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Title: Romance
Author: Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924, Ford, Ford Madox, 1873-1939
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Romance" ***

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ROMANCE


By Joseph Conrad

and

F.M. Hueffer


     COPYRIGHT, 1903, BY
     DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
     ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
     PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES
     AT
     THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.



TO

ELSIE AND JESSIE

     "C'est toi qui dors dans Vombre, O sacré Souvenir."
     If we could have remembrance now
     And see, as in the days to come
     We shall, what's venturous in these hours:
     The swift, intangible romance of fields at home,
     The gleams of sun, the showers,
     Our workaday contentments, or our powers
     To fare still forward through the uncharted haze
     Of present days. . . .
     For, looking back when years shall flow
     Upon this olden day that's now,
     We'll see, romantic in dimm'd hours,
     These memories of ours.



CONTENTS

     PART FIRST    The Quarry and the Beach

     PART SECOND   The Girl with the Lizard

     PART THIRD    Casa Riego

     PART FOURTH   Blade and Guitar

     PART FIFTH    The Lot of Man



PART FIRST -- THE QUARRY AND THE BEACH


ROMANCE



CHAPTER ONE

To yesterday and to to-day I say my polite "vaya usted con Dios." What
are these days to me? But that far-off day of my romance, when from
between the blue and white bales in Don Ramon's darkened storeroom, at
Kingston, I saw the door open before the figure of an old man with the
tired, long, white face, that day I am not likely to forget. I remember
the chilly smell of the typical West Indian store, the indescribable
smell of damp gloom, of locos, of pimento, of olive oil, of new sugar,
of new rum; the glassy double sheen of Ramon's great spectacles, the
piercing eyes in the mahogany face, while the tap, tap, tap of a cane
on the flags went on behind the inner door; the click of the latch; the
stream of light. The door, petulantly thrust inwards, struck against
some barrels. I remember the rattling of the bolts on that door, and the
tall figure that appeared there, snuffbox in hand. In that land of white
clothes, that precise, ancient, Castilian in black was something to
remember. The black cane that had made the tap, tap, tap dangled by a
silken cord from the hand whose delicate blue-veined, wrinkled wrist ran
back into a foam of lawn ruffles. The other hand paused in the act of
conveying a pinch of snuff to the nostrils of the hooked nose that had,
on the skin stretched tight over the bridge, the polish of old ivory;
the elbow pressing the black cocked-hat against the side; the legs,
one bent, the other bowing a little back--this was the attitude of
Seraphina's father.

Having imperiously thrust the door of the inner room open, he remained
immovable, with no intention of entering, and called in a harsh,
aged voice: "Señor Ramon! Señor Ramon!" and then twice:
"Sera-phina--Seraphina!" turning his head back.

Then for the first time I saw Seraphina, looking over her father's
shoulder. I remember her face on that day; her eyes were gray--the gray
of black, not of blue. For a moment they looked me straight in the face,
reflectively, unconcerned, and then travelled to the spectacles of old
Ramon.

This glance--remember I was young on that day--had been enough to set
me wondering what they were thinking of me; what they could have seen of
me.

"But there he is--your Señor Ramon," she said to her father, as if she
were chiding him for a petulance in calling; "your sight is not very
good, my poor little father--there he is, your Ramon."

The warm reflection of the light behind her, gilding the curve of her
face from ear to chin, lost itself in the shadows of black lace falling
from dark hair that was not quite black. She spoke as if the words clung
to her lips; as if she had to put them forth delicately for fear of
damaging the frail things. She raised her long hand to a white flower
that clung above her ear like the pen of a clerk, and disappeared. Ramon
hurried with a stiffness of immense respect towards the ancient grandee.
The door swung to.

I remained alone. The blue bales and the white, and the great red oil
jars loomed in the dim light filtering through the jalousies out of the
blinding sunlight of Jamaica. A moment after, the door opened once more
and a young man came out to me; tall, slim, with very bright, very large
black eyes aglow in an absolute pallor of face. That was Carlos Riego.

Well, that is my yesterday of romance, for the many things that have
passed between those times and now have become dim or have gone out
of my mind. And my day before yesterday was the day on which I, at
twenty-two, stood looking at myself in the tall glass, the day on which
I left my home in Kent and went, as chance willed it, out to sea with
Carlos Riego.

That day my cousin Rooksby had become engaged to my sister Veronica, and
I had a fit of jealous misery. I was rawboned, with fair hair, I had a
good skin, tanned by the weather, good teeth, and brown eyes. I had not
had a very happy life, and I had lived shut in on myself, thinking
of the wide world beyond my reach, that seemed to hold out infinite
possibilities of romance, of adventure, of love, perhaps, and stores of
gold. In the family my mother counted; my father did not. She was the
daughter of a Scottish earl who had ruined himself again and again. He
had been an inventor, a projector, and my mother had been a poor beauty,
brought up on the farm we still lived on--the last rag of land that had
remained to her father. Then she had married a good man in his way; a
good enough catch; moderately well off, very amiable, easily influenced,
a dilettante, and a bit of a dreamer, too. He had taken her into the
swim of the Regency, and his purse had not held out. So my mother,
asserting herself, had insisted upon a return to our farm, which had
been her dowry. The alternative would have been a shabby, ignominious
life at Calais, in the shadow of Brummel and such.

My father used to sit all day by the fire, inscribing "ideas" every now
and then in a pocket-book. I think he was writing an epic poem, and I
think he was happy in an ineffectual way. He had thin red hair, untidy
for want of a valet, a shining, delicate, hooked nose, narrow-lidded
blue eyes, and a face with the colour and texture of a white-heart
cherry. He used to spend his days in a hooded chair. My mother managed
everything, leading an out-of-door life which gave her face the colour
of a wrinkled pippin. It was the face of a Roman mother, tight-lipped,
brown-eyed, and fierce. You may understand the kind of woman she
was from the hands she employed on the farm. They were smugglers and
night-malefactors to a man--and she liked that. The decent, slow-witted,
gently devious type of rustic could not live under her. The neighbours
round declared that the Lady Mary Kemp's farm was a hotbed of disorder.
I expect it was, too; three of our men were hung up at Canterbury on one
day--for horse-stealing and arson.... Anyhow, that was my mother. As
for me, I was under her, and, since I had my aspirations, I had a rather
bitter childhood. And I had others to contrast myself with. First
there was Rooksby: a pleasant, well-spoken, amiable young squire of the
immediate neighbourhood; young Sir Ralph, a man popular with all sorts,
and in love with my sister Veronica from early days. Veronica was very
beautiful, and very gentle, and very kind; tall, slim, with sloping
white shoulders and long white arms, hair the colour of amber, and
startled blue eyes--a good mate for Rooksby. Rooksby had foreign
relations, too. The uncle from whom he inherited the Priory had married
a Riego, a Castilian, during the Peninsular war. He had been a prisoner
at the time--he had died in Spain, I think. When Ralph made the grand
tour, he had made the acquaintance of his Spanish relations; he used to
talk about them, the Riegos, and Veronica used to talk of what he said
of them until they came to stand for Romance, the romance of the
outer world, to me. One day, a little before Ralph and Veronica became
engaged, these Spaniards descended out of the blue. It was Romance
suddenly dangled right before my eyes. It was Romance; you have no idea
what it meant to me to talk to Carlos Riego.

Rooksby was kind enough. He had me over to the Priory, where I made
the acquaintance of the two maiden ladies, his second cousins, who kept
house for him. Yes, Ralph was kind; but I rather hated him for it,
and was a little glad when he, too, had to suffer some of the pangs of
jealousy--jealousy of Carlos Riego.

Carlos was dark, and of a grace to set Ralph as much in the shade as
Ralph himself set me; and Carlos had seen a deal more of the world than
Ralph. He had a foreign sense of humour that made him forever ready to
sacrifice his personal dignity. It made Veronica laugh, and even drew
a grim smile from my mother; but it gave Ralph bad moments. How he came
into these parts was a little of a mystery. When Ralph was displeased
with this Spanish connection he used to swear that Carlos had cut a
throat or taken a purse. At other times he used to say that it was a
political matter. In fine, Carlos had the hospitality of the Priory, and
the title of Count when he chose to use it. He brought with him a short,
pursy, bearded companion, half friend, half servant, who said he had
served in Napoleon's Spanish contingent, and had a way of striking his
breast with a wooden hand (his arm had suffered in a cavalry charge),
and exclaiming, "I, Tomas Castro! . . ." He was an Andalusian.

For myself, the first shock of his strangeness over-come, I adored
Carlos, and Veronica liked him, and laughed at him, till one day he
said good-by and rode off along the London road, followed by his Tomas
Castro. I had an intense longing to go with him out into the great world
that brooded all round our foothills.

You are to remember that I knew nothing whatever of that great world.
I had never been further away from our farm than just to Canterbury
school, to Hythe market, to Romney market. Our farm nestled down under
the steep, brown downs, just beside the Roman road to Canterbury; Stone
Street--the Street--we called it. Ralph's land was just on the other
side of the Street, and the shepherds on the downs used to see of nights
a dead-and-gone Rooksby, Sir Peter that was, ride upon it past the
quarry with his head under his arm. I don't think I believed in him, but
I believed in the smugglers who shared the highway with that horrible
ghost. It is impossible for any one nowadays-to conceive the effect
these smugglers had upon life thereabouts and then. They were the power
to which everything else deferred. They used to overrun the country in
great bands, and brooked no interference with their business. Not long
before they had defeated regular troops in a pitched battle on the
Marsh, and on the very day I went away I remember we couldn't do our
carting because the smugglers had given us notice they would need our
horses in the evening. They were a power in the land where there was
violence enough without them, God knows! Our position on that Street put
us in the midst of it all. At dusk we shut our doors, pulled down our
blinds, sat round the fire, and knew pretty well what was going on
outside. There would be long whistles in the dark, and when we found men
lurking in our barns we feigned not to see them--it was safer so.
The smugglers--the Free Traders, they called themselves--were as well
organized for helping malefactors out of the country as for running
goods in; so it came about that we used to have comers and forgers,
murderers and French spies--all sorts of malefactors--hiding in our
straw throughout the day, wait-for the whistle to blow from the Street
at dusk. I, born with my century, was familiar with these things; but
my mother forbade my meddling with them. I expect she knew enough
herself--all the resident gentry did. But Ralph--though he was to some
extent of the new school, and used to boast that, if applied to, he
"would grant a warrant against any Free Trader"--never did, as a matter
of fact, or not for many years.

Carlos, then, Rooksby's Spanish kinsman, had come and gone, and I
envied him his going, with his air of mystery, to some far-off lawless
adventures--perhaps over there in Spain, where there were war and
rebellion. Shortly afterwards Rooksby proposed for the hand of Veronica
and was accepted--by my mother. Veronica went about looking happy. That
upset me, too. It seemed unjust that she should go out into the great
world--to Bath, to Brighton, should see the Prince Regent and the great
fights on Hounslow Heath--whilst I was to remain forever a farmer's boy.
That afternoon I was upstairs, looking at the reflection of myself in
the tall glass, wondering miserably why I seemed to be such an oaf.

The voice of Rooksby hailed me suddenly from downstairs. "Hey,
John--John Kemp; come down, I say!"

I started away from the glass as if I had been taken in an act of folly.
Rooksby was flicking his leg with his switch in the doorway, at the
bottom of the narrow flight of stairs.

He wanted to talk to me, he said, and I followed him out through the
yard on to the soft road that climbs the hill to westward. The evening
was falling slowly and mournfully; it was dark already in the folds of
the sombre downs.

We passed the corner of the orchard. "I know what you've got to tell
me," I said. "You're going to marry Veronica. Well, you've no need of my
blessing. Some people have all the luck. Here am I . . . look at me!"

Ralph walked with his head bent down.

"Confound it," I said, "I shall run away to sea! I tell you, I'm
rotting, rotting! There! I say, Ralph, give me Carlos' direction...." I
caught hold of his arm. "I'll go after him. He'd show me a little life.
He said he would."

Ralph remained lost in a kind of gloomy abstraction, while I went on
worrying him for Carlos' address.

"Carlos is the only soul I know outside five miles from here. Besides,
he's friends in the Indies. That's where I want to go, and he could give
me a cast. You remember what Tomas Castro said. . . ."

Rooksby came to a sudden halt, and began furiously to switch his corded
legs.

"Curse Carlos, and his Castro, too. They'll have me in jail betwixt
them. They're both in my red barn, if you want their direction. . . ."

He hurried on suddenly up the hill, leaving me gazing upwards at him.
When I caught him up he was swearing--as one did in those days--and
stamping his foot in the middle of the road.

"I tell you," he said violently, "it's the most accursed business! That
Castro, with his Cuba, is nothing but a blasted buccaneer... and Carlos
is no better. They go to Liverpool for a passage to Jamaica, and see
what comes of it!"

It seems that on Liverpool docks, in the owl-light, they fell in with an
elderly hunks just returned from West Indies, who asks the time at the
door of a shipping agent. Castro pulls out a watch, and the old fellow
jumps on it, vows it's his own, taken from him years before by some
picaroons on his outward voyage. Out from the agent's comes another, and
swears that Castro is one of the self-same crew. He himself purported to
be the master of the very ship. Afterwards--in the solitary dusk among
the ropes and bales--there had evidently been some play with knives, and
it ended with a flight to London, and then down to Rooksby's red barn,
with the runners in full cry after them.

"Think of it," Rooksby said, "and me a justice, and... oh, it drives me
wild, this hole-and-corner work! There's a filthy muddle with the Free
Traders--a whistle to blow after dark at the quarry. To-night of all
nights, and me a justice... and as good as a married man!"

I looked at him wonderingly in the dusk; his high coat collar almost hid
his face, and his hat was pressed down over his eyes. The thing seemed
incredible to me. Here was an adventure, and I was shocked to see that
Rooksby was in a pitiable state about it.

"But, Ralph," I said, "I would help Carlos."

"Oh, you," he said fretfully. "You want to run your head into a noose;
that's what it comes to. Why, I may have to flee the country. There's
the red-breasts poking their noses into every cottage on the Ashford
road." He strode on again. A wisp of mist came stealing down the hill.
"I can't give my cousin up. He could be smuggled out, right enough. But
then I should have to get across salt water, too, for at least a year.
Why----"

He seemed ready to tear his hair, and then I put in my say. He needed a
little persuasion, though, in spite of Veronica.

I should have to meet Carlos Riego and Castro in a little fir-wood above
the quarry, in half an hour's time. All I had to do was to whistle
three bars of "Lillibulero," as a signal. A connection had been already
arranged with the Free Traders on the road beside the quarry, and they
were coming down that night, as we knew well enough, both of us. They
were coming in force from Canterbury way down to the Marsh. It had
cost Ralph a pretty penny; but, once in the hands of the smugglers, his
cousin and Castro would be safe enough from the runners; it would have
needed a troop of horse to take them. The difficulty was that of late
the smugglers themselves had become demoralized. There were ugly rumours
of it; and there was a danger that Castro and Carlos, if not looked
after, might end their days in some marsh-dyke. It was desirable that
someone well known in our parts should see them to the seashore. A boat,
there, was to take them out into the bay, where an outward-bound West
Indiaman would pick them up. But for Ralph's fear for his neck, which
had increased in value since its devotion to Veronica, he would have
squired his cousin. As it was, he fluttered round the idea of letting
me take his place. Finally he settled it; and I embarked on a long
adventure.



CHAPTER TWO

Between moonrise and sunset I was stumbling through the bracken of the
little copse that was like a tuft of hair on the brow of the great white
quarry. It was quite dark, in among the trees. I made the circuit of the
copse, whistling softly my three bars of "Lillibulero." Then I plunged
into it. The bracken underfoot rustled and rustled. I came to a halt.
A little bar of light lay on the horizon in front of me, almost
colourless. It was crossed again and again by the small fir-trunks that
were little more than wands. A woodpigeon rose with a sudden crash of
sound, flapping away against the branches. My pulse was dancing with
delight--my heart, too. It was like a game of hide-and-seek, and yet it
was life at last. Everything grew silent again and I began to think I
had missed my time. Down below in the plain, a great way off, a dog was
barking continuously. I moved forward a few paces and whistled. The
glow of adventure began to die away. There was nothing at all--a little
mystery of light on the tree-trunks.

I moved forward again, getting back towards the road. Against the
glimmer of dead light I thought I caught the outlines of a man's hat
down among the tossing lines of the bracken. I whispered loudly:

"Carlos! Carlos!"

There was a moment of hoarse whispering; a sudden gruff sound. A shaft
of blazing yellow light darted from the level of the ground into my
dazed eyes. A man sprang at me and thrust something cold and knobby
into my neckcloth. The light continued to blaze into my eyes; it moved
upwards and shone on a red waistcoat dashed with gilt buttons. I
was being arrested.... "In the King's name...." It was a most sudden
catastrophe. A hand was clutching my windpipe.

"Don't you so much as squeak, Mr. Castro," a voice whispered in my ear.

The lanthorn light suddenly died out, and I heard whispers.

"Get him out on to the road.... I'll tackle the other . . .
Darbies. . . . Mind his knife."

I was like a confounded rabbit in their hands. One of them had his fist
on my collar and jerked me out upon the hard road. We rolled down the
embankment, but he was on the top. It seemed an abominable episode, a
piece of bad faith on the part of fate. I ought to have been exempt from
these sordid haps, but the man's hot leathery hand on my throat was like
a foretaste of the other collar. And I was horribly afraid--horribly--of
the sort of mysterious potency of the laws that these men represented,
and I could think of nothing to do.

We stood in a little slanting cutting in the shadow. A watery light
before the moon's rising slanted downwards from the hilltop along the
opposite bank. We stood in utter silence.

"If you stir a hair," my captor said coolly, "I'll squeeze the blood out
of your throat, like a rotten orange."

He had the calmness of one dealing with an everyday incident; yet the
incident was--it should have been--tremendous. We stood waiting silently
for an eternity, as one waits for a hare to break covert before the
beaters. From down the long hill came a small sound of horses' hoofs--a
sound like the beating of the heart, intermittent--a muffled thud on
turf, and a faint clink of iron. It seemed to die away unheard by the
runner beside me. Presently there was a crackling of the short pine
branches, a rustle, and a hoarse whisper said from above:

"Other's cleared, Thorns. Got that one safe?"

"All serene."

The man from above dropped down into the road, a clumsy, cloaked figure.
He turned his lanthorn upon me, in a painful yellow glare.

"What! 'Tis the young 'un," he grunted, after a moment. "Read the
warrant, Thorns."

My captor began to fumble in his pocket, pulled out a paper, and bent
down into the light. Suddenly he paused and looked up at me.

"This ain't------ Mr. Lilly white, I don't believe this ain't a
Jack Spaniard."

The clinks of bits and stirrup-irons came down in a waft again.

"That be hanged for a tale, Thorns," the man with the lanthorn said
sharply. "If this here ain't Riego--or the other--I'll . . ."

I began to come out of my stupor.

"My name's John Kemp," I said.

The other grunted. "Hurry up, Thorns."

"But, Mr. Lillywhite," Thorns reasoned, "he don't speak like a Dago.
Split me if he do! And we ain't in a friendly country either, you know
that. We can't afford to rile the gentry!"

I plucked up courage.

"You'll get your heads broke," I said, "if you wait much longer. Hark to
that!"

The approaching horses had turned off the turf on to the hard road; the
steps of first one and then another sounded out down the silent hill.
I knew it was the Free Traders from that; for except between banks they
kept to the soft roadsides as if it were an article of faith. The noise
of hoofs became that of an army.

The runners began to consult. The shadow called Thorns was for bolting
across country; but Lilly white was not built for speed. Besides he did
not know the lie of the land, and believed the Free Traders were mere
bogeys.

"They'll never touch us," Lillywhite grumbled. "We've a warrant...
King's name...." He was flashing his lanthorn aimlessly up the hill.

"Besides," he began again, "we've got this gallus bird. If he's not a
Spaniard, he knows all about them. I heard him. Kemp he may be, but he
spoke Spanish up there... and we've got something for our trouble. He'll
swing, I'll lay you a------"

From far above us came a shout, then a confused noise of voices. The
moon began to get up; above the cutting the clouds had a fringe of
sudden silver. A horseman, cloaked and muffled to the ears, trotted
warily towards us.

"What's up?" he hailed from a matter of ten yards. "What are you showing
that glim for? Anything wrong below?"

The runners kept silence; we heard the click of a pistol lock.

"In the King's name," Lillywhite shouted, "get off that nag and lend a
hand! We've a prisoner."

The horseman gave an incredulous whistle, and then began to shout, his
voice winding mournfully uphill, "Hallo! Hallo--o--o." An echo stole
back, "Hallo! Hallo--o--o"; then a number of voices. The horse stood,
drooping its head, and the man turned in his saddle. "Runners," he
shouted, "Bow Street runners! Come along, come along, boys! We'll roast
'em.... Runners! Runners!"

The sound of heavy horses at a jolting trot came to our ears.

"We're in for it," Lillywhite grunted. "D------n this county of Kent."

Thorns never loosed his hold of my collar. At the steep of the hill the
men and horses came into sight against the white sky, a confused crowd
of ominous things.

"Turn that lanthorn off'n me," the horseman said. "Don't you see you
frighten my horse? Now, boys, get round them. . . ."

The great horses formed an irregular half-circle round us; men descended
clumsily, like sacks of corn. The lanthorn was seized and flashed upon
us; there was a confused hubbub. I caught my own name.

"Yes, I'm Kemp... John Kemp," I called. "I'm true blue."

"Blue be hanged!" a voice shouted back. "What be you a-doing with
runners?"

The riot went on--forty or fifty voices. The runners were seized;
several hands caught at me. It was impossible to make myself heard; a
fist struck me on the cheek.

"Gibbet 'em," somebody shrieked; "they hung my nephew! Gibbet 'em all
the three. Young Kemp's mother's a bad 'un. An informer he is. Up with
'em!"

I was pulled down on my knees, then thrust forward, and then left to
myself while they rushed to bonnet Lillywhite. I stumbled against a
great, quiet farm horse.

A continuous scuffling went on; an imperious voice cried: "Hold your
tongues, you fools! Hold your tongues!..." Someone else called: "Hear to
Jack Rangsley. Hear to him!"

There was a silence. I saw a hand light a torch at the lanthorn, and the
crowd of faces, the muddle of limbs, the horses' heads, and the quiet
trees above, flickered into sight.

"Don't let them hang me, Jack Rangsley," I sobbed. "You know I'm no spy.
Don't let 'em hang me, Jack."

He rode his horse up to me, and caught me by the collar.

"Hold your tongue," he said roughly. He began to make a set speech,
anathematizing runners. He moved to tie our feet, and hang us by our
finger-nails over the quarry edge.

A hubbub of assent and dissent went up; then the crowd became unanimous.
Rangsley slipped from his horse.

"Blindfold 'em, lads," he cried, and turned me sharply round.

"Don't struggle," he whispered in my ear; his silk handkerchief came
cool across my eyelids. I felt hands fumbling with a knot at the back of
my head. "You're all right," he said again. The hubbub of voices ceased
suddenly. "Now, lads, bring 'em along."

A voice I knew said their watchword, "Snuff and enough," loudly, and
then, "What's agate?"

Someone else answered, "It's Rooksby, it's Sir Ralph."

The voice interrupted sharply, "No names, now. I don't want hanging."
The hand left my arm; there was a pause in the motion of the procession.
I caught a moment's sound of whispering. Then a new voice cried, "Strip
the runners to the shirt. Strip 'em. That's it." I heard some groans and
a cry, "You won't murder us." Then a nasal drawl, "We will sure--_ly_."
Someone else, Rangsley, I think, called, "Bring 'em along--this way
now."

After a period of turmoil we seemed to come out of the crowd upon a very
rough, descending path; Rangsley had called out, "Now, then, the rest
of you be off; we've got enough here"; and the hoofs of heavy horses
sounded again. Then we came to a halt, and Rangsley called sharply ïrom
close to me:

"Now, you runners--and you, John Kemp--here you be on the brink of
eternity, above the old quarry. There's a sheer drop of a hundred feet.
We'll tie your legs and hang you by your fingers. If you hang long
enough, you'll have time to say your prayers. Look alive, lads!"

The voice of one of the runners began to shout, "You'll swing for
this--you------"

As for me I was in a dream. "Jack," I said, "Jack, you won't----"

"Oh, that's all right," the voice said in a whisper. "Mum, now! It's all
_right_."

It withdrew itself a little from my ear and called, "'Now then, ready
with them. When I say three...."

I heard groans and curses, and began to shout for help. My voice came
back in an echo, despairingly. Suddenly I was dragged backward, and the
bandage pulled from my eyes,

"Come along," Rangsley said, leading me gently enough to the road, which
was five steps behind. "It's all a joke," he snarled. "A pretty bad one
for those catchpolls. Hear 'em groan. The drop's not two feet."

We made a few paces down the road; the pitiful voices of the runners
crying for help came plainly to my ears.

"You--they--aren't murdering them?" I asked.

"No, no," he answered. "Can't afford to. Wish we could; but they'd make
it too hot for us."

We began to descend the hill. From the quarry a voice shrieked:

"Help--help--for the love of God--I can't. . . ."

There was a grunt and the sound of a fall; then a precisely similar
sequence of sounds.

"That'll teach 'em," Rangsley said ferociously. "Come along--they've
only rolled down a bank. They weren't over the quarry. It's all right. I
swear it is."

And, as a matter of fact, that was the smugglers' ferocious idea of
humour. They would hang any undesirable man, like these runners, whom it
would make too great a stir to murder outright, over the edge of a low
bank, and swear to him that he was clawing the brink of Shakespeare's
Cliff or any other hundred-foot drop. The wretched creatures suffered
all the tortures of death before they let go, and, as a rule, they never
returned to our parts.



CHAPTER THREE

The spirit of the age has changed; everything has changed so utterly
that one can hardly believe in the existence of one's earlier self. But
I can still remember how, at that moment, I made the acquaintance of
my heart--a thing that bounded and leapt within my chest, a little
sickeningly. The other details I forget.

Jack Rangsley was a tall, big-boned, thin man, with something sinister
in the lines of his horseman's cloak, and something reckless in the way
he set his spurred heel on the ground. He was the son of an old Marsh
squire. Old Rangsley had been head of the last of the Owlers--the
aristocracy of export smugglers--and Jack had sunk a little in becoming
the head of the Old Bourne Tap importers. But he was hard enough,
tyrannical enough, and had nerve enough to keep Free-trading alive in
our parts until long after it had become an anachronism. He ended his
days on the gallows, of course, but that was long afterwards.

"I'd give a dollar to know what's going on in those runners' heads,"
Rangsley said, pointing back with his crop. He laughed gayly. The great
white face of the quarry rose up pale in the moonlight; the dusky red
fires of the limekilns glowed at the base, sending up a blood-red dust
of sullen smoke. "I'll swear they think they've dropped straight into
hell.

"You'll have to cut the country, John," he added suddenly, "they'll have
got your name uncommon pat. I did my best for you." He had had me tied
up like that before the runners' eyes in order to take their suspicions
off me. He had made a pretence to murder me with the same idea. But
he didn't believe they were taken in. "There'll be warrants out before
morning, if they ain't too shaken. But what were you doing in the
business? The two Spaniards were lying in the fern looking on when you
come blundering your clumsy nose in. If it hadn't been for Rooksby you
might have------ Hullo, there!" he broke off.

An answer came from the black shadow of a clump of roadside elms. I
made out the forms of three or four horses standing with their heads
together.

"Come along," Rangsley said; "up with you. We'll talk as we go."

Someone helped me into a saddle; my legs trembled in the stirrups as
if I had ridden a thousand miles on end already. I imagine I must have
fallen into a stupor; for I have only a vague impression of somebody's
exculpating himself to me. As a matter of fact, Ralph, after having
egged me on, in the intention of staying at home, had had qualms of
conscience, and had come to the quarry. It was he who had cried
the watchword, "Snuff and enough," and who had held the whispered
consultation. Carlos and Castro had waited in their hiding-place, having
been spectators of the arrival of the runners and of my capture. I
gathered this long afterwards. At that moment I was conscious only of
the motion of the horse beneath me, of intense weariness, and of the
voice of Ralph, who was lamenting his own cowardice.

"If it had come at any other time!" he kept on repeating. "But now, with
Veronica to think of!------ You take me, Johnny, don't you?"

My companions rode silently. After we had passed the houses of a little
village a heavy mist fell upon us, white, damp, and clogging. Ralph
reined his horse beside mine.

"I'm sorry," he began again, "I'm miserably sorry I got you into this
scrape. I swear I wouldn't have had it happen, not for a thousand
pounds--not for ten."

"It doesn't matter," I said cheerfully.

"Ah, but," Rooksby said, "you'll have to leave the country for a time.
Until I can arrange. I will. You can trust me."

"Oh, he'll have to leave the country, for sure," Rangsley said jovially,
"if he wants to live it down. There's five-and-forty warrants out
against me--but they dursent serve 'em. But he's not me."

"It's a miserable business," Ralph said. He had an air of the
profoundest dejection. In the misty light he looked like a man mortally
wounded, riding from a battle-field.

"Let him come with us," the musical voice of Carlos came through the
mist in front of us. "He shall see the world a little."

"For God's sake hold your tongue!" Ralph answered him. "There's mischief
enough. He shall go to France."

"Oh, let the young blade rip about the world for a year or two, squire,"
Rangsley's voice said from behind us.

In the end Ralph let me go with Carlos--actually across the sea, and to
the West Indies. I begged and implored him; it seemed that now there was
a chance for me to find my world of romance. And Ralph, who, though one
of the most law-respecting of men, was not for the moment one of the
most valorous, was wild to wash his hands of the whole business. He did
his best for me; he borrowed a goodly number of guineas from Rangsley,
who travelled with a bag of them at his saddle-bow, ready to pay his men
their seven shillings a head for the run.

Ralph remembered, too--or I remembered for him--that he had estates and
an agent in Jamaica, and he turned into the big inn at the junction of
the London road to write a letter to his agent bidding him house me and
employ me as an improver. For fear of compromising him we waited in the
shadow of trees a furlong or two down the road. He came at a trot, gave
me the letter, drew me aside, and began upbraiding himself again. The
others rode onwards.

"Oh, it's all right," I said. "It's fine--it's fine. I'd have given
fifty guineas for this chance this morning--and, Ralph, I say, you may
tell Veronica why I'm going, but keep a shut mouth to my mother. Let her
think I've run away--eh? Don't spoil your chance."

He was in such a state of repentance and flutter that he could not let
me take a decent farewell. The sound of the others' horses had long died
away down the hill when he began to tell me what he ought to have done.

"I knew it at once after I'd let you go. I ought to have kept you out
of it. You came near being murdered. And to think of it--you, her
brother--to be------"

"Oh, it's all right," I said gayly, "it's all right. You've to stand by
Veronica. I've no one to my back. Good-night, good-by."

I pulled my horse's head round and galloped down the hill. The main body
had halted before setting out over the shingle to the shore. Rangsley
was waiting to conduct us into the town, where we should find a man to
take us three fugitives out to the expected ship. We rode clattering
aggressively through the silence of the long, narrow main street. Every
now and then Carlos Riego coughed lamentably, but Tomas Castro rode in
gloomy silence. There was a light here and there in a window, but not a
soul stirring abroad. On the blind of an inn the shadow of a bearded man
held the shadow of a rummer to its mouth.

"That'll be my uncle," Rangsley said. "He'll be the man to do your
errand." He called to one of the men behind. "Here, Joe Pilcher, do you
go into the White Hart and drag my Uncle Tom out. Bring 'un up to me--to
the nest."

Three doors further on we came to a halt, and got down from our horses.

Rangsley knocked on a shutter-panel, two hard knocks with the crop and
three with the naked fist. Then a lock clicked, heavy bars rumbled, and
a chain rattled. Rangsley pushed me through the doorway. A side door
opened, and I saw into a lighted room filled with wreaths of smoke. A
paunchy man in a bob wig, with a blue coat and Windsor buttons, holding
a churchwarden pipe in his right hand and a pewter quart in his left,
came towards us.

"Hullo, captain," he said, "you'll be too late with the lights, won't
you?" He had a deprecatory air.

"Your watch is fast, Mr. Mayor," Rangsley answered surlily; "the tide
won't serve for half an hour yet."

"Cht, cht," the other wheezed. "No offence. We respect you. But still,
when one has a stake, one likes to know."

"My stake's all I have, and my neck," Rangsley said impatiently; "what's
yours? A matter of fifty pun ten?... Why don't you make them bring they
lanthorns?"

A couple of dark lanthorns were passed to Rangsley, who half-uncovered
one, and lit the way up steep wooden stairs. We climbed up to a tiny
cock-loft, of which the side towards the sea was all glazed.

"Now you sit there, on the floor," Rangsley commanded; "can't leave
you below; the runners will be coming to the mayor for new warrants
to-morrow, and he'd not like to have spent the night in your company."

He threw a casement open. The moon was hidden from us by clouds, but,
a long way off, over the distant sea, there was an irregular patch of
silver light, against which the chimneys of the opposite houses were
silhouetted. The church clock began muffledly to chime the quarters
behind us; then the hour struck--ten strokes.

Rangsley set one of his lanthorns on the window and twisted the top. He
sent beams of yellow light shooting out to seawards. His hands quivered,
and he was mumbling to himself under the influence of ungovernable
excitement. His stakes were very large, and all depended on the flicker
of those lanthorns out towards the men on the luggers that were hidden
in the black expanse of the sea. Then he waited, and against the light
of the window I could see him mopping his forehead with the sleeve
of his coat; my heart began to beat softly and insistently--out of
sympathy.

Suddenly, from the deep shadow of the cloud above the sea, a yellow
light flashed silently cut--very small, very distant, very short-lived.
Rangsley heaved a deep sigh and slapped me heavily on the shoulder.

"All serene, my buck," he said; "now let's see after you. I've half an
hour. What's the ship?"

I was at a loss, but Carlos said out of the darkness, "The ship the
_Thames_. My friend Señor Ortiz, of the Minories, said you would know."

"Oh, I know, I know," Rangsley said softly; and, indeed, he did know
all that was to be known about smuggling out of the southern counties of
people who could no longer inhabit them. The trade was a survival of the
days of Jacobite plots. "And it's a hanging job, too. But it's no affair
of mine." He stopped and reflected for an instant.

I could feel Carlos' eyes upon us, looking out of the thick darkness. A
slight rustling came from the corner that hid Castro.

"She passes down channel to-night, then?" Rangsley said. "With this wind
you'll want to be well out in the Bay at a quarter after eleven."

An abnormal scuffling, intermingled with snatches of jovial
remonstrance, made itself heard from the bottom of the ladder. A voice
called up through the hatch, "Here's your uncle, Squahre Jack," and a
husky murmur corroborated.

"Be you drunk again, you old sinner?" Rangsley asked. "Listen to me....
Here's three men to be set aboard the _Thames_ at a quarter after
eleven."

A grunt came in reply.

Rangsley repeated slowly.

The grunt answered again.

"Here's three men to be set aboard the _Thames_ at a quarter after
eleven. . . ." Rangsley said again.

"Here's... a-cop... three men to be set aboard _Thames_ at quarter after
eleven," a voice hiccoughed back to us.

"Well, see you do it," Rangsley said. "He's as drunk as a king,"
he commented to us; "but when you've said a thing three times, he
remembers--hark to him."

The drunken voice from below kept up a constant babble of, "Three men to
be set aboard _Thames_... three men to be set . . ."

"He'll not stop saying that till he has you safe aboard," Rangsley
said. He showed a glimmer of light down the ladder--Carlos and Castro
descended. I caught sight below me of the silver head and the deep
red ears of the drunken uncle of Rangsley. He had been one of the most
redoubtable of the family, a man of immense strength and cunning, but a
confirmed habit of consuming a pint and a half of gin a night had made
him disinclined for the more arduous tasks of the trade. He limited his
energies to working the underground passage, to the success of which his
fox-like cunning, and intimate knowledge of the passing shipping, were
indispensable. I was preparing to follow the others down the ladder when
Rangsley touched my arm.

"I don't like your company," he said close behind my ear. "I know who
they are. There were bills out for them this morning. I'd blow them,
and take the reward, but for you and Squahre Rooksby. They're handy with
their knives, too, I fancy. You mind me, and look to yourself with them.
There's something unnatural."

His words had a certain effect upon me, and his manner perhaps more. A
thing that was "unnatural" to Jack Rangsley--the man of darkness, who
lived forever as if in the shadow of the gallows--was a thing to be
avoided. He was for me nearly as romantic a figure as Carlos himself,
but for his forbidding darkness, and he was a person of immense power.
The silent flittings of lights that I had just seen, the answering
signals from the luggers far out to sea, the enforced sleep of the
towns and countryside whilst his plans were working out at night, had
impressed me with a sense of awe. And his words sank into my spirit, and
made me afraid for my future.

We followed the others downwards into a ground-floor room that was
fitted up as a barber's shop. A rushlight was burning on a table.
Rangsley took hold of a piece of wainscotting, part of the frame of
a panel; he pulled it towards him, and, at the same moment, a glazed
show-case full of razors and brushes swung noiselessly forward with an
effect of the supernatural. A small opening, just big enough to take
a man's body, revealed itself. We passed through it and up a sort of
tunnel. The door at the other end, which was formed of panels, had a
manger and straw crib attached to it on the outside, and let us into a
horse's stall. We found ourselves in the stable of the inn.

"We don't use this passage for ourselves," Rangsley said. "Only the most
looked up to need to--the justices and such like. But gallus birds like
you and your company, it's best for us not to be seen in company with.
Follow my uncle now. Good-night."

We went into the yard, under the pillars of the town hall, across
the silent street, through a narrow passage, and down to the sea. Old
Rangsley reeled ahead of us swiftly, muttering, "Three men to be
set aboard the _Thames_... quarter past eleven. Three men to be set
aboard..." and in a few minutes we stood upon the shingle beside the
idle sea, that was nearly at the full.



CHAPTER FOUR

It was, I suppose, what I demanded of Fate--to be gently wafted into the
position of a hero of romance, without rough hands at my throat. It
is what we all ask, I suppose; and we get it sometimes in ten-minute
snatches. I didn't know where I was going. It was enough for me to sail
in and out of the patches of shadow that fell from the moon right above
our heads.

We embarked, and, as we drew further out, the land turned to a shadow,
spotted here and there with little lights. Behind us a cock crowed. The
shingle crashed at intervals beneath the feet of a large body of men. I
remembered the smugglers; but it was as if I had remembered them only
to forget them forever. Old Rangsley, who steered with the sheet in his
hand, kept up an unintelligible babble. Carlos and Castro talked under
their breaths. Along the gunwale there was a constant ripple and gurgle.
Suddenly old Rangsley began to sing; his voice was hoarse and drunken.

     "When Harol' war in va--a--ded,
     An' fallin', lost his crownd,
     An' Normun Willium wa--a--ded."

The water murmured without a pause, as if it had a million tiny facts to
communicate in very little time. And then old Rangsley hove to, to wait
for the ship, and sat half asleep, lurching over the tiller. He was
a very, unreliable scoundrel. The boat leaked like a sieve. The wind
freshened, and we three began to ask ourselves how it was going to end.
There were no lights upon the sea.

At last, well out, a blue gleam caught our eyes; but by this time old
Rangsley was helpless, and it fell to me to manage the boat. Carlos was
of no use--he knew it, and, without saying a word, busied himself in
bailing the water out. But Castro, I was surprised to notice, knew more
than I did about a boat, and, maimed as he was, made himself useful.

"To me it looks as if we should drown," Carlos said at one point, very
quietly. "I am sorry for you, Juan."

"And for yourself, too," I answered, feeling very hopeless, and with a
dogged grimness.

"Just now, my young cousin, I feel as if I should not mind dying under
the water," he remarked with a sigh, but without ceasing to bail for a
moment.

"Ah, you are sorry to be leaving home, and your friends, and Spain, and
your fine adventures," I answered.

The blue flare showed a very little nearer. There was nothing to be done
but talk and wait.

"No; England," he answered in a tone full of meaning--"things in
England--people there. One person at least."

To me his words and his smile seemed to imply a bitter irony; but they
were said very earnestly.

Castro had hauled the helpless form of old Rangsley forward. I caught
him muttering savagely:

"I could kill that old man!"

He did not want to be drowned; neither assuredly did I. But it was not
fear so much as a feeling of dreariness and disappointment that had come
over me, the sudden feeling that I was going not to adventure, but to
death; that here was not romance, but an end--a disenchanted surprise
that it should soon be all over.

We kept a grim silence. Further out in the bay, we were caught in a
heavy squall. Sitting by the tiller, I got as much out of her as I knew
how. We would go as far as we could before the run was over. Carlos
bailed unceasingly, and without a word of complaint, sticking to his
self-appointed task as if in very truth he were careless of life.
A feeling came over me that this, indeed, was the elevated and the
romantic. Perhaps he was tired of his life; perhaps he really regretted
what he left behind him in England, or somewhere else--some association,
some woman. But he, at least, if we went down together, would
go gallantly, and without complaint, at the end of a life with
associations, movements, having lived and regretted. I should disappear
in-gloriously on the very threshold.

Castro, standing up unsteadily, growled, "We may do it yet! See, señor!"

The blue gleam was much larger--it flared smokily up towards the sky. I
made out ghastly parallelograms of a ship's sails high above us, and at
last many faces peering unseeingly over the rail in our direction. We
all shouted together.

I may say that it was thanks to me that we reached the ship. Our boat
went down under us whilst I was tying a rope under Carlos' arms. He
was standing up with the baler still in his hand. On board, the women
passengers were screaming, and as I clung desperately to the rope that
was thrown me, it struck me oddly that I had never before heard so many
women's voices at the same time. Afterwards, when I stood on the deck,
they began laughing at old Rangsley, who held forth in a thunderous
voice, punctuated by hiccoughs:

"They carried I aboard--a cop--theer lugger and sinks I in the cold,
co--old sea."

It mortified me excessively that I should be tacked to his tail and
exhibited to a number of people, and I had a sudden conviction of my
small importance. I had expected something altogether different--an
audience sympathetically interested in my desire for a passage to the
West Indies; instead of which people laughed while I spoke in panting
jerks, and the water dripped out of my clothes. After I had made it
clear that I wanted to go with Carlos, and could pay for my passage,
I was handed down into the steerage, where a tallow candle burnt in
a thick, blue atmosphere. I was stripped and filled with some fiery
liquid, and fell asleep. Old Rangsley was sent ashore with the pilot.

It was a new and strange life to me, opening there suddenly enough. The
_Thames_ was one of the usual West Indiamen; but to me even the very
ropes and spars, the sea, and the unbroken dome of the sky, had a rich
strangeness. Time passed lazily and gliding. I made more fully the
acquaintance of my companions, but seemed to know them no better. I
lived with Carlos in the cabin--Castro in the half-deck; but we were all
three pretty constantly together, and they being the only Spaniards on
board, we were more or less isolated from the other passengers.

Looking at my companions at times, I had vague misgivings. It was as
if these two had fascinated me to the verge of some danger. Sometimes
Castro, looking up, uttered vague ejaculations. Carlos pushed his hat
back and sighed. They had preoccupations, cares, interests in which they
let me have no part.

Castro struck me as absolutely ruffianly. His head was knotted in a red,
white-spotted handkerchief; his grizzled beard was tangled; he wore
a black and rusty cloak, ragged at the edges, and his feet were often
bare; at his side would lie his wooden right hand. As a rule, the place
of his forearm was taken by a long, thin, steel blade, that he was
forever sharpening.

Carlos talked with me, telling me about his former life and his
adventures. The other passengers he discountenanced by a certain
coldness of manner that made me ashamed of talking to them. I respected
him so; he was so wonderful to me then. Castro I detested; but I
accepted their relationship without in the least understanding how
Carlos, with his fine grain, his high soul--I gave him credit for a
high soul--could put up with the squalid ferocity with which I credited
Castro. It seemed to hang in the air round the grotesque ragged-ness of
the saturnine brown man.

Carlos had made Spain too hot to hold him in those tortuous intrigues of
the Army of the Faith and Bourbon troops and Italian legions. From what
I could understand, he must have played fast and loose in an insolent
manner. And there was some woman offended. There was a gayness and
gallantry in that part of it. He had known the very spirit of romance,
and now he was sailing gallantly out to take up his inheritance from
an uncle who was a great noble, owning the greater part of one of the
Intendencias of Cuba.

"He is a very old man, I hear," Carlos said--"a little doting, and
having need of me."

There were all the elements of romance about Carlos' story--except the
actual discomforts of the ship in which we were sailing. He himself had
never been in Cuba or seen his uncle; but he had, as I have indicated,
ruined himself in one way or another in Spain, and it had come as a
God-send to him when his uncle had sent Tomas Castro to bring him to
Cuba, to the town of Rio Medio.

"The town belongs to my uncle. He is very rich; a Grand d'Espagne . . .
everything; but he is now very old, and has left Havana to die in his
palace in his own town. He has an only daughter, a Dona Seraphina, and I
suppose that if I find favour in his eyes I shall marry her, and inherit
my uncle's great riches; I am the only one that is left of the family to
inherit." He waved his hand and smiled a little. "_Vaya_; a little of
that great wealth would be welcome. If I had had a few pence more there
would have been none of this worry, and I should not have been on
this dirty ship in these rags." He looked down good-humouredly at his
clothes.

"But," I said, "how do you come to be in a scrape at all?"

He laughed a little proudly.

"In a scrape?" he said. "I... I am in none. It is Tomas Castro there."
He laughed affectionately. "He is as faithful as he is ugly," he said;
"but I fear he has been a villain, too.... What do I know? Over there in
my uncle's town, there are some villains--you know what I mean, one must
not speak too loudly on this ship. There is a man called O'Brien, who
mismanages my uncle's affairs. What do I know? The good Tomas has been
in some villainy that is no affair of mine. He is a good friend and
a faithful dependent of my family's. He certainly had that man's
watch--the man we met by evil chance at Liverpool, a man who came from
Jamaica. He had bought it--of a bad man, perhaps, I do not ask. It was
Castro your police wished to take. But I, _bon Dieu_, do you think I
would take watches?"

I certainly did not think he had taken a watch; but I did not relinquish
the idea that he, in a glamorous, romantic way, had been a pirate.
Rooksby had certainly hinted as much in his irritation.

He lost none of his romantic charm in my eyes. The fact that he was
sailing in uncomfortable circumstances detracted little; nor did his
clothes, which, at the worst, were better than any I had ever had. And
he wore them with an air and a grace. He had probably been in worse
circumstances when campaigning with the Army of the Faith in Spain.
And there was certainly the uncle with the romantic title and the great
inheritance, and the cousin--the Miss Seraphina, whom he would probably
marry. I imagined him an aristocratic scapegrace, a corsair--it was the
Byronic period then--sailing out to marry a sort of shimmering princess
with hair like Veronica's, bright golden, and a face like that of a
certain keeper's daughter. Carlos, however, knew nothing about his
cousin; he cared little more, as far as I could tell. "What can she
be to me since I have seen your...?" he said once, and then stopped,
looking at me with a certain tender irony. He insisted, though, that his
aged uncle was in need of him. As for Castro--he and his rags came out
of a life of sturt and strife, and I hoped he might die by treachery.
He had undoubtedly been sent by the uncle across the seas to find
Carlos and bring him out of Europe; there was-something romantic in
that mission. He was now a dependent of the Riego family, but there were
unfathomable depths in that tubby little man's past. That he had gone to
Russia at the tail of the Grande Armée, one could not help believing. He
had been most likely in the grand army of sutlers and camp-followers.
He could talk convincingly of the cold, and of the snows and his escape.
And from his allusions one could get glimpses of what he had been
before and afterwards--apparently everything that was questionable in a
secularly disturbed Europe; no doubt somewhat of a bandit; a guerrillero
in the sixes and sevens; with the Army of the Faith near the French
border, later on.

There had been room and to spare for that sort of pike, in the muddy
waters, during the first years of the century. But the waters were
clearing, and now the good Castro had been dodging the gallows in the
Antilles or in Mexico. In his heroic moods he would swear that his
arm had been cut off at Somo Sierra; swear it with a great deal of
asseveration, making one see the Polish lancers charging the gunners,
being cut down, and his own sword arm falling suddenly.

Carlos, however, used to declare with affectionate cynicism that the
arm had been broken by the cudgel of a Polish peasant while Castro was
trying to filch a pig from a stable.... "I cut his throat out, though,"
Castro would grumble darkly; "so, like that, and it matters very
little--it is even an improvement. See, I put on my blade. See, I
transfix you that fly there.... See how astonished he was. He did never
expect that." He had actually impaled a crawling cockroach. He spent
his days cooking extraordinary messes, crouching for hours over a little
charcoal brazier that he lit surreptitiously in the back of his bunk,
making substitutes for eternal _gaspachos_.

All these things, if they deepened the romance of Carlos' career,
enhanced, also, the mystery. I asked him one day, "But why do you go to
Jamaica at all if you are bound for Cuba?"

He looked at me, smiling a little mournfully.

"Ah, Juan mio," he said, "Spain is not like your England, unchanging and
stable. The party who reign to-day do not love me, and they are masters
in Cuba as in Spain. But in his province my uncle rules alone. There I
shall be safe." He was condescending to roll some cigarettes for Tomas,
whose wooden hand incommoded him, and he tossed a fragment of tobacco to
the wind with a laugh. "In Jamaica there is a merchant, a Señor Ramon; I
have letters to him, and he shall find me a conveyance to Rio Medio, my
uncle's town. He is an _quliado_."

He laughed again. "It is not easy to enter that place, Juanino."

There was certainly some mystery about that town of his uncle's. One
night I overheard him say to Castro:

"Tell me, O my Tomas, would it be safe to take this _caballero_, my
cousin, to Rio Medio?"

Castro paused, and then murmured gruffly:

"Señor, unless that Irishman is consulted beforehand, or the English
lord would undertake to join with the picaroons, it is very assuredly
not safe."

Carlos made a little exclamation of mild astonishment.

"_Pero?_ Is it so bad as that in my uncle's own town?"

Tomas muttered something that I did not catch, and then:

"If the English _caballero_ committed indiscretions, or quarrelled--and
all these people quarrel, why, God knows--that Irish devil could hang
many persons, even myself, or take vengeance on your worship."

Carlos was silent as if in a reverie. At last he said:

"But if affairs are like this, it would be well to have one more with
us. The _caballero_, my cousin, is very strong and of great courage."

Castro grunted, "Oh, of a courage! But as the proverb says, 'If you set
an Englishman by a hornets' nest they shall not remain long within.":

After that I avoided any allusion to Cuba, because the thing, think as
I would about it, would not grow clear. It was plain that something
illegal was going on there, or how could "that Irish devil," whoever
he was, have power to hang Tomas and be revenged on Carlos? It did not
affect my love for Carlos, though, in the weariness of this mystery, the
passage seemed to drag a little. And it was obvious enough that Carlos
was unwilling or unable to tell anything about what pre-, occupied him.

I had noticed an intimacy spring up between the ship's second mate and
Tomas, who was, it seemed to me, forever engaged in long confabulations
in the man's cabin, and, as much to make talk as for any other reason,
I asked Carlos if he had noticed his dependent's familiarity. It was
noticeable because Castro held aloof from every other soul on board.
Carlos answered me with one of his nervous and angry smiles.

"Ah, Juan mine, do not ask too many questions! I wish you could come
with me all the way, but I cannot tell you all I know. I do not even
myself know all. It seems that the man is going to leave the ship in
Jamaica, and has letters for that Señor Ramon, the merchant, even as I
have. _Vaya_; more I cannot tell you."

This struck me as curious, and a little of the whole mystery seemed from
that time to attach to the second mate, who before had been no more to
me than a long, sallow Nova Scotian, with a disagreeable intonation and
rather offensive manners. I began to watch him, desultorily, and was
rather startled by something more than a suspicion that he himself was
watching me. On one occasion in particular I seemed to observe this. The
second mate was lankily stalking the deck, his hands in his pockets. As
he paused in his walk to spit into the sea beside me, Carlos said:

"And you, my Juan, what will you do in this Jamaica?"

The sense that we were approaching land was already all over the ship.
The second mate leered at me enigmatically, and moved slowly away.
I said that I was going to the Horton Estates, Rooksby's, to learn
planting under a Mr. Macdonald, the agent. Carlos shrugged his
shoulders. I suppose I had spoken with some animation.

"Ah," he said, with his air of great wisdom and varied experience,
of disillusionment, "it will be much the same as it has been at your
home--after the first days. Hard work and a great sameness." He began to
cough violently.

I said bitterly enough, "Yes. It will be always the same with me. I
shall never see life. You've seen all that there is to see, so I suppose
you do not mind settling down with an old uncle in a palace."

He answered suddenly, with a certain darkness of manner, "That is as God
wills. Who knows? Perhaps life, even in my uncle's palace, will not be
so safe."

The second mate was bearing down on us again.

I said jocularly, "Why, when I get very tired of life at Horton Pen, I
shall come to see you in your uncle's town."

Carlos had another of his fits of coughing.

"After all, we are kinsmen. I dare say you would give me a bed," I went
on.

The second mate was quite close to us then.

Carlos looked at me with an expression of affection that a little shamed
my lightness of tone:

"I love you much more than a kinsman, Juan," he said. "I wish you could
come with me. I try to arrange it. Later, perhaps, I may be dead. I am
very ill."

He was undoubtedly ill. Campaigning in Spain, exposure in England in a
rainy time, and then the ducking when we came on board, had done him no
good. He looked moodily at the sea.

"I wish you could come. I will try------"

The mate had paused, and was listening quite unaffectedly, behind
Carlos' back.

A moment after Carlos half turned and regarded him with a haughty stare.

He whistled and walked away.

Carlos muttered something that I did not catch about "spies of that
pestilent Irishman." Then:

"I will not selfishly take you into any more dangers," he said. "But
life on a sugar plantation is not fit for you."

I felt glad and flattered that a personage so romantic should deem me a
fit companion for himself. He went forward as if with some purpose.

Some days afterwards the second mate sent for me to his cabin. He had
been on the sick list, and he was lying in his bunk, stripped to the
waist, one arm and one leg touching the floor. He raised himself slowly
when I came in, and spat. He had in a pronounced degree the Nova Scotian
peculiarities and accent, and after he had shaved, his face shone like
polished leather.

"Hallo!" he said. "See heeyur, young Kemp, does your neck just _itch_ to
be stretched?"

I looked at him with mouth and eyes agape.

He spat again, and waved a claw towards the forward bulkhead.

"They'll do it for yeh," he said. "You're such a green goose, it makes
me sick a bit. You hevn't reckoned out the chances, not quite. It's a
kind of dead reckoning yeh hevn't had call to make. Eh?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, bewildered.

He looked at me, grinning, half naked, with amused contempt, for quite a
long time, and at last offered sardonically to open my eyes for me.

I said nothing.

"Do you know what will happen to you," he asked, "ef yeh don't get quit
of that Carlos of yours?"

I was surprised into muttering that I didn't know.

"I can tell yeh," he continued. "Yeh will get hanged."

By that time I was too amazed to get angry. I simply suspected the Blue
Nose of being drunk. But he glared at me so soberly that next moment I
felt frightened.

"Hanged by the neck," he repeated; and then added, "Young fellow, you
scoot. Take a fool's advice, and _scoot_. That Castro is a blame fool,
anyhow. Yeh want men for that job. Men, I tell you." He slapped his bony
breast.

I had no idea that he could look so ferocious. His eyes fascinated me,
and he opened his cavernous mouth as if to swallow me. His lantern jaws
snapped without a sound. He seemed to change his mind.

"I am done with yeh," he said, with a sort of sinister restraint. He
rose to his feet, and, turning his back to me, began to shave, squinting
into a broken looking-glass.

I had not the slightest inkling of his meaning. I only knew that going
out of his berth was like escaping from the dark lair of a beast into
a sunlit world. There is no denying that his words, and still more his
manner, had awakened in me a sense of insecurity that had no precise
object, for it was manifestly absurd and impossible to suspect my friend
Carlos. Moreover, hanging was a danger so recondite, and an eventuality
so extravagant, as to make the whole thing ridiculous. And yet I
remembered how unhappy I felt, how inexplicably unhappy. Presently the
reason was made clear. I was homesick. I gave no further thought to the
second mate. I looked at the harbour we were entering, and thought of
the home I had left so eagerly. After all, I was no more than a boy, and
even younger in mind than in body.

Queer-looking boats crawled between the shores like tiny water beetles.
One headed out towards us, then another. I did not want them to reach
us. It was as if I did not wish my solitude to be disturbed, and I was
not pleased with the idea of going ashore. A great ship, floating high
on the water, black and girt with the two broad yellow streaks of her
double tier of guns, glided out slowly from beyond a cluster of shipping
in the bay. She passed without a hail, going out under her topsails with
a flag at the fore. Her lofty spars overtopped our masts immensely, and
I saw the men in her rigging looking down on our decks. The only sounds
that came out of her were the piping of boatswain's calls and the
tramping of feet. Imagining her to be going home, I felt a great desire
to be on board. Ultimately, as it turned out, I went home in that very
ship, but then it was too late. I was another man by that time, with
much queer knowledge and other desires. Whilst I was looking and longing
I heard Carlos' voice behind me asking one of our sailors what ship it
was.

"Don't you know a flagship when you see it?" a voice grumbled surlily.
"Admiral Rowley's," it continued. Then it rumbled out some remarks about
"pirates, vermin, coast of Cuba."

Carlos came to the side, and looked after the man-of-war in the
distance.

"_You_ could help us," I heard him mutter.



CHAPTER FIVE

There was a lad called Barnes, a steerage passenger of about my own age,
a raw, red-headed Northumbrian yokel, going out as a recruit to one of
the West Indian regiments. He was a serious, strenuous youth, and I had
talked a little with him at odd moments. In my great loneliness I went
to say good-by to him after I had definitely parted with Carlos.

I had been in our cabin. A great bustle of shore-going, of leave-taking
had sprung up all over the ship. Carlos and Castro had entered with a
tall, immobile, gold-spectacled Spaniard, dressed all in white, and with
a certain air of noticing and attentive deference, bowing a little as
he entered the cabin in earnest conference with Tomas Castro. Carlos had
preceded them with a certain nonchalance, and the Spaniard--it was
the Señor Ramon, the merchant I had heard of--regarded him as if with
interested curiosity. With Tomas he seemed already familiar. He stood in
the doorway, against the strong light, bowing a little.

With a certain courtesy, touched with indifference, Carlos made him
acquainted with me. Ramon turned his searching, quietly analytic gaze
upon me.

"But is the _caballero_ going over, too?" he asked.

Carlos said, "No. I think not, now."

And at that moment the second mate, shouldering his way through a
white-clothed crowd of shore people, made up behind Señor Ramon. He held
a letter in his hand.

"I am going over," he said, in his high nasal voice, and with a certain
ferocity.

Ramon looked round apprehensively.

Carlos said, "The señor, my cousin, wishes for a Mr. Macdonald. You know
him, senor?"

Ramon made a dry gesture of perfect acquaintance. "I think I have seen
him just now," he said. "I will make inquiries."

All three of them had followed him, and became lost in the crowd. It
was then, not knowing whether I should ever see Carlos again, and with
a desperate, unhappy feeling of loneliness, that I had sought out Barnes
in the dim immensity of the steerage.

In the square of wan light that came down the scuttle he was cording his
hair-trunk--unemotional and very matter-of-fact. He began to talk in an
everyday voice about his plans. An uncle was going to meet him, and to
house him for a day or two before he went to the barracks.

"Mebbe we'll meet again," he said. "I'll be here many years, I think."

He shouldered his trunk and climbed unromantically up the ladder. He
said he would look for Macdonald for me.

It was absurd to suppose that the strange ravings of the second mate had
had an effect on me. "Hanged! Pirates!" Was Carlos really a pirate, or
Castro, his humble friend? It was vile of me to suspect Carlos. A couple
of men, meeting by the scuttle, began to talk loudly, every word coming
plainly to my ears in the stillness of my misery, and the large deserted
steerage. One of them, new from home, was asking questions. Another
answered:

"Oh, I lost half a seroon the last voyage--the old thing."

"Haven't they routed out the scoundrels yet?" the other asked.

The first man lowered his voice. I caught only that "the admiral was an
old fool--no good for this job. He's found out the name of the place the
pirates come from--Rio Medio. That's the place, only he can't get in at
it with his three-deckers. You saw his flagship?"

Rio Medio was the name of the town to which Carlos was going--which his
uncle owned. They moved away from above.

What was I to believe? What could this mean? But the second mate's,
"Scoot, young man," seemed to come to my ears like the blast of a
trumpet. I became suddenly intensely anxious to find Macdonald--to see
no more of Carlos.

From above came suddenly a gruff voice in Spanish. "Señor, it would be a
great folly."

Tomas Castro was descending the ladder gingerly. He was coming to fetch
his bundle. I went hastily into the distance of the vast, dim cavern of
spare room that served for the steerage.

"I want him very much," Carlos said. "I like him. He would be of help to
us."

"It's as your worship wills," Castro said gruffly. They were both at
the bottom of the ladder. "But an Englishman there would work great
mischief. And this youth----"

"I will take him, Tomas," Carlos said, laying a hand on his arm.

"Those others will think he is a spy. I know them," Castro muttered.
"They will hang him, or work some devil's mischief. You do not know that
Irish judge--the _canaille_, the friend of priests."

"He is very brave. He will not fear," Carlos said.

I came suddenly forward. "I will not go with you," Ï said, before I had
reached them even.

Castro started back as if he had been stung, and caught at the wooden
hand that sheathed his steel blade.

"Ah, it is you, Señor," he said, with an air of relief and dislike.
Carlos, softly and very affectionately, began inviting me to go to his
uncle's town. His uncle, he was sure, would welcome me. Jamaica and a
planter's life were not fit for me.

I had not then spoken very loudly, or had not made my meaning very
clear. I felt a great desire to find Macdonald, and a simple life that I
could understand.

"I am not going with you," I said, very loudly this time.

He stopped at once. Through the scuttle of the half-deck we heard a
hubbub of voices, of people exchanging greetings, of Christian names
called out joyously. A tumultuous shuffling of feet went on continuously
over our heads. The ship was crowded with people from the shore. Perhaps
Macdonald was amongst them, even looking for me.

"Ah, _amigo mio_, but you _must_ now," said Carlos gently--"you
must------" And, looking me straight in the face with a still,
penetrating glance of his big, romantic eyes, "It is a good life," he
whispered seductively, "and I like you, John Kemp. You are young-very
young yet. But I love you very much for your own sake, and for the sake
of one I shall never see again."

He fascinated me. He was all eyes in the dusk, standing in a languid
pose just clear of the shaft of light that fell through the scuttle in a
square patch.

I lowered my voice, too. "What life?" I asked.

"Life in my uncle's palace," he said, so sweetly and persuasively that
the suggestiveness of it caused a thrill in me.

His uncle could nominate me to posts of honour fit for a _caballero_.

I seemed to wake up. "Your uncle the pirate!" I cried, and was amazed at
my own words.

Tomas Castro sprang up, and placed his rough, hot hand over my lips.

"Be quiet, John Kemp, you fool!" he hissed with sudden energy.

He had spruced himself, but I seemed to see the rags still nutter about
him. He had combed out his beard, but I could not forget the knots that
had been in it.

"I told your worship how foolish and wrong-headed these English are," he
said sardonically to Carlos. And then to me, "If the senor speaks loudly
again, I shall kill him."

He was evidently very frightened of something.

Carlos, silent as an apparition at the foot of the ladder, put a finger
to his lips and glanced upwards.

Castro writhed his whole body, and I stepped backwards. "I know what Rio
Medio is," I said, not very loudly. "It is a nest of pirates."

Castro crept towards me again on the points of his toes. "Señor Don Juan
Kemp, child of the devil," he hissed, looking very much frightened, "you
must die!"

I smiled. He was trembling all over. I could hear the talking and
laughing that went on under the break of the poop. Two women were
kissing, with little cries, near the hatchway. I could hear them
distinctly.

Tomas Castro dropped his ragged cloak with a grandiose gesture.

"By my hand!" he added with difficulty.

He was really very much alarmed. Carlos was gazing up the hatch. I was
ready to laugh at the idea of dying by Tomas Castro's hand while, within
five feet of me, people were laughing and kissing. I should have laughed
had I not suddenly felt his hand on my throat. I kicked his shins hard,
and fell backwards over a chest. He went back a step or two, flourished
his arm, beat his chest, and turned furiously upon Carlos.

"He will get us murdered," he said. "Do you think we are safe here? If
these people here heard that name they wouldn't wait to ask who
your worship is. They would tear us to pieces in an instant. I tell
you--_moi_, Tomas Castro--he will ruin us, this white fool-------"

Carlos began to cough, shaken speechless as if by an invisible devil.
Castro's eyes ran furtively all round him, then he looked at me. He made
an extraordinary swift motion with his right hand, and I saw that he was
facing me with a long steel blade displayed. Carlos continued to cough.
The thing seemed odd, laughable still. Castro began to parade round
me: it was as if he were a cock performing its saltatory rites before
attacking. There was the same tenseness of muscle. He stepped with
extraordinary care on the points of his toes, and came to a stop about
four feet from me. I began to wonder what Rooksby would have thought of
this sort of thing, to wonder why Castro himself found it necessary to
crouch for such a long time. Up above, the hum of many people, still
laughing, still talking, faded a little out of mind. I understood,
horribly, how possible it would be to die within those few feet of them.
Castro's eyes were dusky yellow, the pupils a great deal inflated,
the lines of his mouth very hard and drawn immensely tight. It seemed
extraordinary that he should put so much emotion into such a very easy
killing. I had my back against the bulkhead, it felt very hard against
my shoulder-blades. I had no dread, only a sort of shrinking from the
actual contact of the point, as one shrinks from being tickled. I opened
my mouth. I was going to shriek a last, despairing call, to the light
and laughter of meetings above when Carlos, still shaken, with one white
hand pressed very hard upon his chest, started forward and gripped his
hand round Castro's steel. He began to whisper in the other's hairy ear.
I caught:

"You are a fool. He will not make us to be molested, he is my kinsman."

Castro made a reluctant gesture towards Barnes' chest that lay between
us.

"We could cram him into that," he said.

"Oh, bloodthirsty fool," Carlos answered, recovering his breath; "is
it always necessary to wash your hands in blood? Are we not in enough
danger? Up--up! Go see if the boat is yet there. We must go quickly;
up--up-------" He waved his hand towards the scuttle.

"But still," Castro said. He was reluctantly fitting his wooden hand
upon the blue steel. He sent a baleful yellow glare into my eyes, and
stooped to pick up his ragged cloak.

"Up--mount!" Carlos commanded.

Castro muttered, "_Vamos_," and began clumsily to climb the ladder, like
a bale of rags being hauled from above. Carlos placed his foot on the
steps, preparing to follow him. He turned his head round towards me, his
hand extended, a smile upon his lips.

"Juan," he said, "let us not quarrel. You are very young; you cannot
understand these things; you cannot weigh them; you have a foolish idea
in your head. I wished you to come with us because I love you, Juan. Do
you think I wish you evil? You are true and brave, and our families are
united." He sighed suddenly.

"I do not want to quarrel!" I said. "I don't."

I did not want to quarrel; I wanted more to cry. I was very lonely, and
he was going away. Romance was going out of my life.

He added musically, "You even do not understand. There is someone else
who speaks for you to me, always--someone else. But one day you will. I
shall come back for you--one day." He looked at me and smiled. It
stirred unknown depths of emotion in me. I would have gone with him,
then, had he asked me. "One day," he repeated, with an extraordinary
cadence of tone.

His hand was grasping mine; it thrilled me like a woman's; he stood
shaking it very gently.

"One day," he said, "I shall repay what I owe you. I wished you with me,
because I go into some danger. I wanted you. Good-by. _Hasta mas ver_."

He leaned over and kissed me lightly on the cheek, then climbed away. I
felt that the light of Romance was going out of my life. As we reached
the top of the ladder, somebody began to call harshly, startlingly. I
heard my own name and the words, "mahn ye were speerin' after."

The light was obscured, the voice began clamouring insistently.

"John Kemp, Johnnie Kemp, noo. Here's the mahn ye were speerin' after.
Here's Macdonald."

It was the voice of Barnes, and the voice of the every day. I discovered
that I had been tremendously upset. The pulses in my temples were
throbbing, and I wanted to shut my eyes--to sleep! I was tired; Romance
had departed. Barnes and the Macdonald he had found for me represented
all the laborious insects of the world; all the ants who are forever
hauling immensely heavy and immenlsely unimportant burdens up weary
hillocks, down steep places, getting nowhere and doing nothing.

Nevertheless I hurried up, stumbling at the hatchway against a man who
was looking down. He said nothing at all, and I was dazed by the light.
Barnes remarked hurriedly, "This 'll be your Mr. Macdonald"; and,
turning his back on me, forgot my existence. I felt more alone than
ever. The man in front of me held his head low, as if he wished to butt
me.

I began breathlessly to tell him I had a letter from
"my--my--Rooksby--brother-in-law--Ralph Rooks-by"--I was panting as if I
had run a long way. He said nothing at all. I fumbled for the letter in
an inner pocket of my waistcoat, and felt very shy. Macdonald maintained
a portentous silence; his enormous body was enveloped rather than
clothed in a great volume of ill-fitting white stuff; he held in his
hand a great umbrella with a vivid green lining. His face was very pale,
and had the leaden transparency of a boiled artichoke; it was fringed
by a red beard streaked with gray, as brown flood-water is with foam.
I noticed at last that the reason for his presenting his forehead to
me was an incredible squint--a squint that gave the idea that he was
performing some tortuous and defiant feat with the muscles of his neck.

He maintained an air of distrustful inscrutability. The hand which took
my letter was very large, very white, and looked as if it would feel
horribly flabby. With the other he put on his nose a pair of enormous
mother-of-pearl-framed spectacles--things exactly like those of a
cobra's--and began to read. He had said precisely nothing at all. It was
for him and what he represented that I had thrown over Carlos and
what _he_ represented. I felt that I deserved to be received with
acclamation. I was not. He read the letter very deliberately, swaying,
umbrella and all, with the slow movement of a dozing elephant. Once he
crossed his eyes at me, meditatively, above the mother-of-pearl rims. He
was so slow, so deliberate, that I own I began to wonder whether Carlos
and Castro were still on board. It seemed to be at least half an
hour before Macdonald cleared his throat, with a sound resembling the
coughing of a defective pump, and a mere trickle of a voice asked:

"Hwhat evidence have ye of identitee?"

I hadn't any at all, and began to finger my buttonholes as shamefaced
as a pauper before a Board. The certitude dawned upon me suddenly that
Carlos, even if he would consent to swear to me, would prejudice my
chances.

I cannot help thinking that I came very near to being cast adrift upon
the streets of Kingston. To my asseverations Macdonald returned
nothing but a series of minute "humphs." I don't know what overcame his
scruples; he had shown no signs of yielding, but suddenly turning on his
heel made a motion with one of his flabby white hands. I understood it
to mean that I was to follow him aft.

The decks were covered with a jabbering turmoil of negroes with muscular
arms and brawny shoulders. All their shining black faces seem to be
momentarily gashed open to show rows of white teeth, and were spotted
with inlaid eyeballs. The sounds coming from them were a bewildering
noise. They were hauling baggage about aimlessly. A large soft bundle
of bedding nearly took me off my legs. There wasn't room for emotion.
Macdonald laid about him with the handle of the umbrella a few inches
from the deck; but the passage that he made for himself closed behind
him.

Suddenly, in the pushing and hurrying, I came upon a little clear space
beside a pile of boxes. Stooping over them was the angular figure of
Nichols, the second mate. He looked up at me, screwing his yellow eyes
together.

"Going ashore," he asked, "'long of that Puffing Billy?"

"What business is it of yours'" I mumbled sulkily.

Sudden and intense threatening came into his yellow eyes:

"Don't you ever come to you know where," he said; "I don't want no spies
on what I do. There's a man there'll crack your little backbone if he
catches you. Don't yeh come now. Never."



PART SECOND -- THE GIRL WITH THE LIZARD



CHAPTER ONE

"Rio Medio?" Señor Ramon said to me nearly two years afterwards. "The
_caballero_ is pleased to give me credit for a very great knowledge.
What should I know of that town? There are doubtless good men there and
very wicked, as in other towns. Who knows? Your worship must ask the
boats' crews that the admiral has sent to burn the town. They will be
back very soon now."

He looked at me, inscrutably and attentively, through his gold
spectacles.

It was on the arcade before his store in Spanish Town. Long sunblinds
flapped slightly. Before the next door a large sign proclaimed
"Office of the _Buchatoro Journal_" It was, as I have said, after two
years--years which, as Carlos had predicted, I had found to be of hard
work, and long, hot sameness. I had come down from Horton Pen to Spanish
Town, expecting a letter from Veronica, and, the stage not being in,
had dropped in to chat with Ramon over a consignment of Yankee notions,
which he was prepared to sell at an extravagantly cheap price. It was
just at the time when Admiral Rowley was understood to be going to make
an energetic attempt upon the pirates who still infested the Gulf of
Mexico and nearly ruined the Jamaica trade of those days. Naturally
enough, we had talked of the mysterious town in which the pirates were
supposed to have their headquarters.

"I know no more than others," Ramon said, "save, senor, that I lose
much more because my dealings are much greater. But I do not even know
whether those who take my goods are pirates, as you English say, or
Mexican privateers, as the Havana authorities say. I do not very much
care. _Basta_, what I know is that every week some ship with a letter
of marque steals one of my consignments, and I lose many hundreds of
dollars."

Ramon was, indeed, one of the most frequented merchants in Jamaica; he
had stores in both Kingston and Spanish Town; his cargoes came from all
the seas. All the planters and all the official class in the island had
dealings with him.

"It was most natural that the hidalgo, your respected cousin, should
consult me if he wished to go to any town in Cuba. Whom else should
he go to? You yourself, señor, or the excellent Mr. Topnambo, if you
desired to know what ships in a month's time are likely to be sailing
for Havana, for New Orleans, or any Gulf port, you would ask me. What
more natural? It is my business, my trade, to know these things. In that
way I make my bread. But as for Rio Medio, I do not know the place." He
had a touch of irony in his composed voice. "But it is very certain,"
he went on, "that if your Government had not recognized the belligerent
rights of the rebellious colony of Mexico, there would be now no letters
of marque, no accursed Mexican privateers, and I and everyone else in
the island should not now be losing thousands of dollars every year."

That was the eternal grievance of every Spaniard in the island--and of
not a few of the English and Scotch planters. Spain was still in
the throes of losing the Mexican colonies when Great Britain had
acknowledged the existence of a state of war and a Mexican Government.
Mexican letters of marque had immediately filled the Gulf. No kind of
shipping was safe from them, and Spain was quite honestly powerless to
prevent their swarming on the coast of Cuba--the Ever Faithful Island,
itself.

"What can Spain do," said Ramon bitterly, "when even your Admiral
Rowley, with his great ships, cannot rid the sea of them?" He lowered
his voice. "I tell you, young señor, that England will lose this Island
of Jamaica over this business. You yourself are a Separationist, are
you not?... No? You live with Separationists. How could I tell? Many
people say you are."

His words gave me a distinctly disagreeable sensation. I hadn't any idea
of being a Separationist; I was loyal enough. But I understood suddenly,
and for the first time, how very much like one I might look.

"I myself am nothing," Ramon went on impassively; "I am content that the
island should remain English. It will never again be Spanish, nor do I
wish that it should. But our little, waspish friend there"--he lifted
one thin, brown hand to the sign of the _Buckatoro Journal_--"his paper
is doing much mischief. I think the admiral or the governor will commit
him to jail. He is going to run away and take his paper to Kingston; I
myself have bought his office furniture."

I looked at him and wondered, for all his impassivity, what he
knew--what, in the depths of his inscrutable Spanish brain, his dark
eyes concealed.

He bowed to me a little. "There will come a very great trouble," he
said.

Jamaica was in those days--and remained for many years after--in the
throes of a question. The question was, of course, that of the abolition
of slavery. The planters as a rule were immensely rich and overbearing.
They said, "If the Home Government tries to abolish our slavery system,
we will abolish the Home Government, and go to the United States for
protection." That was treason, of course; but there was so much of it
that the governor, the Duke of Manchester, had to close his ears and
pretend not to hear. The planters had another grievance--the pirates in
the Gulf of Mexico. There was one in particular, a certain El Demonio
or Diableto, who practically sealed the Florida passage; it was hardly
possible to get a cargo underwritten, and the planters' pockets felt
it a good deal. Practically, El Demonio had, during the last two
years, gutted a ship once a week, as if he wanted to help the Kingston
Separationist papers. The planters said, "If the Home Government wishes
to meddle with our internal affairs, our slaves, let it first clear our
seas.... Let it hang El Demonio. . . ."

The Government had sent out one of Nelson's old captains, Admiral
Rowley, a good fighting man; but when it came to clearing the Gulf of
Mexico, he was about as useless as a prize-fighter trying to clear a
stable of rats. I don't suppose El Demonio really did more than a tithe
of the mischief attributed to him, but in the peculiar circumstances he
found himself elevated to the rank of an important factor in colonial
politics. The Ministerialist papers used to kill him once a month; the
Separationists made him capture one of old Rowley's sloops five times a
year. They both lied, of course. But obviously Rowley and his frigates
weren't much use against a pirate whom they could not catch at sea, and
who lived at the bottom of a bottle-necked creek with tooth rocks all
over the entrance--that was the sort of place Rio Medio was reported to
be. . . .

I didn't much care about either party--I was looking out for
romance--but I inclined a little to the Separationists, because
Macdonald, with whom I lived for two years at Horton Pen, was himself a
Separationist, in a cool Scotch sort of way. He was an Argyleshire man,
who had come out to the island as a lad in 1786, and had worked his way
up to the position of agent to the Rooksby estate at Horton Pen. He had
a little estate of his own, too, at the mouth of the River Minho, where
he grew rice very profitably. He had been the first man to plant it on
the island.

Horton Pen nestled down at the foot of the tall white scars that end the
Vale of St. Thomas and are not much unlike Dover Cliffs, hanging over
a sea of squares of the green cane, alternating with masses of pimento
foliage. Macdonald's wife was an immensely stout, raven-haired,
sloe-eyed, talkative body, the most motherly woman I have ever known--I
suppose because she was childless.

What was anomalous in my position had passed away with the next outward
mail. Veronica wrote to me; Ralph to his attorney and the Macdonalds.
But by that time Mrs. Mac. had darned my socks ten times.

The surrounding gentry, the large resident landowners, of whom there
remained a sprinkling in the Vale, were at first inclined to make much
of me. There was Mrs. Topnambo, a withered, very dried-up personage, who
affected pink trimmings; she gave the _ton_ to the countryside as far as
ton could be given to a society that rioted with hospitality. She
made efforts to draw me out of the Macdonald environment, to make me
differentiate myself, because I was the grandson of an earl. But the
Topnambos were the great Loyalists of the place, and the Macdonalds the
principal Separationists, and I stuck to the Macdonalds. I was searching
for romance, you see, and could find none in Mrs. Topnambo's white
figure, with its dryish, gray skin, and pink patches round the neck,
that lay forever in dark or darkened rooms, and talked querulously of
"Your uncle, the earl," whom I had never seen. I didn't get on with the
men any better. They were either very dried up and querulous, too, or
else very liquorish or boisterous in an incomprehensible way. Their
evenings seemed to be a constant succession of shouts of laughter,
merging into undignified staggers of white trousers through blue
nights--round the corners of ragged huts. I never understood the hidden
sources of their humour, and I had not money enough to mix well with
their lavishness. I was too proud to be indebted to them, too.
They didn't even acknowledge me on the road at last; they called
me poor-spirited, a thin-blooded nobleman's cub--a Separationist
traitor--and left me to superintend niggers and save money. Mrs. Mac,
good Separationist though she was, as became the wife of her husband,
had the word "home" forever on her lips. She had once visited the
Rooksbys at Horton; she had treasured up a host of tiny things, parts
of my forgotten boyhood, and she talked of them and talked of them until
that past seemed a wholly desirable time, and the present a dull thing!

Journeying in search of romance--and that, after all, is our business in
this world--is much like trying to eaten the horizon. It lies a little
distance before us, and a little _distance behind--about as far as the
eye can carry._ One, discovers that one has passed through it just as
one passed what is to-day our horizon--One looks back and says. "Why
there it is." One looks forward and says the same. It lies either in
the old days when we used to, or in _the new days when we shall_. I look
back upon those days of mine, and little things remain, come back to me,
assume an atmosphere, take significance, go to the making of a _temps
jadis_. Probably, when I look back upon what is the dull, arid waste of
to-day, it will be much the same.

I could almost wish to take again one of the long, uninteresting night
rides from the Vale to Spanish Town, or to listen once more to one of
old Macdonald's interminable harangues on the folly of Mr. Canning's
policy, or the virtues of Scotch thrift. "Jack, lad," he used to bellow
in his curious squeak of a voice, "a gentleman you may be of guid Scots
blood. But ye're a puir body's son for a' that." He was set on my making
money and turning honest pennies. I think he really liked me.

It was with that idea that he introduced me to Ramon, "an esteemed
Spanish merchant of Kingston and Spanish Town." Ramon had seemed
mysterious when I had seen him in company with Carlos and Castro but
re-introduced in the homely atmosphere of the Macdonalds, he had become
merely a saturnine, tall, dusky-featured, gold-spectacled Spaniard, and
very good company. I learnt nearly all my Spanish from him. The only
mystery about him was the extravagantly cheap rate at which he sold
his things under the flagstaff in front of Admiral Rowley's house, the
King's House, as it was called. The admiral himself was said to have
extensive dealings with Ramon; he had at least the reputation of
desiring to turn an honest penny, like myself. At any rate, everyone,
from the proudest planters to the editor of the _Buckatoro Journal_
next door, was glad of a chat with Ramon, whose knowledge of an immense
variety of things was as deep as a draw-well--and as placid.

I used to buy island produce through him, ship it to New Orleans, have
it sold, and re-import parcels of "notions," making a double profit. He
was always ready to help me, and as ready to talk, saying that he had an
immense respect for my relations, the Riegos.

That was how, at the end of my second year in the island, I had come to
talking to him. The stage should have brought a letter from Veronica,
who was to have presented Rooksby with a son and heir, but it was
unaccountably late. I had been twice to the coach office, and was making
my way desultorily back to Ramon's. He was talking to the editor of the
_Buckatoro Journal_--the man from next door--and to another who had,
whilst I walked lazily across the blazing square, ridden furiously up
to the steps of the arcade. The rider was talking to both of them with
exaggerated gestures of his arms. He had ridden off, spurring, and the
editor, a little, gleaming-eyed hunchback, had remained in the sunshine,
talking excitedly to Ramon.

I knew him well, an amusing, queer, warped, Satanic member of society,
who was a sort of nephew to the Macdonalds, and hand in glove with
all the Scotch Separationists of the island. He had started an
extraordinary, scandalous paper that, to avoid sequestration, changed
its name and offices every few issues, and was said by Loyalists, like
the Topnambos, to have an extremely bad influence.

He subsisted a good deal on the charity of people like the Macdonalds,
and I used sometimes to catch sight of him at evenfall listening to Mrs.
Macdonald; he would be sitting beside her hammock on the veranda, his
head very much down on his breast, very much on one side, and his great
hump portending over his little white face, and ruffling up his ragged
black hair. Mrs. Macdonald clacked all the scandal of the Vale, and the
_Buckatoro Journal_ got the benefit of it all, with adornments.

For the last month or so the Journal had been more than usually
effective, and it was only because Rowley was preparing to confound his
traducers by the boat attack on Rio Medio, that a warrant had not come
against David. When I saw him talking to Ramon, I imagined that the
rider must have brought news of a warrant, and that David was preparing
for flight. He hopped nimbly from Ramon's steps into the obscurity of
his own door. Ramon turned his spectacles softly upon me.

"There you have it," he said. "The folly; the folly! To send only little
boats to attack such a nest of villains. It is inconceivable."

The horseman had brought news that the boats of Rowley's squadron had
been beaten off with great loss, in their attack on Rio Medio.

Ramon went on with an air of immense superiority, "And all the while we
merchants are losing thousands."

His dark eyes searched my face, and it came disagreeably into my head
that he was playing some part; that his talk was delusive, his anger
feigned; that, perhaps, he still suspected me of being a Separationist.
He went on talking about the failure of the boat attack. All Jamaica had
been talking of it, speculating about it, congratulating itself on it.
British valour was going to tell; four boats' crews would do the trick.
And now the boats had been beaten off, the crews captured, half the men
killed! Already there was panic on the island. I could see men coming
together in little knots, talking eagerly. I didn't like to listen
to Ramon, to a Spaniard talking in that way about the defeat of my
countrymen by his. I walked across the King's Square, and the stage
driving up just then, I went to the office, and got my correspondence.

Veronica's letter came like a faint echo, like the sound of very distant
surf, heard at night; it seemed impossible that any one could be as
interested as she in the things that were happening over there. She had
had a son; one of Ralph's aunts was its godmother. She and Ralph had
been to Bath last spring; the country wanted water very badly. Ralph had
used his influence, had explained matters to a very great personage,
had spent a little money on the injured runners. In the meanwhile I had
nearly forgotten the whole matter; it seemed to be extraordinary that
they should still be interested in it.

I was to come back; as soon as it was safe I was to come back; that was
the main tenor of the letter.

I read it in a little house of call, in a whitewashed room that
contained a cardboard cat labelled "The Best," for sole ornament. Four
swarthy fellows, Mexican patriots, were talking noisily about their War
of Independence, and the exploits of a General Trapelascis, who had
been defeating the Spanish troops over there. It was almost impossible
to connect them with a world that included Veronica's delicate
handwriting with the pencil lines erased at the base of each line of
ink. They seemed to be infinitely more real. Even Veronica's interest
in me seemed a little strange; her desire for my return irritated me. It
was as if she had asked me to return to a state of bondage, after having
found myself. Thinking of it made me suddenly aware that I had become a
man, with a man's aims, and a disillusionized view of life. It suddenly
appeared very wonderful that I could sit calmly there, surveying, for
instance, those four sinister fellows with daggers, as if they were
nothing at all. When I had been at home the matter would have caused
me extraordinary emotions, as many as if I had seen an elephant in a
travelling show. As for going back to my old life, it didn't seem to be
possible.



CHAPTER TWO

One night I was riding alone towards Horton Pen. A large moon hung
itself up above me like an enormous white plate. Finally the sloping
roof of the Ferry Inn, with one dishevelled palm tree drooping over it,
rose into the disk. The window lights were reflected like shaken torches
in the river. A mass of objects, picked out with white globes, loomed
in the high shadow of the inn, standing motionless. They resolved
themselves into a barouche, with four horses steaming a great deal, and
an army of negresses with bandboxes on their heads. A great lady was
on the road; her querulous voice was calling to someone within the open
door that let down a soft yellow light from the top of the precipitous
steps. A nondescript object, with apparently two horns and a wheel,
rested inert at the foot of the sign-post; two negroes were wiping their
foreheads beside it. That resolved itself into a man slumbering in a
wheelbarrow, his white face turned up to the moon. A sort of buzz of
voices came from above; then a man in European clothes was silhouetted
against the light in the doorway. He held a full glass very carefully
and started to descend. Suddenly he stopped emotionally. Then he turned
half-right and called back, "Sir Charles! Sir Charles! Here's the very
man! I protest, the very man!" There was an interrogative roar from
within. It was like being outside a lion's cage.

People appeared and disappeared in front of the lighted door; windows
stood open, with heads craning out all along the inn face. I was
hurrying off the back of my horse when the admiral came out on to the
steps. Someone lit a torch, and the admiral became a dark, solid figure,
with the flash of the gold lace on his coat. He stood very high in the
leg; had small white whiskers, and a large nose that threw a vast shadow
on to his forehead in the upward light; his high collar was open, and a
mass of white appeared under his chin; his head was uncovered. A third
male face, very white, bobbed up and down beside his shining left
shoulder. He kept on saying:

"What? what? what? Hey, what?... That man?" He appeared to be halfway
between supreme content and violent anger. At last he delivered himself.
"Let's duck him... hey?... Let's duck him!" He spoke with a sort of
benevolent chuckle, then raised his voice and called, "Tinsley! Tinsley!
Where the deuce is Tinsley?"

A high nasal sound came from the carriage window. "Sir Charles! Sir
Charles! Let there be no scene in my presence, I beg."

I suddenly saw, halfway up, laboriously ascending the steps, a black
figure, indistinguishable at first on account of deformities. It was
David Macdonald. Since his last, really terrible comments on the failure
of the boat-attack, he had been lying hidden somewhere. It came upon me
in a flash that he was making his way from one hiding place to another.
In making his escape from Spanish Town, either to Kingston or the
Vale, he had run against the admiral and his party returning from the
Topnambos' ball. It was hardly a coincidence: everyone on the road met
at the Ferry Inn. But that hardly made the thing more pleasant.

Sir Charles continued to clamour for Tinsley, his flag lieutenant, who,
as a matter of fact, was the man drunk in the wheelbarrow. When this was
explained by the shouts of the negroes, he grunted, "Umph!" turned on
the man at his side, and said, "Here, Oldham; you lend a hand to duck
the little toad." It was the sort of thing that the thirsty climate
of Jamaica rendered frequent enough. Oldham dropped his glass and
protested. Macdonald continued silently and enigmatically to climb
the steps; now he was in for it he showed plenty of pluck. No doubt
he recognized that, if the admiral made a fool of himself, he would be
afraid to issue warrants in soberness. I could not stand by and see
them bully the wretched little creature. At the same time I didn't, most
decidedly, want to identify myself with him.

I called out impulsively, "Sir Charles, surely you would not use
violence to a cripple."

Then, very suddenly, they all got to action, David Macdonald reaching
the top of the steps. Shrieks came from the interior of the carriage,
and from the waiting négresses. I saw three men were falling upon a
little thing like a damaged cat. I couldn't stand that, come what might
of it.

I ran hastily up the steps, hoping to be able to make them recover their
senses, a force of purely conventional emotion impelling me. It was
no business of mine; I didn't want to interfere, and I felt like a
man hastening to separate half a dozen fighting dogs too large to be
pleasant.

When I reached the top, there was a sort of undignified scuffle, and
in the end I found myself standing above a ghastly white gentleman who,
from a sitting posture, was gasping out, "I'll commit you!... I swear
I'll commit you!..." I helped him to his feet rather apologetically,
while the admiral behind me was asking insistently who the deuce I was.
The man I had picked up retreated a little, and then turned back to look
at me. The light was shining on my face, and he began to call out, "I
know him. I know him perfectly well. He's John Kemp. I'll commit him at
once. The papers are in the barouche." After that he seemed to take it
into his head that I was going to assault him again. He bolted out
of sight, and I was left facing the admiral. He stared at me
contemptuously. I was streaming with perspiration and upbraiding him for
assaulting a cripple.

The admiral said, "Oh, that's what you think? I will settle with
you presently. This is rank mutiny." I looked at Oldham, who was the
admiral's secretary. He was extremely dishevelled about his neck, much
as if a monkey had been clawing him thereabouts. Half of his roll collar
flapped on his heaving chest; his stock hung down behind like a cue.
I had seen him kneeling on the ground with his head pinned down by the
hunchback. I said loftily:

"What did you set him on a little beggar like that for? You were three
to one. What did you expect?"

The admiral swore. Oldham began to mop with a lace handkerchief at a
damaged upper lip from which a stream of blood was running; he even
seemed to be weeping a little. Finally, he vanished in at the door, very
much bent together. The undaunted David hopped in after him coolly.

The admiral said, "I know your kind. You're a treasonous dog, sir. This
is mutiny. You shall be made an example of."

All the same he must have been ashamed of himself, for presently he and
the two others went down the steps without even looking at me, and their
carriage rolled away.

Inside the inn I found a couple of merchant captains, one asleep with
his head on the table and little rings shining in his great red ears;
the other very spick and span--of what they called the new school then.
His name was Williams--Captain Williams of the _Lion_, which he part
owned; a man of some note for the dinners he gave on board his ship. His
eyes sparkled blue and very round in a round rosy face, and he clawed
effusively at my arm.

"Well done!" he bubbled over. "You gave it them; strike me, you did! It
did me good to see and hear. I wasn't going to poke my nose in, not I.
But I admire you, my boy."

He was a quite guileless man with a strong dislike for the admiral's
blundering--a dislike that all the seamen shared--and for people of the
Topnambo kidney who affected to be above his dinners. He assured me that
I had burst upon those gentry roaring... "like the Bull of Bashan. You
should have seen!" and he drank my health in a glass of punch.

David Macdonald joined us, looming through wreaths of tobacco smoke. He
was always very nice in his dress, and had washed himself into a state
of enviable coolness.

