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- Mr. Midshipman Easy - 60/78 -
trips before they were all landed; the last cargo were on shore, and Easy was desiring the men to shove off, when one of the galleriens turned round, and cried out to Jack in a mocking tone, "Addio, signor, a reveder la." Jack started, stared, and, in the squalid, naked wretch who addressed him, he recognised Don Silvio!
"I will acquaint Don Rebiera of your arrival, signor," said the miscreant, springing up the rocks, and mixing with the rest, who now commenced hooting and laughing at their preservers.
"Ned," observed Easy to Gascoigne, "we have let that rascal loose."
"More's the pity," replied Gascoigne; "but we have only obeyed orders."
"It can't be helped, but I've a notion there will be some mischief out of this."
"We obeyed orders," replied Gascoigne.
"We've let the rascals loose not ten miles from Don Rebiera's."
"Obeyed orders, Jack."
"With a whole gang to back him, if he goes there."
"Agnes at his mercy--"
"Captain's orders, Jack."
"I shall argue this point when I go on board," replied Jack.
"Too late, Jack."
"Yes," replied Easy, sinking down on the stem sheets with a look of despair. "Give way, my lads, give way."
Jack returned on board, and reported what he had done: also that Don Silvio was among those liberated; and he ventured to mention his fears of what might take place from their contiguity to the house of Don Rebiera. Captain Wilson bit his lips: he felt that his philanthropy had induced him to act without his usual prudence.
"I have done a rash thing, Mr Easy, I am afraid. I should have taken them all on board and delivered them up to the authorities. I wish I had thought of that before. We must get to Palermo as fast as we can, and have the troops sent after these miscreants. Hands 'bout ship, fill the main yard."
The wind had veered round, and the Aurora was now able to lay up clear of the island of Maritimo. The next morning she anchored in Palermo Roads and gave immediate notice to the authorities, who, wishing Captain Wilson's philanthropy at the devil, immediately despatched a large body of troops in quest of the liberated malefactors. Captain Wilson, feeling for Jack's anxiety about his friends, called him over to him on deck, and gave him and Gascoigne permission to go on shore.
"Will you allow me to take Mesty with me, sir, if you please?" said Jack.
"Yes, Mr Easy; but recollect that, even with Mesty, you are no match for one hundred and fifty men; so be prudent. I send you to relieve your anxiety, not to run into danger."
"Of course, sir," replied Jack, touching his hat, and walking away quietly till he came to the hatchway, when he darted down like a shot, and was immediately occupied with his preparations.
In half an hour our two midshipmen, with Mesty, had landed, and proceeded to the inn where they had put up before: they were armed up to the teeth. Their first inquiries were for Don Philip and his brother.
"Both on leave of absence," replied the landlord, "and staying with Don Rebiera."
"That's some comfort," thought Jack. "Now we must get horses as fast as we can. Mesty, can you ride?"
"By all de power, can I ride, Massa Easy; suppose you ride Kentucky horse, you ride anyting."
In half an hour four horses and a guide were procured, and at eight o'clock in the morning the party set off in the direction of Don Rebiera's country seat.
They had not ridden more than six miles when they came up with one of the detachments sent out in pursuit of the liberated criminals. Our hero recognised the commanding officer as an old acquaintance, and imparting to him the release of Don Silvio, and his fears upon Don Rebiera's account, begged him to direct his attention that way.
"Corpo di Bacco--you are right, Signor Mid," replied the officer, "but Don Philip is there, and his brother too, I believe. I will be there by ten o'clock to-morrow morning; we will march almost the whole night."
"They have no arms," observed Easy.
"No, but they will soon get them: they will go to some small town in a body, plunder it, and then seek the protection of the mountains. Your captain has given us a pretty job."
Jack exchanged a few more words, and then, excusing himself on account of his haste, put the spurs to his horse and regained his own party, who now proceeded at a rapid pace.
"O signor!" said the guide, "we shall kill the horses."
"I'll pay for them," said Jack.
"Yes, but we shall kill them before we get there, Jack," replied Gascoigne, "and have to walk the rest of the way."
"Very true, Ned; let's pull up, and give them their wind."
"By de holy poker, Massa Easy, but my shirt stick to my ribs," cried Mesty, whose black face was hung with dewdrops from their rapid course.
"Never mind, Mesty." It was about five o'clock in the afternoon when they arrived at the seat of Don Rebiera. Jack threw himself off his jaded steed, and hastened into the house, followed by Gascoigne. They found the whole family collected in the large sitting-room, quite ignorant of any danger threatening them, and equally astonished and pleased at the arrival of their old friends. Jack flew to Agnes, who screamed when she saw him, and felt so giddy afterwards that he was obliged to support her. Having seated her again, he was kindly greeted by the old people and the two young officers. After a few minutes dedicated to mutual inquiries, our hero stated the cause of their expeditious arrival.
"Don Silvio with one hundred and fifty galleriens, let loose on the coast yesterday afternoon!" exclaimed Don Rebiera; "you are right, I only wonder they were not here last night. But I expect Pedro from the town; he has gone down with a load of wine: he will bring us intelligence."
"At all events, we must be prepared," said Don Philip; "the troops, you say, will be here to-morrow morning."
"Holy Virgin!" exclaimed the ladies, in a breath.
"How many can we muster?" said Gascoigne.
"We have five men here, or we shall have by the evening," replied Don Philip--"all, I think, good men--my father, my brother, and myself."
"We are three--four with the guide, whom I know nothing about."
"Twelve in all--not one too many; but I think that now we are prepared, if they attack, we can hold out till the morning."
"Had we not better send the ladies away?" said Jack.
"Who is to escort them?" replied Don Philip; "we shall only weaken our force; besides, they may fall into the miscreants' hands."
"Shall we all leave the house together? they can but plunder it," observed Don Rebiera.
"Still, we may be intercepted by them, and our whole force will be nothing against so many," observed Don Philip, "if we are without defence, whereas in the house we shall have an advantage."
"E'vero," replied Don Rebiera, thoughtfully; "then let us prepare, for depend upon it Don Silvio will not lose such an opportunity to wreak his vengeance. He will be here to-night: I only wonder he has not been here with his companions before. However, Pedro will arrive in two hours."
"We must now see what means we have of defence," said Philip. "Come, brother--will you come, sir?"
A regular set-to, in which the parties beaten are not knocked down, but rise higher and higher at each discomfiture--Nothing but the troops could have prevented them from going up to heaven.
Don Rebiera and his two sons quitted the room, Gascoigne entered into conversation with the senora, while Easy took this opportunity of addressing Agnes. He had been too much occupied with the consultation to pay her much attention before. He had spoken, with his eyes fixed upon her, and had been surprised at the improvement which had taken place in less than a year. He now went to her, and asked her, in a low voice, "whether she had received his letter?"
"Oh, yes!" replied she, colouring.
"And were you angry with what I said, Agnes?" in a low tone.
"No," replied she, casting her eyes down on the floor.
"I repeat now what I said, Agnes--I have never forgotten you."
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