OF A GREAT ADVENTURE

Macpherson died toward the end of the second week in July, when the city
had already begun to suffer the dire extremities of famine. The
provisions in the magazines were almost exhausted; the meal and the
tallow were doled out with a sparing hand. Already the citizens had
begun to live upon food that at other times they would have turned from
in disgust and loathing. Horse-flesh was almost becoming a luxury, dogs,
rats, and cats were greedily devoured, and even of these the supply was
beginning to fail. Putrid fevers had broken out which carried off
multitudes; loathsome diseases of the skin grew common, and even the
strongest began to find it hard to draw themselves to the walls or to
help in repelling the frequent attacks on the outposts. Added to this,
there was hardly a whole roof in the city, for during two months the
iron hail had been continually pouring upon them. Many of them felt
indeed that death would be a welcome relief, and they envied those who
were already laid in the churchyard. But still they held out grimly, and
with faces blackened with hunger, declared that they were ready to die
rather than surrender. The spirit that may still be found here and there
in the Imperial Province burned with an unabated flame–a pride which
two centuries has not been able to remove, and strong almost to
fanaticism. Yet it was not to be wondered at that discontent and
suspicion should grow and spread. Some few proved insubordinate, others
deserted to the enemy, but for the most part they stood loyally by their
leaders.
Hamilton who was now in command of the royal troops, believing that the
time had come when his overtures would be listened to, had sent a
message containing liberal terms, but after some fruitless negotiations,
they refused his offer and determined to hold out. A messenger had been
able to find his way from the ships with a letter which had revived
their hopes a little, but they had lost all faith in Kirke, and looked
only with stubborn despair to the time when they could defend themselves
no longer.
After the death of Macpherson, Gervase had gone about his duty as
before, but he had greatly missed the wise and faithful counsellor whose
friendly comfort had helped him to bear his trials. The blow that he had
sustained had been very great, and he had felt unwilling to face Dorothy
Carew while the wound was still fresh. He had determined to observe the
old soldier´s dying injunction that she should not know by whose hand he
had fallen; and he himself would have desired even if the command had
not been laid upon him that she should remain in ignorance of it. He
knew that she had already suffered much, and he was desirous of sparing
her further pain. Jasper had not appeared again in the city nor was it
likely that he would, so that it could serve no purpose of any sort to
denounce him as the murderer.
When he had summoned up courage and met Dorothy for the first time since
Macpherson´s death, she had displayed much emotion, but it had not
occurred to her that she was connected in any way with the old soldier´s
end. She had told Gervase that her brother had disappeared, and that she
had no doubt he had gone over to the enemy, but the subject was one on
which she seemed naturally unwilling to dwell much, and he on his part
did not press it. It struck him, however, as singular that she did not
mention De Laprade; and it was only in answer to his inquiry that she
told him that he was making rapid progress towards recovery. She herself
was looking very ill and wretched–so ill that Gervase was alarmed at
her appearance, and her eyes were red as if she had been weeping
recently.
“I thought I was strong and able to bear anything,” she said, “but my
heart is breaking. Is there no hope for us anywhere?”
“There is always hope—-”
“I see that you can give me no comfort. My aunt is dying slowly, and she
bears it very patiently. In a day or two there will be no more food and
then—-”
“And then there will be plenty if God helps us, Miss Carew,” Gervase
went on. “You have not despaired till now. You have shown us an example
in patient courage we might all have profited by, and you must not let
your heart fail you now. You may tell Lady Hester she will not have long
to wait. In three days the ships will be at the quays and all will be
well.”
“I think you have always told me the truth,” she said; “but how is this
to happen?”
“When we meet again I shall tell you that and more; you must not ask me
now, but I believe I speak sincerely and with truth.”
“I have always trusted you.”
“And always may; there is nothing I would not try to do for your sake.
But I am growing a boaster, and I have done nothing and perhaps can do
nothing. Only do not let your heart fail. When we meet again I trust the
joybells will be ringing, and there will be bonfires on the ramparts; if
not—-”
“It is too good news. We have waited so long but it seems as far away as
ever.”
