
"Now, Raby, fire, and aim steadily," exclaimed Fleetwood.
The midshipman, leaving the helm for an instant, took one of the muskets: and resting it on the stern of the boat, fired. A loud cry succeeded the report, and the boat's progress was evidently stopped.
"You have hit one of them," said Fleetwood. "Now, load your piece and fire again. If you can hit another, it will throw them into further confusion."
Jack Raby eagerly did as he was desired, and taking his aim in the most deliberate manner, another pirate was either killed or wounded. The effect was to make her drop so much astern that the second boat took the lead of her.
Jack again loaded his piece. He looked up at the star of which he had been steering, just touching the tiller with his arm, to bring the boat, which had gone off half a point, back to her proper course; and then turning round, and half kneeling on the seat, he fired with the same deliberate coolness as before. The bullet struck the boat, but no one appeared to be wounded, for on she came faster than ever. He loaded and fired again, with the same want of effect; a third shot, however, told on the body of one of the pirates, in the after part of the boat, but his place was instantly taken by another; though the delay allowed the boat which had so long led to come almost abreast of her; and they now, to Fleetwood's grief, came up together, one pulling for each quarter.
"Load once more, Raby, and pass two of the muskets forward," he exclaimed. "As they hook on, we will all fire together, two on each side; then, with our pistols, shoot those who are attempting to grapple the boat, and trust to our cutlasses for the rest. The moment we can free ourselves we will again take to our oars; and I hope we may give them such a taste of our quality, that the rest may not wish to molest us."
"We'll do our best," was the unanimous cry, for all saw that Fleetwood's proposal, however desperate, was the only one to afford them the chance of escape. It would have been as great folly to have trusted to the mercy of pirates, such as they were, as it is to confide in the honour or fair dealing of grasping, money-loving rogues on shore, more especially of those who fancy that they have the protection of the laws to shelter them, while they carry out their nefarious projects. The two leading boats were close to them, while the others were some way astern, with the mistico, which was bringing up the breeze, nearly abreast of the latter.
"Now," exclaimed Fleetwood, throwing in his oar, and seizing a musket, as the bows of the two boats came up with their counter, "fire."
The order was obeyed, and a man in each boat was seen to fall, but it did not check them, and they dashed alongside. The gallant adventurers drew their pistols, and fired them with equally good aim, for two more of their opponents fell wounded; and then grasping their cutlasses used them with such effect, that for some minutes their assailants were kept at bay, without either of themselves receiving a wound. Suddenly, in the midst of the clashing of swords and the cries of the combatants, Jack Raby jumped up on the seat at the risk of being cut down by the enemy; and, while he was still using his sword with one liana, he put the other to his mouth, and shouted out at the top of His voice—
"Ione—ahoy—ahoy! I thought so, I thought so," he exclaimed, as a faint hail came across the waters. "I thought I heard their hail before we fired."
On hearing this, Fleetwood and the rest simultaneously joined in the cry of—
If, however, it had the effect of letting their friends know where they were, it also made the pirates see the necessity of finishing the affair without delay, if they would secure their prize. A tall figure had been seen standing in the after part of one of the boats. He now sprang forward, and crossed his blade with Fleetwood, who at once recognised him as Zappa. Both were good swordsmen, but the pirate had greater size and strength, and his arm was, besides, untired, while Fleetwood could scarcely wield his weapon. Zappa shouted to his men.
"Beware!" cried the Greek captain, who knew what was said.
The pirates from both boats made a simultaneous rush; a third came up at the same time. A blow, he could not parry, struck Fleetwood down, senseless, into the bottom of the boat; and at the same moment his companions fell desperately wounded, except Jack Raby, who found his sword whirled into the sea, and himself lifted, by main force, into one of the boats, with Pietro in his company. As Fleetwood tottered on receiving his wound, Ada Garden uttered a shriek of terror, but before her fears overpowered her she mustered her energies for the occasion, and endeavoured, as she knelt at the bottom of the boat, to prevent him from receiving any further injury as he fell. Regardless of the noise and confusion around, she raised his head on the cloaks, on which she had been reclining; she endeavoured to stanch the blood flowing from a deep wound in his head; she called on his name, in accents of anguish, to revive and speak to her, but in vain—no answer could he give. She observed not what was taking place, scarcely that his companions were taken away; that other men filled their places, and that the boat was being urged rapidly back towards the shore, by six fresh and powerful oarsmen. Meantime the mistico had come up, and now hauled her wind with her head to the northward, so that her guns might cover the retreat of the pirate boats; but as soon as they got in order, and began to move towards the harbour, she let draw her head sails, went about, and stood in the same direction, none of the pirates having the slightest intention of coming in contact with the British, if they could avoid it; for they also, it afterwards appeared, had heard the hail of the Tone's boats, and rightly guessed from whence it came. The crews of the British boats gave way with a will; for, finding that all the firing had ceased, and that their hail was no longer answered, they began to suspect the truth, and that their friends had been overtaken and captured. Linton, it must be remembered, could not tell to a certainty what had taken place, and he therefore acted to the best of his judgment. He ordered the boats to accompany him, pulling as fast as they could, in the direction in which they had seen the firing; but they had come clearly in sight of the lofty cliffs of the island before they perceived the mistico standing in for the land, and a fleet of boats near her, just distinguishable through the gloom. The tables were now reversed, and it was this time the smaller force chasing the larger one; but even had there been twice the number of boats, Linton would not have hesitated to chase them. The British crews, as they found that they were in sight of the enemy, gave forth three of those hearty cheers which they can seldom resist uttering in moments of excitement, and, with redoubled energy, dashed after the retreating boats.
