“Yes, I have come for you,” he said, huskily. “I would have come long ago if I had known—but I heard of it only by chance—a few days ago. Are you ready to come away with me now? We must hurry—for I fear that I am not strong enough to risk facing your jailer—just now.”
Mother Nolan threw a fur coat about the girl’s shoulders.
“Aye, she bes ready,” said the old woman. “Mary, snatch her things together, an’ carry ’em along. Step lively, for the love o’ heaven! Have ye a boat, lad? Then get her to it as quick as ye kin, an’ into it, an’ away out o’ Chance Along wid the two o’ ye jist as quick as the holy saints will let ye!”
John Darling fastened the great coat around Flora with trembling fingers.
“To find you here!” he whispered. “And yet you seem nearer to me here than when I read of you—of your glory—out there in the great world.”
Their hands touched. Her eyes kindled to his, flame for flame, throb for throb.
“I am glad—you have found me,” she said. “You—you did not forget me.”
At that moment the door was flung open and Black Dennis Nolan sprang into the room, followed closely by Bill Brennen and Nick Leary. The skipper had returned to the harbor because the ship in distress had drifted clear of the coast after all, and was even now firing her gun and burning her flares in clear water directly off Chance Along. Before flinging open the door the wreckers had seen through the window what was taking place in the kitchen.
Flora Lockhart screamed and flung her arms around John Darling, clinging to him as to her only hope of deliverance; and before he could pull himself clear of her and draw a pistol from his pocket the infuriated skipper was upon him. Nolan gripped with his left hand, and struck with his right fist and his whole body; but, quick as thought, the sailor twisted, ducked and gripped the other low about the hips. They hurtled across the room, collided against a chair and crashed to the floor with Darling on top. Bill Brennen plunged forward to help his master, but was met half-way by old Mother Nolan, who twined her claws in his whiskers and hung to him like a cat to a curtain. Nick Leary was about to settle things when Mary Kavanagh fell upon him with a leg of the broken chair. Flora alone did not join the fray. She fell back against the wall and covered her eyes with her hands.
Things were at a deadlock, with the chances good for Darling to break away from the dazed skipper and make his escape. Bill Brennen was of no use, for he could not strike the terrible old woman who hung to his whiskers until he yelled with the pain of it. Nick lay on the floor with music and stars in his head and conviction that Mary Kavanagh (who even now knelt on his chest) was a grand young woman entirely. Then young Cormick entered, took in the vital points of the situation at a glance, snatched up a stick of firewood, and jumped for the corner where his brother and the stranger lay clinched. Flora saw it from between her trembling fingers. She screamed and sprang forward with out-flung arms; but she was too late. The boy struck once with the billet—and the fight was ended.