“Even so I will not join you.”
“And that is your last word?”
“My last word. I will not join you. I have lived honest. I will die honest.”
“Soit!” he growled, and went away, leaving me to somewhat gloomier thoughts.
HOW I FACED DEATHS AND LIVED
On the sixteenth day of my imprisonment I had stood against my bars till the last faint glow of the sunset faded off a white cloud in the east, and all outside had become gray and dim, and my room was quite dark. I had had my second meal, and looked as usual for no further diversion till breakfast next morning. But of a sudden I heard heavy feet outside my door, and Torode came in with a lantern, followed by two of his men.
“You are still of that mind?” he asked, as though we had discussed the matter but five minutes before.
“Then your time is up;” and at a word from him the men bound my hands and feet as before, tied a cloth over my eyes, and carried me off along the rocky way—to my death I doubted not.
To the schooner first in any case, though why they could not kill a man on shore as easily as at sea surprised me. Though, to be sure, a man’s body is more easily and cleanly disposed of at sea than on shore, and leaves no mark behind it.
I was placed in the same bunk as before, and fell asleep wondering how soon the end of this strange business would come, but sure that it would not be long.
I was wakened in the morning by the crash of the big guns, and surmised that we had run across something. I heard answering guns and more discharges of our own, then the lowering of a boat, and presently my porthole was obscured as the schooner ground against another vessel.
Then the unexpected happened, in a furious fusillade of small arms from the other ship. Treachery had evidently met treachery, and Death had his hands full.
From the shouting aboard the other ship I felt sure they were Frenchmen, and glad as I was at thought of these ruffians getting paid in their own coin, and fit as it might be to meet cunning with cunning, I was yet glad that the payment was French and not English.
Of the first issue, however, I had small doubts in view of Torode’s long guns and merciless methods, and though I could see nothing, with our own experiences red in my mind, I could still follow what happened.
The schooner sheared off, and presently the long guns got to work with their barbarous shot, and pounded away venomously, till I could well imagine what the state of that other ship must be.
When we ranged alongside again, no word greeted us. There was traffic between the two ships, and when we cast off I heard the crackling of flames.
Then there was much sluicing of water above my head, as our decks were washed down, and presently there came a rattling of boards which puzzled me much, until the end of one dipped suddenly across my porthole, and my straining wits suggested that Torode was changing his stripes and becoming a Frenchman once more.