The Rover took him by the arm, and led him to a position whence they might look upon the outer scene. Then, pointing upward at his spars, and making his companion observe the small quantity of sail he carried, he simply said, “Sir, you are a seaman and may judge of my intentions by this sight I shall neither seek nor avoid your boasted cruiser of King George.”
Bring thou this fiend——
Within my sword’s length set him; if he ’scape,
Heaven forgive him too!”—Macbeth.
“You have brought the grateful submission of the pirate to my offers!” exclaimed the sanguine Commander of the “Dart” to his messenger, as the foot of the latter once more touched his deck.
“I bring nothing but defiance!” was the unexpected reply.
“Did you exhibit my statement? Surely, Mr Ark so material a document was not forgotten!”
“Nothing was forgotten that the warmest interest in his safety could suggest, Captain Bignall. Still the chief of yonder lawless ship refuses to hearken to your conditions.”
“Perhaps, sir, he imagines that the ‘Dart’ is defective in some of her spars,” returned the hasty old seaman, compressing his lips, with a look of wounded pride; “he may hope to escape by pressing the canvas on his own light-heeled ship.”
“Does that look like flight?” demanded Wilder, extending an arm towards the nearly naked spars and motionless hull of their neighbour. “The utmost I can obtain is an assurance that he will not be the assailant.”
“’Fore George, he is a merciful youth! and one that should be commended for his moderation! He will not run his disorderly, picarooning company under the guns of a British man-of-war, because he owes a little reverence to the flag of his master! Hark ye, Mr Ark, we will remember the circumstance when questioned at the Old Bailey. Send the people to their guns, sir, and ware the ship round, to put an end at once to this foolery, or we shall have him sending a boat aboard to examine our commissions.”
“Captain Bignall,” said Wilder, leading his Commander still further from the ears of their inferiors, “I may lay some little claim to merit for services done under your own eyes, and in obedience to your orders. If my former conduct may give me a title to presume to counsel one of your great experience, suffer me to urge a short delay.”
“Delay! Does Henry Ark hesitate, when the enemies of his King, nay more, the enemies of man, are daring him to his duty!”
“Sir, you mistake me. I hesitate, in order that the flag under which we sail may be free from stain, and not with any intent of avoiding the combat. Our enemy, my enemy knows that he has nothing now to expect, for his past generosity, but kindness, should he become our captive. Still, Captain Bignall, I ask for time, to prepare the ‘Dart’ for a conflict that will try all her boasted powers, and to insure a victory that will not be bought without a price.”