“How dare you?” she cried. “How dare you lay hands on me? I despise you, you brute!”
He stepped back, his face crimson, his mouth twitching, all the fire and mastery gone from his eyes. He had thought, poor fool, that she was learning to care for him; for of late, in her game of self-defence, she had treated him with evident consideration and many little attentions of the voice and eyes. And now he understood. He saw the truth in every flash of her eyes, in every line of brow, mouth and chin. He turned, took the lantern from Cormick and strode from the house, with Bill and Nick and their prisoner at his heels.
“Go down to the land-wash an’ spy ’round for his boat,” he said to Cormick. “Turn out a couple o’ men to help ye hunt for it—an’ maybe ye’ll find some more o’ these sneakin’ robbers hangin’ ’round the harbor.”
They carried Darling to the store, the skipper leading the way, and his trusties swinging and hoisting their helpless burden by heels and shoulders. They dropped him on the cold floor as if he had no more feelings than a sack of hard bread.
“That bes all, lads,” said the skipper. “Go help hunt for the boat now an’ shut the door behind ye. I’ll jist be sayin’ a few words to this dirty spy afore I leaves him to his dreams.”
Brennen and Leary turned and left the store without a word. They felt vaguely uneasy, as if the great world of up-along had at last found them out, and reached a menacing hand into their snug harbor. Would the skipper be able to deal with so vast an enemy? If he killed this stranger it would mean hanging by the neck, sooner or later—perhaps for every man in the harbor? If he let him live, and held him a prisoner, it would bring the law prying into their affairs, some time or other. Doubt chilled them. They stumbled heavily away in the darkness.
The skipper held the lantern to his captive’s face and regarded him with wolfish, sneering attention. Soon the sneer faded a little.
“I’s seed ye afore,” he said. “Aye, sure as hell, I’s seed ye afore!”
“And this is not the first time I’ve seen your ugly mug, either,” returned Darling. “I saw you the night the Durham Castle came ashore on this coast—the night you robbed the captain and the passengers. Well, what are you going to do about it?”
“Ye’ll larn that soon enough,” returned the other. “Did ye get a letter from—from her?”
“No,” replied Darling, unable to see any danger in telling the truth of that matter. “No, I didn’t get any letter. I met a friend of yours in St. John’s, and he told me a great deal about you, and the game you are playing in this harbor—and also about her. Your friend’s name is Dick Lynch.”
“Dick Lynch,” repeated the skipper, quietly. “I’ll be cuttin’ the heart out o’ that dog yet!”
“And a good job, no doubt,” said Darling. “But I warn you, my man, that if you injure Miss Lockhart in any way you’ll curse the day you first saw daylight. You’ll be burned out of here like the dirty, murdering pirate that you are—you and your whole crew. The law will have you, my man—it will have you by the neck. Do you think I risked coming to this place without leaving word behind me of where I was bound for and what I was after?”