“Is that you, sahib?” said a low voice.
He gave a great sigh of relief. The toni drew alongside, and soon five men, with bundles, muskets, and the small heavy barrel, stood with Desmond and the Gujarati on the deck of the gallivat.
Desmond’s strongest feeling, as his companions stepped on board, was wonder—wonder at the silence of the fort, the darkness that covered the whole face of the country, the safety of himself and the men so lately prisoners. What time had passed since they had left the shed he was unable to guess; the moments had been so crowded that any reckoning was impossible. But when, as he waited for the coming of the boat, his mind ran over the incidents of the flight—the trussing of the sentry, the wary approach to the bastion, the tragic fate of the sentinel there, the stealthy creeping along the shore, the swim to the gallivats and all that had happened since: as he recalled these things, he could not but wonder that the alarm he dreaded had not already been given. But it was clear that all was as yet undiscovered; and the plot had worked out so exactly as planned that he hoped still for a breathing space to carry out his enterprise to the end.
There was not a moment to be wasted. The instant the men were aboard Desmond rapidly gave his orders. Fuzl Khan and one of the Mysoreans he sent to carry the barrel to Angria’s gallivat. It contained da’ma. They were to break it open, tear down the hangings in the cabin, smear them plentifully, and set light to them from the lantern. Meanwhile Desmond himself, with the rest of the men, set about preparing the gallivat in which he was about to make his next move.
The lightest of the line of vessels was the one in which the watchmen had been gambling. It happened that this, with the gallivat next to it, had come into harbor late in the evening from a short scouting cruise, and the sweeps used by their crews had not been carried on shore, as the custom was. The larger vessel had fifty of these sweeps, the smaller thirty. If pursuit was to be checked it was essential that none of them should be left in the enemy’s hands, and the work of carrying the fifty from the larger to the smaller vessel took some time.
There was no longer the same need for quietness of movement. So long as any great noise and bustle was avoided, the sentinels on the walls of the fort would only suppose, if sounds reached their ears, that the watch on board were securing the gallivats at their moorings.
When the sweeps had all been transferred Desmond ordered the prisoners to be brought from Angria’s cabin to the smaller vessel. The lashings of their feet were cut in turn; each man was carefully searched, deprived of all weapons, and escorted from the one vessel to the other, his feet being then securely bound as before.