The boat drew closer: it was level with the nose of the sloop; and the lieutenant sang out the command, “Ship oars!” It came alongside.
“Bulger,” cried the lieutenant, “skip aboard and announce us to that old peacock up on deck.”
“Ay, ay, sir,” replied Bulger, “which his feathers will be plucked, or my name en’t Bulger.”
At the side of the sloop lay the dinghy intended to convey the subahdar and his men ashore when the work of sinking had been started. It was made fast to the vessel by a rope. Bulger sprang into the dinghy and then began an ascent so clever, and at the same time so comical, that Desmond had much ado not to spoil his joke by a premature explosion of laughter. The burly seaman swarmed up the rope like a monkey, clasping it with his legs as he took each upward grip. But the comedy of his actions was provided by his hook. Having only one arm—an arm, it is true, with the biceps of a giant—he could not clutch the rope in the ordinary way. But at each successive spring he dug his hook into the side of the vessel, and mounted with amazing rapidity, talking to himself all the time.
“Avast, there!” he shouted, as with a final heave upon the hook dug into the gunwale he hoisted himself on deck. “Haul down your colors, matey, which they make a pretty pictur’, they do.”
He came overpoweringly towards Desmond, his arm and stump spread wide as if to embrace him.
“I may be wrong,” said Desmond, “but have I not the pleasure of addressing Mr. William Bulger?”
Bulger started as if shot. His broad face spelled first blank amazement, then incredulity, then surprised belief. Spreading his legs wide and bending his knees, he rested his hand on one and his hook on the other, shut one eye, and stuck his tongue out at the corner of his mouth.
“By the Dutchman!” he exclaimed, “if it don’t beat cock fighting! Sure, ’tis Mr. Burke himself! Anna Maria! But for why did you go for to make yourself sich a Guy Faux guy, sir?”
“How are you, old fellow?” said Desmond heartily. “I am a bit of a scarecrow, no doubt, but we’ve won the trick, man. The real guy is down below, dead from fright by this time, I expect.
“Sorry to give you the trouble of boarding, sir,” he added, as the lieutenant came over the side. “If you’ll take me into your boat I’ll be glad to report to the admiral or to Colonel Clive.”
“By jimmy, Mr. Burke!” said the lieutenant, laughing, “you’ve got a way of your own of popping up at odd times and in odd places. Come with me, by all means—just as you are, if you please. The admiral wouldn’t miss the look of you for anything. By George! ’tis a rare bit of play acting. Did I hear you say you’ve got some natives under hatchways?”
“Yes; the owner of this finery is below with two of his men. You can hear him now.”
There was a violent and sustained knocking below deck.