“If so, certainly we shall be glad to accompany you, if you will allow us to serve under you; for nothing would please us so much as the opportunity of paying off a small share of the vengeance we owe them. But of course, if you would rather, we will sail for Rhodes in the prizes.”
“I am not thinking of sending them to Rhodes at present,” Gervaise said. “It seems to me that we may be able, in some way, to utilise them to advantage. They have their sails, and rowers for the oars. There will be, in each, besides seven knights of the Order, thirty men who, like yourselves, must feel willing to strike a blow at their late oppressors. I need hardly say that I shall be glad indeed to have the company and aid of three such well known knights of the Order, and would, could I do so, gladly resign my command into your experienced hands. But this I cannot do, and, anticipating that you would be willing to join us in this expedition, I have been thinking how I could best utilise your aid. I have thought that, if you would accept the positions, I would appoint one of you to each of the prizes, to act, not as its commander, but as the leader of the band of released captives. Most of them are sailors, of course, and with them you could work the guns and give effective aid to the little party of knights in any actual fight.”
The three knights all exclaimed that they would gladly accept the posts he offered them.
“The idea is a capital one, Sir Gervaise; and, as long as it does not come to close fighting, the three ships should be able to render efficient aid to your galley in any encounter. They will be, at any rate, a match for their own number of pirate ships,” Caretto said.
As soon as the meal concluded, the Moslem captives were questioned one by one as to the rendezvous at which the pirate fleet was to assemble; all, however, protested that the place was known only to the three commanders, all of whom had fallen in the fight.
An hour later all was ready for a start. The knights of the langues of France, Germany, and Spain went on board their respective ships, as did the three parties of released captives, with the knights who were to command them, while the rowers took their seats on the benches, shackled with the chains that had recently held the Christians. The wind was from the south, and with sails and oars the prizes were able to keep fairly abreast of the galley. With a few short intervals of rest, the slaves continued their work all night, until, shortly before daybreak, land was seen ahead, and the pilot at once pronounced it to be Cape Carbonara.
“A good landfall, Gervaise,” Ralph said. “The pilot has done right well. I suppose you mean to anchor when you get there?”