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ed by his comrades, was again advancing, when the hoarse voice of the boatswain, as he ran to the scene of action, arrested his progress."Hallo! you there, what's the squall for? Avast, avast, Mingo! off hands is fair play—ship that blade of yours, or ill send my fist through your ribs, and make day-light shine through them in a minute." I related the behaviour of the negro, and was requesting him to order the slaves forward, when I wascut short with—" There are no slaves here, young man! we are alike free in a British ship. But damn his eyes for an insolent son of a—.—; he pretend to kiss the pretty girl! I'll let him know she belongs to his betters! The black wench is good enough for him any day. Come my dear!" he continued, turning to Isabella, "give me the same hire, and I'll undertake to clear the way for you myself." He made as if he meant to approach her, when, careless of what the consequences might be to myself, I hastily stepped forward, and lifting up the head of the companion, Isabella in an instant darted below. "This lady is no fit subject for either wit or insolence," said I, shutting the doors, "and he is less than man who would insult an unprotected female." For a little while he*stood eyeing me as if hesitating whether he should resent my interference, or remain passive; at length he turned slowly and doggedly away as he uttered—" You ruffle big, and crow with a brisk note, my lad! But I've seen me do as wonderful a thing as twist your windpipe and send you over the side to cool yourself a bit; and so I would serve you in the turning of a wave, if it was not that we may have use for you yet! I see in what quarter the wind sets; but mind your eye; for sink me if I don't keep a sharp look out a-head over you."
I now saw that things had come to a crisis—that the crew meant to turn pirates; and I was to be detained among them for the sake of my professional services. I could not, without a shudder, reflect on what must be the fate of Isabella among such a crew of reckless villains; but I firmly resolved that, come what might, my protection and care over her, should cease, but with my life.
To be prepared for the worst, I immediately went below, loaded my pistols, and concealed them in my breast, securing at the same time all my money and papers about my person. While thus employed, one of the cabin-boys came down for a spy-glass, saying that a sail had hove in sight to windward. Upon this I followed him, up, and found the crew collected together in clamorous consultation as to the course they should follow. Some were for lying-to till she came down, and taking her, if a merchantman; and if not, they could easily sheer off—but this motion was overruled by the majority, who judged it best to keep clear for fear of accidents: accordingly all the spare canvass was set, and we were soon gaining large before the wind. But the Dart, though reckoned the first sailer out of Clyde when close hauled on a wind, was by no means fleet when squared away and going free : she had now met with her match, for the stranger was evidently gaining rapidly on us, and in two hours we saw it was impossible for us to escape. The priest and I were ordered down with a threat of instant death if we offered to come on deck, or make any attempt to attract observation.
I now communicated to Isabella my apprehensions with respect to the crew, along with my resolution to leave the vessel if the other proved a man of war, and earnestly advised both her and the priest to take advantage of it also. She thanked me with a look and smile that told me how sensible she was of the interest I felt in her welfare, and expressed her willingness to be guided by me in whatever way I thought best.
Shortly after we heard a gun fired to bring us to, and the Dart hailed and questioned as to her port and destination. The answers, it appeared, were thought evasive and unsatisfactory, for we were ordered to come close under the lee-quarter of his Majesty's sloop of war Tartar, while they sent to examine our papers. This was now our only chance, and I resolved, that if the officer should not come below, I would force the companion-door, and claim his protection. But I was not put to this alternative. As soon as he arrived, I heard him desire the hatches to be taken off, and order his men to examine the hold. The inspection did not satisfy him; for he hailed the sloop and reported that there were Spanish goods on board which did not appear in the manifest:—"Then remain on board, and keep your stern lights burning all night, and take chargeof the ship!" was the reply. In a state of irksome suspense we remained nearly two hours, expecting every minute to hear the officer descending. At length, to our relief, the companion doors were unlocked, and a young man, attended by our Captain, entered the cabin. He looked surprised on seeing us and bowing to Isabella, apologized for intruding at such an unseasonable hour. "But I was not given to understand," he added, "that there were passengers in the ship— prisoners I should rather pronounce it, Mr Mahone, for you seem to have had them under lock and key, which is rather an unusual mode of treating ladies at least. No wine, Sir!" he continued, motioning away the bottles which the Captain was hastily placing on the table—" no wine, but be pleased to show me your register and bill of lading."
He had not been long seated to inspect them when a shuffling and hurried sound of feet was heard overhead, and a voice calling on Mr Duff for assistance, showed that some scuflle had taken place above. Instantaneously we all started to our feet, and the lieutenant was in the act of drawing his sword, when, accidentally looking round, I observed Mahone presenting a pistol behind. With a cry of warning, I threw myself forward, and had just time to strike the weapon lightly aside, when it went off. The ball narrowly missed the head of Duff, for whom it had been aimed, but struck the priest immediately over the right eye, who, making one desperate and convulsive leap as high as the ceiling, sunk down dead, and before the Captain could pull out another,I discharged the contents of mine into his breast. We then rushed upon deck; but it was only to find the boat's crew had been mastered, and to behold the last of the men tumbled overboard. The pirates then dispersed, and exerted themselves to get the ship speedily under way; while the boatswain sung out to extinguish the lanterns, that the Tartar might not be guided by the lights.