That cheer was heard by those of the captives who still retained their consciousness, and though it showed them that they were not deserted by their friends, it made the pirates still more eager to return to their strong-hold, to avoid encountering an enemy so evidently in good spirits and courage.
The mistico sailed well; but, as the wind stood, it was evident that she would be obliged to make one tack, if not more, before she could fetch the harbour, and this gave the British a hope that they should at all events be able to cut her off; and Linton doubted whether it would not be better first to get hold of as many of the boats as they could, and then to wait for her off the mouth of the harbour.
"I think the boats have got the captain, and the rest of them, on board, by the way they pull," shouted Linton, to Tompion, who commanded the cutter. "Tackle them first, and we may pay the other rascals off afterwards. Huzza, my men—give way, or they will be into their den before we can get alongside them."
"The mistico has tacked," shouted Tompion, in return. "Shall I fire into her?"
"No—no; no firing—we may be hitting our friends," cried Linton. "Let her go—we can get her afterwards."
As the boats drew near her, the mistico opened a fire of small arms and swivels on them over the larboard side; for she was now standing directly across their course, bringing them, as she got more to the northward, under her stern; so that when she again tacked, she would be able to bring her starboard broadside to bear on them. The pirate boats also commenced a slight and uncertain fire, showing that very few of them had arms; but, as they drew near the shore, the cliffs appeared fringed with a blaze of fire, which opened down upon them.
Still undaunted, Linton pushed on: the boats were occasionally hit, but no one was wounded. The mistico again tacked; but she found the wind more scant than she had probably expected, and she consequently fell off, and instead of having the English boats on her starboard side, she passed astern of them, unable to fire, so close were both parties together, without an equal chance of injuring her own friends. The same cause also prevented the people on the cliffs from keeping up the hot fire they might otherwise have done; for in the darkness of night it was difficult to distinguish the position of the English boats, in consequence of their carefully abstaining from firing. Linton and his followers were almost up with the sternmost of the pirate boats when the lofty cliffs opened, as it seemed, by magic—the enemy disappeared in the narrow opening, and, as they were boldly pushing after them, they found a thick chain drawn across the passage, and at the same time a blaze of fire opened from the broadside of the brig, moored across it.
"Back your larboard oars, pull up your starboard oars, my men," shouted Linton. "We are in a trap—must give it up, or be knocked to pieces, I'm afraid. Let all the boats pull to the south-west as fast as they can till we are out of the range of their guns."
It was, indeed, time for the British to retire; for besides the big guns and swivels of the brig, every accessible point of the cliffs above their head appeared covered with musketry, and several heavy pieces sent forth their messengers of destruction from beneath the walls of the castle. Never were boats perhaps exposed to a hotter fire—to penetrate into the harbour was utterly impossible, and the probability of their escaping was small indeed.
"Pull on—pull for your lives, my men," shouted the young lieutenant, as the boats' heads came round, and their crews endeavoured to escape from the showers of round shot and bullets, which dashed the water up on every side of them, wounding several, and sending more than one brave heart to its last account.
"We shall do yet, my men. We'll pay the villains off for this!" he shouted. "Oh, Heaven! They've done for me. Take the helm, Duff, and tell Mr Tompion—"
He spoke in a low tone, and before he finished the sentence he sunk down at the bottom of the boat.
CHAPTER THIRTY ONE.
"And so, signora, you would show your gratitude for the attention and respect with which I have treated you, by endeavouring to escape from my care, and by bringing your countrymen to attempt my destruction."
