The manner in which the pirate captain now acted was calculated to fill the hearts of those whose lives seemed to hang in his hands with alarm if not dismay. His spirit seemed to be stirred within him. There was indeed no anger, either in his looks or tones; but there was a stern fixedness of purpose in his manner and aspect which aroused, yet repelled, the curiosity of those around him. Even Ole Thorwald and Montague agreed that it was best to let him alone; for although they might overcome his great physical force by the united strength of numbers, the result would certainly be disastrous, as he was the only one who knew the locality.
On reaching the windward side of the island he threw the schooner up into the wind, and ordered the large boat to be hoisted out and put in the water. Gascoyne issued his commands in a quick, loud voice, and Ole shook his head as if he felt that this overbearing manner proved what he had expected; namely, that when the pirate got aboard his own vessel, he would come out in his true colors.
Whatever men felt or thought, there was no hesitation in rendering prompt obedience to that voice. The large boat was hoisted off the brass pivot gun amidships and lowered into the water. Then Gascoyne gave the helm to one of the men, with directions to hold it exactly as it then lay, and, hurrying down below, speedily returned, to the astonishment of every one, with a man in his arms.
“Now, Connway,” said Gascoyne, as he cut the cords that bound the man and removed the handkerchief from his mouth, “I’m a man of few words, and to-night have less time than usual to speak. I set you free. Get into that boat; one oar will suffice to guide it; the wind will drive it to the island. I send it as a parting gift to Manton and my former associates. It is large enough to hold them all. Tell them that I repent of my sins, and the sooner they do the same the better. I cannot now undo the evil I have done them. I can only furnish the means of escape, so that they may have time and opportunity to mend their ways; and, hark’ee, the sooner they leave this place the better. It will no longer be a safe retreat. Farewell!”
While he was speaking he led the man by the arm to the side of the schooner, and constrained him to get into the boat. As he uttered the last word he cut the rope that held it, and let it drop astern.
Gascoyne immediately resumed his place at the helm, and once more the schooner was running through the water, almost gunwale under, towards the place where the Wasp had been wrecked.
Without uttering a word of explanation, and apparently forgetful of every one near him, the pirate continued during the remainder of that night to steer the Foam out and in among the roaring breakers, as if he were trying how near he could venture to the jaws of destruction without actually plunging into them. As the night wore on the sky cleared up, and the scene of foaming desolation that was presented by the breakers in the midst of which they flew, was almost enough to appal the stoutest heart.