“I think it is coming now. Miss Carew, if we should never meet again, I
want you to remember that I thought of you till the last, and that all I
did was done–nay I should not say that. I feel that we shall meet
again.”
She looked at him with a look of awakened fear. “You are not going into
any great peril?”
“We live among them, one and all of us.”
“But you—-”
“Would only carry your thoughts with me–Dorothy, my best beloved,” he
cried, taking her hand in his, “before I go I want you to say you love
me as I love you.”
She drew her hand away quickly.
“I cannot I cannot. I will tell you why hereafter. My God! I love you.”
He caught her in his arms and kissed her again and again unresistingly.
Then she tore herself from his embrace, and with a stifled cry rushed
from the room. But he went away happy, with her last words ringing in
his ears, and feeling himself ready to do the work he was about to
undertake. For while he was talking to Dorothy he had hastily formed a
resolution that was lying dormant in his mind for days. In his last
conversation with Macpherson, the old soldier had declared his intention
of reaching the ships, and Gervase had been dwelling on the project for
the last ten days. He knew the task was full of deadly peril–it had
already been twice attempted without success, and it seemed so hopeless
that he had shrunk from undertaking it. But the sight of Dorothy´s thin
and wasted face had removed all his doubts, and he had determined to
make one last effort to induce Kirke to undertake the relief. He himself
believed that the undertaking was not nearly so formidable as it seemed,
and if once a move was made he did not doubt that the boom would prove
no very serious barrier. But the great problem was to reach the ships
which were lying far down the river. On both sides of the bank the enemy
were watching with a vigilance which it seemed impossible to escape.
Even if he succeeded in eluding them, he could hardly hope to swim the
long six miles in the condition he was in, and to land was almost
certain death. But he made up his mind to make the attempt and to trust
to the chapter of accidents to carry him safely through.
* * * * *
As he went to look for Walker from whom he desired to obtain his
credentials, he felt strong enough for anything. Had not he heard from
the sweetest lips in the world the sweetest words he had ever heard
spoken. Had he not everything to move him to the attempt? If he lived he
would show her that he was not unworthy of her love, for this deed was
one that all men would not attempt, and few could carry safely through.
There was glory in it and renown, though it was neither glory nor renown
that he sought.
When he had told the old colonel of his intentions, the latter at first
tried to dissuade him. He was only flinging his life away, he said, for
nothing. Others had tried and failed; he could not hope to succeed. Even
if he succeeded in reaching the ships, which he could not do, he could
tell them nothing that they did not know there. Kirke was a coward or a
traitor, and they could not hope for help from him. He could send them
letters that meant nothing, but that was all. But Gervase was not to be
dissuaded by any argument. He had set his heart upon making the attempt,
and his resolution was so evident that at length Walker unwillingly
consented, and with a homely piety commended him to the protection of
Providence that, however it might frown, had not forsaken them.
“We will say nothing of this to any,” he had said, “but will keep the
matter closely to ourselves, for the folk yonder have long ears and can
hear our whispers here. Some time before midnight we will even go down
to the Waterside together, and as you are a brave man and a courageous,
there is one old man who will pray for your safe keeping and
deliverance. I shall have the epistle writ out, and I pray God Kirke may
be the first to read it.”
Gervase´s preparations for his adventure were easily made. He had left a
letter in which he had made a disposal of his effects, in case anything
happened to him, and had written another which was addressed to Dorothy
Carew. The only weapon he had provided himself with was a small hunting
knife that had belonged to Macpherson, which he hoped he would not
require to use but which might prove useful in an emergency. There had
been some rain during the day, and the night promised to be dark and
cloudy. So long as there was no moonlight there was a possibility of his
making the attempt with a reasonable chance of success, but should the
moon show herself he could hardly hope to remain undiscovered.
