Followed by his own division, he wore immediately, and went off under easy sail, quartering, towards Monsieur de Vervillin's rear, to avoid being raked. The quarter of an hour that succeeded was one of intense interest, and of material changes; though not a shot was fired.
The distance was still so great, as to render glasses necessary in getting any very accurate notions of the force and the point of sailing of Monsieur de Vervillin's fleet, the ships astern being yet so remote as to require long practice to speak with any certainty of their characters.
In point of fact, Sir Reginald Wychecombe knew no more of the Comte de Vervillin's intended movements than his companion; but he did not hesitate to assert what he now did, in order to obtain a great political advantage, in a moment of so much importance.
"I wish we were really certain of de Vervillin's object," he said; the only concession he made to this novel feeling, in words. "It might, indeed, throw a great light on the course we ought to take ourselves. I do detest this German alliance, and would abandon the service ere I would convoy or transport a ragamuffin of them all to England."
I feared more for you, than for any other vessel. I hope you've not suffered materially in your crew?" "Nine killed. Sir Gervaise; and the surgeon tells me sixteen wounded." "That proves you've not been in port, Foley! Well, I dare say, could the truth be known, it would be found that M. de Vervillin's vessels bear your marks, in revenge. Adieu adieu God bless you."
"I think not, Sir Gervaise; their commander-in-chief is in the fourth ship from the head of the line. His flag is just discernible, by means of our best glass. Ay, there goes a signal, this instant, at the end of his gaff!" "If one could only read French now, Greenly," said the vice-admiral, smiling; "we might get into some of Mr. de Vervillin's secrets.
And if they didn't we're scarce the boys to find out the contrary, being but nineteen working hands." "Very well, Daly; you can haul aboard your main-tack, now; remember, you're to go into Plymouth, as soon as it is dark. If you see any thing of Admiral Bluewater, tell him I rely on his support, and only wait for his appearance to finish Monsieur de Vervillin's job."
"A great game is in your hands, Admiral Bluewater," resumed the baronet; "rightly played, it may secure the triumph of the good cause. I think I may say I know de Vervillin's object, and that his success will reseat the Stuarts on the thrones of their ancestors! One who loves them should ponder well before he does aught to mar so glorious a result." This speech was as bold as it was artful.