“What shall I say to Miss Jenny? Ought I to tell her of Mr. Halliburtt’s terrible situation? Or would it be better to keep her in ignorance of the trial which is awaiting her? Poor child!”
He had not gone fifty steps from the governor’s house when he ran against Crockston. The worthy American had been watching for him since his departure.
James Playfair looked steadily at Crockston, and the latter soon understood he had no favourable news to give him.
“Have you seen Beauregard?” he asked.
“Yes,” replied James Playfair.
“And have you spoken to him about Mr. Halliburtt?”
“No, it was he who spoke to me about him.”
“Well, I may as well tell you everything, Crockston.”
“General Beauregard has told me that your master will be shot within a week.”
At this news anyone else but Crockston would have grown furious or given way to bursts of grief, but the American, who feared nothing, only said, with almost a smile on his lips:
“Pooh! what does it matter?”
“How! what does it matter?” cried James Playfair. “I tell you that Mr. Halliburtt will be shot within a week, and you answer, what does it matter?”
“And I mean it — if in six days he is on board the Dolphin, and if in seven days the Dolphin is on the open sea.”
“Right!” exclaimed the Captain, pressing Crockston’s hand. “I understand, my good fellow, you have got some pluck; and for myself, in spite of Uncle Vincent, I would throw myself overboard for Miss Jenny.”
“No one need be thrown overboard,” replied the American, “only the fish would gain by that: the most important business now is to deliver Mr. Halliburtt.”
“But you must know that it will be difficult to do so.”
“Pooh!” exclaimed Crockston.
“It is a question of communicating with a prisoner strictly guarded.”
“And to bring about an almost miraculous escape.”
“Nonsense,” exclaimed Crockston; “a prisoner thinks more of escaping than his guardian thinks of keeping him; that’s why, thanks to our help, Mr. Halliburtt will be saved.”
“You are right, Crockston.”
“But now what will you do? There must be some plan: and there are precautions to be taken.”
“I will think about it.”
“But when Miss Jenny learns that her father is condemned to death, and that the order for his execution may come any day — ”
“She will know nothing about it, that is all.”
“Yes, it will be better for her and for us to tell her nothing.”
“Where is Mr. Halliburtt imprisoned?” asked Crockston.
“In the citadel,” replied James Playfair.
“Just so! . . . On board now?”
“On board, Crockston!”
Miss Jenny, sitting at the poop of the Dolphin, was anxiously waiting the Captain’s return; when the latter went up to her she could not utter a word, but her eyes questioned James Playfair more eagerly than her lips could have done. The latter, with Crockston’s help, informed the young girl of the facts relating to her father’s imprisonment. He said that he had carefully broached the subject of the prisoners of war to Beauregard, but, as the General did not seem disposed at all in their favour, he had thought it better to say no more about it, but think the matter over again.
“Since Mr. Halliburtt is not free in the town, his escape will be more difficult; but I will finish my task, and I promise you, Miss Jenny, that the Dolphin shall not leave Charleston without having your father on board.”
“Thank you, Mr. James; I thank you with my whole heart.”
At these words James Playfair felt a thrill of joy through his whole being.
He approached the young girl with moist eyes and quivering lips; perhaps he was going to make an avowal of the sentiments he could no longer repress, when Crockston interfered:
“This is no time for grieving,” said he; “we must go to work, and consider what to do.”
“Have you any plan, Crockston?” asked the young girl.
“I always have a plan,” replied the American: “it is my peculiarity.”
“But a good one?” said James Playfair.