“My child! my child!—You will not—cannot—dare not, rob a long-stricken and bereaved mother of her offspring. Give me back my son, my noble son! and I will weary Heaven with prayers in your behalf. Ye are brave, and cannot be deaf to mercy. Ye are men, who have lived in constant view of God’s majesty, and will not refuse to listen to this evidence of his pleasure. Give me my child, and I yield all else. He is of a race long honoured upon the seas, and no mariner will be deaf to his claims. The widow of de Lacey, the daughter of ------ cries for mercy. Their united blood is in his veins, and it will not be spilt by you! A mother bows herself to the dust before you, to ask mercy for her offspring. Oh! give me my child! my child!”
As the words of the petitioner died upon the ear a stillness settled on the place, that might have been likened to the holy calm which the entrance of better feelings leaves upon the soul of the sinner. The grim freebooters regarded each other in doubt; the workings of nature manifesting themselves in the gleamings of even their stern and hardened visages. Still, the desire for vengeance had got too firm a hold of their minds to be dispossessed at a word. The result would vet have been doubtful, had not one suddenly re-appeared in their midst who never ordered in vain; and who knew how to guide, to quell, or to mount and trample on their humours, as his own pleasure dictated. For half a minute, he looked around him, his eye still following the circle, which receded as he gazed, until even those longest accustomed to yield to his will began to wonder at the extraordinary aspect in which it was now exhibited. The gaze was wild and bewildered; and the face pallid as that of the petitioning mother. Three times did the lips sever, before sound issued from the caverns of his chest; then arose, on the attentive ears of the breathless and listening crowd, a voice that seemed equally charged with inward emotion and high authority. With a haughty gesture of the hand, and a manner that was too well understood to be mistaken, he said,—
“Disperse! Ye know my justice; but ye know I will be obeyed. My pleasure shall be known tomorrow.”
Who hath upon him still that natural stamp:
It was wise Nature’s end in the donation,
To be his evidence now.”—Shakespeare.
That morrow came; and, with it, an entire change, in the scene and character of our tale. The “Dolphin” and the “Dart” were sailing in amity, side by side; the latter again bearing the ensign of England, and the former carrying a naked gaff. The injuries of the gust, and the combat, had so far been repaired, that, to a common eye, each gallant vessel was again prepared, equally to encounter the hazards of the ocean or of warfare. A long, blue, hazy streak, to the north, proclaimed the proximity of the land; and some three or four light coasters of that region, which were sailing nigh, announced how little of hostility existed in the present purposes of the freebooters.