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´╗┐Title: Sir John Constantine - Memoirs of His Adventures At Home and Abroad and Particularly in the Island of Corsica: Beginning with the Year 1756
Author: Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas, Sir, 1863-1944
Language: English
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SIR JOHN CONSTANTINE.


MEMOIRS OF HIS ADVENTURES AT HOME AND ABROAD AND PARTICULARLY IN
THE ISLAND OF CORSICA: BEGINNING WITH THE YEAR 1756.


WRITTEN BY HIS SON PROSPER PALEOLOGUS OTHERWISE CONSTANTINE AND
EDITED BY "Q" (A. T. QUILLER-COUCH).

     "For knighthood is not in the feats of warre,
        As for to fight in quarrel right or wrong,
      But in a cause which truth can not defarre
        He ought himself for to make sure and strong
        Justice to keep mixt with mercy among:
          And no quarrell a knight ought to take
          But for a truth, or for a woman's sake."



TO THE READER


A hundred and fifty episodes, two sermons, and a number of moral
digressions, have been omitted from this story.

The late ingenious Mr. Fett (whose acquaintance you will make in the
following pages), having been commissioned by Mr. Dodsley, the
publisher, to write a conspectus of the Present State of the Arts in
Italy at two guineas the folio--a fair price for that class of work--
had delivered close upon two hundred folios before Mr. Dodsley
interposed, professing unbounded admiration of the work, its style,
and matter, but desiring to know when he might expect the end:
"For," said he, "I have other enterprises which will soon be
demanding attention, and, as a business-man, I like to make my
arrangements in good time."  To this Mr. Fett replied, that he, for
his part, being well content with the rate of remuneration, did not
propose to end the work at all!--and, the agreement, having
unaccountably failed to stipulate for any such thing as a conclusion,
Mr. Dodsley had to compound for one at a crippling price.

So this story had, in Browning's phrase, "grown old along with me,"
but for the forethought of Messrs. Smith, Elder and Co., in limiting
its serial flow to twelve numbers of _The Cornhill Magazine_
As it is, I have added a few chapters; but a hundred and fifty
episodes remain unwritten, with the courtships of Mr. Priske, and the
funeral oration spoken by the Rev. Mr. Grylls over the cenotaph Of
Sir John Constantine in Constantine Parish Church.  These omissions,
however, may be remedied if you will ask the publishers for another
edition.

Now, if it be objected against some of the adventures of Sir John
Constantine that they are extravagant, or against some of his notions
that they are fantastic, I answer that this book attempts to describe
a man and not one of these calculable little super men who, of late,
have been taking up so much more of your attention than they deserve.
Students who engage in psychical research, as it is called, often
confess themselves puzzled by the behaviour of ghosts, it appears to
them wayward and trivial.  How much more likely are ghosts to be
puzzled by the actions of real men?  And we are surely ghosts if we
keep nothing of the blood which sent our fathers like schoolboys to
the crusades.

Lastly, my friend, if you would know anything of the writer who has
so often addressed you under an initial, you may find as much of him
here as in any of his books.  Here is interred part, at any rate, of
the soul of the Bachelor Q, in a book which, though it tell of
adventures, I would ask you not to disdain, though you be a boy no
longer.  An acquaintance of mine near the Land's End had a
remarkably fine tree of apples--to be precise, of Cox's Orange
Pippins--and one night was robbed of the whole of them.  But what,
think you, had the thief left behind him, at the foot of the tree?
Why, a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles.

ARTHUR T. QUILLER-COUCH.

THE HAVEN, FOWEY, October 1st, 1906.



CONTENTS


Chapter.


I.       OF THE LINEAGE AND CONDITION OF SIR JOHN CONSTANTINE.

II.      I RIDE ON A PILGRIMAGE.

III.    I ACQUIRE A KINGDOM.

IV.     LONG VACATION.

V.      THE SILENT MEN.

VI.     HOW MY FATHER OUT OF NOTHING BUILT AN ARMY, AND IN FIVE
        MINUTES PLANNED AN INVASION.

VII.    THE COMPANY OF THE ROSE.

VIII.   TRIBULATIONS OF A MAYOR.

IX.     I ENLIST AN ARMY.

X.      OF THE DISCOURSE HELD ON BOARD THE "GAUNTLET".

XI.     WE FALL IN WITH A SALLEE ROVER.

XII.    HOW WE LANDED ON THE ISLAND.

XIII.   HOW, WITHOUT FIGHTING, OUR ARMY WASTED BY ENCHANTMENT.

XIV.    HOW BY MEANS OF HER WINE I CAME TO CIRCE.

XV.     I BECOME HOSTAGE TO PRINCESS CAMILLA.

XVI.    THE FOREST HUT.

XVII.   THE FIRST CHALLENGE.

XVIII.  THE TENDER MERCIES OF PRINCE CAMILLO.

XIX.    HOW MARC'ANTONIO NURESD ME AND GAVE ME COUNSEL.

XX.     I LEARN OF LIBERTY, AND AM RESTORED TO IT.

XXI.    OF MY FATHER'S ANABASIS; AND THE DIFFERENT TEMPERS OF AN
        ENGLISH GENTLEMAN AND A WILD SHEEP OF CORSICA.

XXII.   THE GREAT ADVENTURE.

XXIII.  ORDEAL AND CHOOSING.

XXIV.   THE WOOING OF PRINCESS CAMILLA.

XXV.    MY WEDDING DAY.

XXVI.   THE FLAME AND THE ALTAR.

XXVII.  MY MISTRESS RE-ENLISTS ME.

XXVIII. GENOA.

XXIX.   VENDETTA.

XXX.    THE SUMMIT AND THE STARS.

        POSTSCRIPT.



SIR JOHN CONSTANTINE.



CHAPTER I.


OF THE LINEAGE AND CONDITION OF SIR JOHN CONSTANTINE.


     "I have laboured to make a covenant with myself, that affection
      may not press upon judgment: for I suppose there is no man,
      that hath any apprehension of gentry or nobleness, but his
      affection stands to a continuance of a noble name and house,
      and would take hold of a twig or twine-thread to uphold it: and
      yet time hath his revolution, there must be a period and an end
      of all temporal things, _finis rerum_, an end of names and
      dignities and whatsoever is terrene. . . . For where is Bohun?
      Where is Mowbray?  Where is Mortimer?  Nay, which is more
      and most of all, where is Plantagenet? They are intombed in the
      urns and sepulchres of mortality."--_Lord Chief Justice Crewe_.

My father, Sir John Constantine of Constantine, in the county of
Cornwall, was a gentleman of ample but impoverished estates, who by
renouncing the world had come to be pretty generally reputed a
madman.  This did not affect him one jot, since he held precisely the
same opinion of his neighbours--with whom, moreover, he continued on
excellent terms.  He kept six saddle horses in a stable large enough
for a regiment of cavalry; a brace of setters and an infirm spaniel
in kennels which had sometime held twenty couples of hounds; and
himself and his household in a wing of his great mansion, locking off
the rest, with its portraits and tapestries, cases of books, and
stands of antique arms, to be a barrack for the mice.  This household
consisted of his brother-in-law, Gervase (a bachelor of punctual
habits but a rambling head); a butler, Billy Priske; a cook, Mrs.
Nance, who also looked after the housekeeping; two serving-maids;
and, during his holidays, the present writer.  My mother (an Arundell
of Trerice) had died within a year after giving me birth; and after a
childhood which lacked playmates, indeed, but was by no means
neglected or unhappy, my father took me to Winchester College, his
old school, to be improved in those classical studies which I had
hitherto followed desultorily under our vicar, Mr. Grylls, and there
entered me as a Commoner in the house of Dr. Burton, Head-master.
I had spent almost four years at Winchester at the date (Midsummer,
1756) when this story begins.

To return to my father.  He was, as the world goes, a mass of
contrarieties.  A thorough Englishman in the virtues for which
foreigners admire us, and in the extravagance at which they smile, he
had never even affected an interest in the politics over which
Englishmen grow red in the face; and this in his youth had commended
him to Walpole, who had taken him up and advanced him as well for his
abilities, address, and singularly fine presence as because his
estate then seemed adequate to maintain him in any preferment.
Again Walpole's policy abroad--which really treated warfare as the
evil it appears in other men's professions--condemned my father, a
born soldier, to seek his line in diplomacy; wherein he had no sooner
built a reputation by services at two or three of the Italian courts
than, with a knighthood in hand and an ambassadorship in prospect, he
suddenly abandoned all, cast off the world, and retired into
Cornwall, to make a humdrum marriage and practise fishing for trout.

The reason of it none knew, or how his estate had come to be
impoverished, as beyond doubt it was.  Here again he showed himself
unlike the rest of men, in that he let the stress of poverty fall
first upon himself, next upon his household, last of all upon his
tenants and other dependants.  After my mother's death he cut down
his own charges (the cellar only excepted) to the last penny, shut
himself off in a couple of rooms, slept in a camp bed, wore an old
velveteen coat in winter and in summer a fisherman's smock, ate
frugally, and would have drunk beer or even water had not his stomach
abhorred them both.  Of wine he drank in moderation--that is to say,
for him, since his temperance would have sent nine men out of ten
under the table--and of the best.  He had indeed a large and
obstinate dignity in his drinking.  It betrayed, even as his carriage
betrayed beneath his old coat, a king in exile.

Yet while he pinched himself with these economies, he drew no
strings--or drew them tenderly--upon the expenses and charities of a
good landlord.  The fences rotted around his own park and
pleasure-grounds, but his tenants' fences, walls, roofs stood in more
than moderate repair, nor (although my uncle Gervase groaned over the
accounts) would an abatement of rent be denied, the appeal having
been weighed and found to be reasonable.  The rain--which falls alike
upon the just and the unjust--beat through his own roof, but never
through the labourer's thatch; and Mrs. Nance, the cook, who hated
beggars, might not without art and secrecy dismiss a single beggar
unfed.  His religion he told to no man, but believed the practice of
worship to be good for all men, and regularly encouraged it by
attending church on Sundays and festivals.  He and the vicar ruled
our parish together in amity, as fellow-Christians and rival anglers.