"Its all over with us!" exclaimed my companion; "but follow me—we have one chance for our lives yet. Our boat is yet still towing astern; do you throw yourself over, and swim till I slide down the painter, and Jcut her a drift. Come, bear a hand, and jump! don't you see them hastening aft?" and in an instant he pitched himself off the taffrel, slid down the rope which held the boat, and cast her loose. But this advice, however judicious, it was impossible for me to follow—for, at that moment, repeated shrieks from Isabella put to flight all thoughts for my own individual safety; I, therefore, hurried back to the cabin, determined that if I could not rescue her along with myself, to remain, and protect her with my life. And in a happy time I arrived! The candles were still burning on the table; and through the smoke of the pistols, which still filled the cabin, I beheld her struggling in the arms of a negro —the identical slave who had displayed such insolence in the early part of the evening. With one stroke of the butt end of my pistol I fractured the cursed villain's skull—caught up Isabella in my arms —ran up the ladder, and had nearly gained the side, when the boatswain, attracted by her white garments, left the helm to intercept— and I saw the gleam of his uplifted cutlass on the point of descending, when he was suddenly struck down by some person from behind. I did not stop to discover who had done me this good office, but hailing Duff, and clasping Isabella firmly to my heart, I plunged into the water, followed by my unknown ally. With the aid of my companion, whom I now found to be John Wylie, the mate, we easily managed to support our charge till the boat reached us: when we found that the greater part of the men had been rescued in a similar manner.
When the morning dawned, we perceived the Dart, like a speck in the horizon, and the sloop of war in close chase. Our attention was next turned to our own situation, which was by no means enviable: we had escaped, it is true, with our lives, for the present; but without a morsel of food, or a single drop of fresh water, with us in the boat; we could, at best, only expect to protract existence for a few days longer, and then yield them up ultimately in horror and misery. By an observation taken the day before, on board of the Tartar, Mr Duff informed us that we were to the north-east of the Bahamas; and distant about one hundred and seventy miles from Walling's Island, which was the nearest land. This was a long distance; but, as despair never enters the breast of a British sailor, even in situations of the utmost extremity, we cheered up each other; and, as no other resource was left us, we manned our oars, and pulled away with life, trusting to the chance of meeting with some vessel, of which there was a strong probability, as this was the common course of leeward traders. And our hopes were not disappointed! for next day we fortunately fell in with a brig from the Azores, bound for Porto Rico, on board of which we were received with much kindness; and, in five days, we found ourselves safely moored in Porto-real harbour.
My first step on landing was to inquire for a boarding-house for Isabella, and I had the good luck to be directed to one kept by a respectable Scottish family, in Orange Terrace, and to this I conducted her. My next transaction was to charter a small cutter; and to communicate to Duff the secret of the hidden treasure; at the same time, asking him to adventure himself and his men on its recovery. I also gave him to understand the probability of a rencontre with the pirates, in the event of their having escaped the sloop, for I was aware that Mahone had overheard the whole confession, from my finding him listening at the cabin door. Without hesitation, the lieutenant at once agreed to accompany me, and engaging some hands out of a vessel newly arrived, we soon mustered a party of fourteen men. As it wanted only six days of the festival of St Jago, and the distance across the Caribbean sea was great enough to require all our exertions to be there in time, we embarked and sailed that very night.
Our cutter proved a prime sailer—and though the winds were light and variable, by the help of our sweeps we made the Roccason the evening of the sixth day. As the Spaniard had foretold, the moon was climbing the western sky, and pouring the fulness of her splendour with a mild and beautiful effulgence on the untroubled deep, as we slowly drifted with the current between the Wolf-rock and the adjacent isle. All was silent and calm over the whole de. sert archipelago and the vast surrounding waters, save now and then the sudden flight of a sea-fowl awakening from its slumbers as we passed; or the occasional roar of the jaguar faintly wafted from the main land. We ran the cutter into a deep and narrow creek; moored her safe, and proceeded well armed, to the eastern extremity. There we found the projecting point of land, and the old vanilla tree exactly in the situation described—its huge, twisted trunk was still entire; and from the end of its solitary branch, which was graced by a few scattered leaves, the body of a man in the garb of a sailor hung suspended in irons. The clothes had preserved the body from the birds of prey, but the head was picked clean and bare, leaving the eyeless and bleached skull to glitter white in the moonlight. In perfect silence, and with something of awe on our spirits impressed by the solitude, and dreariness of the scene, we seated ourselves on the rocks, and with my time-piece in my hand, I began to mark the progress of the shadow. For nearly three hours we watched in this manner, listening attentively for the slighest sound from seaward; but every thing continued hushed and still, except the creaking of the chain as the dead man swang to and fro in the breeze. Midnight was now drawing near—the moon, radiant and full, was careering high through the deep blue of heaven, and the shadows of the branch and stem were approaching each other, and towards the desired point At length the hand of my time-piece pointed to within one minute of the time. It passed over. The branch and stem now merged into one, and threw their shadow due east: and the first spadeful of earth had been thrown out, when the man who had been stationed to keep a look-out came running to inform us that a boat was rapidly approaching from the east. We immediately concluded that they must be part of the Dart's crew; and their long and vigorous strokes, as they stretched out to the full extent of their oars, showed that they knew the importance of every minute that had elapsed. Our implements for digging were hastily laid aside, and we concealed ourselves among the rocks till they should come within reach. In a short time the boat was seen ashore, and eight armed men came forward; partly Spaniards and partly the ship's crew; among whom I recognized the boatswain, and, to my surprise, Mahone, whom I had shot and left for dead in the cabin. Without giving them time to prepare for the assault, we quitted our shelter, and sprang among them at once, laying about with our cutlasses. For a little space the skirmish was toughly and hotly contested; for the pirates were resolute and reckless, and fought with the desperation of men who knew that the only chance for their lives lay in their own exertions. In the confusion of the fray I had lost sight of Duff, and was closely engaged with one of the Spaniards, when the voice of the boatswain shouting forth a horrible imprecation, sounded immediately behind me. I turned round, and sprang aside