These words, uttered in a deep, stern voice, were the first Ada heard with sufficient distinctness to comprehend their meaning, since the termination of the conflict, in which she had seen her lover, over whom she still hung, cast down wounded by her side. The tone and accent told her, too clearly, who was the speaker ere she raised her head, and, looking round, beheld the pirate Zappa, steering the boat. Whether or not it was fancy, she could scarcely tell; but, as she gazed at him through the gloom, his dress appeared disordered, and stained with blood, and his countenance seemed to her to wear an expression even of unusual ferocity. Dread, lest in his savage mood he should wreak his vengeance on Fleetwood, kept her silent.
"Speak, signora," he repeated. "Why have you done this?"
"I have done nothing to injure you, nothing of which you have a right to complain," said Ada, lifting up her head, though still remaining on her knees by Fleetwood's side. "You unjustly deprived me of my liberty, and that I have attempted to regain. Of no other crime towards you can you accuse me."
She said this with as firm a voice as she could command, remembering the effect her courage had had on the pirate, on a former occasion; and she now felt that it was, if possible, of still greater importance to her to retain her presence of mind; not only her own life, but that of Fleetwood; might depend on her behaviour.
"But you are mistaken, signora. I accuse you of instigating some strangers, to whom hospitality had been shown, to run off with the property of my people, and of inducing that unhappy youth, Paolo Montifalcone, treacherously, to assist in your flight," returned the pirate firmly. "I will not, however, barter words with you. If I and my people escape from the attack your countrymen appear about to make on us, I may overlook your crime; but if any of them suffer through your means, you shall not escape my vengeance."
"I am defenceless and in your power," replied Ada. "I repeat that I have not instigated my countrymen to attack you, and if you suffer, it is through no fault of mine. But if you add a cold-blooded murder to your other crimes, you will bring down the vengeance of all civilised nations on your head, as instruments of the God whom you have offended."
"My resolution is fixed, signora. What I do depends on the result of this night's business," said the pirate, in the same stern voice; and, without paying her any further apparent attention, he urged on his people to renewed exertions at their oars.
This conversation took place exactly as the British boats were first discovered through the darkness, coming up astern; and as they happened to be just there in line, and looming large in the gloom, Zappa could not tell what force was now being brought against him; and it was the belief that he was about to be attacked by overwhelming numbers, before, perhaps, he could get within shelter of the harbour, and make arrangements for his defence, which had stirred up all the devil within him. One of his remarks gave Ada some gleam of comfort, for it made her fancy that the pirate did not suspect that the wounded man at his feet was Captain Fleetwood, the enemy from whom he had most to dread, and she hoped that he still believed him to be simply the Maltese sailor he appeared. Hope, however slight, will, as the light branch keeps a drowning man above the surface of the treacherous waters, support a person amid present distress and difficulty, who would otherwise sink overwhelmed beneath them; and this idea, which had happily occurred to Ada, prevented her giving way to the wretchedness she felt at the failure of her lover's gallant attempt to rescue her, and the too probable destruction he had brought on himself and those associated with him. The pirate every now and then turned his head to watch the advancing boats, expecting them each instant to fire on him; but seeing that they did not do so, he grew calmer as he approached the harbour, knowing that he should soon be in safety within it.
Though trembling lest her care should evince her interest in Fleetwood, Ada, as soon as Zappa's attention had been withdrawn from her, again employed herself in endeavouring to staunch the blood which flowed from his wound. As she bent over him she found he breathed; and as she held his hand in hers, she felt that his pulse was still beating, though slow and faint. It had at last occurred to her, that it would be wiser to call Marianna to her assistance, though, with the natural jealousy of love, she was unwilling that any one but herself should tend, while she was able, the object of her affection, but the poor girl was little in a condition to render her any aid; as, overcome with her fears, and the continued excitement in which she had been kept, she had gone off in a fainting fit, from which she was only just recovering. She heard the voice of her mistress, and it served to revive her, and raising her head, she dragged herself towards her.
"Oh, holy Mary, and is the brave captain killed!" she exclaimed, as she saw Fleetwood's rigid, death-like appearance, though the dark colour with which his skin was tinged concealed the ghastly pallor of his countenance. "Oh, holy mother, is he dead?"
Ada grasped Marianna's arm, to make her keep silent, as she whispered—"He is your countryman, a seaman of Malta. You must attend to him." And she trusted that Zappa had not overheard her maid's indiscreet exclamation. Whether he had or not, his attention was again attracted towards them.
"You appear to take great interest in that wounded man, signora," he observed, in a less angry tone than before.