Now, all these apparent contrarieties in my father flowed in fact
from a very rare simplicity, and this simplicity again had its origin
in his lineage, which was something more than royal.

On the Cornish shore of the Tamar River, which divides Cornwall from
Devon, and a little above Saltash, stands the country church of
Landulph, so close by the water that the high tides wash by its
graveyard wall.  Within the church you will find a mural tablet of
brass thus inscribed--


     "Here lyeth the body of Theodoro Paleologvs of Pesaro in
      Italye, descended from ye Imperyall lyne of ye last Christian
      Emperors of Greece being the sonne of Camilio ye sonne of
      Prosper the sonne of Theodoro the sonne of John ye sonne of
      Thomas second brother to Constantine Paleologvs, the 8th of
      that name and last of yt lyne yt raygned in Constantinople
      vntill svbdewed by the Tvrks who married with Mary ye davghter
      of William Balls of Hadlye in Svffolke gent & had issve 5
      children Theodoro John Ferdinando Maria & Dorothy & dep'ted
      this life at Clyfton ye 21th of Ianvary 1636"

Above these words the tablet bears an eagle engraved with two heads,
and its talons resting upon two gates of Rome and Constantinople,
with (for difference) a crescent between the gates, and over all an
imperial crown.  In truth this exile buried by Tamar drew his blood
direct from the loins of the great Byzantine emperors, through that
Thomas of whom Mahomet II.  said, "I have found many slaves in
Peloponnesus, but this man only:" and from Theodore, through his
second son John, came the Constantines of Constantine--albeit with a
bar sinister, of which my father made small account.  I believe he
held privately that a Constantine, _de stirpe imperatorum_, had no
call to concern himself with petty ceremonies of this or that of the
Church's offshoots to legitimize his blood.  At any rate no bar
sinister appeared on the imperial escutcheon repeated, with
quarterings of Arundel, Mohun, Grenville, Nevile, Archdeckne,
Courtney, and, again, Arundel, on the wainscots and in the windows of
Constantine, usually with the legend _Dabit Devs His Qvoqve Finem_,
but twice or thrice with a hopefuller one, _Generis revocemvs
honores_.

Knowing him to be thus descended, you could recognize in all my
father said or did a large simplicity as of the earlier gods, and a
dignity proper to a king as to a beggar, but to no third and mean
state.  A child might beard him, but no man might venture a liberty
with him or abide the rare explosions of his anger.  You might even,
upon long acquaintance, take him for a great, though mad, Englishman,
and trust him as an Englishman to the end; but the soil of his nature
was that which grows the vine--volcanic, breathing through its pores
a hidden heat to answer the sun's.  Whether or no there be in man a
faith to remove mountains, there is in him (and it may come to the
same thing) a fire to split them, and anon to clothe the bare rock
with tendrils and soft-scented blooms.

In person my father stood six feet five inches tall, and his
shoulders filled a doorway.  His head was large and shapely, and he
carried it with a very noble poise; his face a fine oval, broad
across the brow and ending in a chin at once delicate and masterful;
his nose slightly aquiline; his hair--and he wore his own, tied with
a ribbon--of a shining white.  His cheeks were hollow and would have
been cadaverous but for their hue, a sanguine brown, well tanned by
out-of-door living.  His eyes, of an iron-grey colour, were fierce or
gentle as you took him, but as a rule extraordinarily gentle.
He would walk you thirty miles any day without fatigue, and shoot you
a woodcock against any man; but as an angler my uncle Gervase beat
him.

He spoke Italian as readily as English; French and the modern Greek
with a little more difficulty; and could read in Greek, Latin, and
Spanish.  His books were the "Meditations" of the Emperor Marcus
Aurelius, and Dante's "Divine Comedy," with the "Aeneis," Ariosto,
and some old Spanish romances next in order.  I do not think he cared
greatly for any English writers but Donne and Izaak Walton, of whose
"Angler" and "Life of Sir Henry Wotton" he was inordinately fond.
In particular he admired the character of this Sir Henry Wotton,
singling him out among "the famous nations of the dead" (as Sir
Thomas Browne calls them) for a kind of posthumous friendship--nay,
almost a passion of memory.  To be sure, though with more than a
hundred years between them, both had been bred at Winchester, and
both had known courts and embassies and retired from them upon
private life. . . . But who can explain friendship, even after all
the essays written upon it?  Certainly to be friends with a dead man
was to my father a feat neither impossible nor absurd.

Yet he possessed two dear living friends at least in my Uncle Gervase
and Mr. Grylls, and had even dedicated a temple to their friendship.
It stood about half a mile away from the house, at the foot of the
old deer-park: a small Ionic summer-house set on a turfed slope
facing down a dell upon the Helford River.  A spring of water, very
cold and pure, rose bubbling a few paces from the porch and tumbled
down the dell with a pretty chatter.  Tradition said that it had once
been visited and blessed by St. Swithun, for which cause my father
called his summer-house by the saint's name, and annually on his
festival (which falls on the 15th of July) caused wine and dessert to
be carried out thither, where the three drank to their common pastime
and discoursed of it in the cool of the evening within earshot of the
lapsing water.  On many other evenings they met to smoke their pipes
here, my father and Mr. Grylls playing at chequers sometimes, while
my uncle wrapped and bent, till the light failed him, new trout flies
for the next day's sport; but to keep St. Swithun's feast they never
omitted, which my father commemorated with a tablet set against the
back wall and bearing these lines--

     "Peace to this house within this little wood,
      Named of St. Swithun and his brotherhood
      That here would meet and punctual on his day
      Their heads and hands and hearts together lay.
      Nor may no years the mem'ries three untwine
      Of Grylls          W.G.
      And Arundell       G.A.
      And Constantine    J.C.      Anno 1752
           Flvmina amem silvasqve inglorivs."

Of these two friends of my father I shall speak in their proper
place, but have given up this first chapter to him alone.  My readers
maybe will grumble that it omits to tell what they would first choose
to learn: the reason why he had exchanged fame and the world for a
Cornish exile.  But as yet he only--and perhaps my uncle Gervase, who
kept the accounts--held the key to that secret.



CHAPTER II.


I RIDE ON A PILGRIMAGE.

     "_Heus Rogere! fer caballos; Eja, nunc eamus!"
                                                   Domum.


At Winchester, which we boys (though we fared hardly) never doubted
to be the first school in the world, as it was the most ancient in
England, we had a song we called _Domum_: and because our common
pride in her--as the best pride will--belittled itself in speech, I
trust that our song honoured Saint Mary of Winton the more in that it
celebrated only the joys of leaving her.

The tale went, it had been composed (in Latin, too) by a boy detained
at school for a punishment during the summer holidays.  Another fable
improved on this by chaining him to a tree.  A third imprisoned him
in cloisters whence, through the arcades and from the ossuaries of
dead fellows and scholars, he poured out his soul to the swallows
haunting the green garth--

     "Jam repetit domum
      Daulias advena,
      Nosque domum repetamus."

Whatever its origin, our custom was to sing it as the holidays--
especially the summer holidays--drew near, and to repeat it as they
drew nearer, until every voice was hoarse.  As I remember, we kept up
this custom with no decrease of fervour through the heats of June
1756, though they were such that our _hostiarius_ Dr. Warton, then a
new broom, swept us out of school and for a fortnight heard our books
(as the old practice had been) in cloisters, where we sat upon cool
stone and in the cool airs, and between our tasks watched the
swallows at play.  Nevertheless we panted, until evening released us
to wander forth along the water-meadows by Itchen and bathe, and,
having bathed, to lie naked amid the mints and grasses for a while
before returning in the twilight.

This bathing went on, not in one or two great crowds, but in groups,
and often in pairs only, scattered along the river-bank almost all
the way to Hills; it being our custom again at Winchester (and I
believe it still continues) to _socius_ or walk with one companion;
and only at one or two favoured pools would several of these couples
meet together for the sport.  On the evening of which I am to tell,
my companion was a boy named Fiennes, of about my own age, and we
bathed alone, though not far away to right and left the bank teemed
with outcries and laughter and naked boys running all silvery as
their voices in the dusk.

With all this uproar the trout of Itchen, as you may suppose, had
gone into hiding; but doubtless some fine fellows lay snug under the
stones, and--the stream running shallow after the heats--as we
stretched ourselves on the grass Fiennes challenged me to tickle for
one; it may be because he had heard me boast of my angling feats at
home.  There seemed a likely pool under the farther bank; convenient,
except that to take up the best position beside it I must get the
level sun full in my face.  I crept across, however, Fiennes keeping
silence, laid myself flat on my belly, and peered down into the pool,
shading my eyes with one hand.  For a long while I saw no fish, until
the sun-rays, striking aslant, touched the edge of a golden fin very
prettily bestowed in a hole of the bank and well within an overlap of
green weed.  Now and again the fin quivered, but for the most part my
gentleman lay quiet as a stone, head to stream, and waited for relief
from these noisy Wykehamists.  Experience, perhaps, had taught him to
despise them; at any rate, when gently--very gently--I lowered my
hand and began to tickle, he showed neither alarm nor resentment.

"Is it a trout?" demanded Fiennes, in an excited whisper from the
farther shore.  But of course I made no answer, and presently I
supposed that he must have crept off to his clothes, for some way up
the stream I heard the Second Master's voice warning the bathers to
dress and return, and with his usual formula, _Ite domum saturae,
venit Hesperus, ite capelloe!  Being short-sighted, he missed to spy
me, and I felt, rather than saw or heard, him pass on; for with one
hand I yet shaded my eyes while with the other I tickled.

