“You’ll not find the Goat’s Pass so bad as you think, good Thorwald,” returned Gascoyne; “for I propose that the Talisman or her boats should convey you and your men to the foot of it, after which your course will be indeed rugged, but it will be short;—merely to scale the face of a precipice that would frighten a goat to think of, and then a plain descent into the valley, where, I doubt not, these villains will be found in force; and where, certainly, they will not look for the appearance of a stout generalissimo of half-savage troops. As for the bombarding of a mud village, Mr. Montague, I should have expected a well-trained British officer ready to do his duty, whether that duty were agreeable or otherwise.”
“My duty certainly,” interrupted the young captain, hotly; “but I have yet to learn that your orders constitute my duty.”
The bland smile with which Gascoyne listened to this tended rather to irritate than to soothe Montague’s feelings; but he curbed the passion which stirred his breast, while the other went on:
“No doubt the bombarding of a defenseless village is not pleasant work; but the result will be important, for it will cause the whole army of savages to rush to the protection of their women and children, thereby disconcerting their plans—supposing them to have any—and enabling us to attack them while assembled in force. It is the nature of savages to scatter, and so to puzzle trained forces; and no doubt those of His Majesty are well trained. But ’one touch of nature makes the whole world kin,’ says a great authority; it is wonderful how useful a knowledge of various touches of nature is in the art of war.
“It may not have occurred to Mr. Montague that savages have a tendency to love and protect their wives and children, as well as civilized men, and that—”
“Pray, cease your irrelevant remarks; they are ill-timed,” said Montague, impatiently. “Let us hear the remainder of your suggestions. I shall judge of their value, and act accordingly. You have not yet told us what part you yourself intend to play in this game.”
“I mean to accompany Captain Montague, if he will permit me.”
“How! go with me in the Talisman?” said Montague, surprised at the man’s coolness, and puzzled by his impudence.
“Even so,” said Gascoyne.
“Well, I have no objection, of course; but it seems to me that you would be more useful at the head of a party of your own men.”
“Perhaps I might,” replied Gascoyne; “but the coral reefs are dangerous on the north side of the island, and it is important that one well acquainted with them should guide your vessel. Besides, I have a trusty mate, and if you will permit me to send my old shipmate John Bumpus across the hills, he will convey all needful instructions to the Foam.”
This was said in so quiet and straightforward a tone that Montague’s wrath vanished. He felt ashamed of having shown so much petulance at a time when affairs of so great importance ought to have been calmly discussed; so he at once agreed to allow Bumpus to go. Meanwhile, Henry Stuart, who had been fretting with impatience at this conversation, suddenly exclaimed: