The commander of the Talisman paused, and smiled in spite of himself at the idea of being placed in circumstances that constrained him to hold a consultation, in matters that might involve life and death, with a mere boy! But there was no help for it; besides, to say truth, the extraordinary energy and courage that had been displayed by the lad, combined with a considerable amount of innate sharpness in his character, tended to create a feeling that the consultation might not be altogether without advantage. At all events, it was better to talk over their desperate position even with a boy than to confine his anxieties to his own breast.
But although Montague had seen enough of his young companion to convince him that he was an intelligent fellow, he was not prepared for the fertility of resource, the extremity of daring, and the ingenuity of device that were exhibited by him in the course of that consultation.
To creep over, in the dead of night, knife in hand, and attack the pirates while asleep, was one of the least startling of his daring propositions; and to swim out to the wreck, set her on fire, and get quietly on board the Avenger, while all the amazed pirates should have rushed over to see what could have caused such a blaze, cut the cable and sail away, was among the least ingenious of his devices.
These two talked long and earnestly while the shades of evening were descending on the Isle of Palms; and in the earnestness of their talk, and the pressing urgency of their case, the man almost forgot that his companion was a boy, and the boy never for a moment doubted that he himself, in everything but years, was a man.
It was getting dark when they returned to the tent, where they found that Alice and Poopy had arranged their supper with the most scrupulous care and nicety. These, too, with the happy buoyancy of extreme youth, had temporarily forgotten their position, and, when their male companions entered, were deeply engaged in a private game of a “tea-party,” in which hard biscuit figured as bun, and water was made to do duty for tea. In this latter part of the game, by the way, the children did but carry out in jest a practise which is not altogether unknown in happier circumstances and in civilized society.
PLANS PARTIALLY CARRIED OUT—THE CUTTER’S FATE—AND A SERIOUS MISFORTUNE.
The cutter was a fast sailer, and, although the pirate schooner had left Sandy Cove nearly two days before her, the Wasp, having had a fair wind, followed close on her heels. The Avenger cast anchor in the harbor of the Isle of Palms on the morning of her fifth day out; the Wasp sighted the island on the evening of the same day.
It was not Gascoyne’s purpose to run down at once and have a hand-to-hand fight with his own men. He felt that his party was too weak for such an attempt, and resolved to accomplish by stratagem what he could not hope to compass by force. He therefore hove-to the instant the tops of the palm trees appeared on the horizon, and waited till night should set in and favor his designs.