"They won't touch me now," he said. "I wanted that assault and
battery...." He suddenly turned vivid, sarcastic black eyes upon me.
"But you," he said--"my dear Kemp! You're in a devil of a scrape!
They'll have a warrant out against you under the Black Act. I know the
gentry."

"Oh, he won't mind," Williams struck in, "I know him; he's a trump.
Afraid of nothing."

David Macdonald made a movement of his head that did duty for an ominous
shake:

"It's a devil of a mess," he said. "But I'll touch them up. Why did you
hit Topnambo? He's the spitefullest beast in the island. They'll make it
out high treason. They are capable of sending you home on this charge."

"Oh, never say die." Williams turned to me, "Come and dine with me on
board at Kingston to-morrow night. If there's any fuss I'll see what I
can do. Or you can take a trip with me to Havana till it blows over. My
old woman's on board." His face fell. "But there, you'll get round her.
I'll see you through."

They drank some sangaree and became noisy. I wasn't very happy;
there was much truth in what David Macdonald had said. Topnambo would
certainly do his best to have me in jail--to make an example of me as
a Separationist to please the admiral and the Duke of Manchester. Under
the spell of his liquor Williams became more and more pressing with his
offers of help.

"It's the devil that my missus should be on board, just this trip. But
hang it! come and dine with me. I'll get some of the Kingston men--the
regular hot men--to stand up for you. They will when they hear the
tale."

There was a certain amount of sense in what he said. If warrants were
out against me, he or some of the Kingston merchants whom he knew, and
who had no cause to love the admiral, might help me a good deal.

Accordingly, I did go down to Kingston. It happened to be the day when
the seven pirates were hanged at Port Royal Point. I had never seen a
hanging, and a man who hadn't was rare in those days. I wanted to keep
out of the way, but it was impossible to get a boatman to row me off to
the _Lion_. They were all dying to see the show, and, half curious, half
reluctant, I let myself drift with the crowd.

The gallows themselves stood high enough to be seen--a long very stout
beam supported by posts at each end. There was a blazing sun, and the
crowd pushed and shouted and craned its thousands of heads every time
one heard the cry of "Here they come," for an hour or so. There was a
very limpid sky, a very limpid sea, a scattering of shipping gliding up
and down, and the very silent hills a long way away. There was a large
flavour of Spaniards among the crowd. I got into the middle of a knot of
them, jammed against the wheels of one of the carriages, standing, hands
down, on tiptoe, staring at the long scaffold. There were a great many
false alarms, sudden outcries, hushing again rather slowly. In between
I could hear someone behind me talk Spanish to the occupants of the
carriage. I thought the voice was Ramon's, but I could not turn, and the
people in the carriage answered in French, I thought. A man was shouting
"Cool Drinks" on the other side of them.

Finally, there was a roar, an irresistible swaying, a rattle of musket
ramrods, a rhythm of marching feet, and the grating of heavy iron-bound
wheels. Seven men appeared in sight above the heads, clinging to each
other for support, and being drawn slowly along. The little worsted
balls on the infantry shakos bobbed all round their feet. They were
a sorry-looking group, those pirates; very wild-eyed, very ragged,
dust-stained, weather-beaten, begrimed till they had the colour of
unpolished mahogany. Clinging still to each other as they stood beneath
the dangling ropes of the long beam, they had the appearance of a
group of statuary to forlorn misery. Festoons of chains completed the
"composition."

One was a very old man with long yellow-white hair, one a negro
whose skin had no lustre at all. The rest were very dark-skinned,
peak-bearded, and had long hair falling round their necks. A soldier
with a hammer and a small anvil climbed into the cart, and bent down out
of sight. There was a ring of iron on iron, and the man next the very
old man raised his arms and began to speak very slowly, very distinctly,
and very mournfully. It was quite easy to understand him; he declared
his perfect innocence. No one listened to him; his name was Pedro Nones.
He ceased speaking, and someone on a horse, the High Sheriff, I think,
galloped impatiently past the cart and shouted. Two men got into the
cart, one pulled the rope, the other caught the pirate by the elbows.
He jerked himself loose, and began to cry out; he seemed to be lost in
amazement, and shrieked:

"_Adonde está el padre?... Adonde está el padre?_" No one answered; there
wasn't a priest of any denomination; I don't know whether the omission
was purposed. The man's face grew convulsed with agony, his eyeballs
stared out very white and vivid, as he struggled with the two men. He
began to curse us epileptically for compassing his damnation. A hoarse
patter of Spanish imprecations came from the crowd immediately round me.
The man with the voice like Ramon's groaned in a lamentable way; someone
else said, "What infamy . . . what infamy!"

An aged voice said tremulously in the carriage, "This shall be a matter
of official remonstrance." Another said, "Ah, these English heretics!"

There was a forward rush of the crowd, which carried me away. Someone
in front began to shout orders, and the crowd swayed back again. The
infantry muskets rattled. The commotion lasted some time. When it
ceased, I saw that the man about to die had been kissing the very old
man; tears were streaming down the gray, parchment-coloured cheeks.
Pedro Nones had the rope round his neck; it curved upwards loosely
towards the beam, growing taut as the cart jolted away. He shouted:

"_Adiôs, viejo, para siempre adi------_"

My whole body seemed to go dead all over. I happened to look downwards
at my hands; they were extraordinarily white, with the veins standing
out all over them. They felt as if they had been sodden in water, and
it was quite a long time before they recovered their natural colour.
The rest of the men were hung after that, the cart jolting a little way
backwards and forwards and growing less crowded after every journey.
One man, who was very large framed and stout, had to go through it twice
because the rope broke. He made a good deal of fuss. My head ached, and
after the involuntary straining and craning to miss no details was over,
I felt sick and dazed. The people talked a great deal as they streamed
back, loosening over the broader stretch of pebbles; they seemed to wish
to remind each other of details. I have an idea that one or two, in
the sheer largeness of heart that seizes one after occasions of popular
emotions, asked me in exulting voices if I had seen the nigger's tongue
sticking out.

Others thought that there wasn't very much to be exultant over. We
had not really captured the pirates; they had been handed over to
the admiral by the Havana authorities--as an international courtesy I
suppose, or else because they were pirates of no account and short in
funds, or because the admiral had been making a fuss in front of the
Morro. It was even asserted by the anti-admiral faction that the seven
weren't pirates at all, but merely Cuban _mauvais sujets_, hawkers of
derogatory _coplas_, and known freethinkers. In any case, excited people
cheered the High Sheriff and the returning infantry, because it was
pleasant to hang any kind of Spaniard. I got nearly knocked down by the
kettle-drummers, who came through the scattering crowd at a swinging
quick-step. As I cannoned off the drums, a hand caught at my arm, and
someone else began to speak to me. It was old Ramon, who was telling
me that he had a special kind of Manchester goods at his store. He
explained that they had arrived very lately, and that he had come from
Spanish Town solely on their account. One made the eighth of a penny a
yard more on them than on any other kind. If I would deign to have some
of it offered to my inspection, he had his little curricle just off the
road. He was drawing me gently towards it all the time, and I had not
any idea of resisting. He had been behind in the crowd, he said, beside
the carriage of the commissioner and the judge of the Marine Court sent
by the Havana authorities to deliver the pirates.

It was after that, that in Ramon's dusky store, I had my first sight
of Seraphina and of her father, and then came my meeting with Carlos. I
could hardly believe my eyes when I saw him come out with extended hand.
It was an extraordinary sensation, that of talking to Carlos again. He
seemed to have worn badly. His face had lost its moist bloom, its hardly
distinguishable subcutaneous flush. It had grown very, very pale. Dark
blue circles took away from the blackness and sparkle of his eyes. And
he coughed, and coughed.

He put his arm affectionately round my shoulders and said, "How splendid
to see you again, my Juan." His eyes had affection in them, there was no
doubt about that, but I felt vaguely suspicious of him. I remembered how
we had parted on board the _Thames_. "We can talk here," he added; "it
is very pleasant. You shall see my uncle, that great man, the star of
Cuban law, and my cousin Seraphina, your kinsfolk. They love you; I have
spoken well of you." He smiled gayly, and went on, "This is not a place
befitting his greatness, nor my cousin's, nor, indeed, my own." He
smiled again. "But I shall be very soon dead, and to me it matters
little." He frowned a little, and then laughed. "But you should have
seen the faces of your officers when my uncle refused to go to their
governor's palace; there was to have been a _fiesta_, a 'reception'; is
it not the word? It will cause a great scandal."

He smiled with a good deal of fine malice, and looked as if he expected
me to be pleased. I said that I did not quite understand what had
offended his uncle.

"Oh, it was because there was no priest," Carlos answered, "when those
poor devils were hung. They were _canaille_. Yes; but one gives that
much even to such. And my uncle was there in his official capacity as a
a plenipotentiary. He was very much distressed: we were all. You heard,
my uncle himself had advised their being surrendered to your English.
And when there was no priest he repented very bitterly. Why, after all,
it was an infamy."

He paused again, and leant back against the counter. When his eyes
were upon the ground and his face not animated by talking, there became
lamentably insistent his pallor, the deep shadows under his eyes, and
infinite sadness in the droop of his features, as if he were preoccupied
by an all-pervading and hopeless grief. When he looked at me, he smiled,
however.

"Well, at worst it is over, and my uncle is here in this dirty place
instead of at your palace. We sail back to Cuba this very evening." He
looked round him at Ramon's calicos and sugar tubs in the dim light, as
if he accepted almost incredulously the fact that they could be in
such a place, and the manner of his voice indicated that he thought
our governor's palace would have been hardly less barbarous. "But I
am sorry," he said suddenly, "because I wanted you--you and all your
countrymen--to make a good impression on him. You must do it yourself
alone. And you will. You are not like these others. You are our kinsman,
and I have praised you very much. You saved my life."

I began to say that I had done nothing at all, but he waved his hand
with a little smile.

"You are very brave," he said, as if to silence me. "I am not
ungrateful."

He began again to ask for news from home--from my home. I told him that
Veronica had a baby, and he sighed.

"She married the excellent Rooksby?" he asked. "Ah, what a waste." He
relapsed into silence again. "There was no woman in your land like her.
She might have------- And to marry that--that excellent personage, my
good cousin. It is a tragedy."

"It was a very good match," I answered.

He sighed again. "My uncle is asleep in there, now," he said, after a
pause, pointing at the inner door. "We must not wake him; he is a very
old man. You do not mind talking to me? You will wait to see them? Dona
Seraphina is here, too."

"You have not married your cousin?" I asked.

I wanted very much to see the young girl who had looked at me for a
moment, and I certainly should have been distressed if Carlos had said
she was married.

He answered, "What would you have?" and shrugged his shoulders gently. A
smile came into his face. "She is very willful. I did not please her, I
do not know why. Perhaps she has seen too many men like me."

He told me that, when he reached Cuba, after parting with me on the
_Thames_, his uncle, "in spite of certain influences," had received
him quite naturally as his heir, and the future head of the family. But
Seraphina, whom by the laws of convenience he ought to have married, had
quite calmly refused him.

"I did not impress her; she is romantic. She wanted a very bold man, a
Cid, something that it is not easy to have."

He paused again, and looked at me with some sort of challenge in his
eyes.

"She could have met no one better than you," I said.

He waved his hand a little. "Oh, for that-------" he said deprecatingly.
"Besides, I am dying. I have never been well since I went into your cold
sea, over there, after we left your sister. You remember how I coughed
on board that miserable ship."

I did remember it very well.

He went to the inner door, looked in, and then came back to me.

"Seraphina needs a guide--a controller--someone very strong and gentle,
and kind and brave. My uncle will never ask her to marry against her
wish; he is too old and has too little will. And for any man who would
marry her--except one--there would be great dangers, for her and for
him. It would need a cool man, and a brave man, and a good one, too, to
hazard, perhaps even life, for her sake. She will be very rich. All
our lands, all our towns, all our gold." There was a suggestion of
fabulousness in his dreamy voice. "They shall never be mine," he added.
"_Vaya_."

He looked at me with his piercing eyes set to an expression that
might have been gentle mockery. At any rate, it also contained intense
scrutiny, and, perhaps, a little of appeal. I sighed myself.

"There is a man called O'Brien in there," he said. "He does us the
honour to pretend to my cousin's hand."

I felt singularly angry. "Well, he's not a Spaniard," I said.

Carlos answered mockingly, "Oh, for Spaniard, no. He is a descendant of
the Irish kings."

"He's an adventurer," I said. "You ought to be on your guard. You don't
know these bog-trotting fortune-hunters. They're the laughter of Europe,
kings and all."

Carlos smiled again. "He's a very dangerous man for all that," he said.
"I should not advise any one to come to Rio Medio, my uncle's town,
without making a friend of the Señor O'Brien."

He went once more to the inner door, and, after a moment's whispering
with someone within, returned to me.

"My uncle still sleeps," he said. "I must keep you a little longer. Ah,
yes, the Señor O'Brien. He shall marry my cousin, I think, when I am
dead."

"You don't know these fellows," I said.

"Oh, I know them very well," Carlos smiled, "there are many of them at
Havana. They came there after what they call the '98, when there was
great rebellion in Ireland, and many good Catholics were killed and
ruined."

"Then he's a rebel, and ought to be hung," I said.

Carlos laughed as of old. "It may be, but, my good Juan, we Christians
do not see eye to eye with you. This man rebelled against your
government, but, also, he suffered for the true faith. He is a good
Catholic; he has suffered for it; and in the Ever Faithful Island, that
is a passport. He has climbed very high; he is a judge of the Marine
Court at Havana. That is why he is here to-day, attending my uncle in
this affair of delivering up the pirates. My uncle loves him very much.
O'Brien was at first my uncle's clerk, and my uncle made him a _juez_,
and he is also the intendant of my uncle's estates, and he has a great
influence in my uncle's town of Rio Medio. I tell you, if you come to
visit us, it will be as well to be on good terms with the Señor Juez
O'Brien. My uncle is a very old man, and if I die before him, this
O'Brien, I think, will end by marrying my cousin, because my poor uncle
is very much in his hands. There are other pretenders, but they have
little chance, because it is so very dangerous to come to my uncle's
town of Rio Medio, on account of this man's intrigues and of his power
with the populace."

I looked at Carlos intently. The name of the town had seemed to be
familiar to me. Now I suddenly remembered that it was where Nicolas
el Demonio, the pirate who was so famous as to be almost mythical, had
beaten off Admiral Rowley's boats.

"Come, you had better see this Irish hidalgo who wants to do us so much
honour,"--he gave an inscrutable glance at me,--"but do not talk loudly
till my uncle wakes."

He threw the door open. I followed him into the room, where the vision
of the ancient Don and the charming apparition of the young girl had
retreated only a few moments before.



CHAPTER THREE

The room was very lofty and coldly dim; there were great bars in front
of the begrimed windows. It was very bare, containing only a long black
table, some packing cases, and half a dozen rocking chairs. Of these,
five were very new and one very old, black and heavy, with a green
leather seat and a coat of arms worked on its back cushions. There
were little heaps of mahogany sawdust here and there on the dirty tiled
floor, and a pile of sacking in one corner. Beneath a window the flap
of an open trap-door half hid a large green damp-stain; a deep recess
in the wall yawned like a cavern, and had two or three tubs in the
right corner; a man with a blond head, slightly bald as if he had been
tonsured, was rocking gently in one of the new chairs.

Opposite him, with his aged face towards us, sat the old Don asleep in
the high chair. His delicate white hands lay along the arms, one of them
holding a gold vinaigrette; his black, silver-headed cane was between
his silk-stockinged legs. The diamond buckles of his shoes shot out
little vivid rays, even in that gloomy place. The young girl was sitting
with her hands to her temples and her elbows on the long table, minutely
examining the motionlessness of a baby lizard, a tiny thing with golden
eyes, whom fear seemed to have turned into stone.

We entered quietly, and after a moment she looked up candidly into my
eyes, and placed her finger on her lips, motioning her head towards her
father. She placed her hand in mine, and whispered very clearly:

"Be welcome, my English cousin," and then dropped her eyes again to the
lizard.

She knew all about me from Carlos. The man of whom I had seen only the
top of his head, turned his chair suddenly and glinted at me with little
blue eyes. He was rather small and round, with very firm flesh, and very
white, plump hands. He was dressed in the black clothes of a Spanish
judge. On his round face there was always a smile like that which
hangs around the jaws of a pike--only more humorous. He bowed a little
exaggeratedly to me and said:

"Ah, ye are that famous Mr. Kemp."

I said that I imagined him the more famous Señor Juez O'Brien.

"It's little use saying ye arren't famous," he said. His voice had the
faint, infinitely sweet twang of certain Irishry; a thing as delicate
and intangible as the scent of lime flowers. "Our noble friend"--he
indicated Carlos with a little flutter of one white hand--"has told me
what make of a dare-devil gallant ye are; breaking the skulls of half
the Bow Street runners for the sake of a friend in distress. Well,
I honour ye for it; I've done as much myself." He added, "In the old
days," and sighed.

"You mean in the '98," I said, a little insolently.

O'Brien's eyes twinkled. He had, as a matter of fact, nearly lost his
neck in the Irish fiasco, either in Clonmel or Sligo, bolting violently
from the English dragoons, in the mist, to a French man-of-war's boats
in the bay. To him, even though he was now a judge in Cuba, it was an
episode of heroism of youth--of romance, in fact. So that, probably, he
did not resent my mention of it. I certainly wanted to resent something
that was slighting in his voice, and patronizing in his manner.

The old Don slumbered placidly, his face turned up to the distant
begrimed ceiling.

"Now, I'll make you a fair offer," O'Brien said suddenly, after an
intent study of the insolent glance that I gave him. I disliked him
because I knew nothing about the sort of man he was. He was, as a matter
of fact, more alien to me than Carlos. And he gave me the impression
that, if perhaps he were not absolutely the better man, he could still
make a fool of me, or at least make me look like a fool.

"I'm told you are a Separationist," he said. "Well, it's like me. I am
an Irishman; there has been a price on my head in another island. And
there are warrants out against you here for assaulting the admiral. We
can work together, and there's nothing low in what I have in mind for
you."

He had heard frequently from Carlos that I was a desperate and
aristocratically lawless young man, who had lived in a district entirely
given up to desperate and murderous smugglers. But this was the first I
had heard definitely of warrants against me in Jamaica. That, no
doubt, he had heard from Ramon, who knew everything. In all this little
sardonic Irishman said to me, it seemed the only thing worth attention.
It stuck in my mind while, in persuasive tones, and with airy fluency,
he discoursed of the profits that could be made, nowadays, in arming
privateers under the Mexican flag. He told me I needn't be surprised
at their being fitted out in a Spanish colony. "There's more than one
aspect to disloyalty like this," said he dispassionately, but with a
quick wink contrasting with his tone.

Spain resented our recognition of their rebellious colonies. And with
the same cool persuasiveness, relieved by humorous smiles, he explained
that the loyal Spaniards of the Ever Faithful Island thought there was
no sin in doing harm to the English, even under the Mexican flag, whose
legal existence they did not recognize.

"Mind ye, it's an organized thing, I have something to say in it. It
hurts Mr. Canning's Government at home, the curse of Cromwell on him and
them. They will be dropping some of their own colonies directly. And as
you are a Separationist, small blame to you, and I am an Irishman, we
shan't cry our eyes out over it. Come, Mr. Kemp, 'tis all for the good
of the Cause.... And there's nothing _low_. You are a gentleman, and I
wouldn't propose anything that was. The very best people in Havana are
interested in the matter. Our schooners lie in Rio Medio, but I can't be
there all the time myself."

Surprise deprived me of speech. I glanced at Carlos. He was watching us
inscrutably. The young girl touched the lizard gently, but it was too
frightened to move. O'Brien, with shrewd glances, rocked his chair....
What did I want? he inquired. To see life? What he proposed was the
life for a fine young fellow like me. Moreover, I was half Scotch. Had I
forgotten the wrongs of my own country? Had I forgotten the '45?

"You'll have heard tell of a Scotch Chief Justice whose son spent
in Amsterdam the money his father earned on the justice seat in
Edinb'ro'--money paid for rum and run silks . . ."

Of course I had heard of it; everybody had; but it had been some years
before.

"We're backwards hereabouts," O'Brien jeered. "But over there they
winked and chuckled at the judge, and they do the same in Havana at us."

Suddenly from behind us the voice of the young girl said, "Of what do
you discourse, my English cousin?"

O'Brien interposed deferentially. "Señorita, I ask him to come to Rio,"
he said.

She turned her large dark eyes scrutinizingly upon me, then dropped them
again. She was arranging some melon seeds in a rayed circle round the
lizard that looked motionlessly at her.

"Do not speak very loudly, lest you awaken my father," she warned us.

The old Don's face was still turned to the ceiling. Carlos, standing
behind his chair, opened his mouth a little in a half smile. I was
really angry with O'Brien by that time, with his air of omniscience,
superiority, and self-content, as if he were talking to a child or
someone very credulous and weak-minded.

"What right have you to speak for me, Señor Juez?" I said in the best
Spanish I could.

The young girl looked at me once more, and then again looked down.

"Oh, I can speak for you," he answered in English, "because I know. Your
position's this." He sat down in his rocking chair, crossed his legs,
and looked at me as if he expected me to show signs of astonishment at
his knowing so much. "You're in a hole. You must leave this island of
Jamaica--surely it's as distressful as my own dear land--and you can't
go home, because the runners would be after you. You're 'wanted' here as
well as there, and you've nowhere to go."

I looked at him, quite startled by this view of my case. He extended one
plump hand towards me, and still further lowered his voice.

"Now, I offer you a good berth, a snug berth. And 'tis a pretty spot."
He got a sort of languorous honey into his voice, and drawled out,
"The--the Señorita's." He took an air of businesslike candour. "You can
help us, and we you; we could do without you better than you without us.
Our undertaking--there's big names in it, just as in the Free Trading
you know so well, don't be saying you don't--is worked from Havana. What
we need is a man we can trust. We had one--Nichols. You remember the
mate of the ship you came over in. He was Nicola el Demonio; he won't be
any longer--I can't tell you why, it's too long a story."

I did remember very vividly that cadaverous Nova Scotian mate of the
_Thames_, who had warned me with truculent menaces against showing
my face in Rio Medio. I remembered his sallow, shiny cheeks, and the
exaggerated gestures of his claw-like hands.

O'Brien smiled. "Nichols is alive right enough, but no more good than if
he were dead. And that's the truth. He pretends his nerve's gone; he was
a devil among tailors for a time, but he's taken to crying now. It was
when your blundering old admiral's boats had to be beaten off that
his zeal cooled. He thinks the British Government will rise in its
strength." There was a bitter contempt in his voice, but he regained
his calm business tone. "It will do nothing of the sort. I've given them
those seven poor devils that had to die to-day without absolution. So
Nichols is done for, as far as we are concerned. I've got him put away
to keep him from blabbing. You can have his place--and better than his
place. He was only a sailor, which you are not. However, you know enough
of ships, and what we want is a man with courage, of course, but also a
man we can trust. Any of the Creoles would bolt into the bush the moment
they'd five dollars in hand. We'll pay you well; a large share of all
you take."

I laughed outright. "You're quite mistaken in your man," I said. "You
are, really."

He shook his head gently, and brushed an invisible speck from his plump
black knees.

"You _must_ go somewhere," he said. "Why not go with us?"

I looked at him, puzzled by his tenacity and assurance.

"Ramon here has told us you battered the admiral last night; and there's
a warrant out already against you for attempted murder. You're hand and
glove with the best of the Separationists in this island, I know, but
they won't save you from being committed--for rebellion, perhaps. You
know it as well as I do. You were down here to take a passage to-day,
weren't you, now?"

I remembered that the Island Loyalists said that the pirates and
Separationists worked together to bother the admiral and raise
discontent. Living in the centre of Separationist discontent with the
Macdonalds, I knew it was not true. But nothing was too bad to say
against the planters who clamoured for union with the United States.

O'Brien leaned forward. His voice had a note of disdain, and then took
one of deeper earnestness; it sank into his chest. He extended his hand;
his eyebrows twitched. He looked--he was--a conspirator.

"I tell you I do it for the sake of Ireland," he said passionately.
"Every ship we take, every clamour they raise here, is a stroke and is
disgrace for them over there that have murdered us and ruined my own
dear land." His face worked convulsively; I was in the presence of one
of the primeval passions. But he grew calm immediately after. "_You_
want Separation for reasons of your own. I don't ask what they are. No
doubt you and your crony Macdonald and the rest of them will feather
your own nests; I don't ask. But help me to be a thorn in their
sides--just a little--just a little longer. What do I put in your way?
Just what you want. Have your Jamaica joined to the United States.
You'll be able to come back with your pockets full, and I'll be
joyful--for the sake of my own dear land."

I said suddenly and recklessly--if I had to face one race-passion, he
had to look at another; we were cat and dog--Celt and Saxon, as it was
in the beginning: "I am not a traitor to my country." Then I realized
with sudden concern that I had probably awakened the old Don. He stirred
uneasily in his chair, and lifted one hand.

"The moment I go out from here I'll denounce you," I said very low; "I
swear I will. You're here; you can't get away; you'll swing."

O'Brien started. His eyes blazed at me. Then he frowned. "I've been
misled," he muttered, with a dark glance at Carlos. And recovering his
jocular serenity, "Ye mean it?" he asked; "it's not British heroics?"

The old Don stirred again and sighed. The young girl glided swiftly to
his side. "Señor O'Brien," she said, "you have so irritated my English
cousin that he has awakened my father."

O'Brien grinned gently. "'Tis ever the way," he said sardonically. "The
English fools do the harm and the Irish fool gets the kicking." He rose
to his feet, quite collected, a spick-and-span little man. "I suppose
I've said too much. Well, well! You are going to denounce the senior
judge of the Marine Court of Havana as a pirate. I wonder who will
believe you!" He went behind the old Don's chair with the gliding motion
of a Spanish lawyer, and slipped down the open trap-hatch near the
window.

It was the disappearance of a shadow. I heard some guttural mutterings
come up through the hatch, a rustling, then silence. If he was afraid
of me at all he carried it off very well. I apologized to the young girl
for having awakened her father. Her colour was very high, and her eyes
sparkled. If she had not been so very beautiful I should have gone away
at once. She said angrily:

"He is odious to me, the Señor Juez. Too long my father has suffered his
insolence." She was very small, but she had an extraordinary dignity of
command. "I could see, Señor, that he was annoying you. Why should you
consider such a creature?" Her head drooped. "But my father is very
old."

I turned upon Carlos, who stood all black in the light of the window.

"Why did you make me meet him? He may be a judge of your Marine Court,
but he's nothing but a scoundrelly bog-trotter."

Carlos said a little haughtily, "You must not denounce him. You should
not leave this place if I feared you would try thus to bring dishonour
on this gray head, and involve this young girl in a public scandal." His
manner became soft. "For the honour of the house you shall say nothing.
And you shall come with us. I need you."

I was full of mistrust now. If he did countenance this unlawful
enterprise, whose headquarters were in Rio Medio, he was not the man
for me. Though it was big enough to be made, by the papers at home,
of political importance, it was, after all, neither more nor less
than piracy. The idea of my turning a sort of Irish traitor was so
extravagantly outrageous that now I could smile at the imbecility of
that fellow O'Brien. As to turning into a sea-thief for lucre--my blood
boiled.

No. There was something else there. Something deep; something dangerous;
some intrigue, that I could not conceive even the first notion of. But
that Carlos wanted anxiously to make use of me for some purpose was
clear. I was mystified to the point of forgetting how heavily I was
compromised even in Jamaica, though it was worth remembering, because
at that time an indictment for rebellion--under the Black Act--was no
joking matter. I might be sent home under arrest; and even then, there
was my affair with the runners.

"It is coming to pay a visit," he was saying persuasively, "while your
affair here blows over, my Juan--and--and--making my last hours easy,
perhaps."

I looked at him; he was worn to a shadow--a shadow with dark wistful
eyes. "I don't understand you," I faltered.

The old man stirred, opened his lids, and put a gold vinaigrette to his
nostrils.

"Of course I shall not denounce O'Brien," I said. "I, too, respect the
honour of your house."

"You are even better than I thought you. And if I entreat you, for the
love of your mother--of your sister? Juan, it is not for myself, it
is------"

The young girl was pouring some drops from a green phial into a silver
goblet; she passed close to us, and handed it to her father, who had
leant a little forward in his chair. Every movement of hers affected me
with an intimate joy; it was as if I had been waiting to see just that
carriage of the neck, just that proud glance from the eyes, just that
droop of eyelashes upon the cheeks, for years and years.

"No, I shall hold my tongue, and that's enough," I said.

At that moment the old Don sat up and cleared his throat. Carlos
sprang towards him with an infinite grace of tender obsequiousness. He
mentioned my name and the relationship, then rehearsed the innumerable
titles of his uncle, ending "and patron of the Bishopric of Pinar del
Rio."

I stood stiffly in front of the old man. He bowed his head at intervals,
holding the silver cup carefully whilst his chair rocked a little. When
Carlos' mellow voice had finished the rehearsing of the sonorous styles,
I mumbled something about "transcendent honour."

He stopped me with a little, deferentially peremptory gesture of one
hand, and began to speak, smiling with a contraction of the lips and a
trembling of the head. His voice was very low, and quavered slightly,
but every syllable was enunciated with the same beauty of clearness that
there was in his features, in his hands, in his ancient gestures.

"The honour is to me," he said, "and the pleasure. I behold my kinsman,
who, with great heroism, I am told, rescued my dearly loved nephew from
great dangers; it is an honour to me to be able to give him thanks. My
beloved and lamented sister contracted a union with an English hidalgo,
through whose house your own very honourable family is allied to my own;
it is a pleasure to me to meet after many years with one who has seen
the places where her later life was passed."

He paused, and breathed with some difficulty, as if the speech had
exhausted him. Afterwards he began to ask me questions about Rooksby's
aunt--the lamented sister of his speech. He had loved her greatly, he
said. I knew next to nothing about her, and his fine smile and courtly,
aged, deferential manners made me very nervous. I felt as if I had been
taken to pay a ceremonial visit to a supreme pontiff in his dotage. He
spoke about Horton Priory with some animation for a little while, and
then faltered, and forgot what he was speaking of. Suddenly he said:

"But where is O'Brien? Did he write to the Governor here? I should like
you to know the Señor O'Brien. He is a spiritual man."

I forbore to say that I had already seen O'Brien, and the old man sank
into complete silence. It was beginning to grow dark, and the noise of
suppressed voices came from the open trap-door. Nobody said anything.

I felt a sort of uneasiness; I could by no means understand the
connection between the old Don and what had gone before, and I did not,
in a purely conventional sense, know how long I ought to stop. The sky
through the barred windows had grown pallid.

The old Don said suddenly, "You must visit my poor town of Rio Medio,"
but he gave no specific invitation and said nothing more.

Afterwards he asked, rather querulously, "But where is O'Brien? He must
write those letters for me."

The young girl said, "He has preceded us to the ship; he will write
there."

She had gone back to her seat. Don Balthasar shrugged his shoulders to
his ears, and moved his hands from his knees.

"Without doubt, he knows best," he said, "but he should ask me."

It grew darker still; the old Don seemed to have fallen asleep again.
Save for the gleam of the silver buckle of his hat, he had disappeared
into the gloom of the place. I remembered my engagement to dine with
Williams on board the _Lion_, and I rose to my feet. There did not seem
to be any chance of my talking to the young girl. She was once more
leaning nonchalantly over the lizard, and her hair drooped right across
her face like clusters of grapes. There was a gleam on a little piece
of white forehead, and all around and about her there were shadows
deepening. Carlos came concernedly towards me as I looked at the door.

"But you must not go yet," he said a little suavely; "I have many things
to say. Tell me----"

His manner heightened my uneasiness to a fear. The expression of his
eyes changed, and they became fixed over my shoulder, while on his lips
the words "You must come, you must come," trembled, hardly audible. I
could only shake my head. At once he stepped back as if resigning.
He was giving me up--and it occurred to me that if the danger of his
seduction was over, there remained the danger of arrest just outside the
door.

Some one behind me said peremptorily, "It is time," and there was a
flickering diminution of the light. I had a faint instantaneous view of
the old Don dozing, with his head back--of the tall windows, cut up into
squares by the black bars. Something hairily coarse ran harshly down
my face; I grew blind; my mouth, my eyes, my nostrils were filled with
dust; my breath shut in upon me became a flood of warm air. I had no
time to resist. I kicked my legs convulsively; my elbows were drawn
tight against my sides. Someone grunted under my weight; then I was
carried--down, along, up, down again; my feet were knocking along a
wall, and the top of my head rubbed occasionally against what must have
been the roof of a low stone passage, issuing from under the back room
of Ramon's store. Finally, I was dropped upon something that felt like
a heap of wood-shavings. My surprise, rage, and horror had been so great
that, after the first stifled cry, I had made no sound. I heard the
footsteps of several men going away.



CHAPTER FOUR

I remained lying there, bound hand and foot, for a long time; for quite
long enough to allow me to collect my senses and see that I had been a
fool to threaten O'Brien. I had been nobly indignant, and behold! I
had a sack thrown over my head for my pains, and was put away safely
somewhere or other. It seemed to be a cellar.

I was in search of romance, and here were all the elements; Spaniards,
a conspirator, and a kidnapping; but I couldn't feel a fool and
romantic as well. True romance, I suppose, needs a whirl of emotions to
extinguish all the senses except that of sight, which it dims. Except
for sight, which I hadn't at all, I had the use of them all, and all
reported unpleasant things.

I ached and smarted with my head in a sack, with my mouth full of
flour that had gone mouldy and offended my nostrils; I had a sense of
ignominy, and I was extremely angry; I could see that the old Don was in
his dotage--but Carlos I was bitter against.

I was not really afraid; I could not suppose that the Riegos would allow
me to be murdered or seriously maltreated. But I was incensed against
Fate or Chance or whatever it is--on account of the ignominious details,
the coarse sack, the mouldy flour, the stones of the tunnel that
had barked my shins, the tightness of the ropes that bound my ankles
together, and seemed to cut into my wrists behind my back.

I waited, and my fury grew in a dead silence. How would it end--with
what outrage? I would show my contempt and preserve my dignity by
submitting without a struggle--I despised this odious plot. At last
there were voices, footsteps; I found it very hard to carry out my
resolution and refrain from stifled cries and kicks. I was lifted up and
carried, like a corpse, with many stumbles, by men who sometimes growled
as they hastened along. From time to time somebody murmured, "Take
care." Then I was deposited into a boat. The world seemed to be swaying,
splashing, jarring--and it became obvious to me that I was being taken
to some ship. The Spanish ship, of course. Suddenly I broke into cold
perspiration at the thought that, after all, their purpose might be
to drop me quickly overboard. "Carlos!" I cried. I felt the point of a
knife on my breast. "Silence, Señor!" said a gruff voice.

This fear vanished when we came alongside a ship evidently already under
way; but I was handled so roughly and clumsily that I was thoroughly
exhausted and out of breath, by the time I was got on board. All was
still around me; I was left alone on a settee in the main cabin, as I
imagined. For a long time I made no movement; then a door opened and
shut. There was a murmured conversation between two voices. This went
on in animated whispers for a time. At last I felt as if someone were
trying, rather ineffectually, to remove the sack itself. Finally, that
actually did rub its way over my head, and something soft and silken
began to wipe my eyes with a surprising care, and even tenderness. "This
was stupidly done," came a discontented remark; "you do not handle a
_caballero_ like this."

"And how else was it to be done, to that kind of _caballero?_" was the
curt retort.

By that time I had blinked my eyes into a condition for remaining open
for minute stretches. Two men were bending over me--Carlos and O'Brien
himself. The latter said:

"Believe me, your mistake made this necessary. This young gentleman was
about to become singularly inconvenient, and he is in no way harmed."

He spoke in a velvety voice, and walked away gently through the
darkness. Carlos followed with the lanthorn dangling at arm's length;
strangely enough he had not even looked at me. I suppose he was ashamed,
and I was too proud to speak to him, with my hands and feet tied fast.
The door closed, and I remained sitting in the darkness. Long small
windows grew into light at one end of the place, curved into an outline
that suggested a deep recess. The figure of a crowned woman, that moved
rigidly up and down, was silhouetted over my body. Groaning creaks of
wood and the faint swish of water made themselves heard continuously.

I turned my head to a click, I saw a door open a little way, and the
small blue flame of a taper floated into the room. Then the door closed
with a definite sound of shutting in. The light shone redly through
protecting fingers, and upwards on to a small face. It came to a halt,
and I made out the figure of a girl leaning across a table and looking
upwards. There was a click of glass, and then a great blaze of light
created a host of shining things; a glitter of gilded carvings, red
velvet couches, a shining table, a low ceiling, painted white, on carved
rafters. A large silver lamp she had lighted kept on swinging to the
gentle motion of the ship.

She stood just in front of me; the girl that I had seen through the
door; the girl I had seen play with the melon seeds. She was breathing
fast--it agitated me to be alone with her--and she had a little shining
dagger in her hand.

She cut the rope round my ankles, and motioned me imperiously to turn
round. "Your hands--your hands!"

I turned my back awkwardly to her, and felt the grip of small, cool,
very firm fingers upon my wrists. My arms fell apart, numb and perfectly
useless; I was half aware of pain in them, but it passed unnoticed among
a cloud of other emotions. I didn't feel my finger-tips because I had
the agitation, the flutter, the tantalization of looking at her.

I was all the while conscious of the--say, the irregularity of my
position, but I felt very little fear. There were the old Don, an
ineffectual, silver-haired old gentleman, who obviously was not a
pirate; the sleek O'Brien, and Carlos, who seemed to cough on the edge
of a grave--and this young girl. There was not any future that I could
conceive, and the past seemed to be cut off from me by a narrow, very
dark tunnel through which I could see nothing at all.

The young girl was, for the moment, what counted most on the whole,
the only thing the eye could rest on. She affected me as an apparition
familiar, yet absolutely new in her charm. I had seen her gray eyes; I
had seen her red lips; her dark hair, her lithe gestures; the carriage
of her head; her throat, her hands. I knew her; I seemed to have known
her for years. A rush of strange, sweet feeling made me dumb. She was
looking at me, her lips set, her eyes wide and still; and suddenly she
said:

"Ask nothing. The land is not far yet. You can escape, Carlos
thought.... But no! You would only perish for nothing. Go with God." She
pointed imperiously towards the square stern-ports of the cabin.

Following the direction of her hand, my eyes fell upon the image of a
Madonna; rather large--perhaps a third life-size; with a gilt crown,
a pink serious face bent a little forward over a pink naked child that
perched on her left arm and raised one hand. It stood on a bracket,
against the rudder casing, with fat cherubs' heads carved on the
supports. The young girl crossed herself with a swift motion of the
hand. The stern-ports, glazed in small panes, were black, and gleaming
in a white frame-work.

"Go--go--go with God," the girl whispered urgently. "There is a
boat-------"

I made a motion to rise; I wanted to go. The idea of having my liberty,
of its being again a possibility, made her seem of less importance;
other things began to have their share. But I could not stand, though
the blood was returning, warm and tingling, in my legs and hands. She
looked at me with a sharp frown puckering her brows a little; beat a
hasty tattoo with one of her feet, and cast a startled glance towards
the forward door that led on deck. Then she walked to the other side of
the table, and sat looking at me in the glow of the lamp.

"Your life hangs on a thread," she murmured.

I answered, "You have given it to me. Shall I never-------?" I was
acutely conscious of the imperfection of my language.

She looked at me sharply; then lowered her lids. Afterwards she raised
them again. "Think of yourself. Every moment is-------"

"I will be as quick as I can," I said.

I was chafing my ankles and looking up at her. I wanted, very badly, to
thank her for taking an interest in me, only I found it very difficult
to speak to her. Suddenly she sprang to her feet:

"That man thinks he can destroy you. I hate him--I detest him! You have
seen how he treats my father."

It struck me, like a blow, that she was merely avenging O'Brien's
insolence to her father. I had been kidnapped against Don Balthasar
Riego's will. It gave me very well the measure of the old man's
powerlessness in face of his intendant--who was obviously confident of
afterwards soothing the resentment.

I was glad I had not thanked her for taking an interest in me. I was
distressed, too, because once more I had missed Romance by an inch.

Someone kicked at the locked door. A voice cried--I could not help
thinking--warningly, "Seraphina, Seraphina," and another voice said with
excessive softness, "_Senorita! Voyons! quelle folie_."

She sprang at me. Her hand hurt my wrist as she dragged me aft. I
scrambled clumsily into the recess of the counter, and put my head out.
The night air was very chilly and full of brine; a little boat towing
by a long painter was sheering about in the phosphorescent wake of the
ship. The sea itself was pallid in the light of the moon, invisible to
me. A little astern of us, on our port quarter, a vessel under a press
of canvas seemed to stand still; looming up like an immense pale ghost.
She might have been coming up with us, or else we had just passed her--I
couldn't tell. I had no time to find out, and I didn't care. The great
thing was to get hold of the painter. The whispers of the girl urged me,
but the thing was not easy; the rope, fastened higher up, streamed
away out of reach of my hand. At last, by watching the moment when it
slacked, and throwing myself half out of the stern window, I managed to
hook it with my finger-tips. Next moment it was nearly jerked away from
me, but I didn't lose it, and the boat taking a run just then under the
counter, I got a good hold. The sound of another kick at the door made
me swing myself out, head first, without reflection. I got soused to the
waist before I had reached the bows of the boat. With a frantic effort
I clambered up and rolled in. When I got on my legs, the jerky motion
of tossing had ceased, the boat was floating still, and the light of
the stern windows was far away already. The girl had managed to cut the
painter.

The other vessel was heading straight for me, rather high on the water,
broad-beamed, squat, and making her way quietly, like a shadow. The
land might have been four or five miles away--I had no means of knowing
exactly. It looked like a high black cloud, and purple-gray mists here
and there among the peaks hung like scarves.

I got an oar over the stern to scull, but I was not fit for much
exertion. I stared at the ship I had left. Her stern windows glimmered
with a slight up-and-down motion; her sails seemed to fall into black
confusion against the blaze of the moon; faint cries came to me out of
her, and by the alteration of her shape I understood that she was being
brought to, preparatory to lowering a boat. She might have been half a
mile distant when the gleam of her stern windows swung slowly round and
went out. I had no mind to be recaptured, and began to scull frantically
towards the other vessel. By that time she was quite near--near
enough for me to hear the lazy sound of the water at her bows, and the
occasional flutter of a sail. The land breeze was dying away, and in the
wake of the moon I perceived the boat of my pursuers coming over, black
and distinct; but the other vessel was nearly upon me. I sheered under
her starboard bow and yelled, "Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy!"

There was a lot of noise on board, and no one seemed to hear my shouts.
Several voices yelled. "That cursed Spanish ship ahead is heaving-to
athwart our hawse." The crew and the officers seemed all to be forward
shouting abuse at the "lubberly Dago," and it looked as though I were
abandoned to my fate. The ship forged ahead in the light air; I failed
in my grab at her fore chains, and my boat slipped astern, bumping
against the side. I missed the main chain, too, and yelled all the time
with desperation, "For God's sake! Ship ahoy! For God's sake throw me a
rope, some-, body, before it's too late!"

I was giving up all hope when a heavy coil--of a brace, I suppose--fell
upon my head, nearly knocking me over. Half stunned as I was,
desperation lent me strength to scramble up her side hand over hand,
while the boat floated away from under my feet. I was done up when I got
on the poop. A yell came from forward, "Hard aport." Then the same voice
addressed itself to abusing the Spanish ship very close to us now. "What
do you mean by coming-to right across my bows like this?" it yelled in a
fury.

I stood still in the shadows on the poop. We were drawing slowly past
the stern of the Spaniard, and O'Brien's voice answered in English:

"We are picking up a boat of ours that's gone adrift with a man. Have
you seen anything of her?" "No--confound you and your boat." Of course
those forward knew nothing of my being on board. The man who had thrown
me the rope--a passenger, a certain Major Cowper, going home with his
wife and child--had walked away proudly, without deigning as much as to
look at me twice, as if to see a man clamber on board a ship ten miles
from the land was the most usual occurrence. He was, I found afterwards,
an absurd, pompous person, as stiff as a ramrod, and so full of his
own importance that he imagined he had almost demeaned himself by his
condescension in throwing down the rope in answer to my despairing
cries. On the other hand, the helmsman, the only other person aft, was
so astounded as to become quite speechless. I could see, in the light of
the binnacle thrown upon his face, his staring eyes and his open mouth.

The voice forward had subsided by then, and as the stern of the Spanish
ship came abreast of the poop, I stepped out of the shadow of the sails,
and going close to the rail I said, not very loud--there was no need to
shout--but very distinctly:

"I am out of your clutches, Mr. O'Brien, after all. I promise you that
you shall hear of me yet."

Meanwhile, another man had come up from forward on the poop, growling
like a bear, a short, rotund little man, the captain of the ship. The
Spanish vessel was dropping astern, silent, with her sails all black,
hiding the low moon. Suddenly a hurried hail came out of her.

"What ship is this?"

"What's that to you, blank your eyes? The _Breeze_, if you want to know.
What are you going to do about it?" the little skipper shouted fiercely.
In the light wind the ships were separating slowly.

"Where are you bound to?" hailed O'Brien's voice again.

The little skipper laughed with exasperation. "Dash your blanked
impudence. To Havana, and be hanged to you. Anything more you want to
know? And my name's Lumsden, and I am sixty years old, and if I had you
here, I would put a head on you for getting in my way, you------"

He stopped, out of breath. Then, addressing himself to his passenger:

"That's the Spanish chartered ship that brought these sanguinary
pirates that were hanged this morning, major. She's taking the Spanish
commissioner back. I suppose they had no man-of-war handy for the
service in Cuba. Did you ever------"

He had caught sight of me for the first time, and positively jumped a
foot high with astonishment.

"Who on earth's that there?"

His astonishment was comprehensible. The major, Without deigning to
enlighten him, walked proudly away. He was too dignified a person to
explain.

It was left to me. Frequenting, as I had been doing, Ramon's store,
which was a great gossiping centre of the maritime world in Kingston, I
knew the faces and the names of most of the merchant captains who used
to gather there to drink and swap yarns. I was not myself quite unknown
to little Lumsden. I told him all my story, and all the time he kept
on scratching his bald head, full of incredulous perplexity. Old Señor
Ramon! Such a respectable man. And I had been kidnapped? From his store!

"If I didn't see you here in my cuddy before my eyes, I wouldn't believe
a word you say," he declared absurdly.

But he was ready enough to take me to Havana. However, he insisted upon
calling down his mate, a gingery fellow, short, too, but wizened, and as
stupid as himself.

"Here's that Kemp, you know. The young fellow that Macdonald of the
Horton Pen picked up somewhere two years ago. The Spaniards in that
ship kidnapped him--so he says. He says they are pirates. But that's a
government chartered ship, and all the pirates that have ever been in
her were hanged this morning in Kingston. But here he is, anyhow. And
he says that at home he had throttled a Bow Street runner before he went
off with the smugglers. Did you ever hear the likes of it, Mercer? I
shouldn't think he was telling us a parcel of lies; hey, Mercer?"

And the two grotesque little chaps stood nodding their heads at me
sagaciously.

"He's a desperate character, then," said Mercer at last, cautiously.
"This morning, the very last thing I heard ashore, as I went to fetch
the fresh beef off, is that he had been assaulting a justice of the
peace on the highroad, and had been trying to knock down the admiral,
who was coming down to town in a chaise with Mr. Topnambo. There's a
warrant out against him under the Black Act, sir."

Then he brightened up considerably. "So he must have been kidnapped or
something after all, sir, or he would be in chokey now."

It was true, after all. Romance reserved me for another fate, for
another sort of captivity, for more than one sort. And my imagination
had been captured, enslaved already by the image of that young girl who
had called me her English cousin, the girl with the lizard, the girl
with the dagger! And with every word she uttered romance itself, if I
had only known it, the romance of persecuted lovers, spoke to me through
her lips.

That night the Spanish ship had the advantage of us in a freshening
wind, and overtook the _Breeze_. Before morning dawned she passed us,
and before the close of the next day she was gone out of sight ahead,
steering, apparently, the same course with ourselves.

Her superior sailing had an enormous influence upon my fortunes; and I
was more adrift in the world than ever before, more in the dark as to
what awaited me than when I was lugged along with my head in a sack.
I gave her but little thought. A sort of numbness had come over me. I
could think of the girl who had cut me free, and for all my resentment
at the indignity of my treatment, I had hardly a thought to spare for
the man who had me bound. I was pleased to remember that she hated him;
that she had said so herself. For the rest, I had a vague notion of
going to the English Consul in Havana. After all, I was not a complete
nobody. I was John Kemp, a gentleman, well connected; I could prove
it. The Bow Street runner had not been dead as I had thought. The
last letter from Veronica informed me that the man had given up
thief-catching, and was keeping, now, a little inn in the neighbourhood.
Ralph, my brother-in-law, had helped him to it, no doubt. I could come
home safely now.

And I had discovered I was no longer anxious to return home.



CHAPTER FIVE

There wasn't any weirdness about the ship when I woke in the sunlight.
She was old and slow and rather small. She carried Lumsden (master),
Mercer (mate), a crew that seemed no better and no worse than any other
crew, and the old gentleman who had thrown me the rope the night before,
and who seemed to think that he had derogated from his dignity in doing
it. He was a Major Cowper, retiring from a West Indian regiment, and had
with him his wife and a disagreeable little girl, with a yellow pigtail
and a bony little chest and arms.

On the whole, they weren't the sort of people that one would have chosen
for companions on a pleasure-trip. Major Cowper's wife lay all day in a
deck chair, alternately drawing to her and repulsing the whining little
girl. The major talked to me about the scandals with which the world was
filled, and kept a suspicious eye upon his wife. He spent the morning
in shaving what part of his face his white whiskers did not cover, the
afternoon in enumerating to me the subjects on which he intended to
write to the Horse Guards. He had grown entirely amiable, perhaps for
the reason that his wife ignored my existence.

Meantime I let the days slip by idly, only wondering how I could manage
to remain in Havana and breathe the air of the same island with the girl
who had delivered me. Perhaps some day we might meet--who knows? I was
not afraid of that Irishman.

It never occurred to me to bother about the course we were taking,
till one day we sighted the Cuban coast, and I heard Lumsden and Mercer
pronounce the name of Rio Medio. The two ridiculous old chaps talked
of Mexican privateers, which seemed to rendezvous off that place.
They pointed out to me the headland near the bay. There was no sign of
privateer or pirate, as far as the eye could reach. In the course of
beating up to windward we closed in with the coast, and then the wind
fell.

I remained motionless against the rail for half the night, looking at
the land. Not a single light was visible. A wistful, dreamy longing, a
quiet longing pervaded me, as though I had been drugged. I dreamed, as
young men dream, of a girl's face. She was sleeping there within this
dim vision of land. Perhaps this was as near as I should ever be able to
approach her. I felt a sorrow without much suffering. A great stillness
reigned around the ship, over the whole earth. At last I went below and
fell asleep.

I was awakened by the idea that I had heard an extraordinary
row--shouting and stamping. But there was a dead silence, to which I
was listening with all my ears. Suddenly there was a little pop, as if
someone had spat rather vigorously; then a succession of shouts, then
another little pop, and more shouts, and the stamping overhead. A woman
began to shriek on the other side of the bulkhead, then another woman
somewhere else, then the little girl. I hurried on deck, but it was some
minutes before I could make things fit together. I saw Major Cowper on
the poop; he was brandishing a little pistol and apostrophizing Lumsden,
who was waving ineffectual arms towards the sky; and there was a
great deal of shouting, forward and overhead. Cowper rushed at me, and
explained that something was an abominable scandal, and that there were
women on board. He waved his pistol towards the side; I noticed that the
butt was inlaid with mother-of-pearl Lumsden rushed at him and clawed at
his clothes, imploring him not to be rash.

We were so close in with the coast that the surf along the shore gleamed
and sparkled in full view.

Someone shouted aloft, "Look out! They are firing again."

Then only I noticed, a quarter of a mile astern and between the land and
us, a little schooner, rather low in the water, curtseying under a cloud
of white canvas--a wonderful thing to look at. It was as if I had never
seen anything so instinct with life and the joy of it. A snowy streak
spattered away from her bows at each plunge. She came at a great speed,
and a row of faces looking our way became plain, like a beady decoration
above her bulwarks. She swerved a little out of her course, and a sort
of mushroom of smoke grew out of her side; there was a little gleam of
smouldering light hidden in its heart. The spitting bang followed again,
and something skipped along the wave-tops beside us, raising little
pillars of spray that drifted away on the wind. The schooner came back
on her course, heading straight for us; a shout like groaned applause
went up from on board us. Lumsden hid his face in his hands.

I could hear little Mercer shrieking out orders forwards. We were
shortening sail. The schooner, luffing a little, ranged abreast. A hail
like a metal blare came out of her.

"If you donn'd heef-to we seenk you! We seenk you! By God!"

Major Cowper was using abominable language beside me. Suddenly he began
to call out to someone:

"Go down... go down, I say."

A woman's face disappeared into the hood of the companion like a
rabbit's tail into its burrow. There was a great volley of cracks from
the loose sails, and the ship came to. At the same time the schooner,
now on our beam and stripped of her light kites, put in stays and
remained on the other tack, with her foresheet to windward.

Major Cowper said it was a scandal. The country was going to the
dogs because merchantmen were not compelled by law to carry guns. He
spluttered into my ears that there wasn't so much as a twopenny signal
mortar on board, and no more powder than enough to load one of his
duelling pistols. He was going to write to the Horse Guards.

A blue-and-white ensign fluttered up to the main gaff of the schooner; a
boat dropped into the water. It all went breathlessly--I hadn't time to
think. I saw old Cowper run to the side and aim his pistol overboard;
there was an ineffectual click; he made a gesture of disgust, and tossed
it on deck. His head hung dejectedly down upon his chest.

Lumsden said, "Thank God, oh, thank God!" and the old man turned on him
like a snarling dog.

"You infernal coward," he said. "Haven't you got a spark of courage?"

A moment after, our decks were invaded by men, brown and ragged, leaping
down from the bulwarks one after the other.

They had come out at break of day (we must have been observed the
evening before), a big schooner--full of as ill-favoured, ragged rascals
as the most vivid imagination could conceive. Of course, there had been
no resistance on our part. We were outsailed, and at the first ferocious
hail the halyards had been let go by the run, and all our crew had
bolted aloft. A few bronzed bandits posted abreast of each mast kept
them there by the menace of bell-mouthed blunderbusses pointed upwards.
Lumsden and Mercer had been each tied flat down to a spare spar. They
presented an appearance too ridiculous to awaken genuine compassion.
Major Cowper was made to sit on a hen-coop, and a bearded pirate, with
a red handkerchief tied round his head and a cutlass in his hand, stood
guard over him. The major looked angry and crestfallen. The rest of that
infamous crew, without losing a moment, rushed into the cuddy to loot
the cabins for wearing apparel, jewellery, and money. They squabbled
amongst themselves, throwing the things on deck into a great heap of
booty.

The schooner flying the Mexican flag remained hove to abeam. But in the
man in command of the boarding party I recognized Tomas Castro!

He _was_ a pirate. My surmises were correct. He looked the part to the
life, in a plumed hat, cloaked to the chin, and standing apart in a
saturnine dignity.

"Are you going to have us all murdered, Castro?" I asked, with
indignation. To my surprise he did not seem to recognize me; indeed, he
pretended not to see me at all. I might have been thin air for any sign
he gave of being aware of my presence; but, turning his back on me, he
addressed himself to the ignobly captive Lumsden, telling him that he,
Castro, was the commander of that Mexican schooner, and menacing him
with dreadful threats of vengeance for what he called the resistance we
had offered to a privateer of the Republic. I suppose he was pleased to
qualify with the name of armed resistance the miserable little pop of
the major's pocket pistol. To punish that audacity he announced that no
private property would be respected.

"You shall have to give up all the money on board," he yelled at the
wretched man lying there like a sheep ready for slaughter. The other
could only gasp and blink. Castro's ferocity was so remarkable that for
a moment it struck me as put on. There was no necessity for it. We were
meek and silent enough, only poor Major Cowper muttered:

"My wife and child. . . ."

The ragged brown men were pouring on deck from below; their arms full
of bundles. Half a dozen of them started to pull off the main hatch
tarpaulin. Up aloft the crew looked down with scared eyes. I began to
say excitedly, in my indignation, almost into his very ear:

"I know you, Tomas Castro--I know you--Tomas Castro."

Even then he seemed not to hear; but at last he looked into my face
balefully, as if he wished to convey the plague to me.

"Hold your tongue," he said very quickly in Spanish. "This is folly!"
His little hawk's beak of a nose nestled in his moustache. He waved his
arm and declared forcibly, "I don't know you. I am Nicola el Demonio,
the Mexican."

Poor old Cowper groaned. The reputation of Nicola el Demonio, if rumours
were to be trusted, was a horrible thing for a man with women depending
on him.

Five or six of these bandits were standing about Lumsden, the major,
and myself, fingering the locks of their guns. Poor old Cowper, breaking
away from his guard, was raging up and down the poop; and the big pirate
kept him off the companion truculently. The major wanted to get below;
the little girl was screaming in the cuddy, and we could hear her very
plainly. It was rather horrible. Castro had gone forward into the crowd
of scoundrels round the hatchway. It was only then that I realized that
Major Cowper was in a state of delirious apprehension and fury; I seemed
to remember at last that for a long time he had been groaning somewhere
near me. He kept on saying:

"Oh, for God's sake--for God's sake--my poor wife."

I understood that he must have been asking me to do something.

It came as a shock to me. I had a vague sensation of his fears. Up till
then I hadn't realized that any one could be much interested in Mrs.
Cowper.

He caught hold of my arm, as if he wanted support, and stuttered:

"Couldn't you--couldn't you speak to------" He nodded in the direction
of Tomas Castro, who was bent and shouting down the hatch. "Try
to-------" the old man gasped. "Didn't you hear the child scream?" His
face was pallid and wrinkled, like a piece of crumpled paper; his mouth
was drawn on one side, and his lips quivered one against the other.

I went to Castro and caught him by the arm. He spun round and smiled
discreetly.

"We shall be using force upon you directly. Pray resist, Señor; but not
too much. What? His wife? Tell that stupid Inglez with whispers that she
is safe." He whispered with an air of profound intelligence, "We shall
be ready to go as soon as these foul swine have finished their stealing.
I cannot stop them," he added.

I could not pause to think what he might mean. The child's shrieks
resounding louder and louder, I ran below. There were a couple of men
in the cabin with the women. Mrs. Cowper was lying back upon a sofa,
her face very white and drawn, her eyes wide open. Her useless hands
twitched at her dress; otherwise she was absolutely motionless, like a
frozen woman. The black nurse was panting convulsively in a corner--a
palpitating bundle of orange and purple and white clothes. The child was
rushing round and round, shrieking. The two men did nothing at all. One
of them kept saying in Spanish:

"But--we only want your rings. But--we only want your rings."

The other made feeble efforts to catch the child as it rushed past him.
He wanted its earrings--they were contraband of war, I suppose.

Mrs. Cowper was petrified with terror. Explaining the desires of the two
men was like shouting things into the ear of a very deaf woman. She kept
on saying:

"Will they go away then? Will they go away then?" All the while she was
drawing the rings off her thin fingers, and handing them to me. I gave
them to the ruffians whose presence seemed to terrify her out of her
senses. I had no option. I could do nothing else. Then I asked her
whether she wished me to remain with her and the child. She said:

"Yes. No. Go away. Yes. No--let me think."

Finally it came into my head that in the captain's cabin she would be
able to talk to her husband through the deck ventilator, and, after a
time, the idea filtered through to her brain. She could hardly walk at
all. The child and the nurse ran in front of us, and, practically, I
carried her there in my arms. Once in the stateroom she struggled loose
from me, and, rushing in, slammed the door violently in my face. She
seemed to hate me.



CHAPTER SIX

I went on deck again. On the poop about twenty men had surrounded Major
Cowper; his white head was being jerked backwards and forwards above
their bending backs; they had got his old uniform coat off, and were
fighting for the buttons. I had just time to shout to him, "Your wife's
down there, she's all right!" when very suddenly I became aware that
Tomas Castro was swearing horribly at these thieves. He drove them away,
and we were left quite alone on the poop, I holding the major's coat
over my arm. Major Çowper stooped down to call through the skylight. I
could hear faint answers coming up to him.

Meantime, some of the rascals left on board the schooner had filled on
her in a light wind, and, sailing round our stern, had brought their
vessel alongside. Ropes were thrown on board and we lay close together,
but the schooner with her dirty decks looked to me, now, very sinister
and very sordid.

Then I remembered Castro's extraordinary words; they suggested infinite
possibilities of a disastrous nature, I could not tell just what. The
explanation seemed to be struggling to bring itself to light, like a
name that one has had for hours on the tip of a tongue without being
able to formulate it. Major Cowper rose stiffly, and limped to my side.
He looked at me askance, then shifted his eyes away. Afterwards, he took
his coat from my arm. I tried to help him, but he refused my aid, and
jerked himself painfully into it. It was too tight for him. Suddenly, he
said:

"You seem to be deuced intimate with that man--deuced intimate."

His tone caused me more misgiving than I should have thought possible.
He took a turn on the deserted deck; went to the skylight; called down,
"All well, still?" waited, listening with his head on one side, and then
came back to me.

"You drop into the ship," he said, "out of the clouds. Out of the
clouds, I say. You tell us some sort of cock-and-bull story. I say it
looks deuced suspicious." He took another turn and came back. "My wife
says that you took her rings and--and--gave them to------"

He had an ashamed air. It came into my head that that hateful woman had
been egging him on to this through the skylight, instead of saying her
prayers.

"Your wife!" I said. "Why, she might have been murdered--if I hadn't
made her give them up. I believe I saved her life."

He said suddenly, "Tut, tut!" and shrugged his shoulders. He hung his
head for a minute, then he added, "Mind, I don't say--I don't say that
it mayn't be as you say. You're a very nice young fellow.... But what
I say is--I am a public man--you ought to clear yourself." He was
beginning to recover his military bearing.

"Oh! don't be absurd," I said.

One of the Spaniards came up to me and whispered, "You must come now.
We are going to cast off." At the same time Tomas Castro prowled to the
other side of the ship, within five yards of us. I called out, "Tomas
Castro! Tomas Castro! I will not go with you." The man beside me said,
"Come, señor! _Vamos!_"

Suddenly Castro, stretching his arm out at me, cried, "Come, _hombres_.
This is the _caballero_; seize him." And to me in his broken English he
shouted, "You may resist, if you like."

This was what I meant to do with all my might. The ragged crowd
surrounded me; they chattered like monkeys. One man irritated me beyond
conception. He looked like an inn-keeper in knee-breeches, had a broken
nose that pointed to the left, and a double chin. More of them came
running up every minute. I made a sort of blind rush at the fellow with
the broken nose; my elbow caught him on the soft folds of flesh and he
skipped backwards; the rest scattered in all directions, and then stood
at a distance, chattering and waving their hands. And beyond them I saw
old Cowper gesticulating approval. The man with the double chin drew a
knife from his sleeve, crouched instantly, and sprang at me. I hadn't
fought anybody since I had been at school; raising my fists was like
trying a dubious experiment in an emergency. I caught him rather hard on
the end of his broken nose; I felt the contact on my right, and a small
pain in my left hand. His arms went up to the sky; his face, too. But
I had started forward to meet him, and half a dozen of them flung their
arms round me from behind.

I seemed to have an exaggerated clearness of vision; I saw each brown
dirty paw reach out to clutch some part of me. I was not angry any more;
it wasn't any good being angry, but I made a fight for it. There were
dozens of them; they clutched my wrists, my elbows, and in between my
wrists and my elbows, and my shoulders. One pair of arms was round my
neck, another round my waist, and they kept on trying to catch my legs
with ropes. We seemed to stagger all over the deck; I expect they got in
each other's way; they would have made a better job of it if they hadn't
been such a multitude. I must then have got a crack on the head, for
everything grew dark; the night seemed to fall on us, as we fought.

Afterwards I found myself lying gasping on my back on the deck of the
schooner; four or five men were holding me down. Castro was putting a
pistol into his belt. He stamped his foot violently, and then went and
shouted in Spanish:

"Come you all on board. You have done mischief enough, fools of
_Lugarenos_. Now we go."

I saw, as in a dream of stress and violence, some men making ready to
cast off the schooner, and then, in a supreme effort, an effort of lusty
youth and strength, which I remember to this day, I scattered men like
chaff, and stood free.

For the fraction of a second I stood, ready to fall myself, and looking
at prostrate men. It was a flash of vision, and then I made a bolt for
the rail. I clambered furiously; I saw the deck of the old barque; I had
just one exulting sight of it, and then Major Cowper uprose before
my eyes and knocked me back on board the schooner, tumbling after me
himself.

Twenty men flung themselves upon my body. I made no movement. The
end had come. I hadn't the strength to shake off a fly, my heart was
bursting my ribs. I lay on my back and managed to say, "Give me air." I
thought I should die.

Castro, draped in his cloak, stood over me, but Major Cowper fell on his
knees near my head, almost sobbing: "My papers! My papers! I tell you
I shall starve. Make them give me back my papers. They ain't any use to
them--my pension--mortgages--not worth a penny piece to you."

He crouched over my face, and the Spaniards stood around, wondering.
He begged me to intercede, to save him those papers of the greatest
importance.

Castro preserved his attitude of a conspirator. I was touched by the
major's distress, and at last I condescended to address Castro on his
behalf, though it cost me an effort, for I was angry, indignant, and
humiliated.

"Whart--whart? What do I know of his papers? Let him find them." He
waved his hand loftily.

The deck was hillocked with heaps of clothing, of bedding, casks of rum,
old hats, and tarpaulins. Cowper ran in and out among the plunder, like
a pointer in a turnip field. He was groaning.

Beside one of the pumps was a small pile of shiny cases; ship's
instruments, a chronometer in its case, a medicine chest.

Cowper tottered at a black dispatch-box. "There, there!" he said; "I
tell you I shall starve if I don't have it. Ask him--ask him-------" He
was clutching me like a drowning man.

Castro raised the inevitable arm towards heaven, letting his round black
cloak fall into folds like those of an umbrella. Cowper gathered that
he might take his japanned dispatch-box; he seized the brass handles and
rushed towards the side, but at the last moment he had the good impulse
to return to me, holding out his hand, and spluttering distractedly,
"God bless you, God bless you." After a time he remembered that I had
rescued his wife and child, and he asked God to bless me for that too.
"If it is ever necessary," he said, "on my honour, if you escape, I will
come a thousand miles to testify. On my honour--remember." He said he
was going to live in Clapham. That is as much as I remember. I was held
pinned down to the deck, and he disappeared from my sight. Before the
ships had separated, I was carried below in the cabin of the schooner.

They left me alone there, and I sat with my head on my arms for a long
time, I did not think of anything at all; I was too utterly done up with
my struggles, and there was nothing to be thought about. I had grown to
accept the meanness of things as if I had aged a great deal. I had
seen men scratch each other's faces over coat buttons, old shoes--over
Mercer's trousers. My own future did not interest me at this stage. I
sat up and looked round me.

I was in a small, bare cabin, roughly wainscotted and exceedingly
filthy. There were the grease-marks from the backs of heads all along a
bulkhead above a wooden bench; the rough table, on which my arms rested,
was covered with layers of tallow spots. Bright light shone through a
porthole. Two or three ill-assorted muskets slanted about round the foot
of the mast--a long old piece, of the time of Pizarro, all red velvet
and silver' chasing, on a swivelled stand, three English fowling-pieces,
and a coachman's blunderbuss. A man was rising from a mattress stretched
on the floor; he placed a mandolin, decorated with red favours, on
the greasy table. He was shockingly thin, and so tall that his head
disturbed the candle-soot on the ceiling. He said: "Ah, I was waiting
for the cavalier to awake."

He stalked round the end of the table, slid between it and the side,
and grasped my arm with wrapt earnestness as he settled himself slowly
beside me. He wore a red shirt that had become rather black where his
long brown ringlets fell on his shoulders; it had tarnished gilt buttons
ciphered "G. R.," stolen, I suppose, from some English ship.

"I beg the Señor Caballero to listen to what I have to record," he said,
with intense gravity. "I cannot bear this much longer--no, I cannot bear
my sufferings much longer."

His face was of a large, classical type; a close-featured, rather long
face, with an immense nose that from the front resembled the section of
a bell; eyebrows like horseshoes, and very large-pupilled eyes that
had the purplish-brown lustre of a horse's. His air was mournful in
the extreme, and he began to speak resonantly as if his chest were
a sounding-board. He used immensely long sentences, of which I only
understood one-half.

"What, then, is the difference between me, Manuel-del-Popolo Isturiz,
and this Tomas Castro? The Señor Caballero can tell at once. Look at me.
I am the finer man. I would have you ask the ladies of Rio Medio, and
leave the verdict to them. This Castro is an Andalou--a foreigner. And
we, the braves of Rio Medio, will suffer no foreigner to make headway
with our ladies. Yet this Andalusian is preferred because he is a humble
friend of the great Don, and because he is for a few days given the
command. I ask you, Señor, what is the radical difference between me,
the sailing captain of this vessel, and him, the fighting captain for a
few days? Is it not I that am, as it were, the brains of it, and he only
its knife? I ask the Señor Caballero."

I didn't in the least know what to answer. His great eyes wistfully
explored my face. I expect I looked bewildered.

"I lay my case at your feet," he continued. "You are to be our
chief leader, and, on account of your illustrious birth and renowned
intelligence, will occupy a superior position in the council of the
notables. Is it not so? Has not the Señor Juez O'Brien so ordained? You
will give ear to me, you will alleviate my indignant sufferings?" He
implored me with his eyes for a long time.

Manuel-del-Popolo, as he called himself, pushed the hair back from his
forehead. I had noticed that the love-locks were plaited with black
braid, and that he wore large dirty silk ruffles.

"The _caballero_" he continued, marking his words with a long, white
finger a-tap on the table, "will represent my views to the notables.
My position at present, as I have had the honour to observe, is become
unbearable. Consider, too, how your worship and I would work together.
What lightness for you and me. You will find this Castro unbearably
gross. But I--I assure you I am a man of taste--an _improvisador_--an
artist. My songs are celebrated. And yet!..."

He folded his arms again, and waited; then he said, employing his most
impressive voice:

"I have influence with the men of Rio. I could raise a riot. We Cubans
are a jealous people; we do not love that foreigners should take our
best from us. We do not love it; we will not suffer it. Let this Castro
bethink himself and go in peace, leaving us and our ladies. As the
proverb says, 'It is well to build a bridge for a departing enemy.'"

He began to peer at me more wistfully, and his eyes grew more luminous
than ever. This man, in spite of his grotesqueness, was quite in
earnest, there was no doubting that.

"I have a gentle spirit," he began again, "a gentle spirit. I am
submissive to the legitimate authorities. What the Señor Juez O'Brien
asks me to do, I do. I would put a knife into any one who inconvenienced
the Señor Juez O'Brien, who is a good Catholic; we would all do that,
as is right and fitting. But this Castro--this Andalou, who is nearly as
bad as a heretic! When my day comes, I will have his arms flayed and the
soles of his feet, and I will rub red pepper into them; and all the men
of Rio who do not love foreigners will applaud. And I will stick little
thorns under his tongue, and I will cut off his eyelids with little
scissors, and set him facing the sun. _Caballero_, you would love me; I
have a gentle spirit. I am a pleasant companion." He rose and squeezed
round the table. "Listen"--his eyes lit up with rapture--"you shall hear
me. It is divine--ah, it is very pleasant, you will say."

He seized his mandolin, slung it round his neck, and leant against the
bulkhead. The bright light from the port-hole gilded the outlines of his
body, as he swayed about and moved his long fingers across the strings;
they tinkled metallically. He sang in a nasal voice:

     "'Listen!' the young girls say as they hasten to the barred window.
     'Listen! Ah, surely that is the guitar of Man--u--el--del-Popolo,
     As he glides along the wall in the twilight.'"

It was a very long song. He gesticulated freely with his hand in between
the scratching of the strings, which seemed to be a matter of luck.
His eyes gazed distantly at the wall above my head. The performance
bewildered and impressed me; I wondered if this was what they had
carried me off for. It was like being mad. He made a decrescendo
tinkling, and his lofty features lapsed into their normal mournfulness.

At that moment Castro put his face round the door, then entered
altogether. He sighed in a satisfied manner, and had an air of having
finished a laborious undertaking.

"We have arranged the confusion up above," he said to Manuel-del-Popolo;
"you may go and see to the sailing. . . . Hurry; it is growing late."

Manuel blazed silently, and stalked out of the door as if he had an
electric cloud round his head. Tomas Castro turned towards me.

"You are better?" he asked benevolently. "You exerted yourself too much.
. . . But still, if you liked------" He picked up the mandolin, and
began negligently scratching the strings. I noticed an alteration in
him; he had grown softer in the flesh in the past years; there were
little threads of gray in the knotted curls of his beard. It was as
if he had lived well, on the whole. He bent his head over the strings,
plucked one, tightened a peg, plucked it again, then set the instrument
on the table, and dropped on to the mattress. "Will you have some rum?"
he said. "You have grown broad and strong, like a bull.... You made
those men fly, _sacré nom d'une pipe_.... One would have thought you
were in earnest.... Ah, well!" He stretched himself at length on the
mattress, and closed his eyes.

I looked at him to discover traces of irony. There weren't any. He was
talking quietly; he even reproved me for having carried the pretence of
resistance beyond a joke.

"You fought too much; you struck many men--and hard. You will have made
enemies. The _picaros_ of this dirty little town are as conceited as
pigs. You must take care, or you will have a knife in your back."

He lay with his hands crossed on his stomach, which was round like a
pudding. After a time he opened his eyes, and looked at the dancing
white reflection of the water on the grimy ceiling.

"To think of seeing you again, after all these years," he said. "I did
not believe my ears when Don Carlos asked me to fetch you like this.
Who would have believed it? But, as they say," he added philosophically,
"'The water flows to the sea, and the little stones find their places.'"
He paused to listen to the sounds that came from above. "That Manuel is
a fool," he said without rancour; "he is mad with jealousy because for
this day I have command here. But, all the same, they are dangerous
pigs, these slaves of the Señor O'Brien. I wish the town were rid of
them. One day there will be a riot--a function--with their jealousies
and madness."

I sat and said nothing, and things fitted themselves together, little
patches of information going in here and there like the pieces of a
puzzle map. O'Brien had gone on to Havana in the ship from which I
had escaped, to render an account of the pirates that had been hung at
Kingston; the Riegos had been landed in boats at Rio Medio, of course.

"That poor Don Carlos!" Castro moaned lamentably. "They had the
barbarity to take him out in the night, in that raw fog. He coughed
and coughed; it made me faint to hear him. He could not even speak to
me--his Tomas; it was pitiful. He could not speak when we got to the
Casa."

I could not really understand why I had been a second time kidnapped.
Castro said that O'Brien had not been unwilling that I should reach
Havana. It was Carlos that had ordered Tomas to take me out of the
_Breeze_. He had come down in the raw morning, before the schooner had
put out from behind the point, to impress very elaborate directions upon
Tomas Castro; indeed, it was whilst talking to Tomas that he had burst a
blood-vessel.

"He said to me: 'Have a care now. Listen. He is my dear friend, that
Señor Juan. I love him as if he were my only brother. Be very careful,
Tomas Castro. Make it appear that he comes to us much against his will.
Let him be dragged on board by many men. You are to understand, Tomas,
that he is a youth of noble family, and that you are to be as careful of
compromising him as you are of the honour of Our Lady."!

Tomas Castro looked across at me. "You will be able to report well of
me," he said; "I did my best. If you are compromised, it was you who did
it by talking to me as if you knew me."

I remembered, then, that Tomas certainly had resented my seeming to
recognize him before Cowper and Lumsden. He closed his eyes again. After
a time he added:

"_Vaya!_ After all, it is foolishness to fear being compromised. You
would never believe that his Excellency Don Balthasar had led a riotous
life--to look at him with his silver head. It is said he had three
friars killed once in Seville, a very, very long time ago. It was
dangerous in those days to come against our Mother, the Church." He
paused, and undid his shirt, laying bare an incredibly hairy chest; then
slowly kicked off his shoes. "One stifles here," he said. "Ah! in the
old days------"

Suddenly he turned to me and said, with an air of indescribable
interest, as if he were gloating over an obscene idea:

"So they would hang a gentleman like you, if they caught you? What
savages you English people are!--what savages! Like cannibals! You did
well to make that comedy of resisting. _Quel pays!_... What a people...
I dream of them still.... The eyes; the teeth! Ah, well! in an hour we
shall be in Rio. I must sleep...."



CHAPTER SEVEN

By two of the afternoon we were running into the inlet of Rio Medio. I
had come on deck when Tomas Castro had started out of his doze. I wanted
to see. We went round violently as I emerged, and, clinging to the side,
I saw, in a whirl, tall, baked, brown hills dropping sheer down to a
strip of flat land and a belt of dark-green scrub at the water's edge;
little pink squares of house-walls dropped here and there, mounting the
hillside among palms, like men standing in tall grass, running back,
hiding in a steep valley; silver-gray huts with ragged dun roofs, like
dishevelled shocks of hair; a great pink church-face, very tall and
narrow, pyramidal towards the top, and pierced for seven bells, but
having only three. It looked as if it had been hidden for centuries in
the folds of an ancient land, as it lay there asleep in the blighting
sunlight.

When we anchored, Tomas, beside me in saturnine silence, grunted and
spat into the water.

"Look here," I said. "What is the meaning of it all? What is it? What is
at the bottom?"

He shrugged his shoulders gloomily. "If your worship does not know, who
should?" he said. "It is not for me to say why people should wish to
come here."

"Then take me to Carlos," I said. "I must get this settled."

Castro looked at me suspiciously. "You will not excite him?" he said. "I
have known people die right out when they were like that."

"Oh, I won't excite him," I said.

As we were rowed ashore, he began to point out the houses of the
notables. Rio Medio had been one of the principal ports of the Antilles
in the seventeenth century, but it had failed before the rivalry of
Havana because its harbour would not take the large vessels of modern
draft. Now it had no trade, no life, no anything except a bishop and a
great monastery, a few retired officials from Havana. A large settlement
of ragged thatched huts and clay hovels lay to the west of the
cathedral. The Casa Riego was an enormous palace, with windows like
loopholes, facing the shore. Don Balthasar practically owned the whole
town and all the surrounding country, and, except for his age and
feebleness, might have been an absolute monarch.

He had lived in Havana with great splendour, but now, in his failing
years, had retired to his palace, from which he had since only twice set
foot. This had only been when official ceremonies of extreme importance,
such as the international execution of pirates that I had witnessed,
demanded the presence of someone of his eminence and lustre. Otherwise
he had lived shut up in his palace. There was nowhere in Rio Medio for
him to go to.

He was said to regard his intendente O'Brien as the apple of his eye,
and had used his influence to get him made one of the judges of the
Marine Court. The old Don himself probably knew nothing about the
pirates. The inlet had been used by buccaneers ever since the days of
Columbus; but they were below his serious consideration, even if he had
ever seen them, which Tomas Castro doubted.

There was no doubting the sincerity of his tone.

"Oh, you thought _I_ was a pirate!" he muttered. "For a day--yes--to
oblige a Riego, my friend--yes! Moreover, I hate that familiar of the
priests, that soft-spoken Juez, intendente, intriguer--that O'Brien. A
sufferer for the faith! _Que picardia!_ Have I, too, not suffered for
the faith? I am the trusted humble friend of the Riegos. But, perhaps,
you think Don Balthasar is himself a pirate! He who has in his veins the
blood of the Cid Campeador; whose ancestors have owned half this island
since the days of Christopher himself. . . ."

"Has he nothing whatever to do with it?" I asked. "After all, it goes on
in his own town."

"Oh, you English," he muttered; "you are all mad! Would one of your
great nobles be a pirate? Perhaps they would--God knows. Alas, alas!" he
suddenly broke off, "when I think that my Carlos shall leave his bones
in this ungodly place. . . ."

I gave up questioning Tomas Castro; he was too much for me.

We entered the grim palace by the shore through an imposing archway, and
mounted a broad staircase. In a lofty room, giving off the upper gallery
round the central court of the Casa Riego, Carlos lay in a great bed.
I stood before him, having pushed aside Tomas Castro, who had been
cautiously scratching the great brilliant mahogany panels with a dirty
finger-nail.

"Damnation, Carlos!" I said. "This is the third of your treacheries.
What do you want with me?"

You might well have imagined he was a descendant of the Cid Campeador,
only to look at him lying there without a quiver of a feature, his face
stainlessly white, a little bluish in extreme lack of blood, with all
the nobility of death upon it, like an alabaster effigy of an old knight
in a cathedral. On the red-velvet hangings of the bed was an immense
coat-of-arms, worked in silk and surrounded by a collar, with the golden
sheep hanging from the ring. The shield was patched in with an immense
number of quarterings--lions rampant, leopards courant, fleurs de lis,
castles, eagles, hands, and arms. His eyes opened slowly, and his face
assumed an easy, languorous smile of immense pleasure.

"Ah, Juan," he said, "_se bienvenido_, be welcome, be welcome."

Castro caught me roughly by the shoulder, and gazed at me with blazing,
yellow eyes.

"You should not speak roughly to him," he said. "English beast! He is
dying."

"No, I won't speak roughly to him," I answered. "I see."

I did see. At first I had been suspicious; it might have been put on
to mollify me. But one could not put on that blueness of tinge, that
extra--nearly final--touch of the chisel to the lines round the nose,
that air of restfulness that nothing any more could very much disturb.
There was no doubt that Carlos was dying.

"Treacheries--no. You had to come," he said suddenly. "I need you. I am
glad, dear Juan." He waved a thin long hand a little towards mine. "You
shall not long be angry. It had to be done--you must forgive the means."

His air was so gay, so uncomplaining, that it was hard to believe it
came from him.

"You could not have acted worse if you had owed me a grudge, Carlos," I
said. "I want an explanation. But I don't want to kill you. . . ."

"Oh, no, oh, no," he said; "in a minute I will tell."

He dropped a gold ball into a silver basin that was by the bedside,
and it sounded like a great bell. A nun in a sort of coif that took the
lines of a buffalo's horns glided to him with a gold cup, from which he
drank, raising himself a little. Then the religious went out with Tomas
Castro, who gave me a last ferocious glower from his yellow eyes. Carlos
smiled.

"They try to make my going easy," he said. "_Vamos!_ The pillow is
smooth for him who is well loved." He shut his eyes. Suddenly he said,
"Why do you, alone, hate me, John Kemp? What have I done?"

"God knows I don't hate you, Carlos," I answered.

"You have always mistrusted me," he said. "And yet I am, perhaps, nearer
to you than many of your countrymen, and I have always wished you well,
and you have always hated and mistrusted me. From the very first you
mistrusted me. Why?"

It was useless denying it; he had the extraordinary incredulity of his
kind. I remembered how I had idolized him as a boy at home.

"Your brother-in-law, my cousin Rooksby, was the very first to believe
that I was a pirate. I, a vulgar pirate! I, Carlos Riego! Did he not
believe it--and you?" He glanced a little ironically, and lifted a thin
white finger towards the great coat-of-arms. "That sort of thing," he
said, "_amigo mio_, does not allow one to pick pockets." He suddenly
turned a little to one side, and fixed me with his clear eyes. "My
friend," he said, "if I told you that Rooksby and your greatest Kent
earls carried smugglers' tubs, you would say I was an ignorant fool.
Yet they, too, are magistrates. The only use I have ever made of these
ruffians was to-day, to bring you here. It was a necessity. That O'Brien
had gone on to take you when you arrived. You would never have come
alive out of Havana. I was saving your life. Once there, you could never
have escaped from that man."

I saw suddenly that this might be the truth. There had been something
friendly in Tomas Castro's desire not to compromise me before the people
on board the ship. Obviously he had been acting a part, with a visible
contempt for the pilfering that he could not prevent. He _had_ been sent
merely to bring me to Rio Medio.

"I never disliked you," I protested. "I do not understand what you mean.
All I know is, that you have used me ill--outrageously ill. You have
saved my life now, you say. That may be true; but why did you ever make
me meet with that man O'Brien?"

"And even for that you should not hate me," he said, shaking his head on
the silk pillows. "I never wished you anything but well, Juan, because
you were honest and young, of noble blood, good to look upon; you had
done me and my friend good service, to your own peril, when my own
cousin had deserted me. And I loved you for the sake of another. I loved
your sister. We have a proverb: 'A man is always good to the eyes in
which the sister hath found favour.'"

I looked at him in amazement. "You loved Veronica!" I said. "But
Veronica is nothing at all. There was the Señorita."

He smiled wearily. "Ah, the Señorita; she is very well; a man could love
her, too. But we do not command love, my friend."

I interrupted him. "I want to know why you brought me here. Why did you
ask me to come here when we were on board the _Thames?_"

He answered sadly, "Ah, then! Because I loved your sister, and you
reminded me always of her. But that is all over now--done with for
good.... I have to address myself to dying as it becomes one of my
race to die." He smiled at me. "One must die in peace to die like a
Christian. Life has treated me rather scurvily, only the gentleman must
not repine like a poor man of low birth. I would like to do a good turn
to the friend who is the brother of his sister, to the girl-cousin whom
I do not love with love, but whom I understand with affection--to the
great inheritance that is not for my wasted hands."

I looked out of the open door of the room. There was the absolutely
quiet inner court of the palace, a colonnade of tall square pillars,
in the centre the little thread of a fountain. Round the fountain were
tangled bushes of flowers--enormous geraniums, enormous hollyhocks, a
riot of orange marigolds.

"How like our flowers at home!" I said mechanically.

"I brought the seeds from there--from your sister's garden," he said.

I felt horribly hipped. "But all these things tell me nothing," I said,
with an attempt towards briskness.

"I have to husband my voice." He closed his eyes.

There is no saying that I did not believe him; I did, every word. I had
simply been influenced by Rooks-by's suspicions. I had made an ass of
myself over that business on board the _Thames_. The passage of Carles
and his faithful Tomas had been arranged for by some agent of O'Brien in
London, who was in communication with Ramon and Rio Medio. The same man
had engaged Nichols, that Nova Scotian mate, an unscrupulous sailor,
for O'Brien's service. He was to leave the ship in Kingston, and report
himself to Ramon, who furnished him with the means to go to Cuba. That
man, seeing me intimate with two persons going to Rio Medio, had got it
into his head that I was going there, too. And, very naturally, he did
not want an Englishman for a witness of his doings.

But Rooksby's behaviour, his veiled accusations, his innuendoes against
Carlos, had influenced me more than anything else. I remembered a
hundred little things now that I knew that Carlos loved Veronica. I
understood Rooksby's jealous impatience, Veronica's friendly glances at
Carlos, the fact that Rooksby had proposed to Veronica on the very day
that Carlos had come again into the neighbourhood with the runners after
him. I saw very well that there was no more connection between the
Casa Riego and the rascality of Rio Medio than there was between
Ralph himself and old drunken Rangsley on Hythe beach. There was less,
perhaps.

"Ah, you have had a sad life, my Carlos," I said, after a long time.

He opened his eyes, and smiled his brave smile. "Ah, as to that," he
said, "one kept on. One has to husband one's voice, though, and not
waste it over lamentations. I have to tell you--ah, yes...." He paused
and fixed his eyes upon me. "Figure to yourself that this house, this
town, an immense part of this island, much even yet in Castile itself,
much gold, many slaves, a great name--a very great name--are what I
shall leave behind me. Now think that there is a very noble old man, one
who has been very great in the world, who shall die very soon; then all
these things shall go to a young girl. That old man is very old, is a
little foolish with age; that young girl knows very little of the world,
and is very passionate, very proud, very helpless.

"Add, now, to that a great menace--a very dangerous, crafty, subtle
personage, who has the ear of that old man; whose aim it is to become
the possessor of that young girl and of that vast wealth. The old man
is much subject to the other. Old men are like that, especially the very
great. They have many things to think of; it is necessary that they
rely on somebody. I am, in fact, speaking of my uncle and the man called
O'Brien. You have seen him." Carlos spoke in a voice hardly above a
whisper, but he stuck to his task with indomitable courage. "If I die
and leave him here, he will have my uncle to himself. He is a terrible
man. Where would all that great fortune go? For the re-establishing of
the true faith in Ireland? _Quien sabe?_ Into the hands of O'Brien, at
any rate. And the daughter, too--a young girl--she would be in the hands
of O'Brien, too. If I could expect to live, it might be different. That
is the greatest distress of all." He swallowed painfully, and put his
frail hand on to the white ruffle at his neck. "I was in great trouble
to find how to thwart this O'Brien. My uncle went to Kingston because
he was persuaded it was his place to see that the execution of those
unhappy men was conducted with due humanity. O'Brien came with us as his
secretary. I was in the greatest horror of mind. I prayed for guidance.
Then my eyes fell upon you, who were pressed against our very carriage
wheels. It was like an answer to my prayers." Carlos suddenly reached
out and caught my hand.

I thought he was wandering, and I was immensely sorry for him. He looked
at me so wistfully with his immense eyes. He continued to press my hand.

"But when I saw you," he went on, after a time, "it had come into my
head, 'That is the man who is sent in answer to my prayers.' I knew it,
I say. If you could have my cousin and my lands, I thought, it would be
like my having your sister--not quite, but good enough for a man who is
to die in a short while, and leave no trace but a marble tomb. Ah, one
desires very much to leave a mark under God's blessed sun, and to
be able to know a little how things will go after one is dead.... I
arranged the matter very quickly in my mind. There was the difficulty of
O'Brien. If I had said, 'Here is the man who is to marry my cousin,' he
would have had you or me murdered; he would stop at nothing. So I said
to him very quietly, 'Look here, Señor Secretary, that is the man you
have need of to replace your Nichols--a devil to fight; but I think
he will not consent without a little persuasion. Decoy him, then, to
Ramon's, and do your persuading.' O'Brien was very glad, because he
thought that at last I was coming to take an interest in his schemes,
and because it was bringing humiliation to an Englishman. And Sera-phina
was glad, because I had often spoken of you with enthusiasm, as very
fearless and very honourable. Then I made that man Ramon decoy you,
thinking that the matter would be left to me."

That was what Carlos had expected. But O'Brien, talking with Ramon, had
heard me described as an extreme Separationist so positively that he had
thought it safe to open himself fully. He must have counted, also, on my
youth, my stupidity, or my want of principle. Finding out his mistake,
he very soon made up his mind how to act; and Carlos, fearing that worse
might befall me, had let him.

But when the young girl had helped me to escape, Carlos, who understood
fully the very great risks I ran in going to Havana in the ship that
picked me up, had made use of O'Brien's own picaroons to save me from
him. That was the story.

Towards the end his breath came fast and short; there was a flush on his
face; his eyes gazed imploringly at me.

"You will stay here, now, till I die, and then--I want you to
protect.------" He fell back on the pillows.



PART THIRD -- CASA RIEGO



CHAPTER ONE

All this is in my mind now, softened by distance, by the tenderness of
things remembered--the wonderful dawn of life, with all the mystery and
promise of the young day breaking amongst heavy thunder-clouds. At the
time I was overwhelmed--I can't express it otherwise. I felt like a
man thrown out to sink or swim, trying to keep his head above water. Of
course, I did not suspect Carlos now; I was ashamed of ever having
done so. I had long ago forgiven him his methods. "In a great need,
you must," he had said, looking at me anxiously, "recur to desperate
remedies." And he was going to die. I had made no answer, and only hung
my head--not in resentment, but in doubt of my strength to bear the
burden of the great trust that this man whom I loved for his gayety, his
recklessness and romance, was going to leave in my inexperienced hands.

He had talked till, at last exhausted, he sank back gently on the
pillows of the enormous bed emblazoned like a monument. I went out,
following a gray-headed negro, and the nun glided in, and stood at the
foot with her white hands folded patiently.

"Señor!" I heard her mutter reproachfully to the invalid.

"Do not scold a poor sinner, Dona Maria," he addressed her feebly, with
valiant jocularity. "The days are not many now."

The strangeness and tremendousness of what was happening came over me
very strongly whilst, in a large chamber with barred loopholes, I was
throwing off the rags in which I had entered this house. The night had
come already, and I was putting on some of Carlos' clothes by the many
flames of candles burning in a tall bronze candelabrum, whose three legs
figured the paws of a lion. And never, since I had gone on the road to
wait for the smugglers, and been choked by the Bow Street runners, had
I remembered so well the house in which I was born. It was as if, till
then, I had never felt the need to look back. But now, like something
romantic and glamorous, there came before me Veronica's sweet, dim
face, my mother's severe and resolute countenance. I had need of all her
resoluteness now. And I remembered the figure of my father in the big
chair by the ingle, powerless and lost in his search for rhymes. He
might have understood the romance of my situation.

