The gesture spoke for itself. With a fearful howl all the Italians dropped flat; but neither Scotch nor Irish blood brooked to follow their example, or perhaps fully perceived the urgency of the need, till a volley of bullets were whistling about their ears, though happily without injury, the mast and the rigging having protected them, for the sail was riddled with holes, and the smoke dimmed their vision as the report sounded in their ears. In another second the turbaned, scimitared figures were leaping on board. The Genoese still lay flat offering no resistance, but Lanty and Arthur stood on either side of the ladder, and hurled back the two who first approached; but four or five more rushed upon them, and they would have been instantly cut down, had it not been for a shout from the Genoese, ’Franchi! Franchi!’ At that magic word, which was evidently understood, the pirates only held the two youths tightly, vituperating them no doubt in bad Arabic,—Lanty grinding his teeth with rage, though scarcely feeling the pain of the two sabre cuts he had received, and pouring forth a volley of exclamations, chiefly, however, directed against the white-livered spalpeens of sailors, who had not lifted so much as a hand to help him. Fortunately no one understood a word he said but Arthur, who had military experience enough to know there was nothing for it but to stand still in the grasp of his captor, a wiry-looking Moor, with a fez and a striped sash round his waist.
The leader, a sturdy Turk in a dirty white turban, with a huge sabre in his hand, was listening to the eager words, poured out with many gesticulations by the Genoese captain, in a language utterly incomprehensible to the Scot, but which was the lingua Franca of the Mediterranean ports.
It resulted in four men being placed on guard at the hatchway leading to the cabin, while all the rest, including Arthur, Hebert, Laurence, were driven toward the prow, and made to understand by signs that they must not move on peril of their lives. A Tuck was placed at the helm, and the tartane’s head turned towards the pirate captor; and all the others, who were not employed otherwise, began to ransack the vessel and feast on the provisions. Some hams were thrown overboard, with shouts of evident scorn as belonging to the unclean beast, but the wine was eagerly drank, and Maitre Hebert uttered a wail of dismay as he saw five Moors gorging large pieces of his finest pate.
’They had na sailed upon the
A day but barely three,
When the lift grew dark and the wind blew cauld
And gurly grew the sea.
’Oh where will I find a little
Will tak my helm in hand,
Till I gae up to my top mast
And see for some dry land.’
Sir Patrick SPENS.