A mile down the inlet they came upon just the spot they were searching for. The shore was level for a few yards from the water’s edge, and from here there was a well-marked path going up the slope behind.
“We will fix upon this spot, George. It will be easy for the boats to find it in the dark, from that big tree close to the water’s edge. Now we will paddle about for half an hour before we go back.”
An hour later they returned to the yacht, and George began at once to make arrangements for the landing.
“I Should keep watch and watch regularly, Hawkins. I do not say that it is likely, but it is quite possible that they may make an attempt to surprise us, cut all our throats, and then sink the Osprey. He might attack with his boats, and with a lot of native craft. At any rate, it is worth while keeping half the crew always on deck. Be sure and light the cabin as usual. They would suspect that I was away if they did not see the saloon skylights lit up.
“There is no saying when I may be back. It may be three nights, it may be six, or, for all that I know, it may be longer than that. You may be sure that if I get a clue I shall follow it up wherever it leads me.”
The strictest silence was maintained among the men. The two men at the oars were told to row very slowly, and above all things to avoid splashing. The boat was exceedingly low in the water, much too low for safety except in perfectly calm water; as, including the two men at the oars, there were thirteen on board.
Frank had thought it, however, inadvisable to take the dinghy also, for this was lying behind the stern, and it might have been noticed had they pulled her up to the gangway. The gig had been purposely left on the side hidden from the brigantine, and as they rowed away pains were taken to keep the yacht in a line with her. They held on this course, indeed, until they were close in to the shore, and then kept in under its shelter until the curve hid them altogether.
“Be very careful as you row back, lads, and go very slowly. A ripple on this smooth water might very well be noticed by them, even if they could not make out a boat.”
“Ay, ay, sir, we will be careful.”
They had brought a lantern with them, covered with canvas, except for a few inches in front.
“Me take him, sar, and go first,” Dominique said. “Den if we meet anyone you all stop quiet, and me go on and talk with them.”
Frank followed Dominique, George keeping beside him where there was room for two to walk abreast, at other times falling just behind. Then came the sailors, and the four black boatmen were in the rear. They had been told that, in case they were halted, and heard Dominique in conversation, they were to pass quietly through the others, and be ready to join him and help him if necessary. With the exception of Dominique, Frank and George Lechmere, all carried muskets. The pilot declined to take one.