The three white men, followed by the negroes, ran down to the man, and when they had reached him, they carefully searched him to see if he had any concealed weapons.
After glancing rapidly over the bodies which lay upon the sand, the captain turned to his men.
“Come on, every one of you,” he shouted, “and run out that boat,” pointing to the largest one that had brought the Arato’s men ashore.
Shirley and Burke looked at him in surprise.
“We want that vessel!” he cried, in answer. “Be quick!” And taking hold of the boat himself, he helped the others push it off the sand. “Now, then,” he continued, “Shirley, you and Burke get into the bow, with your rifles. Tumble in, you black fellows, and each take an oar. You,” he said in Spanish to the prisoner, “get in and take an oar, too.”
The captain took the tiller. Shirley and Burke pushed the boat into deep water, and jumped aboard. The oars dipped, and they were off, regardless of the low surf which splashed its crest over the gunwale as the boat turned.
“Tell me, you rascal,” said the captain to the prisoner, who was tugging at his oar as hard as the others, “how many men are aboard that schooner?”
“Only two, I swear to you, Senor Capitan; there were twelve of us in all.”
The men left on the schooner had evidently watched the proceedings on shore, and were taking measures accordingly.
“They’ve slipped their anchor, and the tide is running out!” shouted the captain. “Pull! Pull!”
“They’re running up their jib!” cried Burke. “Lay to, you fellows, or I’ll throw one of you overboard, and take his place!”
The captured man was thoroughly frightened. They were great fighters, these men he had fallen among, and he pulled as though he were rowing to rescue his dearest friend. The black fellows bent to their oars like madmen. They were thoroughly excited. They did not know what they were rowing: for they only knew they were acting under the orders of their captain, who had just killed nine Rackbirds, and their teeth and their eyes flashed as their oars dipped and bent.
THE “ARATO” ANCHORS NEARER SHORE
On went the boat, each one of the oarsmen pulling with all his force, the captain in the stern, shouting and encouraging them, and Shirley and Burke crouched in the bow, each with his rifle in hand. Up went the jib of the Arato. She gently turned about as she felt the influence of the wind, and then the captain believed the men on board were trying to get up the foresail.
“Are you sure there are only two of the crew on that schooner?” said the captain to the prisoner. “Now, it isn’t worth while to lie to me.”
“Only two,” said the man. “I swear to it. Only two, Senor Capitan.”