It grew upon me as I thought. Don Balthasar, I understood, was apprised
of my arrival. As in a dream, I followed the old negro, who had
returned to the door of my room. It grew upon me in the silence of this
colonnaded court. We walked along the upper gallery; his cane tapped
before me on the tessellated pavement; below, the water splashed in the
marble basins; glass lanthorns hung glimmering between the pillars and,
in wrought silver frames, lighted the broad white staircase. Under the
inner curve of the vaulted gateway a black-faced man on guard, with
a bell-mouthed gun, rose from a stool at our passing. I thought I saw
Castro's peaked hat and large cloak flit in the gloom into which fell
the light from the small doorway of a sort of guardroom near the closed
gate. We continued along the arcaded walk; a double curtain was drawn to
right and left before me, while my guide stepped aside.

In a vast white apartment three black figures stood about a central
glitter of crystal and silver. At once the aged, slightly mechanical
voice of Don Balthasar rose thinly, putting himself and his house at my
disposition.

The formality of movements, of voices, governed and checked the
unbounded emotions of my wonder. The two ladies sank, with a rustle of
starch and stiff silks, in answer to my profound bow. I had just enough
control over myself to accomplish that, but mentally I was out of
breath; and when I felt the slight, trembling touch of Don Balthasar's
hand resting on my inclined head, it was as if I had suddenly become
aware for a moment of the earth's motion. The hand was gone; his face
was averted, and a corpulent priest, all straight and black below his
rosy round face, had stepped forward to say a Latin grace in solemn
tones that wheezed a little. As soon as he had done he withdrew with a
circular bow to the ladies, to Don Balthasar, who inclined his silvery
head. His lifeless voice propounded:

"Our excellent Father Antonio, in his devotion, dines by the bedside
of our beloved Carlos." He sighed. The heavy carvings of his chair
rose upright at his back; he sat with his head leaning forward over his
silver plate. A heavy silence fell. Death hovered over that table--and
also, as it were, the breath of past ages. The multitude of lights, the
polished floor of costly wood, the bare whiteness of walls wainscotted
with marble, the vastness of the room, the imposing forms of furniture,
carved heavily in ebony, impressed me with a sense of secular and
austere magnificence. For centuries there had always been a Riego living
in this fortress-like palace, ruling this portion of the New World with
the whole majesty of his race. And I thought of the long, loop-holed,
buttressed walls that this abode of noble adventurers presented
foursquare to the night outside, standing there by the seashore like a
tomb of warlike glories. They built their houses thus, centuries ago,
when the bands of buccaneers, indomitable and atrocious, had haunted
their conquest with a reminder of mortality and weakness.

It was a tremendous thing for me, this dinner. The portly duenna on my
left had a round eye and an irritated, parrot-like profile, crowned by
a high comb, a head shaded by black lace. I dared hardly lift my eyes
to the dark and radiant presence facing me across a table furniture that
was like a display of treasure.

But I did look. She was the girl of the lizard, the girl of the dagger,
and, in the solemnity of the silence, she was like a fabulous apparition
from a half-forgotten tale. I watched covertly the youthful grace of her
features. The curve of her cheek filled me with delight. From time to
time she shook the heavy clusters of her curls, and I was amazed, as
though I had never before seen a woman's hair. Each parting of her lips
was a distinct anticipation of a great felicity; when she said a few
words to me, I felt an inward trembling. They were indifferent words.

Had she forgotten she was the girl with the dagger? And the old Don?
What did that old man know? What did he think? What did he mean by that
touch of a blessing on my head? Did _he_ know how I had come to his
house? But every turn of her head troubled my thoughts. The movements of
her hands made me forget myself. The gravity of her eyes above the smile
of her lips suggested ideas of adoration.

We were served noiselessly. A battalion of young lusty negroes, in blue
jackets laced with silver, walked about barefooted under the command of
the old major-domo. He, alone, had white silk stockings, and shoes with
silver buckles; his wide-skirted maroon velvet coat, with gold on the
collar and cuffs, hung low about his thin shanks; and, with a long ebony
staff in his hand, he directed the service from behind Don Balthasar's
chair. At times he bent towards his master's ear. Don Balthasar answered
with a murmur: and those two faces brought close together, one like a
noble ivory carving, the other black with the mute pathos of the African
faces, seemed to commune in a fellowship of age, of things far off,
remembered, lived through together. There was something mysterious and
touching in this violent contrast, toned down by the near approach to
the tomb--the brotherhood of master and slave.

At a given moment an enormous iron key was brought in on a silver
salver, and, bending over the chair, the gray-headed negro laid it by
Don Balthasar's plate.

"Don Carlos' orders," he muttered.

The old Don seemed to wake up; a little colour mounted to his cheeks.

"There was a time, young _caballero_, when the gates of Casa Riego stood
open night and day to the griefs and poverty of the people, like the
doors of a church--and as respected. But now it seems . . ."

He mumbled a little peevishly, but seemed to recollect himself. "The
safety of his guest is like the breath of life to a Castilian," he
ended, with a benignant but attentive look at me.

He rose, and we passed out through the double lines of the servants
ranged from table to door. By the splash of the fountain, on a little
round table between two chairs, stood a many-branched candlestick.
The duenna sat down opposite Don Balthasar. A multitude of stars was
suspended over the breathless peace of the court.

"Señorita," I began, mustering all my courage, and all my Spanish, "I do
not know------"

She was walking by my side with upright carriage and a nonchalant step,
and shut her fan smartly.

"Don Carlos himself had given me the dagger," she said rapidly.

The fan flew open; a touch of the wind fanning her person came faintly
upon my cheek with a suggestion of delicate perfume.

She noticed my confusion, and said, "Let us walk to the end, Señor."

The old man and the duenna had cards in their hands now. The intimate
tone of her words ravished me into the seventh heaven.

"Ah," she said, when we were out of ear-shot, "I have the spirit of my
house; but I am only a weak girl. We have taken this resolution because
of your _hidal-guidad_, because you are our kinsman, because you are
English. _Ay de mi!_ Would I had been a man. My father needs a son in
his great, great age. Poor father! Poor Don Carlos!"

There was the catch of a sob in the shadow of the end gallery. We turned
back, and the undulation of her walk seemed to throw me into a state of
exaltation.

"On the word of an Englishman------" I began.

The fan touched my arm. The eyes of the duenna glittered over the cards.

"This woman belongs to that man, too," muttered Seraphina. "And yet she
used to be faithful--almost a mother. _Misericordia!_ Señor, there is no
one in this unhappy place that he has not bought, corrupted, frightened,
or bent to his will--to his madness of hate against England. Of our poor
he has made a rabble. The bishop himself is afraid."

Such was the beginning of our first conversation in this court
suggesting the cloistered peace of a convent. We strolled to and fro;
she dropped her eyelids, and the agitation of her mind, pictured in the
almost fierce swiftness of her utterance, made a wonderful contrast to
the leisurely rhythm of her movements, marked by the slow beating of
the fan. The retirement of her father from the world after her mother's
death had made a great solitude round his declining years. Yes, that
sorrow, and the base intrigues of that man--a fugitive, a hanger-on
of her mother's family--recommended to Don Balthasar's grace by her
mother's favour. Yes! He had, before she died, thrown his baneful
influence even upon that saintly spirit, by the piety of his practices
and these sufferings for his faith he always paraded. His faith! Oh,
hypocrite, hypocrite, hypocrite! His only faith was hate--the hate of
England. He would sacrifice everything to it. He would despoil and ruin
his greatest benefactors, this fatal man!

"Señor, my cousin," she said picturesquely, "he would, if he could, drop
poison into every spring of clear water in your country. . . . Smile,
Don Juan."

Her repressed vehemence had held me spellbound, and the silvery little
burst of laughter ending her fierce tirade had the bewildering effect of
a crash on my mind. The other two looked up from their cards.

"I pretend to laugh to deceive that woman," she explained quickly. "I
used to love her."

She had no one now about her she could trust or love. It was as if
the whole world were blind to the nefarious nature of that man. He had
possessed himself of her little father's mind. I glanced towards the old
Don, who at that moment was brokenly taking a pinch of snuff out of
a gold snuff-box, while the duenna, very sallow and upright, waited,
frowning loftily at her cards.

"It seemed as if nothing could restrain that man," Seraphina's voice
went on by my side, "neither fear nor gratitude." He seemed to cast a
spell upon people. He was the plenipotentiary of a powerful religious
order--no matter. Don Carlos knew these things better than she did. He
had the ear of the Captain-General through that. "Sh! But the intrigues,
the intrigues!" I saw her little hand clenched on the closed fan. There
were no bounds to his audacity. He wasted their wealth. "The audacity!"
He had overawed her father's mind; he claimed descent from his Irish
kings, he who------ "Señor, my English cousin, he even dares aspire to
my person."

The game of cards was over.

"Death rather," she let fall in a whisper of calm resolution.

She dropped me a deep curtsey. Servants were ranging themselves in a
row, holding upright before their black faces wax lights in tall silver
candlesticks inherited from the second Viceroy of Mexico. I bowed
profoundly, with indignation on her behalf and horror in my breast;
and, turning away from me, she sank low, bending her head to receive her
father's blessing. The major-domo preceded the _cortège_. The two women
moved away with an ample rustling of silk, and with lights carried on
each side of their black, stiff figures. Before they had disappeared up
the wide staircase, Don Balthasar, who had stood perfectly motionless
with his old face over his snuff-box, seemed to wake up, and made in the
air a hasty sign of the cross after his daughter.

They appeared again in the upper gallery between the columns. I saw
her head, draped in lace, carried proudly, with the white flower in her
hair. I raised my eyes. All my being seemed to strive upwards in that
glance. Had she turned her face my way just a little? Illusion! And
the double door above closed with an echoing sound along the empty
galleries. She had disappeared.

Don Balthasar took three turns in the courtyard, no more. It was
evidently a daily custom. When he withdrew his hand from my arm to tap
his snuff-box, we stood still till he was ready to slip it in again.
This was the strangest part of it, the most touching, the most
startling--that he should lean like this on me, as if he had done it for
years. Before me there must have been somebody else. Carlos? Carlos, no
doubt. And in this placing me in that position there was apparent the
work of death, the work of life, of time, the pathetic realization of an
inevitable destiny. He talked a little disjointedly, with the uncertain
swaying of a shadow on his thoughts, as if the light of his mind had
flickered like an expiring lamp. I remember that once he asked me, in a
sort of senile worry, whether I had ever heard of an Irish king called
Brian Boru; but he did not seem to attach any importance to my reply,
and spoke no more till he said good-night at the door of my chamber.

He went on to his apartment, surrounded by lights and preceded by his
major-domo, who walked as bowed with age as himself; but the African had
a firmer step.

I watched him go; there was about his progress in state something
ghostlike and royal, an old-time, decayed majesty. It was as if he had
arisen before me after a hundred years' sleep in his retreat--that man
who, in his wild and passionate youth, had endangered the wealth of the
Riegos, had been the idol of the Madrid populace, and a source of dismay
to his family. He had carried away, _vi et armis_, a nun from a convent,
incurring the enmity of the Church and the displeasure of his sovereign.
He had sacrificed all his fortune in Europe to the service of his king,
had fought against the French, had a price put upon his head by a
special proclamation. He had known passion, power, war, exile, and love.
He had been thanked by his returned king, honoured for his wisdom, and
crushed with sorrow by the death of his young wife--Seraphina's mother.

What a life! And what was my arm--my arm on which he had leaned in his
decay? I looked at it with a sort of surprise, dubiously. What was
expected of it? I asked myself. Would it have the strength? Ah, let
_her_ only lean on it!

It seemed to me that I would have the power to shake down heavy pillars
of stone, like Samson, in her service; to reach up and take the stars,
one by one, to lay at her feet. I heard a sigh. A shadow appeared in the
gallery.

The door of my room was open. Leaning my back against the balustrade, I
saw the black figure of the Father Antonio, muttering over his breviary,
enter the space of the light.

He crossed himself, and stopped with a friendly, "You are taking the
air, my son. The night is warm." He was rubicund, and his little eyes
looked me over with priestly mansuetude.

I said it was warm indeed. I liked him instinctively.

He lifted his eyes to the starry sky. "The orbs are shining
excessively," he said; then added, "To the greater glory of God. One is
never tired of contemplating this sublime spectacle."

"How is Don Carlos, your reverence?" I asked.

"My beloved penitent sleeps," he answered, peering at me benevolently;
"he reposes. Do you know, young _caballero_, that I have been a prisoner
of war in your country, and am acquainted with Londres? I was chaplain
of the ship _San José_ at the battle of Trafalgar. On my soul, it is,
indeed, a blessed, fertile country, full of beauty and of well-disposed
hearts. I have never failed since to say every day an especial prayer
for its return to our holy mother, the Church. Because I love it."

I said nothing to this, only bowing; and he laid a short, thick hand on
my shoulder.

"May your coming amongst us, my son, bring calmness to a Christian soul
too much troubled with the affairs of this world." He sighed, nodded to
me with a friendly, sad smile, and began to mutter his prayers as he
went.



CHAPTER TWO

Don Balthasar accepted my presence without a question. Perhaps he
fancied he had invited me; of my manner of coming he was ignorant, of
course. O'Brien, who had gone on to Havana in the ship which had landed
the Riegos in Rio Medio, gave no sign of life. And yet, on the arrival
of the _Breeze_, he must have found out I was no longer on board. I
forgot the danger suspended over my head. For a fortnight I lived as if
in a dream.

"What is the action you want me to take, Carlos?"

I asked one day.

Propped up with pillows, he looked at me with the big eyes of his
emaciation.

"I would like best to see you marry my cousin. Once before a woman of
our race had married an Englishman. She had been happy. English things
last forever--English peace, English power, English fidelity. It is a
country of much serenity, of order, of stable affection. . . ."

His voice was very weak and full of faith. I remained silent,
overwhelmed at this secret of my innermost heart, voiced by his
bloodless lips--as if a dream had come to pass, as if a miracle had
taken place. He added, with an indefinable smile of an almost unearthly
wistfulness:

"I would have married your sister, my Juan."

He had on him the glamour of things English--of English power emerging
from the dust of wars and revolution; of England stable and undismayed,
like a strong man who had kept his feet in the tottering of secular
edifices shaken to their foundations by an earthquake. It was as if for
him that were something fine, something romantic, just as for me romance
had always seemed to be embodied in his features, in his glance, and to
live in the air he breathed. On the other side of the bed the old Don,
lost in a high-backed armchair, remained plunged in that meditation of
the old which resembles sleep, as sleep resembles death. The priest,
lighted up by the narrow, bright streak of the window, was reading his
breviary through a pair of enormous spectacles. The white coif of the
nun hovered in distant corners of the room.

We were constantly talking of O'Brien. He was the only subject of all
our conversations; and when Carlos inveighed against the Intendente, the
old Don nodded sadly in his chair. He was dishonouring the name of the
Riegos, Carlos would exclaim feebly, turning his head towards his uncle.
His uncle's own province, the name of his own town, stood for a refuge
of the scum of the Antilles. It wras a shameful sanctuary. Every
ruffian, rascal, murderer, and thief of the West Indies had come to
think of this ancient and honourable town as a safe haven.

I myself could very well remember the Jamaica household expression, "The
Rio Medio piracies," and all these paragraphs in the home papers that
reached us a month old headed, "The Activity of the So-called Mexican
Privateers," and urging upon our Government the necessity of energetic
remonstrances in Madrid. "The fact, incredible as it may appear," said
the writers, "seeming to be that the nest of these Picaroons is actually
within the loyal dominions of the Spanish Crown." If Spain, our press
said, resented our recognition of South American independence, let it
do so openly, not by countenancing criminals. It was unworthy of a great
nation. "Our West Indian trade is being stabbed in the back," declaimed
the _Bristol Mirror_. "Where is our fleet?" it asked. "If the Cuban
authorities are unable or unwilling, let us take the matter in our own
hands."

There was a great deal of mystery about this peculiar outbreak of
lawlessness that seemed to be directed so pointedly against the British
trade. The town of Rio Medio was alluded to as one of the unapproachable
towns of the earth--closed, like the capital of Prester John to the
travellers, or Mecca to the infidels. Nobody I ever met in Jamaica had
set eyes on the place. The impression prevailed that no stranger could
come out of it alive. Incredible stories were told of it in the island,
and indignation at its existence grew at home and in the colonies.

Admiral Rowley, an old fighter, grown a bit lazy, no diplomatist
(the stories of his being venal, I take it, were simply abominable
calumnies), unable to get anything out of the Cuban authorities but
promises and lofty protestations, had made up his mind, under direct
pressure from home, to take matters into his own hands. His boat attack
had been a half-and-half affair, for all that. He intended, he had said,
to go to the bottom of the thing, and find out what there was in the
place; but he could not believe that anybody would dare offer resistance
to the boats of an English squadron. They were sent in as if for an
exploration rather than for an armed landing.

It ended in a disaster, and a sense of wonder had been added to the
mystery of the fabulous Rio Medio organization. The Cuban authorities
protested against the warlike operations attempted in a friendly
country; at the same time, they had delivered the seven pirates--the men
whom I saw hanged in Kingston. And Rowley was recalled home in disgrace.

It was my extraordinary fate to penetrate into this holy city of the
last organized piracy the world would ever know. I beheld it with my
eyes; I had stood on the point behind the very battery of guns which had
swept Rowley's boats out of existence.

The narrow entrance faced, across the water, the great portal of the
cathedral. Rio Medio had been a place of some splendour in its time. The
ruinous heavy buildings clung to the hillsides, and my eyes plunged into
a broad vista of an empty and magnificent street. Behind many of the
imposing and escutcheoned frontages there was nothing but heaps of
rubble; the footsteps of rare passers-by woke lonely echoes, and strips
of grass outlined in parallelograms the flagstones of the roadway. The
Casa Riego raised its buttressed and loop-holed bulk near the shore,
resembling a defensive outwork; on my other hand the shallow bay, vast,
placid, and shining, extended itself behind the strip of coast like an
enormous lagoon. The fronds of palm-clusters dotted the beach over the
glassy shimmer of the far distance. The dark and wooded slopes of the
hills closed the view inland on every side.

Under the palms the green masses of vegetation concealed the hovels of
the rabble. There were three so-called 'villages' at the bottom of the
bay; and that good Catholic and terrible man, Señor Juez O'Brien, could
with a simple nod send every man in them to the gallows.

The respectable population of Rio Medio, leading a cloistered existence
in the ruins of old splendour, used to call that thievish rabble
_Lugarenos_--villagers. They were sea-thieves, but they were dangerous.
At night, from these clusters of hovels surrounded by the banana
plantations, there issued a villainous noise, the humming of hived
scoundrels. Lights twinkled. One could hear the thin twanging of
guitars, uproarious songs, all the sounds of their drinking, singing,
gambling, quarrelling, love-making, squalor. Sometimes the long shriek
of a woman rent the air, or shouting tumults rose and subsided; while,
on the other side of the cathedral, the houses of the past, the houses
without life, showed no light and made no sound.

There would be no strollers on the beach in the daytime; the masts of
the two schooners (bought in the United States by O'Brien to make war
with on the British Empire) appeared like slender sticks far away up
the empty stretch of water; and that gathering of ruffians, thieves,
murderers, and runaway slaves slept in their noisome dens. Their habits
were obscene and nocturnal. Cruel without hardihood, and greedy without
courage, they were no skull-and-crossbones pirates of the old kind,
that, under the black flag, neither gave nor expected quarter. Their
usual practice was to hang in rowboats round some unfortunate ship
becalmed in sight of their coast, like a troop of vultures hopping about
the carcass of a dead buffalo on a plain. When they judged the thing was
fairly safe, they would attack with a great noise and show of ferocity;
do some hasty looting amongst the cargo; break into the cabins for
watches, wearing apparel, and so on; perpetrate at times some atrocity,
such as singeing the soles of some poor devil of a ship-master, when
they had positive information (from such affiliated helpers as Ramon,
the storekeeper in Jamaica) that there was coined money concealed on
board; and take themselves off to their sordid revels on shore, and to
hold auctions of looted property on the beach. These Were attended by
people from the interior of the province, and now and then even the
Havana dealers would come on the quiet to secure a few pieces of silk
or a cask or two of French wine. Tomas Castro could not mention them
without spitting in sign of contempt. And it was with that base crew
that O'Brien imagined himself to be making war on the British Empire!

In the time of Nichols it did look as if they were really becoming
enterprising. They had actually chased and boarded ships sixty miles out
at sea. It seems he had inspired them with audacity by means of kicks,
blows, and threats of instant death, after the manner of Bluenose
sailors. His long limbs, the cadaverous and menacing aspect, the strange
nasal ferocity of tone, something mocking and desperate in his aspect,
had persuaded them that this unique sort of heretic was literally in
league with the devil. He had been the most efficient of the successive
leaders O'Brien had imported to give some sort of effect to his warlike
operations. I laugh and wonder as I write these words; but the man did
look upon it as a war and nothing else. What he had had the audacity to
propose to me had been treason, not thieving. It had a glamour for him
which, he supposed, a Separationist (as I had the reputation of being)
could not fail to see. He was thinking of enlarging his activity, of
getting really in touch with the Mexican Junta of rebels. As he had
said, he needed a gentleman now. These were Carlos' surmises.

Before Nichols there had been a rather bloodthirsty Frenchman, but he
got himself stabbed in an _aguardiente_ shop for blaspheming the Virgin.
Nichols, as far as I could understand, had really grown scared at
O'Brien's success in repulsing Rowley's boats; he had mysteriously
disappeared, and neither of the two schooners had been out till the
day of my kidnapping, when Castro, by order of Carlos, had taken the
command. The freebooters of Rio Medio had returned to their cautious and
petty pilfering in boats, from such unlucky ships as the chance of the
weather had delivered into their hands. I heard, also, during my walks
with Castro (he attended me wrapped in his cloak, and with two pistols
in his belt), that there were great jealousies and bickerings amongst
that base populace. They were divided into two parties. For instance,
the rascals living in the easternmost village accepted tacitly the
leadership of a certain Domingo, a mulatto, keeper of a vile grogshop,
who was skilled in the art of throwing a knife to a great distance.
Man-uel-del-Popolo, the extraordinary _improvisador_ with the guitar,
was an aspirant for power with a certain following of his own. Words
could not express Castro's scorn for these fellows. _Ladrones!_ vermin
of the earth, scum of the sea, he called them.

His position, of course, was exceptional. A dependent of the Riegos,
a familiar of the Casa, he was infinitely removed from a Domingo or a
Manuel. He lived soberly, like a Spaniard, in some hut in the nearest of
the villages, with an old woman who swept the earth floor and cooked his
food at an outside fire--his _puchero_ and _tortillas_--and rolled for
him his provision of cigarettes for the day. Every morning he marched up
to the Casa, like a courtier, to attend on his king. I never saw him eat
or drink anything there. He leaned a shoulder against the wall, or sat
on the floor of the gallery with his short legs stretched out near the
big mahogany door of Carlos' room, with many cigarettes stuck behind
his ears and in the band of his hat. When these were gone he grubbed for
more in the depths of his clothing, somewhere near his skin. Puffs of
smoke issued from his pursed lips; and the desolation of his pose, the
sorrow of his round, wrinkled face, was so great that it seemed were he
to cease smoking, he would die of grief.

The general effect of the place was of vitality exhausted, of a body
calcined, of romance turned into stone. The still air, the hot sunshine,
the white beach curving around the deserted sheet of water, the sombre
green of the hills, had the motionlessness of things petrified,
the vividness of things painted, the sadness of things abandoned,
desecrated. And, as if alone intrusted with the guardianship of life's
sacred fire, I was moving amongst them, nursing my love for Sera-phina.
The words of Carlos were like oil upon a flame; it enveloped me from
head to foot with a leap. I had the physical sensation of breathing it,
of seeing it, of being at the same time driven on and restrained. One
moment I strode blindly over the sand, the next I stood still; and
Castro, coming up panting, would remark from behind that, on such a hot
day as this, it was a shame to disturb even a dog sleeping in the shade.
I had the feeling of absolute absorption into one idea. I was ravaged by
a thought. It was as if I had never before imagined, heard spoken of, or
seen a woman.

It was true. She was a revelation to my eye and my ear, as much as to my
heart and mind. Indeed, I seemed never before to have seen a woman. Whom
had I seen? Veronica? We had been too poor, and my mother too proud, to
keep up a social intercourse with our neighbours; the village girls had
been devoid of even the most rustic kind of charm; the people were too
poor to be handsome. I had never been tempted to look at a woman's face;
and the manner of my going from home is known. In Jamaica, sharing with
an exaggerated loyalty the unpopularity of the Mac-donalds, I had led
a lonely life; for I had no taste for their friends' society, and the
others, after a time, would have nothing to do with me. I had made a
sort of hermitage for myself out of a house in a distant plantation, and
sometimes I would see no white face for whole weeks together. She was
the first woman to me--a strange new being, a marvel as great as Eve
herself to Adam's wondering awakening.

It may be that a close intimacy stands in the way of love springing up
between two young people, but in our case it was different. My passion
seemed to spring from our understanding, because the understanding was
in the face of danger. We were like two people in a slowly sinking
ship; the feeling of the abyss under our feet was our bond, not the real
comprehension of each other. Apart from that, she remained to me always
unattainable and romantic?--unique, with all the unexpressed promises
of love such as no world had ever known. And naturally, because for
me, hitherto, the world had held no woman. She was an apparition of
dreams--the girl with the lizard, the girl with the dagger, a wonder to
stretch out my hands to from afar; and yet I was permitted to whisper
intimately to this my dream, to this vision. We had to put our heads
close together, talking of the enemy and of the shadow over the
house; while under our eyes Carlos waited for death, made cruel by his
anxieties, and the old Don walked in the darkness of his accumulated
years.

As to me, what was I to her?

Carlos, in a weak voice, and holding her hand with a feeble and
tenacious grasp, had told her repeatedly that the English cousin was
ready to offer up his life to her happiness in this world. Many a time
she would turn her glance upon me--not a grateful glance, but, as it
were, searching and pensive--a glance of penetrating candour, a young
girl's glance, that, by its very trustfulness, seems to look one through
and through.

And then the sense of my unworthiness made me long for her love as a
sinner, in his weakness, longs for the saving grace.

"Our English cousin is worthy of his great nation. He is very brave, and
very chivalrous to a poor girl," she would say softly.

One day, I remember, going out of Carlos' room, she had just paused on
the threshold for an almost imperceptible moment, the time to murmur,
with feeling, "May Heaven reward you, Don Juan." This sound, faint and
enchanting, like a breath of sweet wind, staggered me. Castro, sitting
outside as usual, had scrambled to his feet and stood by, hat in hand,
his head bent slightly with saturnine deference. She smiled at him. I
think she felt kindly towards the tubby little bandit of a fellow. After
all, there was something touching and pathetic in his mournful vigil
at the door of our radiant Carlos. I could have embraced that figure of
grotesque and truculent devotion. Had she not smiled upon him?

The rest of that memorable day I spent in a state of delightful
distraction, as if I had been ravished into the seventh heaven, and
feared to be cast out again presently, as my unworthiness deserved. What
if it were possible, after all?--this, what Carlos wished, what he had
said. The heavens shook; the constellations above the court of Casa
Riego trembled at the thought.

Carlos fought valiantly. There were days when his courage seemed to
drive the grim presence out of the chamber, where Father Antonio with
his breviary, and the white coif of the nun, seemed the only reminders
of illness and mortality. Sometimes his voice was very strong, and a
sort of hopefulness lighted his wasted features. Don Balthasar paid
many visits to his nephew in the course of each day. He sat apparently
attentive, and nodding at the name of O'Brien. Then Carlos would talk
against O'Brien from amongst his pillows as if inspired, till the old
man, striking the floor with his gold-headed cane, would exclaim, in a
quavering voice, that he, alone, had made him, had raised him up from
the dust, and could abase him to the dust again. He would instantly
go to Havana; orders would be given to Cesar for the journey this very
moment. He would then take a pinch of snuff with shaky energy, and lean
back in the armchair. Carlos would whisper to me, "He will never leave
the Casa again," and an air of solemn, brooding helplessness would fall
upon the funereal magnificence of the room. Presently we would hear the
old Don muttering dotingly to himself the name of Seraphina's mother,
the young wife of his old days, so saintly, and snatched away from him
in punishment of his early sinfulness. It was impossible that she
should have been deceived in Don Patricio (O'Brien's Christian name was
Patrick). The intendente was a man of great intelligence, and full of
reverence for her memory. Don Balthasar admitted that he himself was
growing old; and, besides, there was that sorrow of his life. . . . He
had been fortunate in his affliction to have a man of his worth by
his side. There might have been slight irregularities, faults of youth
(O'Brien was five-and-forty if a day). The archbishop himself was
edified by the life of the upright judge--all Havana, all the island.
The intendente's great zeal for the House might have led him into an
indiscretion or two. So many years now, so many years. A noble himself.
Had we heard of an Irish king? A king . . . king... he could not
recall the name at present. It might be well to hear what a man of such
abilities had to say for himself.

Carlos and I looked at each other silently. "And his life hangs on a
thread," whispered the dying man with something like despair.

The crisis of all these years of plotting would come the moment the
old Don closed his eyes. Meantime, why was it that O'Brien did not show
himself in Rio Medio? What was it that kept him in Havana?

"Already I do not count, my Juan," Carlos would say. "And he prepares
all things for the day of my uncle's death."

The dark ways of that man were inscrutable. He must have known, of
course, that I was in Rio Medio. His presence was to be feared, and his
absence itself was growing formidable.

"But what do you think he will do? How do you think he will act?" I
would ask, a little bewildered by my responsibility.

Carlos could not tell precisely. It was not till some time after his
arrival from Europe that he became clearly aware of all the extent of
that man's ambition. At the same time, he had realized all his power.
That man aimed at nothing less than the whole Riego fortune, and, of
course, through Seraphina. I would feel a rage at this--a sort of rage
that made my head spin as if the ground had reeled. "He would have found
means of getting rid of me if he had not seen I was not long for this
world," Carlos would say. He had gained an unlimited ascendency over his
uncle's mind; he had made a solitude round this solemn dotage in which
ended so much power, a great reputation, a stormy life of romance and
passion--so picturesque and excessive even in his old man's love,
whose after-effect, as though the work of a Nemesis resenting so much
brilliance, was casting a shadow upon the fate of his daughter.

Small, fair, plump, concealing his Irish vivacity of intelligence under
the taciturn gravity of a Spanish lawyer, and backed by the influence
of two noble houses, O'Brien had attained to a remarkable reputation of
sagacity and unstained honesty. Hand in glove with the clergy, one of
the judges of the Marine Court, procurator to the cathedral chapter, he
had known how to make himself so necessary to the highest in the land
that everybody but the very highest looked upon him with fear. His
occult influence was altogether out of proportion to his official
position. His plans were carried out with an unswerving tenacity
of purpose. Carlos believed him capable of anything but a vulgar
peculation. He had been reduced to observe his action quietly, hampered
by the weakness of ill-health. As an instance of O'Brien's methods, he
related to me the manner in which, faithful to his purpose of making a
solitude about the Riegos, he had contrived to prevent overtures for an
alliance from the Salazar family. The young man Don Vincente himself was
impossible, an evil liver, Carlos said, of dissolute habits. Still, to
have even that shadow of a rival out of the way, O'Brien took advantage
of a sanguinary affray between that man and one of his boon companions
about some famous guitar-player girl. The encounter having taken place
under the wall of a convent, O'Brien had contrived to keep Don Vincente
in prison ever since--not on a charge of murder (which for a young man
of that quality would have been a comparatively venial offence), but
of sacrilege. The Salazars were a powerful family, but he was strong
enough to risk their enmity. "Imagine that, Juan!" Carlos would exclaim,
closing his eyes. What had caused him the greatest uneasiness was the
knowledge that Don Balthasar had been induced lately to write some
letter to the archbishop in Havana. Carlos was afraid it was simply
an expression of affection and unbounded trust in his intendente,
practically dictated to the old man by O'Brien. "Do you not see, Juan,
how such a letter would strengthen his case, should he ask the guardians
for Seraphina's hand?" And perhaps he was appointed one of the
guardians himself. It was impossible to know what, were the testamentary
dispositions; Father Antonio, who had learned many things in the
confessional, could tell us nothing, but, when the matter was mentioned,
only rolled his eyes up to heaven in an alarming manner. It was
startling to think of all the unholy forces awakened by the temptation
of Seraphina's helplessness and her immense fortune. Incorruptible
himself, that man knew how to corrupt others. There might have been
combined in one dark intrigue the covetousness of religious orders, the
avarice of high officials--God knows what conspiracy--to help O'Brien's
ambition, his passions. He could make himself necessary; he could bribe;
he could frighten; he was able to make use of the highest in the land
and of the lowest, from the present Captain-General to the _Lugarenos_.
In Havana he had for him the reigning powers; in Rio Medio the lowest
outcasts of the island.

This last was the most dangerous aspect of his power for us, and
also his weakest point. This was the touch of something fanciful and
imaginative; a certain grim childishness in the idea of making war on
the British Empire; a certain disregard of risk; a bizarre illusion
of his hate for the abhorred Saxon. That he risked his position by his
connection with such a nest of scoundrels, there could be no doubt. It
was he who had given them such organization as they had, and he stood
between them and the law. But whatever might have been suspected of him,
he was cautious enough not to go too far. He never appeared personally;
his agents directed the action--men who came from Havana rather
mysteriously. They were of all sorts; some of them were friars. But the
rabble, who knew him really only as the intendente of the great man,
stood in the greatest dread of him. Who was it procured the release of
some of them who had got into trouble in Havana? The intendente. Who was
it who caused six of their comrades, who had been taken up on a matter
of street-brawling in the capital, to be delivered to the English
as pirates? Again, the intendente, the terrible man, the Juez, who
apparently had the power to pardon and condemn.

In this way he was most dangerous to us in Rio Medio. He had that
rabble at his beck and call. He could produce a rising of cut-throats by
lifting his little finger. He was not very likely to do that, however.
He was intriguing in Havana--but how could we unmask him there? "He has
cut us off from the world," Carlos would say. "It is so, my Juan, that,
if I tried to write, no letter of mine would reach its destination; it
would fall into his hands. And if I did manage to make my voice heard,
he would appeal to my uncle himself in his defence."

Besides, to whom could he write?--who would believe him? O'Brien would
deny everything, and go on his way. He had been accepted too long, had
served too many people and known so many secrets. It was terrible.
And if I went myself to Havana, no one would believe me. But I should
disappear; they would never see me again. It was impossible to
unmask that man unless by a long and careful action. And for this
he--Carlos--had no time; and I--I had no standing, no relations, no
skill even....

"But what is my line of conduct, Carlos?" I insisted; while Father
Antonio, from whom Carlos had, of course, no secrets, stood by the bed,
his round, jolly face almost comical in its expression of compassionate
concern.

Carlos passed his thin, wasted hand over a white brow pearled with the
sweat of real anguish.

Carlos thought that while Don Balthasar lived, O'Brien would do nothing
to compromise his influence over him. Neither could I take any action;
I must wait and watch. O'Brien would, no doubt, try to remove me; but
as long as I kept within the Casa, he thought I should be safe. He
recommended me to try to please his cousin, and even found strength
to smile at my transports. Don Balthasar liked me for the sake of his
sister, who had been so happy in England. I was his kinsman and his
guest. From first to last, England, the idea of my country, of my home,
played a great part in my life then; it seemed to rest upon all our
thoughts. To me it was but my boyhood, the farm at the foot of the
downs--Rooksby's Manor--all within a small nook between the quarry by
the side of the Canterbury road and the shingle beach, whose regular
crashing under the feet of a smuggling band was the last sound of my
country I had heard. For Carlos it was the concrete image of stability,
with the romantic feeling of its peace and of Veronica's beauty; the
unchangeable land where he had loved. To O'Brien's hate it loomed up
immense and odious, like the form of a colossal enemy. Father Antonio,
in the naïve benevolence of his heart, prayed each night for its
conversion, as if it were a loved sinner. He believed this event to
be not very far off accomplishment, and told me once, with an amazing
simplicity of certitude, that "there will be a great joy amongst the
host of heaven on that day." It is marvellous how that distant land,
from which I had escaped as if from a prison to go in search of romance,
appeared romantic and perfect in these days--all things to all men! With
Seraphina I talked of it and its denizens as of a fabulous country.
I wonder what idea she had formed of my father, of my mother, my
sister--"Señora Dona Veronica Rooksby," she called her--of the
landscape, of the life, of the sky. Her eyes turned to me seriously.
Once, stooping, she plucked an orange marigold for her hair; and at last
we came to talk of our farm as the only perfect refuge for her.



CHAPTER THREE

One evening Carlos, after a silence of distress, had said, "There's
nothing else for it. When the crisis comes, you must carry her off from
this unhappiness and misery that hangs over her head. You must take her
out of Cuba; there is no safety for her here."

This took my breath away. "But where are we to go, Carlos?" I asked,
bending over him.

"To--to England," he whispered.

He was utterly worn out that evening by all the perplexities of his
death-bed. He made a great effort and murmured a few words more--about
the Spanish ambassador in London being a near relation of the Riegos;
then he gave it up and lay still under my amazed eyes. The nun was
approaching, alarmed, from the shadows. Father Antonio, gazing sadly
upon his beloved penitent, signed me to withdraw.

Castro had not gone away yet; he greeted me in low tones outside the big
door.

"Señor," he went on, "I make my report usually to his Señoria Don
Carlos; only I have not been admitted to-day into his rooms at all. But
what I have to say is for your ear, also. There has arrived a friar from
a Havana convent amongst the _Lugarenos_ of the bay. I have known him
come like this before."

I remembered that in the morning, while dressing, I had glanced out
of the narrow outside window of my room, and had seen a brown, mounted
figure passing on the sands. Its sandalled feet dangled against the
flanks of a powerful mule.

Castro shook his head. "Malediction on his green eyes! He baptizes the
offspring of this vermin sometimes, and sits for hours in the shade
before the door of Domingo's posada telling his beads as piously as a
devil that had turned monk for the greater undoing of us Christians.
These women crowd there to kiss his oily paw. What else they------
_Basta!_ Only I wanted to tell you, Señor, that this evening (I just
come from taking a _pasear_ that way) there is much talk in the villages
of an evil-intentioned heretic that has introduced himself into this our
town; of an _Inglez_ hungry for men to hang--of you, in short."

The moon, far advanced in its first quarter, threw an ashen, bluish
light upon one-half of the courtyard; and the straight shadow upon the
other seemed to lie at the foot of the columns, black as a broad stroke
of Indian ink.

"And what do you think of it, Castro?" I asked.

"I think that Domingo has his orders. Manuel has made a song already.
And do you know its burden, Señor? Killing is its burden. I would the
devil had all these _Improvisadores_. They gape round him while he
twangs and screeches, the wind-bag! And he knows what words to sing to
them, too. He has talent. _Maladetta!_"

"Well, and what do you advise?"

"I advise the senor to keep, now, within the Casa. No songs can give
that vermin the audacity to seek the senor here. The gate remains
barred; the firearms are always loaded; and Cesar is a sagacious
African. But methinks this moon would fall out of the heaven first
before they would dare.... Keep to the Casa, I say--I, Tomas Castro."

He flung the corner of his cloak over his left shoulder, and preceded me
to the door of my room; then, after a "God guard you, Señor," continued
along the colonnade. Before I had shut my door it occurred to me that
he was going on towards the part of the gallery on which Seraphina's
apartments opened. Why? What could he want there?

I am not so much ashamed of my sudden suspicion of him--one did not know
whom to trust--but I am a little ashamed to confess that, kicking off my
shoes, I crept out instantly to spy upon him.

This part of the house was dark in the inky flood of shadow; and before
I had come to a recess in the wall, I heard the discreet scratching of a
finger-nail on a door. A streak of light darted and disappeared, like a
signal for the murmurs of two voices.

I recognized the woman's at once. It belonged to one of Seraphina's
maids, a pretty little quadroon--a favourite of hers--called La Chica.
She had slipped out, and her twitter-like whispering reached me in the
still solemnity of the quadrangle. She addressed Castro as "His Worship"
at every second word, for the saturnine little man, in his unbrushed
cloak and battered hat, was immensely respected by the household. Had he
not been sent to Europe to fetch Don Carlos? He was in the confidence of
the masters--their humble friend. The little tire-woman twittered of her
mistress. The senorita had been most anxious all day--ever since she had
heard the friar had come. Castro muttered:

"Tell the Excellency that her orders have been obeyed. The English
_caballero_ has been warned. I have been sleepless in my watchfulness
over the guest of the house, as the senorita has desired--for the honour
of the Riegos. Let her set her mind at ease."

The girl then whispered to him with great animation. Did not his worship
think that it was the senorita's heart which was not at ease?

Then the quadrangle became dumb in its immobility, half sheen, half
night, with its arcades, the soothing plash of water, with its expiring
lights, in a suggestion of Castilian severity, enveloped by the exotic
softness of the air.

"What folly!" uttered Castro's sombre voice. "You women do not mind how
many corpses come into your imaginings of love. The mere whisper of such
a thing------"

She murmured swiftly. He interrupted her.

"Thine eyes, La Chica--thine eyes see only the silliness of thine own
heart. Think of thine own lovers, _nina. Por Dios!_"--he changed to a
tone of severe appreciation--"thy foolish face looks well by moonlight."

I believe he was chucking her gravely under the chin. I heard her
soft, gratified cooing in answer to the compliment; the streak of light
flashed on the polished shaft of a pillar; and Castro went on, going
round to the staircase, evidently so as not to pass again before my open
door.

I forgot to shut it. I did not stop until I was in the middle of
my room; and then I stood still for a long time in a self-forgetful
ecstasy, while the many wax candles of the high candelabrum burned
without a flicker in a rich cluster of flames, as if lighted to throw
the splendour of a celebration upon the pageant of my thoughts.

For the honour of the Riegos!

I came to myself. Well, it was sweet to be the object of her anxiety and
care, even on these terms--on any terms. And I felt a sort of profound,
inexpressible, grateful emotion, as though no one, never, on no day, on
no occasion, had taken thought of me before.

I should not be able to sleep. I went to the window, and leaned my
forehead on the iron bar. There was no glass; the heavy shutter was
thrown open; and, under the faint crescent of the moon I saw a small
part of the beach, very white, the long streak of light lying mistily
on the bay, and two black shapes, cloaked, moving and stopping all of a
piece like pillars, their immensely long shadows running away from their
feet, with the points of the hats touching the wall of the Casa Riego.
Another, a shorter, thicker shape, appeared, walking with dignity. It
was Castro. The other two had a movement of recoil, then took off their
hats.

"_Buenas noches, caballeros_," his voice said, with grim politeness.
"You are out late."

"So is your worship. _Vaya, Señor, con Dios_. We are taking the air."

They walked away, while Castro remained looking after them. But I,
from my elevation, noticed that they had suddenly crouched behind some
scrubby bushes growing on the edge of the sand. Then Castro, too, passed
out of my sight in the opposite direction, muttering angrily.

I forgot them all. Everything on earth was still, and I seemed to be
looking through a casement out of an enchanted castle standing in the
dreamland of romance. I breathed out the name of Seraphina into the
moonlight in an increasing transport. "Seraphina! Seraphina! Seraphina!"
The repeated beauty of the sound intoxicated me. "Seraphina!" I cried
aloud, and stopped, astounded at myself. And the moonlight of romance
seemed to whisper spitefully from below:

"Death to the traitor! Vengeance for our brothers dead on the English
gallows!" "Come away, Manuel."

"No. I am an artist. It is necessary for my soul..."

"Be quiet!"

Their hissing ascended along the wall from under the window. The two
_Lugarenos_ had stolen in unnoticed by me. There was a stifled metallic
ringing, as of a guitar carried under a cloak.

"Vengeance on the heretic _Inglez!_"

"Come away! They may suddenly open the gate and fall upon us with
sticks."

"My gentle spirit is roused to the accomplishment of great things.
I feel in me a valiance, an inspiration. I am no vulgar seller of
_aguardiente_, like Domingo. I was born to be the _capataz_ of the
_Lugarenos_."

"We shall be set upon and beaten, oh, thou Manuel. Come away!"

There were no footsteps, only a noiseless flitting of two shadows, and a
distant voice crying:

"Woe, woe, woe to the traitor!"

I had not needed Castro's warning to understand the meaning of this.
O'Brien was setting his power to work, only this Manuel's restless
vanity had taught me exactly how the thing was to be done. The friar
had been exciting the minds of this rabble against me; awakening their
suspicions, their hatred, their fears.

I remained at the casement, lost in rather sombre reflections. I was now
a prisoner within the walls of the Casa. After all, it mattered little.
I did not want to go away unless I could carry off Seraphina with me.
What a dream! What an impossible dream! Alone, without friends, with no
place to go to, without means of going; without, by Heaven, the right of
even as much as speaking of it to her. Carlos--Carlos dreamed--a
dream of his dying hours. England was so far, the enemy so near;
and--Providence itself seemed to have forgotten me.

A sound of panting made me turn my head. Father Antonio was mopping his
brow in the doorway. Though a heavy man, he was noiseless of foot. A
wheezing would be heard along the dark galleries some time before his
black bulk approached you with a gliding motion. He had the outward
placidity of corpulent people, a natural artlessness of demeanour
which was amusing and attractive, and there was something shrewd in his
simplicity. Indeed, he must have displayed much tact and shrewdness to
have defeated all O'Brien's efforts to oust him from his position of
confessor to the household. What had helped him to hold his ground was
that, as he said to me once, "I, too, my son, am a legacy of that truly
pious and noble lady, the wife of Don Riego. I was made her spiritual
director soon after her marriage, and I may say that she showed more
discretion in the choice of her confessor than in that of her man of
affairs. But what would you have? The best of us, except for Divine
grace, is liable to err; and, poor woman, let us hope that, in her
blessed state, she is spared the knowledge of the iniquities going on
here below in the Casa."

He used to talk to me in that strain, coming in almost every evening
on his way from the sick room. He, too, had his own perplexities, which
made him wipe his forehead repeatedly; afterwards he used to spread his
red bandanna handkerchief over his knees.

He sympathized with Carlos, his beloved penitent, with Seraphina, his
dear daughter, whom he had baptized and instructed in the mysteries of
"our holy religion," and he allowed himself often to drop the remark
that his "illustrious spiritual son," Don Balthasar, after a stormy
life of which men knew only too much, had attained to a state of truly
childlike and God-fearing innocence--a sign, no doubt, of Heaven's
forgiveness for those excesses. He ended, always, by sighing heartily,
to sit with his gaze on the floor.

That night he came in silently, and after shutting the door with care,
took his habitual seat, a broad wooden armchair.

"How did your reverence leave Don Carlos?" I asked.

"Very low," he said. "The disease is making terrible ravages, and my
ministrations------I ought to be used to the sight of human misery,
but------" He raised his hands; a genuine emotion overpowered him; then,
uncovering his face to stare at me, "He is lost, Don Juan," he
exclaimed.

"Indeed, I fear we are about to lose him, your reverence," I said,
surprised at this display. It seemed inconceivable that he should have
been in doubt up to this very moment.

He rolled his eyes painfully. I was forgetting the infinite might of
God. Still, nothing short of a miracle------But what had we done to
deserve miracles?

"Where is the ancient piety of our forefathers which made Spain so
great?" he apostrophized the empty air, a little wildly, as if in
distraction. "No, Don Juan; even I, a true servant of our faith, am
conscious of not having had enough grace for my humble ministrations to
poor sailors and soldiers--men naturally inclined to sin, but simple.
And now--there are two great nobles, the fortune of a great house...."

I looked at him and wondered, for he was, in a manner, wringing his
hands, as if in immense distress.

"We are all thinking of that poor child--_mas que_, Don Juan, imagine
all that wealth devoted to the iniquitous purposes of that man. Her
happiness sacrificed."

"I cannot imagine this--I will not," I interrupted, so violently that he
hushed me with both hands uplifted.

"To these wild enterprises against your own country," he went on
vehemently, disregarding my exasperated and contemptuous laugh. "And she
herself, the _niña_ I have baptized her; I have instructed her; and a
more noble disposition, more naturally inclined to the virtues and
proprieties of her sex------But, Don Juan, she has pride, which
doubtless is a gift of God, too, but it is made a snare of by Satan,
the roaring lion, the thief of souls. And what if her feminine
rashness--women are rash, my son," he interjected with unction--"and her
pride were to lead her into--I am horrified at the thought--into an act
of mortal sin for which there is no repentance?"

"Enough!" I shouted at him.

"No repentance," he repeated, rising to his feet excitedly, and I stood
before him, my arms down my sides, with my fists clenched.

Why did the stupid priest come to talk like this to me, as if I had not
enough of my own unbearable thoughts?

He sat down and began to flourish his handkerchief. There was depicted
on his broad face--depicted simply and even touchingly--the inward
conflict of his benevolence and of his doubts.

"I observe your emotion, my son," he said. I must have been as pale
as death. And, after a pause, he meditated aloud, "And, after all, you
English are a reverent nation. You, a scion of the nobility, have been
brought up in deplorable rebellion against the authority of God on this
earth; but you are not a scoffer--not a scoffer. I, a humble
priest------But, after all, the Holy Father himself, in his inspired
wisdom------I have prayed to be enlightened...."

He spread the square of his damp handkerchief on his knees, and bowed
his head. I had regained command over myself, but I did not understand
in the least. I had passed from my exasperation into a careworn fatigue
of mind that was like utter darkness.

"After all," he said, looking up naively, "the business of us priests is
to save souls. It is a solemn time when death approaches. The affairs of
this world should be cast aside. And yet God surely does not mean us to
abandon the living to the mercy of the wicked."

A sadness came upon his face, his eyes; all the world seemed asleep. He
made an effort. "My son," he said with decision, "I call you to follow
me to the bedside of Don Carlos at this very hour of night. I, a humble
priest, the unworthy instrument of God's grace, call upon you to bring
him a peace which my ministrations cannot give. His time is near."

I rose up, startled by his solemnity, by the hint of hidden significance
in these words.

"Is he dying now?" I cried.

"He ought to detach his thoughts from this earth; and if there is no
other way------"

"What way? What am I expected to do?"

"My son, I had observed your emotion. We, the appointed confidants
of men's frailties, are quick to discern the signs of their innermost
feelings. Let me tell you that my cherished daughter in God, Señorita
Dona Seraphina Riego, is with Don Carlos, the virtual head of the
family, since his Excellency Don Balthasar is in a state of, I may say,
infantile innocence."

"What do you mean, father?" I faltered.

"She is waiting for you with him," he pronounced, looking up. And as his
solemnity seemed to have deprived me of my power to move, he added, with
his ordinary simplicity, "Why, my son, she is, I may say, not wholly
indifferent to your person."

I could not have dropped more suddenly into the chair had the good
_padre_ discharged a pistol into my breast. He went away; and when I
leapt up, I saw a young man in black velvet and white ruffles staring
at me out of the large mirror set frameless into the wall, like the
apparition of a Spanish ghost with my own English face.

When I ran out, the moon had sunk below the ridge of the roof; the whole
quadrangle of the Casa had turned black under the stars, with only a
yellow glimmer of light falling into the well of the court from the lamp
under the vaulted gateway. The form of the priest had gone out of sight,
and a far-away knocking, mingling with my footfalls, seemed to be part
of the tumult within my heart. Below, a voice at the gate challenged,
"Who goes there?" I ran on. Two tiny flames burned before Carlos' door
at the end of the long vista, and two of Seraphina's maids shrank away
from the great mahogany panels at my approach. The candlesticks trembled
askew in their hands; the wax guttered down, and the taller of the two
girls, with an uncovered long neck, gazed at me out of big sleepy
eyes in a sort of dumb wonder. The teeth of the plump little one--La
Chica--rattled violently like castanets. She moved aside with a
hysterical little laugh, and glanced upwards at me.

I stopped, as if I had intruded; of all the persons in the sick-room,
not one turned a head. The stillness of the lights, of things, of the
air, seemed to have passed into Seraphina's face. She stood with a stiff
carriage under the heavy hangings of the bed, looking very Spanish and
romantic in her short black skirt, a black lace shawl enveloping her
head, her shoulders, her arms, as low as the waist. Her bare feet,
thrust into high-heeled slippers, lent to her presence an air of flight,
as if she had run into that room in distress or fear. Carlos, sitting up
amongst the snowy pillows of eider-down at his back, was not speaking
to her. He had done; and the flush on his cheek, the eager lustre of
his eyes, gave him an appearance of animation, almost of joy, a sort of
consuming, flame-like brilliance. They were waiting for me. With all his
eagerness and air of life, all he could do was to lift his white hand an
inch or two off the silk coverlet that spread over his limbs smoothly,
like a vast crimson pall. There was something joyous and cruel in the
shimmer of this piece of colour, contrasted with the dead white of the
linen, the duskiness of the wasted face, the dark head with no visible
body, symbolically motionless. The confused shadows and the tarnished
splendour of emblazoned draperies, looped up high under the ceiling,
fell in heavy and unstirring folds right down to the polished floor,
that reflected the lights like a sheet of water, or rather like ice.

I felt it slippery under my feet. I, alone, had to move, in this
great chamber, with its festive patches of colour amongst the funereal
shadows, with the expectant, still figures of priest and nun, servants
of passionless eternity, as if immobilized and made mute by hostile
wonder before the perishable triumph of life and love. And only the
impatient tapping of the sick man's hand on the stiff silk of the
coverlet was heard.

It called to me. Seraphina's unstirring head was lighted strongly by a
two-branched sconce on the wall; and when I stood by her side, not even
the shadow of the eyelashes on her cheek trembled. Carlos' lips moved;
his voice was almost extinct; but for all his emaciation, the profundity
of his eyes, the sunken cheeks, the hollow temples, he remained
attractive, with the charm of his gallant and romantic temper worn away
to an almost unearthly fineness.

He was going to have his desire because, on the threshold of his
spiritual inheritance, he refused, or was unable, to turn his gaze away
from this world. Father Antonio's business was to save this soul; and
with a sort of simple and sacerdotal shrewdness, in which there was much
love for his most noble penitent, he would try to appease its trouble by
a romantic satisfaction. His voice, very grave and profound, addressed
me:

"Approach, my son--nearer. We trust the natural feelings of pity which
are implanted in every human breast, the nobility of your extraction,
the honour of your _hidalguidad_, and that inextinguishable courage
which, as by the unwearied mercy of God, distinguishes the sons of
your fortunate and unhappy nation." His bass voice, deepened in solemn
utterance, vibrated huskily. There was a rustic dignity in his uncouth
form, in his broad face, in the gesture of the raised hand. "You
shall promise to respect the dictates of our conscience, guided by the
authority of our faith; to defer to our scruples, and to the procedure
of our Church in matters which we believe touch the welfare of our
souls.... You promise?"

He waited. Carlos' eyes burned darkly on my face. What were they asking
of me? This was nothing. Of course I would respect her scruples--her
scruples--if my heart should break. I felt her living intensely by my
side; she could be brought no nearer to me by anything they could do, or
I could promise. She had already all the devotion of my love and youth,
the unreasoning and potent devotion, without a thought or hope of
reward. I was almost ashamed to pronounce the two words they expected.
"I promise."

And suddenly the meaning pervading this scene, something that was in my
mind already, and that I had hardly dared to look at till now, became
clear to me in its awful futility against the dangers, in all its remote
consequences. It was a betrothal. The priest--Carlos, too--must have
known that it had no binding power. To Carlos it was symbolic of his
wishes. Father Antonio was thinking of the papal dispensation. I was a
heretic. What if it were refused? But what was that risk to me, who had
never dared to hope? Moreover, they had brought her there, had persuaded
her; she had been influenced by her fears, impressed by Carlos. What
could she care for me? And I repeated:

"I promise. I promise, even at the cost of suffering and unhappiness,
never to demand anything from her against her conscience."

Carlos' voice sounded weak. "I answer for him, good father." Then
he seemed to wander in a whisper, which we two caught faintly, "He
resembles his sister, O Divine------"

And on this ghostly sigh, on this breath, with the feeble click of beads
in the nun's hands, a silence fell upon the room, vast as the stillness
of a world of unknown faiths, loves, beliefs, of silent illusions, of
unexpressed passions and secret motives that live in our unfathomable
hearts.

Seraphina had given me a quick glance--the first glance--which I had
rather felt than seen. Carlos made an effort, and, raising himself, put
her hand in mine.

Father Antonio, trying to pronounce a short allocution, broke down,
naïve in his emotion, as he had been in his dignity. I could at first
catch only the words, "Beloved child--Holy Father--poor priest...."
He had taken this upon himself; and he would attest the purity of our
intentions, the necessity of the case, the assent of the head of the
family, my excellent disposition. All the Englishmen had excellent
dispositions. He would, personally, go to the foot of the Holy See--on
his knees, if necessary. Meantime, a document--he should at once prepare
a justificative document. The archbishop, it is true, did not like him
on account of the calumnies of that man O'Brien. But there was, beyond
the seas, the supreme authority of the Church, unerring and inaccessible
to calumnies.

All that time Seraphina's hand was lying passive in my palm--warm,
soft, living; all the life, all the world, all the happiness, the only
desire--and I dared not close my grasp, afraid of the vanity of my
hopes, shrinking from the intense felicity in the audacious act.
Father Antonio--I must say the word--blubbered. He was now only a
tender-hearted, simple old man, nothing more.

"Before God now, Don Juan.... I am only a poor priest, but invested
with a sacred office, an enormous power. Tremble, Señor, it is a young
girl... I have loved her like my own; for, indeed, I have in baptism
given her the spiritual life. You owe her protection; it is for that,
before God, Señor------"

It was as if Carlos had swooned; his eyes were closed, his face like
a carving. But gradually the suggestion of a tender and ironic smile
appeared on his lips. With a slow effort he raised his arm and his
eyelids, in an appeal of all his weariness for my ear. I made a movement
to stoop over him, and the floor, the great bed, the whole room, seemed
to heave and sway. I felt a slight, a fleeting pressure of Seraphina's
hand before it slipped out of mine; I thought, in the beating rush of
blood to my temples, that I was going mad.

He had thrown his arm over my neck; there was the calming austerity of
death on his lips, that just touched my ear and departed, together with
the far-away sound of the words, losing themselves in the remoteness of
another world:

"Like an Englishman, Juan."

"On my honour, Carlos."

His arm, releasing my neck, fell stretched out on the coverlet. Father
Antonio had mastered his emotion; with the trail of undried tears on
his face, he had become a priest again, exalted above the reach of his
earthly sorrow by the august concern of his sacerdocy.

"Don Carlos, my son, is your mind at ease, now?"

Carlos closed his eyes slowly.

"Then turn all your thoughts to heaven." Father Antonio's bass voice
rose, aloud, with an extraordinary authority. "You have done with the
earth."

The arm of the nun touched the cords of the curtains» and the massive
folds shook and fell expanded, hiding from us the priest and the
penitent.



CHAPTER FOUR

Seraphina and I moved towards the door sadly, as if under the oppression
of a memory, as people go back from the side of a grave to the cares of
life. No exultation possessed me. Nothing had happened. It had been a
sick man's whim.

"Señorita," I said low, with my hand on the wrought bronze of the
door-handle, "Don Carlos might have died in full trust of my devotion to
you--without this."

"I know it," she answered, hanging her head.

"It was his wish," I said. "And I deferred."

"It was his wish," she repeated.

"Remember he had asked you for no promise."

"Yes, it is you only he has asked. You have remembered it very well,
Señor. And you--you ask for nothing."

"No," I said; "neither from your heart nor from your conscience--nor
from your gratitude. Gratitude from you! As if it were not I that
owe you gratitude for having condescended to stand with your hand in
mine--if only for a moment--if only to bring peace to a dying man; for
giving me the felicity, the illusion of this wonderful instant, that,
all my life, I shall remember as those who are suddenly stricken blind
remember the great glory of the sun. I shall live with it, I shall
cherish it in my heart to my dying day; and I promise never to mention
it to you again."

Her lips were slightly parted, her eyes remained downcast, her head
drooped as if in extreme attention.

"I asked for no promise," she murmured coldly.

My heart was heavy. "Thank you for that proof of your confidence," I
said. "I am yours without any promises. Wholly yours. But what can I
offer? What help? What refuge? What protection? What can I do? I can
only die for you. Ah, but this was cruel of Carlos, when he knew that I
had nothing else but my poor life to give."

"I accept that," she said unexpectedly. "Señorita, it is generous of you
to accept so worthless a gift--a life I value not at all save for one
unique memory which I owe to you."

I knew she was looking at me while I swung open the door with a low bow.
I did not trust myself to look at her. An unreasonable disenchantment,
like the awakening from a happy dream, oppressed me. I felt an almost
angry desire to seize her in my arms--to go back to my dream. If I had
looked at her then, I believed I could not have controlled myself.

She passed out; and when I looked up there was O'Brien booted and
spurred, but otherwise in his lawyer's black, inclining his dapper
figure profoundly before her in the dim gallery. She had stopped short.
The two maids, huddled together behind her, stared with terrified eyes.
The flames of their candles vacillated very much.

I closed the door quietly. Carlos was done with the earth. This had
become my affair; and the necessity of coming to an immediate decision
almost deprived me of my power of thinking. The necessity had arisen too
swiftly; the arrival of that man acted like the sudden apparition of
a phantom. It had been expected, however; only, from the moment we
had turned away from Carlos' bedside, we had thought of nothing but
ourselves; we had dwelt alone in our emotions, as if there had been no
inhabitant of flesh and blood on the earth but we two. Our danger had
been present, no doubt, in our minds, because we drew it in with every
breath. It was the indispensable condition of our contact, of our words,
of our thoughts; it was the atmosphere of our feelings; a something
as all-pervading and impalpable as the air we drew into our lungs. And
suddenly this danger, this breath of our life, had taken this material
form. It was material and expected, and yet it had the effect of an evil
spectre, inasmuch as one did not know where and how it was vulnerable,
what precisely it would do, how one should defend one's self.

His bow was courtly; his gravity was all in his bearing, which was quiet
and confident: the manner of a capable man, the sort of man the great
of this earth find invaluable and are inclined to trust. His full-shaven
face had a good-natured, almost a good-humored expression, which I have
come to think must have depended on the cast of his features, on the
setting of his eyes--on some peculiarity not under his control, or else
he could not have preserved it so well. On certain occasions, as this
one, for instance, it affected me as a refinement of cynicism; and,
generally, it was startling, like the assumption of a mask inappropriate
to the action and the speeches of the part.

He had journeyed in his customary manner overland from Havana, arriving
unexpectedly at night, as he had often done before; only this time he
had found the little door, cut out in one of the sides of the big gate,
bolted fast. It was his knocking I had heard, as I hurried after the
priest. The major-domo, who had been called up to let him in, told me
afterwards that the senor intendente had put no question whatever to him
as to this, and had gone on, as usual, towards his own room. Nobody knew
what was going on in Carlos' chamber, but, of course, he came upon the
two girls at the door. He said nothing to them either, only just stopped
there and waited, leaning with one elbow on the balustrade with his
good-tempered, gray eyes fixed on the door. He had fully expected to see
Seraphina come out presently, but I think he did not count on seeing
me as well. When he straightened himself up after the bow, we two were
standing side by side.

I had stepped quickly towards her, asking myself what he would do. He
did not seem to be armed; neither had I any weapon about me. Would he
fly at my throat? I was the bigger, and the younger man. I wished he
would. But he found a way of making me feel all his other advantages.
He did not recognize my existence. He appeared not to see me at all. He
seemed not to be aware of Seraphina's startled immobility, of my firm
attitude; but turning his good-humoured face towards the two girls, who
appeared ready to sink through the floor before his gaze, he shook his
fore-finger at them slightly.

This was all. He was not menacing; he was almost playful; and this
gesture, marvellous in its economy of effort, disclosed all the might
and insolence of his power. It had the unerring efficacy of an act of
instinct. It was instinct. He could not know how he dismayed us by
that shake of the finger. The tall girl dropped her candlestick with
a clatter, and fled along the gallery like a shadow. La Chica cowered
under the wall. The light of her candle just touched dimly the form of
a negro boy, waiting passively in the background with O'Brien's
saddle-bags over his shoulder.

"You see," said Seraphina to me, in a swift, desolate murmur. "They are
all like this--all, all."

Without a change of countenance, without emphasis, he said to her in
French:

"_Votre père dort sans doute, Señorita_."

And she intrepidly replied, "You know very well, Señor Intendente, that
nothing can make him open his eyes."

"So it seems," he muttered between his teeth, stooping to pick up the
dropped candlestick. It was lying at my feet. I could have taken him
at a disadvantage, then; I could have felled him with one blow, thrown
myself upon his back. Thus may an athletic prisoner set upon a jailer
coming into his cell, if there were not the prison, the locks, the bars,
the heavy gates! the walls, all the apparatus of captivity, and the
superior weight of the idea chaining down the will, if not the courage.

It might have been his knowledge of this, or his absolute disdain of
me. The unconcerned manner in which he busied himself--his head within
striking distance of my fist--in lighting the extinguished candle from
the trembling Chica's humiliated me beyond expression. He had some
difficulty with that, till he said to her just audibly, "Calm thyself,
niña," and she became rigid in her appearance of excessive terror.

He turned then towards Seraphina, candlestick in hand, courteously
saying in Spanish:

"May I be allowed to help light you to your door, since that silly
Juanita--I think it was Juanita--has taken leave of her senses? She is
not fit to remain in your service--any more than this one here."

With a gasp of desolation, La Chica began to sob limply against the
wall. I made one step forward; and, holding the candle well up, as
though for the purpose of examining my face carefully, he never looked
my way, while he and Seraphina were exchanging a few phrases in French
which I did not understand well enough to fellow.

He was politely interrogatory, it seemed to me. The natural,
good-humoured expression never left his face, as though he had a fund of
inexhaustible patience for dealing with the unaccountable trifles of a
woman's conduct. Seraphina's shawl had slipped off her head. La Chica
sidled towards her, sobbing a deep sob now and then, without any sign of
tears; and with their scattered hair, their bare arms, the disorder of
their attire, they looked like two women discovered in a secret flight
for life. Only the mistress stood her ground firmly; her voice was
decided; there was resolution in the way one little white hand clutched
the black lace on her bosom. Only once she seemed to hesitate in her
replies. Then, after a pause he gave her for reflection, he appeared
to repeat his question. She glanced at me apprehensively, as I thought,
before she confirmed the previous answer by a slow inclination of her
head.

Had he allowed himself to make a provoking movement, a dubious gesture
of any sort, I would have flung myself upon him at once; but the
nonchalant manner in which he looked away, while he extended to me his
hand with the candlestick, amazed me. I simply took it from him. He
stepped back, with a ceremonious bow for Seraphina. La Chica ran up
close to her elbow. I heard her voice saying sadly, "You need fear
nothing for yourself, child"; and they moved away slowly. I remained
facing O'Brien, with a vague notion of protecting their retreat.

This time it was I who was holding the light before his face. It was
calm and colourless; his eyes were fixed on the ground reflectively,
with the appearance of profound and quiet absorption. But suddenly I
perceived the convulsive clutch of his hand on the skirt of his coat. It
was as if accidentally I had looked inside the man--upon the strength of
his illusions, on his desire, on his passion. Now he will fly at me,
I thought, with a tremendously convincing certitude. Now------All my
muscles, stiffening, answered the appeal of that thought of battle.

He said, "Won't you give me that light?"

And I understood he demanded a surrender.

"I would see you die first where you stand," was my answer.

This object in my hand had become endowed with moral
meaning--significant, like a symbol--only to be torn from me with my
life.

He lifted his head; the light twinkled in his eyes. "Oh, _I_ won't die,"
he said, with that bizarre suggestion of humour in his face, in his
subdued voice. "But it is a small thing; and you are young; it may be
yet worth your while to try and please me--this time."

Before I could answer, Seraphina, from some little distance, called out
hurriedly:

"Don Juan, your arm."

Her voice, sounding a little unsteady, made me forget O'Brien, and,
turning my back on him, I ran up to her. She needed my support; and
before us La Chica tottered and stumbled along with the lights, moaning:

"_Madré de Dios!_ What will become of us now! Oh, what will become of us
now!"

"You know what he had asked me to let him do," Seraphina talked rapidly.
"I made answer, 'No; give the light to my cousin.' Then he said, 'Do you
really wish it, Señorita? I am the older friend.' I repeated, 'Give the
light to my cousin, Señor.' He, then, cruelly, 'For the young man's own
sake, reflect, Señorita.' And he waited before he asked me again, 'Shall
I surrender it to him?' I felt death upon my heart, and all my fear for
you--there." She touched her beautiful throat with a swift movement of
a hand that disappeared at once under the lace. "And because I could
not speak, I------Don Juan, you have just offered me your life--I------
_Misericordia!_ What else was possible? I made with my head the sign
'Yes.'"

In the stress, hurry, and rapture encompassing my immense gratitude,
I pressed her hand to my side familiarly, as if we had been two lovers
walking in a lane on a serene evening.

"If you had not made that sign, it would have been worse than death--in
my heart," I said. "He had allied me, too, to renounce my trust, my
light."

We walked on slowly, accompanied in our sudden silence by the plash of
the fountain at the bottom of the great square of darkness on our left,
and by the piteous moans of La Chica.

"That is what he meant," said the enchanting voice by my side. "And you
refused. That is your valour."

"From no selfish motives," I said, troubled, as if all the great
incertitude of my mind had been awakened by the sound that brought so
much delight to my heart. "My valour is nothing."

"It has given me a new courage," she said.

"You did not want more," I said earnestly.

"Ah! I was very much alone. It is difficult to------"

She hesitated.

"To live alone," I finished.

"More so to die," she whispered, with a new note of timidity. "It is
frightful. Be cautious, Don Juan, for the love of God, because I could
not------"

We stopped. La Chica, silent, as if exhausted, drooped lamentably,
with her shoulder against the wall, by Seraphina's door; and the pure
crystalline sound of the fountain below, enveloping the parting pause,
seemed to wind its coldness round my heart.

"Poor Don Carlos!" she said. "I had a great affection for him. I was
afraid they would want me to marry him. He loved your sister."

"He never told her," I murmured. "I wonder if she ever guessed."

"He was poor, homeless, ill already, in a foreign land."

"We all loved him at home," I said.

"He never asked her," she breathed out. "And, perhaps--but he never
asked her."

"I have no more force," sighed La Chica, suddenly, and sank down at the
foot of the wall, putting the candlesticks on the floor.

"You have been very good to him," I said; "only he need not have
demanded this from you. Of course, I understood perfectly.... I hope you
understand, too, that I------"

"Señor, my cousin," she flashed out suddenly, "do you think that I would
have consented only from my affection for him?"

"Señorita," I cried, "I am poor, homeless, in a foreign land. How can I
believe? How can I dare to dream?--unless your own voice------"

"Then you are permitted to ask. Ask, Don Juan."

I dropped on one knee, and, suddenly extending her arm, she pressed her
hand to my lips. Lighted up from below, the picturesque aspect of her
figure took on something of a transcendental grace; the unusual upward
shadows invested her beauty with a new mystery of fascination. A minute
passed. I could hear her rapid breathing above, and I stood up before
her, holding both her hands.

"How very few days have we been together," she whispered. "Juan, I am
ashamed."

"I did not count the days. I have known you always. I have dreamed of
you since I can remember--for days, for months, a year, all my life."

The crash of a heavy door flung to, exploded, filling the galleries all
round the _patio_ with the sonorous reminder of our peril.

"Ah! We had forgotten."

I heard her voice, and felt her form in my arms. Her lips at my ear
pronounced:

"Remember, Juan. Two lives, but one death only."

And she was gone so quickly that it was as though she had passed through
the wood of the massive panels.

La Chica crouched on her knees. The lights on the floor burned before
her empty stare, and with her bare shoulders the tone of old ivory
emerging from the white linen, with wisps of raven hair hanging down her
cheeks, the abandonment of her whole person embodied every outward mark
and line of desolation.

"What do you fear from him?" I asked.

She looked up; moved nearer to me on her knees. "I have a lover
outside."

She seized her hair wildly, drew it across her face, tried to stuff
handfuls of it into her mouth, as if to stop herself from shrieking.

"He shook his finger at me," she moaned.

Her terror, as incomprehensible as the emotion of an animal, was gaining
upon me. I said sternly:

"What can he do, then?"

"I don't know."

She did not know. She was like me. She feared for her love. Like myself!
Was there anything in the way of our undoing which it was not in his
power to achieve?

"Try to be faithful to your mistress," I said, "and all may be well
yet."

She made no answer, but staggered to her feet, and went away blindly
through the door, which opened just wide enough to let her through.
There were clouds on the sky. The _patio_, in its blackness, was like
the rectangular mouth of a bottomless pit. I picked up the candlesticks,
and lighted myself to my room, walking upon air, upon tempestuous air,
in a feeling of insecurity and exultation.

The lights of my candelabrum had gone out. I stood the two candlesticks
on a table, and the shadows of the room, uplifted above the two flames
as high as the ceiling, filled the corners heavily like gathered
draperies, descended to the foot of the four walls in the shape of a
military tent, in which warlike objects vaguely gleamed: a trophy of
ancient arquebuses and conquering swords, arranged with bows, spears,
the stick and stone weapons of an extinct race, a war collar of shells
or pebbles, a round wicker-work shield in a halo of arrows, with a
matchlock piece on each side--of the sort that had to be served by two
men.

I had left the door of my room open on purpose, so that he should know
I was back there, and ready for him. I took down a long straight blade,
like a rapier, with a basket hilt. It was a cumbrous weapon, and with a
blunt edge; still, it had a point, and I was ready to thrust and parry
against the world. I called upon my foes. No enemy appeared, and by
the light of two candles, with a sword in my hand, I lost myself in the
foreshadowings of the future.

It was positive and uncertain. I wandered in it like a soul outside the
gates of paradise, with an anticipation of bliss, and the pain of my
exclusion. There was only one man in the way. I was certain he had been
watching us across the blackness of the _patio_. He must have seen the
dimly-lit dumb show of our parting at Sera-phina's door. I hoped he had
understood, and that my shadow, bearing the two lights, had struck him
as triumphant and undismayed, walking upon air. I strained my ears. I
had heard....

Somebody was coming towards me along the silent galleries. It was he;
I knew it. He was coming nearer and nearer. In the profound, tomb-like
stillness of the great house, I had heard the sound of his footsteps on
the tessellated pavement from afar. Now he had turned the corner, and
the calm, strolling pace of his approach was enough to strike awe into
an adversary's heart. It never hesitated, not once; never hurried; never
slowed till it stopped. He stood in the doorway.

I suppose, in that big room, by the light of two candles, I must have
presented an impressive picture of a menacing youth all in black, with
a tense face, and holding a naked, long rapier in his hand. At any rate,
he stood still, eyeing me from the doorway, the picture of a dapper
Spanish lawyer in a lofty frame; all in black, also, with a fair head
and a well-turned leg advanced in a black silk stocking. He had taken
off his riding boots. For the rest, I had never seen him dressed
otherwise. There was no weapon in his hand, or at his side.

I lowered the point, and, seeing he remained on the doorstep, as if not
willing to trust himself within, I said disdainfully:

"You don't suppose I would murder a defenceless man."

"Am I defenceless?" He had a slight lift of the eyebrows. "That is news,
indeed. It is you who are supposing. I have been a very certain man for
this many a year."

"How can you know how an English gentleman would feel and act? I am
neither a murderer nor yet an intriguer."

He walked right in rapidly, and, getting round to the other side of the
table, drew a small pistol out of his breeches pocket.

"You see--I am not trusting too much to your English generosity."

He laid the pistol negligently on the table. I had turned about on my
heels. As we stood, by lunging between the two candlesticks, I should
have been able to run him through the body before he could cry out.

I laid the sword on the table.

"Would you trust a damned Irish rebel?" he asked.

"You are wrong in your surmise. I would have nothing to do with a rebel,
even in my thoughts and suppositions. I think that the Intendente of Don
Balthasar Riego would look twice before murdering in a bedroom the guest
of the house--a relation, a friend of the family."

"That's sensible," he said, with that unalterable air of good nature,
which sometimes was like the most cruel mockery of humour. "And do you
think that even a relation of the Riegos would escape the scaffold for
killing Don Patricio O'Brien, one of the Royal Judges of the Marine
Court, member of the Council, Procurator to the Chapter...."

"Intendente of the Casa," I threw in.

"That's my gratitude," he said gravely. "So you see...."

"Supreme chief of thieves and picaroons," I suggested again.

He answered this by a gesture of disdainful superiority.

"I wonder if you---if any of you English--would have the courage to risk
your all--ambition, pride, position, wealth, peace of mind, your dearest
hope, your self-respect--like this. For an idea."

His tone, that revealed something exalted and sad behind everything that
was sordid and base in the acts of that man's villainous tools,
struck me with astonishment. I beheld, as an inseparable whole, the
contemptible result, the childishness of his imagination, the danger of
his recklessness, and something like loftiness in his pitiful illusion.

"Nothing's too hot, too dirty, too heavy. Any way to get at you English;
any means. To strike! That's the thing. I would die happy if I knew I
had helped to detach from you one island--one little island of all the
earth you have filched away, stolen, taken by force, got by lying....
Don't taunt me with your taunts of thieves. What weapons better worthy
of you could I use? Oh, I am modest. I am modest. This is a little
thing, this Jamaica. What do I care for the Separationist blatherskite
more than for the loyal fools? You are all English to me. If I had my
way, your Empire would die of pin-pricks all over its big, overgrown
body. Let only one bit drop off. If robbing your ships may help it,
then, as you see me standing here, I am ready to go myself in a leaky
boat. I tell you Jamaica's gone. And that may be the beginning of the
end."

He lifted his arm not at me, but at England, if I may judge from his
burning stare. It was not to me he was speaking. There we were, Irish
and English, face to face, as it had been ever since we had met in the
narrow way of the world that had never been big enough for the tribes,
the nations, the races of man.

"Now, Mr. O'Brien, I don't know what you may do to me, but I won't
listen to any of this," I said, very red in the face.

"Who wants you to listen?" he muttered absently, and went away from the
table to look out of the loophole, leaving me there with the sword and
the pistol.

Whatever he might have said of the scaffold, this was very imprudent
of him. It was characteristic of the man--of that impulsiveness which
existed in him side by side with his sagacity, with his coolness in
intrigue, with his unmerciful and revengeful temper. By my own feelings
I understood what an imprudence it was. But he was turning his back on
me, and how could I?... His imprudence was so complete that it made for
security. He did not, I am sure, remember my existence. I would just as
soon have jumped with a dagger upon a man in the dark.

He was really stirred to his depths--to the depths of his hate, and of
his love--by seeing me, an insignificant youth (I was no more), surge up
suddenly in his path. He turned where he stood at last, and contemplated
me with a sort of thoughtful surprise, as though he had tried to account
to himself for my existence.

"No," he said, to himself really, "I wonder when I look at you. How did
you manage to get that pretty reputation over there? Ramon's a fool. He
shall know it to his cost. But the craftiness of that Carlos! Or is it
only my confounded willingness to believe?"

He was putting his finger nearly on the very spot. I said nothing.

"Why," he exclaimed, "when it's all boiled down, you are only an English
beggar boy."

"I've come to a man's estate since we met last," I said meaningly.

He seemed to meditate over this. His face never changed, except,
perhaps, to an even more amused benignity of expression.

"You have lived very fast by that account," he remarked artlessly.
"Is it possible now? Well, life, as you know, can't last forever; and,
indeed, taking a better look at you in this poor light, you do seem to
be very near death."

I did not flinch; and, with a very dry mouth, I uttered defiantly:

"Such talk means nothing."

"Bravely said. But this is not talk. You've gone too fast. I am giving
you a chance to turn back."

"Not an inch," I said fiercely. "Neither in thought, in deed; not even
in semblance."

He seemed as though he wanted to swallow a bone in his throat.

"Believe me, there is more in life than you think. There is at your age,
more than..." he had a strange contortion of the body, as though in a
sudden access of internal pain; that humorous smile, that abode in the
form of his lips, changed into a ghastly, forced grin... "than one love
in a life--more than one woman."

I believe he tried to leer at me, because his voice was absolutely dying
in his throat. My indignation was boundless. I cried out with the fire
of deathless conviction:

"It is not true. You know it is not true."

He was speechless for a time; then, shaking and stammering with that
inward rage that seemed to heave like molten lava in his breast, without
ever coming to the surface of his face:

"What! Is it I, then, who have to go back? For--for you---a boy--come
from devil knows where--an English, beggarly.... For a girl's whim....
I--a man."

He calmed down. "No; you are mad. You are dreaming. You don't know. You
can't--you! You don't know what a man is; you with your calf-love a day
old. How dare you look at me who have breathed for years in the very
air? You fool--you little, wretched fool! For years sleeping, and
waking, and working...."

"And intriguing," I broke in, "and plotting, and deceiving--for years."

This calmed him altogether. "I am a man; you are but a boy; or else I
would not have to tell you that your love"--he choked at the word--"is
to mine like--like--"

His eyes fell on a cut-glass water-ewer, and, with a convulsive sweep
of his arm, he sent it flying far away from the table. It fell heavily,
shattering itself with the unringing thud of a piece of ice. "Like
this." He remained for some time with his eyes fixed on the table, and
when he looked up at me it was with a sort of amused incredulity. His
tone was not resentful. He spoke in a business-like manner, a little
contemptuously. I had only Don Carlos to thank for the position in which
I found myself. What the "poor devil over there" expected from me, he,
O'Brien, would not inquire. It was a ridiculous boy-and-girl affair. If
those two--meaning Carlos and Seraphina--had not been so mighty clever,
I should have been safe now in Jamaica jail, on a charge of treasonable
practices. He seemed to find the idea funny. Well, anyhow, he had meant
no worse by me than my own dear countrymen. When he, O'Brien, had found
how absurdly he had been hoodwinked by Don Carlos--the poor devil--and
misled by Ramon--he would make him smart for it, yet--all he had
intended to do was to lodge me in Havana jail. On his word of honour...

"Me in jail!" I cried angrily. "You--you would dare! On what charge? You
could not...."

"You don't know what Pat O'Brien can do in Cuba."

The little country solicitor came out in a flash from under the Spanish
lawyer. Then he frowned slightly at me. "You being an Englishman, I
would have had you taken up on a charge of stealing."

Blood rushed to my face. I lost control over myself. "Mr. O'Brien," I
said, "I dare say you could have trumped up anything against me. You are
a very great scoundrel."

"Why? Because I don't lie about my motives, as you all do? I would wish
you to know that I would scorn to lie either to myself or to you."

I touched the haft of the sword on the table. It was lying with the
point his way.

"I had been thinking," said I, in great heat, "to propose to you that we
should fight it out between us two, man to man, rebel and traitor as you
have been."

"The devil you have!" he muttered.

"But really you are too much of a Picaroon. I think the gallows should
be your end."

I gave rein to my exasperation, because I felt myself hopelessly in his
power. What he was driving at, I could not tell. I had an intolerable
sense of being as much at his mercy as though I had been lying bound
hand and foot on the floor. It gave me pleasure to tell him what
I thought. And, perhaps, I was not quite candid, either. Suppose I
provoked him enough to fire his pistol at me. He had been fingering the
butt, absently, as we talked. He might have missed me, and then.... Or
he might have shot me dead. But surely there was some justice in Cuba.
It was clear enough that he did not wish to kill me himself. Well, this
was a desperate strait; to force him to do something he did not wish to
do, even at the cost of my own life, was the only step left open to
me to thwart his purpose; the only thing I could do just then for the
furtherance of my mission to save Seraphina from his intrigues. I was
oppressed by the misery of it all. As to killing him as he stood--if I
could do it by being very quick with the old rapier--my bringing up, my
ideas, my very being, recoiled from it. I had never taken a life. I was
very young. I was not used to scenes of violence; and to begin like this
in cold blood! Not only my conscience, but my very courage faltered.
Truth to tell, I was afraid; not for myself--I had the courage to
die; but I was afraid of the act. It was the unknown for me--for my
nerve--for my conscience. And then the Spanish gallows! That, too,
revolted me. To kill him, and then kill myself.... No, I must live. "Two
lives, one death," she had said..... For a second or two my brain reeled
with horror; I was certainly losing my self-possession. His voice broke
upon that nightmare.

"It may be your lot, yet," it said. I burst into a nervous laugh. For a
moment I could not stop myself.

"I won't murder you," I cried.

To this he said astonishingly, "Will you go to Mexico?"

It sounded like a joke. He was very serious. "I shall send one of the
schooners there on a little affair of mine. I can make use of you. I
give you this chance." It was as though he had thrown a bucketful of
water over me. I had an inward shiver, and became quite cool. It was his
turn now to let himself go.

It was a matter of delivering certain papers to the Spanish commandant
in Tamaulipas. There would be some employment found for me with the
Royal troops. I was a relation of the Riegos. And there came upon his
voice a strange ardour; a swiftness into his utterance. He walked away
from the table; came back, and gazed into my face in a marked, expectant
manner. He was not prompted by any love for me, he said, and gave an
uncertain laugh.

My wits had returned to me wholly; and as he repeated "No love for
you--no love for you," I had the intuition that what influenced him was
his love for Seraphina. I saw it. I read it in the workings of his
face. His eyes retained his good-humoured twinkle. He did not attach
any importance to a boy-and-girl affair; not at all--pah! The lady,
naturally young, warmhearted, full of kindness. I mustn't think.... Ha,
ha! A man of his age, of course, understood.... No importance at all.

He walked away from the table trying to snap his fingers, and, suddenly,
he reeled; he reeled, as though he had been overcome by the poison of
his jealousy--as though a thought had stabbed him to the heart. There
was an instant when the sight of that man moved me more than anything
I had seen of passionate suffering before (and that was nothing), or
since. He longed to kill me--I felt it in the very air of the room; and
he loved her too much to dare. He laughed at me across the table. I had
ridiculously misunderstood a very proper and natural kindness of a girl
with not much worldly experience. He had known her from the earliest
childhood.

"Take my word for it," he stammered.

It seemed to me that there were tears in his eyes. A stiff smile was
parting his lips. He took up the pistol, and evidently not knowing
anything about it, looked with an air of curiosity into the barrel.

It was time to think of making my career. That's what I ought to
be thinking of at my age. "At your age--at your age," he repeated
aimlessly. I was an Englishman. He hated me--and it was easy to believe
this, though he neither glared nor grimaced. He smiled.

He smiled continuously and rather pitifully. But his devotion to
a--a--person who.... His devotion was great enough to overcome even
that, even that. Did I understand? I owed it to the lady's regard,
which, for the rest, I had misunderstood--stupidly misunderstood.

"Well, at your age it's excusable!" he mumbled. "A career that..."

"I see," I said slowly. Young as I was, it was impossible to mistake
his motives. Only a man of mature years, and really possessed by a great
passion--by a passion that had grown slowly, till it was exactly as big
as his soul--could have acted like this--with that profound simplicity,
with such resignation, with such horrible moderation--But I wanted
to find out more. "And when would you want me to go?" I asked, with
a dissimulation of which I would not have suspected myself capable a
moment before. I was maturing in the fire of love, of danger; in the
lurid light of life piercing through my youthful innocence.

"Ah," he said, banging the pistol on to the table hurriedly. "At once.
To-night. Now."

"Without seeing anybody?"

"Without seeing... Oh, of course. In your own interest."

He was very quiet now. "I thought you looked intelligent enough," he
said, appearing suddenly very tired. "I am glad you see your position.
You shall go far in the Royal service, on the faith of Pat O'Brien,
English as you are. I will make it my own business for the sake of--the
Riego family. There is only one little condition."

He pulled out of his pocket a piece of paper, a pen, a travelling
inkstand. He looked the lawyer to the life; the Spanish family lawyer
grafted on an Irish attorney.

"You can't see anybody. But you ought to write. Dona Seraphina naturally
would be interested. A cousin and... I shall explain to Don Balthasar,
of course.... I will dictate: 'Out of regard for your future, and the
desire for active life, of your own will, you accept eagerly Señor
O'Brien's proposition.' She'll understand."

"Oh, yes, she'll understand," I said.

"Yes. And that you will write of your safe arrival in Tamaulipas. You
must promise to write. Your word..."

"By heavens, Señor O'Brien!" I burst out with inexpressible scorn,
"I thought you meant your villains to cut my throat on the passage. I
should have deserved no better fate."

He started. I shook with rage. A change had come upon both of us as
sudden as if we had been awakened by a violent noise. For a time we did
not speak a word. One look at me was enough for him. He passed his hand
over his forehead.

"What devil's in you, boy?" he said. "I seem to make nothing but
mistakes."

He went to the loophole window, and, advancing his head, cried out:

"The schooner does not sail to-night."

He had some of his cut-throats posted under the window. I could not make
out the reply he got; but after a while he said distinctly, so as to be
heard below:

"I give up that spy to you." Then he came back, put the pistol in his
pocket, and said to me, "Fool! I'll make you long for death yet."

"You've given yourself away pretty well," I said. "Some day I shall
unmask you. It will be my revenge on you for daring to propose to me...."

"What?" he interrupted, over his shoulder. "You? Not you--and I'll tell
you why. It's because dead men tell no tales."

He passed through the door--a back view of a dapper Spanish lawyer,
all in black, in a lofty frame. The calm, strolling footsteps went away
along the gallery. He turned the corner. The tapping of his heels echoed
in the _patio_, into whose blackness filtered the first suggestion of
the dawn.



CHAPTER FIVE

I remember walking about the room, and thinking to myself, "This is bad,
this is very bad; what shall I do now?" A sort of mad meditation that in
this meaningless way became so tense as positively to frighten me. Then
it occurred to me that I could do nothing whatever at present, and I was
soothed by this sense of powerless-ness, which, one would think, ought
to have driven me to distraction. I went to sleep ultimately, just as a
man sentenced to death goes to sleep, lulled in a sort of ghastly way by
the finality of his doom. Even when I awoke it kept me steady, in a way.
I washed, dressed, walked, ate, said "Good-morning, Cesar," to the old
major-domo I met in the gallery; exchanged grins with the negro boys
under the gateway, and watched the mules being ridden out barebacked
by other nearly naked negro boys into the sea, with great splashing
of water and a noise of voices. A small knot of men, unmistakably
__Lugareños__, stood on the beach, also, watching the mules, and
exchanging loud jocular shouts with the blacks. Rio Medio, the dead,
forsaken, and desecrated city, was lying, as bare as a skeleton, on the
sands. They were yellow; the bay was very blue, the wooded hills very
green.

After the mules had been ridden uproariously back to the stables, wet
and capering, and shaking their long ears, all the life of the land
seemed to take refuge in this vivid colouring. As I looked at it from
the outer balcony above the great gate, the small group of __Lugareños__
turned about to look at the Casa Riego.

They recognized me, no doubt, and one of them flourished, threateningly,
an arm from under his cloak. I retreated indoors.

This was the only menacing sign, absolutely the only sign that marked
this day. It was a day of pause. Seraphina did not leave her apartments;
Don Balthasar did not show himself; Father Antonio, hurrying towards the
sick room, greeted me with only a wave of the hand. I was not admitted
to see Carlos; the nun came to the door, shook her head at me, and
closed it gently in my face. Castro, sitting on the floor not very far
away, seemed unaware of me in so marked a manner that it inspired me
with the idea of not taking the slightest notice of him. Now and then
the figure of a maid in white linen and bright petticoat flitted in the
upper gallery, and once I fancied I saw the black, rigid carriage of the
duenna disappearing behind a pillar.

Señor O'Brien, old Cesar whispered, without looking at me, was extremely
occupied in the _Cancillería_. His midday meal was served him there.
I had mine all alone, and then the sunny, heat-laden stillness of
siesta-time fell upon the Castilian dignity of the house.

I sank into a kind of reposeful belief in the work of accident.
Something would happen. I did not know how soon and how atrociously
my belief was to be justified. I exercised my ingenuity in the most
approved lover-fashion--in devising means how to get secret speech
with Seraphina. The confounded silly maids fled from my most distant
appearance, as though I had the pest. I was wondering whether I should
not go simply and audaciously and knock at her door, when I fancied I
heard a scratching at mine. It was a very stealthy sound, quite capable
of awakening my dormant emotions.

I went to the door and listened. Then, opening it the merest crack, I
saw the inexplicable emptiness of the gallery. Castro, on his hands and
knees, startled me by whispering at my feet:

"Stand aside, Señor."

He entered my room on all-fours, and waited till I got the door closed
before he stood up.

"Even he may sleep sometimes," he said. "And the balustrade has hidden
me."

To see this little saturnine bandit, who generally stalked about
haughtily, as if the whole Casa belonged to him by right of fidelity,
crawl into my room like this was inexpressibly startling. He shook the
folds of his cloak, and dropped his hat on the floor.

