“Excellent! and all the ministers in Washington could not devise a better; it is almost as good as if Mr. Halliburtt was already on board.”
Crockston spoke with such perfect assurance, at the same time with such simplicity, that it must have been the most incredulous person who could doubt his words.
“We are listening, Crockston,” said James Playfair.
“Good! You, Captain, will go to General Beauregard, and ask a favour of him which he will not refuse you.”
“And what is that?”
“You will tell him that you have on board a tiresome subject, a scamp who has been very troublesome during the voyage, and excited the crew to revolt. You will ask of him permission to shut him up in the citadel; at the same time, on the condition that he shall return to the ship on her departure, in order to be taken back to England, to be delivered over to the justice of his country.”
“Good!” said James Playfair, half smiling, “I will do all that, and Beauregard will grant my request very willingly.”
“I am perfectly sure of it,” replied the American.
“But,” resumed Playfair, “one thing is wanting.”
“What is that?”
“He is before you, Captain.”
“What, the rebellious subject?”
“Is myself; don’t trouble yourself about that.”
“Oh! you brave, generous heart,” cried Jenny, pressing the American’s rough hands between her small white palms.
“Go, Crockston,” said James Playfair; “I understand you, my friend; and I only regret one thing — that is, that I cannot take your place.”
“Everyone his part,” replied Crockston; “if you put yourself in my place you would be very much embarrassed, which I shall not be; you will have enough to do later on to get out of the harbour under the fire of the Feds and Rebs, which, for my part, I should manage very badly.”
“Well, Crockston, go on.”
“Once in the citadel — I know it — I shall see what to do, and rest assured I shall do my best; in the meanwhile, you will be getting your cargo on board.”
“Oh, business is now a very unimportant detail,” said the Captain.
“Not at all! And what would your Uncle Vincent say to that? We must join sentiment with work; it will prevent suspicion; but do it quickly. Can you be ready in six days?”
“Well, let the Dolphin be ready to start on the 22nd.”
“She shall be ready.”
“On the evening of the 22nd of January, you understand, send a gig with your best men to White Point, at the end of the town; wait there till nine o’clock, and then you will see Mr. Halliburtt and your servant.”
“But how will you manage to effect Mr. Halliburtt’s deliverance, and also escape yourself?”
“That’s my look-out.”
“Dear Crockston, you are going to risk your life then, to save my father!”
“Don’t be uneasy, Miss Jenny, I shall risk absolutely nothing, you may believe me.”
“Well,” asked James Playfair, “when must I have you locked up?”
“To-day — you understand — I demoralise your crew; there is no time to be lost.”
“Would you like any money? It may be of use to you in the citadel.”
“Money to buy the gaoler! Oh, no, it would be a poor bargain; when one goes there the gaoler keeps the money and the prisoner! No, I have surer means than that; however, a few dollars may be useful; one must be able to drink, if needs be.”
“And intoxicate the gaoler.”
“No, an intoxicated gaoler would spoil everything. No, I tell you I have an idea; let me work it out.”
“Here, my good fellow, are ten dollars.”
“It is too much, but I will return what is over.”
“Well, then, are you ready?”
“Quite ready to be a downright rogue.”
“Let us go to work, then.”
“Crockston,” said the young girl, in a faltering voice, “you are the best man on earth.”
“I know it,” replied the American, laughing good-humouredly. “By the by, Captain, an important item.”
“What is that?”
“If the General proposes to hang your rebel — you know that military men like sharp work — ”
“Well, you will say that you must think about it.”
“I promise you I will.”
The same day, to the great astonishment of the crew, who were not in the secret, Crockston, with his feet and hands in irons, was taken on shore by a dozen sailors, and half an hour after, by Captain James Playfair’s request, he was led through the streets of the town, and, in spite of his resistance, was imprisoned in the citadel.