AN UNEXPECTED MEETING—DOINGS ON THE ISLE OF PALMS—GASCOYNE’S DESPAIR.
It was not without some difficulty that the boat reached the shore after the squall burst upon them. On landing, the party observed, dark though it was, that their leader’s countenance wore an expression of the deepest anxiety; yet there were lines upon it that indicated the raging of conflicting passions which he found it difficult to restrain.
“I fear me,” said Ole Thorwald, in a troubled voice, “that our young friend Henry Stuart is in danger.”
“Lost!” said Gascoyne, in a voice so low and grating that it startled his hearers.
“Say not so,” said Mr. Mason, earnestly. “He is a brave and a clever youth, and knows how to manage the cutter until we can row back and fetch him ashore.”
“Row back!” exclaimed Gascoyne, almost fiercely. “Think you that I would stand here idly if our boat could live in such a sea as now rolls on the rocks? The Wasp must have been washed over the reef by this time. She may pass the next without being dashed to pieces, but she is too rickety to stand the third. No, there is no hope!”
While he spoke the missionary’s eyes were closed, and his lips moved as if in silent prayer. Seizing Gascoyne nervously by the arm, he said; “You cannot tell that there is no hope. That is known only to One who has encouraged us to ‘hope against hope.’ Henry is a stout youth and a good swimmer. He may succeed in clinging to some portion of the wreck.”
“True, true,” cried Gascoyne, eagerly grasping at this hope, slight though it was. “Come; we waste time. There is but one chance. The schooner must be secured without delay. Lads, you will follow Mr. Thorwald. Do whatever he bids you. And now,” he added, leading the merchant aside, “the time for action has come. I will conduct you to a certain point on the island, where you will remain concealed among the bushes until I return to you.”
“And suppose you never return to us, Mister Gascoyne!” said Ole, who regarded every act of the pirate captain with suspicion.
“Then you will remain there till you are tired,” answered Gascoyne, with some asperity, “and after that do what you please.”
“Well, well, I am in your power,” retorted the obdurate Norseman; “make what arrangements you please. I will carry them out until—”
Here Ole thought fit to break off, and Gascoyne, without taking notice of the remark, went on in a few hurried sentences to explain as much of his plan as he thought necessary for the guidance of his suspicious ally.
This done, he led the whole party to the highest part of the island, and made them lie in ambush there while he went forward alone to reconnoiter. The night was admirably suited to their purpose. It was so dark that it was difficult to perceive objects more than a few yards off, and the wind howled so furiously among the palms that there was no danger of being overheard in the event of their speaking too loud or stumbling over fallen trees.