“I tell you, Manton, it won’t do,” said Gascoyne, sternly.
“I can only suggest what I believe to be for the good of the ship,” replied the other, coldly.
“Even if you succeed in your attempt, you will be certain to lose some of our hands; for although the best of them are on, shore, the commander of the Talisman will think those that remain too numerous for a sandal-wood trader, and you are aware that we are sufficiently short-handed in such dangerous seas.”
The latter part of this speech was uttered in a slightly sarcastic tone.
“What would you have me do, then?” demanded Gascoyne, whose usual decision of character seemed to have deserted him under the influence of conflicting feelings, which the first mate could plainly perceive agitated the breast of his commander, but which he could by no means account for. Certainly he had no sympathy with them, for Manton’s was a hard, stern nature—not given to the melting mood.
“Do?” exclaimed the mate, vehemently, “I would mount the red, and get out the sweeps. An hour’s pull will place the schooner on the other side of the reef. A shot from Long Tom will sink the best boat in the service of his Britannic Majesty, and we could be off and away with the land breeze before morning.”
“What! sink a man-of-war’s boats!” exclaimed Gascoyne; “why, that would make them set us down as pirates at once, and we should have to run the gauntlet of half the British navy before this time next year.”
Manton received this remark with a loud laugh, which harshly disturbed the silence of the night.
“That is true,” said he; “yet I scarcely expected to see Captain Gascoyne show the white feather.”
“Possibly not,” retorted the other, grimly; “yet methinks that he who counsels flight shows more of the white feather than he who would shove his head into the very jaws of the lion. It won’t do, Manton; I have my own reasons for remaining here. The white lady must in the meantime smile on the British commander. Besides, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to do all this and get our fellows on board again before morning. The land breeze will serve to fill the sails of the Talisman just as well as those of the Foam; and they’re sure to trip their anchor to-night; for, you’ll scarcely believe it, this mad little fellow Montague actually suspects me to be the pirate Durward!”
Again the harsh laugh of Manton disturbed the peaceful calm, and this time he was joined by Gascoyne, who seemed at length to have overcome the objections of his mate; for their tones again sank into inaudible whispers.
Shortly after this conversation the moon broke out from behind a bank of clouds, and shone brightly down on land and sea, throwing into bold relief the precipices, pinnacles, and gorges of the one, and covering the other with rippling streaks of silver. About the same time the oars of the man-of-war’s boat were heard, and in less than half an hour Captain Montague ascended the side of the Foam, where, to his great surprise, he was politely received by Gascoyne.