As soon as Desmond stepped on board the grab, the hawser connecting the two vessels was cast off, the mainsail was run up, and the grab, sailing large, stood up the coast. Fuzl Khan, swarming up to the masthead, reported two or three sail far behind, apparently at the mouth of Gheria harbor. But Desmond, knowing that if they were in pursuit they had a long beat to windward before them, felt no anxiety on that score. Besides, the grab he was on had been selected precisely because it was the fastest vessel in Angria’s fleet.
Having got fairly under way, he felt that he had leisure to inspect the damage done to the grab by the shots from the fort which had given him so much concern in the darkness. That she had suffered no serious injury was clear from the ease with which she answered the helm and the rapidity of her sailing. He found that a hole or two had been made in the forepart of the deck, and a couple of yards of the bulwarks carried away. There was nothing to cause alarm or to demand repair.
It was a bright cool morning, and Desmond, after the excitements and the strain of the last few days, felt an extraordinary lightness of spirit as the vessel cut through the water. For the first time in his life he knew the meaning of the word freedom; none but a man who has suffered captivity or duress can know such joy as now filled his soul. The long stress of his menial life on board the Good Intent, the weary months of toil, difficulty and danger as Angria’s prisoner, were past; and it was with whole-hearted joyousness he realized that he was now on his way to Bombay, where Clive was—Clive, the hero who was as a fixed star in his mental firmament.
The gallivat, lying all but motionless on the water, a forlorn object with the jagged stump of her mainmast, grew smaller and smaller in the distance, and was soon hull down. Desmond, turning away from a last look in her direction, awoke from his reverie to the consciousness that he was ravenously hungry.
Chapter 15: In which our hero weathers a storm; and prepares for squalls.
Hungry as he was, however, Desmond would not eat while he was, so to speak, still in touch with Gheria. He ran up the sail on the mizzen, and the grab was soon cutting her way through the water at a spanking rate. He had closely studied the chart on board the Good Intent when that vessel was approaching the Indian coast—not with any fixed purpose, but in the curiosity which invested all things Indian with interest for him. From his recollection he believed that Gheria was somewhat more than a hundred miles from Bombay. If the grab continued to make such good sailing she might hope to cover this distance by midnight. But she could hardly run into harbor until the following day. There was, of course, no chart, not even a compass, on board; the only apparatus he possessed was a water clock; naturally he could