We return now to the Talisman.
The instant the broadside of the cruiser burst with such violence, and in such close proximity, on Manton’s ears, he felt that he had run into the very jaws of the lion; and that escape was almost impossible. The bold heart of the pirate quailed at the thought of his impending fate, but the fear caused by conscious guilt was momentary; his constitutional courage returned so violently as to render him reckless.
It was too late to put about and avoid being seen; for, before the shot was fired, the schooner had already almost run into the narrow channel between the island and the shore. A few seconds later, she sailed gracefully into view of the amazed Montague, who at once recognized the pirate vessel from Gascoyne’s faithful description of her, and hurriedly gave orders to load with ball and grape, while a boat was lowered in order to slew the ship more rapidly so as to bring her broadside to bear on the schooner.
To say that Gascoyne beheld all this unmoved would be to give a false impression of the man. He knew the ring of his great gun too well to require the schooner to come in sight in order to convince him that his vessel was near at hand. When, therefore, she appeared, and Montague turned to him with a hasty glance of suspicion and pointed to her, he had completely banished every trace of feeling from his countenance, and sat on the taffrail puffing his cigar with an air of calm satisfaction. Nodding to Montague’s glance of inquiry, he said:
“Aye, that’s the pirate. I told you he was a bold fellow; but I did not think he was quite so bold as to attempt this!”
To do Gascoyne justice, he told the plain truth here; for, having sent a peremptory order to his mate, by John Bumpus, not to move from his anchorage on any account whatever, he was not a little surprised as well as enraged at what he supposed was Manton’s mutinous conduct. But, as we have said, his feelings were confined to his breast; they found no index in his grave face.
Montague suspected, nevertheless, that his pilot was assuming a composure which he did not feel; for from the manner of the meeting of the two vessels, he was persuaded that it was as little expected on the part of the pirates as of himself. It was with a feeling of curiosity, therefore, as to what reply he should receive, that he put the question, “What would Mr. Gascoyne advise me to do now?”
“Blow the villains out of the water,” was the quick answer. “I would have done so before now, had I been you.”
“Perhaps you might, but not much sooner,” retorted the other, pointing to the guns which were ready loaded, while the men stood at their stations, matches in hand, only waiting for the broadside to be brought to bear on the little vessel, when an iron shower would be sent against her which must, at such short range, have infallibly sent her to the bottom.