"Still, it is better so. The very women of the house are not safe," he
said. "Señor, I have no mind to be delivered to the English for hanging.
But I have not been admitted to see Don Carlos, and, therefore, I must
make my report to you. These are Don Carlos' orders. 'Serve him, Castro,
when I am dead, as if my soul had passed into his body.'"

He nodded sadly. "_Si!_ But Don Carlos is a friend to me and you--you."
He shook his head, and drew me away from the door. "Two __Lugareños__,"
he said, "Manuel and another one, did go last night, as directed by the
friar"--he supposed--"to meet the _Juez_ in the bush outside Rio Medio."

I had guessed that much, and told him of Manuel's behaviour under my
window. How did they know my chamber?

"Bad, bad," muttered Castro. "La Chica told her lover, no doubt." He
hissed, and stamped his foot.

She was pretty, but flighty. The lover was a silly boy of decent,
Christian parents, who was always hanging about in the low villages. No
matter.

What he could not understand was why some boats should have been held in
readiness till nearly the morning to tow a schooner outside. Manuel came
along at dawn, and dismissed the crews. They had separated, making a
great noise on the beach, and yelling, "Death to the _Inglez!_"

I cleared up that point for him. He told me that O'Brien had the duenna
called to his room that morning. Nothing had been heard outside, but the
woman came out staggering, with her hand on the wall. He had terrified
her. God knows what he had said to her. The widow--as Castro called
her--had a son, an _escrivano_ in one of the Courts of Justice. No doubt
it was that.

"There it is, Señor," murmured Castro, scowling all round, as if every
wall of the room was an enemy. "He holds all the people in his hand in
some way. Even I must be cautious, though I am a humble, trusted friend
of the Casa!"

"What harm could he do you?" I asked.

"He is civil to me. _Amigo Castro_ here, and _Amigo Castro_ there. Bah!
The devil, alone, is his friend! He could deliver me to justice, and get
my life sworn away. He could------_Quien sabe?_ What need he care what
he does--a man that can get absolution from the archbishop himself if he
likes."

He meditated. "No! there is only one remedy for him." He tiptoed to my
ear. "The knife!"

He made a pass in the air with his blade, and I remembered vividly the
cockroach he had impaled with such accuracy on board the _Thames_. His
baneful glance reminded me of his murderous capering in the steerage,
when he had thought that the only remedy for _me_ was the knife.

He went to the loop-hole, and passed the steel thoughtfully on the stone
edge. I had not moved.

"The knife; but what would you have? Before, when I talked of this
to Don Carlos, he only laughed at me. That was his way in matters of
importance. Now they will not let me come in to him. He is too near
God--and the Señorita--why, she is too near the saints for all the
great nobility of her spirit. But, _que dia-bleria_, when I--in my
devotion--opened my mouth to her I saw some of that spirit in her
eyes...."

There was a slight irony in his voice. "No! Me--Castro! to be told that
an English Señora would have dismissed me forever from her presence for
such a hint. 'Your Excellency,' I said, 'deign, then, to find it good
that I should avoid giving offence to that man. It is not my desire to
run my neck into the iron collar.'"

He looked at me fixedly, as if expecting me to make a sign, then
shrugged his shoulders.

"_Bueno_. You see this? Then look to it yourself, Señor. You are to
me even as Don Carlos--all except for the love. No English body is big
enough to receive his soul. No friend will be left that would risk his
very honour of a noble for a man like Tomas Castro. Let me warn you not
to leave the Casa, even if a shining angel stood outside the gate and
called you by name. The gate is barred, now, night and day. I have
dropped a hint to Cesar, and that old African knows more than the Señor
would suppose. I cannot tell how soon I may have the opportunity to talk
to you again."

He peeped through the crack of the door, then slipped out, suddenly
falling at once on his hands and knees, so as to be hidden by the stone
balustrade from anybody in the _patio_. He, too, did not think himself
safe.

Early in the evening I descended into the court, and Father Antonio,
walking up and down the _patio_ with his eyes on his breviary, muttered
to me:

"Sit on this chair," and went on without stopping.

I took a chair near the marble rim of the basin with its border of
English flowers, its splashing thread of water. The goldfishes that had
been lying motionless, with their heads pointing different ways, glided
into a bunch to the fall of my shadow, waiting for crumbs of bread.

Father Antonio, his head down, and the open breviary under his nose,
brushed my foot with the skirt of his cassock.

"Have you any plan?"

When he came back, walking very slowly, I said, "None."

At this next turn I pronounced rapidly, "I should like to see Carlos."

He frowned over the edge of the book. I understood that he refused to
let me in. And, after all, why should I disturb that dying man? The news
about him was that he felt stronger that day. But he was preparing for
eternity. Father Antonio's business was to save souls. I felt horribly
crushed and alone. The priest asked, hardly moving his lips: "What do
you trust to?"

I had the time to meditate my reply. "Tell Carlos I think of escape by
sea."

He made a little sign of assent, turned off towards the staircase, and
went back to the sick room.

"The folly of it," I thought. How could I think of it? Escape where? I
dared not even show myself outside the Casa. My safety within depended
on old Cesar more than on anybody else. He had the key of the gate, and
the gate was practically the only thing between me and a miserable death
at the hands of the first ruffian I met outside. And with the thought I
seemed to stifle in that _patio_ open to the sky.

That gate seemed to cut off the breath of life from me. I was there, as
if in a trap. Should I--I asked myself--try to enlighten Don Balthasar?
Why not? He would understand me. I would tell him that in his own town,
as he always called Rio Medio, there lurked assassination for his guest.
That would move him if anything could.

He was then walking with O'Brien after dinner, as he had walked with me
on the day of my arrival. Only Seraphina had not appeared, and we three
men had sat out the silent meal alone.

They stopped as I approached, and Don Balthasar listened to me
benignantly. "Ah, yes, yes! Times have changed." But there was no reason
for alarm. There were some undesirable persons. Had they not arrived
lately? He turned to O'Brien, who stood by, in readiness to resume
the walk, and answered, "Yes, quite lately. Very undesirable," in a
matter-of-fact tone. The excellent Don Patricio would take measures
to have them removed, the old man soothed me. But it was not really
dangerous for any one to go out. Again he addressed O'Brien, who only
smiled gently, as much as to say, "What an absurdity!" I must not
forget, continued the old man, the veneration for the very name of Riego
that still, thank Heaven, survived in these godless and revolutionary
times in the Riegos' own town. He straightened his back a little,
looking at me with dignity, and then glanced at the other, who inclined
his head affirmatively. The utter and complete hopelessness of the
position appalled me for a moment. The old man had not put foot outside
his door for years, not even to go to church. Father Antonio said
Mass for him every day in the little chapel next the dining room.
When O'Brien--for his own purposes, and the better to conceal his own
connection with the Rio Medio piracies--had persuaded him to go to
Jamaica officially, he had been rowed in state to the ship waiting
outside. For many years now it had been impossible to enlighten him as
to the true condition of affairs. He listened to people's talk as though
it had been children's prattle. I have related how he received Carlos'
denunciations. If one insisted, he would draw himself up in displeasure.
But in his decay he had preserved a great dignity, a grave firmness that
intimidated me a little.

I did not, of course, insist that evening, and, after giving me
my dismissal in a gesture of blessing, he resumed his engrossing
conversation with O'Brien. It related to the services commemorating his
wife's death, those services that, once every twelve months, draped in
black all the churches in Havana. A hundred masses, no less, had to
be said that day; a distribution of alms had to be made. O'Brien was
charged with all the arrangements, and I caught, as they crept past me
up and down the _patio_, snatches of phrases relating to this mournful
function, when all the capital was invited to pray for the soul of the
illustrious lady. The priest of the church of San Antonio had said this
and that; the grand vicar of the diocese had made difficulties about
something; however, by the archbishop's special grace, no less than
three altars would be draped in the cathedral.

I saw Don Balthasar smile with an ineffable satisfaction; he thanked
O'Brien for his zeal, and seemed to lean more familiarly on his arm. His
voice trembled with eagerness. "And now, my excellent Don Patricio, as
to the number of candles...."

I stood for a while as if rooted to the spot, overwhelmed by my
insignificance. O'Brien never once looked my way. Then, hanging my head,
I went slowly up the white staircase towards my room.

Cesar, going his rounds along the gallery, shuffled his silk-clad shanks
smartly between two young negroes balancing lanthorns suspended on
the shafts of their halberds. That little group had a mediaeval and
outlandish aspect. Cesar carried a bunch of keys in one hand, his staff
of office in the other. He stood aside, in his maroon velvet and gold
lace, holding the three-cornered hat under his arm, bowing his gray,
woolly head--the most venerable and deferential of majordomos. His
attendants, backing against the wall, grounded their halberds heavily at
my approach.

He stepped out to intercept me, and, with great discretion, "Señor, a
word," he said in his subdued voice. "A moment ago I have been called
within the door of our senorita's apartments. She has given me this for
your worship, together with many compliments. It is a seal. The Señor
will understand."

I took it; it was a tiny seal with her monogram on it. "Yes," I said.

"And Señorita Dona Seraphina has charged me to repeat"--he made a
stealthy sign, as if to counteract an evil influence--"the words, 'Two
lives--one death.' The Señor will understand."

"Yes," I said, looking away with a pang at my heart. He touched my
elbow. "And to trust Cesar. Señor, I dandled her when she was quite
little. Let me most earnestly urge upon your worship not to go near the
windows, especially if there is light in your worship's room. Evil men
are gazing upon the house, and I have seen myself the glint of a musket
at the end of the street. The moon grows fast, too. The senorita begs
you to trust Cesar."

"Are there many men?" I asked.

"Not many in sight; I have seen only one. But by signs, open to a man of
my experience, I suspect many more to be about." Then, as I looked down
on the ground, he added parenthetically, "They are poor shots, one and
all, lacking the very firmness of manhood necessary to discharge a
piece with a good aim. Still, Señor, I am ordered to entreat you to be
cautious. Strange it is that to-night, from the great revelry at the
Aldea Bajo, one might think they had just visited an English ship
outside."

A ship! a ship! of any sort. But how to get out of the Casa? Murder
forbade me even as much as to look out of the windows. Was there a ship
outside? Cesar was positive there was not--not since I had arrived.
Besides, the empty sea itself was unattainable, it seemed. I pressed the
seal to my lips. "Tell the senorita how I received her gift," I said;
and the old negro inclined his head lower still. "Tell her that as the
letters of her name are graved on this, so are all the words she has
spoken graven on my heart."

They went away busily, the lanthorns swinging about the ax-heads of the
halberds, Cesar's staff tapping the stones.

I shut my door, and buried my face in the pillows of the state bed. My
mental anguish was excessive; action, alone, could relieve it. I had
been battling with my thoughts like a man fighting with shadows. I could
see no issue to such a struggle, and I prayed for something tangible to
encounter--something that one could overcome or go under to. I must
have fallen suddenly asleep, because there was a lion in front of me. It
lashed its tail, and beyond the indistinct agitation of the brute I saw
Seraphina. I tried to shout to her; no voice came out of my throat. And
the lion produced a strange noise; he opened his jaws like a door. I sat
up. It was like a change of dream. A glare filled my eyes. In the wide
doorway of my room, in a group of attendants, I saw a figure in a short
black cloak standing, hat on head, and an arm outstretched. It was Don
Balthasar. He held himself more erect than I had ever seen him before.
Stifled sounds of weeping, a vast, confused rumour of lamentations,
running feet and flamming doors, came from behind him; his aged, dry
voice, much firmer and very distinct, was speaking to me.

"You are summoned to attend the bedside of Don Carlos Riego at the hour
of death, to help his soul struggling on the threshold of eternity, with
your prayers--as a kinsman and a friend."

A great draught swayed the lights about that black and courtly figure.
All the windows and doors of the palace had been flung open for the
departure of the struggling soul. Don Balthasar turned; the group of
attendants was gone in a moment, with a tramp of feet and jostling of
lights in the long gallery.

I ran out after them. A wavering glare came from under the arch, and,
through the open gate, I saw the bulky shape of the bishop's coach
waiting outside in the moonlight. A strip of cloth fell from step
to step down the middle of the broad white stairs. The staircase was
brilliantly lighted, and quite empty. The household was crowding the
upper galleries; the sobbing murmurs of their voices fell into the
deserted _patio_. The strip of crimson cloth laid for the bishop ran
across it from the arch of the stairway to the entrance.

The door of Carlos' room stood wide open; I saw the many candles on
a table covered with white linen, the side of the big bed, surpliced
figures moving within the room. There was the ringing of small bells,
and sighing groans from the kneeling forms in the gallery through which
I was making my way slowly.

Castro appeared at my side suddenly. "Señor," he began, with saturnine
stoicism, "he is dead. I have seen battlefields------" His voice broke.

I saw, through the large portal of the death-chamber, Don Balthasar
and Seraphina standing at the foot of the bed; the bowed heads of
two priests; the bishop, a tiny old man, in his vestments; and Father
Antonio, burly and motionless, with his chin in his hand, as if left
behind after leading that soul to the very gate of Eternity. All about
me, women and men were crossing themselves; and Castro, who for a moment
had covered his eyes with his hand, touched my elbow.

"And you live," he said, with sombre emphasis; then, warningly, "You are
in great danger now."

I looked around, as if expecting to see an uplifted knife. I saw only a
lot of people--household negroes and the women--rising from their knees.
Below, the _patio_ was empty.

"The house is defenceless," Castro continued. We heard tumultuous voices
under the gate. O'Brien appeared in the doorway of Carlos' room with an
attentive and dismayed expression on his face. I do not really think he
had anything to do with what then took place. He meant to have me killed
outside; but the rabble, excited by Manuel's inflammatory speeches,
had that night started from the villages below with the intention of
clamouring for my life. Many of their women were with them. Some of the
__Lugareños__ carried torches, others had pikes; most of them, however,
had nothing but their long knives. They came in a disorderly, shouting
mob along the beach, intending this not for an attack, but as a simple
demonstration.

The sight of the open gate struck them with wonder. The bishop's coach
blocked the entrance, and for a time they hesitated, awed by the mystery
of the house and by the rites going on in there. Then two or three
bolder spirits stole closer. The bishop's people, of course, did not
think of offering any resistance. The very defencelessness of the house
restrained the mob for a while. A few more men from outside ran in.
Several women began to clamour scoldingly to them to bring the _Inglez_
out. Then the men, encouraging each other in their audacity, advanced
further under the arch.

A solitary black, the only guard left at the gate, shouted at them,
"_Arria!_ Go back!" It had no effect. More of them crowded in, though,
of course, the greater part of that mob remained outside. The black
rolled big eyes. He could not stop them; he did not like to leave his
post; he dared not fire. "Go back! Go back!" he repeated.

"Not without the _Inglez_," they answered.

The tumult we had heard arose when the _Lugareños_ suddenly fell upon
the sentry, and wrenched his musket from him.

This man, when disarmed, ran away. I saw him running across the
_patio_, on the crimson pathway, to the foot of the staircase. His
shouting, "The _Lugareños_ have risen!" broke upon the hush of mourning.
Father Antonio made a brusque movement, and Seraphina sent a startled
glance in my direction.

The cloistered court, with its marble basin and a jet of water in the
centre, remained empty for a moment after the negro had run across; a
growing clamour penetrated into it. In the midst of it I heard O'Brien's
voice saying, "Why don't they shut the gate?" Immediately afterwards a
woman in the gallery cried out in surprise, and I saw the _Lugareños_
pour into the _patio_.

For a time that motley group of bandits stood in the light, as if
intimidated by the great dignity of the house, by the mysterious
prestige of the Casa whose interior, probably, none of them had
ever seen before. They gazed about silently, as if surprised to find
themselves there.

It looked as if they would have retired if they had not caught sight of
me. A murmur of "the _Inglez_" arose at once. By that time the household
negroes had occupied the staircase with what weapons they could find
upstairs.

Father Antonio pushed past O'Brien out of the room, and shook his arms
over the balustrade.

"Impious men," he cried, "begone from this house of death." His eyes
flashed at the ruffians, who stared stupidly from below.

"Give us the _Inglez_," they growled. Seraphina, from within, cried,
"Juan." I was then near the door, but not within the room.

"The _Inglez!_ The heretic! The traitor!" came in sullen, subdued
mutter. A hoarse, reckless voice shouted, "Give him to us, and we shall
go!"

"You are putting in danger all the lives in this house!" O'Brien hissed
at me. "Señorita, pray do not." He stood in the way of Seraphina, who
wished to come out.

"It is you!" she cried. "It is you! It is your voice, it is your hand,
it is your iniquity!"

He was confounded by her vehemence.

"Who brought him here?" he stammered. "Am I to find one of that accursed
brood forever in my way? I take him to witness that for your sake------"

A formidable roar, "Throw us down the _Inglez!_" filled the _patio_.
They were gaining assurance down there; and the ferocious clamouring of
the mob outside came faintly upon our ears.

O'Brien barred the way. Don Balthasar leaned on his daughter's arm--she
very straight, with tears still on her face and indignation in her eye,
he bowed, and with his immovable fine features set in the calmness of
age. Behind that group there were two priests, one with a scared, white
face, another, black-browed, with an exalted and fanatical aspect. The
light of the candles from the improvised altar fell on the bishop's
small, bald head, emerging with a patient droop from the wide spread of
his cope, as though he had been inclosed in a portable gold shrine. He
was ready to go.

Don Balthasar, who seemed to have heard nothing, as if suddenly waking
up to his duty, left his daughter, and muttering to O'Brien, "Let me
precede the bishop," came out, bare-headed, into the gallery. Father
Antonio had turned away, and his heavy hand fell on O'Brien's shoulder.

"Have you no heart, no reverence, no decency?" he said. "In the name
of everything you respect, I call upon you to stop this sacrilegious
outbreak."

O'Brien shook off the priestly hand, and fixed his eyes upon Seraphina.
I happened to be looking at his face; he seemed to be ready to go out
of his mind. His jealousy, the awful torment of soul and body, made him
motionless and speechless.

Seeing Don Balthasar appear by the balustrade, the ruffians below had
become silent for a while. His aged, mechanical voice was heard asking
distinctly:

"What do these people want?"

Seraphina, from within the room, said aloud, "They are clamouring for
the life of our guest." She looked at O'Brien contemptuously, "They are
doing this to please you."

"Before God, I have nothing to do with this."

It was true enough, he had nothing to do with this outbreak; and I
believe he would have interfered, but, in his dismay at having lost
himself in the eyes of Seraphina, in his rage against myself, he did
not know how to act. No doubt he had been deceiving himself as to his
position with Seraphina. He was a man who in his wishes. His desire of
revenge on me, the downfall of his hopes (he could no longer deceive
himself), a desperate striving of thought for their regaining, his
impulse towards the impossible--all these emotions paralyzed his will.

Don Balthasar beckoned to me.

"Don't go near him," said O'Brien, in a thick, mumbling voice. "I
shall------I must------"

I put him aside. Don Balthasar took my arm. "Misguided populace," he
whispered. "They have been a source of sorrow to me lately. But this
wicked folly is incredible. I shall call upon them to come to their
senses. My voice------"

The court below was strongly lighted, so that I saw the bearded,
bronzed, wild faces of the _Lugareños_ looking up. We, also, were
strongly shown by the light of the doorway behind us, and by the torches
burning in the gallery.

That morning, in my helplessness, I had come to put my trust in
accident--in some accident--I hardly knew of what nature--my own death,
perhaps--that would find a solution for my responsibilities, put an end
to my tormenting thoughts. And now the accident came with a terrible
swiftness, at which I shudder to this day.

We were looking down into the _patio_. Don Balthasar had just said,
"You are nowhere as safe as by my side," when I noticed a _Lugareño_
withdrawing himself from the throng about the basin. His face came to me
familiarly. He was the pirate with the broken nose, who had had a taste
of my fist. He had the sentry's musket on his shoulder, and was slinking
away towards the gate.

Don Balthasar extended his hand over the balustrade, and there was
a general movement of recoil below. I wondered why the slaves on the
stairs did not charge and clear the _patio_; but I suppose with such a
mob outside there was a natural hesitation in bringing the position to
an issue. The _Lugareños_ were muttering, "Look at the _Inglez!_" then
cried out together, "Excellency, give up this _Inglez!_"

Don Balthasar seemed ten years younger suddenly. I had never seen him so
imposingly erect.

"Insensate!" he began, without any anger.

"He is going to fire!" yelled Castro's voice somewhere in the gallery.

I saw a red dart in the shadow of the gate. The broken-nosed pirate had
fired at me. The report, deadened in the vault, hardly reached my
ears. Don Balthazar's arm seemed to swing me back. Then I felt him lean
heavily on my shoulder. I did not know what had happened till I heard
him say:

"Pray for me, gentlemen."

Father Antonio received him in his arms.

For a second after the shot, the most dead silence prevailed in the
court. It was broken by an affrighted howl below: and Seraphina's voice
cried piercingly:

"Father!"

The priest, dropping on one knee, sustained the silvery head, with its
thin features already calm in death. Don Balthasar had saved my life;
and his daughter flung herself upon the body. O'Brien pressed his hands
to his temples, and remained motionless.

I saw the bishop, in his stiff cope, creep up to the group with the
motion of a tortoise. And, for a moment, his quavering voice pronouncing
the absolution was the only sound in the house.

Then a most fiendish noise broke out below. The negroes had charged, and
the _Lugareños_, struck with terror at the unforeseen catastrophe, were
rushing helter-skelter through the gate. The screaming of the maids was
frightful. They ran up and down the galleries with their hair streaming.
O'Brien passed me by swiftly, muttering like a madman.

I, also, got down into the courtyard in time to strike some heavy blows
under the gateway; but I don't know who it was that thrust into my hands
the musket which I used as a club. The sudden burst of shrieks,
the cries of terror under the vault of the gate, yells of rage and
consternation, silenced the mob outside. The _Lugareños_, appalled at
what had happened, shouted most pitifully. They squeaked like the vermin
they were. I brought down the clubbed musket; two went down. Of two I am
sure. The rush of flying feet swept through between the walls, bearing
me along. For a time a black stream of men eddied in the moonlight round
the bishop's coach, like a torrent breaking round a boulder. The great
heavy machine rocked, mules plunged, torches swayed.

The archway had been cleared. Outside, the slaves were forming in the
open space before the Casa, while Cesar, with a few others, laboured
to swing the heavy gates to. Hats, torn cloaks, knives strewed the
flagstones, and the dim light of the lamps, fastened high up on the
walls, fell on the faces of three men stretched out on their backs.
Another, lying huddled up in a heap, got up suddenly and rushed out.

The thought of Seraphina clinging to the lifeless body of her father
upstairs came to me; it came over me in horror, and I let the musket
fall out of my hand. A silence like the silence of despair reigned in
the house. She would hate me now. I felt as if I could walk out and give
myself up, had it not been for the sight of O'Brien.

He was leaning his shoulders against the wall in the posture of a man
suddenly overcome by a deadly disease. No one was looking at us. It came
to me that he could not have many illusions left to him now. He looked
up wearily, saw me, and, waking up at once, thrust his hands into the
pockets of his breeches. I thought of his pistol. No wild hope of love
would prevent him, now, from killing me outright. The fatal shot that
had put an end to Don Balthasar's life must have brought to him an
awakening worse than death. I made one stride, caught him by both arms
swiftly, and pinned him to the wall with all my strength. We struggled
in silence.

I found him much more vigorous than I had expected; but, at the same
time, I felt at once that I was more than a match for him. We did not
say a word. We made no noise. But, in our struggle, we got away from the
wall into the middle of the gateway I dared not let go of his arms to
take him by the throat. He only tried to jerk and wrench himself away.
Had he succeeded, it would have been death for me. We never moved our
feet from the spot, fairly in the middle of the archway but nearer to
the gate than to the _patio_. The slaves, formed outside, guarded the
bishop's coach, and I do not know that there was anybody else actually
with us under the vault of the entrance. We glared into each other's
faces, and the world seemed very still around us. I felt in me a
passion--not of hate, but of determination to be done with him; and from
his face it was impossible to guess his suffering, his despair, or his
rage.

In the midst of our straining I heard a sibilant sound. I detached my
eyes from his; his struggles redoubled, and, behind him, stealing in
towards us from the court, black on the strip of crimson cloth, I saw
Tomas Castro. He flung his cloak back. The light of the lanthorn under
the keystone of the arch glimmered feebly on the blade of his maimed
arm. He made a discreet and bloodcurdling gesture to me with the other.

How could I hold a man so that he should be stabbed from behind in my
arms? Castro was running up swiftly, his cloak opening like a pair of
sable wings. Collecting all my strength, I forced O'Brien round, and
we swung about in a flash. Now he had his back to the gate. My effort
seemed to have uprooted him. I felt him give way all over.

As soon as our position had changed, Castro checked himself, and stepped
aside into the shadow of the guardroom doorway. I don't think O'Brien
had been aware of what had been going on. His strength was overborne
by mine. I drove him backwards. His eyes blinked wildly. He bared his
teeth. He resisted, as though I had been forcing him over the brink of
perdition. His feet clung to the flagstones. I shook him till his head
rolled.

"Viper brood!" he spluttered.

"Out you go!" I hissed.

I had found nothing heroic, nothing romantic to say--nothing that would
express my desperate resolve to rid the world of his presence. All I
could do was to fling him out. The Casa Riego was all my world--a World
full of great pain, great mourning, and love. I saw him pitch headlong
under the wheels of the bishop's enormous carriage. The black coachman
who had sat aloft, unmoved through all the tumult, in his white
stockings and three-cornered hat, glanced down from his high box. And
the two parts of the gate came together with a clang of ironwork and a
heavy crash that seemed as loud as thunder under that vault.



CHAPTER SIX

Not even in memory am I willing to live over again those three days when
Father Antonio, the old major-domo, and myself would meet each other
in the galleries, in the _patio_, in the empty rooms, moving in the
stillness of the house with heavy hearts and desolate eyes, which seemed
to demand, "What is there to do?"

Of course, precautions were taken against the Lugareños. They were
besieging the Casa from afar. They had established a sort of camp at the
end of the street, and they prowled about amongst the old, barricaded
houses in their pointed hats, in their rags and finery; women, with
food, passed constantly between the villages and the panic-stricken
town; there were groups on the beach; and one of the schooners had been
towed down the bay, and was lying, now, moored stem and stern opposite
the great gate. They did nothing whatever active against us. They lay
around and watched, as if in pursuance of a plan traced by a superior
authority. They were watching for me. But when, by some mischance, they
burnt the roof off the outbuildings that were at some distance from the
Casa, their chiefs sent up a deputation of three, with apologies.
Those men came unarmed, and, as it were, under Castro's protection,
and absolutely whimpered with regrets before Father Antonio. "Would his
reverence kindly intercede with the most noble senorita?..."

"Silence! Dare not pronounce her name!" thundered the good priest,
snatching away his hand, which they attempted to grab and kiss.

I, in the background, noted their black looks at me even as they
cringed. The man who had fired the shot, they said, had expired of his
wounds after great torments. Their other dead had been thrust out of
the gate before. A long fellow, with slanting eyebrows and a scar on his
cheek, called El Rechado, tried to inform Cesar, confidentially, that
Manuel, his friend, had been opposed to any encroachment of the Casa's
offices, only: "That Domingo------"

As soon as we discovered what was their object (their apparent object,
at any rate), they were pushed out of the gate unceremoniously,--still
protesting their love and respect--by the Riego negroes. Castro followed
them out again, after exchanging a meaning look with Father Antonio. To
live in the two camps, as it were, was a triumph of Castro's diplomacy,
of his saturnine mysteriousness. He kept us in touch with the outer
world, coming in under all sorts of pretences, mostly with messages from
the bishop, or escorting the priests that came in relays to pray by the
bodies of the two last Riegos lying in state, side by side, rigid in
black velvet and white lace ruffles, on the great bed dragged out into
the middle of the room.

Two enormous wax torches in iron stands flamed and guttered at the door;
a black cloth draped the emblazoned shields; and the wind from the sea,
blowing through the open casement, inclined all together the flames of
a hundred candles, pale in the sunlight, extremely ardent in the night.
The murmur of prayers for these souls went on incessantly; I have it in
my ears now. There would be always some figure of the household kneeling
in prayer at the door; or the old major-domo would come in to stand at
the foot, motionless for a time; or, through the open door, I would see
the cassock of Father Antonio, flung on his knees, with his forehead
resting on the edge of the bed, his hands clasped above his tonsure.

Apart from what was necessary for defence, all the life of the house
seemed stopped. Not a woman appeared; all the doors were closed; and
the numbing desolation of a great bereavement was symbolized by Don
Bal-thasar's chair in the _patio_, which had remained lying overturned
in full view of every part of the house, till I could bear the sight
no longer, and asked Cesar to have it put away. "_Si, Señor_," he said
deferentially, and a few tears ran suddenly down his withered cheeks.
The English flowers had been trampled down; an unclean hat floated on
the basin, now here, now there, frightening the goldfish from one side
to the other.

And Seraphina. It seems not fitting that I should write of her in these
days. I hardly dared let my thoughts approach her, but I had to think of
her all the time. Her sorrow was the very soul of the house.

Shortly after I had thrown O'Brien out the bishop had left, and then I
learned from Father Antonio that Seraphina had been carried away to her
own apartments in a fainting condition. The excellent man was almost
incoherent with distress and trouble of mind, and walked up and down,
his big head drooping on his capacious chest, the joints of his entwined
fingers cracking. I had met him in the gallery, as I was making my way
back to Carlos' room in anxiety and fear, and we had stepped aside into
a large saloon, seldom used, above the gateway. I shall never forget
the restless, swift pacing of that burly figure, while, feeling utterly
crushed, now the excitement was over, I leaned against a console. Three
long bands of moonlight fell, chilly bluish, into the vast room, with
its French Empire furniture stiffly arranged about the white walls.

"And that man?" he asked me at last.

"I could have killed him with my own hands," I said. "I was the
stronger. He had his pistols on him, I am certain, only I could not be a
party to an assassination...."

"Oh, my son, it would have been no sin to have exerted the strength
which God had blessed you with," he interrupted. "We are allowed to kill
venomous snakes, wild beasts; we are given our strength for that, our
intelligence...." And all the time he walked about, wringing his hands.

"Yes, your reverence," I said, feeling the most miserable and helpless
of lovers on earth; "but there was no time. If I had not thrown him out,
Castro would have stabbed him in the back in my very hands. And that
would have been------" Words failed me.

I had been obliged not only to desist myself, but to save his life from
Castro. I had been obliged! There had been no option. Murderous enemy as
he was, it seemed to me I should never have slept a wink all the rest of
my life.

"Yes, it is just, it is just. What else? Alas!" Father Antonio repeated
disconnectedly. "Those feelings implanted in your breast----I have
served my king, as you know, in my sacred calling, but in the midst of
war, which is the outcome of the wickedness natural to our fallen state.
I understand; I understand. It may be that God, in his mercy, did not
wish the death of that evil man--not yet, perhaps. Let us submit. He
may repent." He snuffled aloud. "I think of that poor child," he said
through his handkerchief. Then, pressing my arm with his vigorous
fingers, he murmured, "I fear for her reason."

It may be imagined in what state I spent the rest of that sleepless
night. At times, the thought that I was the cause of her bereavement
nearly drove me mad.

And there was the danger, too.

But what else could I have done? My whole soul had recoiled from the
horrible help Castro was bringing us at the point of his blade. No love
could demand from me such a sacrifice.

Next day Father Antonio was calmer. To my trembling inquiries he said
something consolatory as to the blessed relief of tears. When not
praying fervently in the mortuary chamber, he could be seen pacing the
gallery in a severe aloofness of meditation. In the evening he took
me by the arm, and, without a word, led me up a narrow and winding
staircase. He pushed a small door, and we stepped out on a flat part of
the roof, flooded in moonlight.

The points of land dark with the shadows of trees and broken ground
clasped the waters of the bay, with a body of shining white mists in
the centre; and, beyond, the vast level of the open sea, touched with
glitter, appeared infinitely sombre under the luminous sky.

We stood back from the parapet, and Father Antonio threw out a thick arm
at the splendid trail of the moon upon the dark water.

"This is the only way," he said.

He had a warm heart under his black robe, a simple and courageous
comprehension of life, this priest who was very much of a man; a certain
grandeur of resolution when it was a matter of what he regarded as his
principal office.

"This is the way," he repeated.

Never before had I been struck so much by the gloom, the vastness,
the emptiness of the open sea, as on that moonlight night. And Father
Antonio's deep voice went on:

"My son, since God has made use of the nobility of your heart to save
that sinner from an unshriven death------"

He paused to mutter, "Inscrutable! inscrutable!" to himself, sighed, and
then:

"Let us rejoice," he continued, with a completely unconcealed
resignation, "that you have been the chosen instrument to afford him an
opportunity to repent."

His tone changed suddenly.

"He will never repent," he said with great force. "He has sold his
soul and body to the devil, like those magicians of old of whom we have
records."

He clicked his tongue with compunction, and regretted his want of
charity. It was proper for me, however, as a man having to deal with a
world of wickedness and error, to act as though I did not believe in his
repentance.

"The hardness of the human heart is incredible; I have seen the most
appalling examples." And the priest meditated. "He is not a common
criminal, however," he added profoundly.

It was true. He was a man of illusions, ministering to passions
that uplifted him above the fear of consequences, Young as I was, I
understood that, too. There was no safety for us in Cuba while he lived.
Father Antonio nodded dismally.

"Where to go?" I asked. "Where to turn? Whom can we trust? In whom can
we repose the slightest confidence? Where can we look for hope?"

Again the _padre_ pointed to the sea. The hopeless aspect of its moonlit
and darkling calm struck me so forcibly that I did not even ask how he
proposed to get us out there. I only made a gesture of discouragement.
Outside the Casa, my life was not worth ten minutes' purchase. And how
could I risk her there? How could I propose to her to follow me to an
almost certain death? What could be the issue of such an adventure?
How could we hope to devise such secret means of getting away as would
prevent the _Lugareños_ pursuing us? I should perish, then, and she...

Father Antonio seemed to lose his self-control suddenly.

"Yes," he cried. "The sea is a perfidious element, but what is it to
the blind malevolence of men?" He gripped my shoulder. "The risk to her
life," he cried; "the risk of drowning, of hunger, of thirst--that is
all the sea can do. I do not think of that. I love her too much. She
is my very own spiritual child; and I tell you, Señor, that the unholy
intrigue of that man endangers not her happiness, not her fortune
alone--it endangers her innocent soul itself."

A profound silence ensued. I remembered that his business was to save
souls. This old man loved that young girl whom he had watched growing
up, defenceless in her own home; he loved her with a great strength of
paternal instinct that no vow of celibacy can extinguish, and with a
heroic sense of his priestly duty. And I was not to say him nay. The
sea--so be it. It was easier to think of her dead than to think of her
immured; it was better that she should be the victim of the sea than of
evil men; that she should be lost with me than to me.

Father Antonio, with that naïve sense of the poetry of the sky he
possessed, apostrophized the moon, the "gentle orb," as he called it,
which ought to be weary of looking at the miseries of the earth. His
immense shadow on the leads seemed to fling two vast fists over the
parapet, as if to strike at the enemies below, and without discussing
any specific plan we descended. It was understood that Seraphina and I
should try to escape--I won't say by sea, but to the sea. At best, to
ask the charitable help of some passing ship, at worst to go out of the
world together.

I had her confidence. I will not tell of my interview with her; but I
shall never forget my sensations of awe, as if entering a temple, the
melancholy and soothing intimacy of our meeting, the dimly lit loftiness
of the room, the vague form of La Chica in the background, and the
frail, girlish figure in black with a very pale, delicate face. Father
Antonio was the only other person present, and chided her for giving way
to grief. "It is like rebellion--like rebellion," he denounced, turning
away his head to wipe a tear hastily; and I wondered and thanked God
that I should be a comfort to that tender young girl, whose lot on earth
had been difficult, whose sorrow was great but could not overwhelm her
indomitable spirit, which held a promise of sweetness and love.

Her courage was manifest to me in the gentle and sad tones of her voice.
I made her sit in a vast armchair of tapestry, in which she looked
lost like a little child, and I took a stool at her feet. This is an
unforgettable hour in my life in which not a word of love was spoken,
which is not to be written of. The burly shadow of the priest lay
motionless from the window right across the room; the flickering flame
of a silver lamp made an unsteady white circle of light on the lofty
ceiling above her head. A clock was beating gravely somewhere in the
distant gloom, like the unperturbed heart of that silence, in which our
understanding of each other was growing, even into a strength fit to
withstand every tempest.

"Escape by the sea," I said aloud. "It would be, at least, like two
lovers leaping hand in hand off a high rock, and nothing else."

Father Antonio's bass voice spoke behind us.

"It is better to jeopardize the sinful body that returns to the dust of
which it is made than the redeemed soul, whose awful lot is eternity.
Reflect."

Seraphina hung her head, but her hand did not tremble in mine.

"My daughter," the old man continued, "you have to confide your fate to
a noble youth of elevated sentiments, and of a truly chivalrous
heart...."

"I trust him," said Seraphina.

And, as I heard her say this, it seemed really to me as if, in very
truth, my sentiments were noble and my heart chivalrous. Such is the
power of a girl's voice. The door closed on us, and I felt very humble.

But in the gallery Father Antonio leaned heavily on my shoulder.

"I shall be a lonely old man," he whispered faintly. "After all these
years! Two great nobles; the end of a great house--a child I had seen
grow up.... But I am less afraid for her now."

I shall not relate all the plans we made and rejected. Everything seemed
impossible. We knew from Castro that O'Brien had gone to Havana, either
to take the news of Don Balthasar's death himself, or else to prevent
the news spreading there too soon. Whatever his motive for leaving Rio
Medio, he had left orders that the house should be respected under the
most awful penalties, and that it should be watched so that no one left
it. The Englishman was to be killed at sight. Not a hair on anybody
else's head was to be touched.

To escape seemed impossible; then on the third day the thing came to
pass. The way was found. Castro, who served me as if Carlos' soul had
passed into my body, but looked at me with a saturnine disdain, had
arranged it all with Father Antonio.

It was the day of the burial of Carlos and Don Balthasar. That same day
Castro had heard that a ship had been seen becalmed a long way out to
sea. It was a great opportunity; and the funeral procession would give
the occasion for my escape. There was in Rio Medio, as in all Spanish
towns amongst the respectable part of the population, a confraternity
for burying the dead, "The Brothers of Pity," who, clothed in black
robes and cowls, with only two holes for the eyes, carried the dead to
their resting-place, unrecognizable and unrecognized in that pious work.
A "Brother of Pity" dress would be brought for me into Father Antonio's
room. Castro was confident as to his ability of getting a boat. It would
be a very small and dangerous one, but what would I have, if I neither
killed my enemy, nor let any one else kill him for me, he commented with
sombre sarcasm.

A truce of God had been called, and the burial was to take place in the
evening when the mortal remains of the last of the Riegos would be
laid in the vault of the cathedral of what had been known as their
own province, and had, in fact, been so for a time under a grant from
Charles V.

Early in the day I had a short interview with Seraphina. She was
resolute. Then, long before dark, I slipped into Father Antonio's room,
where I was to stay until the moment to come out and mingle with the
throng of other Brothers of Pity. Once with the bodies in the crypt of
the cathedral, I was to await Seraphina there, and, together, we should
slip through a side door on to the shore. Cesar, to throw any observer
off the scent (three _Lugareños_ were to be admitted to see the bodies
put in their coffins), posted two of the Riego negroes with loaded
muskets on guard before the door of my empty room, as if to protect me.

Then, just as dusk fell, Father Antonio, who had been praying silently
in a corner, got up, blew his nose, sighed, and suddenly enfolded me in
his powerful arms for an instant.

"I am an old man--a poor priest," he whispered jerkily into my ear, "and
the sea is very perfidious. And yet it favours the sons of your nation.
But, remember--the child has no one but you. Spare her."

He went off; stopped. "Inscrutable! inscrutable!" he murmured, lifting
upwards his eyes. He raised his hand with a solemn slowness. "An old
man's blessing can do no harm," he said humbly. I bowed my head. My
heart was too full for speech, and the door closed. I never saw him
again, except later on in his surplice for a moment at the gate, his
great bass voice distinct in the chanting of the priests conducting the
bodies.

The _Lugareños_ would respect the truce arranged by the bishop.

No man of them but the three had entered the Casa. Already, early in the
night, their black-haired women, with coarse faces and melancholy eyes,
were kneeling in rows under the black _mantillas_ on the stone floor of
the cathedral, praying for the repose of the soul of Seraphina's
father, of that old man who had lived among them, unapproachable, almost
invisible, and as if infinitely removed. They had venerated him, and
many of them had never set eyes on his person.

It strikes me, now, as strange and significant of a mysterious human
need, the need to look upwards towards a superiority inexpressibly
remote, the need of something to idealize in life. They had only that
and, maybe, a sort of love as idealized and as personal for the mother
of God, whom, also, they had never seen, to whom they trusted to save
them from a devil as real. And they had, moreover, a fear even more real
of O'Brien.

And, when one comes to think of it, in putting on the long spectacled
robe of a Brother of Pity, in walking before the staggering bearers
of the great coffin with a tall crucifix in my hand, in thus taking
advantage of their truce of God, I was, also, taking advantage of what
was undoubtedly their honour--a thing that handicapped them quite as
much as had mine when I found myself unable to strike down O'Brien. At
that time, I was a great deal too excited to consider this, however. I
had many things to think of, and the immense necessity of keeping a cool
head.

It was, after all, Tomas Castro to whom all the credit of the thing
belonged. Just after it had fallen very dark, he brought me the black
robes, a pair of heavy pistols to gird on under them, and the heavy
staff topped by a crucifix. He had an air of sarcastic protest in the
dim light of my room, and he explained with exaggeratedly plain words
precisely what I was to do--which, as a matter of fact, was neither more
nor less than merely following in his own footsteps.

"And, oh, Señor," he said sardonically, "if you desire again to pillow
your head upon the breast of your mother; if you would again see your
sister, who, alas! by bewitching my Carlos, is at the heart of all our
troubles; if you desire again to see that dismal land of yours, which
politeness forbids me to curse, I would beg of you not to let the
mad fury of your nation break loose in the midst of these thieves and
scoundrels."

He peered intently into the spectacled eyeholes of my cowl, and laid
his hand on his sword-hilt. His small figure, tightly clothed in black
velvet from chin to knee, swayed gently backwards and forwards in the
light of the dim candle, and his grotesque shadow flitted over the
ghostly walls of the great room. He stood gazing silently for a minute,
then turned smartly on his heels, and, with a gesture of sardonic
respect, threw open the door for me.

"Pray, Señor," he said, "that the moon may not rise too soon."

We went swiftly down the colonnades for the last time, in the pitch
darkness and into the blackness of the vast archway. The clumping staff
of my heavy crucifix drew hollow echoes from the flagstones. In the deep
sort of cave behind us, lit by a dim lanthorn, the negroes waited to
unbar the doors. Castro himself began to mutter over his beads. Suddenly
he said:

"It is the last time I shall stand here. Now, there is not any more a
place for me on the earth."

Great flashes of light began to make suddenly visible the tall pillars
of the immense mournful palace, and after a long time, absolutely
without a sound, save the sputter of enormous torches, an incredibly
ghostly body of figures, black-robed from head to foot, with large
eyeholes peering fantastically, swayed into the great arch of the hall.
Above them was the enormous black coffin. It was a sight so appalling
and unexpected that I stood gazing at them without any power to move,
until I remembered that I, too, was such a figure. And then, with an
ejaculation of impatience, Tomas Castro caught at my hand, and whirled
me round.

The great doors had swung noiselessly open, and the black night,
bespangled with little flames, was framed in front of me. He suddenly
unsheathed his portentous sword, and, hanging his great hat upon his
maimed arm, stalked, a pathetic and sinister figure of grief, down the
great steps. I followed him in the vivid and extraordinary compulsion of
the sinister body that, like one fabulous and enormous monster, swayed
impenetrably after me.

My heart beat till my head was in a tumultuous whirl, when thus, at
last, I stepped out of that house--but I suppose my grim robes cloaked
my emotions--though, seeing very clearly through the eyeholes, it was
almost incredible to me that I was not myself seen. But these Brothers
of Pity were a secret society, known to no man except their spiritual
head, who chose them in turn, and not knowing even each other. Their
good deeds of charity were, in that way, done by pure stealth. And it
happened that their spiritual director was the Father Antonio himself.
At that foot of the palace steps, drawn back out of our way, stood the
great glass coach of state, containing, even then, the woman who was
all the world to me, invisible to me, unattainable to me, not to be
comforted by me, even as her great griefs were to me invisible and
unassuageable. And there between us, in the great coffin, held on
high by the grim, shadowy beings, was all that she loved, invisible,
unattainable, too, and beyond all human comfort. Standing there, in the
midst of the whispering, bare-headed, kneeling, and villainous crowd, I
had a vivid vision of her pale, dim, pitiful face. Ah, poor thing! she
was going away for good from all that state, from all that seclusion,
from all that peace, mutely, and with a noble pride of quietness, into
a world of dangers, with no head but mine to think for her, no arm but
mine to ward off all the great terrors, the immense and dangerous weight
of a new world.

In the twinkle of innumerable candles, the priceless harness of the
white mules, waiting to draw the great coach after us, shone like
streaks of ore in an infinitely rich silver mine. A double line of
tapers kept the road to the cathedral, and a crowd of our negroes, the
bell muzzles of their guns suggested in the twinkling light, massed
themselves round the coach. Outside the lines were the crowd of
rapscallions in red jackets, their women and children--all the
population of the Aldea Bajo, groaning. The whole crowd got into motion
round us, the white mules plunging frantically, the coach swaying. Ahead
of me inarched the sardonic, gallantly grotesque figure of true Tomas,
his sword point up, his motions always jaunty. Ahead of him, again,
were the white robes of many priests, a cluster of tall candles, a great
jewelled cross, and a tall saint's figure swaying, more than shoulder
high, and disappearing up above into the darkness. For me, under my
cowl, it was suffocatingly hot; but I seemed to move forward, following,
swept along without any volition of my own. It appeared an immensely
long journey; and then, as we went at last up the cathedral steps, a
voice cried harshly, "Death to the heretic!" My heart stood still.
I clutched frantically at the handle of a pistol that I could not
disengage from folds of black cloth. But, as a matter of fact, the cry
was purely a general one; I was supposed to be shut up in the palace
still.

The sudden glow, the hush, the warm breath of incense, and the blaze
of light turned me suddenly faint; my ears buzzed, and I heard strange
sounds.

The cathedral was a mass of heads. Everyone in Rio Medio was present,
or came trooping in behind us. The better class was clustered near the
blaze of gilding, mottled marble, wax flowers, and black and purple
drapery that vaulted over the two black coffins in the choir. Down in
the unlit body of the church the riff-raff of O'Brien kept the doors.

I followed the silent figure of Tomas Castro to the bishop's own stall,
right up in the choir, and we became hidden from the rest by the forest
of candles round the catafalque. Up the centre of the great church,
and high over the heads of the kneeling people, came the great coffin,
swaying, its bearers robbed of half their grimness by the blaze of
lights. Tomas Castro suddenly caught at my sleeve whilst they were
letting the coffin down on to the bier. He drew me unnoticed into
the shadow behind the bishop's stall. In the swift transit, I had a
momentary glance of a small, black figure, infinitely tiny in that
quiet place, and infinitely solitary, veiled in black from head to foot,
coming alone up the centre of the nave.

I stood hidden there beside the bishop's stall for a long time, and then
suddenly I saw the black figure alone in the gallery, looking down upon
me--from the _loggia_ of the Riegos. I felt suddenly an immense calm;
she was looking at me with unseeing eyes, but I knew and felt that she
would follow me now to the end of the world. I had no more any doubts
as to the issue of our enterprise; it was open to no unsuccess with a
figure so steadfast engaged in it; it was impossible that blind fate
should be insensible to her charm, impossible that any man could strike
at or thwart her.

Monks began to sing; a great brass instrument grunted lamentably; in the
body of the building there was silence. The bishop and his supporters
moved about, as if aimlessly, in front of the altar; the chains of the
gold censors clicked ceaselessly. Seraphina's head had sunk forward out
of my sight. All the heads of the cathedral bowed down, and suddenly,
from round the side of the stall, a hand touched mine, and a voice said,
"It is time." Very softly, as if it were part of the rite, I was drawn
round the stall through a door in the side of the screen. As we went
out, in his turnings, the old bishop gave us the benediction. Then the
door closed on the glory of his robes, and in a minute, in the darkness
we were rustling down a circular narrow staircase into the dimness of
a crypt, lit by the little blue flame of an oil lamp. From above came
sounds like thunder, immense, vibrating; we were immediately under the
choir. Through the cracks round a large stone showed a parallelogram of
light.

In the dimness I had a glimpse of the face of my conductor--a thin,
wonderfully hollow-cheeked lay brother. He began, with great gentleness,
to assist me out of my black robes, and then he said:

"The senorita will be here very soon with the Señor Tomas," and then
added, with an infinitely sad and tender, dim smile:

"Will not the Señor Caballero, if it is not repugnant, say a prayer for
the repose of..." He pointed gently upwards to the great flagstone above
which was the coffin of Don Balthasar and Carlos. The priest himself was
one of those very holy, very touching---perhaps, very stupid--men that
one finds in such places. With his dim, wistful face he is very present
in my memory. He added: "And that the good God of us all may keep it
in the Señor Caballero's heart to care well for the soul of the dear
senorita."

"I am a very old man," he whispered, after a pause. He was indeed an
old man, quite worn out, quite without hope on earth. "I have loved the
senorita since she was a child. The Señor Caballero takes her from us. I
would have him pray--to be made worthy."

Whilst I was doing it, the place began to be alive with whispers of
garments, of hushed footsteps, a small exclamation in a gruff voice.
Then the stone above moved out of its place, and a blaze of light fell
down from the choir above.

I saw beside me Seraphina's face, brilliantly lit, looking upwards.
Tomas Castro said:

"Come quickly... come quickly... the prayers are ending; there will be
people in the street." And from above an enormous voice intoned:

"_Tu.. u.. ba mi.. i.. i..rum..._" And the serpent groaned discordantly.
The end of a great box covered with black velvet glided forward above
our heads; ropes were fastened round it. The priest had opened a door in
the shadowy distance, beside a white marble tablet in the thick walls.
The coffin up above moved forward a little again; the ropes were
readjusted with a rattling, wooden sound. A dry, formal voice intoned
from above:

"_Èrit... Justus Ab auditione..._"

From the open door the priest rattled his keys, and said, "Come, come,"
impatiently.

I was horribly afraid that Seraphina would shriek or faint, or refuse
to move. There was very little time. The pirates might stream out of the
front of the cathedral as we came from the back; the bishop had promised
to accentuate the length of the service. But Seraphina glided towards
the open door; a breath of fresh air reached us. She looked back once.
The coffin was swinging right over the hole, shutting out the light.
Tomas Castro took her hand and said, "Come... come," with infinite
tenderness.

He had been sobbing convulsedly. We went up some steps, and the door
shut behind us with a sound like a sigh of relief.

We walked fast, in perfect blackness and solitude, on the deserted beach
between the old town and the village. Every soul was near the cathedral.
A boat lay half afloat. To the left in the distance the light of the
schooner opposite the Casa Riego wavered on the still water.

Suddenly Tomas Castro said:

"The senorita never before set foot to the open ground."

At once I lifted her into the boat. "Shove off, Tomas," I said, with a
beating heart.



PART FOURTH -- BLADE AND GUITAR



CHAPTER ONE

There was a slight, almost imperceptible jar, a faint grating noise, a
whispering sound of sand--and the boat, without a splash, floated.

The earth, slipping as it were away from under the keel, left us borne
upon the waters of the bay, which were as still as the windless night
itself. The pushing off of that boat was like a launching into space, as
a bird opens its wings on the brow of a cliff, and remains poised in
the air. A sense of freedom came to me, the unreasonable feeling of
exultation--as if I had been really a bird essaying its flight for the
first time. Everything, sudden and evil and most fortunate, had been
arranged for me, as though I had been a lay figure on which Romance
had been wreaking its bewildering unexpectedness; but with the floating
clear of the boat, I felt somehow that this escape I had to manage
myself.

It was dark. Dipping cautiously the blade of the oar, I gave another
push against the shelving shore. Seraphina sat, cloaked and motionless,
and Tomas Castro, in the bows, made no sound. I didn't even hear him
breathe. Everything was left to me. The boat, impelled afresh, made
a slight ripple, and my elation was replaced in a moment by all the
torments of the most acute anxiety.

I gave another push, and then lost the bottom. Success depended upon
my resource, readiness, and courage. And what was this success?
Immediately, it meant getting out of the bay, and into the open sea in
a twelve-foot dinghy looted from some ship years ago by the Rio Medio
pirates, if that miserable population of sordid and ragged outcasts of
the Antilles deserved such a romantic name. They were sea-thieves.

Already the wooded shoulder of a mountain was thrown out intensely
black by the glow in the sky behind. The moon was about to rise. A great
anguish took my heart as if in a vice. The stillness of the dark shore
struck me as unnatural. I imagined the yell of the discovery breaking
it, and the fancy caused me a greater emotion than the thing itself, I
flatter myself, could possibly have done. The unusual silence in which,
through the open portals, the altar of the cathedral alone blazed with
many flames upon the bay, seemed to enter my very heart violently, like
a sudden access of anguish. The two in the boat with me were silent,
too. I could not bear it.

"Seraphina," I murmured, and heard a stifled sob.

"It is time to take the oars, Señor," whispered Castro suddenly, as
though he had fallen asleep as soon as he had scrambled into the bows,
and only had awaked that instant. "The mists in the middle of the bay
will hide us when the moon rises."

It was time--if we were to escape. Escape where? Into the open sea? With
that silent, sorrowing girl by my side! In this miserable cockleshell,
and without any refuge open to us? It was not really a hesitation; she
could not be left at the mercy of O'Brien. It was as though I had for
the first time perceived how vast the world was; how dangerous; how
unsafe. And there was no alternative. There could be no going back.

Perhaps, if I had known what was before us, my heart would have failed
me utterly out of sheer pity. Suddenly my eyes caught sight of the moon
making like the glow of a bush fire on the black slope of the mountain.
In a moment it would flood the bay with light, and the schooner anchored
off the beach before the Casa Riego was not eighty yards away. I dipped
my oar without a splash. Castro pulled with his one hand.

The mists rising on the lowlands never filled the bay, and I could see
them lying in moonlight across the outlet like a silvery white ghost
of a wall. We penetrated it, and instantly became lost to view from the
shore.

Castro, pulling quickly, turned his head, and grunted at a red blur
very low in the mist. A fire was burning on the low point of land where
Nichols--the Nova Scotian--had planted the battery which had worked such
havoc with Admiral Rowley's boats. It was a mere earthwork and some of
the guns had been removed. The fire, however, warned us that there were
some people on the point. We ceased rowing for a moment, and Castro
explained to me that a fire was always lit when any of these thieves'
boats were stirring. There would be three or four men to keep it up. On
this very night Manuel-del-Popolo was outside with a good many rowboats,
waiting on the _Indiaman_. The ship had been seen nearing the shore
since noon. She was becalmed now. Perhaps they were looting her already.

This fact had so far favoured our escape. There had been no strollers on
the beach that night. Since the investment of the Casa Riego, Castro had
lived amongst the besiegers on his prestige of a superior person, of
a _caballero_ skilled in war and diplomacy. No one knew how much the
tubby, saturnine little man was in the confidence of the Juez O'Brien;
and there was no doubt that he was a good Catholic. He was a very grave,
a very silent _caballero_. In reality his heart had been broken by the
death of Carlos, and he did not care what happened to him. His action
was actuated by his scorn and hate of the Rio Medio population, rather
than by any friendly feeling towards myself.

On that night Domingo's partisans were watching the Casa Riego, while
Manuel (who was more of a seaman) had taken most of his personal
friends, and all the larger boats that would float, to do a bit of
"outside work," as they called it, upon the becalmed West Indiaman.

This had facilitated Castro's plan, and it also accounted for the
smallness of the boat, which was the only one of the refuse lot left
on the beach that did not gape at every seam. She was not tight by any
means, though. I could hear the water washing above the bottom-boards,
and I remember how concern about keeping Seraphina's feet dry mingled
with the grave apprehensions of our enterprise.

We had been paddling an easy stroke. The red blurr of the fire on the
point was growing larger, while the diminished blaze of lights on the
high altar of the cathedral pierced the mist with an orange ray.

"The boat should be baled out," I remarked in a whisper.

Castro laid his oar in and made his way to the thwart. It shows how well
we were prepared for our flight, that there was not even a half-cocoanut
shell in the boat. A gallon earthenware jar, stoppered with a bunch of
grass, contained all our provision of fresh water. Castro displaced it,
and, bending low, tried to bale with his big, soft hat. I should imagine
that he found it impracticable, because, suddenly, he tore off one
of his square-toed shoes with a steel buckle. He used it as a scoop,
blaspheming at the necessity, but in a very low mutter, out of respect
for Seraphina.

Standing up in the stern-sheets by her side, I kept on sculling gently.
Once before I had gone desperately to sea--escaping the gallows,
perhaps--in a very small boat, with the drunken song of Rangsley's uncle
heralding the fascination of the unknown to a very callow youth. That
night had been as dark, but the danger had been less great. The boat, it
is true, had actually sunk under us, but then it was only the sea that
might have swallowed me who knew nothing of life, and was as much a
stranger to fate as the animals on our farm. But now the world of men
stood ready to devour us, and the Gulf of Mexico was of no more account
than a puddle on a road infested by robbers. What were the dangers
of the sea to the passions amongst which I was launched--with my high
fortunes in my hand, and, like all those who live and love, with a sword
suspended above my head?

The danger had been less great on that old night, when I had heard
behind me the soft crash of the smugglers' feet on the shingle. It had
been less great, and, if it had had a touch of the sordid, it had led me
to this second and more desperate escape--in a cockleshell, carrying
off a silent and cloaked figure, which quickened my heart-beats at each
look. I was carrying her off from the evil spells of the Casa Riego,
as a knight a princess from an enchanted castle. But she was more to me
than any princess to any knight.

There was never anything like that in the world. Lovers might have gone,
in their passion, to a certain death; but never, it seemed to me, in
the history of youth, had they gone in such an atmosphere of cautious
stillness upon such a reckless adventure. Everything depended upon
slipping out through the gullet of the bay without a sound. The men on
the point had no means of pursuit, but, if they heard or saw anything,
they could shout a warning to the boats outside. These were the real
dangers--my first concern. Afterwards... I did not want to think
of afterwards. There were only the open sea and the perilous coast.
Perhaps, if I thought of them, I should give up.

I thought only of gaining each successive moment and concentrated all
my faculties into an effort of stealthiness. I handled the boat with a
deliberation full of tense prudence, as if the oar had been a stalk of
straw, as if the water of the bay had been the film of a glass bubble an
unguarded movement could have shivered to atoms. I hardly breathed, for
the feeling that a deeper breath would have blown away the mist that was
our sole protection now.

It was not blown away. On the contrary, it clung closer to us, with the
enveloping chill of a cloud wreathing a mountain crag. The vague shadows
and dim outlines that had hung around us began, at last, to vanish
utterly in an impenetrable and luminous whiteness. And through the
jumble of my thoughts darted the sudden knowledge that there was a
sea-fog outside--a thing quite different from the nightly mists of the
bay. It was rolling into the passage inexplicably, for no stir of air
reached us. It was possible to watch its endless drift by the glow of
the fire on the point, now much nearer us. Its edges seemed to melt
away in the flight of the water-dust. It was a sea-fog coming in. Was
it disastrous to us, or favourable? It, at least, answered our immediate
need for concealment, and this was enough for me, when all our future
hung upon every passing minute.

The Rio picaroons, when engaged in thieving from some ship becalmed
on the coast, began by towing one of their schooners as far as the
entrance. They left her there as a rallying point for the boats, and to
receive the booty.

One of these schooners, as I knew, was moored opposite the Casa Riego.
The other might be lying at anchor somewhere right in the fairway ahead,
within a few yards. I strained my ears for some revealing sound from
her, if she were there--a cough, a voice, the creak of a block, or the
fall of something on her deck. Nothing came. I began to fear lest I
should run stem on into her side without a moment's warning. I could see
no further than the length of our twelve-foot boat.

To make certain of avoiding that danger, I decided to shave close the
spit of sand that tipped the narrow strip of lowland to the south. I set
my teeth, and sheered in resolutely.

Castro remained on the after-thwart, with his elbows on his knees. His
head nearly touched my leg. I could distinguish the woeful, bent
back, the broken swaying of the plume in his hat. Seraphina's perfect
immobility gave me the measure of her courage, and the silence was so
profoundly pellucid that the flutter of the flames that we were nearing
began to come loud out of the blur of the glow. Then I heard the very
crackling of the wood, like a fusillade from a great distance. Even then
Castro did not deign to turn his head.

Such as he was--a born vagabond, _contrabandista_, spy in armed camps,
sutler at the tail of the _Grande Armée_ (escaped, God only knows how,
from the snows of Russia), beggar, _guerrillero_, bandit, sceptically
murderous, draping his rags in saturnine dignity--he had ended by
becoming the sinister and grotesque squire of our quixotic Carlos. There
was something romantically sombre in his devotion. He disdained to turn
round at the danger, because he had left his heart on the coffin as a
lesser affection would have laid a wreath. I looked down at Seraphina.
She too, had left a heart in the vaults of the cathedral. The edge of
the heavy cloak drawn over her head concealed her face from me, and,
with her face, her ignorance, her great doubts, her great fears.

I heard, above the crackling of dry wood, a husky exclamation of
surprise, and then a startled voice exclaiming:

"Look! _Santissima Madre!_ What is this?"

Sheer instinct altered at once the motion of my hand so as to incline
the bows of the dinghy away from the shore; but a sort of stupefying
amazement seized upon my soul. We had been seen. It was all over. Was it
possible? All over, already?

In my anxiety to keep clear of the schooner which, for all I know to
this day, may not have been there at all, I had come too close to the
sand, so close that I heard soft, rapid footfalls stop short in the fog.
A voice seemed to be asking me in a whisper:

"Where, oh, where?"

Another cried out irresistibly, "I see it."

It was a subdued cry, as if hushed in sudden awe.

My arm swung to and fro; the turn of my wrist went on imparting the
propelling motion of the oar. All the rest of my body was gripped
helplessly in the dead expectation of the end, as if in the benumbing
seconds of a fall from a towering height. And it was swift, too. I felt
a draught at the back of my neck--a breath of wind. And instantly, as if
a battering-ram had been let swing past me at many layers of stretched
gauze, I beheld, through a tattered deep hole in the fog, a roaring
vision of flames, borne down and springing up again; a dance of purple
gleams on the strip of unveiled water, and three coal-black figures in
the light.

One of them stood high on lank black legs, with long black arms thrown
up stiffly above the black shape of a hat. The two others crouched low
on the very edge of the water, peering as if from an ambush.

The clearness of this vision was contained by a thick and fiery
atmosphere, into which a soft white rush and swirl of fog fell like a
sudden whirl of snow. It closed down and overwhelmed at once the tall
flutter of the flames, the black figures, the purple gleams playing
round my oar. The hot glare had struck my eyeballs once, and had melted
away again into the old, fiery stain on the mended fabric of the fog.
But the attitudes of the crouching men left no room for doubt that we
had been seen. I expected a sudden uplifting of voices on the shore,
answered by cries from the sea, and I screamed excitedly at Castro to
lay hold of his oar.

He did not stir, and after my shout, which must have fallen on the
scared ears with a weird and unearthly note, a profound silence attended
us--the silence of a superstitious fear. And, instead of howls, I heard,
before the boat had travelled its own short length, a voice that seemed
to be the voice of fear itself asking, "Did you hear that?" and a
trembling mutter of an invocation to all the saints. Then a strangled
throat trying to pronounce firmly, "The souls of the dead _Inglez_.
Crying from pain."

Admiral Rowley's seamen, so miserably thrown away in the ill-conceived
attack on the bay, were making a ghostly escort for our escape. Those
dead boats'-crews were supposed to haunt the fatal spot, after the
manner of spectres that linger in remorse, regret, or revenge, about
the gates of departure. I had blundered; the fog, breaking apart, had
betrayed us. But my obscure and vanquished countrymen held possession
of the outlet by the memory of their courage. In this critical moment it
was they, I may say, who stood by us.

We, on our part, must have been disclosed, dark, indistinct, utterly
inexplicable; completely unexpected; an apparition of stealthy shades.
The painful voice in the fog said:

"Let them be. Answer not. They shall pass on, for none of them died on
the shore--all in the water. Yes, all in the water."

I suppose the man was trying to reassure himself and his companions.
His meaning, no doubt, was that, being on shore, they were safe from
the ghosts of those _Inglez_ who had never achieved a landing. From
the enlarging and sudden deepening of the glow, I knew that they were
throwing more brushwood on the fire.

I kept on sculling, and gradually the sharp fusillade of dry twigs grew
more distant, more muffled in the fog. At last it ceased altogether.
Then a weakness came over me, and, hauling my oar in, I sat down by
Sera-phina's side. I longed for the sound of her voice, for some tender
word, for the caress of a murmur upon my perplexed soul. I was sure of
her, as of a conquered and rare treasure, whose possession simplifies
life into a sort of adoring guardianship--and I felt so much at her
mercy that an overwhelming sense of guilt made me afraid to speak to
her. The slight heave of the open sea swung the boat up and down.

Suddenly Castro let out a sort of lugubrious chuckle, and, in low tones,
I began to upbraid him with his apathy. Even with his one arm he should
have obeyed my call to the oar. It was incomprehensible to me that
we had not been fired at. Castro enlightened me, in a few moody and
scornful words. The Rio Medio people, he commented upon the incident,
were fools, of bestial nature, afraid of they knew not what.

"Castro, the valour of these dead countrymen of mine was not wasted;
they have stood by us like true friends," I whispered in the excitement
of our escape.

"These insensate English," he grumbled....

"A dead enemy would have served the turn better. If the _caballero_ had
none other than dead friends...."

His harsh, bitter mumble stopped. Then Sera-phina's voice said softly:

"It is you who are the friend, Tomas Castro. To you shall come a
friend's reward."

"Alas, Señorita!" he sighed. "What remains for me in this world--for me
who have given for two masses for the souls of that illustrious man, and
of your cousin Don Carlos, my last piece of silver?"

"We shall make you very rich, Tomas Castro," she said with decision, as
if there had been bags of gold in the boat.

He returned a high-flown phrase of thanks in a bitter, absent whisper.
I knew well enough that the help he had given me was not for money, not
for love--not even for loyalty to the Riegos. It was obedience to the
last recommendation of Carlos. He ran risks for my safety, but gave me
none of his allegiance.

He was still the same tubby, murderous little man, with a steel blade
screwed to the wooden stump of his forearm, as when, swelling his
breast, he had stepped on his toes before me like a bloodthirsty pigeon,
in the steerage of the ship that had brought us from home. I heard him
mumble, with almost incredible, sardonic contempt, that, indeed,
the senor would soon have none but dead friends if he refrained
from striking at his enemies. Had the senor taken the very excellent
opportunity afforded by Providence, and that any sane Christian man
would have taken--to let him stab the Juez O'Brien--we should not then
be wandering in a little boat. What folly! What folly! One little thrust
of a knife, and we should all have been now safe in our beds....

His tone was one of weary superiority, and I remained appalled by that
truth, stripped of all chivalrous pretence. It was clear, in sparing
that defenceless life, I had been guilty of cruelty for the sake of
my conscience. There was Seraphina by my side; it was she who had to
suffer. I had let her enemy go free, because he had happened to be near
me, disarmed. Had I acted like an Englishman and a gentleman, or only
like a fool satisfying his sentiment at other people's expense? Innocent
people, too, like the Riego servants, Castro himself; like Seraphina,
on whom my high-minded forbearance had brought all these dangers, these
hardships, and this uncertain fate.

She gave no sign of having heard Castro's words. The silence of women
is very impenetrable, and it was as if my hold upon the world--since she
was the whole world for me--had been weakened by that shade of decency
of feeling which makes a distinction between killing and murder. But
suddenly I felt, without her cloaked figure having stirred, her small
hand slip into mine. Its soft warmth seemed to go straight to my heart
soothing, invigorating--as it she had slipped into my palm a weapon of
extraordinary and inspiring potency.

"Ah, you are generous," I whispered close to the edge of the cloak
overshadowing her face.

"You must now think of yourself, Juan," she said.

"Of myself," I echoed sadly. "I have only you to think of, and you
are so far away--out of my reach. There are your dead--all your loss,
between you and me."

She touched my arm.

"It is I who must think of my dead," she whispered. "But you, you must
think of yourself, because I have nothing of mine in this world now."

Her words affected me like the whisper of remorse. It was true. There
were her wealth, her lands, her palaces; but her only refuge was that
little boat. Her father's long aloofness from life had created such an
isolation round his closing years that his daughter had no one but me to
turn to for protection against the plots of her own Intendente. And,
at the thought of our desperate plight, of the suffering awaiting us in
that small boat, with the possibility of a lingering death for an end,
I wavered for a moment. Was it not my duty to return to the bay and give
myself up? In that case, as Castro expressed it, our throats would be
cut for love of the _Juez_.

But Seraphina, the rabble would carry to the Casa on the palms of their
hands--out of veneration for the family, and for fear of O'Brien.

"So, Señor," he mumbled, "if to you to-morrow's sun is as little as to
me let us pull the boat's head, round."

"Let us set our hands to the side and overturn it, rather," Seraphina
said, with an indignation of high command.

I said no more. If I could have taken O'Brien with me into the other
world, I would have died to save her the pain of so much as a pinprick.
But because I could not, she must even go with me; must suffer because I
clung to her as men cling to their hope of highest good--with an exalted
and selfish devotion.

Castro had moved forward, as if to show his readiness to pull round.
Meantime I heard a click. A feeble gleam fell on his misty hands under
the black halo of the hat rim. Again the flint and blade clicked, and a
large red spark winked rapidly in the bows. He had lighted a cigarette.



CHAPTER TWO

Silence, stillness, breathless caution were the absolute conditions of
our existence. But I hadn't the heart to remonstrate with him for the
danger he caused Seraphina and myself. The fog was so thick now that
I could not make out his outline, but I could smell the tobacco very
plainly.

The acrid odour of _picadura_ seemed to knit the events of three years
into one uninterrupted adventure. I remembered the shingle beach; the
deck of the old _Thames_. It brought to my mind my first vision of
Seraphina, and the emblazoned magnificence of Carlos' sick bed. It all
came and went in a whiff of smoke; for of all the power and charm that
had made Carlos so seductive there remained no such deep trace in
the world as in the heart of the little grizzled bandit who, like a
philosopher, or a desperado, puffed his cigarette in the face of the
very spirit of murder hovering round us, under the mask and cloak of the
fog. And by the serene heaven of my life's evening, the spirit of
murder became actually audible to us in hasty and rhythmical knocks,
accompanied by a cheerful tinkling.

These sounds, growing swiftly louder, at last induced Castro to throw
away his cigarette. Seraphina clutched my arm. The noise of oars rowing
fast, to the precipitated jingling of a guitar, swooped down upon us
with a gallant ferocity.

"_Caramba_," Castro muttered; "it is the fool Manuel himself!"

I said, then: "We have eight shots between us two, Tomas."

He thrust his brace of pistols upon my knees.

"Dispose of them as your worship pleases," he muttered.

"You mustn't _give_ up, yet," I whispered.

"What is it that I give up?" he mumbled wearily. "Besides, there grows
from my forearm a blade. If I shall find myself indisposed to quit this
world alone.... Listen to the singing of that imbecile."

A carolling falsetto seemed to hang muffled in upper space, above the
fog that settled low on the water, like a dense and milky sediment of
the air. The moonlight fell into it strangely. We seemed to breathe at
the bottom of a shallow sea, white as snow, shining like silver, and
impenetrably opaque everywhere, except overhead, where the yellow disc
of the moon glittered through a thin cloud of steam. The gay truculence
of the hollow knocking, the metallic jingle, the shrill trolling, went
on crescendo to a burst of babbling voices, a mad speed of tinkling, a
thundering shout, "_Altro, Amigos!_" followed by a great clatter of oars
flung in. The sudden silence pulsated with the ponderous strokes of my
heart.

To escape now seemed impossible. At least it seemed impossible while
they talked. A dark spot in the shining expanse of fog swam into view.
It shifted its place after I had first made it out, and then remained
motionless, astern of the dinghy. It was the shadow of a big boat full
of men, but when they were silent, I was not sure that I saw anything
at all. I made no doubt, had they been aware of our nearness, there were
amongst them eyes that could have detected us in the same elusive way.
But how could they even dream of anything of the kind? They talked
noisily, and there must have been a round dozen of them, at the least.

Sometimes they would fall a-shouting all together, and then keep quiet
as if listening. By-and-by I began to hear answering yells, that seemed
to converge upon us from all directions.

We were in the thick of it. It was Manuel's boat, as Castro had guessed,
and the other boats were rallying upon it gropingly, keeping up a
succession of yells:

"_Ohe! Ohe!_ Where, where?"

And the people in Manuel's boat howled back at them, "_Ohe! Ohe...e!_
This way; here!"

Suddenly he struck the guitar a mighty blow, and chanted in an inspired
and grandiose strain:

"Steer--for--the--song."

His fingers ran riot among the strings, and above the jingling his
voice, forced to the highest pitch, declaimed, as in the midst of a
tempest:

     "I adore the saints in the glory of heaven
     And, on the dust of the earth,
     The print of her footsteps."

He was improvising. Sometimes he gasped; the rill of softened tinkle ran
on, and, glaring watchfully, I fancied I could detect his shape in the
white vapour, like a shadow thrown from afar by a tallow dip upon a
snowy sheet--the lank droop of his posturing, the greasy locks, the
attentive poise of his head, the sentimental rolling of his lustrous and
enormous eyes.

I had not forgotten his astonishing display in the cabin of the schooner
when, after the confiding of his woes and his ambitions, he had favoured
me with a sample of his art. As at that time, when he had been nursing
his truculent conceit, he sang, and the unsteady twanging of his guitar
lurched and staggered far behind his voice, like a drunken slave in the
footsteps of a raving master. Tinkle, tinkle, twang! A headlong rush of
muddled fingering; a sudden bang, like a heavy stumble.

"She is the proud daughter of the old Castile! _Olà! Olà!_" he chanted
mysteriously at the beginning of every stanza in a rapturous and soft
ecstasy, and then would shriek, as though he had been suddenly cast up
on the rock. The poet of Rio Medio was rallying his crew of thieves to a
rhapsody of secret and unrequited passion. _Twang, ping, tinkle tinkle_.
He was the _Capataz_ of the valiant _Lugareños_! The true _Capataz!_
The only _Capataz. Olà! Olà! Twang, twang_. But he was the slave of
her charms, the captive of her eyes, of her lips, of her hair, of her
eyebrows, which, he proclaimed in a soaring shriek, were like rainbows
arched over stars.

It was a love-song, a mournful parody, the odious grimacing of an ape to
the true sorrow of the human face. I could have fled from it, as from
an intolerable humiliation. And it would have been easy to pull away
unheard while he sang, but I had a plan, the beginning of a plan,
something like the beginning of a hope. And for that I should have to
use the fog for the purpose of remaining within earshot.

Would the fog last long enough to serve my turn? That was the only
question, and I believed it would, for it settled lower; it settled
down denser, almost too heavy to be stirred by the fitful efforts of the
breeze. It was a true night fog of the tropics, that, born after sunset,
tries to creep back into the warm bosom of the sea before sunrise. Once
in Rio Medio, taking a walk in the early morning along the sand-dunes,
I had stood watching below me the heads of some people, fishing from a
boat, emerge strangely in the dawn out of such a fog. It concealed their
very shoulders more completely than water could have done. I trusted it
would not come so soon to our heads, emerging, though it seemed to me
that already, by merely clambering on Castro's shoulders, I could attain
to clear moonlight; see the highlands of the coast, the masts of the
English ship. She could not be very far off if only one could tell
the direction. But an unsteady little dinghy was not the platform for
acrobatic exercises, and Castro not exactly the man.

The slightest noise would have betrayed us, and moreover, the thing
was no good, for even supposing I had got a hurried sight of the ship's
spars, I should have to get down into the fog to pull, and there would
be nothing visible to keep us from going astray, unless at every
dozen strokes I clambered on Castro's shoulders again to rectify the
direction--an obviously impracticable and absurd proceeding.

"She is the proud daughter of old Castile, _Olà, Olà_," Manuel sang
confidentially with a subdued and gallant lilt... Obviously
impracticable. But I had another idea.

     "_Tinkle tinkle pinnnng... Brrroum. Brrrroum_.
     My soul yearns for the alms of a smile.
     For a forgiving glance yearns my lofty soul..."

he sang. Ah, if one could have added another four feet to one's stature.
Four or five feet only. There seemed to be nothing but a thin veil
between me and the moon. No more than a thin haze. But at the level
of my eyes everything was hidden. From behind the white veil came
the crying of the strings, a screeching, lugubrious and fierce in its
artificial transport, as if it were mocking my sad and ardent conviction
of un-worthiness, the crowning torment, and the inward pride of pure
love. In the breathless pauses I could hear the hollow bumping of
gunwales knocking against each other; faint splashings of oars; the
distant hail of some laggards groping their way on the shrouded sea.

The note of cruel passion that runs in the blood held these cut-throats
profoundly silent in their boats, as at home I could imagine a party of
smugglers (they would not stick at a murder or two, either) listening,
with pensive faces, to a sentimental ditty of some "sweet Nancy," howled
dismally within the walls of a wayside taproom in the smoke of pipes. I
seemed to understand profoundly the difference of races that brings with
it the feeling of romance or awakens hate. My gorge rose at Manuel's
song. I hated his lamentations. "Alas, alas; in vain, in vain." He
strummed with vertiginous speed, with fury, and the distracted clamour
of his voice, wrestling madly with the ringing madness of the strings,
ended in a piercing and supreme shriek.

"Finished. It is finished." A low and applauding murmur flowed to
my ears, the austere acclamations of connoisseurs. "Viva, viva,
Manuele!"--a squeak of fervid admiration. "Ah, our _Manuelito_."... But
a gruff voice discoursed jovially, "Care not, Manuel. What of Paquita
with the broken tooth? Is she not left to thee? And _por Dios, hombres_,
in the dark all women are alike."

"I will cram thy unclean mouth with live coals," Manuel drawled
spitefully.

They roared with laughter at this sally. I depicted to myself their
shapes, their fierce gesticulations, their earrings, bound heads, rags,
and weapons, the vile scowls on their swarthy, grimacing faces. My
anxiety beheld them as plainly as anything seen with the eyes of
the body. And, with my sharpened hearing catching every word with
preternatural distinctness, I felt as if, the ring of Gyges on my
finger, I had sat invisible at the council of my enemies.

It was noisy, animated, with an issue of supreme interest for us.
The ship, seen at midday standing inshore with a light wind, had not
approached the bay near enough to be conveniently attacked till just
after dusk. They had waited for her all the afternoon, sleeping and
gambling on the spit of sand. But something heavy in her appearance had
excited their craven suspicions, and checked their ardour. She appeared
to them dangerous. What if she were an English man-of-war disguised?
Some even pretended to recognize in her positively one of the lighter
frigates of Rowley's squadron. Night had fallen whilst they squabbled,
and their flotilla hung under the land, the men in a conflict of
rapacity and fear, arguing among themselves as to the ship's character,
but all unanimously goading Manuel--since he _would_ call himself their
only _Capataz_--to go boldly and find out.

It seems he had just been doing this with the help of a few choicer
spirits, and under cover of the fog. They had managed to steal near
enough to hear Englishmen conversing on board, orders given, and the
yo-hoing of invisible sailors, trimming the yards of the ship to the
fitful airs. This last, of course, was decisive. Such sounds are not
heard on a man-of-war. She was a merchant ship: she would be an easy
prey. And Manuel, in a state of exaltation at his venturesome bravery,
had pulled back inshore, to rally all the boats round his own, and lead
them to certain plunder. They would soon find out, he declaimed, what
it was to have at their head their own valiant Manuel, instead of that
vagabond, that stranger, that Andalusian starveling; that traitor, that
infidel, that Castro. Hidden away, he seemed to spout all this for
our ears alone, as though he could see us in our boat.... Patience;
patience! Some day he would cut off that interloper's eyelids, and lay
him on his back under a nice clear sun. Castro made a brusque movement;
a little shudder of disgust escaped Seraphina.... Meantime, Manuel
declared, by his audacity, that ship was as good as theirs already.
"_Viva el Capataz!_" they cheered.

The cloud-like vapours resting on the sea muffled the short roar; we
heard grim laughter, excited cries. He began to make a set speech, and
his voice, haranguing with vehement inflections in the shining whiteness
of a cloud, had an amazing and uncorporeal character; the quality of
abstract surprise; of phenomenal emotion shouted into empty space. And
for me it had, also, the fascination of a revealed depth.

It was like the oration of an ambitious leader in a farce; he held his
hearers with his eloquence, as much as he had done with the song of his
grotesque and desecrating love. He vaunted his sagacity and his valour,
and overwhelmed with invective all sorts of names--my own and
Castro's among them. He revealed the unholy ideals of all that band
of scoundrels--ideals that he said should find fruition under his
captaincy. He boasted of secret conferences with O'Brien. There were
murmurs of satisfaction.

I don't wonder at Seraphina's shudder of horror, of disgust, of dismay,
and indignation. Robbed of the inexpugnable shelter of the Casa Riego,
she, too, was made to look into the depths; upon the animalism, the
lusts, and the reveries of that sordid, vermin-haunted crowd. I felt for
her a profound and shamed sorrow. It was like a profaning touch on the
sacredness of her mourning for the dead, and on her clear and passionate
vision of life.

"_Hombres de Rio Medio! Amigos! Valientes!..._" Manuel was beginning
his peroration. He would lead them, now, against the English ship. The
terrified heretics would surrender. There was always gold in English
ships. He stopped his speech, and then called loudly, "Let the boats
keep touch with each other, and not stray in that fog."

"The dog," grunted Castro. We heard a resolute bustle of preparation;
oars were being shipped.

"Make ready, Tomas," I whispered.

"Ready for what?" he grumbled. "Where shall your worship run from these
swine?"

"We must follow them," I answered.

"The madness of the senor's countrymen descends upon him," he whispered
with sardonic politeness. "Wherefore follow?"

"To find the English ship," I answered swiftly.

This, from the moment we had heard Manuel's guitar, had been my
idea. Since the fog that concealed us from their sight made us, too,
hopelessly blind, those wretches must guide us themselves out of their
own clutches, as it were. I don't put this forward as an inspired
conception. It was a most risky and almost hopeless expedient; but the
position was so critical that there was no other alternative to sitting
still and waiting with folded hands for discovery. Castro seemed more
inclined for the latter.

Fortunately, the bandits wasted some time in blasphemous bickerings as
to the order of the boats in the procession of attack. I urged my views
upon Castro in hurried whispers. His assent was of importance, since he
could use an oar very well, and, if left to myself, I could not hope to
scull fast enough to keep within hearing of the flotilla.

"Of what use to us would be a ship in Manuel's power?" he argued
morosely. On the other hand, if we waited near her till she had been
plundered and released, neither the fog nor the night would last
forever.

"My countrymen will beat them off," I affirmed confidently. "At any
rate, let us be on the spot. We may take a hand. And remember, Tomas,
they are not led by you, this time."

"True," he said, mollified. "But one thing more deserves the
consideration of your worship... If we follow this plan, we take the
senorita among flying bullets. And lead, alas! unlike steel, is blind,
or that illustrious man would not now be dead. If we wait here, the
senorita, at least, shall take no harm from these ruffians, as I have
said."

"Are you afraid of the bullets?" I asked Seraphina.

Before she had answered, Castro hissed at me:

"Oh, you unspeakable English. Would you sacrifice the daughter, too,
only because she is brave?"

His sinister allusion made my blood boil with rage, and suddenly run
cold in my veins. Swathed in the brilliant cloud, we heard the sounds
of quarrelling and scrambling die away; cries of "Ready! ready!" an
unexpected and brutal laugh. Seraphina leaned forward.

"Tomas, I wish this thing. I command it," she whispered imperiously. "We
shall help these English on the ship. We must; I command it. For these
are now my people."

I heard him mutter to himself, "h, dear shade of my Carlos. Her people.
Where are now mine?" But he shipped his oar, and sat waiting.

In the moment before the picaroons actually started, I became the prey
of the most intense anxiety. I knew we were to seaward of the cluster.
But of our position relatively to the boats, and to the English ship
they would make for, I was profoundly ignorant. The dinghy might be
lying right in the way. Before I could master the sort of disorder I was
thrown into by that thought--which, strange to say, had not occurred to
me till then--with a shrill whistle Manuel led off.

We are always incited to trust, our eyes rather than our ears; and such
is the conventional temper in which we receive the impression of our
senses that I had no idea they were so near us. The destruction of my
illusory feeling of distance was the most startling thing in the world.
Instantly, it seemed, with the second swing and plash of the oars, the
boats were right upon us. They went clear. It was like being grazed by a
fall of rocks. I seemed to feel the wind of the rush.

The rapid clatter of rowing, the excited hum of voices, the violent
commotion of the water, passed by us with an impetuosity that took my
breath away. They had started in a bunch. There must have been amongst
them at least one crew of negroes, because somebody was beating
a tambourine smartly, and the rowers chorused in a quick, panting
undertone, "_Ho, ho, talibambo.... Ho, ho, talibambo_." One of the
boats silhouetted herself for an instant, a row of heads swaying back
and forth, towered over astern by a full-length figure as straight as an
arrow. A retreating voice thundered, "Silence!" The sounds and the forms
faded together in the fog with amazing swiftness.

Seraphina, her cloak off, her head bare, stared forward after the
fleeting murmurs and shadows we were pursuing. Sometimes she warned us,
"More to the left "; or, "Faster!" We had to put forth our best, for
Manuel, as if in the very wantonness of confidence, had set a tremendous
pace.

I suppose he took his first direction by the light on the point. I
cannot tell what guided him after that feeble sheen had become buried in
the fog; but there was no check in the speed, no sign of hesitation.
We followed in the track of the sound, and, for the most part, kept in
sight of the elusive shadow of the sternmost boat. Often, in a denser
belt of fog, the sounds of rowing became muffled almost to extinction;
or we seemed to hear them all round and, startled, checked our speed.
Dark apparitions of boats would surge up on all sides in a most
inexplicable way; to the right; to the left; even coming from behind.
They appeared real, unmistakable, and, before we had time to dodge them,
vanished utterly. Then we had to spurt desperately after the grind of
the oars, caught, just in time, in an unexpected direction.

And then we lost them. We pulled frantically. Seraphina had been urging
us, "Faster! faster!" From time to time I would ask her, "Can you see
them?" "Not yet," she answered curtly. The perspiration poured down
my face. Castro's panting was like the wheezing of bellows at my back.
Suddenly, in a despairing tone, she said:

"Stop! I can neither see nor hear anything now."

We feathered our oars at once, and fell to listening with lowered heads.
The ripple of the boat's way expired slowly. A great white stillness
hung slumbrously over the sea.

It was inconceivable. We pulled once or twice with extreme energy for
a few minutes after imaginary whistles or shouts. Once I heard them
passing our bows. But it was useless; we stopped, and the moon, from
within the mistiness of an immense halo, looked dreamily upon our heads.

Castro grunted, "Here is an end of your plan, Señor Don Juan."

The peculiar and ghastly hopelessness of our position could not
be better illustrated than by this fresh difficulty. We had lost
touch--with a murderous gang that had every inducement not to spare our
lives. And positively it was a misfortune; an abandonment. I refused to
admit to myself its finality, as if it had reflected upon the devotion
of tried friends. I repeated to Castro that we should become aware of
them directly--probably even nearer than we wished. And, at any rate,
we were certain of a mighty loud noise when the attack on the ship
began. She, at least, could not be very far now. "Unless, indeed,"
I admitted with exasperation, "we are to suppose that your imbecile
_Lugareños_ have missed their prey and got themselves as utterly lost as
we ourselves."

I was irritated--by his nodding plume; by his cold, perfunctory, as if
sleepy mutters, "Possibly, possibly, _puede ser_." He retorted: "Your
English generosity could wish your countrymen no better luck than that
my _Lugareños_, as your worship pleases to call them, should miss their
way. They are hungry for loot--with much fasting. And it is hunger that
makes your wolf fly straight at the throat."

All the time Seraphina breathed no word. But when I raised my voice, she
put out a hushing hand to my arm. And, from her intent pose, from the
turn of her shadowy head, I knew that she was peering and listening
loyally.

Minutes passed--very few, I dare say--and brought no sound. The
restlessness of waiting made us dip our oars in a haphazard stroke,
without aim, without the means of judging whether we pulled to seaward,
inshore, north, or south, or only in a circle. Once we went excitedly
in chase of some splashing that must have been a leaping fish. I was
hanging my head over my idle oar when Seraphina touched me.

"I see!" she said, pointing over the bows.

Both Castro and I, peering horizontally over the water, did not see
anything. Not a shadow. Moreover, if they were so near, we ought to have
heard something.

"I believe it is land!" she murmured. "You are looking too low, Juan."

As soon as I looked up I saw it, too, dark and beetling, like the
overhang of a low cliff. Where on earth had we blundered to? For a
moment I was confounded. Fiery reflections from a light played faintly
above that shape. Then I recognized what I was looking at. We had found
the ship.

The fog was so shallow that up there the upper bulk of a heavy, square
stern, the very rails and stanchions crowning it like a balustrade,
jutted out in the misty sheen like the balcony of an invisible edifice,
for the lines of her run, the sides of her hull, were plunged in the
dense white layer below. And, throwing back my head, I traced even
her becalmed sails, pearly gray pinnacles of shadow uprising, tall and
motionless, towards the moon.

A redness wavered over her, as from a blaze on her deck. Could she be
on fire? And she was silent as a tomb. Could she be abandoned? I had
promised myself to dash alongside, but there was a weirdness in that
fragment of a dumb ship hanging out of a fog. We pulled only a stroke or
two nearer to the stern, and stopped. I remembered Castro's warning--the
blindness of flying lead; but it was the profound stillness that checked
me. It seemed to portend something inconceivable. I hailed, tentatively,
as if I had not expected to be answered, "Ship, ahoy!"

Neither was I answered by the instantaneous, "Hallo," of usual
watchfulness, though she was not abandoned. Indeed, my hail made a good
many men jump, to judge by the sounds and the words that came to me from
above. "What? What? A hail?" "Boat near?" "In English, sir."

"Dive for the captain, one of you," an authoritative voice directed.
"He's just run below for a minute. Don't frighten the missus. Call him
out quietly."

Talking, in confidential undertones, followed.

"See him?" "Can't, sir." "What's the dodge, I wonder." "Astern, I think,
sir." "D------n this fog, it lies as thick as pea-soup on the water."

I waited, and after a perplexed sort of pause, heard a stern "Keep off."



CHAPTER THREE

They did not suspect how close I was to them. And their temper struck
me at once as unsafe. They seemed very much on the alert, and, as I
imagined, disposed to precipitate action. I called out, deadening my
voice warily:

"I am an Englishman, escaping from the pirates here. We want your help."

To this no answer was made, but by that time the captain had come on
deck. The dinghy must have drifted in a little closer, for I made
out behind the shadowy rail one, two, three figures in a row, looming
bulkily above my head, as men appear enlarged in mist.

"'Englishman,' he says." "That's very likely," pronounced a new voice.
They held a hurried consultation up there, of which I caught only
detached sentences, and the general tone of concern. "It's perfectly
well known that there _is_ an Englishman here.... Aye, a runaway second
mate.... Killed a man in a Bristol ship.... What was his name, now?"

"Won't you answer me?" I called out.

"Aye, we will answer you as soon as we see you.... Keep your eyes
skinned fore and aft on deck there.... Ready, boys?"

"All ready, sir"; voices came from further off.

"Listen to me," I entreated.

Someone called out briskly, "This is a bad place for pretty tales of
Englishmen in distress. We know very well where we are."

"You are off Rio Medio," I began anxiously; "and I-------"

"Speaks the truth like a Briton, anyhow," commented a lazy drawl.

"I would send another man to the pump," a reflective voice suggested.
"To make sure of the force, Mr. Sebright, you know."

"Certainly, sir.... Another hand to the brakes, bo'sun."

"I have been held captive on shore," I said. "I escaped this evening,
three hours ago."

"And found this ship in the fog? You made a good shot at it, didn't
you?"

"It's no time for trifling, I swear to you," I continued. "They are out
looking for you, in force. I've heard them. I was with them when they
started."

"I believe you."

"They seem to have missed the ship."

"So you came to have a friendly chat meantime. That's kind. Beastly
weather, aint it?"

"I want to come aboard," I shouted. "You must be crazy not to believe
me."

