“Captain Howard,” resumed the warm-hearted Bignall, “have you a gentleman of the cloth in your vessel?”
“Two, sir,” was the ready answer.
“Two! It is rare to find a supernumerary priest in a man of war! But, I suppose, Court influence could give the fellow a bishop,” muttered the other. “You are fortunate in this particular, young gentle man, since I am indebted to inclination, rather than to custom, for the society of my worthy friend here he has, however, made a point that I should include the reverend gentleman—I should say gentle_men_—in the invitation.”
“You shall have all the divinity of my ship, Big nail, on my faith.”
“I believe I was particular in naming your first lieutenant.”
“Oh! dead or alive, he shall surely be of your party,” returned the Rover, with a suddenness and vehemence of utterance that occasioned both his auditors to start with surprise. “You may not find him an ark to rest your weary foot on; but, such as he is, he is entirely at your service. And now, once more, I salute you.”
Bowing again, he proceeded, with his former deliberate air, over the gangway, keeping his eye riveted on the lofty gear of the “Dart,” as he descended her side, with much that sort of expression with which a petit-maitre is apt to regard the fashion of the garments of one newly arrived from the provinces. His superior repeated his invitation with warmth, and waved his hand in a frank but temporary adieu; thus unconsciously suffering the man to escape him whose capture would have purchased the long postponed and still distant advantages for whose possession he secretly pined, with all the withering longings his hope cruelly deferred.
——“Let them accuse
me by invention; I will answer in mine
“Yes!” muttered the Rover, with bitter irony, as his boat rowed under the stern of the cruiser of the Crown; “yes! I, and my officers, will taste of your banquet! But the viands shall be such as these hirelings of the King shall little relish!—Pull with a will, my men, pull; in an hour, you shall rummage the store-rooms of that fool, for your reward!”
The greedy freebooters who manned the oars could scarcely restrain their shouts, in order to maintain that air of moderation which policy still imposed but they gave vent to their excitement, in redoubled efforts in propelling the pinnace. In another minute the adventurers were all in safety again under the sheltering guns of the “Dolphin.”
His people gathered, from the haughty gleamings that were flashing from the eyes of the Rover, as his foot once more touched the deck of his own ship, that the period of some momentous action was at hand. For an instant, he lingered on the quarter-deck surveying, with a sort of stern joy, the sturdy materials of his lawless command; and then, without speaking, he abruptly entered his proper cabin either forgetful that he had conceded its use to others or, in the present excited state of his mind, utterly indifferent to the change. A sudden and tremendous blow on the gong announced to the alarmed females, who had ventured from their secret place, under the present amicable appearances between the two ships, not only his presence, but his humour.