Yet another two minutes went by, and then with a jerk I had my trout,
my thumb and forefinger deep under his gills; brought down my other
clutch upon him and, lifting, flung him back over me among the meadow
grass, my posture being such that I could neither hold him struggling
nor recover my own balance save by rolling sideways over on my
shoulder-pin; which I did, and, running to him where he gleamed and
doubled, flipping the grasses, caught him in both hands and held him
aloft.

But other voices than Fiennes' answered my shout over the river--
voices that I knew, though they belonged not to this hour nor to this
place; and blinking against the sun, now sinning level across
Lavender Meads, I was aware of two tall figures standing dark against
it, and of a third and shorter one between whose legs it poured in
gold as through a natural arch.  Sure no second man in England wore
Billy Priske's legs!

Then, and while I stood amazed, my father's voice and my Uncle
Gervase's called to me together: and gulping down all wonder,
possessed with love only and a wild joy--but yet grasping my fish--
I splashed across the shallows and up the bank, and let my father
take me naked to his heart.

"So, lad," said he, after a moment, thrusting me a little back by the
shoulders (while I could only sob), and holding me so that the sun
fell full on me, "Dost truly love me so much?"

"Clivver boy, clivver boy!" said the voice of Billy Priske.
"Lord, now, what things they do teach here beside the Latin!"

The rogue said it, as I knew, to turn my father's suspicion, having
himself taught me the poacher's trick.  But my uncle Gervase, whose
mind moved as slowly as it was easily diverted, answered with
gravity--

"It is hard knowing what may or may not be useful in after life,
seeing that God in His wisdom hides what that life is to be."

"Very true," agreed my father, with a twinkle, and took snuff.

"But--but what brings you here?" cried I, with a catch of the breath,
ignoring all this.

"Nevertheless, such comely lads as they be," my uncle continued,
"God will doubtless bring them to good.  Comelier lads, brother, I
never saw, nor, I think, the sun never shined on; yet there was one,
at the bowls yonder, was swearing so it grieved me to the heart."

"Put on your clothes, boy," said my father, answering me.  "We have
ridden far, but we bring no ill news; and to-morrow--I have the
Head-master's leave for it--you ride on with us to London."

"To London!"  My heart gave another great leap, as every boy's must
on hearing that he is to see London for the first time.  But here we
all turned at a cry from Billy Priske, between whose planted ankles
Master Fiennes had mischievously crept and was measuring the span
between with extended thumb and little finger.  My father stooped,
haled him to his feet by the collar, and demanded what he did.

"Why, sir, he's a Colossus!" quoted that nimble youth;

                             "'and we petty men
           Walk under his huge legs and peer about--'"

"And will find yourself a dishonourable grave," my father capped him.
"What's your name, boy?"

"Fiennes, sir; Nathaniel Fiennes."  The lad saluted.

My father lifted his hat in answer.  "Founder's kin?"

"I am here on that condition, sir."

"Then you are kinsman, as well as namesake, of him who saved our
Wykeham's tomb in the Parliament troubles.  I felicitate you, sir,
and retract my words, for by that action of your kinsman's shall the
graves of all his race and name be honoured."

Young Fiennes bowed.  "Compliments fly, sir, when gentlemen meet.
But"--and he glanced over his shoulder and rubbed the small of his
back expressively, "as a Wykehamist, you will not have me late at
names-calling."

"Go, boy, and answer to yours; they can call no better one."
My father dipped a hand in his pocket.  "I may not invite you to
breakfast with us to-morrow, for we start early; and you will excuse
me if I sin against custom. . . . It was esteemed a laudable practice
in my time."  A gold coin passed.

"_Et in saecula saeculo--o--rum.  Amen!_"  Master Fiennes spun the
coin, pocketed it, and went off whistling schoolwards over the meads.

My father linked his arm in mine and we followed, I asking, and the
three of them answering, a hundred questions of home.  But why, or on
what business, we were riding to London on the morrow my father would
not tell.  "Nay, lad," said he, "take your Bible and read that Isaac
asked no questions on the way to Moriah."

"My uncle, who overheard this, considered it for a while, and said--

"The difference is that you are not going to sacrifice Prosper."

The three were to lie that night at the George Inn, where they had
stabled their horses; and at the door of the Head-master's house,
where we Commoners lodged, they took leave of me, my father
commending me to God and good dreams.  That they were happy ones I
need not tell.

He was up and abroad early next morning, in time to attend chapel,
where by the vigour of his responses he set the nearer boys
tittering; two of whom I afterwards fought for it, though with what
result I cannot remember.  The service, which we urchins heeded
little, left him pensive as we walked together towards the inn, and
he paused once or twice, with eyes downcast on the cobbles, and
muttered to himself.

"I am striving to recollect my Morning Lines, lad," he confessed at
length, with a smile; "and thus, I think, they go.  The great Sir
Henry Wotton, you have heard me tell of, in the summer before his
death made a journey hither to Winchester; and as he returned towards
Eton he said to a friend that went with him: 'How useful was that
advice of an old monk that we should perform our devotions in a
constant place, because we so meet again with the very thoughts which
possessed us at our last being there.'  And, as Walton tells,
'I find it,'" he said, "'thus far experimentally true, that at my now
being in that school and seeing that very place where I sat when I
was a boy occasioned me to remember those very thoughts of my youth
which then possessed me: sweet thoughts indeed--'"

Here my father paused.  "Let me be careful, now.  I should be perfect
in the words, having read them more than a hundred times.
'Sweet thoughts indeed,'" said he, "'that promised my growing years
numerous pleasures, without mixture of cares; and those to be enjoyed
when time--which I therefore thought slow-paced--had changed my youth
into manhood.  But age and experience have taught me these were but
empty hopes, for I have always found it true, as my Saviour did
foretell, _Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof_.
Nevertheless, I saw there a succession of boys using the same
recreations, and, questionless, possessed with the same thoughts that
then possessed me.  Thus one generation succeeds another, both in
their lives, recreations, hopes, fears, and death.'"

"But I would not have you, lad," he went on, "to pay too much heed to
these thoughts, which will come to you in time, for as yet you are
better without 'em.  Nor were they my only thoughts: for having
brought back my own sacrifice, which I had sometime hoped might be so
great, but now saw to be so little, at that moment I looked down to
your place in chapel and perceived that I had brought belike the best
offering of all.  So my hope--thank God!--sprang anew as I saw you
there standing vigil by what bright armour you guessed not, nor in
preparation for what high warfare."  He laid a hand on my shoulder.
"Your chapel to-day, child, has been the longer by a sermon.
There, there! forget all but the tail on't."

We rode out of Winchester with a fine clatter, all four of us upon
hired nags, the Cornish horses being left in the stables to rest;
and after crossing the Hog's Back, baited at Guildford.
A thunderstorm in the night had cleared the weather, which, though
fine, was cooler, with a brisk breeze playing on the uplands; and
still as we went my spirits sang with the larks overhead, so blithe
was I to be sitting in saddle instead of at a scob, and riding to
London between the blown scents of hedgerow and hayfield and
beanfield, all fragrant of liberty yet none of them more delicious to
a boy than the mingled smell of leather and horseflesh.  Billy Priske
kept up a chatter beside me like a brook's.  He had never till now
been outside of Cornwall but in a fishing-boat, and though he had
come more than two hundred miles each new prospect was a marvel to
him.  My father told me that, once across the Tamar ferry, being told
that he was now in Devonshire, he had sniffed and observed the air to
be growing "fine and stuffy;" and again, near Holt Forest, where my
father announced that we were crossing the border between Hampshire
and Surrey, he drew rein and sat for a moment looking about him and
scratching his head.

"The Lord's ways be past finding out," he murmured.  "Not so much as
a post!"

"Why _should_ there be a post?" demanded my uncle.  "Why, sir, for
the men of Hampshire and the men of Surrey to fight over and curse
one another by on Ash Wednesdays.  But where there's no landmark a
plain man can't remove it, and where he can't remove it I don't see
how he can be cursed for it."

"'Twould be a great inconvenience, as you say, Billy, if, for the
sake of argument, the men of Hampshire wanted to curse the men of
Surrey."

"They couldn't do it"--Billy shook his head--"for the sake of
argument or any other sake; and therefore I say, though not one to
dictate to the Lord, that if a river can't be managed hereabouts--
and, these two not being Devon and Cornwall, a whole river might be
overdoing things--there ought to be some little matter of a
trout-stream, or at the least a notice-board."

"The fellow's right," said my father.  "Man would tire too soon of
his natural vices; so we invent new ones for him by making laws and
boundaries."

"Surely and virtues too," suggested my uncle, as we rode forward
again.  "You will not deny that patriotism is a virtue?"

"Not I," said my father; "nor that it is the finest invention of
all."

I remember the Hog's Back and the breeze blowing there because on the
highest rise we came on a gibbet and rode around it to windward on
the broad turfy margin of the road; and also because the sight put my
father in mind of a story which he narrated on the way down to
Guildford.


THE STORY OF OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY.

"It is told," began my father, "in a sermon of the famous Vieyras--"

"For what was he famous?" asked my uncle.

"For being a priest, and yet preaching so good a sermon on love.  It
is told in it that in the kingdom of Valencia there lived an hidalgo,
young and rich, who fell in love with a virtuous lady, ill treated by
her husband: and she with him, howbeit without the least thought of
evil.  But, as evil suspects its like, so this husband doubted the
fidelity which was his without his deserving, and laid a plot to be
revenged.  On the pretext of the summer heats he removed with his
household to a country house; and there one day he entered a room
where his wife sat alone, turned the key, and, drawing out a dagger,
ordered her to write what he should dictate.  She, being innocent,
answered him that there was no need of daggers, but she would write,
as her duty was, what he commanded: which was, a letter to the young
hidalgo telling him that her husband had left home on business; that
if her lover would come, she was ready to welcome him; and that, if
he came secretly the next night, he would find the garden gate open,
and a ladder placed against the window.  This she wrote and signed,
seeing no escape; and, going to her own room, commended her fears and
her weakness to the Virgin.