"But we do believe every single word you say," bantered the Sebright
voice with serenity.

Suddenly another struck in, "Nichols, I call to mind, sir."

"Of course, of course. This is the man."

"My name's not Nichols," I protested.

"Now, now. You mustn't begin to lie," remonstrated Sebright. Somebody
laughed discreetly.

"You are mistaken, on my honour," I said. "Nichols left Rio Medio some
time ago."

"About three hours, eh?" came the drawl of insufferable folly in these
precious minutes.

It was clear that Manuel had gone astray, but I feared not for long.
They would spread out in search. And now I had found this hopeless ship,
it seemed impossible that anybody else could miss her.

"You may be boarded any moment by more than a dozen boats. I warn you
solemnly. Will you let me come?"

A low whistle was heard on board. They were impressed, "Why should he
tell us this?" an undertone inquired.

"Why the devil shouldn't he? It's no great news, is it? Some scoundrelly
trick. This man's up to any dodge. Why, the '_Jane_' was taken in broad
day by two boats that pretended they were going to sell vegetables."

"Look out, or by heavens you'll be taken by surprise. There's a lot of
them," I said as impressively as I could.

"Look out, look out. There's a lot of them," someone yelled in a sort of
panic.

"Oh, that's your game," Sebright's voice said to me. "Frighten us, eh?
Never you mind what this skunk says, men. Stand fast. We shall take a
lot of killing." He was answered by a sort of pugnacious uproar, a clash
of cutlasses and laughter, as if at some joke.

"That's right, boys; mind and send them away with clean faces, you
gunners. Jack, you keep a good lookout for that poor distressed
Englishman. What's that? a noise in the fog? Stand by. Now then,
cook!..."

"All ready to dish up, sir," a voice answered him.

It was like a sort of madness. Were they thinking of eating? Even at
that the English talk made my heart expand--the homeliness of it. I
seemed to know all their voices, as if I had talked to each man before.
It brought back memories, like the voices of friends.

But there was the strange irrelevancy, levity, the enmity--the
irrational, baffling nature of the anguishing conversation, as if with
the unapproachable men we meet in nightmares.

We in the dinghy, as well as those on board, were listening anxiously. A
profound silence reigned for a time.

"I don't care for myself," I tried once more, speaking distinctly. "But
a lady in the boat here is in great danger, too. Won't you do something
for a woman?"

I perceived, from the sort of stir on board, that this caused some
sensation.

"Or is the whole ship's company afraid to let one little boat come
alongside?" I added, after waiting for an answer.

A throat was cleared on board mildly, "Hem... you see, we don't know who
you are."

"I've told you who I am. The lady is Spanish."

"Just so. But there are Englishmen and Englishmen in these days. Some of
them keep very bad company ashore, and others afloat. I couldn't think
of taking you on board, unless I know something more of you."

I seemed to detect an intention of malice in the mild voice. The more
so that I overheard a rapid interchange of mutterings up there. "See him
yet?" "Not a thing, sir." "Wait, I say."

Nothing could overcome the fixed idea of these men, who seemed to enjoy
so much the cleverness of their suspicions. It was the most dangerous of
tempers to deal with. It made them as untrustworthy as so many lunatics.
They were capable of anything, of decoying us alongside, and stoving
the bottom out of the boat, and drowning us before they discovered their
mistake, if they ever did. Even as it was, there was danger; and yet I
was extremely loath to give her up. It was impossible to give her up.
But what were we to do? What to say? How to act?

"Castro, this is horrible," I said blankly. That he was beginning to
chafe, to fret, and shuffle his feet only added to my dismay. He might
begin at any moment to swear in Spanish, and that was sure to bring a
shower of lead, blind, fired blindly. "We have nothing to expect from
the people of that ship. We cannot even get on board."

"Not without Manuel's help, it seems," he said bitterly. "Strange, is
it not, Señor? Your countrymen--your excellent and virtuous countrymen.
Generous and courageous and perspicacious."

Seraphina said suddenly, "They have reason. It is well for them to be
suspicious of us in this place." She had a tone of calm reproof, and of
faith.

"They shall be of more use when they are dead," Castro muttered. "The
senor's other dead countrymen served us well."

"I shall give you great, very great sums of money," Seraphina suddenly
cried towards the ship. "I am the Señorita Seraphina Riego."

"There is a woman--that's a woman's voice, I'll swear," I heard them
exclaim on board, and I cried again:

"Yes, yes. There is a woman."

"I dare say. But where do you come in? You are a distressed Englishman,
aren't you?" a voice came back.

"You shall let us come up on your ship," Seraphina said. "I shall come
myself, alone--Seraphina Riego."

"Eh, what?" the voice asked.

I felt a little wind on the back of my head. There was desperate hurry.

"We are escaping to get married," I called out. They were beginning to
shout orders on the ship. "Oh, you've come to the wrong shop. A church
is what you want for _that_ trouble," the voice called back brutally,
through the other cries of orders to square the yards.

I shouted again, but my voice must have been drowned in the creaking
of blocks and yards. They were alert enough for every chance of getting
away--for every flaw of wind. Already the ship was less distinct, as if
my eyes had grown dim. By the time a voice on board her cried, "Belay,"
faintly, she had gone from my sight. Then the puff of wind passed away,
too, and left us more alone than ever, with only the small disk of the
moon poised vertically above the mists.

"Listen," said Tomas Castro, after what seemed an eternity of
crestfallen silence.

He need not have spoken; there could be no doubt that Manuel had lost
himself, and my belief is that the ship had sailed right into the midst
of the flotilla. There was an unmistakable character of surprise in the
distant tumult that arose suddenly, and as suddenly ceased for a space
of a breath or two. "Now, Castro," I shouted. "Ha! _bueno!_"

We gave way with a vigour that seemed to lift the dinghy out of the
water. The uproar gathered volume and fierceness.

From the first it was a hand-to-hand contest, engaged in suddenly, as if
the assailants had at once managed to board in a body, and, as it were,
in one unanimous spring. No shots had been fired. Too far to hear the
blows, and seeing nothing as yet of the ship, we seemed to be hastening
towards a deadly struggle of voices, of shadows with leathern throats;
every cry heard in battle was there--rage, encouragement, fury, hate,
and pain. And those of pain were amazingly distinct. They were yells;
they were howls. And suddenly, as we approached the ship, but before we
could make out any sign of her, we came upon a boat. We had to swerve
to clear her. She seemed to have dropped out of the fight in utter
disarray; she lay with no oars out, and full of men who writhed and
tumbled over each other, shrieking as if they had been flayed. Above the
writhing figures in the middle of the boat, a tall man, upright in the
stern-sheets, raved awful imprecations and shook his fists above his
head.

The blunt dinghy foamed past that vision within an oar's length, no
more, making straight for the clamour of the fight. The last puff of
wind must have thinned the fog in the ship's track; for, standing up,
face forward to pull stroke, I saw her come out, stern-on to us, from
truck to water-line, mistily tall and motionless, but resounding with
the most fierce and desperate noises. A cluster of empty boats clung low
to her port side, raft-like and vague on the water.

We heard now, mingled with the fury and hate of shouts reverberating
from the placid sails, mighty thuds and crashes, as though it had been a
combat with clubs and battle-axes.

Evidently, in the surprise and haste of the unexpected coming together,
they had been obliged to board all on the same side. As I headed for the
other a big boat, full of men, with many oars, shot across our bows,
and vanished round the ship's counter in the twinkling of an eye. The
defenders, engaged on the port side, were going to be taken in the rear.
We were then so close to the counter that the cries of "Death, death,"
rang over our heads. A voice on the poop said furiously in English,
"Stand fast, men." Next moment, we, too, rounded the quarter only twenty
feet behind the big boat, but with a slightly wider sweep.

I said, "Have the pistols ready, Seraphina." And she answered quite
steadily:

"They are ready, Juan."

I could not have believed that any handiwork of man afloat could have
got so much way through the water. To this very day I am not rid of
the absurd impression that, at that particular moment, the dinghy was
travelling with us as fast as a cannon-ball. No sooner round than we
were upon them. We were upon them so fast that I had barely the time
to fling away my oar, and close my grip on the butt of the pistols
Seraphina pressed into my hand from behind. Castro, too, had dropped
his oar, and, turning as swift as a cat, crouched in the bows. I saw his
good arm darting out towards their boat.

They had cast a grapnel cleverly, and, swung abreast of the main chains,
were grimly busied in boarding the undefended side in silence. One had
already his leg over the ship's rail, and below him three more were
clambering resolutely, one above the other. The rest of them, standing
up in a body with their faces to the ship, were so oblivious of
everything in their purpose, that they staggered all together to the
shock of the dinghy, heavily, as if the earth had reeled under them.

Castro knew what he was doing. I saw his only hand hop along the
gunwale, dragging our cockle-shell forward very swiftly. The tottering
Spaniards turned their heads, and for a moment we looked at each other
in silence.

I was too excited to shout; the surprise seemed to have deprived them
of their senses, and they all had the same grin of teeth closed upon
the naked blades of their knives, the same stupid stare fastened upon my
eyes. I pulled the trigger in the nearest face, and the terrific din of
the fight going on above us was overpowered by the report of the pistol,
as if by a clap of thunder. The man's gaping mouth dropped the knife,
and he stood stiffly long enough for the thought, "I've missed him," to
flash through my mind before he tumbled clean out of the boat without
touching anything, like a wooden dummy tipped by the heels. His headlong
fall sent the water flying high over the stern of the dinghy. With the
second barrel I took a long shot at the man sitting amazed, astride of
the rail above. I saw him double up suddenly, and fall inboard sideways,
but the fellow following him made a convulsive effort, and leapt out of
sight on to the deck of the ship. I dropped the discharged weapon, and
fired the first barrel of the other at the upper of the two men clinging
halfway up the ship's side. To that one shot they both vanished as if
by enchantment, the fellow I had hit knocking off his friend below. The
crash of their fall was followed by a great yell.

These had been all nearly point-blank shots, and, anyhow, I had had a
good deal of pistol practice. Macdonald had a little gallery at Horton
Pen. The _Lugareños_, huddled together in the boat, were only able to
moan with terror. They made soft, pitiful, complaining noises. Two or
three took headers overboard, like so many frogs, and then one began to
squeak exactly like a rat.

By that time, Castro, with his fixed blade, had cut their grapnel rope
close to the ring. As the ship kept forging ahead all the time, the
boat of the pirate bumped away lightly from between the vessel and our
dinghy, and we remained alongside, holding to the end of the severed
line. I sent my fourth shot after them and got in exchange a scream and
a howl of "Mercy! mercy! we surrender!" She swung clear of the quarter,
all hushed, and faded into the mist and moonlight, with the head and
arms of a motionless man hanging grotesquely over the bows.

Leaving Seraphina with Castro, and sticking the remaining pair of
pistols in my belt, I swarmed up the rope. The moon, the lights of
several lanthorns, the glare from the open doors, mingled violently in
the steamy fog between the high bulwarks of the ship. But the character
of the contest was changing, even as I paused on the rail to get my
bearings. The fellow who had leapt on board to escape my shot had bolted
across the deck to his friends on the other side, yelling:

"Fly, fly! The heretics are coming, shooting from the sea. All is lost.
Fly, oh fly!"

He had jumped straight overboard, but the infection of his panic was
already visible. The cries of "_Muerte, muerte!_ Death, death!" had
ceased, and the Englishmen were cheering ferociously. In a moment, under
my eyes, the seamen, who had been holding their own with difficulty in
a shower of defensive blows, began to dart forward, striking out with
their fists, catching with their hands. I jumped upon the main hatch,
and found myself in the skirt ef the final rush.

A tall _Lugareño_ had possessed himself of one of the ship's capstan
bars, and, less craven than the others, was flourishing it on high,
aiming at the head of a sailor engaged in throttling a negro whom he
held at the full length of his immense arms. I fired, and the _Lugareño_
tumbled down with all the appearance of having knocked himself over with
the bar he had that moment uplifted. It rested across his neck as he lay
stretched at my feet.

I was not able to effect anything more after this, because the sailor,
after rushing his limp antagonist overboard with terrific force, turned
raging for more, caught sight of me--an evident stranger--and flew at
my throat. He was English, but as he squeezed my windpipe so hard that
I couldn't utter a word I brought the butt of my pistol upon his thick
skull without the slightest compunction, for, indeed, I had to deal with
a powerful man, well able to strangle me with his bare hands, and very
determined to achieve the feat. He grunted under the blow, reeled away
a few steps, then, charging back at once, gripped me round the body, and
tried to lift me off my feet. We fell together into a warm puddle.

I had no idea spilt blood kept its warmth so much. And the quantity
of it was appalling; the deck seemed to swim with gore, and we simply
weltered in it. We rolled rapidly along the reeking scuppers, amongst
the feet of a lot of men who were hopping about us in the greatest
excitement, the hearty thuds of blows, aimed with all sorts of weapons,
just missing my head. The pistol was kicked out of my hand.

The horror of my position was very great. Must I kill the man? must I
die myself in this miserable and senseless manner? I tried to shout,
"Drag this maniac off me."

He was pinning my arms to my body. I saw the furious faces bending over
me, the many hands murderously uplifted. They, of course, couldn't tell
that I wasn't one of the men who had boarded them, and my life had never
been in such jeopardy. I felt all the fury of rage and mortification.
Was I to die like this, villainously trodden underfoot, on the threshold
of safety, of liberty, of love? And, in those moments of violent
struggle I saw, as one sees in moments of wisdom and meditation, my
soul--all life, lying under the shadow of a perfidious destiny. And
Seraphina was there in the boat, waiting for me. The sea! The boat! They
were in another land, and I, I should no more.... never any more....
A sharp voice called, "Back there, men. Steady. Take him alive." They
dragged me up.

I needn't relate by what steps, from being terribly handled as a
captive, I was promoted to having my arms shaken off in the character of
a saviour. But I got any amount of praise at last, though I was
terribly out of breath--at the very last gasp, as you might say. A man,
smooth-faced, well-knit, very elated and buoyant, began talking to me
endlessly. He was mighty happy, and anyhow he could talk to me, because
I was past doing anything but taking a moment's rest. He said I had come
in the nick of time, and was quite the best of fellows.

"If you had a fancy to be called the Archbishop of Canterbury, we'd
'your Grace' you. I am the mate, Sebright. The captain's gone in to
show himself to the missus; she wouldn't like to have him too much
chipped.... Wonderful is the love of woman. She sat up a bit later
to-night with her fancy-sewing to see what might turn up. I told her at
tea-time she had better go in early and shut her stateroom door, because
if any of the Dagos chanced to come aboard, I couldn't be responsible
for the language of my crowd. We are supposed to keep clear of profanity
this trip, she being a niece of Mr. Perkins of Bristol, our owner, and
a Methodist. But, hang it all, there's reason in all things. You can't
have a ship like a chapel--though _she_ would. Oh, bless you, she would,
even when we're beating off these picaroons."

I was sitting on the afterhatch, and leaning my head on my arms.

"Feel bad? Do you? Handled you like a bag of shavings. Well, the boys
got their monkey up, hammering the Dagos. Here you, Mike, go look along
the deck, for a double-barrelled pistol. Move yourself a bit. Feel along
under the spars."

There was something authoritative and knowing in his personality;
boyishly elated and full of business.

"We must put the ship to rights. You don't think they'd come back for
another taste? The blessed old deck's afloat. That's my little dodge,
boiling water for these Dagos, if they come. So I got the cook to fire
up, and we put the suction-hose of the fire pump into the boiler, and we
filled the coppers and the kettles. Not a bad notion, eh? But ten times
as much wouldn't have been enough, and the hose burst at the third
stroke, so that only one boat got anything to speak of. But Lord, _she_
dropped out of the ruck as if she'd been swept with langridge. Squealed
like a litter of pigs, didn't they?"

What I had taken for blood had been the water from the burst hose. I
must say I was relieved. My new friend babbled any amount of joyous
information into me before I quite got my wind back. He rubbed his hands
and clapped me on the shoulder. But his heart was kind, and he became
concerned at my collapsed state.

"I say, you don't think my chaps broke some of your ribs, do you? Let me
feel."

And then I managed to tell him something of Seraphina that he would
listen to.

"What, what?" he said. "Oh, heavens and earth! there's your girl. Of
course.... Hey, bo'sun, rig a whip and chair on the yardarm to take a
lady on board. Bear a hand. A lady! yes, a lady. Confound it, don't lose
your wits, man. Look over the starboard rail, and you will see a lady
alongside with a Dago in a small boat. Let the Dago come on board, too;
the gentleman here says he's a good sort. Now, do you understand?"

He talked to me a good deal more; told me that they had made a
prisoner--"a tall, comical chap; wears his hair like an old aunt of
mine, a bunch of curls flapping on each side of his face"--and then said
that he must go and report to Captain Williams, who had gone into his
wife's stateroom. The name struck me. I said:

"Is this ship the _Lion?_"

"Aye, aye. That's her. She is," several seamen answered together,
casting curious glances from their work.

"Tell your captain my name is Kemp," I shouted after Sebright with what
strength of lung I had.

What luck! Williams was the jolly little ship's captain I was to have
dined with on the day of execution on Kingston Point--the day I had been
kidnapped. It seemed ages ago. I wanted to get to the side to look after
Seraphina, but I simply couldn't remember how to stand. I sat on the
hatch, looking at the seamen.

They were clearing the ropes, collecting the lamps, picking up
knives, handspikes, crowbars, swabbing the decks with squashy flaps.
A bare-footed, bare-armed fellow, holding a bundle of brass-hilted
cutlasses under his arm, had lost himself in the contemplation of my
person.

"Where are you bound to?" I inquired at large, and everybody showed a
friendly alacrity in answer.

"Havana." "Havana, sir." "Havana's our next port. Aye, Havana."

The deck rang with modulations of the name.

I heard a loud, "Alas," sighed out behind me. A distracted, stricken
voice repeated twice in Spanish, "Oh, my greatness; oh, my greatness."
Then, shiveringly, in a tone of profound self-communion, "I have a
greatly parched throat," it said. Harshly jovial voices answered:

"Stow your lingo and come before the captain. Step along."

A prisoner, conducted aft, stalked reluctantly into the light between
two short, bustling sailors. Dishevelled black hair like a damaged
peruke, mournful, yellow face, enormous stag's eyes straining down on
me. I recognized Manuel-del-Popolo. At the same moment he sprang back,
shrieking, "This is a miracle of the devil--of the devil."

The sailors fell to tugging at his arms savagely, asking, "What's come
to you?" and, after a short struggle that shook his tatters and his
raven locks tempestuously like a gust of wind, he submitted to be walked
up repeating:

"Is it you, Señor? Is it you? Is it _you?_"

One of his shoulders was bare from neck to elbow; at every step one of
his knees and part of a lean thigh protruded their nakedness through a
large rent; a strip of grimy, blood-stained linen, torn right down to
the waist, dangled solemnly in front of his legs. There was a horrible
raw patch amongst the roots of his hair just above his temple; there was
blood in his nostrils, the stamp of excessive anguish on his features, a
sort of guarded despair in his eye. His voice sank while he said again,
twice:

"Is it you? Is it you?" And then, for the last time, "Is it you?" he
repeated in a whisper.

The seamen formed a wide ring, and, looking at me, he talked to himself
confidentially.

"Escaped--the _Inglez!_ Then thou art doomed, Domingo. Domingo, thou art
doomed. Dom... Señor!"

The change of tone, his effort to extend his hands towards me, surprised
us all. I looked away.

"Hold hard! Hold him, mate!"

"Señor, condescend to behold my downfall. I am led here to the
slaughter, Señor! To the slaughter, Señor! Pity! Grace! Mercy! And
only a short while ago--behold. Slaughter... I... Manuel. Señor, I am
universally admired--with a parched throat, Señor. I could compose
a song that would make a priest weep.... A greatly parched throat,
Señor," he added piteously.

I could not help turning my head. I had not been used half as hard
as he. It was enough to look at him to believe in the dryness of his
throat. Under the matted mass of his hair, he was grinning in amiable
agony, and his globular eyes yearned upon me with a motionless and
glassy lustre.

"You have not forgotten me, Señor? Forget Manuel! Impossible! Manuel,
Señor. For the love of God. Manuel. Manuel-del-Popolo. I did sing, deign
to remember. I offered you my fidelity, Señor. As you are a _caballero_,
I charge you to remember. Save me, Señor. Speak to those men.... For the
sake of your honour, Señor."

His voice was extraordinarily harsh--not his own. Apparently, he
believed that he was going to be cut to pieces there and then by the
sailors. He seemed to read it in their faces, shuddering and shrinking
whenever he raised his eyes. But all these faces gaped with good-natured
wonder, except the faces of his two guardians, and these expressed a
state of conscientious worry. They were ridiculously anxious to suppress
his sudden contortions, as one would some gross indecency. In the
scuffle they hissed and swore under their breath. They were scandalized
and made unhappy by his behaviour.

"Are you ready down there?" roared the bo'sun in the waist.

"Olla raight! Olla raight! Waita a leetle," I heard Castro's voice
coming, as if from under the ship. I said coldly a few words about the
certain punishment awaiting a pirate in Havana, and got on to my feet
stiffly. But Manuel was too terrified to understand what I meant. He
attempted to snatch at me with his imprisoned hands, and got for his
pains a severe jerking, which made his head roll about his shoulders
weirdly.

"Pity, Señor!" he screamed. And then, with low fervour, "Don't go away.
Listen! I am profound. Perhaps the Señor did not know that? Mercy! I
am a man of intrigue. A _politico_. You have escaped, and I rejoice at
it."... He bared his fangs, and frothed like a mad dog.... "Señor, I am
made happy because of the love I bore you from the first--and Domingo,
who let you slip out of the Casa, is doomed. He is doomed. Thou art
doomed, Domingo! But the excessive affection for your noble person
inspires my intellect with a salutary combination. Wait, Señor! A
moment! An instant!... A combination!..."

He gasped as though his heart had burst. The seamen, open-mouthed, were
slowly narrowing their circle.

"Can't he gabble!" remarked someone patiently.

His eyes were starting out of his head. He spoke with fearful rapidity.

"... There's no refuge from the anger of the _Juez_ but the grave--the
grave--the grave!... Ha! ha! Go into thy grave, Domingo. But you,
Señor--listen to my supplications--where will you go? To Havana. The
_Juez_ is there, and I call the malediction of the priests on my head if
you, too, are not doomed. Life! Liberty! Señor, let me go, and I shall
run--I shall ride, Señor--I shall throw myself at the feet of the
_Juez_, and say... I shall say I killed you. I am greatly trusted by
the reason of my superior intelligence. I shall say, 'Domingo let
him go--but he is dead. Think of him no more--of that _Inglez_ who
escaped--from Domingo. Do not look for him. I, your own Manuel, have
killed him.' Give me my life for yours, Señor. I shall swear I had
killed you with this right hand! Ah!"

He hung on my lips breathless, with a face so distorted that, though it
might have been death alone he hated, he looked, indeed, as if impatient
to set to and tear me to pieces with his long teeth. Men clutching at
straws must have faces thus convulsed by an eager and despairing hope.
His silence removed the spell--the spell of his incredible loquacity. I
heard the boatswain's hoarse tones:

"Hold on well, ma'am. Right! Walk away steady with that whip!"

I ran limping forward.

"High enough," he rumbled; and I received Seraphina into my arms.



CHAPTER FOUR

I said, "This is home, at last. It is all over"; and she stood by me on
the deck. She pushed the heavy black cloak from over her head, and her
white face appeared above the dim black shadow of her mourning. She
looked silently round her on the mist, the groups of rough men, the
spatterings of light that were like violence, too. She said nothing, but
rested her hand on my arm.

She had her immense griefs, and this was the home I offered her. She
looked back at the side. I thought she would have liked to be in the
boat again. I said:

"The people in this ship are my old friends. You can trust them--and
me."

Tomas Castro, clambering leisurely over the side, followed. As soon as
his feet touched the deck, he threw the corner of his cloak across
his left shoulder, bent down half the rim of his hat, and assumed the
appearance of a short, dark conspirator, overtopped by the stalwart
sailors, who had abandoned Manuel to crowd, bare-armed, bare-chested,
pushing, and craning their necks, round us.

She said, "I can trust you; it is my duty to trust you, and this is now
my home."

It was like a definite pronouncement of faith--and of a line of policy.
She seemed, for that moment, quite apart from my love, a thing very
much above me and mine; closed up in an immense grief, but quite
whole-souledly determined to go unflinchingly into a new life, breaking
quietly with all her past for the sake of the traditions of all that
past.

The sailors fell back to make way for us. It was only by the touch
of her hand on my arm that I had any hope that she trusted me, me
personally, and apart from the commands of the dead Carlos; the dead
father, and the great weight of her dead traditions that could be never
anything any more for her--except a memory. Ah, she stood it very well;
her head was erect and proud. The cabin door opened, and a rigid female
figure with dry outlines, and a smooth head, stood out with severe
simplicity against the light of the cabin door. The light falling on
Seraphina seemed to show her for the first time. A lamentable voice
bellowed:

"Señorita!... Señorita!" and then, in an insinuating, heart-breaking
tone, "Señorita!..."

She walked quietly past the figure of the woman, and disappeared in
the brilliant light of the cabin. The door closed. I remained standing
there. Manuel, at her disappearance, raised his voice to a tremendous,
incessant yell of despair, as if he expected to make her hear.

"_Señorita... proteccion del opprimido; oh, hija de piedad...
Señorita_."

His lamentable noise brought half the ship round us; the sailors fell
back before the mate, Sebright, walking at the elbow of a stout man in
loose trousers and jacket. They stopped.

"An unexpected meeting, Captain Williams," was all I found to say to
him. He had a constrained air, and shook hands in awkward silence.

"How do you do?" he said hurriedly. After a moment he added, with a
sort of confused, as if official air, "I hope, Kemp, you'll be able to
explain satisfactorily..."

I said, rather off-handedly, "Why, the two men I killed ought to be
credentials enough for all immediate purposes!"

"That isn't what I meant," he said. He spoke rather with a mumble,
and apologetically. It was difficult to see in him any trace of the
roystering Williams who had roared toasts to my health in Jamaica, after
the episode at the Ferry Inn with the admiral. It was as if, now, he had
a weight on his mind. I was tired. I said:

"Two dead men is more than you or any of your crew can show. And, as far
as I can judge, you did no more than hold your own till I came."

He positively stuttered, "Yes, yes. But..."

I got angry with what seemed stupid obstinacy.

"You'd be having a rope twisted tight round your head, or red-hot irons
at the soles of your feet, at this very moment, if it had not been for
us," I said indignantly.

He wiped his forehead perplexedly. "Phew, how you do talk!" he
remonstrated. "What I mean is that my wife..." He stopped again, then
went on. "She took it into her head to come with me this voyage. For the
first time.... And you two coming alone in an open boat like this! It's
what she isn't used to."

I simply couldn't get at what he meant; I couldn't even hear him very
well, because Manuel-del-Popolo was still calling out to Seraphina in
the cabin. Williams and I looked at each other--he embarrassed, and I
utterly confounded.

"Mrs. Williams thinks it's irregular," Sebright broke in, "you and
your young lady being alone--in an open boat at night, and that sort of
thing. It isn't what they approve of at Bristol."

Manuel suddenly bellowed out, "Señorita--save me from their barbarity.
I am a victim. Behold their bloody knives ready--and their eyes which
gloat."

He shrank convulsively from the fellow with the bundle of cutlasses
under his arm, who innocently pushed his way close to him; he threw
himself forward, the two sailors hung back on his arms, nearly sitting
on the deck, and he strained dog-like in his intense fear of immediate
death. Williams, however, really seemed to want an answer to his
absurdity that I could not take very seriously. I said:

"What do you expect us to do? Go back to our boat, or what?"

It seemed to affect him a good deal. "Wait till you are caught by a good
woman yourself," he mumbled wretchedly.

Was this the roystering Williams? The jolly good fellow? I wanted to
laugh, a little hysterically, because of the worry after great fatigue.
Was his wife such a terrifying virago? "A good woman," Williams insisted.
I turned my eyes to Sebright, who looked on amusedly.

"It's all right," he answered my questioning look. "She's a good soul,
but she doesn't see fellows like us in the congregation she worships
with at home." Then he whispered in my ear, "Owner's niece. Older than
the skipper. Married him for love. Suspects every woman--every man,
too, by George, except me, perhaps. She's learned life in some back
chapel in Bristol. What can you expect? You go straight into the cabin,"
he added.

At that moment the cabin door opened again, and the figure of the woman
I had seen before reappeared against the light.

"I was allowed to stand under the gate of the Casa, Excellency, I was
in very truth. Oh, turn not the light of your face from me." Manuel, who
had been silent for a minute, immediately recommenced his clamour in the
hope, I suppose, that it would reach Seraphina's ears, now the door was
opened.

"What is to be done, Owen?" the woman asked, with a serenity I thought
very merciless.

She had precisely the air of having someone "in the house," someone
rather questionable that you want, at home, to get rid of, as soon as a
very small charity permitted.

"Madam," I said rather coldly, "I appeal to your woman's compassion...."

"Even thus the arch-enemy sets his snares," she retorted on me a little
tremulously.

"Señorita, I have seen you grow," Manuel called again. "Your father,
who is with the saints, gave me alms when I was a boy. Will you let them
kill a man to whom your father..."

"Snares. All snares. Can she be blessed in going away from her natural
guardians at night, alone, with a young man? How can we, consistently
with our duty..."

Her voice was cold and gentle. Even in the imperfect light her
appearance suggested something cold and monachal. The thought of what
she might have been saying, or, in the subtle way of women, making
Seraphina feel, in there, made me violently angry, but lucid, too.

"She comes straight from the fresh grave of her father," I said. "I am
her only guardian."

Manuel rose to the height of his appeal. "Señorita, I worshipped your
childhood, I threw my hat in the air many times before your coach, when
you drove out all in white, smiling, an angel from paradise. Excellency,
help me. Excel..."

A hand was clapped on his mouth then, and we heard only a great scuffle
going on behind us. The way to the cozy cabin remained barred. My heart
was kindled by resentment, but by the power of love my soul was made
tranquil, for come what absurdity might, I had Sera-phina safe for the
time. The woman in the doorway guarded the respectable ship's cuddy from
the un-wedded vagabondage of romance.

"What's to be done, Owen?" she asked again, but this time a little
irresolutely, I thought. "You know something of this--but I...."

"My dear, what an idea," began Williams; and I heard his helpless
mutters, "Like a hero--one evening--admiral--old Topnambo--nothing of
her--on my soul--Lord's son..."

Sebright spoke up from the side. "We could drive them overboard
together, certainly, Mrs. Williams, but that wouldn't be quite proper,
perhaps. Put them each in a bag, separately, and drown them one on each
side of the ship, decently...."

"You will not put me off with your ungodly levity, Mr. Sebright."

"But I am perfectly serious, Mrs. Williams. It may raise a mutiny
amongst these horrid, profane sailors, but I really don't see how we are
to get rid of them else. The bo'sun has cut adrift their ramshackle, old
sieve of a boat, and she's now a quarter of a mile astern, half-full
of water. And we can't give them one of the ship's boats to go and get
their throats cut ashore. J. Perkins, Esquire, wouldn't like it. He
would swear something awful, if the boat got lost. Now, don't say no,
Mrs. Williams. I've heard him myself swear a pound's worth of oaths for
a matter of tenpence. You know very well what your uncle is. A perfect
Turk in that way."

"Don't be scandalous, Mr. Sebright."

"But I didn't begin, Mrs. Williams. It's you who are raising all this
trouble for nothing; because, as a matter of fact, they did not come
alone. They had a man with them. An elderly, most respectable man. There
he stands yonder, with a feather in his hat. Hey! You! _Señor caballero_,
hidalgo, Pedro--Miguel--José--what's your particular saint? Step this
way a bit..."

Manuel managed to jerk a half-choked "Excellency," and Castro, muffled
up to the eyes, began to walk slowly aft, pausing after each solemn
stride. The dark woman in the doorway was as effectual as an angel with
a flaming sword. She paralyzed me completely.

Sebright dropped his voice a little. "I don't see that's much worse than
going off at six o'clock in the morning to get married on the quiet; all
alone with a man in a hackney coach--you know you did--and being given
away by a perfect stranger."

"Mr. Sebright! Be quiet! How dare you?... Owen!"

Williams made a vague, growling noise, but Sebright, after muttering
hurriedly, "It's all right, sir," proceeded with the utmost coolness:

"Why, all Bristol knows it! There are those who said that you got out of
the scullery window into the back street. I am only telling you..."

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself to believe such tales," she cried
in great agitation. "I walked out at the gate!"

"Yes. And the gardener's wife said you must have sneaked the key off the
nail by the side of the cradle--coming to the lodge the evening before,
to see her poor, ailing baby. You ought to know what love brings the
best of us to. And your uncle isn't a bloody-handed pirate either.
He's only a good-hearted, hard-swearing old heathen. And you, too, are
good-hearted. Come, Mrs. Williams. I know you're just longing to tuck
this young lady up in bed--poor thing. Think what she has gone through!
You ought to be fussing with sherry and biscuits and what not--making
that good-for-nothing steward fly round. The beggar is hiding in the
lazarette, I bet. Now then--allow me."

I got hold of the matter there again. I said--because I felt that the
matter only needed making clear:

"This young lady is the daughter of a great Spanish noble. Her father
was killed by these pirates. I am myself of noble family, and I am
her appointed guardian, and am trying to save her from a very horrible
fate."

She looked at me apprehensively.

"You would be committing a wicked act to try to interfere with this," I
said.

I suppose I carried conviction.

"I must believe what you say," she said. She added suddenly, with a sort
of tremulous, warm feeling, "There, there. I don't mean to be unkind. I
knew nothing, and a married woman can't be too careful. For all I could
have told, you might have been a--a libertine; one of the poor lost
souls that Satan..."

Manuel, as if struggling with the waves, managed to free his lips.

"Excellency, help!" he spluttered, like a drowning man.

"I will give the young lady every care," Mrs. Williams said, "until
light shall be vouchsafed."

She shut the door.

"You will go too far, Sebright," Williams remonstrated; "and I'll have
to give you the sack."

"It's all right, captain. I can turn her round my little finger," said
the young man cheerily. "Somebody has to do it if you won't--or can't.
What shall we do with that yelping Dago? He's a distressful beast to
have about the decks."

"Put him in the coal-hole, I suppose, as far as Havana. I won't rest
till I see him on his way to the gallows. The Captain-General shall
be made sick of this business, or my name isn't Williams. I'll make a
breeze over it at home. You shall help in that, Kemp. You ain't afraid
of big-wigs. Not you. You ain't afraid of anything...."

"He's a devil of a fellow, and a dead shot," threw in Sebright. "And
jolly lucky for us, too, sir. It's simply marvellous that you should
turn up like this, Mr. Kemp. We hadn't a grain of powder that wasn't
caked solid in the canisters. Nothing'll take it out of my head that
somebody had got at the magazine while we lay in Kingston...."

It did not occur to Williams to ask whether I was wounded, or tired, or
hungry. And yet all through the West Indies the dinners you got on board
the Lion were famous in shipping circles. But festive men of his stamp
are often like that. They do it more for the glory and romance of the
hospitality, and he could not, perhaps, under the circumstances, expect
me to intone "for he is a jolly good fellow" over the wine. He was by
no means a bad or unfeeling man; only he was not hungry himself, and
another's mere necessity of that sort failed to excite his imagination.
I know he was no worse than other men, and I have reason to remember him
with gratitude; but, at the time, I was surprised and indignant at the
extraordinary way he took my presence for granted, as if I had come off
casually in a shore boat to idle away an hour or two on board. Since his
wife appeared satisfied, he did not seem to desire any explanation. I
felt as if I had for him no independent existence. When I had ceased
to be a source of domestic difficulty, I became a precious sort of
convenience, a most welcome person ("an English gentleman to back me
up," he repeated several times), who would help him to make "these old
women at the Admiralty sit up!" A burning shame, this! It had gone on
long enough, God knows, but if they were to tackle an old trader, like
the "Lion", now, it was time the whole country should hear of it. His
owner, J. Perkins, his wife's uncle, wasn't the man to go to sleep over
the job. Parliament should hear of it. Most fortunate I was there to
be produced--eye-witness--nobleman's son. He knew I could speak up in a
good cause.

"And by the way, Kemp," he said, with sudden annoyance, recollecting
himself, as it were, "you never turned up for that dinner--sent no word,
nor anything...."

Williams had been talking to me, but it was with Sebright that I felt
myself growing intimate. The young mate of the "Lion" stood by, very
quiet, listening with a capable smile. Now he said, in a tone of dry
comment:

"Jolly sight more useful turning up here."

"I was kidnapped away from Ramon's back shop, if that's a sufficient
apology. It's rather a long story."

"Well, you can't tell it on deck, that's very clear," Sebright had to
shout to me. "Not while this infernal noise--what the deuce's up? It
sounds more like a dog-fight than anything else."

As we ran towards the main hatch I recognized the aptness of the
comparison. It was that sort of vicious, snarling, yelping clamour which
arises all at once and suddenly dies.

"Castro! Thou Castro!"

"Malediction... My eyelids..."

"Thou! Englishman's dog!"

"Ha! _Porco_."

The voices ceased. Castro ran tiptoeing lightly, mantled in ample folds.
He assumed his hat with a brave tap, crouched swiftly inside his cloak.
It touched the deck all round in a black cone surmounted by a peering,
quivering head. Quick as thought he hopped and sank low again. Everybody
watched with wonder this play, as of some large and diabolic toy. For
my part, knowing the deadly purpose of these preliminaries, I was struck
with horror. Had he chosen to run on him at once, nothing could have
saved Manuel. The poor wretch, vigorously held in front of Castro, was
far too terrified to make a sound. With an immovable sailor on each
side, he scuffled violently, and cowered by starts as if tied up between
two stone posts. His dumb, rapid panting was in our ears. I shouted:

"Stop, Castro! Stop!... Stop him, some of you! He means to kill the
fellow!"

Nobody heeded my shouting. Castro flung his cloak on the deck, jumped on
it, kicked it aside, all in the same moment as it seemed, dodged to the
right, to the left, drew himself up, and stepped high, paunchy in his
tight smalls and short jacket, making all the time a low, sibilant
sound, which was perfectly blood-curdling.

"He has a blade on his forearm!" I yelled. "He's armed, I tell you!"

No one could comprehend my distress. A sailor, raising a lamp, had a
broad smile. Somebody laughed outright. Castro planted himself before
Manuel, nodded menacingly, and stooped ready for a spring. I was too
late in my grab at his collar, but Manuel's guardians, acting with
precision, put out one arm each to meet his rush, and he came flying
backwards upon me, as though he had rebounded from a wall.

He had almost knocked me down, and while I staggered to keep my feet the
air resounded with urgent calls to shoot, to fire, to bring him down!...
"Kill him, Señor!" came in an entreating yell from Castro. And I became
aware that Manuel had taken this opportunity to wrench himself free. I
heard the hard thud of his leap. Straight from the hatch (as I was told
later by the marvelling sailors) he had alighted with both feet on the
rail. I only saw him already there, sitting on his heels, jabbering and
nodding at us like an enormous baboon. "Shoot, sir! Shoot!" "Kill! Kill,
Señor! As you love your life--kill!"

Unwittingly, without volition, as if compelled by the suggestion of the
bloodthirsty cries, my hand drew the remaining pistol out of my belt. I
raised it, and found myself covering the strange antics of an infuriated
ape. He tore at his flanks with both hands in the idea, I suppose,
of stripping for a swim. Rags flew from him in all directions; an
astounding eruption of rags round a huddled-up figure crouching, wildly
active, in front of the muzzle. I had him. I was sure of my shot. He was
only an ape. A dead ape. But why? Wherefore? To what end? What could it
matter whether he lived or died. He sickened me, and I pitied him, as I
should have pitied an ape.

I lowered my arm an almost imperceptible fraction of a second before he
sprang up and vanished. The sound of the heavy plunge was followed by
a regretful clamour all over the decks, and a general rush to the side.
There was nothing to be seen; he had gone through the layer of fog
covering the water. No one heard him blow or splutter. It was as if a
lump of lead had fallen overboard.

Williams wouldn't have had this happen for a five-pound note. Sebright
expressed the hope that he wouldn't cheat the gallows by drowning. The
two men who had held him slunk away abashed. To lower a boat for
the purpose of catching him in the water would have been useless and
imprudent.

"His friends can't be far off yet in the boats," growled the bo'sun;
"and if they don't pick him up, they would be more than likely to pick
up our chaps."

Somebody expectorated in so marked a manner that I looked behind me.
Castro had resumed his cloak, and was draping himself with deliberate
dignity. When this undertaking had been accomplished, he came up very
close to me, and without a word looked up balefully from the heavy folds
thrown across his mouth and chin under the very tip of his hooked nose.

"I could not do it," I said. "I could not. It would have been useless.
Too much like murder, Tomas."

"Oh! the inconstancy, the fancifulness of these English," he
generalized, with suppressed passion, right into my face. "I don't know
what's worse, their fury or their pity. The childishness of it! The
childishness.... Do you imagine, Señor, that Manuel or the Juez O'Brien
shall some day spare you in their turn? If I didn't know the courage of
your nation..."

"I despise the _Juez_ and Manuel alike," I interrupted angrily. I
despised Castro, too, at that moment, and he paid me back with interest.
There was no mistaking his scathing tone.

"I know you well. You scorn your friends, as well as your foes. I have
seen so many of you. The blessed saints guard us from the calamity of
your friendship...."

"No friendship could make an assassin of me, Mr. Castro...."

"... Which is only a very little less calamitous than your enmity," he
continued, in a cold rage. "A very little less. You let Manuel go....
Manuel!... Because of your mercy.... Mercy! Bah! It is all your pride--your
mad pride. You shall rue it, Señor. Heaven is just. You shall rue it,
Señor."

He denounced me prophetically, wrapped up with an air of midnight
secrecy; but, after all, he had been a friend in the act, if not in
the spirit, and I contented myself by asking, with some pity for his
imbecile craving after murder:

"Why? What can Manuel do to me? He at least is completely helpless."

"Did the Señor Don Juan ever ask himself what Manuel could do to
me--Tomas Castro? To me, who am poor and a vagabond, and a friend of
Don Carlos, may his soul rest with God. Are all you English like princes
that you should never think of anybody but yourselves?"

He revolted and provoked me, as if his opinion of the English could
matter, or his point of view signify anything against the authority of
my conscience. And it is our conscience that illumines the romantic side
of our life. His point of view was as benighted and primitive as the
point of view of hunger; but, in his fidelity to the dead architect of
my fortunes, he reflected dimly the light of Carlos' romance, and I had
taken advantage of it, not so much for the saving of my life as for the
guarding of my love. I had reached that point when love displaces one's
personality, when it becomes the only ground under our feet, the only
sky over our head, the only light of vision, the first condition of
thought--when we are ready to strive for it, as we fight for the breath
of our body. Brusquely I turned my back on him, and heard the repeated
clicking of flint against his blade. He lighted a cigarette, and crossed
the deck to lean cloaked against the bulwark, smoking moodily under his
slouched hat.



CHAPTER FIVE

Manuel's escape was the last event of that memorable night. Nothing more
happened, and nothing more could be done; but there remained much talk
and wonderment to get through. I did all the talking, of course, under
the cuddy lamps. Williams, red and stout, sat staring at me across the
table. His round eyes were perfectly motionless with astonishment--the
story of what had happened in the Casa Riego was not what he had
expected of the small, badly reputed Cuban town.

Sebright, who had all the duties of the soiled ship and chipped men
to attend to, came in from the deck several times, and would stand
listening for minutes with his fingers playing thoughtfully about his
slight moustache. The dawn was not very far when he led me into his
own cabin. I was half dead with fatigue, and troubled by an inward
restlessness.

"Turn in into my berth," said Sebright.

I protested with a stiff tongue, but he gave me a friendly push, and
I tumbled like a log on to the bedclothes. As soon as my head felt the
pillow the fresh colouring of his face appeared blurred, and an arm,
mistily large, was extended to put out the light of the lamp screwed to
the bulkhead.

"I suppose you know there are warrants out in Jamaica against you--for
that row with the admiral," he said.

An irresistible and unexpected drowsiness had relaxed all my limbs.

"Hang Jamaica!" I said, with difficult animation. "We are going home."

"Hang Jamaica!" he agreed. Then, in the dark, as if coming after me
across the obscure threshold of sleep, his voice meditated, "I am sorry,
though, we are bound for Havana. Pity. Great pity! Has it occurred to
you, Mr. Kemp, that..."

It is very possible that he did not finish his sentence; no more
penetrated, at least, into my drowsy ear. I awoke slowly from a
trance-like sleep, with a confused notion of having to pick up the
thread of a dropped hint. I went up on deck.

The sun shone, a faint breeze blew, the sea sparkled freshly, and the
wet decks glistened. I stood still, touched by the new glory of light
falling on me; it was a new world--new and familiar, yet disturbingly
beautiful. I seemed to discover all sorts of secret charms that I had
never seen in things I had seen a hundred times. The watch on deck
were busy with brooms and buckets; a sailor, coiling a rope over a
pin, paused in his work to point over the port-quarter, with a massive
fore-arm like a billet of red mahogany.

I looked about, rubbing my eyes. The "Lion", close hauled, was heading
straight away from the coast, which stood out, not very far yet,
outlined heavily and flooded with light. Astern, and to leeward of us,
against a headland of black and indigo, a dazzling white speck resembled
a snowflake fallen upon the blue of the sea.

"That's a schooner," said the seaman.

They were the first words I heard that morning, and their friendly
hoarseness brushed away whatever of doubt might seem to mar the
inexplicability of my new glow of my happiness. It was because we were
safe--she and I--and because my undisturbed love let my heart open to
the beauty of the young day and the joyousness of a splendid sea. I took
deep breaths, and my eyes went all over the ship, embracing, like an
affectionate contact, her elongated shape, the flashing brasses,
the tall masts, the gentle curves of her sails soothed into perfect
stillness by the wind. I felt that she was a shrine, for was not
Seraphina sleeping in her, as safe as a child in its cradle? And
presently the beauty, the serenity, the purity, and the splendour of the
world would be reflected in her clear eyes, and made over to me by her
glance.

There are times when an austere and just Providence, in its march
along the inscrutable way, brings our hearts to the test of their own
unreason. Which of us has not been tried by irrational awe, fear, pride,
abasement, exultation? And such moments remain marked by indelible
physical impressions, standing out of the ghostly level of memory
like rocks out of the sea, like towers on a plain. I had many of these
unforgettable emotions--the profound horror of Don Balthasar's death;
the first floating of the boat, like the opening of wings in space; the
first fluttering of the flames in the fog--many others afterwards, more
cruel, more terrible, with a terror worse than death, in which the very
suffering was lost; and also this--this moment of elation in the clear
morning, as if the universe had shed its glory upon my feelings as the
sunshine glorifies the sea. I laughed in very lightness of heart, in a
profound sense of success; I laughed, irresponsible and oblivious, as
one laughs in the thrilling delight of a dream.

"Do I look so confoundedly silly?" asked Sebright, speaking as though
he had a heavy cold. "I am stupid--tired. I've been on my feet this
twenty-four hours--about the liveliest in my life, too. You haven't
slept very long either--none of us have. I'm sure I hope your young lady
has rested."

He put his hands in his pockets. He might have been very tired, but
I had never seen a boy fresh out of bed with a rosier face. The black
pin-points of his pupils seemed to bore through distance, exploring the
horizon beyond my shoulder. The man called Mike, the one I had had the
tussle with overnight, came up behind the indefatigable mate, and shyly
offered me my pistol. His head was bound over the top, and under the
chin, as if for toothache, and his bronzed, rough-hewn face looked out
astonishingly through the snowy whiteness of the linen. Only a few hours
before, we had been doing our best to kill each other. In my cordial
glow, I bantered him light-heartedly about his ferocity and his
strength.

He stood before me, patiently rubbing the brown instep of one thick foot
with the horny sole of the other.

"You paid me off for that bit, sir," he said bashfully. "It was in the
way of duty."

"I'm uncommon glad you didn't squeeze the ghost out of me," I said; "a
morning like this is enough to make you glad you can breathe."

To this day I remember the beauty of that rugged, grizzled, hairy
seaman's eyelashes. They were long and thick, shadowing the eyes softly
like the lashes of a young girl.

"I'm sure, sir, we wish you luck--to you and the young lady--all of us,"
he said shamefacedly; and his bass, half-concealed mutter was quite as
sweet to my ears as a celestial melody; it was, after all, the sanction
of simple earnestness to my desires and hopes--a witness that he and his
like were on my side in the world of romance.

"Well, go forward now, Mike," Sebright said, as I took the pistol.

"It's a blessing to talk to one's own people," I said, expansively, to
him. "He's a fine fellow." I stuck the pistol in my belt. "I trust I
shall never need to use barrel or butt again, as long as I live."

"A very sensible wish," Sebright answered, with a sort of reserve of
meaning in his tone; "especially as on board here we couldn't find you a
single pinch of powder for a priming. Do you notice the consort we have
this morning?"

"What do I want with powder?" I asked. "Do you mean that?" I pointed
to the white sail of the schooner. Sebright, looking hard at me, nodded
several times.

"We sighted her as soon as day broke. D'you know what she means?"

I said I supposed she was a coaster.

"It means, most likely, that the fellow with the curls that made me
think of my maiden aunt, has managed to keep his horse-face above
water." He meant Manuel-del-Popolo. "What mischief he may do yet before
he runs his head into a noose, it's hard to say. The old Spaniard you
brought with you thinks he has already been busy--for no good, you may
be sure."

"You mean that's one of the Rio schooners?" I asked quickly.

That, with all its consequent troubles forme, was what he did mean. He
said I might take his word for it that, with the winds we had had, no
craft working along the coast could be just there now unless she came
out of Rio Medio. There was a calm almost up to sunrise, and it looked
as if they had towed her out with boats before daylight.... "Seems a
rather unlikely bit of exertion for the lazy brutes; but if they are as
much afraid of that confounded Irishman as you say they are, that would
account for their energy."

They would steal and do murder simply for the love of God, but it would
take the fear of a devil to make them do a bit of honest work--and
pulling an oar _was_ honest work, no matter why it was done. This was
the combined wisdom of Sebright and of Tomas Castro, with whom he had
been in consultation. As to the fear of the devil, O'Brien was very much
like a devil, an efficient substitute. And there was certainly somebody
or something to make them bestir themselves like this....

Before my mind arose a scene: Manuel, the night before, pulled out of
the water into a boat--raging, half-drowned, eloquent, inspired. The
contemptible beast _was_ inspired, as a politician is, a demagogue.
He could sway his fellows, as I had heard enough to know. And I felt
a slight chill on the warmth of my hope, because that bright sail,
brilliantly and furtively dodging along in our wake, must be the product
of Manuel's inspiration, urged to perseverance by the fear of O'Brien.
The mate continued, staring knowingly at it:

"You know I am putting two and two together, like the old maids that
come to see my aunt when they want to take away a woman's character.
The Dagos are out and no mistake. The question is, Why? You must know
whether those schooners can sail anything; but don't forget the old
_Lion_ is pretty smart. Is it likely they'll attempt the ship again?"

I negatived that at once. I explained to Sebright that the store of
ammunition in Rio Medio would not run to it; that the _Lugareños_ were
cowardly, divided by faction, incapable, by themselves, of combining
for any length of time, and still less of following a plan requiring
perseverance and hardihood.

"They can't mean anything in the nature of open attack," I affirmed.
"They may have attempted something of the sort in Nichols' time, but it
isn't in their nature."

Sebright said that was practically Castro's opinion, too--except that
Castro had emphasized his remarks by spitting all the time, "like an old
tomcat. He seems a very spiteful man, with no great love for you, Mr.
Kemp. Do you think it safe to have him about you? What are all these
grievances of his?"

Castro seemed to have spouted his bile like a volcano, and had rather
confused Sebright. He had said much about being a friend of the Spanish
lord--Carlos; and that now he had no place on earth to hide his head.

"As far as I could make out, he's wanted in England," said Sebright,
"for some matter of a stolen watch, years ago in Liverpool, I think. And
your cousin, the grandee, was mixed up in that, too. That sounds funny;
you didn't tell us about that. Damme if he didn't seem to imply that
you, too... But you have never been in Liverpool. Of course not...."

But that had not been precisely Castro's point. He had affirmed he had
enemies in Spain; he shuddered at the idea of going to France, and now
my English fancifulness had made it impossible for him to live in Rio
Medio, where he had had the care of a good _pad-rona_.

"I suppose he means a landlady," Sebright chuckled. "Old but good, he
says. He expected to die there in peace, a good Christian. And what's
that about the priests getting hold of his very last bit of silver? I
must say that sounded truest of all his rigmarole. For the salvation of
his soul, I suppose?"

"No, my cousin's soul," I said gloomily.

"Humbugs. I only understood one word in three."

Just then Tomas himself stalked into sight among the men forward. Coming
round the corner of the deck-house, he stopped at the galley door like
a crow outside a hut, waiting. We watched him getting a light for his
cigarette at the galley door with much dignified pantomime. The negro
cook of the _Lion_, holding out to him in the doorway a live coal in
a pair of tongs, turned his Ethiopian face and white ivories towards
a group of sailors lost in the contemplation of the proceedings.' And,
when Castro had passed them, spurting jets of smoke, they swung about
to look after his short figure, upon whose draped blackness the sunlight
brought out reddish streaks as if bucketfuls of rusty water had been
thrown over him from hat to toe. The end of his broken plume hung
forward aggressively.

"Look how the fellow struts! Night and thunder! Hey, Don Tenebroso!
Would your worship hasten hither...." Sebright hailed jocularly.

Castro, without altering his pace, came up to us.

"What do you think of her now?" asked Sebright, pointing to the strange
sail. "She's grown a bit plainer, now she is out of the glare."

Castro, wrapping his chin, stood still, face to the sea. After a long
while:

"Malediction," he pronounced slowly, and without moving his head shot a
sidelong glance at me.

"It's clear enough how _he_ feels about our friends over there.
Malediction. Just so. Very proper. But it seems as though he had a bone
to pick with all the world," drawled Sebright, a little sleepily.
Then, resuming his briskness, he bantered, "So you don't want to go to
England, Mr. Castro? No friends there? _Sus. per col._, and that sort of
thing?"

Castro, contemptuous, staring straight away, nodded impatiently.

"But this gentleman you are so devoted to is going to England--to his
friends."

Castro's arms shook under the mantle falling all round him straight from
the neck. His whole body seemed convulsed. From his puckered dark lips
issued a fiendish and derisive squeal.

"Let his friends beware, then. _Por Dios!_ Let them beware. Let them
pray and fast, and beg the intercession of the saints. Ha! ha! ha!..."

Nothing could have been more unlike his saturnine self-centred
truculence of restraint. He impressed me; and even Sebright's steady,
cool eyes grew perceptibly larger before this sarcastic fury. Castro
choked; the rusty, black folds encircling him shook and heaved.
Unexpectedly he thrust out in front of the cloak one yellow, dirty
little hand, side by side with the bright end of his fixed blade.

"What do I hear? To England! Going to England! Ha! Then let him hasten
there straight! Let him go straight there, I say--I, Tomas Castro!"

He lowered his tone to impress us more, and the point of the knife, as
it were an emphatic forefinger, tapped the open palm forcibly. Did we
think that a man was not already riding along the coast to Havana on
a fast mule?--the very best mule from the stables of Don Balthasar
himself--that murdered saint. The Captain-General had no such mules.
His late excellency owned a sugar estate halfway between Rio Medio and
Havana, and a relay of riding mules was kept there for quickness when
His Excellency of holy memory found occasion to write his commands to
the capital. The news of our escape would reach the _Juez_ next day at
the latest. Manuel would take care of that--unless he were drowned. But
he could swim like a fish. Malediction!

"I cried out to you to kill!" he addressed me directly; "with all my
soul I cried. And why? Because he had seen you and the senorita, too,
alas! He should have been made dumb--made dumb with your pistol, Señor,
since those two stupid English mariners were too much for an old man
like me. Manuel should have been made dumb--dumb forever, I say. What
mattered he--that gutter-born offspring of an evil _Gitana_, whom I have
seen, Señor! I, myself, have seen her in the days of my adversity in
Madrid, Señor--a red flower behind the ear, clad in rags that did not
cover all her naked skin, looking on while they fought for her with
knives in a wine-shop full of beggars and thieves. Si, senor. That's his
mother. _Improvisador--politico--capataz_. Ha.... Dirt!"

He made a gesture of immense contempt.

"What mattered he? The coach would have returned from the cathedral, and
the Casa Riego could have been held for days--and who could have known
you were not inside. I had conversed earnestly with Cesar the
major-domo--an African, it is true, but a man of much character and
excellent sagacity. Ah, Manuel! Manuel! If I------But the devil himself
fathers the children of such mothers. I am no longer in possession of my
first vigour, and you, Señor, have all the folly of your nation...."

He bared his grizzled head to me loftily.

"... And the courage! Doubtless, that is certain. It is well. You may
want it all before long, Señor... And the courage!"

The broken plume swept the deck. For a time he blinked his creased,
brown eyelids in the sun, then pulled his hat low down over his brows,
and, wrapping himself up closely, turned away from me to look at the
sail to leeward.

"What an old, old, wrinkled, little, puffy beggar he is!" observed
Sebright, in an undertone...

"Well, and what is your worship's opinion as to the purpose of that
schooner?"

Castro shrugged his shoulders. "Who knows?"... He released the gathered
folds of his cloak, and moved off without a look at either of us.

"There he struts, with his wings drooping like a turkey-cock gone into
deep mourning," said Sebright. "Who knows? Ah, well, there's no hurry to
know for a day or two. I don't think that craft could overhaul the Lion,
if they tried ever so. They may manage to keep us in sight perhaps."

He yawned, and left me standing motionless, thinking of Seraphina. I
longed to see her--to make sure, as if my belief in the possession of
her had been inexplicably weakened. I was going to look at the door of
her cabin. But when I got as far as the companion I had to stand aside
for Mrs. Williams, who was coming up the winding stairs.

From above I saw the gray woollen shawl thrown over her narrow
shoulders. Her parting made a broad line on her brown head. She mounted
busily, holding up a little the front of her black, plain skirt. Her
glance met mine with a pale, searching candour from below.

Overnight she had heard all my story. She had come out to the saloon
whilst I had been giving it to Williams, and after saying reassuringly,
"The young lady, I am thankful, is asleep," she had sat with her eyes
fixed upon my lips. I had been aware of her anxious face, and of
the slight, nervous movements of her hands at certain portions of my
narrative under the blazing lamps. We met now, for the first time, in
the daylight.

Hastily, as if barring my road to Seraphina's cabin, "Miss Riego, I
would have you know," she said, "is in good bodily health. I have this
moment looked upon her again. The poor, superstitious young lady is on
her knees, crossing herself."

Mrs. Williams shuddered slightly. It was plain that the sight of that
popish practice had given her a shock--almost a scare, as if she had
seen a secret and nefarious rite. I explained that Seraphina, being a
Catholic, worshipped as her lights enjoined, as we did after ours. Mrs.
Williams only sighed at this, and, making an effort, proposed that I
should walk with her a little. We began to pace the poop, she gliding
with short steps at my side, and drawing close the skimpy shawl about
her. The smooth bands of her hair put a shadow into the slight hollows
of her temples. No nun, in the chilly meekness of the habit, had ever
given me such a strong impression of poverty and renunciation.

But there was in that faded woman a warmth of sentiment. She flushed
delicately whenever caught (and one could not help catching her
continually) following her husband with eyes that had an expression of
maternal uneasiness and the captivated attention of a bride. And after
she had got over the idea that I, as a member of the male British
aristocracy, was dissolute--it was an article of faith with her--that
warmth of sentiment would bring a faint, sympathetic rosiness to her
sunken cheeks.

She said suddenly and trembling, "Oh, young sir, reflect upon these
things before it is too late. You young men, in your luxurious, worldly,
ungoverned lives..."

I shall never forget that first talk with her on the poop--her hurried,
nervous voice (for she was a timid woman, speaking from a sense of
duty), and the extravagant forms her ignorance took. With the emotions
of the past night still throbbing in my brain and heart, with the sight
of the sea and the coast, with the Rio Medio schooner hanging on our
quarter, I listened to her, and had a hard task to believe my ears.
She was so convinced that I was "dissolute," because of my class--as an
earl's grandson.

It is difficult to imagine how she arrived at the conviction; it must
have been from pulpit denunciations of the small Bethel on the outskirt
of Bristol. Her uncle, J. Perkins, was a great ruffian, certainly,
and Williams was dissolute enough, if one wished to call his festive
imbecilities by a hard name. But these two could, by no means, be said
to belong to the upper classes. And these two, apart from her favourite
preacher, were the only two men of whom she could be said to have more
than a visual knowledge.

She had spent her best years in domestic slavery to her bachelor uncle,
an old shipowner of savage selfishness; she had been the deplorable
mistress of his big, half-furnished house, standing in a damp garden
full of trees. The outrageous Perkins had been a sailor in his
time--mate of a privateer in the great French war, afterwards master
of a slaver, developing at last into the owner of a small fleet of West
Indiamen. Williams was his favourite captain, whom he would bring home
in the evening to drink rum and water, and smoke churchwarden pipes with
him. The niece had to sit up, too, at these dismal revels. Old Perkins
would keep her out of bed to mix the grogs, till he was ready to climb
the bare stone staircase, echoing from top to bottom with his stumbles.
However, it seems he dozed a good deal in snatches during the
evening, and this, I suppose, gave their opportunity to the pale,
spiritual-looking spinster with the patient eyes, and to the thick,
staring Williams, florid with good living, and utterly unused to the
company of women of that sort. But in what way these two unsimilar
beings had looked upon each other, what she saw in him, what he imagined
her to be like, why, how, wherefore, an understanding arose between
them, remains inexplicable. It was her romance--and it is even possible
that he was moved by an unselfish sentiment. Sebright accounted for the
matter by saying that, as to the woman, it was no wonder. Anything to
get away from a bullying old ruffian, that would use bad language in
cold blood just to horrify her--and then burst into a laugh and jeer;
but as to Captain Williams (Sebright had been with him from a boy), he
ought to have known he was quite incapable of keeping straight after all
these free-and-easy years.

He used to talk a lot, about that time, of good women, of settling down
to a respectable home, of leading a better life; but, of course,
he couldn't. Simply couldn't, what with old friends in Kingston and
Havana--and his habits formed--and his weakness for women who, as
Sebright put it, could not be called good. Certainly there did not seem
to have been any sordid calculation in the marriage. Williams fully
expected to lose his command; but, as it turned out, the old beast,
Perkins, was quite daunted by the loss of his niece. He found them out
in their lodgings, came to them crying--absolutely whimpering about his
white hairs, talking touchingly of his will, and promising amendment. In
the end it was arranged that Williams should keep his command; and Mrs.
Williams went back to her uncle. That was the best of it. Actually went
back to look after that lonely old rip, out of pure pity and goodness of
heart. Of course old Perkins was afraid to treat her as badly as before,
and everything was going on fairly well, till some kind friend sent
her an anonymous letter about Williams' goings on in Jamaica. Sebright
strongly suspected the master of another regular trading ship, with whom
Williams had a difference in Kingston the voyage before last--Sebright
said--about a small matter, with long hair--not worth talking about. She
said nothing at first, and nearly worried herself into a brain-fever.
Then she confessed she had a letter--didn't believe it--but wanted a
change, and would like to come for one voyage. Nothing could be said to
that.

The worst was, the captain was so knocked over at the idea of his little
sins coming to light, that he--Sebright--had the greatest difficulty in
preventing him from giving himself away.

"If I hadn't been really fond of her," Sebright concluded, "I would have
let everything go by the board. It's too difficult. And mind, the whole
of Kingston was on the broad grin all the time we were there--but it's
no joke. She's a good woman, and she's jealous. She wants to keep her
own. Never had much of her own in this world, poor thing. She can't help
herself any more than the skipper can. Luckily, she knows no more of
life than a baby. But it's a most cruel set out."

Sebright had exposed the domestic situation on board the _Lion_ with a
force of insight and sympathy hardly to be expected from his years. No
doubt his attachment to the disparate couple counted for not a little.
He seemed to feel for them both a sort of exasperated affection; but
I have no doubt that in his way he was a remarkable young man with
his contrasted bringing up first at the hands of an old maiden lady;
afterwards on board ship with Williams, to whom he was indentured at the
age of fifteen, when as he casually mentioned--"a scoundrelly attorney
in Exeter had run off with most of the old girl's money." Indeed,
looking back, they all appear to me uncommon; even to the round-eyed
Williams, cowed simply out of respect and regard for his wife, and as
if dazed with fright at the conventional catastrophe of being found out
before he could get her safely back to Bristol. As to Mrs. Williams,
I must confess that the poor woman's ridiculous and genuine misery,
inducing her to undertake the voyage, presented itself to me simply as a
blessing, there on the poop. She had been practically good to Seraphina,
and her talking to me mattered very little, set against that.... And
such talk!

It was like listening to an earnest, impassioned, tremulous
impertinence. She seemed to start from the assumption that I was
capable of every villainy, and devoid of honour and conscience; only
one perceived that she used the words from the force of unworldly
conviction, and without any real knowledge of their meaning, as a
precocious child uses terms borrowed from its pastors and masters.

I was greatly disconcerted at first, but I was never angry. What of it,
if, with a sort of sweet absurdity, she talked in great agitation of
the depravity of hearts, of the sin of light-mindedness, of the
self-deception which leads men astray--a confused but purposeful jumble,
in which occasional allusions to the errors of Rome, and to the want of
seriousness in the upper classes, put in a last touch of extravagance?

What of it? The time was coming when I should remember the frail,
homely, as if starved, woman, and thank heaven for her generous heart,
which was gained for us from that moment. Far from being offended, I
was drawn to her. There is a beauty in the absolute conscience of the
simple; and besides, her distrust was for me, alone. I saw that she
erected* herself not into a judge, but into a guardian, against the
dangers of our youth and our romance. She was disturbed by its origin.

There was so much of the unusual, of the unheard of in its beginning,
that she was afraid of the end. I was so inexperienced, she said, and
so was the young lady--poor motherless thing--wilful, no doubt--so
very taking--like a little child, rather. Had I comprehended all my
responsibility? (And here one of the hurried side-allusions to the
errors of Rome came in with a reminder, touching the charge of another
immortal soul beside my own.) Had I reflected?...

It seems to me that this moment was the last of my boyishness. It was as
if the contact with her earnestness had matured me with a power greater
than the power of dangers, of fear, of tragic events. She wanted to know
insistently whether I were sure of myself, whether I had examined my
feelings, and had measured my strength, and had asked for guidance.
I had done nothing of this. Not till brought face to face with her
unanswerable simplicity did I descend within myself. It seemed I had
descended so deeply that, for a time, I lost the sound of her voice. And
again I heard her.

"There's time yet," she was saying. "Think, young sir (she had addressed
me throughout as 'young sir.') My husband and I have been talking it
over most anxiously. Think well before you commit the young lady
for life. You are both so young. It looks as if we had been sent
providentially...."

What was she driving at? Did she doubt my love? It was rather horrible;
but it was too startling and too extravagant to be met with anger. We
looked at each other, and I discovered that she had been, in reality,
tremendously excited by this adventure. This was the secret of her
audacity. And I was also possessed by excitement. We stood there like
two persons meeting in a great wind. Without moving her hands, she
clasped and unclasped her fingers, looking up at me with soliciting
eyes; and her lips, firmly closed, twitched.

"I am looking for the means of explaining to you how much I love her," I
burst out. "And if I found a way, you could not understand. What do you
know?--what can you know?..."

I said this not in scorn, but in sheer helplessness. I was at a loss
before the august magnitude of my feeling, which I saw confronting me
like an enormous presence arising from that blue sea. It was no longer
a boy-and-girl affair; no longer an adventure; it was an immense and
serious happiness, to be paid for by an infinity of sacrifice.

"I am a woman," she said, with a fluttering dignity. "And it is because
I know how women suffer from what men say...."

Her face flushed. It flushed to the very bands of her hair. She was
rosy all over the eyes and forehead. Rosy and ascetic, with something
outraged and inexpressibly sweet in her expression. My great emotion was
between us like a mist, through which I beheld strange appearances. It
was as if an immaterial spirit had blushed before me. And suddenly I saw
tears--tears that glittered exceedingly, falling hard and round, like
pellets of glass, out of her faded eyes.

"Mrs. Williams," I cried, "you can't know how I love her. No one in the
world can know. When I think of her--and I think of her always--it seems
to me that one life is not enough to show my devotion. I love her like
something unchangeable and unique--altogether out of the world; because
I see the world through her. I would still love her if she had made me
miserable and unhappy."

She exclaimed a low "Ah!" and turned her head away for a moment.

"But one cannot express these things," I continued. "There are no words.
Words are not meant for that. I love her so that, were I to die this
moment, I verily believe my soul, refusing to leave this earth, would
remain hovering near her...."

She interrupted me with a sort of indulgent horror. "Sh! sh!" I mustn't
talk like that. I really must not--and inconsequently she declared she
was quite willing to believe me. Her husband and herself had not slept a
wink for thinking of us. The notion of the fat, sleepy Williams, sitting
up all night to consider, owlishly, the durability of my love, cooled
my excitement. She thought they had been providentially thrown into our
way to give us an opportunity of reconsidering our decision. There were
still so many difficulties in the way.

I did not see any; her utter incomprehension began to weary me, while
she still twined her fingers, wiped her eyes by stealth, as it were, and
talked unflinchingly. She could not have made herself clearly understood
by Seraphina. Moreover, women were so helpless--so very helpless in
such matters. That is why she was speaking to me. She did not doubt my
sincerity at the present time--but there was, humanly speaking, a long
life before us--and what of afterwards? Was I sure of myself--later
on--when all was well?

I cut her short. Seizing both her hands:

"I accept the omen, Mrs. Williams!" I cried. "That's it! When all
is well! And all must be well in a very short time, with you and your
husband's help, which shall not fail me, I know. I feel as if the worst
of our troubles were over already...."

But at that moment I saw Seraphina coming out on deck. She emerged from
the companion, bare-headed, and looked about at her new surroundings
with that air of imperious and childlike beauty which made her charm.
The wind stirred slightly her delicate hair, and I looked at her; I
looked at her stilled, as one watches the dawn or listens to a sweet
strain of music caught from afar. Suddenly dropping Mrs. Williams' hand,
I ran to her....

When I turned round, Williams had joined his wife, and she had slipped
her arm under his. Her hand, thin and white, looked like the hand of an
invalid on the brawny forearm of that man bursting with health and good
condition. By the side of his lustiness, she was almost ethereal--and
yet I seemed to see in them something they had in common--something
subtle, like the expression of eyes. It _was_ the expression of their
eyes. They looked at us with commiseration; one of them sweetly, the
other with his owlish fixity. As we two, Seraphina and I, approached
them together, I heard Williams' thick, sleepy voice asking, "And so
he says he won't?" To which his wife, raising her tone with a shade of
indignation, answered, "Of course not." No, I was not mistaken. In their
dissimilar persons, eyes, faces, there was expressed a common trouble,
doubt, and commiseration. This expression seemed to go out to meet us
sadly, like a bearer of ill-news. And, as if at the sight of a
downcast messenger, I experienced the clear presentiment of some fatal
intelligence.

It was conveyed to me late in the afternoon of that 'same day out of
Williams' own thick lips, that seemed as heavy and inert as his voice.

"As far as we can see," he said, "you can't stay in the ship, Kemp. It
would do no one any good--not the slightest good. Ask Sebright here."

It was a sort of council of war, to which we had been summoned in the
saloon. Mrs. Williams had some sewing in her lap. She listened, her
hands motionless, her eyes full of desolation. Seraphina's attitude,
leaning her cheek on her hand, reminded me of the time when I had seen
her absorbed in watching the green-and-gold lizard in the back room of
Ramon's store, with her hair falling about her face like a veil. Castro
was not called in till later on. But Sebright was there, leaning his
back negligently against the bulkhead behind Williams, and looking down
on us seated on both sides of the long table. And there was present,
too, in all our minds, the image of the Rio Medio schooner, hull down on
our quarter. In all the trials of sailing, we had not been able to shake
her off that day.

"I don't want to hide from you, Mr. Kemp," Sebright began, "that it was
I who pointed out to the captain that you would be only getting the ship
in trouble for nothing. She's an old trader and favourite with shippers;
and if we once get to loggerheads with the powers, there's an end of her
trading. As to missing Havana this trip, even if you, Mr. Kemp, could
give a pot of money, the captain could never show his nose in there
again after breaking his charter-party to help steal a young lady. And
it isn't as if she were nobody. She's the richest heiress in the island.
The biggest people in Spain would have their say in this matter. I
suppose they could put the captain in prison or something. Anyway,
good-by to the Havana business for good. Why, old Perkins would have
a fit. He got over one runaway match.... All right, Mrs. Williams, not
another word.... What I meant to say is that this is nothing else but
a love story, and to knock on the head a valuable old-established
connection for it..Don't bite your lip, Mr. Kemp. I mean no disrespect
to your feelings. Perkins would start up to break things--let alone his
heart. I am sure the captain and Mrs. Williams think so, too."

The festive and subdued captain of the _Lion_ was staring straight
before him, as if stuffed. Mrs. Williams moved her fingers, compressed
her lips, and looked helplessly at all of us in turn. "Besides altering
his will," Sebright breathed confidentially at the back of my head. I
perceived that this old Perkins, whom I had never seen, and was never
to see in the body, whose body no one was ever to see any more (he died
suddenly on the echoing staircase, with a flat candlestick in his hand;
was already dead at the time, so that Mrs. Williams was actually sitting
in the cabin of her very own ship)--I perceived that old Perkins
was present at this discussion with all the power of a malignant,
bad-tempered spirit. Those two were afraid of him. They had defied him
once, it is true--but even that had been done out of fear, as it were.

Dismayed, I spoke quickly to Seraphina. With her head resting on her
hand, and her eyes following the aimless tracings of her finger on the
table, she said:

"It shall be as God wills it, Juan."

"For Heaven's sake, don't!" said Sebright, coughing behind me. He
understood Spanish fairly well. "What I've said is perfectly true.
Nevertheless the captain was ready to risk it."

"Yes," ejaculated Williams profoundly, out of almost still lips, and
otherwise so motionless all over that the deep sound seemed to have been
produced by some person under the table. Mrs. Williams' fingers were
clasped on her lap, and her eyes seemed to beg for belief all round our
faces.

"But the point is that it would have been no earthly good for you two,"
continued Sebright. "That's the point I made. If O'Brien knows anything,
he knows you are on board this ship. He reckons on it as a dead
certainty. Now, it is very evident that we could refuse to give _you_
up, Mr. Kemp, and that the admiral (if the flagship's off Havana, as I
think she must be by now) would have to back us up. How you would get on
afterwards with old Groggy Rowley, I don't know. It isn't likely he
has forgotten you tried to wipe the floor with him, if I am to take the
captain's yarn as correct."

"A regular hero," Williams testified suddenly, in his concealed,
from-under-the-table tone. "He's not afraid of any of them;
not he. Ha! ha! Old Topnambo must have...." He glanced at
his wife, and bit his tongue--perhaps at the recollection
of his unsafe conjugal position--ending in disjointed words,
"In his chaise--warrant--separationist--rebel," and all this without
moving a limb or a muscle of his face, till, with a low, throaty
chuckle, he fluttered a stony sort of wink to my address.

Sebright had paused only long enough for this ebullition to be over.
The cool logic of his surmise appalled me. He didn't see why O'Brien or
anybody in Havana should want to interfere with me personally. But if
I wanted to keep my young lady, it was obvious she must not arrive in
Havana on board a ship where they would be sure to look for her the very
first thing. It was even worse than it looked, he declared. His firm
conviction was that if the _Lion_ did not turn up in Havana pretty soon,
there would be a Spanish man-of-war sent out to look for her--or else
Mr. O'Brien was not the man we took him for. There was lying in harbour
a corvette called the _Tornado_, a very likely looking craft. I didn't
expect them to fight a corvette. No doubt there would be a fuss made
about stopping a British ship on the high seas; but that would be a cold
comfort after the lady had been taken away from me. She was a person of
so much importance that even our own admiral could be induced--say, by
the Captain-General's remonstrances--to sanction such an action. There
was no saying what Rowley would do if they only promised to present him
with half a dozen pirates to take home for a hanging. Why! that was the
very identical thing the flagship was kept dodging off Havana for! And
O'Brien knew where to lay his hands on a gross of such birds, for that
matter.

"No," concluded Sebright, overwhelming me from behind, as I sat
looking, not at the uncertainties of the future, but at the paralyzing
hopelessness of the bare to-morrow. "The _Lion_ is no place for you,
whether she goes into Havana or not. Moreover, into Havana she must go
now. There's no help for it. It's the deuce of a situation."

"Very well," I gasped. I tried to be resolute. I felt, suddenly, as
if all the air in the cabin had gone up the open skylight. I couldn't
remain below another moment; and, muttering something about coming back
directly, I jumped up and ran out without looking at any one lest I
should give myself away. I ran out on deck for air, but the great blue
emptiness of the open staggered me like a blow over the heart. I walked
slowly to the side, and, planting both my elbows on the rail, stared
abroad defiantly and without a single clear thought in my head. I had a
vague feeling that the descent of the sun towards the waters, going on
before my eyes with changes of light and cloud, was like some gorgeous
and empty ceremonial of immersion belonging to a vast barren faith
remote from consolation and hope. And I noticed, also, small things
without importance--the hirsute aspect of a sailor; the end of a rope
trailing overboard; and Castro, so different from everybody else on
board that his appearance seemed to create a profound solitude round
him, lounging before the cabin door as if engaged in a deep conspiracy
all by himself. I heard voices talking loudly behind me, too.

I noted them distinctly, but with perfect indifference. A long time
after, with the same indifference, I looked over my shoulder. Castro had
vanished from the quarter-deck. And I turned my face to the sea again as
a man, feeling himself beaten in a fight with death, might turn his face
to the wall.

I had fought a harder battle with a more cruel foe than death, with
the doubt of myself; an endless contest, in which there is no peace of
victory or of defeat. The open sea was like a blank and unscalable wall
imprisoning the eternal question of conduct. Right or wrong? Generosity
or folly? Conscience or only weak fear before remorse? The magnificent
ritual of sunset went on palpitating with an inaudible rhythm, with slow
and unerring observance, went on to the end, leaving its funeral fires
on the sky and a great shadow upon the sea. Twice I had honourably
stayed my hand. Twice... to this end.

In a moment, I went through all the agonies of suicide, which left me
alive, alas, to burn with the shame of the treasonable thought, and
terrified by the revolt of my soul refusing to leave the world in which
a young girl lived! The vast twilight seemed to take the impress of her
image like wax. What did Seraphina think of me? I knew nothing of her
but her features, and it was enough. Strange, this power of a woman's
face upon a man's heart--this mastery, potent as witchcraft and
mysterious like a miracle. I should have to go and tell her. I did
not suppose she could have understood all of Sebright's argumentation.
Therefore, it was for me to explain to what a pretty pass I had brought
our love.

I was so greatly disinclined to stir that I let Sebright's voice go on
calling my name half a dozen times from the cabin door. At last I faced
about.

"Mr. Kemp! I say, Kemp! Aren't you coming in yet?"

"To say good-by," I said, approaching him.

It had fallen dark already.

"Good-by? No. The carpenter must have a day at least."

Carpenter! What had a carpenter to do in this? However, nothing
mattered--as though I had managed to spoil the whole scheme of creation.

"You didn't think of making a start to-night, did you?" Sebright
wondered. "Where would be the sense of it?"

"Sense," I answered contemptuously. "There is no sense in anything.
There is necessity. Necessity."

He remained silent for a time, peering at me.

"Necessity, to be sure," he said slowly. "And I don't see why you should
be angry at it."

I was thinking that it was easy enough for him to keep cool--the
necessity being mine. He continued to philosophize with what seemed to
me a shocking freedom of mind.

"Must try to put some sense into it. That's what we are here for, I
guess. Anyhow, there's some room for sense in arranging the way a thing
is to be done, be it as hard as it may. And I don't see any sense,
either, in exposing a woman to more hardship than is absolutely
necessary. We have talked it out now, and I can do no more. Do go inside
for a bit. Mrs. Williams is worrying the Señorita, rather, I'm afraid."

I paused a moment to try and regain the command of my faculties. But it
was as if a bombshell had exploded inside my skull, scattering all
my wits to the four winds of heaven. Only the conviction of failure
remained, attended by a profound distress.

I fancy, though, I presented a fairly bold front. The lamp was lit, and
small changes had occurred during my absence. Williams had turned his
bulk sideways to the table. Mrs. Williams had risen from her place,
and was now sitting upright close to Seraphina, holding one little
hand inclosed caressingly between her frail palms, as if she had there
something alive that needed cherishing. And in that position she looked
up at me with a strange air of worn-out youth, cast by a rosy flush
over her forehead and face. Seraphina still leaned her head on her
other hand, and I noted, through the soft shadow of falling hair, the
heightened colour on her cheek and the augmented brilliance of her eye.

"'How I wish she had been an English girl," Mrs. Williams sighed
regretfully, and leaned forward to look into Seraphina's half-averted
face.

"My dear, did you quite, quite understand what I have been saying to
you?"

She waited.

"_Si Señora_," said Seraphina. None of us moved. Then, after a time,
turning to me with sudden animation, "This woman asked me if I believed
in your love," she cried. "She is old. Oh, Juan, can the years change
the heart? your heart?" Her voice dropped. "How am I to know that?" she
went on piteously. "I am young--and we may not live so long. I believe
in mine...."

The corners of her delicate lips drooped; but she mastered her desire
to cry, and steadied her voice which, always rich and full of womanly
charm, took on, when she was deeply moved, an imposing gravity of
timbre.

"But I am a Spaniard, and I believe in my lover's honour; in your--your
English honour, Juan."

With the dignity of a supreme confidence she extended her hand. It was
one of the culminating moments of our love. For love is like a journey
in mountainous country, up through the clouds, and down into the shadows
to an unknown destination. It was a moment rapt and full of feeling, in
which we seemed to dwell together high up and alone--till she withdrew
her hand from my lips, and I found myself back in the cabin, as if
precipitated from a lofty place.

Nobody was looking at us. Mrs. Williams sat with downcast eyelids, with
her hands reposing on her lap: her husband gazed discreetly at a gold
moulding on the deck-beam; and the upward cast of his eyes invested
his red face with an air of singularly imbecile ecstasy. And there was
Castro, too, whom I had not seen till then, though I must have brushed
against him on entering. He had stood by the door a mute, and, as it
were, a voluntarily unmasked conspirator with the black round of the
hat lying in front of his feet. He, alone, looked at us. He looked from
Seraphina to me--from me to Seraphina. He looked unutterable things,
rolling his crow-footed eyes in pious horror and glowering in turns.
When Seraphina addressed him, he hastened to incline his head with his
usual deference for the daughter of the Riegos.

She said, "There are things that concern this _caballero_, and that you
can never understand. Your fidelity is proved. It has sunk deep here....
It shall give you a contented old age--on the word of Seraphina Riego."

He looked down at his feet with gloomy submission.

"There is a proverb about an enamoured woman," he muttered to himself,
loud enough for me to overhear. Then, stooping deliberately to pick up
his hat, he flourished it with a great sweep lower than his knees. His
dumpy black back flitted out of the cabin; and almost directly we heard
the sharp click of his flint and blade outside the door.



CHAPTER SIX

How often the activity of our life is the least real part of it! Life,
looked upon as a whole, presents itself to my fancy as a pursuit with
open arms of a winged and magnificent dream, hovering just over our
heads and casting its glory upon our hopes. It is in this simple vision,
which is one and enduring, and not in the changing facts, that we must
look for meaning and for truth. The three quiet days we spent together
on board the _Lion_ remain to me memorable and full of import, eventless
and containing the very quintessence of existence. We shared the
sunshine, always together, very close, turning hand in hand to the sea,
whose unstained blueness continued under our feet the blue above our
heads, as though we had been snatched up into the sky. The insignificant
words we exchanged seemed informed by a sustaining certitude and an
admirable gravity, as though there had been some quality of unerring
wisdom in the blind love of man and woman. From the inexhaustible
treasure of her feelings she drew words, glances, gestures that appeased
every uneasiness of my heart. In some brief moment of illumination whose
advent my man's eyes had utterly missed, she had learned all at once
everything there was to know. She knew. She no longer needed to survey
my actions, my words, my thoughts; but she accorded me the sincere
flattery of spell-bound attention, and it was made intoxicating by her
smile. In those short days of a pause, when, like a swimmer turning on
his back, we lived in the trustful confidence of the sustaining depths,
instead of struggling with the agitation of the surface--in these days
we had the time to look at each other profoundly; and I saw her smile
come back again a little changed, more meaning and a little less
mirthful, as if her lips had been made stiff by sorrow. But she was
young; and youth, the time of softness, of tenderness, of enthusiasm,
and of pity, presents a surface as hard as marble to the finality of
death.

Breathing side by side, drinking in the sunshine, and talking of
ourselves not at all, but casting the sense of our love like a
magnificent garment over the wide significance of a world already
conquered, we could not help being made aware of the currents of
excitement and sympathy that converged upon our essential isolation from
the life of the ship. It was the excitement of the adventure brewing for
our drinking according to Sebright's recipe. People approached us--spoke
to us. We attended to them as if called down from an elevation; we
were aware of the kind tone; and, remaining indistinct, they retreated,
leaving us free to regain the heights of the lovers' paradise--a region
of tender whispers and intense silences. Suddenly there would be a
short, throaty laugh behind our backs, and Williams would begin, "I
say, Kemp; do you call to mind so-and-so?" Invariably some planter or
merchant in Jamaica. I never could.

Williams would grunt, "No? I wonder how you passed your time away these
two years or more. The place isn't that big." His purpose was to cheer
me up by some gossip, if only he could find a common acquaintance to
talk over. I believe he thought me a queer fish. He told me once that
everybody he knew in Jamaica had that precise opinion of me. Then with à
chuckle and muttering, "Warrants--assault--Top--nambo--ha, ha!" he would
leave us to ourselves, and continue his waddle up and down the poop.
He wore loose silk trousers, and the round legs inside moved like a
contrivance made out of two gate-posts.

He was absurd. They all were that before our sweet reasonableness. But
this atmosphere, full of interest and good will, was good to breathe.
The very steward--the same who had been hiding in the lazarette during
the fight--a hunted creature, displaying the most insignificant anatomy
ever inhabited by a quailing spirit, devoted himself to the manufacture
of strange cakes, which at tea-time he would deposit smoking hot in
front of Seraphina's place. After each such exploit, he appeared amazed
at his audacity in taking so much upon himself. The carpenter took more
than a day, tinkering at an old ship's boat. He was a Shetlander--a
sort of shaggy hyperborean giant with a forbidding face, an appraising,
contemplative manner, and many nails in his mouth. At last the time came
when he, too, approached our oblivion from behind, with a large hammer
in his hand; but instead of braining us with one sweep of his mighty
arm, he remarked simply in uncouth accents, "There now; I am thinking
she will do well for what ye want her. I can do no more for ye."

We turned round, arm-in-arm, to look at the boat. There she was, lying
careened on the deck, with patched sides, in a belt of chips, shavings,
and sawdust; a few pensive sailors stood about, gazing down at her with
serious eyes. Sebright, bent double, circled slowly on a prowl of minute
inspection. Suddenly straightening himself up, he pronounced a curt
"She'll do"; and, without looking at us at all, went off busily with his
rapid stride.

A light sigh floated down upon our heads. Williams and his wife appeared
on the poop above us like an allegorical couple of repletion and
starvation, conceived in a fantastic vein on a balcony. A cigar
smouldered in his stumpy red fingers. She had slipped a hand under his
arm, as she would always do the moment they came near each other. She
never looked more wasted and old-maidish than when thus affirming her
wifely rights. But her eyes were motherly.

"Ah, my dears!" (She usually addressed Seraphina as "miss," and myself
as "young sir.") "Ah, my dears! It seems so heartless to be sending you
off in such a small boat, even for your own good."

"Never fear, Mary. Repaired. Carry six comfortably," reassured Williams
in a tremendous mutter, like a bull.

"But why can't you give them one of the others, Owen? That big one
there?"

"Nonsense, Mary. Never see boat again. Wouldn't grudge it. Only Sebright
is quite right. Didn't you hear what Sebright said? Very sensible. Ask
Sebright. He will explain to you again."

It was Sebright, with his asperity and his tact, with fits of
brusqueness subdued by an almost affectionate contempt, who conducted
all their affairs, as I have seen a trustworthy and experienced old
nurse rule the infinite perplexities of a room full of children.
His clear-sightedness and mental grip seemed independent of age and
experience, like the ability of genius. He had an imaginative eye for
detail, and, starting from a mere hint, would go scheming onwards with
astonishing precision. His plan, to which we were committed--committed
helplessly and without resistance--was based upon the necessity of our
leaving the ship.

He had developed it to me that evening, in the cabin, directly Castro
had gone out. He had already got Williams and his wife to share his view
of our situation. He began by laying it down that in every desperate
position there was a loophole for escape. Like other great men, he was
conscious of his ability, and was inclined to theorize at large for a
while. You had to accept the situation, go with it in a measure, and as
you had walked into trouble with your eyes shut, you had only to
continue with your eyes open. Time was the only thing that could defeat
one. If you had no time, he admitted, you were at a dead wall. In this
case he judged there would be time, because O'Brien, warned already,
would sit tight for a few days, being sure to get hold of us directly
the _Lion_ came into port. It was only if the _Lion_ failed to turn up
within a reasonable term in Havana, that he would take fright, and take
measures to hunt her up at sea. But I might rest assured that the _Lion_
was going to Havana as fast as the winds would allow her.

What was, then, the situation? he continued, looking at me piercingly
above Williams' cropped head. I had run away for dear life from Cuba
(taking with me what was best in it, to be sure, he interjected, with
a faint smile towards Seraphina). I had no money, no friends (except my
friends in this cabin, he was good enough to say); warrants out against
me in Jamaica; no means to get to England; no safety in the ship. It was
no use shirking that little fact. We must leave the _Lion_. This was a
hopeless enough position. But it was hopeless only because it was
not looked upon in the right way. We assumed that we had to leave her
forever, while the whole secret of the trick was in this, that we need
only leave her for a time. After O'Brien's myrmidons had gone through
her, and had been hooted away empty-handed, she became again, if not
absolutely safe, then at least possible--the only possible refuge
for us--the only decent means of reaching England together, where, he
understood, our trouble would cease. Williams nodded approval heavily.

"The friends of Miss Riego would be glad to know she had made the
passage under the care of a respectable married lady," Sebright
explained, in that imperturbable manner of his, which reflected
faintly all his inner moods--whether of recklessness, of jocularity
or anxiety--and often his underlying scorn. His gravity grew perfectly
portentous. "Mrs. Williams," he continued, "was, of course, very anxious
to do her part creditably. As it happened, the _Lion_ was chartered for
London this voyage; and notwithstanding her natural desire to rejoin, as
soon as possible, her home and her aged uncle in Bristol, she intended
to go with the young lady in a hackney coach to the very door."

I had previously told them that the lately appointed Spanish ambassador
in London was a relation of the Riegos, and personally acquainted with
Seraphina, who, nearly two years before, had been on a short visit to
Spain, and had lived for some months with his family _in_ Madrid, I
believe. No trouble or difficulty was to be apprehended as to proper
recognition, or in the mattei of rights and inheritance, and so on. The
ambassador would make that his own affair. And for the rest I trusted
the decision of her character and the strength of her affection. I was
not afraid she would let any one talk her out of an engagement, the
dying wish of her nearest kinsman, sealed, as it were, with the blood of
her father. This matter of temporary absence from the _Lion_, however,
seemed to present an insuperable difficulty. We could not, obviously, be
left for days floating in an open boat outside Havana harbour, waiting
till the ship came out to pick us up. Sebright himself admitted that at
first he did not see how it could be contrived. He didn't see at all.
He thought and thought. It was enough to sicken one of every sort of
thinking. Then, suddenly, the few words Castro had let drop about the
sugar estate and the relay of mules came into his head--providentially,
as Mrs. Williams would say. He fancied that the primitive and grandiose
manner for a gentleman to keep a relay of mules--any amount of mules--in
case he should want to send a letter or two, caused the circumstance to
stick in his mind. At once he had "our little _hidalgo_" in, and put him
through an examination.

"He turned fairly sulky, and tried constantly to break out against you,
till Dona Seraphina here gave him a good talking to," Sebright said.