The time hung heavily on his hands while he waited for the hour when he
was to meet Walker, and then he found himself trembling with feverish
impatience. Walker, however, insisted on his taking supper before he
left, and it was weeks since Gervase had seen so plentiful a meal spread
before him. The old colonel watched him with a serious admiration as he
made huge inroads on the food, and when Gervase had finished, he went to
a cupboard and produced a flask.
“You have had the last of the meat,” he said, taking the cork out of the
bottle, “and now you are going to have the last of the drink. There are
two glasses left, and you shall have both of them. Whenever we meet
again, if Heaven pleases, we will crack a bottle together. I love a
brave lad, and if age had not taken the oil out of my joints, I should
have liked nothing better than to bear you company. Now drink that off
for it will keep you warm in the water.”
Going down Ship Quay Street together, they passed through the gate and
came out upon the quay. The night was very dark and a slight drizzling
rain had begun to fall. On both sides of the river they could see many
lights, some moving, some stationary, and could hear the sound of voices
calling and answering from the other bank. But the river was flowing
darkly at their feet, and a night better suited for his purpose Gervase
could hardly have found. When he had divested himself of his boots coat
and vest, he stuck the short knife in his belt, and fastened round his
waist with a strip of canvas the piece of bladder in which the letter
from Walker was rolled.
“God bless you, my lad, and send you safe back to us. I feel even like
the patriarch when he would have offered up his son, but here too, it is
my trust the Lord will not require a life.”
“I feel that I shall come back, colonel,” said Gervase; “never fear for
me. Have the bonfires ready to give us a welcome.”
The old man in the excess of his emotion, took him in his arms and
kissed him on the forehead, and then Gervase wringing his hand, dropped
noiselessly into the water and struck out into the stream. He knew that
it was necessary for him to husband his strength for it would all be
needed; so after he found himself well in the middle of the river, he
began to swim slowly, and to let the current carry him down. If the
night should continue dark it would be impossible that he could be
discovered from the land; he himself could only dimly make out the
banks, and trusted to the lights to help him to direct his course. But
the rain had ceased and he feared that the clouds were beginning to
break; in the moonlight they could hardly fail to see him.
Still, every yard he made was a yard nearer safety, and to some extent
lessened the chances of discovery, for the further he descended the
stream, the more lax in all likelihood would their vigilance become.
As he swam on steadily with a slow strong stroke, his thoughts were busy
with many things.
He thought of Dorothy, who loved him and would repay him for his labour;
of Macpherson, whose brave spirit was perhaps keeping him company on
this perilous venture; and pardonably enough, of the honour he would
gain for this deed. It never occurred to him that having reached the
ships there would be any difficulty about the relief of the city. When
once his story had been told, they must up with their anchors, if there
was any manhood among them, and try the mettle of their guns. He
imagined to himself with what joy Dorothy would welcome him back when he
came among the first with the good news.
So he swam on for half an hour carried slowly down by the current, and
then for the first time he began to feel that he had overestimated his
strength, and that his extremities were growing numb and cold. He had
long since passed the lights of Pennyburn; he must now be coming close
to the boom where would be his first great danger, for the lights yonder
on either side of the river must be the lights of the forts that guarded
the barrier. The water seemed somehow to have grown colder and less
buoyant, and worst of all, the moon was beginning to show through the
masses of broken cloud. Three months ago he would have found little
difficulty in swimming twice the distance, but now he dragged himself
with difficulty through the water, and his shoulders were growing stiff
and painful. What if he failed to reach the fleet after all! His mind
was filled with despair at the thought, and he pulled himself together
with an effort and swam on with an obstinate determination to keep
himself afloat. With the wind blowing freshly, the waves came leaping
past him with an icy shiver that seemed to take away his strength.
