As he spoke, the low boom of a far distant gun was heard. Montague started, and glanced inquiringly in the face of his companion, whose looks expressed a slight degree of surprise.
“What was that, think you?” said Montague, after a momentary pause.
“The commander of the Talisman ought, I think, to be the best judge of the sound of his own guns.”
“True,” returned the young officer, somewhat disconcerted; “but you forget that I am not familiar with the eruptions of those volcanic mountains of yours; and, at so great a distance from my ship, with such hills of rock and lava between us, I may well be excused feeling a little doubt as to the bark of my own bull-dogs. But that signal betokens something unusual. I must shorten my visit to you, I fear.”
“Pray do not mention it,” said Gascoyne, with a peculiar smile; “under the circumstances I am bound to excuse you.”
“But,” continued Montague, with emphasis, “I should be sorry indeed to part without some memorial of my visit. Be so good as to order your men to come aft.”
“By all means,” said Gascoyne, giving the requisite order promptly; for, having sent all his best men on shore, he did not much mind the loss of a few of those remaining.
When they were mustered, the British commander inspected them carefully, and then he singled out surly Dick, and ordered him into the boat. A slight frown rested for a moment on Gascoyne’s countenance, as he observed the look of ill-concealed triumph with which the man obeyed the order. The expression of surly Dick, however, was instantly exchanged for one of dismay as his captain strode up to him, and looked in his face for one moment with a piercing glance, at the same time thrusting his left hand into the breast of his red shirt.
“Good-by,” he said, suddenly, in a cheerful tone, extending his right hand and grasping that of the sailor. “Good-by, lad: if you serve the king as well as you have served me, he’ll have reason to be proud of you.”
Gascoyne turned on his heel, and the man slunk into the boat with an aspect very unlike that of a bold British seaman.
“Here is another man I want,” said Montague, laying his hand on the shoulder of John Bumpus.
“I trust, sir, that you will not take that man,” said Gascoyne, earnestly. “I cannot afford to lose him; I would rather you should take any three of the others.”
“Your liberality leads me to think that you could without much difficulty supply the place of the men I take: but three are too many. I shall be satisfied with this one. Go into the boat, my lad.”
Poor John Bumpus, whose heart had been captivated by the beauties of the island, obeyed the order with a rueful countenance; and Gascoyne bit his lip and turned aside to conceal his anger. In two minutes more the boat was rowed away from the schooner’s side.
Not a word was spoken by any one in the boat until a mile had separated it from the schooner. They had just turned a point which shut the vessel out of view, when surly Dick suddenly recovered his self-possession and his tongue, and, starting up in an excited manner, exclaimed to Montague: “The schooner you have just left, sir, is a pirate. I tell the truth, though I should swing for it.”