“They are Rama, Sukharam, Ganu, Ganpat, Hari.”
“Call Rama, gently; bid him come here. Do not raise your voice.”
The man obeyed. The clicking of the dice ceased, and in a few moments a Maratha appeared at the doorway and entered blinking. No sooner had he set foot within the cabin than he was seized by the Gujarata and gagged, and then, with a rapidity only possible to the practised sailor, he was roped and laid helpless on the floor.
“Call Sukharam,” said Desmond.
The second man answered the summons, only to suffer the same fate. A third was dealt with in the same fashion; then the fourth and fifth came together, wondering why the serang was so brutally interfering with their game. By the time they reached the door Desmond had turned the lantern to the wall, so that they saw only a dim shape within the cabin. Ganpat was secured before the last man became aware of what was happening. Hari hesitated at the threshold, hearing the sound of a slight scuffle caused by the seizure of his companion.
“Tell him to come in,” whispered Desmond in the serang’s ear, emphasizing the order by laying the cold blade of a knife against his collarbone.
Fuzl Khan had not yet finished trussing the other; as the last man entered Desmond threw himself upon him. He could not prevent a low startled cry; and struggling together, the two rolled upon the floor. The Maratha, not recognizing his assailant, apparently thought that the serang had suddenly gone mad, for he merely tried to disengage himself, speaking in a tone half angry, half soothing. But finding that the man grasping him had a determined purpose, he became furious with alarm, and plucking a knife from his girdle struck viciously at the form above him.
Desmond, with his back to the light, saw the blow coming. He caught the man’s wrist, and in another moment the Gujarati came to his assistance. Thus the last of the watchmen was secured and laid beside his comrades.
Six of the men on board the gallivats had been disposed of. But there still remained five, asleep until their turn for watching and dicing came. So quietly had the capture of the six been effected that not one of the sleepers had been disturbed.
To deal with them was an easier matter. Leaving the bound men in the cabin, and led by the serang, whose feet had been released, Desmond and Fuzl Khan visited each of the gallivats in turn. The sleeping men awoke at their approach, but they were reassured by the voice of the serang, who in terror for his life spoke to them at Desmond’s bidding; and before they realized what was happening they were in the toils, helpless like the rest.
When the last of the watchmen was thus secured, Desmond crept to the vessel nearest the shore and, making a bell of his hands, sent a low hail across the surface of the water in the direction of the jetty. He waited anxiously, peering into the darkness, straining his ears. Five minutes passed, fraught with the pain of uncertainty and suspense. Then he caught the faint sound of ripples: he fancied he descried a dark form on the water; it drew nearer, became more definite.