But there was gradually forcing itself upon his mind the conviction
that, after all, he must land and make his way upon foot till he came
opposite to where the ships were riding at anchor. It would be better to
make for the shore at once while three hours of darkness still remained,
for when the light came it would be impossible to travel. While he was
making up his mind as to where it would be safest for him to land, the
moon came out suddenly with a startling brilliance, lighting up the
river and the banks on either side. He could now see Charles Fort
distinctly, and he fancied that he could discern lying across the river
the dark fabric of the boom, with the water leaping into white waves
against it. It was out of the question to attempt to cross the barrier
now; even where he was swimming his position was perilous in the
extreme.
Then he saw, near the shore, a small hooker lying at anchor, and almost
without knowing why he struck out towards it. There was little or no
likelihood of there being anyone on board and if, as seemed to be the
case, he should have to lie concealed the whole of the day, he might
find some food on board the little craft. He swam cautiously round her,
but he could hear no sound; then catching hold of the cable, he lifted
himself up by the bowsprit and found himself on board. She was decked
forward, and though he did not know for what purpose she was used, there
was a large gun covered with a piece of canvas lying amidships. But
though there was no one on board, a small lamp suspended from a beam was
burning dimly in the forecastle. He felt that it would not be wise to
tarry long, so diving hastily down the companion, he began to
investigate the contents of the lockers. In one he found several louis
which he left undisturbed, but in another to his joy he discovered some
oat-cakes and a quantity of rum in a case bottle. The latter was
particularly welcome, and after a dram he felt that he had got a new
lease of strength and vigour.
The circulation was beginning to return to his hands and feet. He sat
down on the edge of a bunk and chafed his limbs till the cramp that he
had begun to experience, was entirely gone. He was beginning to think
that it was time to take his departure, when he heard the sound of oars
creaking in their rowlocks and voices almost alongside. Hastily
extinguishing the light he drew out the knife with which he was armed,
and creeping out of the forecastle dropped cautiously down close to the
great gun, where he concealed himself under the canvas. Then as the bow
of a boat grated against the side of the hooker, he could see from where
he lay a man and a lad clambering on board, the latter with the painter
in his hand. “Make fast,” said the former, “and come and help me to get
the mainsail up. They´ll be aboard in an hour.”


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The man made his way into the forecastle growling and swearing at the
lamp having gone out, while the boy clambered over the boom and made
fast the painter to a ring in the stern-sheets. Gervase had hoped that
the boy might have followed the man into the forecastle, and that he
himself might then have dropped overboard unperceived. But in this he
was disappointed, for the boy instead of going below began to unloose
the earing by which the mainsail was fastened, whistling as he did so
with a clear shrill note that Gervase remembered for years afterwards.
Presently the man came up from below swearing at the boy for the noise
he was making, and began to take in a fathom or two of the cable by
which the craft was moored. There seemed to Gervase no chance of
escaping unperceived, and a better opportunity than this might not
present itself. So while the man knelt with his back turned towards him,
and the boy was fumbling with the halyards in the darkness, he rose from
his place of concealment and leaped upon the bulwark.
The lad hearing the noise turned round with a look of terror on his
face. “Holy Mother of God!” he cried, “it´s a spirit;” and as the man
turned round where he was kneeling at the cat-heads, he seemed for a
moment to share his belief and participate in his alarm.
As Gervase dropped noiselessly into the water they were both too
bewildered to raise any alarm, and the river bed was already under his
feet before he heard their outcry. Then they called out loudly to
someone on the shore. Wading through the water toward the land, Gervase
noticed for the first time a low fort built of sods and rough timber
close to the bank. At the hubbub that was raised by the crew of the
hooker, the door was opened and a man came down towards the water´s edge
in the uniform of a French sergeant.
Seeing Gervase come upon the bank and mistaking him for one of the crew
he called out, “_Que le diable faites-vous ce bruit, coquin?_” But as he
came down and saw the young fellow closer, clad only in his shirt and
breeches, he immediately divined what was wrong and came running down
the bank. Gervase waited till he came close up; then, and it was an old
trick he had learned years before, he put out his foot and struck him a
tremendous blow with his left hand. The man went headlong into the
water, and without waiting to see what became of him, Gervase ran at
full speed along the bank, and never halted to take breath till he found
himself in the shelter of the wood, that at that time grew thick along
the bank.