"The young hidalgo, on receiving the letter (very cautiously
delivered), could scarcely believe his bliss, but prepared, as you
will guess, to embrace it.  Having dressed himself with care, at the
right hour he mounted his horse and rode out towards his lady's
house.  Now, he was a devout youth, as youths go, and on his way he
remembered--which was no little thing on such an occasion--that since
morning he had not said over his rosary as his custom was.
So he began to tell it bead by bead, when a voice near at hand said
'Halt, Cavalier!'  He drew his sword and peered around him in the
darkness, but could see no one, and was fumbling his rosary again
when again the voice spoke, saying, 'Look up, Cavalier!' and looking
up, he beheld against the night a row of wayside gibbets, and rode in
among them to discover who had called him.  To his horror one of the
malefactors hanging there spoke down to him, begging to be cut loose;
'and,' said the poor wretch, 'if you will light the heap of twigs at
your feet and warm me by it, your charity shall not be wasted.'
For Christian charity then the youth, having his sword ready, cut him
down, and the gallows knave fell on his feet and warmed himself at
the lit fire.  'And now,' said he, being warmed, 'you must take me up
behind your saddle; for there is a plot laid to-night from which I
only can deliver you.'  So they mounted and rode together to the
house, where, having entered the garden by stealth, they found the
ladder ready set.  'You must let me climb first,' said the knave; and
had no sooner reached the ladder's top than two or three pistol shots
were fired upon him from the window and as many hands reached out and
stabbed him through and through until he dropped into the ditch;
whence, however, he sprang on his feet, and catching our hidalgo by
the arm hurried him back through the garden to the gate where his
horse stood tethered.  There they mounted and rode away into safety,
the dead behind the living.  'All this is enchantment to me,' said
the youth as they went.  'But I must thank you, my friend; for
whether dead or alive--and to my thinking you must be doubly dead--
you have rendered me a great service.'  'You may say a mass for me,
and thank you,' the dead man answered; 'but for the service you must
thank the Mother of God, who commanded me and gave me power to
deliver you, and has charged me to tell you the reason of her
kindness: which is, that every day you say her rosary.'  'I do thank
her and bless her then,' replied the youth, 'and henceforth will I
say her rosary not once daily but thrice, for that she hath preserved
my life to-night.'"

"A very proper resolution," said my uncle.

"And I hope, sir, he kept it," chimed in Billy Priske; "good
Protestant though I be."

"The story is not ended," said my father.  "The dead man--they were
dismounted now and close under the gallows--looked at the young man
angrily, and said he, 'I doubt Our Lady's pains be wasted, after all.
Is it possible, sir, you think she sent me to-night to save your
life?'  'For what else?' inquired the youth.  'To save your soul,
sir, and your lady's; both of which (though you guessed not or forgot
it) stood in jeopardy just now, so that the gate open to you was
indeed the gate of Hell.  Pray hang me back as you found me," he
concluded, 'and go your ways for a fool.'"

"Now see what happened.  The murderers in the house, coming down to
bury the body and finding it not, understood that the young man had
not come alone; from which they reasoned that his servants had
carried him off and would publish the crime.  They therefore, with
their master, hurriedly fled out of the country.  The lady betook
herself to a religious house, where in solitude questioning herself
she found that in will, albeit not in act, she had been less than
faithful.  As for the hidalgo, he rode home and shut himself within
doors, whence he came forth in a few hours as a man from a
sepulchre--which, indeed, to his enemies he evidently was when they
heard that he was abroad and unhurt whom they had certainly stabbed
to death; and to his friends almost as great a marvel when they
perceived the alteration of his life; yea, and to himself the
greatest of all, who alone knew what had passed, and, as by
enchantment his life had taken this turn, so spent its remainder like
a man enchanted rather than converted.  I am told," my father
concluded, "though the sermon says nothing about it, that he and the
lady came in the end, and as by an accident, to be buried side by
side, at a little distance, in the Chapel of Our Lady of Succour in
the Cathedral church of Valencia, and there lie stretched--two
parallels of dust--to meet only at the Resurrection when the desires
of all dust shall be purged away."

With this story my father beguiled the road down into Guildford, and
of his three listeners I was then the least attentive.
Years afterwards, as you shall learn, I had reason to remember it.

At Guildford, where we fed ourselves and hired a relay of horses, I
took Billy aside and questioned him (forgetting the example of Isaac)
why we were going to London and on what business.  He shook his head.

"Squire knows," said he.  "As for me, a still tongue keeps a wise
head, and moreover I know not.  Bain't it enough for 'ee to be quit
of school and drinking good ale in the kingdom o' Guildford?
Very well, then."

"Still, one cannot help wondering," said I, half to myself; but Billy
dipped his face stolidly within his pewter.

"The last friend a man should want to take up with is his Future,"
said he, sagely.  "I knows naught about en but what's to his
discredit--as that I shall die sooner or later, a thing that goes
against my stomach; or that at the best I shall grow old, which runs
counter to my will.  He's that uncomfortable, too, you can't please
him.  Take him hopeful, and you're counting your chickens; take him
doleful, and foreboding is worse than witchcraft.  There was a
Mevagissey man I sailed with as a boy--and your father's tale just
now put me in mind of him--paid half a crown to a conjurer, one time,
to have his fortune told; which was, that he would marry the ugliest
maid in the parish.  Whereby it preyed on his mind till he hanged
hisself.  Whereby along comes the woman in the nick o' time, cuts him
down, an' marries him out o' pity while he's too weak to resist.
That's your Future; and, as I say, I keeps en at arm's length."

With this philosophy of Billy I had to be content and find my own
guesses at the mystery.  But as the afternoon wore on I kept no hold
on any speculation for more than a few minutes.  I was saddle-weary,
drowsed with sunburn and the moving landscape over which the sun,
when I turned, swam in a haze of dust.  The villages crowded closer,
and at the entry of each I thought London was come; but anon the
houses thinned and dwindled and we were between hedgerows again.
So it lasted, village after village, until with the shut of night,
when the long shadows of our horses before us melted into dusk, a
faint glow opened on the sky ahead and grew and brightened.
I knew it: but even as I saluted it my chin dropped forward and I
dozed.  In a dream I rode through the lighted streets, and at the
door of our lodgings my father lifted me down from the saddle.



CHAPTER III.


I ACQUIRE A KINGDOM.


     "_Gloucester_.  The trick of that voice I do well remember:
                     Is't not the king?"
     "_Lear_.                      Ay, every inch a king."
                                                _King Lear_.

From our lodgings, which were in Bond Street, we sallied forth next
morning to view the town; my father leading us first by way of St.
James's and across the Park to the Abbey, and on the way holding
discourse to which I recalled myself with difficulty from London's
shows and wonders--his Majesty's tall guards at the palace gates, the
gorgeous promenaders in the Mall, the swans and wild fowl on the
lake.

"I wish you to remark, my dear child," said he, "that between a
capital and solitude there is no third choice; nor, I would add, can
a mind extract the best of solitude unless it bring urbanity to the
wilderness.  Your rustic is no philosopher, and your provincial
townsman is the devil: if you would meditate in Arden, your company
must be the Duke, Jaques, Touchstone--courtiers all--or, again,
Rosalind, the Duke's daughter, if you would catch the very mood of
the forest.  I tell you this, child, that you may not be misled by my
example (which has a reason of its own and, I trust, an excuse) into
shunning your destiny though it lead and keep you in cities and among
crowds; for we have it on the word of no less busy a man than the
Emperor Marcus Aurelius that to seek out private retiring-rooms for
the soul such as country villages, the sea-shore, mountains, is but a
mistaken simplicity, seeing that at what time soever a man will it is
in his power to retire into himself and be at rest, dwelling within
the walls of a city as in a shepherd's fold of the mountain.  So also
the sainted Juan de Avila tells us that a man who trusts in God may,
if he take pains, recollect God in streets and public places better
than will a hermit in his cell; and the excellent Archbishop of
Cambrai, writing to the Countess of Gramont, counselled her to
practise recollection and give a quiet thought to God at dinner times
in a lull of the conversation, or again when she was driving or
dressing or having her hair arranged; these hindrances (said he)
profited more than any _engouement_ of devotion.

"But," he went on, "to bear yourself rightly in a crowd you must
study how one crowd differs from another, and how in one city you may
have that great orderly movement of life (whether of business or of
pleasure) which is the surrounding joy of princes in their palaces,
and an insensate mob, which is the most brutal and vilest aspect of
man.  For as in a thronged street you may learn the high meaning of
citizenship, so in a mob you may unlearn all that makes a man
dignified.  Yet even the mob you should study in a capital, as
Shakespeare did in his 'Julius Caesar' and 'Coriolanus;' for only so
can you know it in its quiddity.  I conjure you, child, to get your
sense of men from their capital cities."

He had something to tell of almost every great house we passed.
He seemed--he that had saluted no one as we crossed the Mall, saluted
of none--to walk this quarter of London with a proprietary tread; and
by and by, coming to the river, he waved an arm and broke into
panegyric.

"Other capitals have had their turn, and others will overtake and
outstrip her; but where is one in these times to compare with London?
Where in Europe will you see streets so well ordered, squares so
spacious, houses so comfortable, yet elegant, as in this mile east
and south of Hyde Park?  Where such solid, self-respecting wealth as
in our City?  Where such merchant-princes and adventurers as your
Whittingtons and Greshams?  Where half its commerce? and where a
commerce touched with one tithe of its imagination?  Where such a
river, for trade as for pageants?  On what other shore two buildings
side by side so famous, the one for just laws, civil security,
liberty with obedience, the other for heroic virtues resumed, with
their propagating dust, into the faith which sowed all and, having
reaped, renews?"

In the Abbey--where my Uncle Gervase was forced to withdraw behind a
pillar and rub Billy Priske's neck, which by this time had a crick in
it--my father's voice, as he moved from tomb to tomb, deepened to a
regal solemnity.  He repeated Beaumont's great lines--

     "Mortality, behold and fear!
      What a change of flesh is here!"

laying a hand on my shoulder the while; and in the action I
understood that this and all his previous discourse was addressed to
me with a purpose, and that somehow our visit to London had to do
with that purpose.