"I do, signor," she replied, in a firm voice, without waiting for his saying any thing further. "I perform but a woman's part towards a wounded man, in endeavouring to alleviate his suffering. I do as I would towards any one in a like situation; and as I would towards you, were a shot, from the guns of my countrymen, this instant to lay you low, and were I again carried into captivity by your orders. We are taught by our religion, signor, not to distinguish our enemies from our friends, when they are in affliction." Ada made this last observation as the genuine feeling of her heart, without any hypocrisy, however excusable some might think it, under the circumstances, and, doubtlessly, would have staunched the wounds of her greatest enemy, to the best of her power, had she been called on to do so; though the anxiety and tenderness which animated her, as she watched over Fleetwood, would have, of necessity, been wanting.
"Well, well, signora," returned Zappa. "You and your attendant are welcome to do your best to prevent the man from dying, though he deserves nothing at my hands; but whatever men may say of me, they shall not justly accuse me of being a murderer in cold blood. Your countrymen do not appear to be in a fighting mood. Perhaps they are afraid of firing, lest they should hurt you. Is it not so, lady? I know more of their plans than you suspect. The expedition is led by the captain of the Ione, in person, and he was on the look out for you, when we so inopportunely came up, and spoilt your arrangements."
"Can it be so?" thought Ada. "Is he really ignorant that Fleetwood is close to him? Alas, he may be deceiving me, and if I pretend to agree to his assertions, he will but use it as a weapon against me. The right and best plan is to refuse to give an opinion on the subject."
"I am your prisoner, signor," she said, aloud; "and as such I claim every right to endeavour to escape as I best can. It would therefore be folly in me to acknowledge by what means I have communicated with my countrymen, even if I had done as you suppose, lest you should prevent my doing so another time."
"Per bacco, you are a brave girl!" exclaimed the pirate, in a tone in which Ada felt that admiration was too much mingled with a familiarity she had endeavoured to avoid. "I would rather be your friend than your enemy, if you would let me. Faith, you deserve your liberty, or anything else that you desire; but it would tax my generosity too much to give it to you."
What he said further, Ada did not hear; for the noise of the firing, which then commenced from the cliffs above, as well as from the boats, drowned his words. She trembled for the fate of the Tone's crew, who were coming to her assistance; for she was sufficiently acquainted with the nature of military defences, to know the impracticable character of the harbour into which the pirates, she was afraid, would try to draw them.
The firing increased; and she judged, by the gestures of the Greeks, who were rowing, that her countrymen were close upon them. Again the hope revived that, even then, Fleetwood might be rescued. The shouts of the British seamen rang in her ears. She could scarcely refrain from rising and waving to them to urge them on to the succour of their captain; but, just as she fancied they would be alongside, she saw the cliffs, at the entrance of the harbour, towering above her, and the boat shooting in; directly after, the Sea Hawk opened her fire, and her ears were deafened with the reverberating reports of the guns, and the shouts and shrieks of the pirates. The moment the boat touched the shore, Zappa and his companions sprang out, he shouting,—"To the castle—to the castle! We will give them the guns as they retreat."
And Ada found herself left alone with Pietro and Marianna. In vain she endeavoured to arouse her lover to a state of consciousness—the same frightful torpor continued which the wound had caused; and her heart almost broke with anguish, as she began to fear he might die before he could receive any proper assistance.
"The pirate talks of his generosity. Would he allow him to be sent on board the Ione with a flag of truce?" she thought. "No, no; it were vain to hope it; and the very entreating him to do so would betray Charles to him."
She then remembered the medical knowledge possessed by Paolo Montifalcone, and the great assistance he had been to her; but she had no means of testing his surgical skill, though she understood that Zappa had, at first, detained him, that he might be useful to any of his followers who were wounded—but then the idea occurred to her—though, perhaps, she did not express it in so many words,—"Can I trust him? He has confessed his unhappy attachment to me. I told him that, if no other circumstance prevented my marrying him, my heart was another's, and can I dare to place that favoured rival in his power? He is, apparently, generous, and possesses many excellent qualities; but he is an Italian; and if the tales I have heard of Italians are true, they are less scrupulous than other persons of ridding themselves of those they hate. Perhaps he would not contemplate such a deed—he might now shudder at the thought of it; but if the temptation were thrown in his way, could he withstand it? I might, were I to trust him, be guilty of my Charles's death, and of causing that unhappy youth to commit a murder. Oh! God help me! What shall I do?"
Just then, some rapid steps were heard of a person running along the sands. They attracted the attention of Marianna, who had begun to recover from her fright; and looking over the side of the boat, she screamed out,—"Is it you, Mr Raby? Oh, come here—come here! We want you very much."