He knew that in a short time the pursuit would be hot after him and that
there was not a moment to be lost. But to hasten was another matter; his
feet were torn and bleeding, and so painful that he could hardly put
them to the ground. While he sat down to rest his head swam like one in
a vertigo. But if he was to carry out his mission he could not rest now.
He tore off a piece of his shirt which he wrapped tightly round his
wounded feet, and set off again. The only way in which he could make
certain that he was travelling in the right direction was by keeping
close to the river, which he caught sight of from time to time through
the trees. But his motion was necessarily slow; it was terrible work
picking his way over the fallen branches and rough stones that jarred
his nerves whenever he set his feet upon them. But the fate of the city
was on his shoulders and the hope of the woman he loved.
It seems strange to me, the writer, and may seem strange to you who
read, but the last words of his sweetheart restored his drooping heart
and renewed his failing strength whenever he thought of them through
this adventurous journey.
The night was nearly over and the dawn was coming up, when he still
found himself in the wood, dragging one foot slowly after another. How
far he had gone he could not tell, but he knew that he must have
travelled several miles, and could not be far from his destination. He
feared to leave the shelter of the wood, but he knew that he could not
spend the day here, for he was already becoming weary and was consumed
by a raging thirst. After a while the wood broke and there was a stretch
of fields before him, with farther on some growing timber and a ruined
building.
But with awakened hope he could now see the ships where they rode at
anchor some two miles away. While it was yet a grey light he determined
to take advantage of it, and gladly left the tangle of the wood for the
soft, green turf that gave him some relief in walking. Then he came to a
running water where he quenched his thirst and bathed his wounds.
Following the course of the stream would bring him to the beach where
there was standing a house, probably a fisherman´s cottage, surrounded
by a fence and a few fruit trees growing about it. It was yet probably
too early for the inmates to be astir, and the hope dawned upon him that
he might perhaps be able to find a boat upon the beach, for he knew that
any thought of swimming was now out of the question. There was a further
advantage in following the little stream, for the briars grew thick
along its course and would afford him shelter, while the country was
open beyond. He did not hesitate, but set off with as much speed as he
could make. His destination was now in sight and his chance of escape
had considerably increased. If he had only another half hour of
twilight, he thought; but this was not to be, for it was rapidly growing
lighter, and as he came down to the cottage it was already broad day.
He had just gained the fence that surrounded the cottage, when looking
back he saw a body of dragoons beating the edge of the wood that he had
left half an hour before. They had not caught sight of him for their
attention was fixed on the fern and briars that skirted the wood, but he
had not a moment to lose. He could not retrace his steps and so gain the
friendly shelter of the little stream, nor could he now make for the
beach as had been at first his intention. But crushing his way through
the thorn hedge, he came into a little garden. The door of the house was
lying open, and he saw what he had not noticed before, that the inmates
must be already astir, for a thick smoke was rising into the morning
air. He knew that his pursuers could not fail to find him in the garden,
and he determined to take his chance, and to trust to the humanity of
the people in the cottage to conceal him. This resolution he had taken
not without some hope of finding friends, for there was a homeliness and
air of comfort in the place that seemed to him little in keeping with
the character of the Celt.
When he entered the door he found himself in a spacious kitchen. A woman
was standing on the hearth cooking some fish that gave forth an
appetizing smell. As she heard him coming in she dropped the frying pan,
and running over to the corner of the dresser, seized an old musket that
was lying against it.
“For God´s sake, hear me,” cried Gervase; “do not shoot.”
“What do you want?” she said, still holding the weapon ready for use and
looking at him with a doubtful air. Her speech at once assured him that
he had found a friend.
“I have come from the city,” he said; “I have been travelling all night
and am trying for the ships. The dragoons are after me now, and if you
do not help me, I will be taken.”
She dropped the musket, and running over took hold of him by both hands.