Otherwise it was most satisfactory. The place was accessible from the
sea through a narrow inlet, opening into a small, perfectly sheltered
basin at the back of the sand-dunes. The little river watering the
estate emptied itself into that basin. One could land from a boat there,
he understood, as if in a dock--and it was the very devil if I and Miss
Riego could not lie hidden for a few days on her own property, the more
so that, as it came out in the course of the discussion, while I had
"rushed out to look at the sunset," that the manager, or whatever they
called him--the fellow in charge--was the husband of Dona Seraphina's
old nurse-woman. Of course, it behoved us to make as little fuss as
possible--try to reach the house along by-paths early in the morning,
when all the slaves would be out at work in the fields. Castro, who
professed to know the locality very well indeed, would be of use.
Meantime, the _Lion_ would make her way to Havana, as if nothing was the
matter. No doubt all sorts of confounded _alguazils_ and custom-house
hounds would be ready to swarm on board in full cry. They would be made
very welcome. Any strangers on board? Certainly not. Why should there
be?... Rio Medio? What about Rio Medio? Hadn't been within miles and
miles of Rio Medio; tried this trip to beat up well clear of the coast.
Search the ship? With pleasure--every nook and cranny. He didn't suppose
they would have the cheek to talk of the pirates; but if they did
venture--what then? Pirates? That's very serious and dishonourable to
the power of Spain. Personally, had seen nothing of pirates. Thought
they had all been captured and hanged quite lately. Rumours of
the _Lion_ having been attacked obviously untrue. Some other ship,
perhaps.... That was the line to take. If it didn't convince them, it
would puzzle them altogether. Of course, Captain Williams, in his great
regard for me, had abandoned the intention of making an affair of state
of the outrage committed on his ship. He would not lodge any complaint
in Havana--nothing at all. The old women of the Admiralty wouldn't be
made to sit up this time. No report would be sent to the admiral either.
Only, if the ship were interfered with, and bothered under any pretence
whatever, once they had been given every facility to have one good
look everywhere, the admiral would be asked to stop it. And the Spanish
authorities would have not a leg to stand on either, for this simple
reason, that they could not very well own to the sources of their
information. Meantime, all hands on board the _Lion_ had to be taken
into confidence; that could not be avoided. He, Sebright, answered for
their discretion while sober, anyhow; and he promised me that no leave
or money would be given in Havana, for fear they should get on a spree,
and let out something in the grogshops on shore. We all knew what a
sailor-man was after a glass or two. So that was settled. Now, as to our
rejoining the _Lion_. This, of necessity, must be left to me. Counting
from the time we parted from her to land on the coast, the _Lion_ would
remain in Havana sixteen days; and if we did not turn up in that time,
and the cargo was all on board by then, Captain Williams would try to
remain in harbour on one pretence or another a few days longer. But
sixteen days should be ample, and it was even better not to hurry up too
much. To arrive on the fifteenth day would be the safest proceeding in a
way, but for the cutting of the thing too fine, perhaps. With all these
mules at our disposal, Sebright didn't see why we should not make our
way by land, pass through the town at night, or in the earliest morning,
and go straight on board the _Lion_--perhaps use some sort of disguise.
He couldn't say. He was out of it there. Blackened faces or something.
Anyway, we would be looked out for on board night and day.

Later on, however, we had learned from Castro that the estate possessed
a sailing craft of about twenty tons, which made frequent trips to
Havana. These sugar _droghers_ belonging to the plantations (every
estate on the coast had one or more) went in and out of the harbour
without being taken much notice of. Sometimes the battery at the water's
edge on the north side or a custom-house guard would hail them, but
not often--and even then only to ask the name, where from, and for the
number of sugar-hogsheads on board. "By heavens! That's the very thing!"
rejoiced Sebright. And it was agreed that this would be our best way.
We should time our arrival for early morning, or else at dusk. The craft
that brought us in should be made, by a piece of unskillful management,
to fall aboard the _Lion_, and remain alongside long enough to give us
time to sneak in through an open deck-port.

The whole occurrence must be so contrived as to wear the appearance of
a pure accident to the onlookers, should there be any. Shouting and
an exchange of abuse on both parts should sound very true. Then the
_drogher_, getting herself clear, would proceed innocently to the
custom-house steps, where all such coasters had to report themselves on
arrival. "Never fear. We shall put in some loud and scandalous cursing,"
Sebright assured me. "The boys will greatly enjoy that part, I dare
say."

Remained to consider the purpose of the schooner that had come out of
Rio Medio to hang on our skirts. It was doubtful whether it was in our
power to shake her off. Sebright was full of admiration for her sailing
qualities, coupled with infinite contempt for the "lubberly gang on
board."

"If I had the handling of her, now," he said, "I would take my position
as near as I liked, and stick there. It seems almost as if she would do
it of herself, if those imbeciles would only let her have her own way. I
never yet saw a Spaniard, good or bad, that was anything of a sailor. As
it is, we may maintain a distance that would make it difficult for them
to see what we are about. And if not, then--why, you must take your
leave of us at night."

He didn't know that, but for the dismalness of such a departure, it were
not just as well. Who could tell what eyes might be watching on shore?

"You know I never pretended my plan was quite safe. But have you got
another?"

I made no answer, because I had no other, and could not think of one.
Incredible as it may appear, not only my heart, but my mind, also,
in the awakened comprehension of my love, refused to grapple with
difficulties. My thoughts raced ahead of ships and pursuing men, into
a dream of cloudless felicity without end. And I don't think Sebright
expected any suggestion from me. This took place during one of our busy
talks--only he and I--alone in his cabin. He had been washing his hands,
making ready for tea.

"Do you know," he said, turning full on me, and wiping his fingers
carefully with a coarse towel--"do you know, I shouldn't wonder if that
schooner were not keeping watch on us, in suspicion of just some such
move on our part. 'Tis extraordinary how clever the greatest fool may
show himself sometimes. Only, with their lubberly Spanish seamanship,
they would expect us, probably, to make a whole ceremony of your
landing: ship hove to for hours close in shore, a boat going off to land
and returning, and all such pother. 'We are sure to see their little
show,' they think to themselves. Eh? What? Whereas we shall keep well
clear of the land when the time comes, and drop you in the dark without
as much check on our way as there is in the wink of an eye. Hey?...
Mind, Mr. Kemp, you take the boat out of sight up that little river, in
case they should have a fancy, as they go along after us, to peep into
that inlet. As I have said it wouldn't do to trust too much in any
fool's folly."

And now the time was approaching; the time to awake and step forth out
of the temple of sunshine and love--of whispers and silences. It had
come. The night before both Williams and Sebright had been on deck,
working the ship with an anxious care to take the utmost advantage of
every favouring flaw in the contrary breeze. In the morning I was told
there was a norther brewing. A norther is a tempestuous gale. I saw no
signs of it. The realm of the sun, like the vanished one of the stars,
appeared to my senses to be profoundly asleep, and breathing as gently
as a child upon the ship. The _Lion_, too, seemed to lie wrapped in an
enchanted slumber from the water-line to the tops of her upright masts.
And yet she moved with the breath of the world, but so imperceptibly
that it was the coast that seemed to be nearing her like a line of
low vapour blown along the water. Between Williams and Sebright Castro
pointed with his one arm, and a splutter of guttural syllables fell like
hail out of his lips. The other two seemed incredulous. He stamped with
both his feet angrily. Finally they went below together, to look at the
chart, I suppose. They came up again very fast, one after another, and
stood in a row, looking on as before. Three more dissimilar human beings
it would have been difficult to imagine.

Dazzling white patches, about the size of a man's hand, came out between
sky and water. They grew in width, and ran together with a hummocky
outline into a continuous undulation of sand-dunes. Here and there this
rampart had a gap like a breach made by guns. Mrs. Williams, behind me,
blew her nose faintly; her eyes were red, but she did not look at us.
No eye was turned our way, and the spell of the coast was on her, too. A
low, dark headland broke out to view through the dunes, and stood
there conspicuous amongst the heaps of dazzling sand, like a small man
frowning. A voice on deck pronounced:

"That's right. Here's his landmark. The fellow knew very well what he
was talking about."

It was Sebright's voice, and Castro, strolling away triumphantly,
affected to turn his back on the land. He had recognized the formation
of the coast about the inlet long before anybody else could distinguish
the details. His word had been doubted. He was offended, and passed us
by, wrapping himself up closely. One of Seraphina's locks blew against
my cheek, and this last effort of the breeze remained snared in the
silken meshes of her hair.

"There's not enough wind to fill the sail of a toy boat," grumbled
Sebright; "and you can't pull this heavy gig ashore with only that
one-armed man at the other oar." He was sorry he could not send us off
with four good rowers. The norther might be coming on before they could
return to the ship, and--apart from the presence of four English sailors
on the coast being sure to get talked about--there was the difficulty
in getting them back on board in Havana. We could, no doubt, smuggle
ourselves in; but six people would make too much of a show. On the other
hand, the absence of four men out of the ship's company could not be
accounted for very well to the authorities. "We can't say they all died,
and we threw them overboard. It would be too startling. No; you must go
alone, and leave us at the first breath of wind; and that, I fear, 'll
be the first of the norther, too."

He threw his head back, and hailed, "Do you see anything of that
schooner from aloft there?"

"Nothing of her, sir," answered a man perched, with dangling feet,
astride the very end of the topsail yard-arm. He paused, scanned
the space from under the flat of his hand, and added, shouting with
deliberation, "There's--a--haze--to seaward, sir." The ship, with her
decks sprinkled over with men in twos and threes, sent up to his ears a
murmur of satisfaction.

If we could not see her, she could not see us. This was a favourable
circumstance. To the infinite gratification of everyone on board, it
had been discovered at daylight that the schooner had lost touch with
us during the hours of darkness--either through unskillful handling,
or from some accidental disadvantage of the variable wind. I had been
informed of it, directly I showed myself on deck in the morning, by
several men who had radiant grins, as if some great piece of luck had
befallen them, one and all. They shared their unflagging attention
between the land and the sea-horizon, pointing out to each other,
with their tattooed arms, the features of the coast, nodding knowingly
towards the open. At midday most of them brought out their dinners on
deck, and could be seen forward, each with a tin plate in the left hand,
gesticulating amicably with clasp knives. A small white handkerchief
hung from Mrs. Williams' fingers, and now and then she touched her eyes
lightly, one after the other. Her husband and Sebright, with a grave
mien, stamped busily around the binnacle aft, changing places, making
way for each other, stooping in turns to glance carefully along the
compass card at the low bluff, like two gunners laying a piece of
heavy ordnance for an important shot. The steward, emerging out of the
companion, rang a handbell violently, and remained scared at the failure
of that appeal. After waiting for a moment, he produced a further feeble
tinkle, and sank down out of sight, with resignation.

A white sun, as if blazing with the pallor of fury, swung past the
zenith in a profound and universal stillness. There was not a wrinkle on
the sea; it presented a lustrous and glittering level, like the
polished facet of a gem. In the cabin we sat down to the meal, not even
pretending a desire to eat, exchanging vague phrases, hanging our heads
over the empty plates. But the regular footsteps of the boatswain
left in charge hesitated, stopped near the skylight. He said in an
imperfectly assured voice, "Seems as if there was a steadier draught
coming now." At this we rose from the table impetuously, as though he
had shouted an alarm of fire, and Mrs. Williams, with a little cry, ran
round to Seraphina. Leaving the two women locked in a silent embrace,
the captain, Sebright and myself hurried out on deck.

Every man in the ship had done the same. Even the shiny black cook had
come out of his galley, and was already comfortably seated on the rail,
baring his white teeth to the sunshine.

"Just about enough to blow out a farthing dip," said Sebright, in a
disappointed mutter.

He thought, however, we had better not wait for more. There would be too
much presently. Some sailors hauled the boat alongside, the rest lined
the rail as for a naval spectacle, and Williams stared blankly. We were
waiting for Seraphina, who appeared, attended by Mrs. Williams, looking
more kind, bloodless, and ascetic than ever. But my girl's cheeks
glowed; her eyes sparkled audaciously. She had done up her hair in some
way that made it fit her head like a cap. It became her exceedingly, and
the decision of her movements, the white serenity of her brow, dazzled
me as if I had never seen her before. She seemed less childlike, older,
ripe for this adventure in a new development of strength and courage.
She inclined her head slowly at the gaping sailors, who had taken their
caps off.

As soon as she appeared, Castro, who had been leaning against the
bulwark, started up, and with a muttered "_Adios, Señores_," went down
the overside ladder and ensconced himself in the bow of the boat. The
leave-taking was hurried over. Williams gave no sign of feeling, except,
perhaps, for the greater intensity of his stare, which passed beyond our
shoulders in the very act of handshaking. Sebright helped Seraphina down
into the boat, and ran up again nimbly. Mrs. Williams, with her slim
hand held in both mine, uttered a few incoherent words--about men's
promises and the happiness of women, as I thought; but, truth to say,
my own suppressed excitement was too considerable for close attention.
I only knew that I had given her my confidence, that complete and utter
confidence which neither wisdom nor power alone, can command. And,
suddenly, it occurred to me that the heiress of a splendid name and
fortune, down in the boat there, had no better friend in the world than
this woman, who had come to us out of the waste of the sea, opening her
simple heart to our need, like a pious and naive hermit in a wilderness
throwing open the door of his cell to strange wayfarers.

"Mrs. Williams," I stammered. "If we--if I--there's no saying what may
happen to any of us. If she ever comes to you--if she ever is in want of
help...."

"Yes, yes. Always, always--like my own daughter."

And the good woman broke down, as if, indeed, I were taking her own
daughter away.

"Nonsense, Mary!" Williams advanced, muttering tremendously. "They are
not going round the world. Dare say get ashore in time for supper."

He stared through her without expression, as if she had been thin air,
but she seized his arm, of course, and he gave me, then, an amazingly
rapid wink which, I suppose, meant that I should go....

"All right there?" asked Sebright from above, as soon as I had taken my
seat in the stern sheets by the side of Seraphina. He was standing on
the poop deck ready with a sign for letting go the end of our painter
on deck; but before I could answer in the affirmative, Castro, ensconced
forward under his hat, drew his ready blade across the rope, as it were
a throat.

At once a narrow strip of water opened between the boat and the ship,
and our long-prepared departure, hastened thus by half a second, seemed
to strike everybody dumb with surprise, as if we had taken wings to
ourselves to fly away. Hastily I grasped the tiller to give the boat a
sheer, and heard a sort of loud gasp in the air above. A row of heads,
posed on chins all along the rail, stared after us with unanimous
fixity. Mrs. Williams averted her face on her husband's shoulder. Behind
the couple, Sebright raised his cap gravely.

Our little sail filled to a breeze which was much too feeble to produce
a perceptible effect on the ship, and we left behind us her towering
form, as one recedes from a tall white spire on a plain. I laid the
boat's head straight for the dwarf headland, marking the mouth of the
inlet on the interminable range of sand-dunes. We drove on with a smart
ripple, but before we felt sufficiently settled to exchange a few words
the animated sound languished suddenly, paused altogether, and, with
a renewed murmur under our feet seemed to lose itself below the glassy
waters.



CHAPTER SEVEN

The calm had returned. The sea, changing from the warm glitter of a
gem, and attuned to the grays and blacks of space, resembled a monstrous
cinder under a sky of ashes.

The sun had disappeared, smothered in these clouds that had formed
themselves all at once and everywhere, like some swift corruption of
the upper air. For the best part of the afternoon the ship and the boat
remained lying at right angles, within half a mile of each other. What
light was left in the world, cut off from the source of life, seemed to
sicken with a strange decay. The long stretch of sands and the sails of
the motionless vessel stood out lividly pale in universal gloom. And
yet the state of the atmosphere was such that we could see clear-cut the
very folds in the steep face of the dunes, and the figures of the people
moving on the poop of the _Lion_. There was always somebody there that
had the aspect of watching us. Then, with some excitement, we saw them
on board haul up the mainsail and lower the gig.

The four oars beat the sombre water, rising and falling apparently
in the same place. She was an interminable time coming on, but as she
neared us I was surprised at her dashing speed. Sebright, who steered,
laid her alongside smartly, and two of his men, clambering over without
a word, lowered our lug at once.

"We came to reef your sail for you. You couldn't manage that very well
with a one-armed crew," said the young mate quietly in the enormous
stillness. In his opinion, we couldn't expect now any wind till the
first squall came down. This flurry, as he called it, would send us in
smoking, and he was sure it would help the ship, as well, into Havana,
in about twenty-four hours. He didn't think that it would come _very_
heavy at first; and, once landed, we need not care how hard it blew.

He tendered me over the gunwale a pocket-flask covered with leather,
and with a screwed silver stopper in the shape of a cup. It was from the
captain; full of prime rum. We were pretty sure to get wet. He thrust,
also, into my hands a gray woollen shawl. Mrs. Williams thought my young
lady might be glad of it at night. "The dear old woman has shut herself
up inside their stateroom, and is praying for you now," he concluded.
"Look alive, boys."

His men did not answer him, but at some words he addressed to Castro,
the latter, in the bows and looking at the coast, growled with a surly
impatience. He was perfectly sure of the entrance. Had been in and out
several times. Yes. At night, too. Sebright then turned to me. After
all, it was not so difficult. The inlet bore due south from us, and the
wind would come true from the north. Always did in these bursts. I had
only to keep dead before it. "The clouds will light you in at the last,"
he added meaningly, glancing upwards.

The two sailors, having finished reefing, hoisted, lowered, and hoisted
again the yard to see that the gear ran clear, and without one look
at us, stepped back into the gig, and sat down in their places. For a
moment longer we lay together, touching sides. Sebright extended his
hand from boat to boat.

"You are in God's care now, Kemp," he said, looking up at me, and with
an unexpected depth of feeling in his tone. "Take no turn with the sheet
on any account, and if you feel it coming too heavy, let fly and chance
it. Did I tell you we have sighted the schooner from aloft? No? We can
just make her out from the main-yard away astern under the land. That
don't matter now.... Señorita, I kiss your hands." He liked to air his
Spanish.... "Keep cool whatever happens. Dead before it--mind. And count
on sixteen days from to-morrow. Well. No more. Give way, boys."

He never looked back. We watched the boat being hoisted and secured.
Shortly afterwards, as we were observing the Lion shortening sail, the
first of the rain descended between her and us like a lowered veil.
For a time she remained mistily visible, dark and gaunt with her bared
spars. The downpour redoubled; she disappeared; and our hearts were
stirred to a faster beat.

The shower fell on us, around us, descending perpendicularly, with a
steady force; and the thunder rolled far off, as if coming from under
the sea. Sometimes the muffled rumbling stopped, and let us hear plainly
the gentle hiss and the patter of the drops falling upon a vast expanse.
Suddenly, mingled with a loud detonation right over our heads, a burst
of light outlined under the bellying strip of our sail the pointed crown
of Castro's hat, reposing on a heap of black clothing huddled in the
bows. The darkness swallowed it all. I swung Seraphina in front of me,
and made her sit low on the stern sheets beneath my feet. A lot of foam
boiled up around the boat, and we had the sensation of having been sent
flying from a catapult.

Everything was black--perfectly black. At intervals, headlong gusts of
rain swept over our heads. I suppose I did keep sufficiently cool, but
in every flash of lightning the wind, the sea, the clouds, the rain, and
the boat appeared to rush together thundering upon the coast. The line
of sands, bordered with a belt of foam, zigzagged dazzlingly upon an
earth as black as the clouds; only the headland, with every vision,
remained sombre and unmoved. At last it rose up right before the boat.
Blue lightning streamed on a lane of tumbling waters at its foot. Was
this the entrance? With the vague notion of shortening sail, I let the
sheet go from my hand. There was a jerk, the crack of snapped wood,
and the next flash showed me Castro emerging from the ruins of mast and
sail. He uprose, hurling the wreck from him overboard, then flickered
out of sight with his arm waving to the left, and I bore accordingly
on the tiller. In a moment I saw him again, erect forward, with the arm
pointing to the right, and I obeyed his signal. The clouds, straining
with water and fire, were, indeed, lighting us on our way. A wave
swelled astern, chasing us in; rocking frightfully, we glanced past a
stationary mass of foam--a sandbar--breakers.... It was terrible....
Suddenly, the motion of the boat changed, and the flickers of lightning
fell into a small, land-locked basin. The wind tore deep furrows in
it, howling and scuffling behind the dunes. Spray flew from the whole
surface, the entire pool of a bay seemed to heave bodily upwards, and
I saw Castro again, with his face to me this time. His black cloak was
blowing straight out from his throat, his mouth yawned wide; he
shouted directions, but in an instant darkness sealed my eyes with its
impenetrable impress. It was impossible to steer now; the boat swung and
reeled where she listed; a violent shock threw me sideways off my seat.
I felt her turning over, and, gathering Seraphina in my arms, I leaped
out before she capsized. I leaped clear out into shallow water.

I should never in my life have thought myself capable of such a feat,
and yet I did it with assurance, with no effort that I can remember.
More than that--I managed, after the leap, to keep my feet in the
clinging, staggering clutch of water charged with sand, which swirled
heavily about my knees. It kept on hurling itself at my legs from
behind, while I waded across the narrow strip of sand with an inspired
firmness of step defying all the power of the elements. I felt the
harder ground at last, but not before I had caught a momentary glimpse
of a black and bulky object tumbling over and over in the advancing and
withdrawing liquid flurry of the beach.

"Sit still here on the ground," I shouted to Seraphina, though flights
of spray enveloped us completely. "I am going back for Castro."

I faced about, putting my head down. He had been undoubtedly knocked
over; and an old man, with only one hand to help himself with, ran a
very serious risk of being buffeted into insensibility, and thus coming
to his death in some four feet of water. The violent glare disclosed a
body, entangled in a cloak, rolling about helplessly between land and
water, as it were. I dashed on in the dark; a wave went over my head
as I stooped, nearly waist-deep, groping. His rotary motion, in that
smother, made it extremely difficult to obtain any sort of hold. A
little more, and he would have knocked my legs from under me, but it
was as if my grim determination were by itself of a saving nature. He
submitted to being hauled up the beach, passively, like a sack. It was
a heavy drag on the sand; I felt him bump behind me on the edge of the
harder ground, and a deluge fell uninterruptedly from above. He lay
prone on his face, like a corpse, between Seraphina and myself. We could
not remain there, however.

But where to go? What to do? In what direction to look for a refuge? Was
there any shelter near by? How were we to reach it? How were we to
move at all? No doubt he had expired; and the earth, swept, deluged,
glimmering fiercely and devastated with an awful uproar, appeared no
longer habitable. A thunder-clap seemed to crash new life into him;
the world flared all round, as if turning to a spark, and he was seen
sitting up dazedly, like one called up from the dead. Through it all he
had preserved his hat.

It was fixed firmly down under his chin with a handkerchief, the
side rims over his ears like flaps, and, for the rest, presenting the
appearance of a coal-scuttle bonnet behind, as well as in front. We
followed its peculiar aspect. Driving on under this indestructible
headgear, he flickered in and out of the world, while, with entwined
arms and leaning back against the wind with all our might, Seraphina
and myself were borne along in his train. He knew of a shelter; and this
knowledge, perhaps, and also his evident familiarity with the topography
of the country, made him appear indomitably confident in the storm.

A small plain of coarse grass was bounded by the steep spur of a rise.
To the left a little river would burst, all at once, in all its windings
into a bluish sulphurous glow; and between the crashes of thunder there
was heard the long-drawn, whistling swish of the rushes and cane-brakes
springing on the boggy ground. We skirted the rise. The rain beat
against it; the lightning showed its streaming and furrowed surface.
We stumbled in the gusts. We felt under our feet, mud, sand, rocky
inequalities of the ground, and the moving stones in the bed of a
torrent, which broke headlong against our ankles. The entrance of a deep
ravine opened.

Its lower sides palpitated with the ceaseless tossing of dwarf trees
and bushes; and, motionless above the sombre tumult of the slopes, the
monumental stretch of bare rock rose on high, level at the top, and
emitting a ghastly yellow sheen in the flashes. The thunderclaps rolled
ponderously between the narrowing walls of that chasm, that was all
aflame one moment, and all black the next. A torrent springing at its
head, and dashing with inaudible fury along the bottom, seemed to gleam
placidly amongst the rounded forms of inky bushes and pale boulders
below our path. Enormous eddies of wind from above made us stop short
and totter breathless, clinging to each other.

Castro sustained Seraphina on the other side; but frequently he had
to leave us and move ahead, looking for the way. There was, in fact, a
half-obliterated path winding along the less steep of the two sides; and
we struggled after our guide with the unthinking fortitude of despair.
He was being disclosed to us so suddenly, extinguished so swiftly, that
he appeared, always, as if motionless and posturing in a variety of
climbing attitudes. The rise of the bottom was very steep, and the last
hundred yards really stiff. We did them practically on our hands and
knees. The dislodged stones bounded away from under our feet, unheard,
like puff-balls.

At the top I tried to make of my body a shelter for Seraphina. The wind
howled and roared over us. "Up! _Vamos!_ The worst is yet before us,"
shrieked Castro in my ear.

What could he mean by this? The play of lightning opened to view only
a vast and rolling upland. Fire flowed in sheets undulating with the
expanses of long grass amongst the trees, here and there, in coal-black
clumps, and flashed violently against a low edge of forests very dark
and far away.

"Let us go!" he cried. "Courage, Señorita!"

Courage! The populace said of her that she had never needed to put
her foot to the ground. If courage consists, for a being so tender, in
toiling and enduring without faltering and plaint,--even to the very
limit of physical power,--then she was the most courageous woman in the
world, as she was the most charming, most faithful, most generous, and
the most worthy of love. I tried not to think of her racked limbs, for
the very pain and pity of it. We retraced our steps, but now following
the edge of that precipice out of which we had emerged. I had
peremptorily insisted on carrying her. She put her arms round my neck
and, to my uplifted heart, she weighed no heavier than a feather.
Castro, grasping my arm, guided my steps and gave me support against the
wind.

There was a distinct lull. Even the thunder had rolled away, dwindling
to a deep mutter. Castro fell on his knees in front of me.

"It is here," I heard him scream.

I set Seraphina down. A hooked dart of fire tore in two the thick canopy
of clouds. I started back from the edge.

"What! Here?" I yelled.

"Señor--_Si!_ There is a cavern below...."

I had seen a ledge clinging to the face of the rock.

It was a cornice inclining downwards upon the wall of the precipice, as
you see, sometimes, a flight of stairs built against the outside wall of
a house. And it resembled a stair roughly, with long, sloping steps, wet
with rain.

"_Por Dios_, Señor, do not let us stay to think here, or we shall perish
in this tempest."

He howled, gesticulated, shrieked with all the strength of his lungs.
He knew these tornadoes. Brute beasts would be found lying dead in the
fields in the morning. This was the beginning only. The lightning
showed his kneeling form, the eager upturned face, and a finger pointing
urgently into the abyss. The wind was nothing! Nothing to what would
come after. As he shrieked these words I was feeling the crust of the
earth vibrate, absolutely vibrate, under the soles of my feet, with the
sound of thunder.

He unfastened his cloak, and was seen to struggle above his head with
the hovering and flapping cloth, as though he had captured a black and
pugnacious bird. We mastered at last a corner each, and then we started
to twist the whole, as if to wring the water out. We produced, thus, a
sort of short rope, the thickness of a cable, and the descent began.

"Do not look behind you. Do not look," Castro screeched.

The first downward steps were terrible, but as soon as our heads had
sunk below the level of the plain it was better, for we had turned about
to the rock, moving sideways, cautiously, one step at a time, as
if inspecting its fractured roughness for traces of a mysterious
inscription. Castro, with one end of the twisted cloak in his hand,
went first; I held the other; and between us, Seraphina, the rope at her
back, imitated our movements, with her loosened hair flying high in
the wind, and her pale, rigid head as if deaf to the crashes. I saw
the drawn stillness of her face, her dilated eyes staring within three
inches of the strata. The strain on our prudence was tremendous. The
knowledge of the precipice behind must have affected me. Explain it as
you will, several times during that descent I felt my brain slip away
from my control, and suggest a desire to fling myself over backwards.
The twigs of the bushes, growing a little below the outer edge of the
path, swished at my calves. Castro stopped. The cornice ended as a
broken stairway hangs upon nothing. A tall, narrow arch stood back in
the rock, with a sill three feet high at least. Castro clambered over;
his head and torso, when he turned about, were lighted up blindingly
between the inner walls at every flash. Seeing me lay hold of Seraphina,
he yelled:

"Señor, mind! It's death if you stagger back."

I lifted her up, and put her over like a child; and, no sooner in
myself, felt my strength leave all my limbs as water runs out of an
overturned vessel. I could not have lifted up a child's doll then.
Directly, with a wild little laugh, she said to me:

"Juan--I shall never dare come out."

I hugged her silently to my breast.

Castro went ahead. It was a narrow passage; our elbows touched the sides
all the way. He struck at his flint regularly, sparks streamed down from
his hand; we felt a freshness, a sense of space, as though we had come
into another world. His voice directed us to turn to the left, then
cried in the dark, "Stand still." A blue gleam darted after us, and
retired without having done anything against the tenebrous body of
gloom, and the thunder rolled far in, unobstructed, in leisurely,
organ-like peals, as if through an amazingly vast emptiness of a temple.
But where was Castro? We heard snappings, rustlings, mutters; sparks
streamed, now here, now there. We dared not move. There might have been
steep ridges--deep holes in that cavern. And suddenly we discovered him
on all-fours, puffing out his cheeks above a small flame kindled in a
heap of dry sticks and leaves.

It was an abode of darkness, enormous, without sonority. Feeble currents
of air, passing on our faces, gave us a feeling of being in the open air
on a night more black than any known night had been before. One's voice
lost itself in there without resonance, as if on a plain; the smoke of
our blaze drove aslant, scintillating with red sparks, and went trailing
afar, as if under the clouds of a starless sky. Ultimately, it must have
escaped through some imperceptible crevices in the roof of rock. In
one place, only, the light of the fire illuminated a small part of the
rugged wall, where the shadows of our bodies would surge up, repeating
our movements, and suddenly be gone from our sight. Everywhere else,
pressing upon the reflection of the flames, the blind darkness of the
vault might have extended away for miles and miles.

Castro thought it probable. He made me observe the incline of the floor.
It sloped down deep and far. For miles, no doubt. Nobody could tell;
no one had seen the end of it. This cavern had been known of old.
This brushwood, these dead leaves, that would make a couch for her
Excellency, had been stored for years--perhaps by men who had died
long ago. Look at the dry rot. These large piles of branches were found
stacked up when he first beheld this place. _Caramba!_ What toil! What
fatigue! Let us thank the saints, however.

Nevertheless, he shook his head at the strangeness of it. His cloak,
spread out wide, was drying in the light, while he busied himself with
his hat, turning it before the blaze in both hands, tenderly; and his
tight little figure, lit up in front from head to foot, steamed from
every limb. His round, plump shoulders and gray-shock head smoked
quietly at the top. Suddenly, the fine mesh of wrinkles on his face ran
together, shrinking like a torn cobweb; a spasmodic sound, quite new to
me, was heard. He had laughed.

The warmth of the fire had penetrated our chilled bodies with a feeling
of comfort and repose. Williams' flask was empty; and this was a new
Castro, mellowed, discoursive, almost genial. It was obvious to me that,
had it not been for him, we two, lost and wandering in the storm, should
have died from exposure and exhaustion--from some accident, perhaps.
On the other hand I had indubitably saved his life, and he had already
thanked me in high-flown language; very grave, but exaggerating the
horrors of his danger, as a woman might have done for the better
expression of gratitude. He had been greatly shocked. Spaniards, as a
race, have never, for all their conquests, been on intimate terms with
the sea. As individuals I have often observed in them, especially in the
lower classes, a sort of dread, a dislike of salt water, mingled with
contempt and fear.

Castro, lifting up his right arm, protested that I had given a proof
of very noble devotion in rushing back for an old man into that black
water. Ough! He shuddered. He had given himself up--_por Dios!_ He
hinted that, at his age, he could not have cared much for life; but
then, drowning in the sea was a death abhorrent to an old Christian. You
died brutally--without absolution, and unable, even, to think of your
sins. He had had his mouth filled with horrid, bitter sand, too. Tfui!
He gave me a thousand thanks. But these English were wonderful in their
way.... Ah! _Caramba!_ They were....

A large protuberance of the rocky floor had been roughly chipped into
the semblance of a seat, God only knows by what hands and in what
forgotten age. Seraphina's inclined pose, her torn dress, the wet
tresses lying over her shoulders, her homeless aspect, made me think of
a beautiful and miserable gipsy girl drying her hair before a fire. A
little foot advanced, gleamed white on the instep in front of the ruddy
glare; her clasped fingers nursed one raised knee; and, shivering no
longer, her head drooping in still profile, she listened to us, frowning
thoughtfully upon the flames.

In the guise of a beggar-maid, and fair, like a fugitive princess of
romance, she sat concealed in the very heart of her dominions. This
cavern belonged to her, as Castro remarked, and the bay of the sea, and
the earth above our heads, the rolling upland, herds of cattle, fields
of sugar-cane--even as far as the forest away there; the forest itself,
too. And there were on that estate, alone, over two hundred Africans,
he was able to tell us. He boasted of the wealth of the Riegos. Her
Excellency, probably, did not know such details. Two hundred--certainly.
The estate of Don Vincente Salazar was on the other side of the river.
Don Vincente was at present suffering the indignity of a prison for
a small matter of a quarrel with another _caballero_--who had died
lately--and all, he understood, through the intrigues of the prior of
a certain convent; the uncle, they said, of the dead _caballero_. Bah!
There was something to get. These fat friars were like the lean wolves
of Russia--hungry for everything they could see. Never enough, _Cuerpo
de Bios!_ Never enough! Like their good friend who helped them in their
iniquities, the Juez O'Brien, who had been getting rich for years on the
sublime generosity of her Excellency's blessed father. In the greatness
of his nobility, Don Balthasar of holy memory had every right to be
obstinate.... _Basta!_ He would speak no more; only there is a saying in
Castile that fools and obstinate people make lawyers rich....

"_Vuestra Señoria_," he cried, checking himself, slapping his breast
penitently, "deign to forgive me. I have been greatly exalted by the
familiarity of the two last men of your house--allowed to speak freely
because of my fidelity.... Alas! Alas!"

Seraphina, on the other side of the fire, made a vague gesture, and took
her chin in her hand without looking at him.

"Patience," he mumbled to himself very audibly. "He is rich, this
picaro, O'Brien. But there is, also, a proverb--that no riches shall
avail in the day of vengeance."

Noticing that we had begun to whisper together, he threw himself before
the fire, and was silent.

"Promise me one thing, Juan," murmured Seraphina.

I was kneeling by the side of her seat.

"By all that's holy," I cried, "I shall force him to come out and fight
fair--and kill him as an English gentleman may."

"Not that! Not that!" she interrupted me. She did not mean me to do
that. It was what she feared. It would be delivering myself into that
man's hands. Did I think what that meant? It would be delivering her,
too, into that man's power. She would not survive it. And if I desired
her to live on, I must keep out of O'Brien's clutches.

"In my thoughts I have bound my life to yours, Juan, so fast that the
stroke which cuts yours, cuts mine, too. No death can separate us."

"No," I said.

And she took my head in her hands, and looked into my eyes.

"No more mourning," she whispered rapidly. "No more. I am too young to
have a lover's grave in my life--and too proud to submit...."

"Never," I protested ardently. "That couldn't be."

"Therefore look to it, Juan, that you do not sacrifice your life which
is mine, either to your love--or--or--to revenge." She bowed her head;
the falling hair concealed her face. "For it would be in vain."

"The cloak is perfectly dry now, Señorita," said Castro, reclining on
his elbow on the edge of the darkness.

We two stepped out towards the entrance, leaving her on her knees,
in silent prayer, with her hands clasped on her forehead, and leaning
against the rugged wall of rock. Outside, the earth, enveloped in fire
and uproar, seemed to have been given over to the fury of a devil.

Yes. She was right. O'Brien was a formidable and deadly enemy. I wished
ourselves on board the _Lion_ chaperoned by Mrs. Williams, and in the
middle of the Atlantic. Nothing could make us really safe from his
hatred but the vastness of the ocean. Meantime we had a shelter, for
that night, at least, in this cavern that seemed big enough to contain,
in its black gloom of a burial vault, all the dust and passions and
hates of a nation....

Afterwards Castro and I sat murmuring by the diminished fire. He had
much to say about the history of this cave. There was a tradition that
the ancient buccaneers had held their revels in it. The stone on which
the senorita had been sitting was supposed to have been the throne of
their chief. A ferocious band they were, without the fear of God or
devil--mostly English. The Rio Medio picaroons had used this cavern,
occasionally, up to a year or so ago. But there were always ugly affairs
with the people on the estate--the _vaqueros_. In his younger days Don
Balthasar, having whole leagues of grass land here, had introduced a
herd of cattle; then, as the Africans are useless for that work, he
had ordered some peons from Mexico to be brought over with their
families--ignorant men, who hardly knew how to make the sign of the
cross. The quarrels had been about the cattle, which the _Lugareños_
killed for meat. The peons rode over them, and there were many wounds
on both sides. Then, the last time a Rio Medio schooner was lying here
(after looting a ship outside), there was some gambling going on (they
played round this very stone), and Manuel--(_Si, Señor_, this same
Manuel the singer--_Bestia!_)--in a dispute over the stakes, killed a
peon, striking him unexpectedly with a knife in the throat. No vengeance
was taken for this, because the _Lugareños_ sailed away at once; but the
widow made a great noise, and some rumours came to the ears of Don
Balthasar himself--for he, Castro, had been honoured with a mission to
visit the estate. That was even the first occasion of Manuel's hate for
him--Castro. And, as usual, the Intendente after all settled the matter
as he liked, and nothing was done to Manuel. Don Balthasar was old, and,
besides, too great a noble to be troubled with the doings of such
vermin.... And Castro began to yawn.

At daybreak--he explained--he would start for the _hacienda_ early, and
return with mules for Seraphina and myself. The buildings of the estate
were nearly three leagues away. All this tract of the country on the
side of the sea was very deserted, the sugar-cane fields worked by the
slaves lying inland, beyond the habitations. Here, near the coast,
there were only the herds of cattle ranging the _savannas_ and the peons
looking after them, but even they sometimes did not come in sight of the
sea for weeks together. He had no fear of being seen by anybody on his
journey; we, also, could start without fear in daylight, as soon as he
brought the mules. For the rest, he would make proper arrangements for
secrecy with the husband of Seraphina's nurse--Enrico, he called him: a
silent Galician; a graybeard worthy of confidence.

One of his first cares had been to grub out of his soaked clothes
a handful of tobacco, and now he turned over the little drying heap
critically. He hunted up a fragment of maize leaf somewhere upon his
bosom. His face brightened. "_Bueno_," he muttered, very pleased.

"Señor--good-night," he said, more humanized than I had supposed
possible; or was it only that I was getting to know him better? "And
thanks. There's that in life which even an old tired man.... Here I,
Castro... old and sad, Señor. Yes, Señor--nothing of mine in all the
world--and yet.... But what a death! Ouch! the brute water... _Caramba!_
Altogether improper for a man who has escaped from a great many battles
and the winter of Russia.... The snow, Señor...."

He drowsed, garrulous, with the blackened end of his cigarette hanging
from his lower lip, swayed sideways--and let himself go over gently,
pillowing his head on the stump of his arm. The thin, viperish blade,
stuck upwards from under his temple, gleamed red before the sinking
fire.

I raised a handful of flaring twigs to look at Sera-phina. A terrible
night raged over the land; the inner arch of the opening growled,
winking bluishly time after time, and, like an enchanted princess
enveloped in a beggar's cloak, she was lying profoundly asleep in the
heart of her dominions.



CHAPTER EIGHT

The first thing I noted, on opening my eyes, was that Castro had
gone already; I was annoyed. He might have called me. However, we had
arranged everything the evening before. The broad day, penetrating
through the passage, diffused a semicircle of twilight over the
flooring. It extended as far as the emplacement of the fire, black and
cold now with a gray heap of ashes in the middle. Farther away in the
darkness, beyond the reach of light, Seraphina on her bed of leaves did
not stir. But what was that hat doing there? Castro's hat. It asserted
its existence more than it ever did on the head of its master; black and
rusty, like a battered cone of iron, reposing on a wide flange near the
ashes. Then he was not gone. He would not start to walk three leagues,
bare-headed. He would appear presently; and I waited, vexed at the loss
of time. But he did not appear. "Castro," I cried in an undertone. The
leaves rustled; Seraphina sat up.

We were pleased to be with each other in an inexpugnable retreat, to
hear our voices untinged by anxiety; and, going to the outer end of the
short passage, we breathed with joy the pure air. The tops of the bushes
below glittered with drops of rain, the sky was clear, and the sun, to
us invisible, struck full upon the face of the rock on the other side
of the ravine. A great bird soared, all was light and silence, and we
forgot Castro for a time. I threw my legs over the sill, and sitting on
the stone surveyed the cornice. The bright day robbed the ravine of half
its horrors. The path was rather broad, though there was a frightful
sheer drop of ninety feet at least. Two men could have walked abreast on
that ledge, and with a hand-rail one would have thought nothing of it.
The most dangerous part yet was at the entrance, where it ended in a
rounded projection not quite so wide as the rest. I bantered Seraphina
as to going out. She said she was ready. She would shut her eyes, and
take hold of my hand. Englishmen, she had heard, were good at climbing.
Their heads were steady. Then we became silent. There were no signs
of Castro. Where could he have gone? What could he be doing? It was
unimaginable.

I grew nervous with anxiety at last, and begged Seraphina to go in.
She obeyed without a word, and I remained just within the entrance,
watching. I had no means to tell the time, but it seemed to me that an
hour or two passed. Hadn't we better, I thought, start at once on foot
for the _hacienda?_ I did not know the way, but by descending the ravine
again to the sea, and walking along the bank of the little river, I was
sure to reach it. The objection to this was that we should miss Castro.
Hang Castro! And yet there was something mysterious and threatening in
his absence. Could he--could he have stepped out for some reason in the
dark, perhaps, and tumbled off the cornice? I had seen no traces of a
slip--there would be none on the rock; the twigs of the growth below the
edge would spring back, of course. But why should he fall? The footing
was good--however, a sudden attack of vertigo.... I tried to look at it
from every side. He was not a somnambulist, as far as I knew. And there
was nothing to eat--I felt hungry already--or drink. The want of water
would drive us out very soon to the spring bubbling out at the head
of the ravine, a mile in the open. Then why not go at once, drink, and
return to our lair as quickly as possible?

But I did not like to think of her going up and down the cornice. I
remembered that we had a flask, and went in hastily to look for it.
First, I looked near the hat; then, Seraphina and I, bent double with
our eyes on the ground examined every square inch of twilight; we even
wandered a long way into the darkness, feeling about with our hands.
It was useless! I called out to her, and then we desisted, and coming
together, wondered what might have become of the thing. He had taken
it--that was clear.

But if, as one might suppose, he had taken it away to get some water
for us, he ought to have been back long before. I was beginning to feel
rather alarmed, and I tried to consider what we had better do. It was
necessary to learn, first, what had become of him. Staring out of the
opening, in my perplexity, I saw, on the other side of the ravine, the
lower part of a man from his waist to his feet.

By crouching down at once, I brought his head into view. This was not
Castro. He wore a black sombrero, and on his shoulder carried a gun. He
turned his back on the ravine, and began to walk straight away, sinking
from my sight till only his hat and shoulders remained visible. He
lifted his arm then--straight up--evidently as a signal, and waited.
Presently another head and shoulders joined him, and they glided across
my line of sight together. But I had recognized their bandit-like aspect
with infinite consternation. _Lu-garenos!_

I caught Seraphina's hand. My first thought was that we should have to
steal out of the cavern with the first coming of darkness. Castro must
be lying low in hiding somewhere above. The thing was plain. We must try
to make our way to the _hacienda_ under the cover of the night, unseen
by those two men. Evidently they were emissaries sent from Rio Medio to
watch this part of the coast against our possible landing. I was to
be hunted down, it seems: and I reproached myself bitterly with the
hardships I was bringing upon her continually. Thinking of the fatigues
she had undergone--(I did not think of dangers--that was another
thing--the romance of dying together like all the lovers in the
tradition of the world)--I shook with rage and exasperation. The firm
pressure of her hands calmed me. She was content. But what if they took
it into their heads to come into the cavern?

The emptiness of the blue sky above the sheer yellow rock opposite was
frightful. It was a mere strip, stretched like a luminous bandage over
our eyes. They were, perhaps, even now on their way round the head of
the ravine. I had no weapon except the butt of my pistol. The charges
had been spoilt by the salt water, of course, and I had been tempted to
fling it out of my belt, but for the thought of obtaining some powder
somewhere. And those men I had seen were armed. At once we abandoned the
neighbourhood of the entrance, plunging straight away into the profound
obscurity of the cave. The rocky ground under our feet had a gentle
slope, then dipped so sharply as to surprise us; and the entrance,
diminishing at our backs, shone at last no larger than the entrance of
a mouse-hole. We made a few steps more, gropingly. The bead of
light disappeared altogether when we sat down, and we remained there
hand-in-hand and silent, like two frightened children placed at the
centre of the earth. There was not a sound, not a gleam. Sera-phina bore
the crushing strain of this perfect and black stillness in an almost
heroic immobility; but, as to me, it seemed to lie upon my limbs, to
embarrass my breathing like a numbness full of dread; and to shake that
feeling off I jumped up repeatedly to look at that luminous bead, that
point of light no bigger than a pearl in the infinity of darkness. And
once, just as I was looking, it shut and opened at me slowly, like the
deliberate drooping and rising of the lid upon a white eyeball.

Somebody had come in.

We watched side by side. Only one. Would he go out? The point of
light, like a white star setting in a coal-black firmament, remained
uneclipsed. Whoever had entered was in no haste to leave. Moreover, we
had no means of telling what another obscuring of the light might mean;
a departure or another arrival. There were two men about, as we knew;
and it was even possible that they had entered together in one wink
of the light, treading close upon each other's heels. We both felt the
sudden great desire to know for certain. But, especially, we needed to
find out if perchance this was not Castro who had returned. We could
not afford to lose his assistance. And should he conclude, we were
out--should he risk himself outside again, in order to find us and be
discovered himself, and thus lost to us when we felt him so necessary?
And the doubt came. If this man was Castro, why didn't he penetrate
further, and shout our names? He ought to have been intelligent enough
to guess.... And it was this doubt that, making suspense intolerable,
put us in motion.

We circled widely in that subterranean darkness, which, unlike the
darkest night on the surface of the earth, had no suggestion of shape,
no horizon, and seemed to have no more limit than the darkness of
infinite space. On this floor of solid rock we moved with noiseless
steps, like a pair of timid phantoms. The spot of light grew in size,
developed a shape--stretching from a pearly bead to a silvery thread;
and, approaching from the side, we scanned from afar the circumscribed
region of twilight about the opening. There was a man in it. We
contemplated for a time his rounded back, his drooping head. It was
gray. The man was Castro. He sat rocking himself sorrowfully over
the ashes. He was mourning for us. We were touched by this silent
faithfulness of grief.

He started when I put my hand on his shoulder, looked up, then, instead
of giving any signs of joy, dropped his head again.

"You managed to avoid them, Castro?" I said.

"Señor, behold. Here I am. I, Castro."

His tone was gloomy, and after sitting still for a while under our gaze,
he slapped his forehead violently. He was in his tantrums, I judged,
and, as usual, angry with me--the cause of every misfortune. He was
upset and annoyed beyond reason, as I thought, by this new difficulty.
It meant delay--a certain measure of that sort of danger of which we had
thought ourselves free for a time--night travelling for Seraphina. But
I had an idea to save her this. We did not all want to go. Castro could
start, alone, for the _hacienda_ after dark, and bring, besides the
mules, half a dozen peons with him for an escort. There was nothing
really to get so upset about. The danger would have been if he had let
himself be caught. But he had not. As to his temper, I knew my man;
he had been amiable too long. But by this time we were so sure of
his truculent devotion that Seraphina spoke gently to him, saying how
anxious we had been--how glad we were to see him safe with us....
He would not be conciliated easily, it seemed, and let out only a
blood-curdling dismal groan. Without looking at her, he tried hastily
to make a cigarette. He was very clever at it generally, rolling it
with one hand on his knee somehow; but this time all his limbs seemed
to shake, he lost several pinches of tobacco, dropped the piece of maize
leaf. Seraphina, stooping over his shoulder, took it up, twisted the
thing swiftly. "Take, _amigo_," she said.

He was looking up at her, as if struck dumb, roiling his eye wildly. He
jumped up.

"You--Señorita! For a miserable old man! You break my heart."

And with long strides he disappeared in the darkness, leaving us
wondering.

We sat side by side on the couch of leaves. With Castro there I felt
we were quite equal to dealing with the two Lugareños if they had the
unlucky idea of intruding upon us. Indeed, a vigilant man, posted on one
side of the end of the passage, could have disputed the entrance against
ten, twenty, almost any number, as long as he kept his strength and had
something heavy enough to knock them over. Faint sounds reached me, as
if at a great distance Castro had been shouting to himself. I called to
him. He did not answer, but unexpectedly his short person showed itself
in the brightest part of the light.

"Señor!" he called out with a strange intonation. I got up and went
to him. He seemed to be listening intently with his ear turned to the
opening. Then suddenly:

"Look at me, Señor. Am I Castro--the same Castro? old and friendless?"

He stood biting his forefinger and looking up at me from under his
knitted eyebrows. I didn't know what to say. What was this nonsense?

He ejaculated a sort of incomprehensible babble, and, passing by me,
rushed towards Seraphina; she sat up, startled, on her couch of leaves.
Falling before her on his plump knees, he seized her hand, pressed it
against his ragged moustache.

"Excellency, forgive me! No--no forgiveness! Ha! old man! Ha--thou old
man...."

He bowed before her shadowy figure, that sustained the pale oval of
the face, till his forehead struck the rock. Plunging his hand into the
ashes, he poured a fistful with inarticulate low cries over his gray
hairs; and the agitation of that obese little body on its knees had a
lamentable and grotesque inconsequence, as inexplicable in itself as
the sorrow of a madman. Full of wonder before his abject collapse, she
murmured:

"What have you done?"

He tried to fling himself upon her feet, but my hand was in his collar,
and after an unmerciful shaking, I sat him down by main force. He
gulped, blinked the whites of his eyes, then, in a whisper full of rage:

"Horror, shame, misery, and malediction; I have betrayed you."

At once she said soothingly, "Tomasr I do not believe this"; while I
thought to myself: How? Why? For what reason? In what manner betrayed?
How was it possible? And, if so, why did he come back to us? But, as
things stood, he would never dare approach a Lugareño. If he had, they
would never have let him go again.

"You told them we were here?" I asked, so perfectly incredulous that I
was not at all surprised to hear him protest, by all the saints, that
he never did--never would do. Never. Never.... But why should he? Was he
the prey of some strange hallucination? Rocking himself, he struck his
breast with his clenched hand, then suddenly caught at his hair and
remained perfectly motionless. Minutes passed; this despairing
stillness inspired in me a feeling of awe at last--the awe of something
inconceivable. My head buzzed so with the effort to think that I had the
illusions of faint murmurs in the cave, the very shadows of murmurs.
And all at once a real voice--his voice--burst out fearfully rapid and
voluble.

He had really gone out to get a provision of water. Waking up early,
he saw us sleeping, and felt a great pity for the senorita. As to the
_caballero_--his saviour from drowning, alas!--the senorita would need
every ounce of his strength. He would let us sleep till his return from
the spring; and, there being a blessed freshness in the air, he caught
up the flask and started bare-headed. The sun had just risen. Would to
God he had never seen it! After plunging his face in the running water,
he remained on his knees and busied himself in rinsing and filling the
flask. The torrent, gushing with force, made a loud noise, and after he
had done screwing the top on, he was about to rise, when, glancing about
carelessly, he saw two men leaning on their _escopetas_ and looking at
him in perfect silence. They were standing right over him; he knew
them well; one they called El Rubio; the other, the little one, was
José--squinting José. They said nothing; nothing at all. With a sudden
and mighty effort he preserved his self-command, affected unconcern and,
instead of getting up, only shifted his pose to a sitting position, took
off his shoes and stockings, and proceeded to bathe his feet. But it was
as if a blazing fire had been kindled in his breast, and a tornado had
been blowing in his head.

He could not tell whence these two had come, with what object, or how
much they knew. They might have been only messengers from Rio Medio to
Havana. They generally went in couples. If Manuel had escaped alive
out of the sea, everything was known in Rio Medio. From where he sat he
beheld the empty, open sea over the dunes, but the edge of the upland,
cleft by many ravines (of which the one we had ascended was the
deepest), concealed from him the little basin and the inlet. He was
certain these men had not come up that way. They had approached him over
the plain. But there was more than one way by which the upland could
be reached from below. The thoughts rushed round and round his head.
He remembered that our boat must be floating or lying stranded in the
little bay, and resolved, in case of necessity, to say that we two were
dead, that we had been drowned.

It was El Rubio who put the very question to him, in an insolent tone,
and sitting on the ground out of his reach, with his gun across his
knees. His long knife ready in his hand, squinting José remained
standing over Castro. Those two men nodded to each other significantly
at the intelligence. He perceived that they were more than half disposed
to credit his story. They had nearly been drowned themselves pursuing
that accursed heretic of an Englishman. When, from their remarks, he
learned that the schooner was in the bay, he began putting on his shoes,
though the hope of making a sudden dash for his life down the ravine
abandoned him.

The schooner had been run in at night during the gale, and in such
distress that they let her take the ground. She was not injured,
however, and some of them were preparing to haul her off. Our boat, as
I conceived, after bumping along the beach, had drifted within the
influence of the current created by the little river, or else by the
water forced into the basin by the tempest, seeking to escape, and had
been carried out towards the inlet. She was seen at daylight, knocking
about amongst the breakers, bottom up, and in such shallow water that
three or four men wading out knee-deep managed to turn her over. They
had found Mrs. Williams' woollen shawl and my cap floating underneath.
At the same time the broken mast and sail were made out, tossing upon
the waves, not very far off to seaward. That the boat had been in the
bay at all did not seem to have occurred to them. It had been concluded
that she had capsized outside the entrance. It was very possible that
we had been drowned under her. Castro hastened to confirm the idea by
relating how he had been clinging to the bottom of the boat for a long
time. Thus he had saved himself, he declared.

"Manuel will be glad," observed El Rubio then, with an evil laugh. And
for a long time nobody said a word.

El Rubio, cross-legged, was observing him with the eyes of a basilisk,
but Castro swore a great oath that, as to himself, he showed no signs
of fear. He looked at the water gushing from the rock, bubbling up,
sparkling, running away in a succession of tiny leaps and falls. Why
should he fear? Was he not old, and tired, and without any hope of peace
on earth? What was death? Nothing. It was absolutely nothing. It comes
to all. It was rest after much vain trouble--and he trusted that,
through his devotion to the Mother of God, his sins would be forgiven
after a short time in purgatory. But, as he had made up his mind not
to fall into Manuel's hands, he resolved that presently he would stab
himself to the heart, where he sat--over this running water. For it
would not be like a suicide. He was doomed, and surely God did not want
his body to be tormented by such a devil as Manuel before death.

He would lean far over before he struck his faithful blade into his
breast, so as to fall with his face in the water. It looked deliciously
cool, and the sun was heavy on his bare head. Suddenly, El Rubio sprang
to his feet, saying:

"Now, José."

It is clear that these ruffians stood in awe of his blade. In their
cowardly hearts they did not think it quite safe (being only two to one)
to try and disarm that old man. They backed away a step or two, and,
levelling their pieces, suddenly ordered him to get up and walk before.
He threw at them an obscene word. He thought to himself, "_Bueno!_ They
will blow my head off my shoulders." No emotion stirred in him, as if
his blood had already ceased to run in his veins. They remained, all
three, in a state of suspended animation, but at last El Rubio hissed
through his teeth with vexation, and grunted:

"Attention, José. Take aim. We will break his legs and take away the
sting of this old scorpion."

Castro's blood felt chilly in his limbs, but instead of planting
his knife in his breast, he spoke up to ask them where, supposing he
consented, they wished to conduct him.

"To Manuel--our captain. He would like to embrace you before you die,"
said El Rubio, advancing a stride nearer, his gun to his shoulder. "Get
up! March!"

And Castro found himself on his feet, looking straight into the black
holes of the barrels.

"Walk!" they exclaimed together, stepping upon him.

The time had come to die.

"Ha! _Canalla!_" he said.

They made a menacing clamour, "Walk _viejo_, traitor; walk."

"Señorita--I walked." The heartrending effort of the voice, the
trembling of this gray head, the sobs under the words, oppressed our
breast with dismay and dread. Ardently he would have us believe that
at this juncture he was thinking of us only--of us wondering, alone,
ignorant of danger, and hidden blindly under the earth. His purpose was
to provoke the two _Luga-reños_ to shoot, so that we should be warned by
the reports. Besides, an opportunity for escape might yet present itself
in some most unlikely way, perhaps at the very last moment. Had he not
his own life in his own hands? He cared not for it. It was in his power
to end it at any time. And there would be dense thickets on the way;
long grass where one could plunge suddenly--who knows! And overgrown
ravines where one could hide--creep under the bushes--escape--and return
with help.... But when he faced the plains its greatness crushed his
poor strength. The uncovered vastness imprisoned him as effectually as
a wall. He knew himself for what he was: an old man, short of breath,
heavy of foot; nevertheless he walked on hastily, his eyes on the
ground. The footsteps of his captors sounded behind him, and he tried to
edge towards the ravine. When nearly above the opening of the cavern he
would, he thought, swerve inland, and dash off as fast as he was able.
Then they would have to fire at him; we would be sure to hear the shots,
the warning would be clear... and suddenly, looking up, he saw that a
small band of _Lugareños_, having just ascended the brow of the upland,
were coming to meet him. Now was the time to get shot; he turned
sharply, and began to run over that great plain towards a distant clump
of trees.

Nobody fired at him. He heard only the mingled jeers and shouts of the
two men behind, "Quicker, Castro; quicker!" They followed him, holding
their sides. Those ahead had already spread themselves out over the
plain, yelling to each other, and were converging upon him. That was
the time to stop, and with one blow fall dead at their feet. He doubled
round in front of Manuel, who stood waving his arms and screeching
orders, and ran back towards the ravine. The plain rang with furious
shouts. They rushed at him from every side. He would throw himself over.
It was a race for the precipice. He won it.

I suppose he found it not so easy to die, to part with the warmth of
sunshine, the taste of food; to break that material servitude to life,
contemptible as a vice, that binds us about like a chain on the limbs of
hopeless slaves. He showered blows upon his chest, sitting before us, he
battered with his fist at the side of his head till I caught his arm. We
could always sell our lives dearly, I said. He would have to defend the
entrance with me. We two could hold it till it was blocked with their
corpses.

He jumped up with a derisive shriek; a cloud of ashes flew from under
his stumble, and he vanished in the darkness with mad gesticulations.

"Their corpses--their corpses--their... Ha! ha! ha!"

The snarling sound died away; and I understood, then, what meant this
illusion of ghostly murmurs that once or twice had seemed to tremble
in the narrow region of gray light around the arch. The sunshine of the
earth, and the voices of men, expired on the threshold of the eternal
obscurity and stillness in which we were imprisoned, as if in a grave
with inexorable death standing between us and the free spaces of the
world.



CHAPTER NINE

For it meant that. Imprisoned! Castro's derisive shriek meant that. And
I had known it before. He emerged back out of the black depths, with
livid, swollen features, and foam about his mouth, to splutter:

"Their corpses, you say.... Ha! Our corpses," and retreated again, where
I could only hear incoherent mutters.

Seraphina clutched my arm. "Juan--together--no separation."

I had known it, even as I spoke of selling our lives dearly. They could
only be surrendered. Surrendered miserably to these wretches, or to the
everlasting darkness in which Castro muttered his despair. I needed not
to hear this ominous and sinister sound--nor yet Seraphina's cry. She
understood, too. They would never come down unless to look upon us
when we were dead. I need not have gone to the entrance of the cave
to understand all the horror of our fate. The _Lugareños_ had already
lighted a fire. Very near the brink, too.

It was burning some thirty feet above my head; and the sheer wall on the
other side caught up and sent across into my face the crackling of
dry branches, the loud excited talking, the arguments, the oaths, the
laughter; now and then a very shriek of joy. Manuel was giving orders.
Some advanced the opinion that the cursed _Inglez_, the spy who came
from Jamaica to see whom he could get for a hanging without a priest,
was down there, too. So that was it! O'Brien knew how to stir their
hate. I should get a short shrift. "He was a fiend, the _Inglez_: look
how many of us he has killed!" they cried; and Manuel would have loved
to cut my flesh, in small pieces, off my bones--only, alas! I was now
beyond his vengeance, he feared. However, somebody was left.

He must have thrown himself flat, with his head over the brink, for his
yell of "Castro!" exploded, and rolled heavily between the rocks.

"Castro! Castro! Castro!" he shouted twenty times, till he set the whole
ravine in an uproar. He waited, and when the clamour had quieted down
amongst the bushes below, called out softly, "Do you hear me, Castro, my
victim? Thou art my victim, Castro."

Castro had crept into the passage after me. He pushed his head beyond my
shoulder.

"I defy thee, Manuel," he screamed.

A hubbub arose. "He's there! He is there!"

"Bravo, Castro," Manuel shouted from above. "I love thee because thou
art my victim. I shall sing a song for thee. Come up. Hey! Castro!
Castro! Come up.... No? Then the dead to their grave, and the living to
their feast."

Sometimes a little earth, detached from the layer of soil covering the
rock, would fall streaming from above. The men told off to guard the
cornice walked to and fro near the edge, and the confused murmur of
voices hung subdued in the air of the cleft, like a modulated tremor.
Castro, moaning gently, stumbled back into the cave.

Seraphina had remained sitting on the stone seat. The twilight rested
on her knees, on her face, on the heap of cold ashes at her feet. But
Castro, who had stood stock-still, with a hand to his forehead, turned
to me excitedly:

"The peons, _for Dios!_" Had I ever thought of the peons belonging to
the _estancia?_

Well, that was a hope. I did not know exactly how matters stood between
them and the _Lugareños_. There was no love lost. A fight was likely;
but, even if no actual collision took place, they would be sure to visit
the camp above in no very friendly spirit; a chance might offer to make
our position known to these men, who had no reason to hate either me
or Castro--and would not be afraid of thwarting the miserable band of
ghouls sitting above our grave. How our presence could be made known
I was not sure. Perhaps simply by shouting with all our might from the
mouth of the cave. We could offer rewards--say who we were, summon them
for the service of their own Señorita. But, probably, they had never
heard of her. No matter. The news would soon reach the _hacienda_, and
Enrico had two hundred slaves at his back. One of us must always remain
at the mouth of the cave listening to what went on above. There would
be the trampling of horses' hoofs--quarrelling, no doubt--anyway, much
talk--new voices--something to inform us. Only, how soon would they
come? They were not likely to be riding where there were no cattle. Had
Castro seen any signs of a herd on the uplands near by?

His face fell. He had not. There were many _savannas_ within the belt
of forests, and the herds might be miles away, stampeded inland by the
storm. Sitting down suddenly, as if overcome, he averted his eyes and
began to scratch the rock between his legs with the point of his blade.

We were all silent. How long could we wait? How long could people
live?... I looked at Seraphina. How long could she live?... The
thought seared my heart like a hot iron. I wrung my hands stealthily.

"Ha! my blade!" muttered Castro. "My sting.... Old scorpion! They did
not take my sting away.... Only--bah!"

He, a man, had not risen to the fortitude of a venomous creature. He was
defeated. He groaned profoundly. Life was too much. It clung to one. A
scorpion--an insect--within a ring of flames, would lift its sting
and stab venom into its own head. And he--Castro--a man--a man, _por
Dios_--had less firmness than a creeping thing. Why--why, did he not
stab this dishonoured old heart?

"Señorita," he cried agonizingly, "I swear I did shout to them to
fire--so--in to my breast--and then..."

Seraphina leaned over him pityingly.

"Enough, Castro. One lives because of hope. And grieve not. Thy death
would have done no good."

Her face had a splendid pallor, the radiant whiteness and majesty of
marble; it had never before appeared to me more beautiful: and her hair
unrolling its dark undulations, as if tinged deep with the funereal
gloom of the background, covered her magnificently right down to her
elbows. Her eyes were incredibly profound. Her person had taken on an
indefinable beauty, a new beauty, that, like the comeliness that comes
from joy, love, or success, seemed to rise from the depths of her being,
as if an unsuspected and sombre quality of her soul had responded to the
horror of our situation. The fierce trials had gradually developed her,
as burning sunshine opens the bud of a flower; and I beheld her now in
the plenitude of her nature. From time to time Castro would raise up to
her his blinking old eyes, full of timidity and distress.

He had not been young enough to throw himself over--he had worn the
chain for too many years, had lived well and softly too long, was too
old a slave. And yet--if he had had the courage of the act! Who knows?
I rejected the thought far from me. It returned, and I caught myself
looking at him with irritated eyes. But this first day passed not
intolerably. We ignored our sufferings. Indeed, I felt none for my part.
We had kept our thoughts bound to the slow blank minutes. And if we
exchanged a few words now and then, it was to speak of patience, of
resolution to endure and to hope.

At night, from the hot ravine full of shadows, came the cool fretting
of the stream. The big blaze they kept up above crackled distinctly,
throwing a fiery, restless stain on the face of the rock in front of the
cave, high up under the darkness and the stars of the sky--and a pair
of feet would appear stamping, the shadow of a pair of ankles and feet,
fantastic, sustaining no gigantic body, but enormous, tramping slowly,
resembling two coffins leaping to a slow measure. I see them in my
dreams now, sometimes. They disappeared.

Manuel would sing; far in the night the monotonous staccato of the
guitar went on, accompanying plaintive murmurs, outbursts of anger and
cries of pain, the tremulous moans of sorrow. My nerves vibrated, I
broke my nails on the rock, and seemed to hear once more the parody of
all the transports and of every anguish, even to death--a tragic and
ignoble rendering of life. He was a true artist, powerful and scorned,
admired with derision, obeyed with jeers. It was a song of mourning; he
sat on the brink with his feet dangling over the precipice that sent him
back his inspired tones with a confused noise of sobs and desolation....
His idol had been snatched from the humility of his adoring silence,
like a falling star from the sight of the worm that crawls.... He
stormed on the strings; and his voice emerged like the crying of a
castaway in the tumult of the gale. He apostrophized his instrument....
Woe! Woe! No more songs. He would break it. Its work was done. He
would dash it against the rock.... His palm slapped the hollow wood
furiously.... So that it should lie shattered and mute like his own
heart!

A frenzied explosion of yells, jests, and applause covered the finale.

A complete silence would follow, as if in the acclamations they had
exhausted at once every bestial sound. Somebody would cough pitifully
for a long time--and when he had done spluttering and cursing, the world
outside appeared lost in an even more profound stillness. The red stain
of the fire wavered across to play under the dark brow of the rock. The
irritated murmur of the torrent, tearing along below, returned timidly
at first, expanded, filled the ravine, ran through my ears in an angry
babble. The deadened footfalls on the brink sometimes dislodged a
pebble: it would start with a feeble rattle and be heard no more.

In the daytime, too, there were silences up there, perfect, profound. No
prowl of feet disturbed them; the sun blazed between the rocks, and even
the hum of insects could be heard. It seemed impossible not to believe
that they had all died by a miracle, or else had been driven away by a
silent panic. But two or more were always on the watch, directly above,
with their heads over the edge; and suddenly they would begin to talk
together in drowsy tones. It was as if some barbarous somnambulists had
mumbled in the daytime the bizarre atrocity of their thoughts.

They discussed Williams' flask, which had been picked up. Was the cup
made of silver, they wondered. Manuel had appropriated it for his own
use, it seems. Well--he was the _capataz_. The _Inglez_, should he
appear by an impossible chance, was to be shot down at once; but Castro
must be allowed to give himself up. And they would snigger ferociously.
Sometimes quarrels arose, very noisy, a great hubbub of bickerings
touching their jealousies, their fears, their unspeakable hopes of
murder and rapine. They did not feel very safe where they were. Some
would maintain that Castro could not have saved himself, alone. The
_Inglez_ was there, and even the senorita herself... Manuel scouted the
idea with contempt. He advanced the violence of the storm, the fury of
the waves, the broken mast, the position of the boat. How could they
expect a woman!.... No. It was as his song had it. And he defended his
point of view angrily, as though he could not bear being robbed of that
source of poetical inspiration. He emitted profound sighs and superb
declamations.

Castro and I listened to them at the mouth of the cave. Our tongues were
dry and swollen in our mouths, there was the pressure of an iron clutch
on our windpipes, fire in our throats, and the pangs of hunger that tore
at us like iron pincers. But we could hear that the bandits above were
anxious to be gone; they had but very few charges for their guns, and it
was apparent that they were afraid of a collision with the peons of the
_hacienda_. Glaring at each other with bloodshot, uncertain eyes, Castro
and I imagined longingly a vision of men in _ponchos_ spurring madly out
of the woods, bent low, and swinging _riatas_ over the necks of their
horses--with the thunder of the galloping hoofs in the cave. Seraphina
had withdrawn further into the darkness. And, with a shrinking fear, I
would join her, to eat my heart out by the side of her tense and mute
contemplation.

Sometimes Manuel would begin again, "Castro! Castro! Castro!" till he
seemed to stagger the rocks and disturb the placid sunshine with an
immense wave of sound. He called upon his victim to drink once more
before he died. Long shrieks of derision rent the air, as if torn out
of his breast by far greater torments than any his fancy delighted to
invent. There was something terrible and weird in the abundance of words
screeched continuously, without end, as if in desperation. No wonder
Castro fled from the passage. And Seraphina and I, within, would be
startled out of our half-delirious state by the sudden appearance of
that old man, disordered, sordid, with a white beard sprouting, who
wandered, weeping aloud in the twilight.

More than once I would stagger off far away into the depths of the
cavern in an access of rage, fling myself on the floor, bite my arms,
beat my head on the rock. I would give myself up. She must be saved from
this tortured death. She had said she would throw herself over if I left
her. But would she have the strength? It was impossible to know. For
days it seemed she had been lying perfectly still, on her side, one hand
under her wan cheek, and only answering "Juan" when I pronounced her
name. There was something awful in our dry whispers. They were lifeless,
like the tones of the dead, if the dead ever speak to each other across
the earth separating the graves. The moral suffering, joined to the
physical torture of hunger and thirst, annihilated my will in a measure,
but also kindled a vague, gnawing feeling of hostility against her. She
asked too much of me. It was too much. And I would drag myself back to
sit for hours, and with an aching heart look towards her couch from a
distance.

My eyes, accustomed to obscurity, traced an indistinct and recumbent
form. Her forehead was white; her hair merged into the darkness which
was gathering slowly upon her eyes, her cheeks, her throat. She was
perfectly still. It was cruel, it was odious, it was intolerable to be
so still. This must end. I would carry her out by main force. She said
no word, but there was in the embrace of those arms instantly thrown
around my neck, in the feel of those dry lips pressed upon mine, in
the emaciated face, in the big shining eyes of that being as light as a
feather, a passionate mournfulness of seduction, a tenacious clinging to
the appointed fate, that suddenly overawed my movement of rage. I laid
her down again, and covered my face with my hands. She called out to
Castro. He reeled, as if drunk, and waited at the head of her couch,
with his chin dropped on his breast. "_Vuestra, Señoria_," he muttered.

"Listen well, Castro." Her voice was very faint, and each word came
alone, as if shrunk and parched. "Can my gold--the promise of much
gold--you know these men--save the lives...?"

He uttered a choked cry, and began to tremble, groping for her hand.

"_Si, Señorita_. Excellency, _si_. It would. Mercy. Save me. I am too
old to bear this. Gold, yes; much gold. Manuel...."

"Listen, Castro.... And Don Juan?" His head fell again. "Speak the
truth, Castro."

He struggled with himself; then, rattling in his throat, shrieked "No!"
with a terrible effort. "No. Nothing can save thy English lover." "Why?"
she breathed feebly. He raged at her in his weakness. Why? Because the
order had gone forth; because they dared not disobey. Because she had
only gold in the palm of her hand, while Señor O'Brien held all their
lives in his. The accursed _Juez_ was for them like death itself that
walks amongst men, taking this one, leaving another.

He was their life, and their law, and their safety, and their death--and
the _caballero_ had not killed him....

His voice seemed to wither and dry up gradually in his throat. He
crawled away, and we heard him chuckling horribly somewhere, like a
madman. Seraphina stretched out her hand.

"Then, Juan--why not together--like this?"

If she had the courage of this death, I must have even more. It was a
point of honour. I had no wish, and no right, to seek for some easier
way out of life. But she had a woman's capacity for passive endurance,
a serenity of mind in this martyrdom confessing to something sinister in
the power of love that, like faith, can move mountains and order cruel
sacrifices. She could have walked out in perfect safety--and it was
that thought that maddened me. And there was no sleep; there were only
intervals in which I could fall into a delirious reverie of still lakes,
of vast sheets of water. I waded into them up to my lips. Never
further. They were smooth and cold as ice; I stood in them shivering and
straining for a draught, burning within with the fire of thirst, while
a phantom all pale, and with its hair streaming, called to me "Courage!"
from the brink in Seraphina's voice. As to Castro, he was going mad. He
was simply going mad, as people go mad for want of food and drink.
And yet he seemed to keep his strength. He was never still. It was a
factitious strength, the restlessness of incipient insanity. Once, while
I was trying to talk with him about our only hope--the peons--he gave
me a look of such sombre distraction that I left off, intimidated,
to wonder vaguely at this glimpse of something hidden and excessive
springing from torments which surely could be no greater than mine.

He had the strength, and sometimes he could find the voice, to hurl
abuse, curses, and imprecations from the mouth of the cave. Great shouts
of laughter exploded above, and they seemed to hold their breath to
hear more; or Manuel, hanging over, would praise in mocking, mellifluous
accents the energy of his denunciations. I tried to pull him away from
there, but he turned upon me fiercely; and from prudence--for all hope
was not dead in me yet--I left him alone.

That night I heard him make an extraordinary sound chewing; at the same
time he was sobbing and cursing stealthily. He had found something to
eat, then! I could not believe my ears, but I began to creep towards
the sound, and suddenly there was a short, mad scuffle in the darkness,
during which I nearly spitted myself on his blade. At last, trembling in
every limb, with my blood beating furiously in my ears, I scrambled to
my feet, holding a small piece of meat in my hands. Instantly, without
hesitating, without thinking, I plunged my teeth into it only to fling
it far away from me with a frantic execration. This was the first sound
uttered since we had grappled. Lying prone near me, Castro, with a
rattle in his throat, tried to laugh.

This was a supreme touch of Manuel's art; they were pressed for time,
and he had hit upon that deep and politic invention to hasten the
surrender of his beloved victim. I nearly cried with the fiery pain
on my cracked lips. That piece of half-putrid flesh was salt--horribly
salt--salt like salt itself. Whenever they heard him rave and mutter at
the mouth of the cave, they would throw down these prepared scraps. It
was as if I had put a live coal into my mouth.

"Ha!" he croaked feebly. "Have you thrown it away? I, too; the first
piece. No matter. I can no more swallow anything, now."

His voice was like the rustling of parchment at my feet.

"Do not look for it, Don Juan. The sinners in hell.... Ha! Fiend. I
could not resist."

I sank down by his side. He seemed to be writhing on the floor
muttering, "Thirst--thirst--thirst." His blade clicked on the rock; then
all was still. Was he dead? Suddenly he began with an amazingly animated
utterance.

"Señor! For this they had to kill cattle."

This thought had kept him up. Probably, they had been firing shots. But
there was a way of hamstringing a stalked cow silently; and the plains
were vast, the grass on them was long; the carcasses would lie hidden
out of sight; the herds were rounded up only twice every year. His
despairing voice died out in a mournful fall, and again he was as still
as death.

"No! I can bear this no longer," he uttered with force. He refused to
bear it. He suffered too much. There was no hope. He would overwhelm
them with maledictions, and then leap down from the ledge. "_Adios,
Señor_."

I stretched out my arm and caught him by the leg. It seemed to me I
could not part with him. It would have been disloyal, an admission that
all was over, the beginning of the end. We were exhausting ourselves by
this sort of imbecile wrestling. Meantime, I kept on entreating him to
be a man; and at last I managed to clamber upon his chest. "A man!" he
sighed. I released him. For a space, unheard in the darkness, he seemed
to be collecting all his remaining strength.

"Oh, those strange _Inglez!_ Why should I not leap? and whom do you love
best or hate more, me or the senorita? Be thou a man, also, and pray
God to give thee reason to understand men for once in thy life. Ha!
Enamoured woman--he is a fool! But I, Castro...."

His whispering became appallingly unintelligible, then ceased, passing
into a moan. My will to restrain him abandoned me. He had brought this
on us. And if he really wished to give up the struggle....

"Señor," he mumbled brokenly, "a thousand thanks. Br-r-r! Oh, the ugly
water--water--water--water--salt water--salt! You saved me. Why? Let God
be the Judge. I would have preferred a malignant demon for a friend. I
forgive you. _Adios!_ And---Her Excellency--poor Castro.... Ha! Thou old
scorpion, encircled by fire--by fire and thirst. No. No scorpion, alas!
Only a man--not like you--therefore--a Mass--or two--perhaps...."

The freshness of the night penetrated through the arch, as far as the
faint twilight of the day. I heard his tearful muttering creep away from
my side. "Thirst--thirst--thirst." I did not stir; and an incredulity,
a weariness, the sense of our common fate, mingled with an unconfessed
desire--the desire of seeing what would come of it--a desire that
stirred my blood like a glimmer of hope, and prevented me from making a
movement or uttering a whisper. If his sufferings were so great, who was
I to... Mine, too. I almost envied him. He was free.

As if an inward obscurity had parted in two I looked to the very bottom
of my thoughts. And his action appeared like a sacrifice. It could
liberate us two from this cave before it was too late. He, he alone, was
the prey they had trapped. They would be satisfied, probably. Nay! There
could be no doubt. Directly he was dead they would depart. Ah! he wanted
to leap. He must not be allowed. Now that I understood perfectly what
this meant, I had to prevent him. There was no choice. I must stop him
at any cost.

The awakening of my conscience sent me to my feet; but before I had
stumbled halfway through the passage I heard his shout in the open air,
"Behold me!"

A man outside cried excitedly, "He is out!"

An exulting tumult fell into the arch, the clash of twenty voices
yelling in different keys, "He is out--the traitor! He is out!" I was
too late, but I made three more hesitating steps and stood blinded.
The flaming branches they were holding over the precipice showered a
multitude of sparks, that fell disappearing continuously in the lurid
light, shutting out the night from the mouth of the cave. And in this
light Castro could be seen kneeling on the other side of the sill.

With his fingers clutching the edge of the slab, he hung outwards, his
head falling back, his spine arched tensely, like a bow; and the red
sparks coming from above with the dancing whirl of snowflakes, vanished
in the air before they could settle on his face.

"Manuel! Manuel!"

They answered with a deep, confused growl, jostling and crowding on the
edge to look down into his eyes. Meantime I stared at the convulsive
heaving of his breast, at his upturned chin, his swelling throat. He
defied Manuel. He would leap. Behold! he was going to leap--to his own
death--in his own time. He challenged them to come down on the ledge;
and the blade of the maimed arm waved to and fro stiffly, point up, like
a red-hot weapon in the light. He devoted them to pestilence, to English
gallows, to the infernal powers: while all the time commenting
murmurs passed over his head, as though he had extorted their sinister
appreciation.

"_Canalla!_ dogs, thieves, prey of death, vermin of hell--I spit on
you--like this!"

He had not the force, nor the saliva, and remained straining mutely
upwards while they laughed at him all together, with something sombre,
and as if doomed in their derision.... "He will jump! No, he will not!"
"Yes! Leap, Castro! Spit, Castro!" "He will run back into the cave!
_Maladetta!_"... Manuel's voiced cooed lovingly on the brink:

"Come to us and drink, Castro."

I waited for his leap with doubt, with disbelief, in the helpless
agitation of the weak. Gradually he seemed to relax all over.

"Drink deep; drink, and drink, and drink, Castro. Water. Clear water,
cool water. Taste, Castro!"

He called on him in tones that were almost tender in their urgency, to
come and drink before he died. His voice seemed to cast a spell, like
an incantation, upon the tubby little figure, with something yearning in
the upward turn of the listening face.

"Drink!" Manuel repeated the word several times; then, suddenly he
called, "Taste, Castro, taste," and a descending brightness, as of a
crystal rod hurled from above, shivered to nothing on the upturned face.
The light disappearing from before the cave seemed scared away by the
inhuman discord of his shriek; and I flung myself forward to lick
the splash of moisture on the sill. I did not think of Castro, I had
forgotten him. I raged at the deception of my thirst, exploring with my
tongue the rough surface of the stone till I tasted my own blood. Only
then, raising my head to gasp, and clench my fists with a baffled and
exasperated desire, I noticed how profound was the silence, in which the
words, "Take away his sting," seemed to pronounce themselves over the
ravine in the impersonal austerity of the rock, and with the tone of a
tremendous decree.



CHAPTER TEN

He had surrendered to his thirst. What weakness! He had not thrown
himself over, then. What folly! One splash of water on his face had been
enough. He was contemptible; and lying collapsed, in a sort of tormented
apathy, at the mouth of the cave, I despised and envied his good
fortune. It could not save him from death, but at least he drank. I
understood this when I heard his voice, a voice altogether altered--a
firm, greedy voice saying, "More," breathlessly. And then he drank
again. He was drinking. He was drinking up there in the light of the
fire, in a circle of mortal enemies, under Manuel's gloating eyes.
Drinking! O happiness! O delight! What a miserable wretch! I clawed the
stone convulsively; I think I would have rushed out for my share if I
had not heard Manuel's cruel and caressing voice:

"How now? You do not want to throw yourself over, my Castro?"

"I have drunk," he said gloomily.

I think they must have given him something to eat then. In my mind there
are many blanks in the vision of that scene, a vision built upon a few
words reaching me, suddenly, with great intervals of silence between, as
though I had been coming to myself out of a dead faint now and then.
A ferocious hum of many voices would rise sometimes impatiently, the
scrambling of feet near the edge; or, in a sinister and expectant
stillness, Manuel the artist would be speaking to his "beloved victim
Castro" in a gentle and insinuating voice that seemed to tremble
slightly with eagerness. Had he eaten and drunk enough? They had kept
their promises, he said. They would keep them all. The water had been
cool--and presently he, Manuel-del-Popolo, would accompany with his
guitar and his voice the last moments of his victim. Bursts of laughter
punctuated his banter. Ah! that Manuel, that Manuel! Some actually swore
in admiration. But was Castro really at his ease? Was it not good to eat
and drink? Had he quite returned to life? But, _Caramba, amigos_, what
neglect! The _caballero_ who has honoured us must smoke. They shouted
in high glee: "Yes. Smoke, Castro. Let him smoke." I suppose he did; and
Manuel expounded to him how pleasant life was in which one could eat,
and drink, and smoke. His words tortured me. Castro remained mute--from
disdain, from despair, perhaps. Afterwards they carried him along clear
of the cornice, and I understood they formed a half-circle round him,
drawing their knives. Manuel, screeching in a high falsetto, ordered the
bonds of his feet to be cut. I advanced my head out as far as I dared;
their voices reached me deadened; I could only see the profound shadow
of the ravine, a patch of dark clear sky opulent with stars, and the
play of the firelight on the opposite side. The shadow of a pair of
monumental feet, and the lower edge of a cloak, spread amply like a
skirt, stood out in it, intensely black and motionless, right in front
of the cave. Now and then, elbowed in the surge round Castro, the guitar
emitted a deep and hollow resonance. He was tumultuously ordered to
stand up and, I imagine, he was being pricked with the points of
their knives till he did get on his feet. "Jump!" they roared all
together--and Manuel began to finger the strings, lifting up his voice
between the gusts of savage hilarity, mingled with cries of death. He
exhorted his followers to close on the traitor inch by inch, presenting
their knives.

"He runs here and there, the blood trickling from his limbs--but in
vain, this is the appointed time for the leap...."

It was an improvisation; they stamped their feet to the slow measure;
they shouted in chorus the one word "Leap!" raising a ferocious roar;
and between whiles the song of voice and strings came to me from a
distance, softened and lingering in a voluptuous and pitiless cadence
that wrung my heart, and seemed to eat up the remnants of my strength.
But what could I have done, even if I had had the strength of a giant,
and a most fearless resolution? I should have been shot dead before I
had crawled halfway up the ledge. A piercing shriek covered the guitar,
the song, and the wild merriment.

Then everything seemed to stop--even my own painful breathing. Again
Castro shrieked like a madman:

"Señorita--your gold. Señorita! Hear me! Help!"

Then all was still.

"Hear the dead calling to the dead," sneered Manuel.

An awestruck sort of hum proceeded from the Spaniards. Was the senorita
alive? In the cave? Or where?

"Her nod would have saved thee, Castro," said Manuel slowly. I got up. I
heard Castro stammer wildly:

"She shall fill both your hands with gold. Do you hear, hombres? I,
Castro, tell you--each man--both hands------"

He had done it. The last hope was gone now. And all that there remained
for me to do was to leap over or give myself up, and end this horrible
business.

"She was a creature born to command the moon and the stars," Manuel
mused aloud in a vibrating tone, and suddenly smote the strings with
emphatic violence. She could even stay his vengeance. But was it
possible! No, no. It could not be--and yet....

"Thou art alive yet, Castro," he cried. "Thou hast eaten and drunk; life
is good--is it not, old man?--and the leap is high."

He thundered "Silence!" to still the excited murmurs of his band. If she
lived Castro should live, too--he, Manuel, said so; but he threatened
him with horrible tortures, with two days of slow dying, if he dared to
deceive. Let him, then, speak the truth quickly.

"Speak, 'viejo'. Where is she?"

And at the opening, fifty yards away, I was tempted to call out, as
though I had loved Castro well enough to save him from the shame and
remorse of a plain betrayal. That the moment of it had come I could have
no doubt. And it was I myself, perhaps, who could not face the certitude
of his downfall. If my throat had not been so compressed, so dry with
thirst and choked with emotion, I believe I should have cried out and
brought them away from that miserable man with a rush. Since we were
lost, he at least should be saved from this. I suffered from his
spasmodic, agonized laugh away there, with twenty knives aimed at his
breast and the eighty-foot drop of the precipice at his back. Why did he
hesitate?

I was to learn, then, that the ultimate value of life to all of us is
based on the means of self-deception. Morally he had his back against
the wall, he could not hope to deceive himself; and after Manuel had
cried again at him, "Where are they?" in a really terrible tone, I heard
his answer:

"At the bottom of the sea."

He had his own courage after all--if only the courage not to believe in
Manuel's promises. And he must have been weary of his life--weary enough
not to pay that price. And yet he had gone to the very verge,
calling upon Seraphina as if she could hear him. Madness of fear, no
doubt--succeeded by an awakening, a heroic reaction. And yet sometimes
it seems to me as if the whole scene, with his wild cries for help, had
been the outcome of a supreme exercise of cunning. For, indeed, he could
not have invented anything better to bring the conviction of our death
to the most sceptical of those ruffians. All I heard after his words had
been a great shout, followed by a sudden and unbroken silence. It seemed
to last a very long time. He had thrown himself over! It is like the
blank space of a swoon to me, and yet it must have been real enough,
because, huddled up just inside the sill, with my head reposing wearily
on the stone, I watched three moving flames of lighted branches carried
by men follow each other closely in a swaying descent along the path on
the other side of the ravine. They passed on downwards, flickering out
of view. Then, after a time, a voice below, to the left of the cave,
ascended with a hooting and mournful effect from the depths.

"Manuel! Manuel! We have found him!... _Es muerte!_"

And from above Manuel's shout rolled, augmented, between the rocks.

"_Bueno!_ Turn his face up--for the birds!"

They continued calling to each other for a good while. The men below
declared their intention of going on to the sea shore; and Manuel
shouted to them not to forget to send him up a good rope early in the
morning. Apparently, the schooner had been refloated some time before;
many of the _Lugareños_ were to sleep on board. They purposed to set
sail early next day.

This revived me, and I spent the night between Seraphina's couch and the
mouth of the cave, keeping tight hold of my reason that seemed to lose
itself in this hope, in this darkness, in this torment. I touched her
cheek, it was hot--while her forehead felt to my fingers as cold as
ice. I had no more voice, but I tried to force out some harsh whispers
through my throat. They sounded horrible to my own ears, and she
endeavoured to soothe me by murmuring my name feebly. I believe she
thought me delirious. I tried to pray for my strength to last till I
could carry her out of that cave to the side of the brook--then let
death come. "Live, live," I whispered into her ear, and would hear a
sigh so faint, so feeble, that it swayed all my soul with pity and fear,
"Yes, Juan."... And I would go away to watch for the dawn from the mouth
of the cave, and curse the stars that would not fade.

Manuel's voice always steadied me. A languor had come over them above,
as if their passion had been exhausted; as if their hearts had been
saddened by an unbridled debauch. There was, however, their everlasting
quarrelling. Several of them, I understood, left the camp for the
schooner, but avoiding the road by the ravine as if Castro's dead body
down there had made it impassable. And the talk went on late into the
night. There was some superstitious fear attached to the cave--a legend
of men who had gone in and had never come back any more. All they knew
of it was the region of twilight; formerly, when they used the shelter
of the cavern, no one, it seems, ever ventured outside the circle of
the fire. Manuel disdained their fears. Had he not been such a profound
politico, a man of stratagems, there would have been a necessity to go
down and see.... They all protested.

Who was going down? Not they.... Their craven cowardice was amazing.

He begged them to keep themselves quiet. They had him for _Capataz_
now. A man of intelligence. Had he not enticed Castro out? He had never
believed there was any one else in there. He sighed. Otherwise Castro
would have tried to save his life by confessing. There had been nothing
to confess. But he had the means of making sure. A voice suggested that
the _Inglez_ might have withdrawn himself into the depths. These English
were not afraid of demons, being devils themselves; and this one was
fiendishly reckless. But Manuel observed, contemptuously, that a man
trapped like this would remain near the opening. Hope would keep him
there till he died--unless he rushed out like Castro-Manuel laughed,
but in a mournful tone: and, listening to the craven talk of their
doubts and fears, it seemed to me that if I could appear at one bound
amongst them, they would scatter like chaff before my glance It seemed
intolerable to wait; more than human strength could bear. Would the day
never come? A drowsiness stole upon their voices.

Manuel kept watch. He fed the fire, and his incomplete shadow, projected
across the chasm, would pass and return, obscuring the glow that fell on
the rock. His footsteps seemed to measure the interminable duration of
the night. Sometimes he would stop short and talk to himself in low,
exalted mutters. A big bright star rested on the brow of the rock
opposite, shining straight into my eyes. It sank, as if it had plunged
into the stone. At last. Another came to look into the cavern. I watched
the gradual coming of a gray sheen from the side of Seraphina's couch.
This was the day, the last day of pain, or else of life. Its ghostly
edge invaded slowly the darkness of the cave towards its appointed
limit, creeping slowly, as colourless as spilt water on the floor. I
pressed my lips silently upon her cheek. Her eyes were open. It seemed
to me she had a smile fainter than her sighs. She was very brave, but
her smile did not go beyond her lips. Not a feature of her face moved.
I could have opened my veins for her without hesitation, if it had not
been a forbidden sacrifice.

Would they go? I asked myself. Through Castro's heroism or through his
weakness, perhaps through both the heroism and the weakness of that man,
they must be satisfied. They must be. I could not doubt it; I could not
believe it. Everything seemed improbable; everything seemed possible. If
they descended I would, I thought, have the strength to carry her off,
away into the darkness. If there was any truth in what I had overheard
them saying, that the depths of the cavern concealed an abyss, we would
cast ourselves into it.

The feeble, consenting pressure of her hand horrified me. They would
not come down. They were afraid of that place, I whispered to her--and
I thought to myself that such cowardice was incredible. Our fate was
sealed. And yet from what I had heard....

We watched the daylight growing in the opening; at any moment it might
have been obscured by their figures. The tormenting incertitudes of that
hour were cruel enough to overcome, almost, the sensations of thirst,
of hunger, to engender a restlessness that had the effect of renewed
vigour. They were like a nightmare; but that nightmare seemed to clear
my mind of its feverish hallucinations. I was more collected, then, than
I had been for the last forty-eight hours of our imprisonment. But I
could not remain there, waiting. It was absolutely necessary that I
should watch at the entrance for the moment of their departure.

The morning was serenely cool and, in its stillness, their talk filled
with clear-cut words the calm air of the ravine. A party--I could not
tell how many--had already come up from the schooner in a great state
of excitement. They feared that their presence had, in some way, become
known to the peons of the _hacienda_. There was much abuse of a man
called Carneiro, who, the day before, had fired an incautious shot at
a fat cow on one of the inland _savannas_. They cursed him. Last
night, before the moon rose, those on board the schooner had heard the
whinnying of a horse. Somebody had ridden down to the water's edge in
the darkness and, after waiting a while, had galloped back the way he
came. The prints of hoofs on the beach showed that.

