Dom Basilio—for the coxswain of the boat proved to be he and no other—gave me a different account as we pulled toward the Gauntlet. Yet it agreed with my uncle’s in the main.
“In faith,” said he, “if there be any credit in what we have done or are about to do, set it down to your uncle. Against goodness so simple no man can strive, though he bind himself by vows. Gratitude may have helped a little; but you can say, and you will not be far out, that for very shame we are here.”
Captain Pomery who hailed me over the ship’s side, proudly invited me to row around and inspect the repairs in her—particularly her new stern-post—before climbing on board. For my part, while congratulating him upon them and upon his despatch, I admired more the faces of Mike Halliday and Roger Wearne, grinning welcome to me over the bulwarks. They, too, called my attention to the repairs; to the new rudder, fitted with chains in case of accident to the helm, to the grain of the new mizzen-mast (a beautiful spar, and without a knot), to the teak hatch-coverings which had replaced those shattered by the explosion. They desired me to marvel at everything; but that they themselves after past perils should be here again and ready, for no more than seamen’s pay, to run their heads into perils yet unhandselled, was to these honest fellows no matter worth considering.
“But whither be we bound, Master Prosper?” demanded Captain Jo. “For ’tis ill biding for orders after cracking on to be punctual; and tho’ I say naught against the anchorage as an anchorage, the wind, what with these hills and gullies, is like Mulligan’s blanket, always coming and going; and by fits an’ starts as the ague took the goose; and likewise backwards and forwards, like Boscastle fair: so that our cables be twisted worse than a pig’s tail.”
“As for that,” said I, “your next rendezvous, I hear, is the island of Giraglia; but, for the whole plan of campaign, you must come and hear it from Billy Priske, who will tell you what my father has done and what he intends.”
Accordingly, after breakfasting aboard, we were landed again and went up the mountain together—my uncle Gervase, Captain Pomery, Dom Basilio and I: and on the slope below the Princess’s cave we sat and listened to Billy’s story, the Trappist translating it to Marc’antonio, who sat with his gun across his knees and his eyes fastened on my uncle’s gentle venerable face.
BILLY PRISKE’S STORY OF MY FATHER’S CAMPAIGN.
“As Master Prosper has told you, gentlemen all, we left him sitting alongside poor Mr. Fiennes, and took the path that leads down and across the valley yonder and out again on the north side. There were four of us—my master, myself, and the creatures Fett and Badcock— each man with his gun and good supply of ammunition. Besides this Sir John carried his camp-stool and spy-glass, and in his pocket a map along with his Bible and tobacco pouch; I the wine and his spare gun: Fett the bag of provisions; and Badcock his flute and a gridiron.”