     "Here they lie had realms and lands
      Who now want strength to stir their hands;
      Where from their pulpits seal'd with dust
      They preach 'In greatness is no trust' . . .
      Here are sands, ignoble things,
      Dropt from the ruin'd sides of kings. . . ."

I must have fallen a-wondering while he quoted in a low sonorous
voice, like a last echo of the great organ, rolling among the arches;
for as it ceased I came to myself with a start and found his eyes
searching me; also his hold on my shoulder had stiffened, and he held
me from him at arm's length.

"And yet," said he, as if to himself, "this dust is the strongest man
can build with; and we must build in our generation--quickly,
trusting in the young firm flesh; yes, quickly--and trusting--though
we know what its end must be."

These last words he muttered, and afterwards seemed to fall into a
meditation, which lasted until we found ourselves outside the Abbey
and in the light again.

From Westminster we took boat to Blackfriars, and, landing there,
walked up through the crowded traffic to a gateway opening into
Clement's Inn.  I did not know its name at the time, nor did I regard
the place as we entered, being yet fascinated with the sight of
Temple Bar and of the heads of four traitors above it on poles,
blackening in the sun; but within the courtyard we turned to the
right and mounted a staircase to the head of the second flight and to
a closed door on which my father knocked.  A clerk opened, and
presently we passed through an office into a well-sized room where,
from amid a pile of books, a grave little man rose, reached for his
wig, and, having adjusted it, bowed to us.

"Good morning!  Good morning, gentlemen!  Ah--er--Sir John
Constantine, I believe?"

My father bowed.  "At your service, Mr. Knox.  You received my
letter, then?  Let me present my brother-in-law and man of affairs,
Mr. Gervase Arundel, who will discuss with you the main part of our
business; also my son here, about whom I wrote to you."

"Eh?  Eh?"  Mr. Knox, after bowing to my uncle, put on his
spectacles, took them off, wiped them, put them on again, and
regarded me benevolently.  "Eh? so this is the boy--h'm--Jasper, I
believe?"

"Prosper," my father corrected.

"Ah, to be sure--Prosper--and I hope he will, I'm sure." Mr. Knox
chuckled at his mild little witticism and twinkled at me jocosely.
"Your letter, Sir John?  Yes, to be sure, I received it.  What you
propose is practicable, though irregular."

"Irregular?"

"Not legally irregular--oh no, not in the least.  Legally the thing's
as simple as A B C.  The man has only to take the benefit of the Act
of Insolvency, assign his estate to his creditors, and then--
supposing that they are agreed--"

"There can be no question of their agreement or disagreement.
His creditors do not exist.  As I told you, I have paid them off,
bought up all their debts, and the yes or no rests with me alone."

"Quite so; I was merely putting it as the Act directs.  Very well
then, supposing _you_ agree, nothing more is necessary than an
appearance--a purely formal appearance--at the Old Bailey, and your
unfortunate friend--"

"Pardon me," my father put in; "he is not my friend."

"Eh?" . . .  Mr. Knox removed his spectacles, breathed on them, and
rubbed them, while he regarded my father with a bewildered air.
"You'll excuse me . . . but I must own myself entirely puzzled.
Even for a friend's sake, as I was about to protest, your conduct,
sir, would be Quixotic; yes, yes, Quixotic in the highest degree, the
amount being (as you might say) princely, and the security--"
Mr. Knox paused and expressed his opinion of the security by a
pitying smile.  "But if," he resumed, "this man be not even your
friend, then, my dear sir, I can merely wonder."

For a moment my father seemed about to argue with him, but checked
himself.

"None the less the man is very far from being my friend," he answered
quietly.

"But surely--surely, sir, you cannot be doing this in any hope to
recover what he already owes you!  That were indeed to throw the
helve after the hatchet.  Nay, sir, it were madness--stark madness!"

My father glanced at my uncle Gervase, who stood pulling his lip;
then, with an abrupt motion, he turned on Mr. Knox again.

"You have seen him?  You delivered my letter?"

"I did."

"What was his answer?"

Mr. Knox shrugged his shoulders.  "He jumped at it, of course."

"And the boy, here!  What did he say about the boy?"

"Well, to speak truth, Sir John, he seemed passably amused by the
whole business.  The fact is, prison has broken him up.  A fine
figure he must have been in his time, but a costly one to maintain
 . . . as tall as yourself, Sir John, if not taller; and florid, as
one may say; the sort of man that must have exercise and space and a
crowd to admire him, not to mention wine and meats and female
society.  The Fleet has broken down all that.  Even with liberty I
wouldn't promise him another year of life; and, unless I'm mistaken,
he knows his case.  A rare actor, too!  It wouldn't surprise me if
he'd even deceived himself.  But the mask's off.  Your offer
overjoyed him; that goes without saying.  In spite of all your past
generosity, this new offer obviously struck him for the moment as too
good to be true.  But I cannot say, Sir John, that he made any
serious effort to keep up the imposture or pretend that the security
which he can offer is more than a sentimental one.  Not to put too
fine a point on it, he ordered in a couple of bottles of wine at my
expense, and over the second I left him laughing."

My father frowned.  "And yet this man, Mr. Knox, is an anointed
king."

"Of Corsica!"  Mr. Knox shrugged his shoulders.  "You may take my
word for it, he's an anointed actor."

"One can visit him, I suppose?"

"At the most the turnkey will expect five shillings.  Oh dear me yes!
For a crowned head he's accessible."

My father took me by the arm.  "Come along, then, child.  And you,
Gervase, get your business through with Mr. Knox and follow us, if
you can, in half an hour.  You"--he turned to Billy Priske--"had best
come with us.  'Tis possible I may need you all for witnesses."

He walked me out and downstairs and through the lodge gateway; and so
under Temple Bar again and down Fleet Street through the throng; till
near the foot of it, turning up a side street out of the noise, we
found ourselves in face of a gateway which could only belong to a
prison. The gate itself stood open, but the passage led to an
iron-barred door, and in the passage--which was cool but
indescribably noisome--a couple of children were playing marbles,
with half a dozen turnkeys looking on and (I believe) betting on the
game.

My father sniffed the air in the passage and turned to me.

"Gaol-fever," he announced.  "Please God, child, we won't be in it
long."

He rescued Billy from the two urchins who had dropped their game to
pinch his calves, and addressed a word to one of the turnkeys, at the
same time passing a coin.  The fellow looked at it and touched his
hat.

"Second court, first floor, number thirty-seven."  He opened a wicket
in the gate.  "This way, please, and sharp to the left."

The narrow court into which we descended by a short flight of steps
was, as I remember, empty; but passing under an archway and through a
kind of tunnel we entered a larger one crowded with men, some
gathered in groups, others pacing singly and dejectedly, the most of
them slowly too, with bowed heads, but three or four with fierce
strides as if in haste to keep an appointment.  One of them, coming
abreast of us as the turnkey led us off to a staircase on the left,
halted, drew himself up, stared at us for a moment with vacant eyes,
and hurried by; yet before we mounted the stairs I saw him reach the
farther wall, wheel, and come as hastily striding back.

The stairway led to a filthy corridor, pierced on the left with a row
of tiny windows looking on the first and empty courtyard; and on the
right with a close row of doors, the most of which stood open and
gave glimpses of foul disordered beds, broken meats, and barred
windows crusted with London grime.  The smell was pestilential.
Our turnkey rapped on one of the closed doors, and half-flung,
half-kicked it open; for a box had been set against it on the inside.

"Visitors for the Baron!" he announced, and stood aside to let us
enter.  My father had ordered Billy to wait below.  We two passed in
together.

Now, my father, as I have said, was tall; yet it seemed to me that
the man who greeted us was taller, as he rose from the bed and stood
between us and the barred dirty window.  By little and little I made
out that he wore an orange-coloured dressing-gown, and on his head a
Turk's fez; that he had pushed back a table at which, seated on the
bed, he had been writing; and that on the sill of the closed window
behind him stood a geranium-plant, dry with dust and withering in the
stagnant air of the room.  But as yet, since he rose with his back to
the little light, I could not make out his features.  I marked,
however, that he shook from head to foot.

My father bowed--a very reverent and stately bow it was too--regarded
him for a moment, and, taking a pace backward to the door, called
after the retreating turnkey, to whom he addressed some order in a
tone to me inaudible.

"You are welcome, Sir John," said the prisoner, as my father faced
him again; "though to my shame I cannot offer you hospitality."
He said it in English, with a thick and almost guttural foreign
accent, and his voice shook over the words.

"I have made bold, sire, to order the remedy."

"'Sire!'" the prisoner took him up with a flash of spirit.
"You have many rights over me, Sir John, but none to mock me, I
think."

"As you have no right to hold me capable of it, in such a place as
this," answered my father.  "I addressed you in terms which my errand
proves to be sincere.  This is my son Prosper, of whom I wrote."

"To be sure--to be sure."  The prisoner turned to me and looked me
over--I am bound to say with no very great curiosity, and sideways,
in the half light, I had a better glimpse of his features, which were
bold and handsome, but dreadfully emaciated.  He seemed to lose the
thread of his speech, and his hands strayed towards the table as if
in search of something.  "Ah yes, the boy," said he, vaguely.

The turnkey entering just then with two bottles of wine, my father
took one from him and filled an empty glass that stood on the table.
The prisoner's fingers closed over it.

"I have much to drown," he explained, as, having gulped down the
wine, he refilled his glass at once, knocking the bottle-neck on its
rim in his clattering haste.  "Excuse me; you'll find another glass
in the cupboard behind you. . . . Yes, yes, we were talking of the
boy. . . . Are you filled? . . . We'll drink to his health!"

"To your health, Prosper," said my father, gravely, and drank.

"But, see here--I received your letter right enough, and it sounds
too good to be true.  Only "--and into the man's eyes there crept a
sudden cunning--"I don't understand what you want of me."