“My poor lad, my poor lad,” she cried, “you are but a woeful sight. If
they haven´t seen you coming in I think I can save you. My good man lay
a day in the loft and they couldn´t find him, though they searched high
up and low down. He´s in the city like yourself and now–but I would
like to ask you a question or two. Where are they now?”
“Close by the edge of the wood and I think they are coming down this
way.”
“Then my questions will keep. You´ll step softly after me, for the young
folk are still asleep upstairs, and it would never do they should see
you now. I was before Derry myself,” she continued, as she led the way
up the ladder to the loft above the kitchen, “but they are well-mannered
enough and don´t trouble me now.”
In the loft above were two beds, in one of which three flaxen-headed
boys were lying sound asleep, and as Gervase followed her the woman gave
a warning gesture, and stopped for a moment to look at them. Then with
Gervase´s assistance she noiselessly pulled away the other bed, and
disclosed a recess in the wall which was wide enough to admit him. “Get
in there,” she said, “and I´ll call you when they are gone. If they
haven´t seen you they´ll never think of looking there; if they have, God
help me and the children–but I´ll do more than that for the good
cause.”
When she had left him and had gone down the ladder after replacing the
bed, Gervase began to regret that he had imperilled the safety of the
kindly soul who had shown anxiety to assist him. But it was not his own
safety that was at stake; it was that of the city and the lives of the
citizens.
He lay listening for the sound of his pursuers, but the moments seemed
to lengthen into hours and still they did not make their appearance.
Meanwhile the good woman downstairs had gone on cooking the breakfast
for herself and the children, and had set out the rough earthenware on
the table by the window. When she saw the dragoons coming across the
fields straight toward the house, she walked to the threshold and met
them with an unconcerned smile on her face. “You are early astir this
morning,” she said. “Is there to be more trouble in these parts? I´m
thinking, Captain Lambert, I´ve seen you before.”
“Troth, that is very possible,” was the answer, “and I don´t think you
have seen the last of me either. Now, look here, I want you to tell me
the truth, a thing most women find hard enough to do, but the truth I
must have or I´ll know the reason, why. Have you seen anybody afoot this
morning?”
She looked at him with an air of well-assumed astonishment.–“Why, ´tis
barely five, and the children, bless their hearts, are still abed. My
good man, you know, is away yonder, and the neighbours don´t trouble me
now.”
“Come, my lads, we must search the house. We´ll get nothing out of her,
she´s as close as perdition.”
“If you´ll tell me what you want,” she said, “I would try and answer
you. The boys are sleeping upstairs and there is nobody below but
myself.”
“A fellow from the city has come this way, and I´ll take my oath he´s
here or hereabouts.”
“God help him then, for I think he´ll get little further.”
“That´s as may be, but we´ll see if he´s here at any rate. Now, my men,
don´t leave a mousehole that you don´t go to the bottom of. I´ve a
shrewd suspicion that he´s not far off.”
They searched the garden and lower part of the house without success,
and then ascended the ladder into the loft. The boys were asleep when
they came up, but the noise awakened them, and frightened at the red
coats of whom they stood in deadly terror, they set up a great crying
which highly amused the soldiers. It may also have somewhat diverted
their attention, for they failed to find the hiding-place in which
Gervase lay concealed. Returning downstairs they reported that it was
impossible that the prisoner could have concealed himself above, at
which the good woman who was entertaining the captain, expressed her
unbounded surprise.
“I thought,” she said, “you would have brought him down with you. I´m
sure my man would be glad to hear there was somebody in his wife´s
bedroom. But you have strange notions, you soldiers, and I´m sorry,
Captain, I can´t ask you to stay and share the breakfast with me.”
The dragoon laughed good-humouredly and flung a couple of coins on the
table. “We´re not so black as we´re painted,” he said, “and there´s for
your trouble; but had we found him it would have been another story.
Now, my men, to the rightabout and let us make up the stream the way we
came. He hasn´t left the wood yet.”
