Chapter 3


Gascoigne and our hero were neither of them in uniform, and they hastened to Nix Mangare stairs, where they soon picked up the padrone of a speronare. They went with him into a wine shop, and with the assistance of a little English from a Maltese boy, whose shirt hung out of his trousers, they made a bargain, by which it was agreed that, for the consideration of two doubloons, he would sail that evening and land them at Gergenti or some other town in Sicily, providing them with something to eat and gregos to sleep upon.

Our two midshipmen then went back to the tavern from which they had set off to fight the duel, and ordering a good dinner to be served in a back room, they amused themselves with killing flies, as they talked over the events of the day, and waited for their dinner.

As Mr. Tallboys did not himself think proper to go on board till the evening, and Mr. Biggs also wished it to be dark before he went up the ship’s side, the events of the duel did not transpire till the next morning. Even then it was not known from the boatswain or gunner, but by a hospital mate coming on board to inform the surgeon that there was one of their men wounded under their charge, but that he was doing very well.

Mr. Biggs had ascended the side with his face bound up.

“Confound that Jack Easy,” said he, “I have only till it was dark, and there had waited till the padrone came to them.

“What shall we do with the pistols, Easy?”

“Take them with us, and load them before we go— we may want them: who knows but there may be a mutiny on board of the speronare?—I wish we had Mesty with us.”

They loaded the pistols, took a pair each and put them in their waists, concealed under their clothes—divided the ammunition between them, and soon afterwards the padrone came to tell them all was ready.

Whereupon Messrs. Gascoigne and Easy paid their bill and rose to depart, but the padrone informed them that he should like to see the colour of their money before they went on board. Jack, very indignant at the insinuation that he had not sufficient cash, pulled out a handful of doubloons, and tossing two to the padrone, asked him if he was satisfied.

The padrone untied his sash, put in the money, and with many thanks and protestations of service, begged our young gentlemen to accompany him: they did so, and in a few minutes were clear of Nix Mangare stairs, and, passing close to his majesty’s ship Harpy, were soon out of the harbour of Vallette.

Of all the varieties of vessels which float upon the wave, there is not, perhaps, one that bounds over the water so gracefully or so lightly as a speronare, or any one so picturesque and beautiful to the eye of those who watch its progress.

The night was clear, and the stars shone out brilliantly as the light craft skimmed over the water, and a fragment of a descending and waning moon threw its soft beams upon the snow-white sail. The vessel, which had no deck, was full of baskets, which had contained grapes and various fruits brought from the ancient granary of Rome, still as fertile and as luxuriant as ever. The crew consisted of the padrone, two men, and a boy; the three latter, with their gregos, or night greatcoats with hoods, sitting forward before the sail, with their eyes fixed on the land as they flew past point after point, thinking perhaps of their wives, or perhaps of their sweethearts, or perhaps not thinking at all.

The padrone remained aft at the helm, offering every politeness to our two young gentlemen, who only wished to be left alone. At last they requested the padrone to give them gregos to lie down upon, as

  By PanEris using Melati.

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