“But, after all,” said the black-haired man, “the main thing is, will the men stand by you?”
“You needn’t fear them,” said the other with an aggravated oath, “I know every rascal of them.”
“Now, then,” said Dickory Charter to himself as he slipped out of the chains, “she goes overboard, if I have to pitch her over.”
Nothing had he heard about Ben Greenway. He did not believe that the Scotchman had deserted his young mistress; even had he been sent for to go on shore in haste, would he leave without speaking to her. More than that, he would most likely have taken her with him.
But Dickory could not afford to give much thought to Ben Greenway. Although a good friend to both himself and his mother, he was not to be considered when the safety of Mistress Kate Bonnet was in question.
The minutes moved slowly, very slowly indeed, as Kate sat, listening for the sound of the old clock, and at the same time listening for the sound of approaching footsteps.
It was now so dark that she could not have seen anybody without a light, but she could hear as if she had possessed the ears of a cat.
She had ceased to expect her father. She was sure he had been detained on shore; how, she knew not. But she did know he was not coming.
Presently the old clock struck, one, two—In a moment she was climbing over the rail. In the darkness she missed the heavy bit of rope which Dickory had showed her, but feeling about she clutched it and let herself down to the ledge below. Her nerves were quite firm now. It was necessary to be so very particular to follow Dickory’s directions to the letter, that her nerves were obliged to be firm. She slipped still farther down and sat sideways upon the narrow ledge. So narrow that if the vessel had rolled she could not have remained upon it.
There she waited.
Then there came, sharper and clearer out of the darkness in the direction of the town, the first stroke of nine o’clock from the tower of the new church. Before the second stroke had sounded she was hanging by her two hands from the ledge. She hung at her full length; she put her feet together; she hoped that she would go down smoothly and make no splash. Three—four—five—six—seven—eight—nine—and she let her fingers slip from the ledge. Down she went, into the darkness and into the water, not knowing where one ended and the other began. Her eyes were closed, but they might as well have been open; there was nothing for her to see in all that blackness. Down she went, as if it were to the very bottom of black air and black water. And then, suddenly she felt an arm around her.
Dickory was there!
She felt herself rising, and Dickory was rising, still with his arm around her. In a moment her head was in the air, and she could breathe. Now she felt that he was swimming, with one arm and both legs. Instinctively she tried to help him, for she had learned to swim. They went on a dozen strokes or more, with much labour, until they touched something hard.