Desmond could not but admire the superb insouciance and the easy smile with which Diggle played his card. Seeing that Clive for an instant hesitated, the intrepid prisoner continued:
“But there, Mr. Clive, you never excelled in the Latin. ’Twas a sore point with poor Mr. Burslem.”
“Come, come,” cried Clive, visibly nettled, “this is no time for quips. You fail to appreciate your position. You are caught red handed. If you have no defense to make you will meet the fate of other pirates before you. Have you anything to say?”
“Yes. You accuse me of piracy; I have a complete answer to that charge; but as an Englishman I claim an Englishman’s right—a fair trial before a jury of my countrymen. In any case, Mr. Clive, it would be invidious to give me worse treatment than Monaji Angria and his officers. As for the rest, it depends on the evidence of this single witness.”
Here Admiral Watson bent forward and said to Clive in an undertone, inaudible to the others:
“I think we had better defer this. If, as you suppose, the fellow has knowledge of the French plans, it would be only politic to give Mr. Bourchier an opportunity of inquiring into the matter. No doubt he richly deserves hanging, but dead men tell no tales.”
Clive frowned, and, drumming upon the divan impatiently with his fingers, seemed for the moment to be lost in thought. Then he said:
“Yes, Mr. Watson, I think you are right.”
“Take the prisoner back to your ship,” said the admiral, “and put him under double guard.
“Thank you, Mr. Burke; we shall require your evidence in Bombay. One word before you go. I am vastly indebted to you for your services; you have been of the greatest use to myself and my captains. Your name will frequently appear in our ships’ logs, and I shall take care to show your work in the proper light when I make my report. Meanwhile, when the division of prize money is made, you will receive a lieutenant’s share. Good night, sir.”
And Desmond’s face, as he left the room, bore a flush of happiness and pride.
A few days after the capture, the Tyger left Gheria, having on board the men wounded in the attack and the European prisoners who had been rescued. Desmond also sailed in it, with an official report from Admiral Watson to Governor Bourchier.
The arrival of the Tyger at Bombay, with the first news of the success of the expedition and the fall of the fortress so long deemed impregnable, was the occasion of a great demonstration of rejoicing. The trading community, whether European or native, was enthusiastic over the ruin of the notorious Pirate; and Desmond, as one who had had a share in the operations, came in for a good deal of congratulation which he laughingly protested ought to have been reserved for better men.