Harcourt and Gervaise at once went on board, and the former gave the Italian commander an account of the battle that had taken place, and the capture of the four pirate vessels. After the exclamations of satisfaction by the knights had ceased, he recounted their own adventures, which were heard with lively interest.
“I hope indeed that Santoval will burn that fishing boat, and that we shall capture the pirates,” the commander said. “We have need of more slaves to carry out the works at Rhodes. Now, let us to supper, gentlemen, and then to sleep. In six hours we will be off again, for if some more of these villains have escaped and carried the news to Hassan Ali, our swords may be sorely needed by Ricord and Santoval tomorrow.”
At three in the morning all on board the galley were astir. A ration of bread and meat was served out to the slaves, and the boat was soon afterwards under way. The rowers of the English knight’s boat had been warmly commended by the commander and placed in charge of the overseer, with instructions that they were to be treated as free men. As soon as the galley slaves set to work, however, they seated themselves on the benches and double banked some of the oars, anxious to please the knights. With the exception of those whose turn it was to be on watch, most of the knights slept until daybreak.
“At the rate we are rowing, Gervaise,” Harcourt said, as they went up on to the poop together, “it will not take us very long to join our friends. We are going through the water at fully six miles an hour; and as we have already been two hours under way, in another three we shall be there.”
An hour and a half later they passed the island where they had landed. The two young knights pointed out to the others the valley into which they had descended, and the point round which they had swum. In a few minutes they caught sight of the landing place.
“Look, Gervaise, there is something black showing just above the water.”
“I see it. I think it is a line of timbers. There were certainly no rocks there when we ran ashore.”
“Then Santoval must have found the craft still there and burnt her,” one of the knights standing by remarked, “and the pirates are caged up. It will take them some time to make a raft that will carry them to the next island, and before they can do that we shall be back again. I shall be sorry if they escape, for they are as ruthless a set of villains as sail the seas.”
The galley had traversed half the remaining distance when the sound of a gun was faintly heard. For a moment there was an absolute hush on the poop; then three or four shots in rapid succession were heard.
“Some more pirate ships must have come up,” the commander exclaimed. Then he shouted down to the slaves, “Row, men — row for your lives! Overseer, do not spare your lash if any hang back from their work.”