“Well then,” I ventured, “perhaps he has a fancy to land part of his cargo duty-free.”
“That’s likelier,” Billy assented. “I don’t say ’tis the truth, mind you: for if ’tis truth, why should the man choose to fetch land by daylight? Fog? A man like Jo Pomery isn’ one to mistake a little pride-o’-the-mornin’ for proper thick weather—the more by token it’s been liftin’ this hour and more. But ’tis a likelier guess anyway, the Gauntlet being from foreign. ‘Lost his bearin’s,’ says you, and come, as you might say, slap through the Manacles; an’ by accident, as you might say! Luck has a broad back, my son, but be careful how you dance ’pon it.”
“Where does she come from?” I asked.
“Mediterranean; that’s all I know. Four months and more she must ha’ took on this trip. Iss; sailed out o’ Falmouth back-along in the tail-end o’ February, and her cargo muskets and other combustibles.”
“Muskets; and you may leave askin’ me who wants muskets out there, for in the first place I don’t know, an’ a still tongue makes a wise head.”
I had slipped on shirt and breeches. “We’ll give him a hail, anyway,” said I, “and if there’s sport on hand he may happen to let us join it.”
The ketch by this time was pushing her nose past the spit of rock hiding our creek from seaward. As she came by with both large sails boomed out to starboard and sheets alternately sagging loose and tautening with a jerk, I caught sight of two of her crew in the bows, the one looking on while the other very deliberately unlashed the anchor, and aft by the wheel a third man, whom I made out to be Captain Pomery himself.
“Gauntlet ahoy!” I shouted, standing on the thwart and making a trumpet of my hands.
Captain Pomery turned, cast a glance towards us over his left shoulder and lifted a hand. A moment later he called an order forward, and the two men left the anchor and ran to haul in sheets. Here was a plain invitation to pull alongside. I seized a paddle, and was working the boat’s nose round, to pursue, when another figure showed above the Gauntlet’s bulwarks: a tall figure in an orange-russet garment like a dressing-gown; a monk, to all appearance, for the sun played on his tonsured scalp as he leaned forward and watched our approach.
THE SILENT MEN.
whence come ye?
Pardonnez moy, je vous en prie.”
A monk he was too. A second and third look over my shoulder left me no doubt of it. He gravely handed us a rope as we overtook the ketch and ran alongside, and as gravely bowed when I leapt upon deck; but he gave us no other welcome.