"You may think it much or little; but all we want--or, rather, all my
boy wants--is your blessing."

"So I gathered; and that's funny, by God!  _My_ blessing--mine--and
here!"  He flung out a hand.  "I've had some strange requests in my
time; but, damn me, if I reckoned that any man any longer wanted my
blessing."

"My son does, though; and even such a blessing as your own son would
need, if you had one.  You understand?"--for the prisoner's eyes had
wandered to the barred window--"I mean the blessing of Theodore the
First."

"You are a strange fellow, John Constantine," was the answer, in a
weary, almost pettish tone.  "God knows I have more reason to be
grateful to you than to any man alive--"

"But you find it hard?  Then give it over.  You may do it with the
lighter heart since gratitude from you would be offensive to me."

"If you played for this--worthless prize as it is--from the
beginning--"

Again my father took him up; and, this time, sternly.  "You know
perfectly well that I never played for this from the beginning; nor
had ever dreamed of it while there was a chance that you--or _she_--
might leave a child.  I will trouble you--"  My father checked
himself.  "Your pardon, I am speaking roughly.  I will beg you, sire,
to remember first, that you claimed and received my poor help while
there was yet a likelihood of your having children, before your wife
left you, and a good year before I myself married or dreamed of
marrying.  I will beg you further to remember that no payment of what
you owed to me was ever enforced, and that the creditors who sent you
and have kept you here are commercial persons with whom I had nothing
to do; whose names until the other day were strange to me.  _Now_ I
will admit that I play for a kingdom."

"You really think it worth while?"  The prisoner, who had stood all
this time blinking at the window, his hands in the pockets of his
dirty dressing-gown, turned again to question him.

"I do."

"But listen a moment.  I have had too many favours from you, and I
don't want another under false pretences.  You may call it a too-late
repentance, but the fact remains that I don't.  Liberty?"--he
stretched out both gaunt arms, far beyond the sleeves of his gown,
till they seemed to measure the room and to thrust its walls wide.
"Even with a week to live I would buy it dear--you don't know, John
Constantine, how you tempt me--but not at that price."

"Your title is good.  I will take the risk."

"How good or how bad my title is, you know.  'Tis the inheritance
against which I warn you."

"I take the risk," my father repeated, "if you will sign."

The prisoner shrugged his shoulders and helped himself to another
glassful.

"We must have witnesses," said my father, "Have you a clergyman in
this den?"

"To be sure we have.  The chaplain, we call him Figg--Jonathan Figg's
his name; the Reverend Jonathan Figg, B.A., of Sydney Sussex College,
Cambridge; a good fellow and a moderately hard drinker.  He spends
the best part of his morning marrying up thieves and sailors to
trulls; but he's usually leaving church about this time, if a
messenger can catch him before he's off to breakfast with 'em.
Half an hour hence he'll be too drunk to sign his name."

"Prosper"--my father swung round on me--"run you down to Billy and
take him off to search for this clergyman.  If on your way you meet
with your uncle and Mr. Knox, say that we shall require them, too, as
witnesses."

I ran down to the courtyard, but no Billy could I see; only the
dejected groups of prisoners, and among them the one I had marked
before, still fiercely striding, and still, at the wall, returning
upon his track.  I hurried out to the gate, and there, to my
amazement, found Billy in the clutches of a strapping impudent wench
and surrounded by a ring of turnkeys, who were splitting their sides
with laughter.

"I won't!" he was crying.  "I'm a married man, I tell 'ee, and the
father of twelve!"

"Oh, Billy!" I cried, aghast at the lie.

"There was no other way, lad.  For the Lord's sake fetch Squire to
deliver me?"

Before I could answer or ask what was happening, the damsel rounded
on me.

"Boy," she demanded, "is this man deceiving me?"

"As for that, ma'am," I answered, "I cannot say.  But that he's a
bachelor I believe; and that he hates women I have his word over and
over."

"Then he shall marry me or fight me," she answered very coolly, and
began to strip off her short bodice.

"There's twelve o'clock," announced one of the turnkeys, as the first
stroke sounded from the clock above us over the prison gateway.  "Too
late to be married to-day; so a fight it is."

"A ring! a ring!" cried the others.

I looked in Billy's face, and in all my life (as I have since often
reminded him) I never saw a man worse scared.  The woman had actually
thrown off her jacket and stood up in a loose under-bodice that left
her arms free--and exceedingly red and brawny arms they were.
How he had come into this plight I could guess as little as what the
issue was like to be, when in the gateway there appeared my uncle and
Mr. Knox, and close at their heels a rabble of men and women
arm-in-arm, headed by a red-nosed clergyman with an immense white
favour pinned to his breast.

"Hey?  What's to do--what's to do!" inquired Mr. Knox.

The clergyman thrust past him with a "Pardon me, sir," and addressed
the woman.  "What's the matter, Nan?  Is the bridegroom fighting
shy?"

"Please your reverence, he tells me he's the father of twelve."

"H'm."  The priest cocked his head on one side.  "You find that an
impediment?"

"_And_ a married man, your reverence."

"Then he has the laughing side of you, this time," said his
reverence, promptly, and took snuff.  "Tut, tut, woman--down with
your fists, button up your bodice, and take disappointment with a
better grace.  Come, no nonsense, or you'll start me asking what's
become of the last man I married ye to."

"Sir," interposed my uncle, "I know not the head or tail of this
quarrel.  But this man Priske is my brother's servant, and if he told
the lady what she alleges, for the credit of the family I must
correct him.  In sober truth he's a bachelor, and no more the father
of twelve than I am."

This address, delivered with entire simplicity, set the whole company
gasping.  Most of all it seemed to astonish the woman, who could not
be expected to know that my uncle's chivalry accepted all her sex,
the lowest with the highest, in the image in which God made it and
without defacement.

The priest was the first to recover himself.  "My good sir," said he,
"your man may be the father of twelve or the father of lies; but I'll
not marry him after stroke of noon, for that's my rule.  Moreover"--
he swept a hand towards the bridal party behind him--"these turtles
have invited me to eat roast duck and green peas with 'em, and I hate
my gravy cold."

"Ay, sir?" asked my uncle.  "Do you tell me that folks marry and give
in marriage within this dreadful place?"

"Now and then, sir; and in the liberties and purlieus thereof with a
proclivity that would astonish you; which, since I cannot hinder it,
I sanctify.  My name is Figg, sir--Jonathan Figg; and my office,
Chaplain of the Fleet."

"And if it please you, sir," I put in, "my father has sent me in
search of you, to beg that you will come to him at once."

"And you have heard me say, young sir, that I marry no man after
stroke of noon; no, nor will visit him sick unless he be in _articulo
mortis_."

"But my father neither wants to be married, sir, nor is he sick at
all.  I believe it is some matter of witnessing an oath."

"Hath he better than roast duck and green peas to offer, hey?  No?
Then tell him he may come and witness _my_ oath, that I'll see him
first to Jericho."

"Whereby, if I mistake not," said Mr. Knox, quietly, "your pocket
will continue light of two guineas; and I may add, from what I know
of Sir John Constantine, that he is quite capable, if he receive such
an answer, of having your blood in a bottle."

"'Sir John Constantine?' did I hear you say. _Sir_ John
Constantine?'" queried the Reverend Mr. Figg, with a complete change
of manner.  "That's _quite_ another thing!  Anything to oblige Sir
John Constantine, I'm sure--"

"Do you know him?" asked my uncle.

"Well--er--no; I can't honestly declare that I _know_ him; but, of
course, one knows _of_ him--that is to say, I understand him to be a
gentleman of title; a knight at least."

"Yes," my uncle answered, "he is at least that.  What a very
extraordinary person!" he added in a wondering aside.

Oddly enough, as we were leaving, I heard the woman Nan say pretty
much the same of my uncle.  She added that she had a great mind to
kiss him.

We found my father and the prisoner seated with the bottle between
them on the rickety liquor-stained table.  Yet--as I remember the
scene now--not all the squalor of the room could efface or diminish
the majesty of their two figures.  They sat like two tall old kings,
eye to eye, not friends, or reconciled only in this last and lonely
hour by meditation on man's common fate.  If I cannot make you
understand this, what follows will seem to you absurd, though indeed
at the time it was not so.

My father rose as we entered.  "Here is the boy returned," said he;
"and here are the witnesses."

The prisoner rose also.  "I did not catch his name, or else I have
forgotten it," he said, fixing his eyes on me and motioning me to
step forward; which I did.  His eyes--which before had seemed to me
shifty--were straight now and commanding, yet benevolent.

"His name is Prosper; in full, John Prosper Camilio Paleologus.
Never more than one of us wears the surname of Constantine, and he
not until he succeeds as head of our house."

"One name is enough for a king."  The prisoner motioned again with
his hand.  "Kneel, boy," my father commanded, and I knelt.

"I ask you, gentlemen," said the prisoner, facing them and lifting
his voice, "to hear and remember what I shall say; to witness and
remember what I shall do; and by signature to attest what I shall
presently write.  I say, then, that I, Theodore, was on the fifteenth
of April, twenty years ago, by the united voice of the people of
Corsica, made King of that island and placed in possession of its
revenues and chief dignities.  I declare, as God may punish me if I
lie, that by no act of mine or of my people of Corsica has that
election been annulled, forfeited, or invalidated; that its revenues
are to-day rightfully mine to receive and bequeath, as its dignities
are to-day rightfully mine to enjoy or abdicate to an heir of my own
choosing.  I declare further that, failing male issue of my own body,
I resign herewith and abdicate both rank and revenue in favour of
this boy, Prosper Paleologus, son of Constantine, and heir in descent
of Constantine last Emperor of Constantinople.  I lay my hands on him
in your presence and bless him.  In your presence I raise him and
salute him on both cheeks, naming him my son of choice and my
successor, Prosper I., King of the Commonwealth of Corsica.  I call
on you all to attest this act with your names, and all necessary
writings confirming it; and I beseech you all to pray with me that he
may come to the full inheritance of his kingdom, and thrive therein
as he shall justly and righteously administer it.  God save King
Prosper!"

