Both men soon began to show symptoms of fatigue. It was not in the nature of things that two such frames, animated by such spirits, could prolong so exhausting a struggle. It was not doubtful now which of the two would come off victorious. During the whole course of the fight Gascoyne had acted entirely on the defensive. A small knife or stiletto hung at his left side, but he never attempted to use it, and he never once tried to throw his adversary. In fact, it now became evident, even to the widow’s perceptions, that the captain was actually playing with her son.
All along, his countenance, though flushed and eager, exhibited no sign of passion. He seemed to act like a good-humored man who had been foolishly assaulted by a headstrong boy, and who meant to keep him in play until he should tire him out.
Just then the tinkling of a bell and other sounds of the people of the establishment beginning to move were heard outside. Henry noticed this.
“Ha!” he exclaimed, in a gasping voice, “I can at least hold you until help comes.”
Gascoyne heard the sounds also. He said nothing, but he brought the strife to a swift termination. For the first time he bent his back like a man who exerts himself in earnest, and lifted Henry completely off the ground.
Throwing him on his back, he pressed him down with both arms so as to break from his grasp. No human muscles could resist the force applied. Slowly but surely the iron sinews of Henry’s arms straightened out, and the two were soon at arms’ length.
But even Gascoyne’s strength could not unclasp the grip of the youth’s hands, until he placed his knee upon his chest; then, indeed, they were torn away.
Of course, all this was not done without some violence; but it was still plain to the widow that Gascoyne was careful not to hurt his antagonist more than he could help.
“Now, Henry, my lad,” said he, holding the youth down by the two arms, “I have given you a good deal of trouble this morning, and I mean to give you a little more. It does not just suit me at present to be tried for a pirate, so I mean to give you a race. You are reputed one of the best runners in the settlement. Well, I’ll give you a chance after me. If you overtake me, boy, I’ll give myself up to you without a struggle. But I suspect you’ll find me rather hard to catch!”
As he uttered the last words he permitted Henry to rise. Ere the youth had quite gained his footing, he gave him a violent push and sent him staggering back against the wall. When Henry recovered his balance, Gascoyne was standing in the open doorway.
“Now, lad, are you ready?” said he, a sort of wild smile lighting up his face.
Henry was so taken aback by this conduct, as well as by the rough handling which he had just received, that he could not collect his thoughts for a few seconds; but, when Gascoyne nodded gravely to his mother, and walked quietly away, saying, “Good-by, Mary,” the exasperated youth darted through the doorway like an arrow.