They feared these horsemen greatly. A vengeance was owing for the man
Manuel had killed; and I could guess they talked with their faces over
their shoulders. "And what about finding out whether the _Inglez_ was
there, dead or alive?" asked some.

I was sure, now, that they would not come down in a body. It would
expose them to the danger of being caught in the cavern by the peons.
There was no time for a thorough search, they argued.

For the first time that morning I heard Manuel's voice, "Stand aside."

He came down to the very brink.

"If the _Inglez_ is down there, and if he is alive, he is listening to
us now."

He was as certain as though he had been able to see me. He added:

"But there's no one."

"Go and look, Manuel," they cried.

He said something in a tone of contempt. The Voices above my head sank
into busy murmurs.

"Give me the rope here," he said aloud.

I had a feeling of some inconceivable danger nearing me; and in my state
of weakness I began to tremble, backing away from the orifice. I had no
strength in my limbs. I had no weapons. How could I fight? I would
use my teeth. With a light knocking against the rock above the arch,
Williams' flask, tied by its green cord to the end of a thick rope,
descended slowly, and hung motionless before the entrance.

It had been freshly filled with water; it was dripping wet outside, and
the silver top, struck by the sunbeams, dazzled my eyes.

This was the danger--this bait. And it seems to me that if I had had
the slightest inkling of what was coming, I should have rushed at it
instantly. But it took me some time to understand--to take in the idea
that this was water, there, within reach of my hand. With a great effort
I resisted the madness that incited me to hurl myself upon the flask. I
hung back with all my power. A convulsive spasm contracted my throat. I
turned about and fled out of the passage.

I ran to Seraphina. "Put out your hand to me," I panted in the darkness.
"I need your help."

I felt it resting lightly on my bowed head. She did not even ask me what
I meant; as if the greatness of her soul was omniscient. There was, in
that silence, a supreme unselfishness, the unquestioning devotion of a
woman.

"Patience, patience," I kept on muttering. I was losing confidence in
myself. If only I had been free to dash my head against the rock. I had
the courage for that, yet. But this was a situation from which there was
no issue in death.

"We are saved," I murmured distractedly.

"Patience," she breathed out. Her hand slipped languidly off my head.

And I began to creep away from her side. I am here to tell the truth. I
began to creep away towards the flask. I did not confess this to myself;
but I know now. There was a devilish power in it. I have learned
the nature of feelings in a man whom Satan beguiles into selling his
soul--the horror of an irresistible and fatal longing for a supreme
felicity. And in a drink of water for me, then, there was a greater
promise than in universal knowledge, in unbounded power, in unlimited
wealth, in imperishable youth. What could have been these seductions to
a drink? No soul had thirsted after things unlawful as my parched throat
thirsted for water. No devil had ever tempted a man with such a bribe of
perdition.

I suffered from the lucidity of my feelings. I saw, with indignation, my
own wretched self being angled for like a fish. And with all that, in
my forlorn state, I remained prudent. I did not rush out blindly. No. I
approached the inner end of the passage, as though I had been stalking
a wild creature, slowly, from the side. I crept along the wall of
the cavern, and protruded my head far enough to look at the fiendish
temptation.

There it was, a small dark object suspended in the light, with the
yellow rock across the ravine for a background. The silver top shivered
the sunbeams brilliantly. I had half hopes they had taken it away by
this time. When I drew my head back I lost sight of it, but all my being
went out to it with an almost pitiful longing. I remembered Castro for
the first time in many hours. Was I nothing better than Castro? He had
been angled for with salted meat. I shuddered. A darkness fell into
the passage. I put down my uplifted foot without advancing. The
unexpectedness of that shadow saved me, I believe. Manuel had descended
the cornice.

He was alone. Standing before the outer opening, he darkened the
passage, through which his talk to the people above came loudly into
my ears. They could see now if he were not a worthy _Capataz_. If the
_Inglez_ was in there he was a corpse. And yet, of these living hearts
above, of these _valientes_ of Rio Medio, there was not one who would go
alone to look upon a dead body. He had contrived an infallible test, and
yet they would not believe him. Well, his valiance should prove it; his
valiance, afraid neither of light nor of darkness.

I could not hear the answers he got from up there; but the vague sounds
that reached me carried the usual commingling of derision and applause,
the resentment of their jeers at the admiration he knew how to extort by
the display of his talents.

They must kill the cattle, these _caballeros_. He scolded ironically. Of
course. They must feed on meat like lions; but their souls were like the
souls of hens born on dunghills. And behold! there was he, Manuel, not
afraid of shadows.

He was coming in, there could be no doubt. Out there in the full light,
he could not possibly have detected that rapid appearance of my head
darted forward and withdrawn at once; but I had a view of his arm
putting aside the swinging flask, of his leg raised to step over the
high sill. I saw him, and I ran noiselessly away from the opening.

I had the time to charge Seraphina not to move, on our lives--on the
wretched remnant of our lives--when his black shape stood in the frame
of the opening, edged with a thread of light following the contour of
his hat, of his shoulders, of his whole body down to his feet--whence a
long shadow fell upon the pool of twilight on the floor.

What had made him come down? Vanity? The exacting demands of his
leadership? Fear of O'Brien? The _Juez_ would expect to hear something
definite, and his band pretended not to believe in the stratagem of the
bottle. I think that, for his part, from his knowledge of human nature,
he never doubted its efficacy. He could not guess how very little, only,
he was wrong. How very little! And yet he seemed rooted in incertitude
on the threshold. His head turned from side to side. I could not make
out his face as he stood, but the slightest of his movements did not
escape me. He stepped aside, letting in all the fullness of the light.

Would he have the courage to explore at least the immediate
neighbourhood of the opening? Who could tell his complex motives? Who
could tell his purpose or his fears? He had killed a man in there once.
But, then, he had not been alone. If he were only showing off before
his unruly band, he need not stir a step further. He did not advance.
He leaned his shoulders against the rock just clear of the opening. One
half of him was lighted plainly; his long profile, part of his raven
locks, one listless hand, his crossed legs, the buckle of one shoe.

"Nobody," he pronounced slowly, in a dead whisper.

While I looked at him, the profound _politico_, the artist, the
everlastingly questioned _Capataz_, the man of talent and ability, he
thought himself alone, and allowed his head to drop on his breast, as if
saddened by the vanity of human ambition. Then, lifting it with a jerk,
he listened with one ear turned to the passage; afterwards he peered
into the cavern. Two long strides, over the cold heap of ashes, brought
him to the stone seat.

It was very plain to me from his starting movements and attitudes, that
he shared his uneasy attention between the inside and the outside of the
cave. He sat down, but seemed ready to jump up; and I saw him turn his
eyes upwards to the dark vault, as if on the alert for a noise from
above. I am inclined to think he was expecting to hear the galloping
hoofs of the peons' horses every moment. I think he did. The words "I
am safer here than they above," were perfectly audible to me in the
mumbling he kept up nervously. He wished to hear the sound of his own
voice, as a timid person whistles and talks on a lonely road at
night. Only the year before he had killed a man in that cavern, under
circumstances that were, I believe, revolting even to the honour of
these bandits. He sat there between the shadow of his murder and the
reality of the vengeance. I asked myself what could be the outcome of a
struggle with him. He was armed; he was not weakened by hunger; but he
stood between us and the water. My thirst would give me strength; the
desire to end Seraphina's sufferings would make me invincible. On the
other hand, it was dangerous to interfere. I could not tell whether they
would not try to find out what became of him. It was safest to let him
go. It was extremely improbable that they would sail without him.

I am not conscious of having stirred a limb; neither had Seraphina
moved, I am ready to swear; but plainly something, some sort of sound,
startled him. He bounded out of his seated immobility, and in one leap
had his shoulders against the rock standing at bay before the darkness,
with his knife in his hand. I wonder he did not surprise me into an
exclamation. I was as startled as himself. His teeth and the whites of
his eyes gleamed straight at me from afar; he hissed with fear; for an
instant I was firmly convinced he had seen me. All this took place so
quickly that I had no time to make one movement towards receiving his
attack, when I saw him make a great sign of the cross in the air with
the point of his dagger.

He sheathed it slowly, and sidled along the few feet to the entrance,
his shoulders rubbing the wall. He blocked out the light, and in a
moment had backed out of sight.

Before he got to the further end I was already, at the inner, creeping
after him. I had started at once, as if his disappearance had removed a
spell, as though he had drawn me after him by an invisible bond. Raising
myself on my forearms I saw him, from his knees up, standing outside the
sill, with his back to the precipice and his face turned up.

"There is nobody in there," he shouted.

I sank down and wriggled forward on my stomach, raising myself on my
elbows, now and then, to look. Manuel was looking upwards conversing
with the people above, and holding Williams' flask in both his hands. He
never once glanced into the passage; he seemed to be trying to undo the
cord knotted to the end of the thick rope, which hung in a long bight
before him. The flask captured my eyes, my thought, my energy. I would
tear it away from him directly. There was in me, then, neither fear nor
intelligence; only the desire of possessing myself of the thing; but an
instinctive caution prevented my rushing out violently. I proceeded with
an animal-like stealthiness, with which cool reason had nothing to do.

He had some difficulty with the knot, and evidently did not wish to cut
the green silk cord. How well I remember his fumbling fingers. He sat
down sideways on the sill, with his legs outside, of course, his face
and hands turned to the light, very absorbed in his endeavour. They
shouted to him from above.

"I come at once," he cried to them, without lifting his head.

I had crept up almost near enough to grab the flask. It never occurred
to me that by flinging myself on him, I could have pushed him off
the sill. My only idea was to get hold. He did not exist for me. The
leather-covered bottle was the only real thing in the world. I was
completely insane. I heard a faint detonation, and Manuel got up quickly
from the sill. The flask was out of my reach.

There were more popping sounds of shots fired, away on the plain. The
peons were attacking an outpost of the _Lugareños_. A deep voice cried,
"They are driving them in." Then several together yelled:

"Come away, Manuel. Come away. _Por Dios...._"

Stretched at full length in the passage, and sustaining myself on my
trembling arms, I gazed up at him. He stood very rigid, holding the
flask in both hands. Several muskets were discharged together just
above, and in the noise of the reports I remember a voice crying
urgently over the edge, "Manuel! Manuel!" The shadow of irresolution
passed over his features. He hesitated whether to run up the ledge or
bolt into the cave. He shouted something. He was not answered, but the
yelling and the firing ceased suddenly, as if the _Lugareños_ had given
up and taken to their heels. I became aware of a sort of increasing
throbbing sound that seemed to come from behind me, out of the cave;
then, as Manuel lifted his foot hastily to step over the sill, I jumped
up deliriously, and with outstretched hands lurched forward at the flask
in his fingers.

I believe I laughed at him in an imbecile manner.

Somebody laughed; and I remember the superior smile on his face passing
into a ghastly grin, that disappeared slowly, while his astonished eyes,
glaring at that gaunt and dishevelled apparition rising before him in
the dusk of the passage, seemed to grow to an enormous size. He drew
back his foot, as though it had been burnt; and in a panic-stricken
impulse, he flung the flask straight into my face, and staggered away
from the sill.

I made a catch at it with a scream of triumph, whose unearthly sound
brought me back to my senses.

"In the name of God, retire," he cried, as though I had been an
apparition from another world.

What took place afterwards happened with an inconceivable rapidity, in
less time than it takes to draw breath. He never recognized me. I saw
his glare of incredulous awe change, suddenly, to horror and despair. He
had felt himself losing his balance.

He had stepped too far back. He tried to recover himself, but it was too
late. He hung for a moment in his backward fall; his arms beat the air,
his body curled upon itself with an awful striving. All at once he
went limp all over, and, with the sunlight full upon his upturned face,
vanished downwards from my sight.

But at the last moment he managed to clutch the bight of the hanging
rope. The end of it must have been lying quite loose on the ground
above, for I saw its whole length go whizzing after him, in the
twinkling of an eye. I pressed the flask fiercely to my breast, raging
with the thought that he could yet tear it out of my hands; but by the
time the strain came, his falling body had acquired such a velocity that
I didn't feel the slightest jerk when the green cord snapped--no more
than if it had been the thread of a cobweb.

I confess that tears, tears of gratitude, were running down my face. My
limbs trembled. But I was sane enough not to think of myself any more.

"Drink! Drink," I stammered, raising Seraphina's head on my shoulder,
while the galloping horses of the peons in hot pursuit passed with a
thundering rumble above us. Then all was still.

Our getting out of the cave was a matter of unremitting toil, through
what might have been a year of time; the recollection is of an arduous
undertaking, accomplished without the usual incentives of men's
activity. Necessity, alone, remained; the iron necessity without the
glamour of freedom of choice, of pride.

Our unsteady feet crushed, at last, the black embers of the fires
scattered by the hoofs of horses; and the plain appeared immense to our
weakness, swept of shadows by the high sun, lonely and desolate as
the sea. We looked at the litter of the _Lugareños' _camp, rags on the
trodden grass, a couple of abandoned blankets, a musket thrown away in
the panic, a dirty red sash lying on a heap of sticks, a wooden
bucket from the schooner, smashed water-gourds. One of them remained
miraculously poised on its round bottom and full to the brim, while
everything else seemed to have been overturned, torn, scattered
haphazard by a furious gust of wind. A scaffolding of poles, for drying
strips of meat, had been knocked over; I found nothing there except bits
of hairy hide; but lumps of scorched flesh adhered to the white bones
scattered amongst the ashes of the camp--and I thanked God for them.

We averted our eyes from our faces in very love, and we did not speak
from pity for each other. There was no joy in our escape, no relief,
no sense of freedom. The _Lugareños_ and the peons, the pursued and the
pursuers, had disappeared from the upland without leaving as much as a
corpse in view. There were no moving things on the earth, no bird
soared in the pellucid air, not even a moving cloud on the sky. The
sun declined, and the rolling expanse of the plain frightened us, as if
space had been something alive and hostile.

We walked away from that spot, as if our feet had been shod in lead; and
we hugged the edge of the cruel ravine, as one keeps by the side of
a friend. We must have been grotesque, pathetic, and lonely; like two
people newly arisen from a tomb, shrinking before the strangeness of
the half-forgotten face of the world. And at the head of the ravine we
stopped.

The sensation of light, vastness, and solitude, rolled upon our souls
emerging from the darkness, overwhelmingly, like a wave of the sea. We
might have been an only couple sent back from the underworld to begin
another cycle of pain on a depopulated earth. It had not for us even the
fitful caress of a breeze; and the only sound of greeting was the angry
babble of the brook dashing down the stony slope at our feet.

We knelt over it to drink deeply and bathe our faces. Then looking about
helplessly, I discovered afar the belt of the sea inclosed between the
undulating lines of the dunes and the straight edge of the horizon. I
pointed my arm at the white sails of the schooner creeping from under
the land, and Seraphina, resting her head on my shoulder, shuddered.

"Let us go away from here."

Our necessity pointed down the slope. We could not think of another way,
and the extent of the plain with its boundary of forests filled us with
the dread of things unknown. But, by getting down to the inlet of the
sea, and following the bank of the little river, we were sure to reach
the _hacienda_, if only a hope could buoy our sinking hearts long
enough.

From our first step downwards the hard, rattling noise of the stones
accompanied our descent, growing in volume, bewildering our minds. We
had missed the indistinct beginning of the trail on the side of the
ravine, and had to follow the course of the stream. A growth of wiry
bushes sprang thickly between the large fragments of fallen rocks. On
our right the shadows were beginning to steal into the chasm. Towering
on our left the great stratified wall caught at the top of the glow of
the low sun in a rich, tawny tint, right under the dark blue strip of
sky, that seemed to reflect the gloom of the ravine, the sepulchral arid
gloom of deep shadows and gray rocks, through which the shallow torrent
dashed violently with glassy gleams between the sombre masses of
vegetation.

We pushed on through the bunches of tough twigs; the massive boulders
closed the view on every side; and Seraphina followed me with her hands
on my shoulders. This was the best way in which I could help her descent
till the declivity became less steep; and then I went ahead, forcing a
path for her. Often we had to walk into the bed of the stream. It was
icy cold. Some strange beast, perhaps a bird, invisible somewhere,
emitted from time to time a faint and lamentable shriek. It was a wild
scene, and the orifice of the cave appeared as an inaccessible black
hole some ninety feet above our heads.

Then, as I stepped round a large fragment of rock, my eyes fell on
Manuel's body.

Seraphina was behind me. With a wave of my hand I arrested her. It had
not occurred to me before that, following the bottom of the ravine, we
must come upon the two bodies. Castro's was lower down, of course. I
would have spared her the sight, but there was no retracing our steps.
We had no strength and no time. Manuel was lying on his back with his
hands under him, and his feet nearly in the brook.

The lower portion of the rope made a heap of cordage on the ground near
him, but a great length of it hung perpendicularly above his head. The
loose end he had snatched over the edge of his fall had whipped itself
tight round the stem of a dwarf tree growing in a crevice high up the
rock; and as he fell below, the jerk must have checked his descent, and
had prevented him from alighting on his head. There was not a sign of
blood anywhere upon him or on the stones. His eyes were shut. He might
have lain down to sleep there, in our way; only from the slightly
unnatural twist in the position of his arms and legs, I saw, at a
glance, that all his limbs were broken.

On the other side of the boulder Seraphina called to me, and I could not
answer her, so great was the shock I received in seeing the flutter of
his slowly opening eyelids.

He still lived, then! He looked at me! It was an awful discovery to
make, and the contrast of his anxious and feverish stare with the
collapsed posture of his body was full of intolerable suggestions of
fate blundering unlawfully, of death itself being conquered by pain. I
looked away only to perceive something pitiless, belittling, and cruel
in the precipitous immobility of the sheer walls, in the dark funereal
green of the foliage, in the falling shadows, in the remoteness of the
sky.

The unconsciousness of matter hinted at a weird and mysterious
antagonism. All the inanimate things seemed to have conspired to throw
in our way this man just enough alive to feel pain. The faint and
lamentable sounds we had heard must have come from him. He was looking
at me. It was impossible to say whether he saw anything at all. He
barred our road with his remnant of life; but, when suddenly he spoke,
my heart stood still for a moment in my motionless body.

"You, too!" he droned awfully. "Behold! I have been precipitated, alive,
into this hell by another ghost. Nothing else could have overcome the
greatness of my spirit."

His red shirt was torn open at the throat. His bared breast began to
heave. He cried out with pain. Ready to fly from him myself, I shouted
to Seraphina to keep away.

But it was too late. Imagining I had seen some new danger in our path,
she had advanced to stand by my side.

"He is dying," I muttered in distraction. "We can do nothing."

But could we pass him by before he died? "This is terrible," said
Seraphina.

My real hope had been that, after driving the _Lugareños_ away, the
peons would off-saddle near the little river to rest themselves and
their horses. This is why I had almost pitilessly hurried Seraphina,
after we had left the cave, down the steep but short descent of the
ravine. I had kept to myself my despairing conviction that we could
never reach the _hacienda_ unaided, even if we had known the way. I
had pretended confidence in ourselves, but all my trust was in the
assistance I expected to get from these men. I understood so well the
slenderness of that hope that I had not dared to mention it to her and
to propose she should wait for me on the upland, while I went down
by myself on that quest. I could not bear the fear of returning
unsuccessful only to find her dead. That is, if I had the strength to
return after such a disappointment.

And the idea of her, waiting for me in vain, then wandering off, perhaps
to fall under a bush and die alone, was too appalling to contemplate.
That we must keep together, at all costs, was like a point of honour,
like an article of faith with us--confirmed by what we had gone through
already. It was like a law of existence, like a creed, like a defence
which, once broken, would let despair upon our heads. I am sure she
would not have consented to even a temporary separation. She had a sort
of superstitious feeling that, should we be forced apart, even to
the manifest saving of our lives, we would lay ourselves open to some
calamity worse than mere death could be.

I loved her enough to share that feeling, but with the addition of a
man's half-unconscious selfishness. I needed her indomitable frailness
to prop my grosser strength. I needed that something not wholly of this
world, which women's more exalted nature infuses into their passions,
into their sorrows, into their joys; as if their adventurous souls had
the power to range beyond the orbit of the earth for the gathering of
their love, their hate--and their charity.

"He calls for death," she said, shrinking with horror and pity before
the mutters of the miserable man at our feet. Every moment of daylight
was of the utmost importance, if we were to save our freedom, our
happiness, our very lives; and we remained rooted to the spot. For it
seemed as though, at last, he had attained the end of his enterprise. He
had captured us, as if by a very cruel stratagem.

A drowsiness would come at times over those big open eyes, like a film
through which a blazing glance would break out now and then. He had
recognized us perfectly; but, for the most part, we seemed to him to be
the haunting ghosts of his inferno.

"You came from heaven," he raved feebly, rolling his straining eyes
towards Seraphina. His internal injuries must have been frightful.
Perhaps he dared not shift his head--the only movement that was in his
power. "I reached up to the very angels in the inspiration of my song,"
he droned, "and would be called a demon on earth. _Manuel el Demonio_.
And now precipitated alive.... Nothing less. There is a greatness in me.
Let some dew fall upon my lips."

He moaned from the very bottom of his heart. His teeth chattered.

"The blessed may not know anything of the cold and thirst of this place.
A drop of dew--as on earth you used to throw alms to the poor from your
coach--for the love of God."

She sank on the stones nearer to him than I would willingly have done,
brave as a woman, only, can be before the atrocious depths of human
misery. I leaned my shoulders against the boulder and crossed my arms on
my breast, as if giving up an unequal struggle. Her hair was loose, her
dress stained with ashes, torn by brambles; the darkness of the cavern
seemed to linger in her hollow cheeks, in her sunken temples.

"He is thirsty," she murmured to me.

"Yes," I said.

She tore off a strip of her dress, dipped it in the running water at her
side, and approached it, all dripping, to his lips which closed upon
it with avidity. The walls of the rock looked on implacably, but the
rushing stream seemed to hurry away, as if from an accursed spot.

"Dew from heaven," he sighed out.

"You are on earth, Manuel," she said. "You are given time to repent.
This is earth."

"Impossible," he muttered with difficulty.

He had forced his human fellowship upon us, this man whose ambition it
had been to be called demon on the earth. He held us by the humanity of
his broken frame, by his human glance, by his human voice. I wonder if,
had I been alone, I would have passed on as reason dictated, or have had
the courage of pity and finished him off, as he demanded. Whenever he
became aware of our presence, he addressed me as "Thou, English ghost,"
and directed me, in a commanding voice, to take a stone and crush his
head, before I went back to my own torments. I withdrew, at last,
where he could not see me; but Seraphina never flinched in her task of
moistening his lips with the strip of cloth she dipped in the brook,
time after time, with a sublime perseverance of compassion.

It made me silent. Could I have stood there and recited the sinister
detail of that man's crimes, in the hope that she would recoil from him
to pursue the road of safety? It was not his evil, but his suffering
that confronted us now. The sense of our kinship emerged out of it like
a fresh horror after we had escaped the sea, the tempest; after we had
resisted untold fatigues, hunger, thirst, despair. We were vanquished by
what was in us, not in him. I could say nothing. The light ebbed out of
the ravine. The sky, like a thin blue veil stretched between the earth
and the spaces of the universe, filtered the gloom of the darkness
beyond.

I thought of the invisible sun ready to set into the sea, of the peons
riding away, and of our helpless, hopeless state.

"For the love of God," he mumbled.

"Yes, for the love of God," I heard her expressionless voice repeat. And
then there was only the greedy sound of his lips sucking at the cloth,
and the impatient ripple of the stream.

"Come, death," he sighed.

Yes, come, I thought, to release him and to set us free. All my prayer,
now, was that we should be granted the strength to struggle from under
the malignant frown of these crags, to close our eyes forever in the
open.

And the truth is that, had we gone on, we should have found no one by
the sea. The routed _Lugareños_ had been able to embark under cover of a
fusillade from those on board the schooner. All that would have met our
despair, at the end of our toilsome march, would have been three dead
pirates lying on the sand. The main body of the peons had gone, already,
up the valley of the river with their few wounded. There would have been
nothing for us to do but to stumble on and on upon their track, till we
lay down never to rise again. They did not draw rein once, between the
sea and the _hacienda_, sixteen miles away.

About the time when we began our descent into the ravine, two of the
peons, detached from the main body for the purpose of observing the
schooner from the upland, had topped the edge of the plain. We had then
penetrated into Manuel's inferno, too deep to be seen by them. These
men spent some time lying on the grass, and watching over the dunes the
course of the schooner on the open sea. Their horses were grazing near
them. The wind was light; they waited to see the vessel far enough down
the coast to make any intention of return improbable.

It was Manuel who saved our lives, defeating his own aim to the bitter
end. Had not his vanity, policy, or the necessity of his artistic soul,
induced him to enter the cave; had not his cowardice prevented him
joining the _Lugareños_ above, at the moment of the attack; had he not
recoiled violently in a superstitious fear before my apparition at the
mouth of the cave--we should have been released from our entombment,
only to look once more at the sun. He paid the price of our ransom, to
the uttermost farthing, in his lingering death. Had he killed himself on
the spot, he would have taken our only slender chance with him into
that nether world where he imagined himself to have been "precipitated
alive." Finding him dead, we should have gone on. Less than ten minutes,
no more than another ten paces beyond the spot, we should have been
hidden from sight in the thickets of denser growth in the lower part
of the ravine. I doubt whether we should have been able to get through;
but, even so, we should have been going away from the only help within
our reach. We should have been lost.

The two _vaqueros_, after seeing the schooner hull down under the low,
fiery sun of the west, mounted and rode home over the plain, making for
the head of the ravine, as their way lay. And, as they cantered along
the side opposite to the cave, one of them caught sight of the length of
rope dangling down the precipice. They pulled up at once.

The first I knew of their nearness was the snorting of a horse forced
towards the edge of the chasm. I saw the animal's forelegs planted
tensely on the very brink, and the body of the rider leaning over his
neck to look down. And, when I wished to shout, I found I could not
produce the slightest sound.

The man, rising in his stirrups, the reins in one hand and turning up
the brim of his sombrero with the other, peered down at us over the
pricked ears of his horse. I pointed over my head at the mouth of
the cave, then down at Seraphina, lifting my hands to show that I was
unarmed. I opened my lips wide. Surprise, agitation, weakness, had
robbed me of every vestige of my voice. I beckoned downwards with a
desperate energy, Horse and rider remained perfectly still, like an
equestrian statue set up on the edge of a precipice. Sera-phina had
never raised her head.

The man's intent scrutiny could not have mistaken me for a _Lugareno_.
I think he gazed so long because he was amazed to discover down there a
woman on her knees, stooping over a prostrate body, and a bareheaded man
in a ragged white shirt and black breeches, reeling between the bushes
and gesticulating violently, like an excited mute. But how a rope came
to hang down from a tree, growing in a position so inaccessible
that only a bird could have attached it there struck him as the most
mysterious thing of all. He pointed his finger at it interrogatively,
and I answered this inquiring sign by indicating the stony slope of the
ravine. It seemed as if he could not speak for wonder. After a while
he sat back in his saddle, gave me an encouraging wave of the hand, and
wheeled his horse away from the brink.

It was as if we had been casting a spell of extinction on each other's
voices. No sooner had he disappeared than I found mine. I do not suppose
it was very loud but, at my aimless screech, Seraphina looked upwards
on every side, saw no one anywhere, and remained on her knees with her
eyes, full of apprehension, fixed upon me.

"No! I am not mad, dearest," I said. "There was a man. He has seen us."

"Oh, Juan!" she faltered out, "pray with me that God may have mercy on
this poor wretch and let him die."

I said nothing. My thin, quavering scream after the peon had awakened
Manuel from his delirious dream of an inferno. The voice that issued
from his shattered body was awfully measured, hollow, and profound.

"You live!" he uttered slowly, turning his eyes full upon my face, and,
as if perceiving for the first time in me the appearance of a living
man. "Ha! You English walk the earth unscathed."

A feeling of pity came to me--a pity distinct from the harrowing
sensations of his miserable end. He had been evil in the obscurity of
his life, as there are plants growing harmful and deadly in the shade,
drawing poison from the dank soil on which they flourish. He was as
unconscious of his evil as they--but he had a man's right to my pity.

"I am b--roken," he stammered out.

Seraphina kept on moistening his lips.

"Repent, Manuel," she entreated fervently. "We have forgiven thee the
evil done to us. Repent of thy crimes--poor man."

"Your voice, Señorita. What? You! You yourself bringing this blessing
to my lips! In your childhood I cried '_viva_' many times before your
coach. And now you deign--in your voice--with your hand. Ha! I could
improvise--The star stoops to the crushed worm...."

A rising clatter of rolling stones mingled from afar with the broken
moanings of his voice. Looking over my shoulder, I saw one peon
beginning the descent of the slope, and, higher up, motionless between
the heads of two horses, the head of another man--with the purple tint
of an enlarged sky beyond, reflecting the glow of an invisible sun
setting into the sea.

Manuel cried out piercingly, and we shuddered. Seraphina shrank close to
my side, hiding her head on my breast. The peon staggered awkwardly
down the slope, descending sideways in small steps, embarrassed by
the enormous rowels of his spurs. He had a striped _serape_ over his
shoulder, and grasped a broad-bladed _machete_ in his right hand. His
stumbling, cautious feet sent into the ravine a crashing sound, as
though we were to be buried under a stream of stones.

"_Vuestra Señoria_" gasped Manuel. "I shall be silent. Pity me! Do
not--do not withdraw your hand from my extreme pain."

I felt she had to summon all her courage to look at him again. She
disengaged herself, resolutely, from my enfolding arms.

"No, no; unfortunate man," she said, in a benumbed voice. "Think of thy
end."

"A crushed worm, senorita," he mumbled.

The peon, having reached the bottom of the slope, became lost to view
amongst the bushes and the great fragments of rocks below. Every sound
in the ravine was hushed; and the darkening sky seemed to cast the
shadow of an everlasting night into the eyes of the dying man.

Then the peon came out, pushing through, in a great swish of parted
bushes. His spurs jingled at every step, his footfalls crunched heavily
on the pebbles. He stopped, as if transfixed, muttering his astonishment
to himself, but asking no questions. He was a young man with a thin
black moustache twisted gallantly to two little points. He looked up at
the sheer wall of the precipice; he looked down at the group we formed
at his feet. Suddenly, as if returning from an abyss of pain, Manuel
declared distinctly:

"I feel in me a greatness, an inspiration...."

These were his last words. The heavy dark lashes descended slowly upon
the faint gleam of the eyeballs, like a lowered curtain. The deep folds
of the ravine gathered the falling dusk into great pools of absolute
blackness, at the foot of the crags.

Rising high above our littleness, that watched, fascinated, the struggle
of lights and shadows over the soul entangled in the wreck of a man's
body, the rocks had a monumental indifference. And between their great,
stony faces, turning pale in the gloom, with the amazed peon as
if standing guard, _machete_ in hand, Manuel's greatness and his
inspiration passed away without as much as an exhaled sigh. I did not
even know that he had ceased to breathe, till Seraphina rose from her
knees with a low cry, and flung far away from her, nervously, the strip
of cloth upon which his parted lips had refused to close.

My arms were ready to receive her. "Ah! At last!" she cried. There was
something resentful and fierce in that cry, as though the pity of her
woman's heart had been put to too cruel a test.

I, too, had been humane to that man. I had had his life on the end of
my pistol, and had spared him from an impulse that had done nothing but
withhold from him the mercy of a speedy death. This had been my pity.

But it was Seraphina's cry--this "At last," showing the stress and pain
of the ordeal--that shook my faith in my conduct. It had brought upon
our heads a retribution of mental and bodily anguish, like a criminal
weakness. I was young, and my belief in the justice of life had received
a shock. If it were impossible to foretell the consequences of our acts,
if there were no safety in the motives within ourselves, what remained
for our guidance?

And the inscrutable immobility of towering forms, steeped in the shadows
of the chasm, appeared pregnant with a dreadful wisdom. It seemed to me
that I would never have the courage to lift my hand, open my lips,
make a step, obey a thought. A long sun-ray shot to the zenith from the
beclouded west, crossing obliquely in a faint red bar the purple band of
sky above the ravine.

The young _vaquero_ had taken off his hat before the might of death, and
made a perfunctory sign of the cross. He looked up and down the lofty
wall, as if it could give him the word of that riddle. Twice his spurs
clashed softly, and, with one hand grasping the rope, he stooped low in
the twilight over the body.

"We looked for this _Lugareño_," he said, replacing his hat on his head
carelessly. "He was a mad singer, and I saw him once kill one of us very
swiftly. They used to call him in jest, _El Demonio_. Ah! But you...
But you...."

His wonder overcame him. His bewildered eyes glimmered, staring at us in
the deepening dusk.

"Speak, _hombre_," he cried. "Who are you and who is she? Whence came
you? Where are you going with this woman?..."



CHAPTER ELEVEN

Not a soul stirred in the one long street of the negro village. The
yellow crescent of the diminished moon swam low in the pearly light
of the dawn; and the bamboo walls of huts, thatched with palm leaves,
glistened here and there through the great leaves of bananas. All that
night we had been moving on and on, slowly crossing clear _savannas_,
in which nothing stirred beside ourselves but the escort of our own
shadows, or plunging through dense patches of forest of an obscurity
so impenetrable that the very forms of our rescuers became lost to us,
though we heard their low voices and felt their hands steadying us in
our saddles. Then our horses paced softly on the dust of a road, while
athwart an avenue of orange trees whose foliage seemed as black as coal,
the blind walls of the _hacienda_ shone dead white like a vision of
mists. A Brazilian aloe flowered by the side of the gate; we drooped in
our saddles; and the heavy knocks against the wooden portal seemed to
go on without cause, and stop without reason, like a sound heard in
a dream. We entered Seraphina's _hacienda_. The high walls inclosed a
square court deep as the yard of a prison, with flat-roofed buildings
all around. It rang with many voices suddenly. Every moment the daylight
increased; young négresses in loose gowns ran here and there, cackling
like chased hens, and a fat woman waddled out from under the shadow of a
veranda.

She was Seraphina's old nurse. She was scolding volubly, and suddenly
she shrieked, as though she had been stabbed. Then all was still for a
long time. Sitting high on the back of my patient mount, with my fingers
twisted in the mane, I saw in a throng of woolly heads and bright
garments Seraphina's pale face. An increasing murmur of sobs and
endearing names mounted up to me. Her hair hung down, her eyes seemed
immense; these people were carrying her off--and a man with a careworn,
bilious face and a straight, gray beard, neatly clipped on the edges,
stood at the head of my horse, blinking with astonishment.

The fat woman reappeared, rolling painfully along the veranda.

"Enrico! It is her lover! Oh! my treasure, my lamb, my precious child.
Do you hear, Enrico? Her lover! Oh! the poor darling of my heart."

She appeared to be giggling and weeping at the same time. The sky above
the yard brightened all at once, as if the sun had emerged with a leap
from the distant waters of the Atlantic. She waved her short arms at
me over the railing, then plunged her dark fingers in the shock
of iron-gray hair gathered on the top of her head. She turned away
abruptly, a yellow head-kerchief dodged in her way, a slap resounded, a
cry of pain, and a negro girl bolted into the court, nursing her cheek
in the palms of her hands. Doors slammed; other negro girls ran out of
the veranda dismayed, and took cover in various directions.

I swayed to and fro in the saddle, but faithful to the plan of our
escape, I tried to make clear my desire that these peons should be sworn
to secrecy immediately. Meantime, somebody was trying to disengage my
feet from the stirrups.

"Certainly. It is as your worship wishes."

The careworn man at the head of my horse was utterly in the dark.

"Attention!" he shouted. "Catch hold, _hombres_. Carry the _caballero_."

What _caballero?_ A rosy flush tinged a boundless expanse above my face,
and then came a sudden contraction of space and dusk. There were big
earthen' ware jars ranged in a row on the floor, and the two _vaqueros_
stood bareheaded, stretching their arms over me towards a black crucifix
on a wall, taking their oaths, while I rested on my back. A white beard
hovered about my face, a voice said, "It is done," then called anxiously
twice, "Señor! Señor!" and when I had escaped from the dream of a
cavern, I found myself with my head pillowed on a fat woman's breast,
and drinking chicken broth out of a basin held to my lips. Her large
cheeks quivered, she had black twinkling eyes and slight moustaches at
the corners of her lips. But where was her white beard? And why did she
talk of an angel, as if she were Manuel?

"Seraphina!" I cried, but Castro's cloak swooped on my head like a sable
wing. It was death. I struggled. Then I died. It was delicious to die.
I followed the floating shape of my love beyond the worlds of the
universe. We soared together above pain, strife, cruelty, and pity.
We had left death behind us and everything of life but our love,
which threw a radiant halo around two flames which were ourselves--and
immortality inclosed us in a great and soothing darkness.

Nothing stirred in it. We drifted no longer. We hung in it quite
still--and the empty husk of my body watched our two flames side by
side, mingling their light in an infinite loneliness. There were two
candles burning low on a little black table near my head. Enrico, with
his white beard and zealous eyes, was bending over my couch, while a
chair, on high runners, rocked empty behind him. I stared.

"Señor, the night is far advanced," he said soothingly, "and Dolores, my
wife, watches over Dona Seraphina's slumbers, on the other side of this
wall."

I had been dead to the world for nearly twenty hours, and the awakening
resembled a new birth, for I felt as weak and helpless as an infant.

It is extraordinary how quickly we regained so much of our strength; but
I suppose people recover sooner from the effects of privation than from
the weakness of disease. Keeping pace with the return of our bodily
vigour, the anxieties of mind returned, augmented tenfold by all the
weight of our sinister experience. And yet, what worse could happen to
us in the future? What other terror could it hold? We had come back from
the very confines of destruction. But Seraphina, reclining back in an
armchair, very still, with her eyes fixed on the high white wall facing
the veranda across the court, would murmur the word "Separation!"

The possibility of our lives being forced apart was terrible to her
affection, and intolerable to her pride. She had made her choice, and
the feeling she had surrendered herself to so openly must have had
a supreme potency. She had disregarded for it all the traditions of
silence and reserve. She had looked at me fondly through the very tears
of her grief; she had followed me--leaving her dead unburied and her
prayers unsaid. What more could she have done to proclaim her love
to the world? Could she, after that, allow anything short of death to
thwart her fidelity? Never! And if she were to discover that I could,
after all, find it in my heart to support an existence in which she had
no share, then, indeed, it would be more than enough to make her die of
shame.

"Ah, dearest!" I said, "you shall never die of shame."

We were different, but we had read each other's natures by a fierce
light. I understood the point of honour in her constancy, and she never
doubted the scruples of my true devotion, which had brought so many
dangers on her head. We were flying not to save our lives, but to
preserve inviolate our truth to each other and to ourselves. And if our
sentiments appear exaggerated, violent, and overstrained, I must point
back to their origin. Our love had not grown like a delicate flower,
cherished in tempered sunshine. It had never known the atmosphere of
tenderness; our souls had not been awakened to each other by a gentle
whisper, but as if by the blast of a trumpet. It had called us to a life
whose enemy was not death, but separation.

The enemy sat at the gate of our shelter, as death sits at the gate of
life. These high walls could not protect us, nor the tearful mumble of
the old woman's prayers, nor yet the careworn fidelity of Enrico. The
couple hung about us, quivering with emotion. They peeped round the
corners of the veranda, and only rarely ventured to come out openly.
The silent Galician stroked his clipped beard; the obese woman kept on
crossing herself with loud, resigned sighs. She would waddle up, wiping
her eyes, to stroke Seraphina's head and murmur endearing names. They
waited on us hand and foot, and would stand close together, ready for
the slightest sign, in a rapt contemplation. Now and then she would
nudge her husband's ribs with her thick elbow and murmur, "Her lover."

She was happy when Seraphina let her sit at her feet, and hold her hand.
She would pat it with gentle taps, squatting shapelessly on a low stool.

"Why go so far from thy old nurse, darling of my heart? Ah! love is
love, and we have only one life to live, but this England is very
far--very far away."

She nodded her big iron-gray head slowly; and to our longing England
appeared very distant, too, a fortunate isle across the seas, an abode
of peace, a sanctuary of love.

There was no plan open to us but the one laid down by Sebright. The
secrecy of our sojourn at the _hacienda_ had, in a measure, failed,
though there was no reason to suppose the two peons had broken their
oath. Our arrival at dawn had been unobserved, as far as we knew, and
the domestic slaves, mostly girls, had been kept from all communication
with the field hands outside. All these square leagues of the estate
were very much out of the world, and this isolation had not been broken
upon by any of O'Brien's agents coming out to spy. It seemed to be the
only part of Seraphina's great possessions that remained absolutely her
own.

Not a whisper of any sort of news reached us in our hiding-place till
the fourth evening, when one of the _vaqueros_ reported to Enrico
that, riding on the inland boundary, he had fallen in with a company of
infantry encamped on the edge of a little wood. Troops were being moved
upon Rio Medio. He brought a note from the officer in command of that
party. It contained nothing but a requisition for twenty head of cattle.
The same night we left the _hacienda_.

It was a starry darkness. Behind us the soft wailing of the old woman at
the gate died out:

"So far! So very far!"

We left the long street of the slave village on the left, and walked
down the gentle slope of the open glade towards the little river.
Seraphina's hair was concealed in the crown of a wide sombrero and,
wrapped up in a serape, she looked so much like a cloaked vaquero that
one missed the jingle of spurs out of her walk. Enrico had fitted me
out in his own clothes from top to toe. He carried a lanthorn, and we
followed the circle of light that swayed and trembled upon the short
grass. There was no one else with us, the crew of the _drogher_ being
already on board to await our coming.

Her mast appeared above the roof of some low sheds grouped about a short
wooden jetty. Enrico raised the lamp high to light us, as we stepped on
board.

Not a word was spoken; the five negroes of the crew (Enrico answered
for their fidelity) moved about noiselessly, almost invisible. Blocks
rattled feebly aloft.

"Enrico," said Seraphina, "do not forget to put a stone cross over poor
Castro's grave."

"No, Señorita. May you know years of felicity. We would all have laid
down our lives for you. Remember that, and do not forget the living.
Your childhood has been the consolation of the poor woman there for the
loss of our little one, your foster brother, who died. We have given to
you much of our affection for him who was denied to our old age."

He stepped back from the rail. "Go with God," he said.

The faint air filled the sail, and the outlines of wharf and roof
fell back into the sombre background of the land, but the lanthorn in
Enrico's hand glimmered motionless at the end of the jetty, till a bend
of the stream hid it from our sight.

We glided smoothly between the banks. Now and then a stretch of osiers
and cane brakes rustled alongside in the darkness. All was strange; the
contours of the land melted before our advance. The earth was made of
shifting shadows, and only the stars remained in unchanged groups of
glitter on the black sky. We floated across the land-locked basin, and
under the low headland we had steered for from the sea in the storm. All
this, seen only once under streams of lightning, was unrecognizable to
us, and seemed plunged in deep slumber. But the fresh feel of the
sea air, and the freedom of earth and sky wedded on the sea horizon,
returned to us like old friends, the companions of that time when we
communed in words and silences on board the _Lion_, that fragment
of England found in a mist, boarded in battle, with its absurd and
warmhearted protection. On our other hand, the rampart of white dunes
intruded the line of a ghostly shore between the depth of the sea
and the profundity of the sky; and when the faint breeze failed for a
moment, the negro crew troubled the silence with the heavy splashes
of their sweeps falling in slow and solemn cadence. The rudder creaked
gently; the black in command was old and of spare build, resembling
Cesar, the major-domo, without the splendour of maroon velvet and gold
lace. He was a very good sailor, I believe, taciturn and intelligent.
He had seen the _Lion_ frequently on his trips to Havana, and would
recognize her, he assured me, amongst a whole host of shipping. When
I had explained what was expected of him, according to Sebright's
programme, a bizarre grimace of a smile disturbed the bony, mournful
cast of his African face.

"Fall on board by accident, Señor. _Si!_ Now, by St. Jago of
Compostella, the patron cf our _hacienda_, you shall see this old
Pedro--who has been set to sail the craft ever since she was built--as
overcome by an accident as a little rascal of a boy that has stolen a
boat."

After this wordy declaration he never spoke to us again. He gave his
short orders in low undertones, and the others, four stalwart blacks, in
the prime of life, executed them in silence. Another night brought the
unchanging stars to look at us in their multitudes, till the dawn put
them out just as we opened the entrance of the harbour. The daylight
discovered the arid colouring of the coast, a castle on a sandy
hill, and a few small boats with ragged sails making for the land. A
brigantine, that seemed to have carried the breeze with her right in,
threw up the Stars and Stripes radiantly to the rising sun, before
rounding the point. The sound of bells came out to sea, and met us while
we crept slowly on, abreast of the battery at the water's edge.

"A feast-day in the city," said the old negro at the helm. "And here is
an English ship of war."

The sun-rays struck from afar full at her belted side; the water was
like glass along the shore. She swam into the very shade of the hill,
before she wore round, with great deliberation, in an ample sweep of
her headgear through a complete half-circle. She came to the wind on the
other tack under her short canvas; her lower deck ports were closed, the
hammock cloths like a ridge of unmelted snow lying along her rail.

It was evident she was kept standing off and on outside the harbour,
as an armed man may pace to and fro before a gate. With the hum of six
hundred wakeful lives in her flanks, the tap-tapping of a drum, and the
shrill modulations of the boatswain's calls piping some order along her
decks, she floated majestically across our path. But the only living
being we saw was the red-coated marine on sentry by the lifebuoys,
looking down at us over the taffrail. We passed so close to her that
I could distinguish the whites of his eyes, and the tompions in the
muzzles of her stern-chasers protruding out of the ports belonging to
the admiral's quarters.

I knew her. She was Rowley's flagship. She had thrown the shadow of her
sails upon the end of my first sea journey. She was the man-of-war going
out for a cruise on that day when Carlos, Tomas, and myself arrived in
Jamaica in the old _Thames_. And there she was meeting me again, after
two years, before Havana--the might of the fortunate isle to which we
turned our eyes, part and parcel of my inheritance, formidable with the
courage of my countrymen, humming with my native speech--and as foreign
to my purposes as if I had forfeited forever my birthright in her
protection. I had drifted into a sort of outlaw. You may not break the
king's peace and be made welcome on board a king's ship. You may not
hope to make use of a king's ship for the purposes of an elopement.
There was no room on board that seventy-four for our romance.

As it was, I very nearly hailed her. What would become of us if the
Lion had already left Havana? I thought. But no. To hail her meant
separation--the only forbidden thing to those who, in the strength of
youth and love, are permitted to defy the world together.

I did not hail; and the marine dwindled to a red speck upon the noble
hull forging away from us on the offshore tack. The brazen clangour of
bells seemed to struggle with the sharp puff of the breeze that sent us
in.

The shipping in harbour was covered with bunting in honour of the
feast-day; for the same reason, there was not a sign of the usual crowd
of small boats that give animation to the waters of a port; the middle
of the harbour was strangely empty. A solitary bumboat canoe, with a
yellow bunch of bananas in the bow, and an old negro woman dipping
a languid paddle at the stern, were all that met my eye. Presently,
however, a six-oared custom-house galley darted out from the tier of
ships, pulling for the American brigantine. I noticed in her, beside the
ordinary port officials, several soldiers, and a person astonishingly
like the _alguazil_ of the illustrations to Spanish romances. One of the
uniformed sitters waved his hand at us, recognizing an estate _drogher_,
and shouted some directions, of which we only caught the words:

"Steps--examination--to-morrow."

Our steersman took off his old hat humbly, to hail back, "_Muy bien,
Señor_."

I breathed freely, for they gave us no more of their attention.
Soldiers, _alguazil_, and custom-house officers were swarming aboard
the American, as if bent on ransacking her from stem to stern in the
shortest possible time, so as not to be late for the procession.

The absence of movement in the harbour, the festive and idle appearance
of the ships, with the flutter of innumerable flags on the forest
of masts, and the great uproar of church bells in the air, made an
impressive greeting for our eyes and ears. And the deserted aspect of
the harbour front of the city was very striking, too. The feast had
swept the quays of people so completely that the tiny pair of sentries
at the foot of a tall yellow building caught the eye from afar.
Sera-phina crouched on a coil of rope under the bulwark; old Pedro, at
the tiller, peered about from under his hand, and I, trying to expose
myself to view as little as possible, helped him to look for the _Lion_.
There she is. Yes! No! There she was. A crushing load fell off my chest.
We had made her out together, old Pedro and I.

And then the last part of Sebright's plan had to be carried out at once.
The foresheet of the _drogher_ appeared to part, our mainsail shook,
and before I could gasp twice, we had drifted stern foremost into the
_Lion's_ mizzen chains with a crash that brought a genuine expression of
concern to the old negro's face. He had managed the whole thing with a
most convincing skill, and without even once glancing at the ship. We
had done our part, but the people of the Lion seemed to fail in theirs
unaccountably. Of all the faces that crowded her rail at the shock, not
one appeared with a glimmer of intelligence. All the cargo ports were
down. Their surprise and their swearing appeared to me alarmingly
unaffected; with a most imbecile alacrity they exerted themselves, with
small spars and boathooks, to push the drogher off. Nobody seemed to
recognize me; Seraphina might have been a peon sitting on deck, cloaked
from neck to heels and under a sombrero. I dared not shout to them in
English, for fear of being heard on board the other ships around. At
last Sebright himself appeared on the poop.

He gave one look over the side.

"What the devil..." he began. Was he blind, too?

Suddenly I saw him throw up his arms above his head. He vanished. A port
came open with a jerk at the last moment. I lifted Seraphina up: two
hands caught hold of her, and, in my great hurry to scramble up after
her, I barked my shins cruelly. The port fell; the drogher went on
bumping alongside, completely disregarded. Seraphina dropped the cloak
at her feet and flung off her hat.

"Good-morning, _amigos_," she said gravely.

A hissed "Damn you fools--keep quiet!" from Sebright, stifled the cheer
in all those bronzed throats. Only a thin little poor "hooray" quavered
along the deck. The timid steward had not been able to overcome his
enthusiasm. He slapped his head in despair, and rushed away to bury
himself in his pantry.

"Turned up, by heavens!... Go in.... Good God!... Bucketfuls of
tears...." stammered Sebright, pushing us into the cuddy. "Go in! Go in
at once!"

Mrs. Williams rose from behind the table wide-eyed, clasping her hands,
and stumbled twice as she ran to us.

"What have you done to that child, Mr. Kemp!" she cried insanely at me.
"Oh, my dear, my dear! You look like your own ghost."

Sebright, burning with impatience, pulled me away. The cabin door fell
upon the two women, locked in a hug, and, stepping into his stateroom,
we could do nothing at first but slap each other on the back and
ejaculate the most unmeaning exclamations, like a couple of jocular
idiots. But when, in the expansion of my heart, I tried to banter him
about not keeping his word to look out for us, he bent double in trying
to restrain his hilarity, slapped his thighs, and grew red in the face.

The excellent joke was that, for the past six days, we had been supposed
to be dead--drowned; at least Dona Seraphina had been provided with that
sort of death in her own name; I was drowned, too, but in the disguise
of a piratical young English nobleman.

"There's nothing too bad for them to believe of us," he commented, and
guffawed in his joy at seeing me unscathed. "Dead! Drowned! Ha! Ha!
Good, wasn't it?"

Mrs. Williams--he said--had been weeping her eyes out over our desolate
end; and even the skipper had sulked with his food for a day or two.

"Ha! Ha! Drowned! Excellent!" He shook me by the shoulders, looking me
straight in the eyes--and the bizarre, nervous hilarity of my reception,
so unlike his scornful attitude, proved that he, too, had believed the
rumour. Indeed, nothing could have been more natural, considering my
inexperience in handling boats and the fury of the norther. It had sent
the Lion staggering into Havana in less than twenty hours after we had
parted from her on the coast.

Suddenly a change came over him. He pushed me on to the settee.

"Speak! Talk! What has happened? Where have you been all this time? Man,
you look ten years older."

"Ten years. Is that all?" I said.

And after he had heard the whole story of our passages he appeared
greatly sobered.

"Wonderful! Wonderful!" he muttered, lost in deep thought, till I
reminded him it was his turn, now, to speak.

"You are the talk of the town," he said, recovering his elasticity of
spirit as he went on. The death of Don Balthasar had been the first
great sensation of Havana, but it seemed that O'Brien had kept that news
to himself, till he heard by an overland messenger that Sera-phina and I
had escaped from Casa Riego.

Then he gave it to the world; he let it be inferred that he had the
news of both events together. The story, as sworn to by various suborned
rascals, and put out by his creatures, ran that an English desperado,
arriving in Rio Medio with some Mexicans in a schooner, had incited the
rabble of the place to attack the Casa Riego. Don Balthasar had been
shot while defending his house at the head of his negroes; and Don
Bal-thasar's daughter had been carried off by the English pirate.

The amazement and sensation were extreme. Several of the first families
went into mourning. A service for the repose of Don Balthasar's soul was
sung in the Cathedral. Captain Williams went there out of curiosity, and
returned full of the magnificence of the sight; nave draped in black, an
enormous catafalque, with silver angels, more than life-size, kneeling
at the four corners with joined hands, an amazing multitude of lights. A
demonstration of unbounded grief from the Judge of the Marine Court had
startled the distinguished congregation. In his place amongst the
body of higher magistrature, Don Patricio O'Brien burst into an
uncontrollable paroxysm of sobs, and had to be assisted out of the
church.

It was almost incredible, but I could well believe it. With the
thunderous strains of _Dies Irae_ rolling over his bowed head, amongst
all these symbols and trappings of woe, he must have seen, in the black
anguish of his baffled passion, the true image of death itself, and
tasted all the profound deception of life. Who could tell how much
secret rage, jealousy, regret, and despair had gone to that outburst of
grief, whose truth had fluttered a distinguished company of mourners,
and had nearly interrupted their official supplications for the repose
of that old man, who had been dead to the world for so many years? I
believe that, on that very day, just as he was going to the service,
O'Brien had received the news of our supposed death by drowning. The
music, the voices, the lights of the grave, the pomp of mourning, awe,
and supplication crying for mercy upon the dead, had been too much for
him. He had presumed too much upon his fortitude. He wept aloud for his
love lost, for his vengeance defeated, for the dreams gone out of his
life, for the inaccessible consummation of his desire.

"And, you know, with all these affairs, he feels himself wobbling in
his socket," Sebright began again, after musing for a while. Indeed, the
last events in Rio Medio were endangering his position. He could no
more present his reports upon the state of the province with incidental
reflections upon the bad faith of the English Government (who encouraged
the rebels against the Catholic king), the arrogance of the English
admiral, and concluding with the loyalty and honesty of the Rio Medio
population, "who themselves suffered many acts of molestation from the
Mexican pirates." The most famous of these papers, printed at that time
in the official _Gazette_, had recommended that the loyal town should
be given a battery of thirty-six pounders for purposes of self-defence.
They had been given them just in time to be turned on Rowley's boats; it
is known with what deadly effect. O'Brien's report after that event had
made it clear that that virtuous population of the bay, exasperated by
the intrusions of the Mexicanos upon their peaceful state, and abhorring
in their souls the rebellion trying to lift its envenomed head, etc.,
etc.,... heroically manned the battery to defend their town from the
boats which they took to be these very pirates the British admiral
was in search of. He pleaded for them the uncertain light of the early
morning, the ardour of citizens, valorous, but naturally inexperienced
in matters of war, and the impossibility to suppose that the admiral of
a friendly power would dispatch an armed force to land on these shores.
I have read these things with my own eyes; there were old files of the
_Gazette_ on board, and Sebright, who had been reading up his O'Brien,
pointed them out to me with his finger, muttering:

"Here--look there. Pretty, ain't it?"

But that was all over. The bubble had burst. It was reported in town
that the private audience the _Juez_ had lately from the
Captain-General was of a most stormy description. They say old Marshal
What-d'ye-call-'um ended by flinging his last report in his face, and
asking him how dared he work his lawyer's tricks upon an old soldier.
Good old fighting cock. But stupid. All these old soldiers were stupid,
Sebright declared. Old admirals, too. However, the land troops had
arrived in Rio Medio by this time; the _Tornado_ frigate, too, no doubt,
having sailed four days ago, with orders to burn the villages to the
ground; and the good _Lugareños_ must be catching colds trying to hide
from the carabineers in the deep, damp woods.

Our admiral was awaiting the issue of that expedition. Returning home
under a cloud, Rowley wanted to take with him the assurance of the
pirate nest being destroyed at last, as a sort of diplomatic feather in
his cap.

"He may think," Sebright commented, "that it's his sailorly bluff that
has done it, but, as far as I can see, nobody but you yourself, Kemp,
had anything to do with bringing it about. Funny, is it not? Old Rowley
keeps his ship dodging outside because it's cooler at sea than stewing
in this harbour, but he sends in a boat for news every morning. What he
is most anxious for is to get the notorious Nichols into his hands; take
him home for a hanging. It seems clear to me that they are humbugging
him ashore. Nichols! Where's Nichols? There are people here who say that
Nichols has had free board and lodging in Havana jail for the last
six months. Others swear that it is Nichols who has killed the old
gentleman, run off with Dona Seraphina, and got drowned. Nichols! Who's
Nichols? On that showing you are Nichols. Anybody may be Nichols. Who
has ever seen him outside Rio Medio? I used to believe in him at one
time, but, upon my word I begin to doubt whether there ever was such a
man."

"But the man existed, at any rate," I said. "I knew him--I've talked
with him. He came out second mate in the same ship with me--in the old
_Thames_. Ramon took charge of him in Kingston, and that's the last
positive thing I can swear to, of him. But that he was in Rio Medio for
two years, and vanished from there almost directly after that unlucky
boat affair, I am absolutely certain."

"Well, I suppose O'Brien knows where to lay his hand on him. But no
matter where the fellow is, in jail or out of it, the admiral will never
get hold of him. If they had him they could not think of giving him up.
He knows too much of the game; and remember that O'Brien, if he wobbles
in the socket, is by no means down yet. A man like that doesn't get
knocked over like a ninepin. You may be sure he has twenty skeletons put
away in good places, that he will haul out one by one, rather than
let himself be squashed. He's not going to give in. A few days ago, a
priest--your priest, you know--turned up here on foot from Rio Medio,
and went about wringing his hands, declaring that he knew all the truth,
and meant to make a noise about it, too. O'Brien made short work of him,
though; got the archbishop to send him into retreat, as they call it,
to a Franciscan convent a hundred miles from here. These things are
whispered about all along the gutters of this place."

I imagined the poor Father Antonio, with his simple resignation,
mourning for us in his forced retreat, brokenhearted, and murmuring,
"Inscrutable, inscrutable." I should have liked to see the old man.

"I tell you the town is fairly buzzing with the atrocities of this
business," Sebright went on. "It's the thing for fashionable people to
go and see what I may call the relics of the crime. They are on show in
the waiting-hall of the Palace of Justice. Why, I went there myself. You
go through a swing door into a big place that, for cheerfulness, is no
better than a monster coal cellar, and there you behold, laid out on
a little black table, Mrs. Williams' woollen shawl, your Señorita's
tortoise-shell comb, that had got entangled in it somehow, and my old
cap that I lent you--you remember. I assure you, it gave me the horrors
to see the confounded things spread out there in that dim religious
light. Dash me, if I didn't go queer all over. And all the time swell
carriages stopping before the portico, dressed-up women walking up in
pairs and threes, sighing before the missus' shawl, turning up their
eyes, 'Ah! _Pobrecita! Pobrecita!_ But what a strange wrap for her
to have. It is very coarse. Perished in the flower of her youth.
Incredible! Oh, the savage, cruel Englishman.' The funniest thing in the
world."

But if this was so, Manuel's _Lugareños_ were now in Havana. Sebright
pointed out that, as things stood, it was the safest place for them,
under the wing of their patron. Sebright had recognized the schooner
at once. She came in very early one morning, and hauled herself
unostentatiously out of sight amongst a ruck of small craft moored in
the lower part of the harbour. He took the first opportunity to ask one
of the guards on the quay what was that pretty vessel over there, just
to hear what the man would say. He was assured that she was a Porto Rico
trader of no consequence, well known in the port.

"Never mind the scoundrels; they can do nothing more to you."

Sebright dismissed the _Lugareños_ out of my life. The unfavourable
circumstance for us was that the captain had gone ashore. The ship was
ready for sea; absolutely cleared; papers on board; could go in an hour
if it came to that; but, at any rate, next morning at daylight, before
O'Brien could get wind of the Riego _drogher_ arriving. Every movement
in port was reported to the _Juez_; but this was a feast, and he would
not hear of it probably till next day. Even _fiestas_ had their uses
sometimes. In his anxiety to discover Seraphina, O'Brien had played such
pranks amongst the foreign shipping (after the _Lion_ had been drawn
blank) that the whole consular body had addressed a joint protest to the
Governor, and the _Juez_ had been told to moderate his efforts. No ship
was to be visited more than once. Still I had seen, myself, soldiers
going in a boat to board the American brigantine: a garlic-eating
crew, poisoning the cabins with their breath, and poking their noses
everywhere. Of course, since our supposed drowning, there had been a
lull; but the least thing might start him off again. He was reputed to
be almost out of his mind with sorrow, arising from his great attachment
for the family. He walked about as if distracted, suffered from
insomnia, and had not been fit to preside in his court for over a week,
now.

"But don't you expect Williams back on board directly?"

He shook his head.

"No. Not even to-night. He told the missus he was going to spend the day
out of town with his consignee, but he tipped me the wink. This evening
he will send a note that the consignee detains him for the night,
because the letters are not ready, and I'll have to go to her and lie,
the best I am able, that it's quite the usual thing. Damn!"

I was appalled. This was too bad. And, as I raged against the dissolute
habits of the man, Sebright entreated me to moderate my voice so as not
to be heard in the cabin. Did I expect the man to change his skin?
He had been doing the gay bachelor about here all his life; had never
suspected he was doing anything particularly scandalous either.

"He married the old girl out of chivalry,--the romantic fat beggar,--and
never realized what it meant till she came out with him," Sebright went
on whispering to me. "He loves and honours her more than you may think.
That is so, for all your shrugs, Mr. Kemp. It is not so easy to break
the old connection as you imagine. Why, the other evening, two of his
dissolute habits (as you call them) came off, with mantillas over their
heads, in a boat, in company with a male scallawag of sorts, pinching a
mandolin, and serenaded the ship for him. We were all in the cabin after
supper, and poor Mrs. Williams, with her eyes still red from weeping
over you people, says to us, 'How sweet and melancholy that sounds,'
says she. You should have seen the skipper rolling his eyes at me. The
perspiration of fright was simply pouring down his face. I rushed on
deck, and it took me all my Spanish to stop them from coming aboard. I
had to swear by all the saints, and the honour of a _caballero_, that
there was a wife. They went away laughing at last. They did not want to
make trouble. They simply had not believed the tale before. Thought it
was some dodge of his. I could hear their peals of laughter all the way
up the harbour. These are the difficulties we have. The old girl must
be protected from that sort of eye-opener, if I've to forswear my soul.
I've been keeping guard over her ever since we arrived here--besides
looking out for you people, as long as there was any hope."

I was greatly cast down. Perhaps Williams was justified in making
concessions to the associates of his former jolly existence to save some
outrage to the feelings of his consort. I did not want to criticise his
motives--but what about getting him back on board at once?

Sebright was biting his lip. The necessity was pressing, he admitted.

He had an idea where to find him. But for himself he could not
_go_--that was evident. Neither would I wish him to leave the ship, even
for a moment, now Seraphina was on board. An unexpected visit from some
zealous police understrapper, a momentary want of presence of mind
on the part of the timid steward; there was enough to bring about our
undoing. Moreover, as he had said, he must remain on guard over the
missus. But whom to send? There was not a single boatman about. The
harbour was a desert of water and dressed ships; but even the crews
of most of them were ashore--"on a regular spree of praying," as he
expressed it vexedly. As to our own crew, not one of them knew anything
more of Spanish than a few terms of abuse, perhaps. Their hearts were in
the right place, but as to their wits, he wouldn't trust a single one of
them by himself--no, not an inch away from the ship. How could he send
one of them ashore with the wineshops yawning wide on all sides, and not
enough lingo to ask for the way. Sure to get drunk, to get lost, to get
into trouble in some way, and in the end get picked up by the police.
The slightest hitch of that sort would call attention upon the ship--and
with O'Brien to draw inferences.... He rubbed his head.

"I suppose I'll have to go," he grunted. "But I am known; I may be
followed. They may wonder why I rush to fetch my skipper. And yet I feel
this is the time. The very time. Between now and four o'clock to-morrow
morning we have an almost absolute certitude of getting away with you
two. This is our chance and your chance."

He was lost in perplexity. Then, as if inspired, I cried:

"I will go!"

"The devil!" he said, amazed. "Would you?"

I rushed at him with arguments. No one would know me. My clothes were
all right and clean enough for a feast-day. I could slip through the
crowds un-perceived. The principal thing was to get Seraphina out of
O'Brien's reach. At the worst, I could always find means to get away
from Cuba by myself. There was Mrs. Williams to look after her, and if I
missed Williams by some mischance, and failed to make my way back to the
ship in time, I charged them solemnly not to wait, but sail away at the
earliest possible moment.

I said much more than this. I was eloquent. I became as if suddenly
intoxicated by the nearness of freedom and safety. The thought of being
at sea with her in a few hours away from all trouble of mind or heart,
made my head swim. It seemed to me I should go mad if I was not allowed
to go. My limbs tingled with eagerness. I stuttered with excitement.

"Well--after all!" Sebright mumbled.

"I must go in and tell her," I said.

"No. Don't do that," said that wise young man. "Have you made up your
mind?"

"Yes, I have," I answered. "But she's reasonable."

"Still," he argued, "the old girl is sure to say that nothing of the
kind is necessary. The captain told her that he was coming back for tea.
What could we say to that? We can't explain the true state of the case,
and if you persist in going, it will look like pig-headed folly on your
part."

He threw his writing-desk open for me.

"Write to her. Write down your arguments--what you have been telling me.
It's a fact that the door stands open for a few hours. As to the rest,"
he pursued, with a weary sigh, "I'll do the lying to pass it off with
Mrs. Williams."

Thus it came about that, with only two flimsy bulkheads between us, I
wrote my first letter to Seraphina, while Sebright went on deck to make
arrangements to send me ashore. He was some time away; long enough for
me to pour out on paper the exultation of my thought, the confidence of
my hope, my desire to have her safe at last with me upon the blue sea.
One must seize a propitious moment lest it should slip away and never
return, I wrote. I begged her to believe I was acting for the best, and
only from my great love, that could not support the thought of her being
so near O'Brien, the arch-enemy of our union. There was no separation on
the sea.

Sebright came in brusquely.

"Come along."

The American brigantine was berthed by then, close astern of the _Lion_,
and Sebright had the idea of asking her mate to let his boat (it was in
the water) put ashore a visitor he had on board. His own were hoisted,
he explained, and there were no boatmen plying for hire.

His request was granted. I was pulled ashore by two American sailors,
who never said a word to each other, and evidently took me for a
Spaniard.

It was an excellent idea. By borrowing the Yankee's boat, the track of
my connection with the _Lion_ was covered. The silent seamen landed me,
as asked by Sebright, near the battery on the sand, quite clear of the
city.

I thanked them in Spanish, and, traversing a piece of open ground, made
a wide circle to enter the town from the land side, to still further
cover my tracks. I passed through a sort of squalid suburb of huts,
hovels, and negro shanties. I met very few people, and these mostly old
women, looking after the swarms of children of all colours and sizes,
playing in the dust. Many curs sunned themselves among heaps of
rubbish, and took not the trouble to growl at me. Then I came out upon
a highroad, and turned my face towards the city lying under a crude
sunshine, and in a ring of metallic vibrations.

Better houses with plastered fronts washed yellow or blue, and even
pinky red, alternated with tumble-down wooden structures. A crenellated
squat gateway faced me with a carved shield of stone above the open
gloom. A young smooth-faced mulatto, in some sort of dirty uniform, but
wearing new straw slippers with blue silk rosettes over his naked feet,
lounged cross-legged at the door of a kind of guardroom. He held a big
cigar tilted up between his teeth, and ogled me, like a woman, out of
the corners of his languishing eyes. He said not a word.

Fortunately my face had tanned to a dark hue. Enrico's clothes would
not attract attention to me, of course. The light colour of my hair was
concealed by the handkerchief bound under my hat; my footsteps echoed
loudly under the vault, and I penetrated into the heart of the city.

And directly, it seemed to me, I had stepped back three hundred years. I
had never seen anything so old; this was the abandoned inheritance of
an adventurous race, that seemed to have thrown all its might, all its
vigour, and all its enthusiasm into one supreme effort of valour and
greed. I had read the history of the Spanish Conquest; and, looking at
these great walls of stone, I felt my heart moved by the same wonder,
and by the same sadness. With what a fury of heroism and faith had this
whole people flung itself upon the opulent mystery of the New World.
Never had a nation clasped closer to its heart its dream of greatness,
of glory, and of romance. There had been a moment in its destiny, when
it could believe that Heaven itself smiled upon its massacres. I walked
slowly, awed by the solitude. They had conquered and were no more, and
these wrought stones remained to testify gloomily to the death of their
success. Heavy houses, immense walls, pointed arches of the doorways,
cages of iron bars projecting balcony wise around each square window.
And not a soul in sight, not a head looking out from these dwellings,
these houses of men, these ancient abodes of hate, of base rivalries,
of avarice, of ambitions--these old nests of love, these witnesses of
a great romance now past and gone below the horizon. They seemed to
return mournfully my wondering glances; they seemed to look at me and
say, "What do you here? We have seen other men, heard other footsteps!"
The peace of the cloister brooded over these aged blocks of masonry,
stained with the green trails of mosses, infiltrated with shadows.

At times the belfry of a church would volley a tremendous crash of
bronze into the narrow streets; and between whiles I could hear the
faint echoes of far-off chanting, the brassy distant gasps of trombones.
A woman in black whisked round a corner, hurrying towards the route of
the procession. I took the same direction. From a wine-shop, yawning
like a dirty cavern in the basement of a palatial old building, issued
suddenly a brawny ruffian in rags, wiping his thick beard with the
back of a hairy paw. He lurched a little, and began to walk before me
hastily. I noticed the glitter of a gold earring in the lobe of his huge
ear. His cloak was frayed at the bottom into a perfect fringe and, as he
flung it about, he showed a good deal of naked skin under it. His calves
were bandaged crosswise; his peaked hat seemed to have been trodden upon
in filth before he had put it on his head. Suddenly I stopped short. A
_Lugareño_!

We were then in the empty part of a narrow street, whose lower end
was packed, close with a crowd viewing the procession which was filing
slowly past, along the wide thoroughfare. It was too late for me to go
back. Moreover, the ruffian paid no attention to me. It was best to
go on. The people, packed between the houses with their backs to us,
blocked our way. I had to wait.

He took his position near me in the rear of the last rank of the crowd.
He must have been inclined to repentance in his cups, because he began
to mumble and beat his breast. Other people in the crowd were also
beating their breasts. In front of me I had the façade of a building
which, according to the little plan of my route Sebright drew for me,
was the Palace of Justice. It had a peristyle of ugly columns at the top
of a flight of steps. A cordon of infantry kept the roadway clear. The
singing went on without interruption; and I saw tall saints of wood,
gilt and painted red and blue, pass, borne shoulder-high, swaying and
pitching above the heads of the crowd like the masts of boats in a
seaway. Crucifixes were carried, flashing in the sun; an enormous
Madonna, which must have weighed half a ton, tottered across my line of
sight, dressed up in gold brocade and with a wreath of paper roses on
her head. A military band sent a hurricane blast of brasses as it
went by. Then all was still at once, except the silvery tinkling of
hand-bells. The people before me fell on their knees together and left
me standing up alone.

As a matter of fact I had been caught gaping at the ceremony quite new
to me, and had not expected a move of that sort. The ruffian kneeling
within a foot of me thumped and bellowed in an ecstasy of piety. As to
me, I own I stood there looking with impatience at a passing canopy that
seemed all gold, with three priests in gorgeous capes walking slowly
under it, and I absolutely forgot to take off my hat. The bearded
ruffian looked up from the midst of his penitential exercises, and
before I realized I was outraging his or anybody else's feelings, leaped
up with a yell, "Thou sacrilegious infidel," and sent my hat flying off
my head.

Just then the band crashed again, the bells pealed out, and no one heard
his shout. With one blow of my fist I sent him staggering backwards. The
procession had passed; people were rising from their knees and pouring
out of the narrow street. Swearing, he fumbled under his cloak; I
watched him narrowly; but in a moment he sprang away and lost himself
amongst the moving crowd. I picked up my hat.

For a time I stood very uneasy, and then retreated under a doorway.
Nothing happened, and I was anxious to get on. It was possible to
cross the wide street now. That _Lugareño_ did not know me. He was a
_Lugareño_, though. No doubt about it. I would make a dash now; but
first I stole a hasty glance at the plan of my route which I kept in the
hollow of my palm.

"Señor," said a voice. I lifted my head.

An elderly man in black, with a white moustache and imperial, stood
before me. The ruffian was stalking up to his side, and four soldiers
with an officer were coming behind. I took in the whole disaster at a
glance.

"The Señor is no doubt a foreigner--perhaps an Englishman," said the
official in black. He had a lace collar, a chain on his neck, velvet
breeches, a well-turned leg in black stockings. His voice was soft.

I was so disconcerted that I nodded at him.

"The Señor is young and inconsiderate. Religious feelings ought to be
respected." The official in black was addressing me in sad and measured
tones. "This good Catholic," he continued, eying the bearded ruffian
dubiously, "has made a formal statement to me of your impious
demonstration."

What a fatal accident, I thought, appalled; but I tried to explain the
matter. I expressed regret. The other gazed at me benevolently.

"Nevertheless, Señor, pray follow me. Even for your own safety. You must
give some account of yourself."

This I was firmly resolved not to give. But the _Lugareño_ had been
going through a pantomime of scrutinizing my person. He crouched up,
stepped back, then to one side.

"This worthy man," began the official in black, "complains of your
violence, too...."

"This worthy man," I shouted stupidly, "is a pirate. He is a Rio Medio
_Lugareño_. He is a criminal."

The official seemed astounded, and I saw my idiotic mistake at once--too
late!

"Strange," he murmured, and, at the same time, the ruffianly wretch
began to shout:

"It is he! The traitor! The heretic! I recognize him!"

"Peace, peace!" said the man in black.

"I demand to be taken before the Juez Don Patricio for a deposition,"
shrieked the _Lugareño_. A crowd was beginning to collect.

The official and the officer exchanged consulting glances. At a word
from the latter, the soldiers closed upon me.

I felt utterly overcome, as if the earth had crumbled under my feet, and
the heavens had been rent in twain.

I walked between my captors across the street amongst hooting knots of
people, and up the steps of the portico, as if in a frightful dream.

In the gloomy, chilly hall they made me wait. A soldier stood on each
side of me, and there, absolutely before my eyes on a little table,
reposed Mrs. Williams' shawl and Sebright's cap. This was the very hall
of the Palace of Justice of which Sebright had spoken. It was more than
ever like an absurd dream, now. But I had the leisure to collect my
wits. I could not claim the Consul's protection simply because I should
have to give him a truthful account of myself, and that would mean
giving up Seraphina. The Consul could not protect her. But the _Lion_
would sail on the morrow. Sebright would understand it if Williams
did not. I trusted Sebright's sagacity. Yes, she would sail tomorrow
evening. A day and a half. If I could only keep the knowledge of
Seraphina from O'Brien till then--she was safe, and I should be safe,
too, for my lips would be unsealed. I could claim the protection of my
Consul and proclaim the villainy of the _Juez_.

"Go in there now, Señor, to be confronted with your accuser," said the
official in black, appearing before me. He pointed at a small door
to the left. My heart was beating steadily. I felt a sort of intrepid
resignation.



PART FIFTH -- THE LOT OF MAN



CHAPTER ONE

"Why have I been brought here, your worships?" I asked, with a great
deal of firmness.

There were two figures in black, the one beside, the other behind a
large black table. I was placed in front of them, between two soldiers,
in the centre of a large, gaunt room, with bare, dirty walls, and the
arms of Spain above the judge's seat.

"You are before the _Juez de la Primiera Instancia_," said the man in
black beside the table. He wore a large and shadowy tricorn. "Be silent,
and respect the procedure."

It was, without doubt, excellent advice. He whispered some words in the
ear of the Judge of the First Instance. It was plain enough to me that
the judge was a quite inferior official, who merely decided whether
there were any case against the accused; he had, even to his clerk, an
air of timidity, of doubt.

I said, "But I insist on knowing...."

The clerk said, "In good time...." And then, in the same tone of
disinterested official routine, he spoke to the _Lugareño_, who, from
beside the door, rolled very frightened eyes from the judges and the
clerk to myself and the soldiers--"Advance."

The judge, in a hurried, perfunctory voice, put questions to the
_Lugareño_; the clerk scratched with a large quill on a sheet of paper.

"Where do you come from?"

"The town of Rio Medio, Excellency."

"Of what occupation?"

"Excellency--a few goats...."

"Why are you here?"

"My daughter, Excellency, married Pepe of the posada in the Calle...."

The judge said, "Yes, yes," with an unsanguine impatience. The
_Lugareño's_ dirty hands jumped nervously on the large rim of his limp
hat.

"You lodge a complaint against the senor there."

The clerk pointed the end of his quill towards me.

"I? God forbid, Excellency," the _Lugareño_ bleated. "The _Alguazil_ of
the Criminal Court instructed me to be watchful.

"You lodge an information, then?" the _juez_ said.

"Maybe it is an information, Excellency," the _Lugareño_ answered, "as
regards the senor there."

The _Alguazil_ of the Criminal Court had told him, and many other men
of Rio Medio, to be on the watch for me, "undoubtedly touching what had
happened, as all the world knew, in Rio Medio."

He looked me full in the face with stupid insolence, and said:

"At first I much doubted, for all the world said this man was
dead--though others said worse things. Perhaps, who knows?"

He had seen me, he said, many times in Rio Medio, outside the Casa; on
the balcony of the Casa, too. And he was sure that I was a heretic and
an evil person.

It suddenly struck me that this man--I was undoubtedly familiar with his
face--must be the lieutenant of Manuel-del-Popolo, his boon companion.
Without doubt, he had seen me on the balcony of the Casa.

He had gained a lot of assurance from the conciliatory manner of the
_Juez_, and said suddenly, in a tentative way:

"An evil person; a heretic? Who knows? Perhaps it was he who incited
some people there to murder his señoria, the illustrious Don."

I said almost contemptuously, "Surely the charge against me is most
absurd? Everyone knows who I am."

The old judge made a gentle, tired motion with his hand.

"Señor," he said, "there is no charge against you--except that no
one knows who you are. You were in a place where very lamentable
and inexplicable things happened; you are now in Havana: you have no
passport. I beg of you to remain calm. These things are all in order."

I hadn't any doubt that, as far as he knew, he was speaking the truth.
He was a man, very evidently, of a weary and naïve simplicity. Perhaps
it was really true--that I should only have to explain; perhaps it was
all over.

O'Brien came into the room with the casual step of an official from an
office entering another's room.

It was as if seeing me were a thing that he very much disliked--that
he came because he wanted to satisfy himself of my existence, of my
identity, and my being alone. The slow stare that he gave me did not
mitigate the leisureliness of his entry. He walked behind the table; the
judge rose with immense deference; with his eternal smile, and no
word spoken, he motioned the judge to resume the examination; he stood
looking at the clerk's notes meditatively, the smile still round lips
that had a nervous tremble, and eyes that had dark marks beneath them.
He seemed as if he were still smiling just after having been violently
shaken.

The judge went on examining the _Lugareño_.

"Do you know whence the señor came?"

"Excellency, Excellency...." The man stuttered, his eyes on O'Brien's
face.

"Nor how long he was in the town of Rio Medio?" the judge went on.

O'Brien suddenly drooped towards his ear. "All those things are known,
senor, my colleague," he said, and began to whisper.

The old judge showed signs of very naïve astonishment and joy.

"Is it possible?" he exclaimed. "This man? He is very young to have
committed such crimes."

The clerk hurriedly left the room. He returned with many papers.
O'Brien, leaning over the judge's shoulder, emphasized words with one
finger. What new villainies could O'Brien be meditating? It wasn't
possibly the _Lugareño's_ suggestion that I had lured men to murder Don
Balthasar? Was it merely that I had infringed some law in carrying off
Seraphina?

The old judge said, "How lucky, Don Patricio! We may now satisfy the
English admiral. What good fortune!"

He suddenly sat straight in his chair; O'Brien behind him scrutinized my
face--to see how I should bear what was coming.

"What is your name?" the judge asked peremptorily.

I said, "Juan--John Kemp. I am of noble English family; I am well enough
known. Ask the Señor O'Brien."

On O'Brien's shaken face the smile hardened.

"I heard that in Rio Medio the senor was called... was called..." He
paused and appealed to the _Lugareño_.

"What was he called--the _capataz_ the man who led the picaroons?"

The _Lugareño_ stammered, "Nikola... Nikola el Escoces, Señor Don
Patricio."

"You hear?" O'Brien asked the judge. "This villager identifies the man."

"Undoubtedly--undoubtedly," the _Juez_ said. "We need no more
evidence.... You, Señor, have seen this villain in Rio Medio, this
villager identifies him by name."

I said, "This is absurd. A hundred witnesses can say that I am John
Kemp...."

"That may be true," the _Juez_ said dryly, and then to his clerk:

"Write here, 'John Kemp, of noble British family, called, on the scene
of his crimes, Nikola el Escoces, otherwise El Demonio.'"

I shrugged my shoulders. I did not, at the moment, realize to what this
all tended.

The judge said to the clerk, "Read the Act of Accusation. Read here...."
He was pointing to a paragraph of the papers the clerk had brought in.
They were the Act of Accusation, prepared long before, against the man
Nichols.

This particular villainy suddenly became grotesquely and portentously
plain. The clerk read an appalling catalogue of sordid crimes, working
into each other like kneaded dough--the testimony of witnesses who had
signed the record. Nikola had looted fourteen ships, and had apparently
murdered twenty-two people with his own hand--two of them women--and
there was the affair of Rowley's boats. "The pinnace," the clerk read,
"of the British came within ten yards. The said Nikola then exclaimed,
'Curse the bloodthirsty hounds,' and fired the grapeshot into the boat.
Seven were killed by that discharge. This I saw with my own eyes....
Signed, Isidoro Alemanno." And another swore, "The said Nikola was
below, but he came running up, and with one blow of his knife severed
the throat of the man who was kneeling on the deck...."

There was no doubt that Nikola had committed these crimes; that the
witnesses had sworn to them and signed the deposition.... The old judge
had evidently never seen him, and now O'Brien and the _Lugareño_ had
sworn that I was Nikola el Escoces, alias El Demonio.

My first impulse was to shout with rage; but I checked it because I knew
I should be silenced. I said:

"I am not Nikola el Escoces. That I can easily prove."

The Judge of the First Instance shrugged his shoulders and looked, with
implicit trust, up into O'Brien's face.

"That man," I pointed at the _Lugareño_, "is a pirate. And, what is
more, he is in the pay of the Señor Juez O'Brien. He was the lieutenant
of a man called Manuel-del-Popolo, who commanded the _Lugareños_ after
Nikola left Rio Medio."

"You know very much about the pirates," the _Juez_ said, with the
sardonic air of a very stupid man. "Without doubt you were intimate with
them. I sign now your order for committal to the _carcel_ of the Marine
Court."

I said, "But I tell you I am not Nikola...."

The _Juez_ said impassively, "You pass out of my hands into those of the
Marine Court. I am satisfied that you are a person deserving of a trial.
That is the limit of my responsibility."

I shouted then, "But I tell you this O'Brien is my personal enemy."

The old man smiled acidly.

"The señor need fear nothing of our courts. He will be handed over to
his own countrymen. Without doubt of them he will obtain justice." He
signed to the _Lugareño_ to go, and rose, gathering up his papers;
he bowed to O'Brien. "I leave the criminal at the disposal of your
worship," he said, and went out with his clerk.

O'Brien sent out the two soldiers after him, and stood there alone. He
had never been so near his death. But for sheer curiosity, for my sheer
desire to know what he _could_ say, I would have smashed in his brains
with the clerk's stool. I was going to do it; I made one step towards
the stool. Then I saw that he was crying.

"The curse--the curse of Cromwell on you," he sobbed suddenly. "You send
me back to hell again." He writhed his whole body. "Sorrow!" he said, "I
know it. But what's this? What's _this?_"

The many reasons he had for sorrow flashed on me like a procession of
sombre images.

"Dead and done with a man can bear," he muttered. "But this--Not to
know--perhaps alive--perhaps hidden--She may be dead...." With a change
like a flash he was commanding me.

"Tell me how you escaped."

I had a vague inspiration of the truth.

"You aren't fit for a decent man's speaking to," I said.

"You let her drown."

It gave me suddenly the measure of his ignorance; he did not know
anything--nothing. His hell was uncertainty. Well, let him stay there.

"Where is she?" he said. "Where is she?"

"Where she's no need to fear you," I answered.

He had a sudden convulsive gesture, as if searching for a weapon.

"If you'll tell me she's alive..." he began.

"Oh, I'm not dead," I answered.

"Never a drowned puppy was more," he said, with a flash of vivacity.
"You hang here--for murder--or in England for piracy."

"Then I've little to want to live for," I sneered at him.

"You let her drown," he said. "You took her from that house, a young
girl, in a little boat. And you can hold up your head."

"I was trying to save her from you," I answered.

"By God," he said. "These English--I've seen them, spit the child on the
mother's breast. I've seen them set fire to the thatch of the widow and
childless. But this.... But this.... I can save you, I tell you."

"You can't make me go through worse than I've borne," I answered. Sorrow
and all he might wish on my head, my life was too precious to him till I
spoke. I wasn't going to speak.

"I'll search every ship in the harbour," he said passionately.

"Do," I said. "Bring your _Lugareños_ to the task."

Upon the whole, I wasn't much afraid. Unless he got definite evidence he
couldn't--in the face of the consul's protests, and the presence of the
admiral--touch the _Lion_ again. He fixed his eyes intently upon me.

"You came in the American brigantine," he said. "It's known you landed
in her boat."

I didn't answer him; it was plain enough that the _drogher's_ arrival
had either not been reported to him, or it had been searched in vain.

"In her boat," he repeated. "I tell you I know she is not dead; even
you, an Englishman, must have a different face if she were."

"I don't at least ask you for life," I said, "to enjoy with her."

"She's alive," he said. "Alive! As for where, it matters little. I'll
search every inch of the island, every road, every _hacienda_. You don't
realize my power."

"Then search the bottom of the sea," I shouted.

"Let's look at the matter in the right light."

He had mastered his grief, his incertitude. He was himself again, and
the smile had returned--as if at the moment he forced his features to
their natural lines.

"Send one of your friars to heaven--you'll never go there yourself to
meet her."

"If you will tell me she's alive, I'll save you."

I made a mute, obstinate gesture.

"If she's alive, and you don't tell me, I can't but find her. And I'll
make you know the agonies of suspense--a long way from here."

I was silent.

"If she's dead, and you'll tell me, I'll save you some trouble. If she's
dead and you don't, you'll have your own remorse and the rest, too."

I said, "You're too Irish mysterious for me to understand. But you've a
choice of four evils for me--choose yourself."

He continued with a quivering, taut good-humour: "Prove to me she's
dead, and I'll let you die sharply and mercifully."

"You won't believe!" I said; but he took no notice.

"I tell you plainly," he smiled. "If we find... if we find her dear
body--and I can't help; but I've men on the watch all along the
shores--I'll give you up to your admiral for a pirate. You'll have
a long slow agony of a trial; I know what English justice is. And a
disgraceful felon's death."

I was thinking that, in any case, a day or so might be gained, the
_Lion_ would be gone; they could not touch her while the flagship
remained outside. I certainly didn't want to be given up to the admiral;
I might explain the mistaken identity. But there was the charge of
treason in Jamaica. I said:

"I only ask to be given up; but you daren't do it for your own credit. I
can show you up."

He said, "Make no mistake! If he gets you, he'll hang you. He's going
home in disgrace. Your whole blundering Government will work to hang
you."

"They know pretty well," I answered, "that there are queer doings in
Havana. I promise you, I'll clear things up. I know too much...."

He said, with a sudden, intense note of passion, "Only tell me where her
grave is, I'll let you go free. You couldn't, you dare not, dastard that
you are, go away from where she died--without... without making sure."

"Then search all the new graves in the island," I said, "I'll tell you
nothing.... Nothing!"

He came at me again and again, but I never spoke after that. He made all
the issues clearer and clearer--his own side involuntarily and all the
griefs I had to expect. As for him, he dared not kill me--and he dared
not give me up to the admiral. In his suspense, since, for him, I was
the only person in the world who knew Seraphina's fate, he dared not let
me out of his grip. And all the while he had me he must keep the admiral
there, waiting for the surrender either of myself or of some other poor
devil whom he might palm off as Nikola el Escoces. While the admiral was
there the _Lion_ was pretty safe from molestation, and she would sail
pretty soon.

At the same time, except for the momentary sheer joy of tormenting a
man whom I couldn't help regarding as a devil, I had more than enough to
fear. I had suffered too much; I wanted rest, woman's love, slackening
off. And here was another endless coil--endless. If it didn't end in a
knife in the back, he might keep me for ages in Havana; or he might
get me sent to England, where it would take months, an endless time, to
prove merely that I wasn't Nikola el Escoces. I should prove it; but,
in the meantime, what would become of Sera-phina? Would she follow me to
England? Would she even know that I had gone there? Or would she think
me dead and die herself? O'Brien knew nothing; his spies might report a
hundred uncertainties. He was standing rigidly still now, as if afraid
to move for fear of breaking down. He said suddenly:

"You came in some ship; you can't deceive me, I shall have them all
searched again."

I said desperately, "Search and be damned--whatever ships you like."

"You cold, pitiless, English scoundrel," he shrieked suddenly. The
breaking down of his restraint had let him go right into madness. "You
have murdered her. You cared nothing; you came from nowhere. A beggarly
fool, too stupid to be even an adventurer. A miserable blunderer, coming
in blind; coming out blind; and leaving ruin and worse than hell. What
good have you done yourself? What could you? What did you see? What did
you hope?... Sorrow? Ruin? Death? I am acquainted with them. It is in
the blood; 'tis in the tone; in the entrails of us, in our mother's
milk. Your accursed land has brought always that on our own dear and
sorrowful country.... You waste, you ruin, you spoil. What for?... Tell
me what for? Tell me? Tell me? What did you gain? What will you ever
gain? An unending curse!... But, ah, ye've no souls."

He called very loudly, as if with a passionate relief, his voice giving
life to an unsuspected, misgiving echo:

"Guards! Soldiers!... You shall be shot, now!"

He was going to cut the knot that way. Two soldiers pushed the door
noisily open, their muskets advanced. He took no notice of them; and
they retained an attitude of military stupidity, their eyes upon him. He
whispered:

"No, no! Not yet!"

Then he looked at me searchingly, as if he still hoped to get some
certainty from my face, some inkling, perhaps some inspiration of what
would persuade me to speak. Then he shook his wrists violently, as if in
fear of himself.

"Take him away," he said. "Away! Out of reach of my hands. Out of reach
of my hands."

I was trembling a good deal; when the soldiers entered I thought I had
got to my last minute. But, as it was, he had not learnt a thing
from me. Not a thing. And I did not see where else he could go for
information.



CHAPTER TWO

The entrance to the common prison of Havana was a sort of lofty
tunnel, finished by great, iron-rusted, wooden gates. A civil guard was
exhibiting the judge's warrant for my committal to a white-haired man,
with a red face and blue eyes, that seemed to look through tumbled
bushes of silver eyebrows--the _alcayde_ of the prison. He bowed, and
rattled two farcically large keys. A practicable postern was ajar on the
yellow wood of the studded gates. It was as if it afforded a glimpse
of the other side of the world. The venerable turnkey, a gnome in
a steeple-crowned hat, protruded a blood-red hand backwards in the
direction of the postern.

"Señor Caballero," he croaked, "I pray you to consider this house your
own. My servants are yours."