At the conclusion of this speech, admirably delivered, I--standing
with bent head as he had raised me, and with both cheeks tingling
from his salutation--heard my father's voice say sonorously, "Amen!"
and another--I think the parson's--break into something like a
chuckle.  But my uncle must have put out a hand threatening his
weasand, for the sound very suddenly gave place to silence; and the
next voice I heard was Mr. Knox's.

"May I suggest that we seat ourselves and examine the papers?" said
Mr. Knox.

"One moment."  King Theodore stepped to the cupboard and drew out a
bundle in a blue-and-white checked kerchief, and a smaller one in
brown paper.  The kerchief, having been laid on the table and
unwrapped, disclosed a fantastic piece of ironwork in the shape of a
crown, set with stones of which the preciousness was concealed by a
plentiful layer of dust.  He lifted this, set it on my head for a
moment, and, replacing it on the table, took up the brown-paper
parcel.

"This," said he, "contains the Great Seal.  To whose keeping "--he
turned to my father--"am I to entrust them, Sir John?"

My father nodded towards Billy Priske, who stepped forward and tucked
both parcels under his arm, while Mr. Knox spread his papers on the
table.


We walked back to our lodgings that afternoon, with Billy Priske
behind us bearing in his pocket the Great Seal and under his arm, in
a checked kerchief, the Iron Crown of Corsica.

Two mornings later we took horse and set our faces westward again;
and thus ended my brief first visit to London.  Billy Priske carried
the sacred parcel on the saddle before him; and my uncle, riding
beside him, spent no small part of the way in an exhortation against
lying in general, and particularly against the sin of laying false
claim to the paternity of twelve children.

Now, so shaken was Billy by his one adventure in London that until we
had passed the tenth milestone he seemed content enough to be rated.
I believe that as, for the remainder of his stay in London, he had
never strayed beyond sight, so even yet he took comfort and security
from my uncle's voice; "since," said he, quoting a Cornish proverb,
"'tis better be rated by your own than mated with a stranger."
But, by-and-by, taking courage to protest that a lie might on
occasion be pardonable and even necessary, he drew my father into the
discussion.

"This difficulty of Billy's," interposed my father, "was in some sort
anticipated by Plato, who instanced that a madman with a knife in his
hand might inquire of you to direct him which way had been taken by
the victim he proposed to murder.  He posits it as a nice point.
Should one answer truthfully, or deceive?"

"For my part," answered my uncle, "I should knock him down."



CHAPTER IV.


LONG VACATION.


     "In a harbour grene aslope whereas I lay,
      The byrdes sang swete in the middes of the day,
      I dreamed fast of mirth and play:
           In youth is pleasure, in youth is pleasure."
                                           Robert Wever.

A history (you will say) which finds a schoolboy tickling trout, and
by the end of another chapter has clapped a crown on his head and
hailed him sovereign over a people of whom he has scarcely heard and
knows nothing save that they are warlike and extremely hot-tempered,
should be in a fair way to move ahead briskly.  Nevertheless I shall
pass over the first two years of the reign of King Prosper, during
which he stayed at school and performed nothing worthy of mention:
and shall come to a summer's afternoon at Oxford, close upon the end
of term, when Nat Fiennes and I sat together in my rooms in New
College--he curled on the window-seat with a book, and I stretched in
an easy-chair by the fireplace, and deep in a news-sheet.

"By the way, Nat," said I, looking up as I turned the page,
"where will you spend your vacation?"

A groan answered me.

"Hullo!" I went on, making a hasty guess at his case.  "Has the
little cordwainer's tall daughter jilted you, as I promised she
would?"

"A curse on this age!" swore Nat, who ever carried his heart on his
sleeve.

I began to hum--

     "I loved a lass, a fair one,
        As fair as e'er was seen;
      She was indeed a rare one,
        Another Sheba queen.
      Her waist exceeding small,
        The fives did fit her shoe;
      But now alas! sh' 'as left me,
        Falero, lero, loo!"

"Curse the age!" repeated Nat, viciously.  "If these were Lancelot's
days now, a man could run mad in the forest and lie naked and chew
sticks; and then she'd be sorry."

     "In summer time to Medley
        My love and I would go;
      The boatmen there stood read'ly
        My love and me to row,"

sang I, and ducked my head to avoid the cushion he hurled.
"Well then, there's very pretty forest land around my home in
Cornwall, with undergrowth and dropped twigs to last you till
Michaelmas term.  So why not ride down with me and spend at least the
fore-part of your madness there?"

"I hate your Cornwall."

"'Tis a poor rugged land," said I; "but hath this convenience above
your own home, that it contains no nymphs to whom you have yet sworn
passion.  You may meet ours with a straight brow; and they are fair,
too, and unembarrassed, though I won't warrant them if you run bare."

"'Tis never I that am inconstant."

"Never, Nat; 'tis she, always and only--" she, she, and only she"--
and there have been six of her to my knowledge."

"If I were a king, now--"

"T'cht!" said I (for as my best friend, and almost my sole one, he
knew my story).

"If a fellow were a king now--instead of being doomed to the law--
oh, good Lord!"

"You are incoherent, dear lad," said I; "and yet you tell me one
thing plainly enough; which is that in place of loving this one or
that one, or the cordwainer's strapping daughter, you are in love
with being in love."

"Well, and why not?" he demanded.  "Were I a king, now, that is even
what I would be--in love with being in love.  Were I a king, now, so
deep in love were I with being in love, that my messengers should
compass earth to fetch me the right princess.  Yes, and could they
not reach to her, if I but heard of one hidden and afar that was
worth my loving, I would build ships and launch them, enlist crews
and armies, sail all seas and challenge all wars, to win her.
If I were king, now, my love should dwell in the fastnesses of the
mountains, and I would reach her; she should drive me to turn again
and gather the bones of the seamen I had dropped overboard, and I
would turn and dredge the seas for them; for a whim she should demand
to watch me at the task, and gangs of slaves should level mountains
to open a prospect from her window; nay, all this while she should
deny me sight of her, and I would embrace that last hardship that in
the end she might be the dearer prize, a queen worthy to seat beside
me.  Man, heave your great lubberly bones out of that chair and
salute a poor devil whom, as you put it, a cordwainer's daughter has
jilted."

"Hullo!" cried I, who had turned from his rhapsody to con the news
again, and on the instant had been caught by a familiar name at the
foot of the page.

"What is it?"

"Why," said I, reading, "it seems that you are not the only such
madman as you have just proclaimed yourself.  Listen to this: it is
headed "'Falmouth.'

    "'A Gentleman, having read that the Methodist Preachers are to
      pay a visit to Falmouth, Cornwall, on the 16th, 17th, and 18th
      of next month; and that on the occasion of their last visit
      certain women, their sympathizers, were set upon and brutally
      handled by the mob; hereby announces that he will be present on
      the Market Strand, Falmouth, on these dates, with intent to put
      a stop to such behaviour, and invites any who share his
      indignation to meet him there and help to see fair play.
      The badge to be a Red Rose pinned in the hat.'"
                                               "'EUGENIO.'"

"What think you of that?" I asked, without turning my head.

"The newspaper comes from Cornwall?" he asked.

"From Falmouth itself.  My father sent it. . . . Jove!" I cried after
a moment, "I wonder if he's answerable for this?  'Twould be like his
extravagance."

"A pity but what you inherited some of it, then," said Nat, crossly.

"Tell you what, Nat"--I slewed about in my chair--"Come you down to
Cornwall and we'll stick each a rose in our hats and help this Master
Engenio, whoever he is.  I've a curiosity to discover him: and if he
be my father--he has not marked the passage, by the way--we'll have
rare fun in smoking him and tracking him unbeknown to the
_rendezvous_.  Come, lad; and if I know the Falmouth mob, you shall
have a pretty little turn-up well worth the journey."

But Nat, still staring out of window, shook his head.  He was in one
of his perverse moods--and they had been growing frequent of late--
in which nothing I could say or do seemed to content him; and for
this I chiefly accused the cordwainer's daughter, who in fact was a
decent merry girl, fond of strawberries, with no more notion of
falling in love with Nat than of running off with her father's
apprentice.  Whatever the cause of it, a cloud had been creeping over
our friendship of late.  He sought companions--some of them serious
men--with whom I could not be easy.  We kept up the pretence, but
talked no longer with entirely open hearts.  Yet I loved him; and now
in a sudden urgent desire to carry him off to Cornwall with me and
clear up all misunderstandings, I caught his arm and haled him down
to our college garden, which lies close within the city wall; and
there, pacing the broken military terrace, plied him with a dozen
reasons why he should come.  Still he shook his head to all of them;
and presently, hearing four o'clock strike, pulled up in his walk and
announced that he must be going--he had an engagement.

"And where?" I asked.

He confessed that it was to visit the poor prisoners shut up for debt
in Bocardo.

I pulled a wry mouth, remembering the dismal crew in the Fleet
Prison.  But though, the confession being forced from him, he ended
wistfully and as if upon a question, I did not offer to come.
It seemed a mighty dull way to finish a summer's afternoon.
Moreover I was nettled.  So I let him go and watched him through the
gate, thinking bitterly that our friendship was sick and drooping by
no fault of mine.

The truth was--or so I tried to excuse him--that beside his plaguey
trick of falling in and out of love he had an overhanging quarrel
with his father, a worthy man, tyrannous when crossed, who meant him
for the law.  Nat abhorred the law, and, foreseeing that the tussel
must come, vexed his honest conscience with the thought that while
delaying to declare war he was eating his father's bread.
This thought, working upon the ferment of youth, kept him like a colt
in a fretful lather.  He scribbled verses, but never finished so much
as a sonnet; he flung himself into religion, but chiefly, I thought,
to challenge and irritate his undevout friends; and he would drop any
occupation to rail at me and what he was pleased to call my phlegm.

