To put the ship about, and follow the pirate schooner, was the first impulse of Montague; but, on second thought, he felt that the risk of getting on the rocks in the narrow channel was too great to be lightly run. He therefore gave orders to warp the ship about, and steer round the islet, on the other side of which he fully expected to find the pirate. But time was lost in attempting to do this, in consequence of the wreck of the mizzen-mast having fouled the rudder. When the Talisman at last got under way, and rounded the outside point of the islet, no vessel of any kind was to be seen.
Amazed beyond measure, and deeply chagrined, the unfortunate captain of the man-of-war turned to Gascoyne, who still sat quietly on the taffrail smoking his cigar.
“Does this pirate schooner sport wings as well as sails?” said he; “for unless she does, and has flown over the mountains, I cannot see how she could disappear in so short a space of time.”
“I told you the pirate was a bold man; and now he has proved himself a clever fellow. Whether he sports wings or no is best known to himself. Perhaps he can dive. If so, we have only to watch until he comes to the surface, and shoot him leisurely.”
“Well, he is off; there is no doubt of that,” returned Montague. “And now, Mr. Gascoyne, since it is vain to chase a vessel possessed of such mysterious qualities, you will not object, I dare say, to guide my ship to the bay where your own little schooner lies. I have a fancy to anchor there.”
“By all means,” said Gascoyne, coolly. “It will afford me much pleasure to do as you wish, and to have you alongside of my little craft.”
Montague was surprised at the perfect coolness with which the other received his proposal. He was persuaded that there must be some mysterious connection between the pirate schooner and the sandal-wood trader, although his ideas were at this point somewhat undefined and confused; and he had expected that Gascoyne would have shown some symptoms of perplexity on being thus ordered to conduct the Talisman to a spot where, he suspected, no schooner would be found, or, if found, would appear under such a changed aspect as to warrant his seizing it on suspicion. As Gascoyne, however, showed perfect willingness to obey the order, he turned away, and left his strange pilot to conduct the ship through the reefs, having previously given him to understand that the touching of a rock and the termination of his (Gascoyne’s) life would certainly be simultaneous events.
Meanwhile the Avenger, alias the Foam, had steered direct for the shore, into which she apparently ran, and disappeared like a phantom-ship. The coast of this part of the island, where the events we are narrating occurred, was peculiarly formed. There were several narrow inlets in the high cliffs which were exceedingly deep, but barely wide enough to admit of the passage of a large boat or a small vessel. Many of these inlets or creeks, which in some respects resembled the narrow fiords of Norway, though on a miniature scale, were so thickly fringed with trees, and the luxuriant undergrowth peculiar to southern climes, that their existence could not be detected from the sea. Indeed, even after the entrance to any one of them was discovered, no one would have imagined it to extend so far inland.