Within was a gravel yard, shut in by portentous lead-white house-sides
with black window holes. Under each row of windows was a vast vaulted
tunnel, caged with iron bars, for all the world like beasts' dens. It
being day, the beasts were out and lounging about the _patio_. They had
an effect of infinite tranquillity, as if they were ladies and gentlemen
parading in a Sunday avenue. Perhaps twenty of them, in snowy white
shirts and black velvet knee-breeches, strutted like pigeons in a knot,
some with one woman on the arm, some with two. Bundles of variegated
rags lay against the walls, as if they were sweepings. Well, they were
the sweepings of Havana jail. The men in white and black were the great
thieves... and there were children, too--the place was the city
orphanage. For the fifth part of a second my advent made no difference.
Then, at the far end, one of the men in black and white separated
himself, and came swiftly to me across the sunny _patio_. The others
followed slowly, with pea-fowl steps, their women hanging to them
and whispering. The bundles of rags rose up towards me; others slunk
furtively out of the barred dens. The man who was approaching had the
head of a Julius Cæsar of fifty, for all the world as if he had stolen a
bust and endowed it with yellow skin and stubby gray and silver hair.
He saluted me with intense gravity and an imperial glance of yellow
eyes along a hooked nose. His linen was the most spotless broidered and
embossed stuff; îrom the crimson scarf round his waist protruded the
shagreen and silver handle of a long dagger. He said:

"Señor, I have the honour to salute you. I am Crisostomo Garcia. I ask
the courtesy of your trousers."

I did not answer him. I did not see what he wanted with my trousers,
which weren't anyway as valuable as his own. The others were closing
in on me like a solid wall. I leant back against the gate; I was not
frightened, but I was mightily excited. The man like Cæsar looked
fiercely at me, swayed a long way back on his haunches, and imperiously
motioned the crowd to recede.

"Señor Inglesito," he said, "the gift I have the honour to ask of you is
the price of my protection. Without it these, my brothers, will tear you
limb from limb, there will nothing of you remain."

His brothers set up a stealthy, sinister growl, that went round among
the heads like the mutter of an obscene echo among the mountain-tops. I
wondered whether this, perhaps, was the man who, O'Brien said, would
put a knife in my back. I hadn't any knife; I might knock the fellow's
teeth down his throat, though.

The _alcayde_ thrust his immense hat, blood-red face, and long, ragged,
silver locks out of the little door. His features were convulsed with
indignation. He had been whispering with the Civil Guard.

"Are you mad, gentlemen?" he said. "Do you wish to visit hell before
your times? Do you know who the senor is? Did you ever hear of Carlos el
Demonio? This is the _Inglesito_ of Rio Medio!"

It was plain that my deeds, such as they were, reported by O'Brien
spies, by the _Lugareños_, by all sorts of credulous gossipers, had got
me the devil of a reputation in the _patio_ of the jail. Men detached
themselves from the crowd, and went running about to announce my
arrival. The _alcayde_ drew his long body into the _patio_, and turned
to lock the little door with an immense key. In the crowd all sorts
of little movements happened. Women crossed themselves, and furtively
thrust pairs of crooked, skinny, brown, black-nailed fingers in my
direction. The man like Cæsar said:

"I ask your pardon, Señor Caballero. I did not know. How could I tell?
You are free of all the _patios_ in this land."

The tall _alcayde_ finished grinding the immense key in the lock, and
touched me on the arm.

"If the senor will follow me," he said. "I will do the honours of this
humble mansion, and indicate a choice of rooms where he may be free from
the visits of these gentry."

We went up steps, and through long, shadowy corridors, with here and
there a dark, lounging figure, like a stag seen in the dim aisles of a
wood. The _alcayde_ threw open a door.

The room was like a blazing oblong-box, filled with light, but without
window or chimney. Two men were fencing in the illumination of some
twenty candles stuck all round the mildewed white walls on lumps of
clay. There was a blaze of silver things, like an altar of a wealthy
church, from a black, carved table in the far corner. The two men, in
shirts and breeches, revolved round each other, their rapiers clinking,
their left arms scarved, holding buttoned daggers. The _alcayde_
proclaimed:

"Don Vincente Salazar, I have the honour to announce an English senor."

The man with his face to me tossed his rapier impatiently into a corner.
He was a plump, dark Cuban, with a brooding truculence. The other faced
round quickly. His cheeks shone in the candle-light like polished yellow
leather, his eyes were narrow slits, his face lugubrious. He scrutinized
me intently, then drawled:

"My! You?... Hang me if I didn't think it would be you!"

He had the air of surveying a monstrosity, and pulled the neck of his
dirty print shirt open, panting. He slouched out into the corridor, and
began whispering eagerly to the _alcayde_. The little Cuban glowered at
me; I said I had the honour to salute him.

He muttered something contemptuous between his teeth. Well, if he didn't
want to talk to me, I didn't want to talk to him. It had struck me that
the tall, sallow man was undoubtedly the second mate of the _Thames_.
Nicholas, the real Nikola el Escoces! The Cuban grumbled suddenly:

"You, Señor, are without doubt one of the spies of that friend of the
priests, that O'Brien. Tell him to beware--that I bid him beware. I, Don
Vincente Salazar de Valdepefias y Forli y..."

I remembered the name; he was once the suitor of Seraphina--the man
O'Brien had put out of the way. He continued with a grotesque frown of
portentous significance:

"To-morrow I leave this place. And your compatriot is very much afraid,
Señor. Let him fear! Let him fear! But a thousand spies should not save
him."

The tall _alcayde_ came hurriedly back and stood bowing between us. He
apologized abjectly to the Cuban for intruding me upon him. But the room
was the best in the place at the disposal of the prisoners of the Juez
O'Brien. And I was a noted _caballero_. Heaven knows what I had not done
in Rio Medio. Burnt, slain, ravished.... The Señor Juez was understood
to be much incensed against me. The gloomy Cuban at once rushed upon me,
as if he would have taken me into his arms.

"The _Inglesito_ of Rio Medio!" he said. "Ha, ha! Much have I heard of
you. Much of the senor's valiance! Many tales! That foul eater of the
carrion of the priests wishes your life! Ah, but let him beware! I shall
save you, Señor--I, Don Vincente Salazar."

He presented me with the room--a remarkably bare place but for his
properties: silver branch candlesticks, a silver chafing-dish as large
as a basin. They might have been chased by Cellini--one used to find
things like that in Cuba in those days, and Salazar was the person
to have them. Afterwards, at the time of the first insurrection, his
eight-mule harness was sold for four thousand pounds in Paris--by reason
of the gold and pearls upon it. The atmosphere, he explained, was fetid,
but his man was coming to burn sandal-wood and beat the air with fans.

"And to-morrow!" he said, his eyes rolling. Suddenly he stopped.
"Señor," he said, "is it true that my venerated friend, my more than
father, has been murdered--at the instigation of that fiend? Is it true
that the senorita has disappeared? These tales are told."

I said it was very true.

"They shall be avenged," he declared, "to-morrow! I shall seek out the
senorita. I shall find her. I shall find her! For me she was destined by
my venerable friend."

He snatched a black velvet jacket from the table and put it on.

"Afterwards, Señor, you shall relate. Have no fear. I shall save you. I
shall save all men oppressed by this scourge of the land. For the moment
afford me the opportunity to meditate." He crossed his arms, and dropped
his round head. "Alas, yes!" he meditated.

Suddenly he waved towards the door. "Señor," he said swiftly, "I must
have air; I stifle. Come with me to the corridor...."

He went towards the window giving on to the _patio_; he stood in the
shadow, his arms folded, his head hanging dejectedly. At the moment it
grew suddenly dark, as if a veil had been thrown over a lamp. The sun
had set outside the walls. A drum began to beat. Down below in the
obscurity the crowd separated into three strings and moved slowly
towards the barren tunnels. Under our feet the white shirts disappeared;
the ragged crowd gravitated to the left; the small children strung into
the square cage-door. The drum beat again and the crowd hurried. Then
there was a clang of closing grilles and lights began to show behind the
bars from deep recesses. In a little time there was a repulsive hash of
heads and limbs to be seen under the arches vanishing a long way within,
and a little light washed across the gravel of the _patio_ from within.

"Señor," the Cuban said suddenly, "I will pronounce his panegyric.
He was a man of a great gentleness, of an inevitable nobility, of an
invariable courtesy. Where, in this degenerate age, shall we find the
like!" He stopped to breathe a sound of intense exasperation.

"When I think of these Irish,..." he said. "Of that O'Brien...."
A servant was arranging the shining room that we had left. Salazar
interrupted himself to give some orders about a banquet, then returned
to me. "I tell you I am here for introducing my knife to the spine of
some sort of Madrid _embustero_, a man who was insolent to my _amiga_
Clara. Do you believe that for that this O'Brien, by the influence of
the priests whose soles he licks with his tongue, has had me inclosed
for many months? Because he feared me! Aha! I was about to expose him to
the noble don who is now dead! I was about to wed the Señorita who
has disappeared. But to-morrow... I shall expose his intrigue to the
Captain-General. You, Señor, shall be my witness! I extend my protection
to you...." He crossed his arms and spoke with much deliberation.
"Señor, this Irishman incommodes me, Don Vincente Salazar de Valdepeñas
y Forli...." He nodded his head expressively. "Señor, we offered these
Irish the shelter of our robe for that your Government was making
martyrs of them who were good Christians, and it behoves us to act in
despite of your Government, who are heretics and not to be tolerated
upon God's Christian earth. But, Señor, if they incommoded your
Government as they do us, I do not wonder that there was a desire to
remove them. Señor, the life of that man is not worth the price of eight
mules, which is the price I have paid for my release. I might walk free
at this moment, but it is not fitting that I should slink away under
cover of darkness. I shall go out in the daylight with my carriage. And
I will have an offering to show my friends who, like me, are incommoded
by this...." The man was a monomaniac; but it struck me that, if I had
been O'Brien, I should have felt uncomfortable.

In the dark of the corridor a long shape appeared, lounging. The Cuban
beside me started hospitably forward.

"_Vamos_," he said briskly; "to the banquet...." He waved his hand
towards the shining door and stood aside. We entered.

The other man was undoubtedly the Nova Scotian mate of the _Thames_, the
man who had dissuaded me from following Carlos on the day we sailed into
Kingston Harbour. He was chewing a toothpick, and at the ruminant motion
of his knife-jaws I seemed to see him, sitting naked to the waist in
his bunk, instead of upright there in red trousers and a blue shirt--an
immense lank-length of each. I pieced his history together in a sort of
flash. He was the true Nikola el Escoces; his name was Nichols, and he
came from Nova Scotia. He had been the chief of O'Brien's _Lugareños_.
He surveyed me now with a twinkle in his eyes, his yellow jaws as
shiny-shaven as of old; his arms as much like a semaphore. He said
mockingly:

"So you went there, after all?"

But the Cuban was pressing us towards his banquet; there was _gaspacho_
in silver plates, and a man in livery holding something in a napkin. It
worried me. We surveyed each other in silence. I wondered what Nichols
knew; what it would be safe to tell him; how much he could help me? One
or other of these men undoubtedly might. The Cuban was an imbecile; but
he might have some influence--and if he really were going out on the
morrow, and really did go to the Captain-General, he certainly could
further his own revenge on O'Brien by helping me.... But as for
Nichols....

Salazar began to tell a long, exaggerated story about his cook, whom he
had imported from Paris.

"Think," he said; "I bring the fool two thousand miles--and then--not
even able to begin on a land-crab. A fool!"

The Nova Scotian cast an uninterested side glance at him, and said in
English, which Salazar did not understand:

"So you went there, after all? And now _he's_ got you." I did not answer
him. "I know all about you," he added.

"It's more than I do about you," I said.

He rose and suddenly jerked the door open, peered on each side of the
corridor, and then sat down again.

"I'm not afraid to tell," he said defiantly. "I'm not afraid of
anything. I'm safe."

The Cuban said to me in Spanish: "This senor is my friend. Everyone who
hates that devil is my friend."

"I'm safe," Nichols repeated. "I know too much about our friend the
raparee." He lowered his voice. "They say you're to be given up for
piracy, eh?" His eyes had an extraordinarily anxious leer. "You are now,
eh? For how much? Can't you tell a man? We're in the same boat! I kin
help you!"

Salazar accidentally knocked a silver goblet off the table and, at the
sound, Nichols sprang half off his chair. He glared in a wild stare
around him then grasped at a flagon of _aguardiente_ and drank.

"I'm not afraid of any damn thing" he said. "I've got a hold on that
man. He dursen't give me up. I kin see! He's going to give you up and
say you're responsible for it all."

"I don't know what he's going to do," I answered.

"Will you not, Señor," Salazar said suddenly, "relate, if you can
without distress, the heroic death of that venerated man?"

I glanced involuntarily at Nichols. "The distress," I said, "would be
very great. I was Don Balthasar's kinsman. The Señor O'Brien had a great
fear of my influence in the Casa. It was in trying to take me away
that Don Balthasar, who defended me, was slain by the _Lugareños_ of
O'Brien."

Salazar said, "Aha! Aha! We are kindred spirits. Hated and loved by the
same souls. This fiend, Señor. And then...."

"I escaped by sea--in an open boat, in the confusion. When I reached
Havana, the _Juez_ had me arrested."

Salazar raised both hands; his gestures, made for large, grave men, were
comic in him. They reduced Spanish manners to absurdity. He said:

"That man dies. That man dies. To-morrow I go to the Captain-General.
He shall hear this story of yours, Señor. He shall know of these
machinations which bring honest men to this place. We are a band of
brothers...."

"That's what I say." Nichols leered at me. "We're all in the same boat."

I expect he noticed that I wasn't moved by his declaration. He said,
still in English:

"Let us be open. Let's have a council of war. This O'Brien hates me
because I wouldn't fire on my own countrymen." He glanced furtively at
me. "I wouldn't," he asserted; "he wanted me to fire into their boats;
but I wouldn't. Don't you believe the tales they tell about me! They
tell worse about you. Who says I would fire on my countrymen? Where's
the man who says it?" He had been drinking more brandy and glared
ferociously at me. "None of your tricks, my hearty," he said. "None of
your getting out and spreading tales. O'Brien's my friend; he'll never
give me up. He dursen't. I know too much. You're a pirate! No doubt it
was you who fired into them boats. By God I'll be witness against you if
they give me up. I'll show you up."

All the while the little Cuban talked swiftly and with a saturnine
enthusiasm. He passed the wine rapidly.

"My own countrymen!" Nichols shouted. "Never! I shot a Yankee
lieutenant--Allen he was--with my own hand. That's another thing. I'm
not a man to trifle with. No, sir. Don't you try it.... Why, I've papers
that would hang O'Brien. I sent them home to Halifax. I know a trick
worth his. By God, let him try it! Let him only try it. He dursen't give
me up...."

The man in livery came in to snuff the candles. Nichols sprang from his
seat in a panic and drew his knife with frantic haste. He continued,
glaring at me from the wall, the knife in his hand:

"Don't you dream of tricks. I've cut more throats than you've kissed
gals in your little life."

Salazar himself drew an immense pointed knife with a shagreen hilt. He
kissed it rapturously.

"Aha!... Aha!" he said, "bear this kiss into his ribs at the back." His
eyes glistened with this mania. "I swear it; when I next see this dog;
this friend of the priests." He threw the knife on the table. "Look," he
said, "was ever steel truer or more thirsty?"

"Don't you make no mistake," Nichols continued to me. "Don't you think
to presume. O'Brien's my friend. I'm here snug and out of the way of the
old fool of an admiral. That's why he's kept waiting off the Morro. When
he goes, I walk out free. Don't you try to frighten me. I'm not a man to
be frightened."

Salazar bubbled: "Ah, but now the wine flows and is red. We are a band
of brothers, each loving the other. Brothers, let us drink."

The air of close confinement, the blaze, the feel of the jail, pressed
upon me, and I felt sore, suddenly, at having eaten and drunk with those
two. The idea of Seraphina, asleep perhaps, crying perhaps, something
pure and distant and very blissful, came in upon me irresistibly.

The little Cuban said, "We have had a very delightful conversation. It
is very plain this O'Brien must die."

I rose to my feet. "Gentlemen," I said in Spanish, "I am very weary; I
will go and sleep in the corridor."

The Cuban sprang towards me with an immense anxiety of hospitableness.
I was to sleep on his couch, the couch of cloth of gold. It was
impossible, it was insulting, that I should think of sleeping in the
corridor. He thrust me gently down upon it, making with his plump hands
the motions of smoothing it to receive me. I lay down and turned my face
to the wall.

It wasn't possible to sleep, even though the little Cuban, with a tender
solicitude, went round the walls blowing out the candles. He might be
useful to me, might really explain matters to the Captain-General, or
might even, as a last resource, take a letter from me to the British
Consul. But I should have to be alone with him. Nichols was an
abominable scoundrel; bloodthirsty to the defenceless; a liar; craven
before the ghost of a threat. No doubt O'Brien did not want to give him
up. Perhaps he _had_ papers. And no doubt, once he could find a trace of
Seraphina's whereabouts, O'Brien would give me up. All I could do was to
hope for a gain of time. And yet, if I gained time, it could only mean
that I should in the end be given up to the admiral.

And Seraphina's whereabouts. It came over me lamentably that I myself
did not know. The _Lion_ might have sailed. It was possible. She might
be at sea. Then, perhaps, my only chance of ever seeing her again lay in
my being given up to the admiral, to stand in England a trial, perhaps
for piracy, perhaps for treason. I might meet her only in England, after
many years of imprisonment. It wasn't possible. I would not believe in
the possibility. How I loved her! How wildly, how irrationally--this
woman of another race, of another world, bound to me by sufferings
together, by joys together. Irrationally! Looking at the matter now,
the reason is plain enough. Before then I had not lived. I had only
waited--for her and for what she stood for. It was in my blood, in my
race, in my tradition, in my training. We, all of us for generations,
had made for efficiency, for drill, for restraint. Our Romance was just
this very Spanish contrast, this obliquity of vision, this slight
tilt of the convex mirror that shaped the same world so differently to
onlookers at different points of its circle.

I could feel a little of it even then, when there was only the merest
chance of my going back to England and getting back towards our old
position on the rim of the mirror. The deviousness, the wayward passion,
even the sempiternal abuses of the land were already beginning to take
the aspect of something like quaint impotence. It was charm that, now I
was on the road away, was becoming apparent. The inconveniences of life,
the physical discomforts, the smells of streets, the heat, dropped into
the background. I felt that I did not want to go away, irrevocably from
a land sanctioned by her presence, her young life. I turned uneasily
to the other side. At the heavy black table, in the light of a single
candle, the Cuban and the Nova Scotian were discussing, their heads
close together.

"I tell you no," Nichols was saying in a fluent, abominable, literal
translation into Spanish. "Take the knife so... thumb upwards. Stab down
in the soft between the neck and the shoulder-blade. You get right into
the lungs with the point. I've tried it: ten times. Never stick the
back. The chances are he moves, and you hit a bone. There are no bones
there. It's the way they kill pigs in New Jersey."

The Cuban bent his brows as if he were reflecting over a chessboard.
"Ma...." he pondered. His knife was lying on the table. He unsheathed
it, then got up, and moved behind the seated Nova Scotian.

"You say... there?" he asked, pressing his little finger at the base of
Nichols' skinny column of a neck. "And then..." He measured the length
of the knife on Nichols's back twice with elaborate care, breathing
through his nostrils. Then he said with a convinced, musing air, "It is
true. It would go down into the lungs."

"And there are arteries and things," Nichols said.

"Yes, yes," the Cuban answered, sheathing the knife and thrusting it
into his belt.

"With a knife that length it's perfect." Nichols waved his shadowy hand
towards Salazar's scarf. Salazar moved off a little.

"I see the advantages," he said. "No crying out, because of the blood in
the lungs. I thank yous Señor Escoces."

Nichols rose, lurching to his full height, and looked in my direction. I
closed my eyes. I did not wish him to talk to me. I heard him say:

"Well, _hasta mas ver_. I shall get away from here. Good-night."

He swayed an immense shadow through the door. Salazar took the candle
and followed him into the corridor.

Yes, that was it, why she was so great a part, a whole wall, a whole
beam of my life's house. I saw her suddenly in the blackness, her full
red lips, her quivering nostrils, the curve of her breasts, her lithe
movements from the hips, the way she set her feet down, the white flower
waxen in the darkness of her hair, and the robin-wing flutter of her
lids over her gray eyes when she smiled. I moved convulsively in my
intense desire. I would have given my soul, my share of eternity, my
honour, only to see that flutter of the lids over the shining gray eyes.
I never felt I was beneath the imponderable pressure of a prison's wall
till then. She was infinite miles away; I could not even imagine what
inanimate things surrounded her. She must be talking to someone else;
fluttering her lids like that. I recognized with a physical agony that
was more than jealousy how slight was my hold upon her. It was not in
her race, in her blood as in mine, to love me and my type. She had lived
all her life in the middle of Romance, and the very fire and passion
of her South must make me dim prose to her. I remember the flicker
of Salazar's returning candle, cast in lines like an advancing scythe
across the two walls from the corridor. I slept.

I had the feeling of appalled horror suddenly invading my sleep; a vast
voice seemed to be exclaiming:

"Tell me where she is!"

I looked at the glowing horn of a lanthorn. It was O'Brien who held it.
He stood over me, very sombre.

"Tell me where she is," he said, the moment my eyes opened.

I said, "She's... she's------I don't know."

It appalls me even now to think how narrow was my escape. It was only
because I had gone to sleep in the thought that I did not know, that I
answered that I did not know. Ah--he was a cunning devil! To suddenly
wake one; to get one's thoughts before one had had time to think! I lay
looking at him, shivering. I couldn't even see much of his face.

"Where is she?" he said again. "Where? Dead? Dead? God have mercy on
your soul if the child is dead!"

I was still trembling. If I had told him!--I could hardly believe I had
not. He continued bending over me with an attitude that hideously mocked
solicitude.

"Where is she?" he asked again.

"Ransack the island," I said. He glared at me, lifting the lamp. "The
whole earth, if you like."

He ground his teeth, bending very low over me; then stood up, raising
his head into the shadow above the lamp.

"What do I care for all the admirals?" he was speaking to himself.
"No ship shall leave Havana till...." He groaned. I heard him slap his
forehead, and say distractedly, "But perhaps she is not in a ship."

There was a silence in which I heard him breathe heavily, and then he
amazed me by saying:

"Have pity."

I laughed, lying on my back. "On you!"

He bent down. "Fool! on yourself."

A vast and towering shadow ran along the wall.

There wasn't a sound. The face of Salazar appeared behind him, and an
uplifted hand grasping a knife. O'Brien saw the horror in my eyes. I
gasped to him: "Look...." and before he could move the knife went softly
home between neck and shoulder. Salazar glided to the door and turned to
wave his hand at me. O'Brien's lips were pressed tightly together, the
handle of the knife was against his ear, the lanthorn hung at the end of
his rigid arm for a moment. As he lowered it, the blood spurted from
his shoulder as if from a burst stand-pipe, only black and warm. It fell
over my face, over my hands, everywhere. For a minute of eternity his
agonized eyes searched my features, as if to discern whether I had
connived, whether I condoned.

I had started up, my face coming right against his. I felt an immense
horror. What did it mean? What had he done? He had been such a power for
so long, so inevitably, over my whole life that I could not even begin
to understand that this was not some new subtle villainy of his. He
shook his head slowly, his ear disturbing the knife.

Then he turned jerkily on his heel, the lanthorn swinging round and
leaving me in his shadow. There were ten paces to reach the door. It
was like the finish of a race whether he would cover the remaining seven
after the first three steps. The dangling lanthorn shed small patches of
light through the holes in the metal top, like sunlight through leaves,
upon the gloom of the remote ceiling. At the fifth step he pressed his
hand spasmodically to his mouth; at the sixth he wavered to one side.
I made a sudden motion as if to save him from falling. He was dying!
He was dying! I hardly realized what it meant. This immense weight was
being removed from me. I had no need to fear him any more. I couldn't
understand, I could only look. This was his passing. This....

He sank, knelt down, placing the Ian thorn on the floor. He covered his
face with his hands and began to cough incessantly, like a man dying of
consumption. The glowing top of the lanthorn hissed and sputtered out in
little sharp blows, like hammer strokes... Carlos had coughed like that.
Carlos was dead. Now O'Brien! He was going. I should escape. It was all
over. Was it all over? He bowed stiffly forward, placing his hands on
the stones, then lay over on his side with his face to the light, his
eyes glaring at it. I sat motionless, watching him. The lanthorn lit
the carved leg of the black table and a dusty circle of the flags.
The spurts of blood from his shoulder grew less long in answer to the
pulsing of his heart; his fists unclenched, he drew his legs up to
his body, then sank down. His eyes looked suddenly at mine and, as the
features slowly relaxed, the smile seemed to come back, enigmatic, round
his mouth.

He was dead; he was gone; I was free! He would never know where she was;
never! He had gone, with the question on his lips; with the agony of
uncertainty in his eyes. From the door came an immense, grotesque, and
horrible chuckle.

"Aha!-Aha! I have saved you, Señor, I have protected you. We are as
brothers."

Against the tenuous blue light of the dawn Salazar was gesticulating in
the doorway. I felt a sudden repulsion; a feeling of intense disgust.
O'Brien lying there, I almost wished alive again--I wanted to have
him again, rather than that I should have been relieved of him by that
atrocious murder. I sat looking at both of them.

Saved! By that lunatic? I suddenly appreciated the agony of mind that
alone could have brought O'Brien, the cautious, the all-seeing, into
this place--. to ask me a question that for him was answered now.
Answered for him more than for me.

Where was Seraphina? Where? How should I come to her? O'Brien was dead.
And I.... Could I walk out of this place and go to her? O'Brien was
dead. But I...

I suddenly realized that now I was the pirate Nikola el Escoces--that
now he was no more there, nothing could save me from being handed over
to the admiral. Nothing.

Salazar outside the door began to call boastfully towards the sound of
approaching footsteps.'

"Aha! Aha! Come all of you! See what I have done! Come, Señor Alcayde!
Come, brave soldiers..."

In that way died this man whose passion had for so long hung over my
life like a shadow. Looking at the matter now, I am, perhaps, glad that
he fell neither by my hand nor in my quarrel. I assuredly had injured
him the first; I had come upon his ground; I had thwarted him; I had
been a heavy weight at a time when his fortunes had been failing.
Failing they undoubtedly were. He had run his course too far.

And, if his death removed him out of my path, the legacy of his intrigue
caused me suffering enough. Had he lived, there is no knowing what he
might have done. He was bound to deliver someone to the British--either
myself or Nichols. Perhaps, at the last moment, he would have kept me in
Havana. There is no saying.

Undoubtedly he had not wished to deliver Nichols; either because he
really knew too much or because he had scruples. Nichols had certainly
been faithful to him. And, with his fine irony, it was delightful to him
to think that I should die a felon's death in England. For those reasons
he had identified me with Nikola el Escoces, intending to give up
whichever suited him at the last moment.

Now that was settled for him and for me. The delivery was to take
place at dawn, and O'Brien not to be found, the old Judge of the First
Instance had been sent to identify the prisoner. He selected me, whom,
of course, he recognized. There was no question of Nichols, who had been
imprisoned on a charge of theft trumped up by O'Brien.

Salazar, whether he would have gone to the Captain-General or not, was
now entirely useless. He was retained to answer the charge of murder.
And to any protestations I could make, the old _Juez_ was entirely deaf.

"The senor must make representations to his own authorities," he said.
"I have warrant for what I have done."

It was impossible to expose O'Brien to him. The soldiers of the escort,
in the dawn before the prison gates, simply laughed at me.

They marched me down through the gray mists, to the water's edge. Two
soldiers held my arms; O'Brien's blood was drying on my face and on my
clothes. I was, even to myself, a miserable object. Among the négresses
on the slimy boat-steps a thick, short man was asking questions. He
opened amazed eyes at the sight of me. It was Williams--the _Lion_ was
not yet gone then. If he spoke to me, or gave token of connection with
Seraphina, the Spaniards would understand. They would take her from him
certainly; perhaps immure her in a convent. And now that I was bound
irrevocably for England, she must go, too. He was shouldering his way
towards my guards.

"Silence!" I shouted, without looking at him. "Go away, make sail....
Tell Sebright...."

My guards seemed to think I had gone mad; they laid hands upon me. I
didn't struggle, and we passed down towards the landing steps, brushing
Williams aside. He stood perturbedly gazing after me; then I saw him
asking questions of a civil guard. A man-of-war's boat, the ensign
trailing in the glassy water, the glazed hats of the seamen bobbing like
clockwork, was flying towards us. Here was England! Here was home! I
should have to clear myself of felony, to strain every nerve and cheat
the gallows. If only Williams understood, if only he did not make a fool
of himself. I couldn't see him any more; a jabbering crowd all round
us was being kept at a distance by the muskets of the soldiers. My only
chance was Sebright's intelligence. He might prevent Williams making a
fool of himself. The commander of the guard said to the lieutenant from
the flagship, who had landed, attended by the master-at-arms:

"I have the honour to deliver to your worship's custody the prisoner
promised to his excellency the English admiral. Here are the papers
disclosing his crimes to the justice. I beg for a receipt."

A shabby _escrivano_ from the prison advanced bowing, with an inkhorn,
shaking a wet goose-quill. A _guardia civil_ offered his back. The
lieutenant signed a paper hastily, then looking hard at me, gave the
order:

"Master-at-arms, handcuff one of the prisoner's hands to your own wrist.
He is a desperate character."



CHAPTER THREE

The first decent word I had spoken to me after that for months came
from my turnkey at Newgate. It was when he welcomed me back from my
examination before the Thames Court magistrate. The magistrate, a
bad-tempered man, snuffy, with red eyes, and the air of being a piece of
worn and dirty furniture of his court, had snapped at me when I tried to
speak:

"Keep your lies for the Admiralty Session. I've only time to commit you.
Damn your Spaniards; why can't they translate their own papers;" had
signed something with a squeaky quill, tossed it to his clerk, and
grunted, "Next case."

I had gone back to Newgate.

The turnkey, a man with the air of an innkeeper, bandy-legged, with
a bulbous, purple-veined nose and watering eyes, slipped out of the
gatehouse door, whilst the great, hollow-sounding gate still shook
behind me. He said:

"If you hurries up you'll see a bit of life.... Do you good. Condemned
sermon. Being preached in the chapel now; sheriffs and all. They swing
tomorrow--three of them. Quick with the stumps."

He hurried me over the desolate mossy-green cobbles of the great
solitary yard into a square, tall, bare, whitewashed place. Already
from the outside one caught a droning voice. There might have been three
hundred people there, boxed off in pews, with turnkeys at each end.
A vast king's arms, a splash of red and blue gilt, sprawled above a
two-tiered pulpit that was like the trunk of a large broken tree. The
turnkey pulled my hat off, and nudged me into a box beside the door.

"Kneel down," he whispered hoarsely.

I knelt. A man with a new wig was droning out words, waving his hands
now and then from the top of the tall pulpit. Beneath him a smaller man
in an old wig was dozing, his head bent forward. The place was dirty,
and ill-lighted by the tall, grimy windows, heavily barred. A pair of
candles flickered beside the preacher's right arm....

"They that go down to the sea in ships, my poor brethren," he droned,
"lying under the shadow..."

He directed his hands towards a tall deal box painted black, isolated in
the centre of the lower floor. A man with a red head sat in it, his arms
folded; another had his arms covering his head, which leant abjectly
forward on the rail in front. There were large rusty gyves upon his
wrists.

"But observe, my poor friends," the chaplain droned on, "the psalmist
saith, 'At the last He shall bring them unto the desired haven.' Now..."

The turnkey whispered suddenly into my ear: "Them's the condemned he's
preaching at, them in the black pew. See Roguey Cullen wink at the woman
prisoners up there in the gallery.... Him with the red hair.... All
swings to-morrow."

"After they have staggered and reeled to and fro, and been amazed...
observe. After they have been tempted; even after they have fallen...."

The sheriffs had their eyes decorously closed. The clerk reached up from
below the preacher, and snuffed one of the candles. The preacher paused
to rearrange his shining wig. Little clouds of powder flew out where he
touched it. He struck his purple velvet cushion, and continued:

"At the last, I say, He shall bring them to the haven they had desired."

A jarring shriek rose out of the black pew, and an insensate jangling
of irons rattled against the hollow wood. The ironed man, whose head
had been hidden, was writhing in an epileptic fit. The governor began
signalling to the jailers, and the whole dismal assembly rose to its
feet, and craned to get a sight. The jailers began hurrying them out of
the building. The redheaded man was crouching in the far corner of the
black box.

The turnkey caught the end of my sleeve, and hurried me out of the door.

"Come away," he said. "Come out of it.... Damn my good nature."

We went swiftly through the tall, gloomy, echoing stone passages. All
the time there was the noise of the prisoners being marshalled somewhere
into their distant yards and cells. We went across the bottom of a well,
where the weeping December light struck ghastly down on to the
stones, into a sort of rabbit-warren of black passages and descending
staircases, a horror of cold, solitude, and night. Iron door after iron
door clanged to behind us in the stony blackness. After an interminable
traversing, the turnkey, still with his hand on my sleeve, jerked me
into my familiar cell. I hadn't thought to be glad to get back to that
dim, frozen, damp-chilled little hole; with its hateful stone walls,
stone ceiling, stone floor, stone bed-slab, and stone table; its rope
mat, foul stable-blanket, its horrible sense of eternal burial, out of
sound, out of sight under a mined mountain of black stones. It was so
tiny that the turnkey, entering after me, seemed to be pressed close up
to my chest, and so dark that I could not see the colour of the dirty
hair that fell matted from the bald patch on the top of his skull; so
familiar that I knew the feel of every little worming of rust on the
iron candlestick. He wiped his face with a brown rag of handkerchief,
and said:

"Curse me if ever I go into that place again." After a time he added:
"Unless 'tis a matter of duty."

I didn't say anything; my nerves were still jangling to that shrieking,
and to the clang of the iron doors that had closed behind me. I had an
irresistible impulse to get hold of the iron candlestick and smash it
home through the skull of the turnkey--as I had done to the men who had
killed Seraphina's father... to kill this man, then to creep along the
black passages and murder man after man beside those iron doors until I
got to the open air.

He began again. "You'd think we'd get used to it--you'd think we
would--but 'tis a strain for us. You never knows what the prisoners will
do at a scene like that there. It drives 'em mad. Look at this scar.
Machell the forger done that for me, 'fore he was condemned, after a
sermon like that--a quiet, gentlemanly man, much like you. Lord, yes,
'tis a strain...." He paused, still wiping his face, then went on:
"_And_ I swear that when I sees them men sit there in that black pew,
an' hev heard the hammers going clack, clack on the scaffolding outside,
and knew that they hadn't no more chance than you have to get out of
there..." He pointed his short thumb towards the handkerchief of an
opening, where the little blurr of blue light wavered through the two
iron frames crossed in the nine feet of well. "Lord, you _never_ gets
used to it. You _wants_ them to escape; 'tis in the air through the
whole prison, even the debtors. I tells myself again and again, 'You're
a fool for your pains.' But it's the same with the others--my mates. You
can't get it out of your mind. That little kid now. I've seen children
swing; but that little kid--as sure to swing as what... as what _you_
are...."

"You think I am going to swing?" I asked.

I didn't want to kill him any more; I wanted too much to hear him
talk. I hadn't heard anything for months and months of solitude, of
darkness--on board the admiral's ship, stranded in the guardship at
Plymouth, bumping round the coast, and now here in Newgate. And it had
been darkness all the time. Jove! That Cuban time, with its movements,
its pettiness, its intrigue, its warmth, even its villainies showed
plainly enough in the chill of that blackness. It had been romance, that
life.

Little, and far away, and irrevocably done with, it showed all golden.
There wasn't any romance where I lay then; and there had been irons on
my wrists; gruff hatred, the darkness, and always despair.

On board the flagship coming home I had been chained down in the
cable-tier--a place where I could feel every straining of the great
ship. Once these had risen to a pandemonium, a frightful tumult. There
was a great gale outside. A sailor came down with a lanthorn, and tossed
my biscuit to me.

"You d------d pirate," he said, "maybe it's you saving us from
drowning."

"Is the gale very bad?" I had called.

He muttered--and the fact that he spoke to me at all showed how great
the strain of the weather must have been to wring any words out of him:

"Bad--there's a large Indiaman gone. We saw her one minute and then..."
He went away, muttering.

And suddenly the thought had come to me. What if the Indiaman were the
_Lion_--the _Lion_ with Seraphina on board? The man would not speak to
me when he came again. No one would speak to me; I was a pirate who had
fired on his own countrymen. And the thought had pursued me right into
Newgate--if she were dead; if I had taken her from that security, from
that peace, to end there.... And to end myself.

"Swing!" the turnkey said; "you'll swing right enough." He slapped the
great key on his flabby hand. "You can tell that by the signs. You,
being an Admiralty case, ought to have been in the Marshalsea. And
you're ordered solitary cell, and I'm tipped the straight wink against
your speaking a blessed word to a blessed soul. Why don't they let you
see an attorney? Why? Because they _mean_ you to swing."

I said, "Never mind that. Have you heard of a ship called the _Lion?_
Can you find out about her?"

He shook his head cunningly, and did not answer. If the _Lion_ had been
here, I must have heard. They couldn't have left me here.

I said, "For God's sake find out. Get me a shipping gazette."

He affected not to hear.

"There's money in plenty," I said.

He winked ponderously and began again. "Oh, you'll swing all right. A
man with nothing against him has a chance; with the rhino he has it,
even if he's guilty. But you'll _swing_. Charlie, who brought you back
just now, had a chat with the 'Torney-General's devil's clerk's clerk,
while old Nog o' Bow Street was trying to read their Spanish. He says
it's a Gov'nment matter. They wants to hang you bad, they do, so's to
go to the Jacky Spaniards and say, 'He were a nob, a nobby nob.' (So
you are, aren't you? One uncle an earl and t'other a dean, if so be what
they say's true.) 'He were a nobby nob and we swung 'im. Go you'n do
likewise.' They want a striking example t' keep the West India trade
quiet..." He wiped his forehead and moved my water jug of red earth on
the dirty deal table under the window, for all the world like a host in
front of a guest. "They means you to swing," he said. "They've silenced
the Thames Court reporters. Not a noospaper will publish a correct
report t'morrer. And you haven't see nobody, nor you won't, not if I can
help it."

He broke off and looked at me with an expression of candour.

"Mind you," he said, "I'm not uffish. To 'n ornery gentleman--of the
road or what you will--I'm not, if so be he's the necessary. I'd take a
letter like another. But for you, no--fear. Not that I've my knife into
you. What I can do to make you comfor'ble I will do, _both_ now an'
hereafter. But when I gets the wink, I looks after my skin. So'd any
man. You don't see nobody, nor you won't; nor your nobby relations
won't have the word. Till the Hadmir'lty trile. Charlie says it's
unconstitutional, you ought to see your 'torney, if you've one, or your
father's got one. But Lor', I says, 'Charlie, if they wants it they gets
it. This ain't no _habeas carpis_, give-the-man-a-chance case. It's the
Hadmir'lty. And not a man tried for piracy this thirty year. See what
a show it gives them, what bloody Radicle knows or keeres what the
perceedin's should be? Who's a-goin' t' make a question out of it? Go
away,' says I to Charlie. And that's it straight."

He went towards the door, then turned.

"You should be in the Marshalsea common yard; even I knows that. But
they've the wink there. 'Too full,' says they. Too full be d------d.
I've know'd the time--after the Vansdell smash it were--when they found
room for three hundred more improvident debtors over and above what
they're charted for. Too full! Their common yard! They don't want you to
speak to a soul, an' you won't till this day week, when the Hadmir'lty
Session is in full swing." He went out and locked the door, snorting,
"Too full at the Marshalsea!... Go away!"

"Find out about the _Lion_," I called, as the door closed.

It cleared the air for me, that speech. I understood that they wanted to
hang me, and I wanted not to be hung, desperately, from that moment.
I had not much cared before; I had--call it, moped. I had not really
believed, really sensed it out. It isn't easy to conceive that one is
going to be hanged, I doubt if one does even with the rope round one's
neck. I hadn't much wanted to live, but now I wanted to fight--one good
fight before I went under for good and all, condemned or acquitted.
There wasn't anything left for me to live for, Seraphina could not be
alive. The _Lion_ must have been lost.

But I was going to make a fight for it; curse it, I was going to give
them trouble. My "them" was not so much the Government that meant to
hang me as the unseen powers that suffered such a state of things, that
allowed a number of little meannesses, accidents, fatalities, to hang
me. I began to worry the turnkey. He gave me no help, only shreds of
information that let me see more plainly than ever how set "they" were
on sacrificing me to their exigencies.

The whole West Indian trade in London was in an uproar over the Pirate
Question and over the Slave Question. Jamaica was still squealing for
Separation before the premonitory grumbles of Abolition. Horton Pen,
over there, came back with astonishing clearness before me. I seemed to
hear old, wall-eyed, sandy-headed Macdonald, agitating his immense bulk
of ill-fitting white clothes in front of his newspaper, and bellowing in
his ox-voice:

"Abolition, they give us Abolition... or ram it down our throats. _They_
who haven't even the spunk to rid us o' the d------d pirates, not the
spunk to catch and hang one.... Jock, me lahd, we's abolush them before
they sail touch our neegurs.... Let them clear oor seas, let them hang
_one_ pirate, and then talk."

I was the one they were going to hang, to consolidate the bond with the
old island. The cement wanted a little blood in the mixing. Damn them!
I was going to make a fight; they had torn me from Seraphina, to fulfill
their own accursed ends. I felt myself grow harsh and strong, as a tree
feels itself grow gnarled by winter storms. I said to the turnkey again
and again:

"Man, I will promise you a thousand pounds or a pension for life, if you
will get a letter through to my mother or Squire Rooksby of Horton."

He said he daren't do it; enough was known of him to hang him if he
gave offence. His flabby fingers trembled, and his eyes grew large with
successive shocks of cupidity. He became afraid of coming near me; of
the strain of the temptation. On the next day he did not speak a word,
nor the next, nor the next. I began to grow horribly afraid of being
hung. The day before the trial arrived. Towards noon he flung the door
open.

"Here's paper, here's pens," he said. "You can prepare your defence. You
may write letters. Oh, hell! why did not they let it come sooner, I'd
have had your thousand pounds. I'll run a letter down to your people
fast as the devil could take it. I know a man, a gentleman of the road.
For twenty pun promised, split between us, he'll travel faster'n Turpin
did to York." He was waving a large sheet of newspaper agitatedly.

"What does it mean?" I asked. My head was whirling.

"Radical papers got a-holt of it," he said. "Trust them for nosing out.
And the Government's answering them. They say you're going to suffer
for your crimes. Hark to this... um, um... 'The wretched felon now in
Newgate will incur the just penalty...' Then they slaps the West Indies
in the face. 'When the planters threaten to recur to some other power
for protection, they, of course, believe that the loss of the colonies
would be severely felt. But...'"

"The _Lion's_ home," I said.

It burst upon me that she was--that she must be. Williams--or
Sebright--he was the man, had been speaking up for me. Or Seraphina had
been to the Spanish ambassador.

She was back; I should see her. I started up.

"The _Lion's_ home," I repeated.

The turnkey snarled, "She was posted as overdue three days ago."

I couldn't believe it was true.

"I saw it in the papers," he grumbled on. "I dursn't tell you." He
continued violently, "Blow my dickey. It would make a cat sick."

My sudden exaltation, my sudden despair, gave way to indifference.

"Oh, coming, coming!" he shouted, in answer to an immense bellowing cry
that loomed down the passage without.

I heard him grumble, "Of course, of course. I shan't make a penny." Then
he caught hold of my arm. "Here, come along, someone to see you in the
press-yard."

He pulled me along the noisome, black warren of passages, slamming the
inner door viciously behind him.

The press-yard--the exercising ground for the condemned--was empty; the
last batch had gone out, _my_ batch would be the next to come in, the
turnkey said suddenly. It was a well of a place, high black walls going
up into the desolate, weeping sky, and quite tiny. At one end was a sort
of slit in the wall, closed with tall, immense windows. From there a
faint sort of rabbit's squeak was going up through the immense roll and
rumble of traffic on the other side of the wall. The turnkey pushed me
towards it.

"Go on," he said. "I'll not listen; I ought to. But, curse me, I'm not
a bad sort," he added gloomily; "I dare say you'll make it worth my
while."

I went and peered through the bars at a faint object pressed against
other bars in just another slit across a black passage.

"What, Jackie, boy; what, Jackie?" Blinking his eyes, as if the dim
light were too strong for them, a thin, bent man stood there in a
brilliant new court coat. His face was meagre in the extreme, the nose
and cheekbones polished and transparent like a bigaroon cherry. A thin
tuft of reddish hair was brushed back from his high, shining forehead.
It was my father. He exclaimed:

"What, Jackie, boy! How old you look!" then waved his arm towards me.
"In trouble?" he said. "You in trouble?"

He rubbed his thin hands together, and looked round the place with a
cultured man's air of disgust. I said, "Father!" and he suddenly began
to talk very fast and agitatedly of what he had been doing for me. My
mother, he said, was crippled with rheumatism, and Rooksby and Veronica
on the preceding Thursday had set sail for Jamaica. He had read to my
mother, beside her bed, the newspaper containing an account of my case;
and she had given him money, and he had started with violent haste for
London. The haste and the rush were still dazing him. He had lived down
there in the farmhouse beneath the downs, with the stackyards under his
eyes, with his books of verse and his few prints on the wall------My
God, how it all came back to me.

In his disjointed speeches, I could see how exactly the same it all
remained. The same old surly man with a squint had driven him along the
muddy roads in the same ancient gig, past the bare elms, to meet the
coach. And my father had never been in London since he had walked the
streets with the Prince Regent's friends.

Whilst he talked to me there, lines of verse kept coming to his lips;
and, after the habitual pleasure of the apt quotation, he felt acutely
shocked at the inappropriateness of the place, the press-yard, with
the dim light weeping downwards between immensely high walls, and the
desultory snowflakes that dropped between us. And he had tried so hard,
in his emergency, to be practical. When he had reached London, before
even attempting to see me, he had run from minister to minister trying
to influence them in my favour--and he reached me in Newgate with
nothing at all effected.

I seemed to know him then, so intimately, so much better than anything
else in the world.

He began, "I had my idea in the up-coach last night. I thought, 'A very
great personage was indebted to me in the old days (more indebted than
you are aware of, Johnnie). I will intercede with him.' That was why my
first step was to my old tailor's in Conduit Street. Because... what is
fit for a farm for a palace were low." He stopped, reflected, then said,
"What is fit for _the_ farm for _the_ palace were low."

He felt across his coat for his breast pocket. It was what he had done
years and years ago, and all these years between, inscribe ideas for
lines of verse in his pocket-book. I said:

"You have seen the king?"

His face lengthened a little. "Not _seen_ him. But I found one of the
duke's secretaries, a pleasant young fellow... not such as we used to
be. But the duke was kind enough to interest himself. Perhaps my name
has lived in the land. I was called Curricle Kemp, as I may have told
you, because I drove a vermilion one with green and gilt wheels...."

His face, peering at me through the bars, had, for a moment, a flush
of pride. Then he suddenly remembered, and, as if to propitiate his own
reproof, he went on:

"I saw the Secretary of State, and he assured me, very civilly, that
not even the highest personage in the land...." He dropped his voice,
"Jackie, boy," he said, his narrow-lidded eyes peering miserably across
at me, "there's not even hope of a reprieve afterwards."

I leaned my face wearily against the iron bars. What, after all, was the
use of fighting if the _Lion_ were not back?

Then, suddenly, as the sound of his words echoed down the bare,
black corridors, he seemed to realize the horror of it. His face grew
absolutely white, he held his head erect, as if listening to a distant
sound. And then he began to cry--horribly, and for a long time.

It was I that had to comfort him. His head had bowed at the conviction
of his hopeless uselessness; all through his own life he had been made
ineffectual by his indulgence in perfectly innocent, perfectly trivial
enjoyments, and now, in this extremity of his only son, he was rendered
almost fantastically of no avail.

"No, no, sir! You have done all that any one could; you couldn't break
these walls down. Nothing else would help."

Small, hopeless sobs shook him continually. His thin, delicate white
fingers gripped the black grille, with the convulsive grasp of a very
weak man. It was more distressing to me than anything I had ever seen or
felt. The mere desire, the intense desire to comfort him, made me get
a grip upon myself again. And I remembered that, now that I could
communicate with the outer air, it was absolutely easy; he would save my
life. I said:

"You have only to go to Clapham, sir."

And the moment I was in a state to command him, to direct him, to give
him something to do, he became a changed man. He looked up and listened.
I told him to go to Major Cowper's. It would be easy enough to find him
at Clapham. Cowper, I remembered, could testify to my having been seized
by Tomas Castro. He had seen me fight on the decks. And what was more,
he would certainly know the addresses of Kingston planters, if any were
in London. They could testify that I had been in Jamaica all the while
Nikola el Escoces was in Rio Medio. I knew there were some. My father
was fidgeting to be gone. He had his name marked for him, and a will
directing his own. He was not the same man. But I particularly told him
to send me a lawyer first of all.

"Yes, yes!" he said, fidgeting to go, "to Major Cowper's. Let me write
his address."

"And a solicitor," I said. "Send him to me on your way there."

"Yes, yes," he said, "I shall be able to be of use to the solicitor. As
a rule, they are men of no great perspicacity."

And he went hurriedly away.

The real torture, the agony of suspense began then. I steadied my nerves
by trying to draw up notes for my speech to the jury on the morrow. That
was the turnkey's idea.

He said, "Slap your chest, 'peal to the honour of a British gent, and
pitch it in strong."

It was not much good; I could not keep to any logical sequence of
thought, my mind was forever wandering to what my father was doing. I
pictured him in his new blue coat, running agitatedly through crowded
streets, his coat-tails flying behind his thin legs. The hours dragged
on, and it was a matter of minutes. I had to hold upon the table edge to
keep myself from raging about the cell. I tried to bury myself again in
the scheme for my defence. I wondered whom my father would have found.
There was a man called Cary who had gone home from Kingston. He had a
bald head and blue eyes; he must remember me. If he would corroborate!
And the lawyer, when he came, might take another line of defence. It
began to fall dusk slowly, through the small barred windows.

The entire night passed without a word from my father. I paced up and
down the whole time, composing speeches to the jury. And then the day
broke. I calmed myself with a sort of frantic energy.

Early the jailer came in, and began fussing about my cell.

"Case comes on about one," he said. "Grand jury at half after twelve.
No fear they won't return a true bill. Grand jury, five West India
merchants. They means to have you. 'Torney-General, S'lic'tor-General.
S'r Robert Mead, and five juniors agin you... You take my tip. Throw
yourself on the mercy of the court, and make a rousing speech with
a young 'ooman in it. Not that you'll get much mercy from them. They
Admir'lty jedges is all hangers. 'S we say, 'Oncet the anchor goes up
in the Old Bailey, there ain't no hope. We begins to clean out the
c'ndemned cell, here. Sticks the anchor up over their heads, when it is
Hadmir'lty case,'" he commented.

I listened to him with strained attention. I made up my mind to miss not
a word uttered that day. It was my only chance.

"You don't know any one from Jamaica?" I asked.

He shook his bullet head, and tapped his purple nose. "Can't be done,"
he said. "You'd get a ornery hallybi fer a guinea a head, but they'd
keep out of this case. They've necks like you and me."

Whilst he was speaking, the whole of the outer world, as far as it
affected me, came suddenly in upon me--that was what I meant to the
great city that lay all round, the world, in the centre of which was my
cell. To the great mass, I was matter for a sensation; to them I might
prove myself beneficial in this business. Perhaps there were others who
were thinking I might be useful in one way or another. There were the
ministers of the Crown, who did not care much whether Jamaica separated
or not. But they wanted to hang me because they would be able to say
disdainfully to the planters, "Separate if you like; we've done our
duty, we've hanged a man."

All those people had their eyes on me, and they were about the only ones
who knew of my existence. That was the end of my Romance! Romance! The
broadsheet sellers would see to it afterwards with a "Dying confession."



CHAPTER FOUR

I never saw my father again until I was in the prisoner's anteroom at
the Old Bailey. It was full of lounging men, whose fleshy limbs bulged
out against the tight, loud checks of their coats and trousers. These
were jailers waiting to bring in their prisoners. On the other side
of one black door the Grand Jury was deliberating on my case, behind
another the court was in waiting to try me. I was in a sort of tired
lull. All night I had been pacing up and down, trying to bring my brain
to think of points--points in my defence. It was very difficult. I knew
that I must keep cool, be calm, be lucid, be convincing; and my brain
had reeled at times, even in the darkness of the cell. I knew it had
reeled, because I remembered that once I had fallen against the stone
of one of the walls, and once against the door. Here, in the light, with
only a door between myself and the last scene, I regained my hold. I was
going to fight every inch from start to finish. I was going to let no
chink of their armour go untried. I was going to make a good fight. My
teeth chattered like castanets, jarring in my jaws until it was painful.
But that was only with the cold.

A hubbub of expostulation was going on at the third door. My turnkey
called suddenly:

"Let the genman in, Charlie. Pal o' ourn," and my father ran huntedly
into the room. He began an endless tale of a hackney coachman who had
stood in front of the door of his coach to prevent his number being
taken; of a crowd of caddee-smashers, who had hustled him and filched
his purse. "Of course, I made a fight for it," he said, "a damn good
fight, considering. It's in the blood. But the watch came, and, in
short--on such an occasion as this there is no time for words--I passed
the night in the watch-house. Many and many a night I passed there when
I and Lord------But I am losing time."

"You ain't fit to walk the streets of London alone, sir," the turnkey
said.

My father gave him a corner of his narrow-lidded eyes. "My man," he
said, "I walked the streets with the highest in the land before your
mother bore you in Bridewell, or whatever jail it was."

"Oh, no offence," the turnkey muttered.

I said, "Did you find Cowper, sir? Will he give evidence?"

"Jackie," he said agitatedly, as if he were afraid of offending me, "he
said you had filched his wife's rings."

That, in fact, was what Major Cowper _had_ said--that I had dropped into
their ship near Port Royal Heads, and had afterwards gone away with the
pirates who had filched his wife's rings. My father, in his indignation,
had not even deigned to ask him for the address of Jamaica planters in
London; and on his way back to find a solicitor he had come into contact
with those street rowdies and the watch. He had only just come from
before the magistrates.

A man with one eye poked his head suddenly from behind the Grand Jury
door. He jerked his head in my direction.

"True bill against that 'ere," he said, then drew his head in again.

"Jackie, boy," my father said, putting a thin hand on my wrist, and
gazing imploringly into my eyes, "I'm... I'm ... I can't tell you
how...."

I said, "It doesn't matter, father." I felt a foretaste of how my past
would rise up to crush me. Cowper had let that wife of his coerce
him into swearing my life away. I remembered vividly his blubbering
protestations of friendship when I persuaded Tomas Castro to return him
his black deed-box with the brass handle, on that deck littered with
rubbish.... "Oh, God bless you, God bless you. You have saved me from
starvation...." There had been tears in his old blue eyes. "If you need
it I will go anywhere... do anything to help you. On the honour of a
gentleman and a soldier." I had, of course, recommended his wife to give
up her rings when the pirates were threatening her in the cabin. The
other door opened, another man said:

"Now, then, in with that carrion. D'you want to keep the judges
waiting?"

I stepped through the door straight down into the dock; there was a row
of spikes in the front of it. I wasn't afraid; three men in enormous
wigs and ermine robes faced me; four in short wigs had their heads
together like parrots on a branch. A fat man, bareheaded, with a gilt
chain round his neck, slipped from behind into a seat beside the highest
placed judge. He was wiping his mouth and munching with his jaws. On
each side of the judges, beyond the short-wigged assessors, were chairs
full of ladies and gentlemen. They all had their eyes upon me. I saw it
all very plainly. I was going to see everything, to keep my eyes open,
not to let any chance escape. I wondered why a young girl with blue eyes
and pink cheeks tittered and shrugged her shoulders. I did not know what
was amusing. What astonished me was the smallness, the dirt, the want of
dignity of the room itself. I thought they must be trying a case of my
importance there by mistake.

Presently I noticed a great gilt anchor above the judges' heads. I
wondered why it was there, until I remembered it was an Admiralty Court.
I thought suddenly, "Ah! if I had thought to tell my father to go and
see if the _Lion_ had come in in the night!"

A man was bawling out a number of names.... "Peter Plimley, gent., any
challenge.... Lazarus Cohen, merchant, any challenge...."

The turnkey beside me leant with his back against the spikes. He was
talking to the man who had called us in.

"Lazarus Cohen, West Indian merchant.... Lord, well, I'd challenge...."

The other man said, "S--sh."

"His old dad give me five shiners to put him up to a thing if I could,"
the turnkey said again.

I didn't catch his meaning until an old man with a very ragged gown
was handing up a book to a row of others in a box so near that I could
almost have touched them. Then I realized that the turnkey had been
winking to me to challenge the jury. I called out at the highest of the
judges:

"I protest against that jury. It is packed. Half of them, at least, are
West Indian merchants."

There was a stir all over the court. I realized then that what had
seemed only a mass of stuffs of some sort were human beings all looking
at me. The judge I had called to opened a pair of dim eyes upon me,
clasped and unclasped his hands, very dry, ancient, wrinkled. The judge
on his right called angrily:

"Nonsense, it is too late.... They are being sworn. You should have
spoken when the names were read." Underneath his wig was an immensely
broad face with glaring yellow eyes.

I said, "It is scandalous. You want to murder me, How should I know what
you do in your courts? I say the jury is packed."

The very old judge closed his eyes, opened them again, then gasped out:

"Silence. We are here to try you. This is a court of law."

The turnkey pulled my sleeve under cover of the planking. "Treat him
civil," he whispered, "Lord Justice Stowell of the Hadmir'lty. 'Tother's
Baron Garrow of the Common Law; a beast; him as hanged that kid. You can
sass him; it doesn't matter."

Lord Stowell waved his hand to the clerk with the ragged gown; the book
passed from hand to hand along the faces of the jury, the clerk gabbling
all the while. The old judge said suddenly, in an astonishingly deep,
majestic voice:

"Prisoner at the bar, you must understand that we are here to give you
an impartial trial according to the laws of this land. If you desire
advice as to the procedure of this court you can have it."

I said, "I still protest against that Jury. I am an innocent man,
and------"

He answered querulously, "Yes, yes, afterwards." And then creaked, "Now
the indictment...."

Someone hidden from me by three barristers began to read in a loud voice
not very easy to follow. I caught:

"For that the said John Kemp, alias Nichols, alias Nikola el Escoces,
alias el Demonio, alias el Diabletto, on the twelfth of May last, did
feloniously and upon the high seas piratically seize a certain ship
called the _Victoria_... um... um, the properties of Hyman Cohen and
others... and did steal and take therefrom six hundred and thirty
barrels of coffee of the value of... um... um... um... one hundred and
one barrels of coffee of the value of... ninety-four half kegs... and
divers others..."

I gave an immense sigh.... That was it, then. I had heard of the
_Victoria_; it was when I was at Horton that the news of her loss
reached us. Old Macdonald had sworn; it was the day a negro called
Apollo had taken to the bush. I ought to be able to prove that.
Afterwards, one of the judges asked me if I pleaded guilty or not
guilty. I began a long wrangle about being John Kemp but not Nikola el
Escoces. I was going to fight every inch of the way. They said:

"You will have your say afterwards. At present, guilty or not guilty?"

I refused to plead at all; I was not the man. The third judge woke up,
and said hurriedly:

"That is a plea of not guilty, enter it as such." Then he went to sleep
again. The young girl on the bench beside him laughed joyously, and Mr.
Baron Garrow nodded round at her, then snapped viciously at me:

"You don't make your case any better by this sort of foolery." His eyes
glared at me like an awakened owl's.

I said, "I'm fighting for my neck... and you'll have to fight, too, to
get it."

The old judge said angrily, "Silence, or you will have to be removed."

I said, "I am fighting for my life."

There was a sort of buzz all round the court.

Lord Stowell said, "Yes, yes;" and then, "Now, Mr. King's Advocate, I
suppose Mr. Alfonso Jervis opens for you."

A dusty wig swam up from just below my left hand, almost to a level with
the dock.

The old judge shut his eyes, with an air of a man who _is_ going a
long journey in a post-chaise. Mr. Baron Garrow dipped his pen into an
invisible ink-pot, and scratched it on his desk. A long story began to
drone from under the wig, an interminable farrago of dull nonsense, in
a hypochondriacal voice; a long tale about piracy in general; piracy in
the times of the Greeks, piracy in the times of William the Conqueror...
_pirata nequissima Eustachio_, and thanking God that a case of the sort
had not been heard in that court for an immense lapse of years. Below
me was an array of wigs, on each side a compressed mass of humanity,
squeezed so tight that all the eyeballs seemed to be starting out of
the heads towards me. From the wig below, a translation of the florid
phrases of the Spanish papers was coming:

"His very Catholic Majesty, out of his great love for his ancient friend
and ally, his Britannic Majesty, did surrender the body of the notorious
El Demonio, called also..."

I began to wonder who had composed that precious document, whether it
was the _Juez de la Primera Instancia_, bending his yellow face and
sloe-black eyes above the paper, over there in Havana--or whether it was
O'Brien, who was dead since the writing.

All the while the barrister was droning on. I did not listen because
I had heard all that before--in the room of the Judge of the First
Instance at Havana. Suddenly appearing behind the backs of the row of
gentlefolk on the bench was the pale, thin face of my father. I wondered
which of his great friends had got him his seat. He was nodding to me
and smiling faintly. I nodded, too, and smiled back. I was going to show
them that I was not cowed. The voice of the barrister said:

"M'luds and gentlemen of the jury, that finishes the Spanish evidence,
which was taken on commission on the island of Cuba. We shall produce
the officer of H. M. S. Elephant, to whom he was surrendered by the
Spanish authorities at Havana, thus proving the prisoner to be the
pirate Nikola, and no other. We come, now, to the specific instance,
m'luds and gentlemen, an instance as vile..."

It was some little time before I had grasped how absolutely the Spanish
evidence damned me. It was as if, once I fell into the hands of the
English officer on Havana quays, the identity of Nikola could by no
manner of means be shaken from round my neck. The barrister came to the
facts.

A Kingston ship had been boarded... and there was the old story over
again. I seemed to see the Rio Medio schooner rushing towards where I
and old Cowper and old Lumsden looked back from the poop to see her come
alongside; the strings of brown pirates pour in empty-handed, and
out laden. Only in the case of the _Victoria_ there were added the
ferocities of "the prisoner at the bar, m'luds and gentlemen of the
jury, a fiend in human shape, as we shall prove with the aid of the most
respectable witnesses...."

The man in the wig sat down, and, before I understood what was
happening, a fat, rosy man--the Attorney-General--whose cheerful gills
gave him a grotesque resemblance to a sucking pig, was calling "Edward
Sadler," and the name blared like sudden fire leaping up all over the
court. The Attorney-General wagged his gown into a kind of bunch behind
his hips, and a man, young, fair, with a reddish beard and a shiny suit
of clothes, sprang into a little box facing the jury. He bowed nervously
in several directions, and laughed gently; then he looked at me and
scowled. The Attorney-General cleared his throat pleasantly...

"Mr. Edward Sadler, you were, on May 25th, chief mate of the good ship
_Victoria...._"

The fair man with the beard told his story, the old story of the ship
with its cargo of coffee and dye-wood; its good passage past the Gran
Caymanos; the becalming off the Cuban shore in latitude so and so, and
the boarding of a black schooner, calling itself a Mexican privateer. I
could see all that.

"The prisoner at the bar came alongside in a boat, with seventeen
Spaniards," he said, in a clear, expressionless voice, looking me full
in the face.

I called out to the old judge, "My Lord... I protest. This is perjury. I
was not the man. It Was Nichols, a Nova Scotian."

Mr. Baron Garrow roared, "Silence," his face suffused with blood.

Old Lord Stowell quavered, "You must respect the procedure...."

"Am I to hear my life sworn away without a word?" I asked.

He drew himself frostily into his robes. "God forbid," he said; "but at
the proper time you can cross-examine, if you think fit."

The Attorney-General smiled at the jury-box and addressed himself to
Sadler, with an air of patience very much tried:

"You swear the prisoner is the man?"

The fair man turned his sharp eyes upon me. I called, "For God's sake,
don't perjure yourself. You are a decent man."

"No, I won't swear," he said slowly. "I think he was. He had his face
blacked then, of course. When I had sight of him at the Thames Court I
thought he was; and seeing the Spanish evidence, I don't see where's the
room...."

"The Spanish evidence is part of the plot," I said.

The Attorney-General snickered. "Go on, Mr. Sadler," he said. "Let's
have the rest of the plot unfolded."

A juryman laughed suddenly, and resumed an abashed sudden silence.
Sadler went on to tell the old story.... I saw it all as he spoke; only
gaunt, shiny-faced, yellow Nichols was chewing and hitching his trousers
in place of my Tomas, with his sanguine oaths and jerked gestures. And
there was Nichol's wanton, aimless ferocity.

"He had two pistols, which he fired twice each, while we were hoisting
the studding-sails by his order, to keep up with the schooner. He fired
twice into the crew. One of the men hit died afterwards...."

Later, another vessel, an American, had appeared in the offing, and the
pirates had gone in chase of her. He finished, and Lord Stowell moved
one of his ancient hands. It was as if a gray lizard had moved on his
desk, a little toward me.

"Now, prisoner," he said.

I drew a deep breath. I thought for a minute that, after all, there was
a little fair play in the game--that I had a decent, fair, blue-eyed
man in front of me. He looked hard at me; I hard at him; it was as if
we were going to wrestle for a belt. The young girl on the bench had her
lips parted and leant forward, her head a little on one side.

I said, "You won't swear I was the man... Nikola el Escoces?"

He looked meditatively into my eyes; it was a duel between us.

"I won't swear," he said. "You had your face blacked, and didn't wear a
beard."

A soft growth of hair had come out over my cheeks whilst I lay in
prison. I rubbed my hand against it, and thought that he had drawn first
blood.

"You must not say 'you,'" I said. "I swear I was not the man. Did he
talk like me?"

"Can't say that he did," Sadler answered, moving from one foot to the
other.

"Had he got eyes like me, or a nose, or a mouth?"

"Can't say," he answered again. "His face was blacked."

"Didn't he talk Blue Nose--in the Nova Scotian way?"

"Well, he did," Sadler assented slowly. "But any one could for a
disguise. It's as easy as..."

Beside me, the turnkey whispered suddenly, "Pull him up; stop his
mouth."

I said, "Wasn't he an older man? Didn't he look between forty and
fifty?"

"What do _you_ look like?" the chief mate asked.

"I'm twenty-four," I answered; "I can prove it."

"Well, you look forty and older," he answered negligently. "So did he."

His cool, disinterested manner overwhelmed me like the blow of an
immense wave; it proved so absolutely that I had parted with all
semblance of youth. It was something added to the immense waste of
waters between myself and Seraphina; an immense waste of years. I did
not ask much of the next witness; Sadler had made me afraid. Septimus
Hearn, the master of the _Victoria_, was a man with eyes as blue and
as cold as bits of round blue pebble; a little goat's beard, iron-gray;
apple-coloured cheeks, and small gold earrings in his ears. He had
an extraordinarily mournful voice, and a retrospective melancholy of
manner. He was just such another master of a trader as Captain Lumsden
had been, and it was the same story over again, with little different
touches, the hard blue eyes gazing far over the top of my head; the
gnarled hands moving restlessly on the rim of his hat.

"Afterwards the prisoner ordered the steward to give us a drink of
brandy. A glass was offered me, but I refused to drink it, and he said,
'Who is it that refuses to drink a glass of brandy?' He asked me what
countryman I was, and if I was an American."

There were two others from the unfortunate _Victoria_--a Thomas Davis,
boatswain, who had had one of Nikola's pistol-balls in his hip; and a
sort of steward--I have forgotten his name--who had a scar of a cutlass
wound on his forehead.

It was horrible enough; but what distressed me more was that I could
not see what sort of impression I was making. Once the judge who was
generally asleep woke up and began to scratch furiously with his quill;
once three of the assessors--the men in short wigs--began an animated
conversation; one man with a thin, dark face laughed noiselessly,
showing teeth like a white waterfall. A man in the body of the court on
my left had an enormous swelling, blood-red, and looking as if a touch
must burst it, under his chin; at one time he winked his eyes furiously
for a long time on end. It seemed to me that something in the evidence
must be affecting all these people. The turnkey beside me said to his
mate, "Twig old Justice Best making notes in his stud-calendar," and
suddenly the conviction forced itself upon me that the whole thing, the
long weary trial, the evidence, the parade of fairness, was being gone
through in a spirit of mockery, as a mere formality; that the judges and
the assessors, and the man with the goitre took no interest whatever in
my case. It was a foregone conclusion.

A tiny, fair man, with pale hair oiled and rather long for those days,
and with green and red signet rings on fingers that he was forever
running through that hair, came mincingly into the witness-box. He
held for a long time what seemed to be an amiable conversation with Sir
Robert Gifford, a tall, portentous-looking man, who had black beetling
brows, like tufts of black horsehair sticking in the crannies of a
cliff. The conversation went like this:

"You are the Hon. Thomas Oldham?"

"Yes, yes."

"You know Kingston, Jamaica, very well?"

"I was there four years--two as the secretary to the cabinet of his
Grace the Duke of Manchester, two as civil secretary to the admiral on
the station."

"You saw the prisoner?"

"Yes, three times."

I drew an immense breath; I thought for a moment that they had delivered
themselves into my hands. The thing must prove of itself that I had been
in Jamaica, not in Rio Medio, through those two years. My heart began
to thump like a great solemn drum, like Paul's bell when the king
died--solemn, insistent, dominating everything. The little man was
giving an account of the "'bawminable" state of confusion into which
the island's trade was thrown by the misdeeds of a pirate called Nikola
el Demonio.

"I assure you, my luds," he squeaked, turning suddenly to the judges,
"the island was wrought up into a pitch of... ah... almost disloyalty.
The... ah... planters were clamouring for... ah... separation. And, to
be sure, I trust you'll hang the prisoner, for if you don't..."

Lord Stowell shivered, and said suddenly with haste, "Mr. Oldham,
address yourself to Sir Robert."

I was almost happy; the cloven hoof had peeped so damningly out. The
little man bowed briskly to the old judge, asked for a chair, sat
himself down, and arranged his coat-tails.

"As I was saying," he prattled on, "the trouble and the worry that this
man caused to His Grace, myself, and Admiral Rowley were inconceivable.
You have no idea, you... ah... can't conceive. And no wonder, for, as it
turned out, the island was simply honeycombed by his spies and agents.
You have no idea; people who seemed most respectable, people we
ourselves had dealings with..."

He rattled on at immense length, the barrister taking huge pinches
of yellow snuff, and smiling genially with the air of a horse-trainer
watching a pony go faultlessly through difficult tricks. Every now and
then he flicked his whip.

"Mr. Oldham, you saw the prisoner three times. If it does not overtax
your memory pray tell us." And the little creature pranced off in a new
direction.

"Tax my memory! Gad, I like that. You remember a man who has had your
blood as near as could be, don't you?"

I had been looking at him eagerly, but my interest faded away now. It
was going to be the old confusing of my identity with Nikola's. And yet
I seemed to know the little beggar's falsetto; it was a voice one does
not forget.

"Remember!" he squeaked. "Gad, gentlemen of the jury, he came as near as
possible------You have no idea what a ferocious devil it is."

I was wondering why on earth Nichols should have wanted to kill such a
little thing. Because it was obvious that it must have been Nichols.

"As near as possible murdered myself and Admiral Rowley and a Mr.
Topnambo, a most enlightened and loyal... ah... inhabitant of the
island, on the steps of a public inn."

I had it then. It was the little man David Mac-donald had rolled down
the steps with, that night at the Ferry Inn on the Spanish Town road.

"He was lying in wait for us with a gang of assassins. I was stabbed
on the upper lip. I lost so much blood... had to be invalided... cannot
think of horrible episode without shuddering."

He had seen me then, and when Ramon ("a Spaniard who was afterwards
proved to be a spy of El Demonio's--of the prisoner's. He was hung
since") had driven me from the place of execution after the hanging of
the seven pirates; and he had come into Ramon's store at the moment
when Carlos ("a piratical devil if ever there was one," the little man
protested) had drawn me into the back room, where Don Balthasar and
O'Brien and Seraphina sat waiting. The men who were employed to watch
Ramon's had never seen me leave again, and afterwards a secret tunnel
was discovered leading down to the quay.

"This, apparently, was the way by which the prisoner used to arrive and
quit the island secretly," he finished his evidence in chief, and the
beetle-browed, portly barrister sat down. I was not so stupid but what
I could see a little, even then, how the most innocent events of my past
were going to rise up and crush me; but I was certain I could twist him
into admitting the goodness of my tale which hadn't yet been told. He
knew I had been in Jamaica, and, put what construction he liked on it,
he would have to admit it. I called out:

"Thank God, my turn's come at last!"

The faces of the Attorney-General, the King's Advocate, Sir Robert
Gifford, Mr. Lawes, Mr. Jervis, of all the seven counsel that were
arrayed to crush me, lengthened into simultaneous grins, varying at the
jury-box. But I didn't care; I grinned, too. I was going to show them.

It was as if I flew at the throat of that little man. It seemed to me
that I must be able to crush a creature whose malice was as obvious and
as nugatory as the green and red rings that he exhibited in his hair
every few minutes. He wanted to show the jury that he had rings; that
he was a mincing swell; that I hadn't and that I was a bloody pirate. I
said:

"You know that during the whole two years Nichols was at Rio I was
an improver at Horton Pen with the Macdonalds, the agents of my
brother-in-law, Sir Ralph Rooksby. You must know these things. You were
one of the Duke of Manchester's spies."

We used to call the Duke's privy council that. "I certainly know
nothing of the sort," he said, folding his hands along the edge of the
witness-box, as if he had just thought of exhibiting his rings in that
manner. He was abominably cool. I said:

"You must have heard of me. The Topnambos knew me."

"The Topnambos used to talk of a blackguard with a name like Kemp who
kept himself mighty out of the way in the Vale."

"You knew I was on the island," I pinned him down.

"You used to _come_ to the island," he corrected. "I've just explained
how. But you were not there much, or we should have been able to lay
hands on you. We wanted to. There was a warrant out after you tried to
murder us. But you had been smuggled away by Ramon."

I tried again:

"You have heard of my brother-in-law, Sir Ralph Rooksby?"

I wanted to show that, if I hadn't rings, I had relations.

"Nevah heard of the man in my life," he said.

"He was the largest land proprietor on the island," I said.

"Dessay," he said; "I knew forty of the largest. Mostly sharpers in the
boosing-kens." He yawned.

I said viciously:

"It was your place to know the island. You knew Horton Pen--the
Macdonalds?"

The face of jolly old Mrs. Mac. came to my mind--the impeccable, Scotch,
sober respectability.

"Oh, I knew the Macdonalds," he said--"_of_ them. The uncle was a damn
rebellious, canting, planting Scotchman. Horton Pen was the centre of
the Separation Movement. We could have hung _him_ if we'd wanted to. The
nephew was the writer of an odious blackmailing print. He calumniated
all the decent, loyal inhabitants. He was an agent of you pirates, too.
We arrested him--got his papers; know all about your relations with
him."

I said, "That's all nonsense. Let us hear"--the Attorney-General had
always said that--"what you know of myself."

"What I know of you," he sniffed, "if it's a pleasuah, was something
like this. You came to the island in a mysterious way, gave out that
you were an earl's son, and tried to get into the very excellent society
of... ah... people like my friends, the Topnambos. But they would not
have you, and after that you kept yourself mighty close; no one ever saw
you but once or twice, and then it was riding about at night with that
humpbacked scoundrel of a blackmailer.

"You, in fact, weren't on the island at all, except when you came to
spy for the pirates. You used to have long confabulations with that
scoundrel Ramon, who kept you posted about the shipping. As for the
blackmailer, with the humpback, David Macdonald, you kept him, you...
ah... subsidized his filthy print to foment mutiny and murder among the
black fellows, and preach separation. You wanted to tie our hands, and
prevent our... ah... prosecuting the preventive measures against you.
When you found that it was no good you tried to murder the admiral and
myself, and that very excellent man Topnambo, coming from a ball. After
that you were seen encouraging seven of your... ah... pirate fellows
whom we were hanging, and you drove off in haste with your agent, Ramon,
before we could lay hands on you, and vanished from the island."

I didn't lose my grip; I went at him again, blindly, as if I were boxing
with my eyes full of blood, but my teeth set tight. I said:

"You used to buy things yourself of old Ramon; bought them for the
admiral to load his frigates with; things he sold at Key West."

"That was one of the lies your scoundrel David Macdonald circulated
against us."

"You bought things... even whilst you were having his store watched."

"Upon my soul!" he said.

"You used to buy things...." I pinned him. He looked suddenly at the
King's Advocate, then dropped his eyes.

"Nevah bought a thing in my life," he said.

I knew the man had; Ramon had told me of his buying for the admiral more
than three hundred barrels of damaged coffee for thirty pounds. I was in
a mad temper. I smashed my hand upon the spikes of the rail in front of
me, and although I saw hands move impulsively towards me all over the
court, I did not know that my arm was impaled and the blood running
down.

"Perjurer," I shouted, "Ramon himself told me."

"Ah, you were mighty thick with Ramon..." he said.

I let him stand down. I was done. Someone below said harshly, "That
closes our case, m'luds," and the court rustled all over. Old Lord
Stowell in front of me shivered a little, looked at the window, and then
said:

"Prisoner at the bar, our procedure has it that if you wish to say
anything, you may now address the jury. Afterwards, if you had a
counsel, he could call and examine your witnesses, if you have any."

It was growing very dark in the court. I began to tell my story; it was
so plain, so evident, it shimmered there before me... and yet I knew it
was so useless.

I remembered that in my cell I had reasoned out that I must be very
constrained; very lucid about the opening. "On such and such a day
I landed at Kingston, to become an improver on the estate of my
brother-in-law. He is Sir Ralph Rooksby of Horton Priory in Kent." I
_did_ keep cool; I _was_ lucid; I spoke like that. I had my eyes fixed
on the face of the young girl upon the bench. I remember it so well. Her
eyes were fixed, fascinated, upon my hand. I tried to move it, and found
that it was stuck upon the spike on which I had jammed it. I moved it
carelessly away, and only felt a little pain, as if from a pin-prick;
but the blood was dripping on to the floor, pat, pat. Later on, a man
lit the candles on the judge's desk, and the court looked different.
There were deep shadows everywhere; and the illuminated face of Lord
Stowell looked grimmer, less kind, more ancient, more impossible
to bring a ray of sympathy to. Down below, the barristers of the
prosecution leaned back with their arms all folded, and the air of men
resting in an interval of cutting down a large tree. The barristers who
were, merely listeners looked at me from time to time. I heard one say,
"That man ought to have his hand bound up." I was telling the story of
my life, that was all I could do.

"As for Ramon, how could I know he was in the pay of the pirates, even
if he were? I swear I did not know. Everyone on the island had dealings
with him, the admiral himself. That is not calumny. On my honour, the
admiral did have dealings. Some of you have had dealings with forgers,
but that does not make you forgers."

I warmed to it; I found words. I was telling the story for that young
girl. Suddenly I saw the white face of my father peep at me between the
head of an old man with an enormous nose, and a stout lady in a brown
cloak that had a number of little watchmen's capes. He smiled suddenly,
and nodded again and again, opened his eyes, shut them; furtively waved
a hand. It distracted me, threw me off my balance, my coolness was gone.
It was as if something had snapped. After that I remembered very little;
I think I may have quoted "The Prisoner of Chillon," because he put it
into my head.

I seemed to be back again in Cuba. Down below me the barristers were
talking. The King's Advocate pulled out a puce-coloured bandanna,
and waved it abroad preparatorily to blowing his nose. A cloud of the
perfume of a West Indian bean went up from it, sweet and warm. I had
smelt it last at Rio, the sensation was so strong that I could not tell
where I was.

The candles made a yellow glow on the judge's desk; but it seemed to be
the blaze of light in the cell where Nichols and the Cuban had fenced. I
thought I was back in Cuba again. The people in the court disappeared
in the deepening shadows. At times I could not speak. Then I would begin
again.

If there were to be any possibility of saving my life, I had to tell
what I had been through--and to tell it vividly--I had to narrate the
story of my life; and my whole life came into my mind. It was Seraphina
who was the essence of my life; who spoke with the voice of all Cuba,
of all Spain, of all Romance. I began to talk about old Don Balthasar
Riego. I began to talk about Manuel-del-Popolo, of his red shirt, his
black eyes, his mandolin; I saw again the light of his fires flicker on
the other side of the ravine in front of the cave.

And I rammed all that into my story, the story I was telling to that
young girl. I knew very well that I was carrying my audience with me;
I knew how to do it, I had it in the blood. The old pale, faded,
narrow-lidded father who was blinking and nodding at me had been one of
the best raconteurs that ever was. I knew how. In the black shadows of
the wall of the court I could feel the eyes upon me; I could see the
parted lips of the young girl as she leaned further towards me. I knew
it because, when one of the barristers below raised his voice, someone
hissed "S--sh" from the shadows. And suddenly it came into my head, that
even if I did save my life by talking about these things, it would be
absolutely useless. I could never go back again; never be the boy again;
never hear the true voice of the Ever Faithful Island. What did it
matter even if I escaped; even if I could go back? The sea would be
there, the sky, the silent dim hills, the listless surge; but _I_ should
never be there, I should be altered for good and all. I should never see
the breathless dawn in the pondwater of Havana harbour, never be
there with Seraphina close beside me in the little _drogher_. All
that remained was to see this fight through, and then have done with
fighting. I remember the intense bitterness of that feeling and the
oddity of it all; of the one "I" that felt like that, of the other that
was raving in front of a lot of open-eyed idiots, three old judges, and
a young girl. And, in a queer way, the thoughts of the one "I" floated
through into the words of the other, that seemed to be waving its hands
in its final struggle, a little way in front of me.

"Look at me... look at what they have made of me, one and the other of
them. I was an innocent boy. What am I now? They have taken my life from
me, let them finish it how they will, what does it matter to me, what do
I care?"

There was a rustle of motion all round the court. On board Rowley's
flagship the heavy irons had sawed open my wrists. I hadn't been ironed
in Newgate, but the things had healed up very little. I happened to look
down at my claws of hands with the grime of blood that the dock spikes
had caused.

"What sort of a premium is it that you set on sticking to the right? Is
this how you are going to encourage the others like me? What do I care
about your death? What's life to me? Let them get their scaffold ready.
I have suffered enough to be put out of my misery. God, I have suffered
enough with one and another. Look at my hands, I say. Look at my wrists,
and say if I care any more." I held my ghastly paws high, and the candle
light shone upon them.

Out of the black shadows came shrieks of women and curses. I saw my
young girl put her hands over her face and slip slowly, very slowly,
from her chair, down out of sight. People were staggering in different
directions. I had had more to say, but I forgot in my concern for the
young girl. The turnkey pulled my sleeve and said:

"I say, that ain't _true_, is it, it ain't _true?_" Because he seemed
not to want it to have been true, I glowed for a moment with the immense
pride of my achievement. I had made them see things.

A minute after, I understood how futile it was. I was not a fool even in
my then half-mad condition. The real feeling of the place came back upon
me, the "Court of Law" of it. The King's Advocate was whispering to the
Attorney-General, he motioned with his hand, first in my direction, then
towards the jury; then they both laughed and nodded. They knew the ropes
too well for me, and there were seven West India merchants up there who
would remember their pockets in a minute. But I didn't care. I had made
them see things.



CHAPTER FIVE

I had shot my bolt and I was going to die; I could see it in the way the
King's Advocate tossed his head back, fluttered his bands, looked at
the jury-box, and began to play with the seals on his fob. The court
had resumed its stillness. A man in some sort of livery passed a square
paper to the Lord Mayor, the Lord Mayor passed it to Lord Stowell, who
opened it with a jerking motion of an ancient fashion that impressed me
immensely. It was as if I, there at the end of my life, were looking at
a man opening a letter of the reign of Queen Anne. The shadows of his
ancient, wrinkled face changed as he read, raising his eyebrows and
puckering his mouth. He handed the unfolded paper to Mr. Baron Garrow,
then with one wrinkled finger beckoned the Attorney-General to him. The
third judge was still asleep.

"What the devil's this?" the turnkey beside me said to his companion.

I was in a good deal of pain, and felt sickly that every pulse of my
heart throbbed in my mangled hand. The other spat straight in front of
him.

"Damme if I know," he said. "This cursed business ought to have been
over and done with an hour agone. I told Jinks to have my rarebit and
noggin down by the gate-house fire at half-past five, and it's six now."

They began an interminable argument under their breaths.

"It's that wager of Lord March's... run a mile, walk a mile, eat five
pounds of mutton, drink five pints of claret. No, it ain't.. Medmenham
coach ain't in yet... roads too heavy.... It is. What else would stop
the Court at this time of night? It isn't, or Justice Best 'd be awake
and hedging his bets."

In a dizzy way I noted the Attorney-General making his way carefully
back between the benches to his knot of barristers, and their wigs went
all together in a bunch like ears of corn drawn suddenly into a sheaf.
The heads of the other barristers were like unreaped ears. A man with a
face like a weasel's called to a man with a face like a devil's--he was
leaving the court--something about an ambassador. The other stopped,
turned, and deposited his bag again. I heard the deep voice of Sir
Robert Gifford say: "What!... Never!... too infamous..." and then the
interest and the light seemed to flicker out together. I could hardly
see. Voices called out to each other, harsh, dry, as if their owners had
breathed nothing but dust for years and years.

One loud one barked, "You can't hear him, m'luds; in _Rex v.
Marsupenstein...._"

A lot began calling all together, "Ah, but that was different, Mr.
Attorney. You couldn't subpoena him, he being in the position of _extra
lege commune_. But if he offers a statement...."

The candles seemed to be waving deliberately like elm-tops in a high
wind.

Someone called, "Clerk, fetch me volume xiii.... I think we shall find
there.... You recollect the case of _Hildeshein v. Roe...._ Wasn't it
_Hildegaulen and another_, m'lud?"... "I tried the case myself. The
Prussian Plenipotentiary...."

I wanted to call out to them that it was not worth while to try their
dry throats any more; that having shot my bolt, I gave in. But I could
not think of any words, I was so tired. "I didn't sleep at all last
night," I found myself saying to myself.

The sleeping judge woke up suddenly and snarled, "Why in Heaven's name
don't we get on? We shall be all night. Let him call the second name on
the list. We can take the Spanish ambassador when you have settled. For
my part I think we ought to hear him...."

Lord Stowell said suddenly, "Prisoner at the bar, some gentlemen have
volunteered statements on your behalf. If you wish it, they can be
called."

I didn't answer; I did not understand; I wanted to tell him I did
not care, because the _Lion_ was posted as overdue and Seraphina was
drowned. The Court seemed to be moving slowly up and down in front of me
like the deck of a ship. I thought I was bound again, and on the sofa in
the gorgeous cabin of the _Madre-de-Dios_. Someone seemed to be calling,
"Prisoner at the bar... Prisoner at the bar...." It was as if the
candles had been lit in front of the Madonna with the pink child, only
she had a gilt anchor instead of the spiky gilt glory above her
head. Somebody was saying, "Hello there.... Hold up!... Here, bring a
chair,..." and there were arms around me. Afterwards I sat down. A very
old judge's voice said something rather kindly, I thought. I knew it was
the very old judge, because he was called the star of Cuban law. Someone
would be bending over me soon, with a lanthorn, and I should be wiping
the flour out of my eyes and blinking at the red velvet and gilding of
the cabin ceiling. In a minute Carlos and Castro would come... or was it
O'Brien who would come? No, O'Brien was dead; stabbed, with a knife
in his neck; the blood was still sticky between my first and second
fingers. I could feel it. I ought to have been allowed to wash my hands
before I was tried; or was it before I spoke to the admiral? One would
not speak to a man with hands like that.

A loud, high-pitched voice called from up in the air, "I will give any
of you gentlemen of the robe down there fifty pounds to conduct the
remainder of the case for him. I am the prisoner's father."

My father's voice broke the spell. I was in the court; the candles were
still burning; all the faces, lit up or in the shadow, were bunched
together in little groups; hands waved. The barrister whose face was
like the devil's under his wig held in his hands the paper that had been
handed to Lord Stowell; my father was talking to him from the bench.
The barrister, tall, his robes old and ragged, silhouetted against the
light, glanced down the paper, fluttered it in his hand, nodded to my
father, and began a grotesque, nasal drawl:

"M'luds, I will conduct the case for the prisoner, if your lordships
will bear with me a little. He obviously can't call his own witnesses.
If he has been treated as he says, it has been one of the most
abominable..."

Old Lord Stowell said, "Ch't, ch't, Mr. Walker; you know you must not
make a speech for the prisoner. Call your witness. It is all that is
needed."

I wondered what he meant by that. The barrister was calling a man of the
name of Williams. I seemed to know the name. I seemed to know the man,
too.

"Owen Williams, Master of the ship _Lion_.... Coffee and dye-wood....
Just come in under a jury-rig. Had been dismasted and afterwards
becalmed. Heard of this trial from the pilot in Graves-end. Had taken
post-chaises..."

I only heard snatches of his answers.

"On the twenty-fifth of August last I was close in with the Cuban
coast.... The mate, Sebright, got boiling water for them.... Afterwards
a heavy fog. They boarded us in many boats...." He was giving all the
old evidence over again, fastening another stone around my neck. But
suddenly he said: "This gentleman came alongside in a leaky dinghy. A
dead shot. He saved all our lives."

His bullet-head, the stare of his round blue eyes seemed to draw me out
of a delirium. I called out:

"Williams, for God's sake, Williams, where is Seraphina? Did she come
with you?" There was an immense roaring in my head, and the ushers were
shouting, "Silence! Silence!" I called out again.

Williams was smiling idiotically; then he shook his head and put his
finger to his mouth to warn me to keep silence. I only noted the shake
of the head. Sera-phina had not come. The Havana people must have taken
her. It was all over with me. The roaring noise made me think that I
was on a beach by the sea, with the smugglers, perhaps, at night down
in Kent. The silence that fell upon the court was like the silence of a
grave. Then someone began to speak in measured, portentous Spanish, that
seemed a memory of the past.

"I, the ambassador of his Catholic Majesty, being here upon my honour
and on my oath, demand the re-surrender of this gentleman, whose
courage equals his innocence. Documents which have just reached my hands
establish clearly the mistake of which he is the victim. The functionary
who is called _Alcayde_ of the _carcel_ at Havana confused the men.
Nikola el Escoces escaped, having murdered the judge whose place it was
to identify. I demand that the prisoner be set at liberty..."

A long time after a harsh voice said:

"Your Excellency, we retire, of course, from the prosecution."

A different one directed:

"Gentlemen of the jury, you will return a verdict of 'Not Guilty'..."

Down below they were cheering uproariously because my life was saved.
But it was I that had to face my saved life. I sat there, my head bowed
into my hands. The old judge was speaking to me in a tone of lofty
compassion:

"You have suffered much, as it seems, but suffering is the lot of us
men. Rejoice now that your character is cleared; that here in this
public place you have received the verdict of your countrymen that
restores you to the liberties of our country and the affection of your
kindred. I rejoice with you who am a very old man, at the end of my
life...."

It was rather tremendous, his deep voice, his weighted words. Suffering
is the lot of us men!... The formidable legal array, the great powers
of a nation, had stood up to teach me that, and they had taught me
that--suffering is the lot of us men!

It takes long enough to realize that someone is dead at a distance. I
had done that. But how long, how long it needs to know that the life of
your heart has come back from the dead. For years afterwards I could not
bear to have her out of my sight.

Of our first meeting in London all I remember is a speechlessness that
was like the awed hesitation of our overtried souls before the greatness
of a change from the verge of despair to the opening of a supreme joy.

The whole world, the whole of life, with her return, had changed all
around me; it enveloped me, it enfolded me so lightly as not to be felt,
so suddenly as not to be believed in, so completely that that whole
meeting was an embrace, so softly that at last it lapsed into a sense of
rest that was like the fall of a beneficent and welcome death.

For suffering is the lot of man, but not inevitable failure or worthless
despair which is without end--suffering, the mark of manhood, which
bears within its pain a hope of felicity like a jewel set in iron....

Her first words were:

"You broke our compact. You went away from me whilst I was sleeping."
Only the deepness of her reproach revealed the depth of her love,
and the suffering she too had endured to reach a union that was to be
without end--and to forgive.

And, looking back, we see Romance--that subtle thing that is
mirage--that is life. It is the goodness of the years we have lived
through, of the old time when we did this or that, when we dwelt here
or there. Looking back, it seems a wonderful enough thing that I who
am this, and she who is that, commencing so far away a life that, after
such sufferings borne together and apart, ended so tranquilly there in a
world so stable--that she and I should have passed through so much, good
chance and evil chance, sad hours and joyful, all lived down and swept
away into the little heap of dust that is life. That, too, is Romance!

THE END





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