When they had quitted the house, the woman took her pail and followed
them as far as the well, watching them till they had reached the wood
and disappeared among the trees. Then she released Gervase from his
hiding-place and he was now in no enviable condition either of mind or
of body. He was so weak that he found it difficult to make his way down
the ladder into the kitchen, and he could scarcely set his feet to the
ground. The woman looked at him with a face on which compassion was
plainly written; then she went over to a press and took out a coat that
belonged to her husband, a coarse shirt, and a pair of worsted
stockings. “Now,” she said, “just step behind there, and make yourself
cosy in these. If Sandy Graham was at home he would make you welcome to
the best he has. Then you´ll come and sit down and tell me about my good
man and the city, and how they fare there while I make ready something
to eat, for God knows you look as if you needed it.”
Gervase gladly did as he was directed, and when he was dressed, as
gladly fell to upon the fresh fish and coarse bread which seemed to him
the sweetest meat he had ever partaken of in his life.
While he went on with his breakfast he answered the numerous inquiries
as well as he was able, while the boys, who were now stirring, gathered
round in admiration of the young giant for whom their father´s ample
coat was far too scanty. “I´m sorry you don´t know Sandy,” she said; “it
would have been some comfort to know that you had seen him. I knew it
was ill with you in the city, but I never thought it was as bad as that.
They´ll be thinking of ye now with an anxious heart.”
“They know nothing about me,” Gervase said; “only Colonel Walker and
myself are in the secret. If I fail—-”
“Tut, man, ye´ll not fail now. I think,” she went on, looking at him
admiringly, “ye could find a way in anything. You just take a rest on
the bed upstairs, and I´ll watch that you´re not disturbed. They´re not
bad bodies, the redcoats, and they haven´t troubled me much since I came
back from Londonderry. In the evening I´ll see you farther.”
“If I only could find a boat,” Gervase said: “I could never reach the
fleet by swimming now.”
“I´ve been thinking of that,” she answered; “there´s a bit of a coble
lying in the cove, but the oars are gone and it must be leaky as a
sieve, for it had been lying there all the summer.”
Gervase caught the idea eagerly. “Anything that will keep me afloat; I
care not what it is. Mistress Graham, we´ll save the city between us.”
“There ye go,” she said, with a smile of gratified vanity. “Ye could
never make the two miles in yon crazy tub, but I´ll see through the day
if I can´t turn my hand to caulking her myself. I´ve seen it done and I
think I can try it, but what you´ll do for oars I know not. However, the
tide will help you and you´ll manage somehow, never fear. It will be a
great day when ye meet Sandy in the Diamond, and tell him I helped you
through.”
Throughout the day Gervase remained undisturbed in the cottage. A patrol
had been stationed a little distance further along the shore, but they
had not again visited the house. Two or three times he heard their
shouts as they passed at a distance. Mistress Graham had kept her
promise, and as well as she was able, had patched up the little boat,
which she dragged into the water and left floating in the cove. By using
one of the planks which had been left in the little craft as a paddle,
she hoped that he would be able to make his way to the ships. All was
now ready for his journey, and it only wanted the help of the darkness
to allow him to set out.
* * * * *
It was a bright moonlight night when they went down to the beach
together. There was not an air to ruffle the surface of the water, and
they could see very plainly a couple of miles away the riding lights of
the ships at anchor. The patrol that had been in the vicinity of the
cottage during the day had apparently been withdrawn, for they had not
been in sight since sundown. Gervase found the coble more than half full
of water, which took him some time to bale out, and when he was ready to
start he wrung the hand of the kind-hearted woman warmly. “I have no
time to spare,” he said. “God reward you for all your kindness! You had
better go back to the house now, for if I should be discovered it would
only bring you into trouble. I hope we´ll meet under better fortune.
Farewell.”
He pushed off, and sitting down amid ships began to make his way slowly
from the shore. The woman returned to the door of the cottage, where she
stood watching till the black speck was swallowed up in the darkness.