He had some reason too, though at the time I could not discover it.
Now, looking back, I can see into what a stagnant calm I had run.
My boyhood should have been over; in body I had shot up to a great
awkward height; but for the while the man within me drowsed and hung
fire.  I lived in the passing day and was content with it.
Nat's gusts of passion amused me, and why a man should want to write
verses or fall in love was a mystery at which I arrived no nearer
than to laugh.  For this (strange as it may sound) I believe the
visit to London was partly to blame.  Nothing had come of it, except
that the unhappy King Theodore had gained his release and improved
upon it by dying, a few weeks later, in wretched lodgings in Soho;
where, at my father's expense, the church of St. Anne's now bore a
mural tablet to his memory with an epitaph obligingly contributed by
the Hon. Horace Walpole, since Earl of Orford.


                  Near this place is interred
                   THEODORE KING OF CORSICA
                   who died in this parish
                        Dec. 11, 1756
                  immediately after leaving
                   The King's Bench Prison by
               the benefit of the Act of Insolvency
                    in consequence of which
               he registered his kingdom of Corsica
                 for the use of his creditors.

            The grave, great teacher, to a level brings
            Heroes and beggars, galley slaves and kings;
            But Theodore this moral learned ere dead:
            Fate poured his lesson on his living head,
            Bestow'd a kingdom, and denied him bread.

My father, who copied this out for me, had announced in few words
poor Theodore's fate, but without particular allusion to our
adventure, which, as he made no movement to follow it up, or none
that he confided, I came in time to regard humorously as an escapade
of his, a holiday frolic, a piece of midsummer madness.  The serious
part was that he had undoubtedly paid away large sums of money, and
for two years my Uncle Gervase had worn a distracted air which I set
down to the family accounts.  By degrees I came to conclude, with the
rest of the world, that my father's brain was more than a little
cracked, and sounded my uncle privately about this--delicately as I
thought; but he met me with a fierce unexpected heat.  "Your father,"
said he, "is the best man in the world, and I bid you wait to
understand him better, taking my word that he has great designs for
you."  Sure enough, too, my father seemed to hint at this in the
tenor of his conversation with me, which was ever of high politics
and the government of states, or on some point which could be
stretched to bear on these; but of any immediate design he forbore--
as it seemed, carefully--to speak.  Thus I found myself at pause and
let my youth wait upon his decision.

Yet I had sense enough to feel less than satisfied with myself,
albeit sorer with Nat as I watched the dear lad go from me across
the turf and out at the garden gate.  Nor will I swear that my eyes
did not smart a little.  I was but a boy, and had set my heart on our
travelling down to Cornwall together.

To Cornwall I rode down alone, a week later, and fell to work to idle
my vacation away; fishing a little, but oftener sailing my boat;
sometimes alone, sometimes with Billy Priske for company.
  Billy--whose duties as butler were what he called a _sine qua non_,
pronounced as "shiny Canaan" and meaning a sinecure--had spent some
part of term time in netting me a trammel, of which he was
inordinately proud, and with this we amused ourselves, sailing or
rowing down to the river's mouth every evening at nightfall to set
it, and, again, soon after daybreak, to haul it, and usually
returning with good store of fish for breakfast--soles, dories,
plaice, and the red mullet for which Helford is famous above all
streams.

Now, during these lazy weeks I had not forgotten Eugenio's
advertisement, which, on returning to my rooms that evening after
Nat's rebuff, I had clipped from the newspaper and since kept in my
pocket.  For the fun of it, and to find out who this Eugenio might
be--I had given over suspecting my father--my mind was made up to
ride over to Falmouth on the 16th of July; but whether with or
without a rose in my hat I had not determined.  Therefore on the
morning of the 15th, when Billy, after hauling the trammel, began to
lay our plans for the morrow, I cut him short, telling him that
to-morrow I should not fish.

"What's matter with 'ee to-all?" he asked, smashing a spider-crab and
picking it out piecemeal from the net.  "Pretty fair catch to-day,
id'n-a? spite of all the weed; an' no harm done by these varmints
that a man can't put to rights afore evenin'."

I took the paddles without answering and pulled towards the river's
mouth, while he sat and smoked his pipe over the business of clearing
the net of weed.  Around his feet on the bottom boards lay our
morning's catch--half a dozen soles and twice the number of plaice, a
brace of edible crabs, six or seven red mullet, besides a number of
gurnard and wrass worth no man's eating, an ugly-looking monkfish and
a bream of wonderful rainbow hues.  A fog lay over the sea, so dense
that in places we could see but a few yards; but over it the tops of
the tall cliffs stood out clear, and the sun was mounting.  A faint
breeze blew from the southward.  All promised a hot still day.

The tide was making, too, and with wind and tide to help I pulled
over the river bar and towards the creek where daily, after hauling
the trammel, I bathed from the boat; a delectable corner in the eye
of the morning sunshine, paved fathoms deep with round, white
pebbles, one of which, from the gunwale, I selected to dive for.

The sun broke through the sea-fog around us while I stripped; it
shone, as I balanced myself for the plunge, on the broad wings of a
heron flapping out from the wood's blue shadow; it shone on the
scales of the fish struggling and gasping under the thwarts.
Divine the river was, divine the morning, divine the moment--the last
of my boyhood.

Souse I plunged and deep, with wide-open eyes, chose out and grasped
my pebble, and rose to the surface holding it high as though it had
been a gem.  The sound of the splash was in my ears and the echo of
my own laugh, but with it there mingled a cry from Billy Priske, and
shaking the water out of my eyes I saw him erect in the stern-sheets
and astare at a vision parting the fog--the vision of a tall
fore-and-aft sail, golden-grey against the sunlight, and above the
sail a foot or two of a stout pole-mast, and above the mast a gilded
truck and weather-vane with a tail of scarlet bunting.  So closely
the fog hung about her that for a second I took her to be a cutter;
and then a second sail crept through the curtain, and I recognized
her for the _Gauntlet_ ketch, Port of Falmouth, Captain Jo Pomery,
returned from six months' foreign.  I announced her to Billy with a
shout.

"As if a man couldn' tell that!" answered Billy, removing his cap and
rubbing the back of his head.  "What brings her in here, that's what
I'm askin'."

"Belike," said I, scrambling over the gunwale, "the man has lost his
bearings in this fog, and mistakes Helford for Falmouth entrance."

"Lost his bearin's!  Jo Pomery lost his bearin's!"  Billy regarded me
between pity and reproach.  "And him sailing her in from Blackhead
close round the Manacles, in half a capful o' wind an' the tides
lookin' fifty ways for Sunday!  That's what he've a-done, for the
weather lifted while we was hauling trammel--anyways east of south a
man could see clear for three mile and more, an' not a vessel in
sight there.  There's maybe three men in the world besides Jo Pomery
could ha' done it--the Lord knows how, unless 'tis by sense o' smell.
And he've a-lost his bearin's, says you!"

"Well then," I ventured, "perhaps he has a fancy to land part of his
cargo duty-free."

"That's likelier," Billy assented.  "I don't say 'tis the truth, mind
you: for if 'tis truth, why should the man choose to fetch land by
daylight?  Fog?  A man like Jo Pomery isn' one to mistake a little
pride-o'-the-mornin' for proper thick weather--the more by token it's
been liftin' this hour and more.  But 'tis a likelier guess anyway,
the _Gauntlet_ being from foreign.  'Lost his bearin's,' says you,
and come, as you might say, slap through the Manacles; an' by
accident, as you might say!  Luck has a broad back, my son, but be
careful how you dance 'pon it."

"Where does she come from?" I asked.

"Mediterranean; that's all I know.  Four months and more she must ha'
took on this trip.  Iss; sailed out o' Falmouth back-along in the
tail-end o' February, and her cargo muskets and other combustibles."

"Muskets?"

"Muskets; and you may leave askin' me who wants muskets out there,
for in the first place I don't know, an' a still tongue makes a wise
head."

I had slipped on shirt and breeches.  "We'll give him a hail,
anyway," said I, "and if there's sport on hand he may happen to let
us join it."

The ketch by this time was pushing her nose past the spit of rock
hiding our creek from seaward.  As she came by with both large sails
boomed out to starboard and sheets alternately sagging loose and
tautening with a jerk, I caught sight of two of her crew in the bows,
the one looking on while the other very deliberately unlashed the
anchor, and aft by the wheel a third man, whom I made out to be
Captain Pomery himself.

"_Gauntlet_ ahoy!" I shouted, standing on the thwart and making a
trumpet of my hands.

Captain Pomery turned, cast a glance towards us over his left
shoulder and lifted a hand.  A moment later he called an order
forward, and the two men left the anchor and ran to haul in sheets.
Here was a plain invitation to pull alongside.  I seized a paddle,
and was working the boat's nose round, to pursue, when another figure
showed above the _Gauntlet's_ bulwarks: a tall figure in an
orange-russet garment like a dressing-gown; a monk, to all
appearance, for the sun played on his tonsured scalp as he leaned
forward and watched our approach.



CHAPTER V.


THE SILENT MEN.


     "Seamen, seamen, whence come ye?
     _Pardonnez moy, je vous en prie_."
                                   _Old Song_.

A monk he was too.  A second and third look over my shoulder left me
no doubt of it.  He gravely handed us a rope as we overtook the ketch
and ran alongside, and as gravely bowed when I leapt upon deck; but
he gave us no other welcome.

His russet gown reached almost to his feet, which were bare; and he
stood amid the strangest litter of a deck-cargo, consisting mainly--
or so at first glance it seemed to me--of pot-plants and rude
agricultural implements: spades, flails, forks, mattocks, picks,
hoes, dibbles, rakes, lashed in bundles; sieves, buckets, kegs, bins,
milk-pails, seed-hods, troughs, mangers, a wired dovecote, and a
score of hen-coops filled with poultry.  Forward of the mainmast
stood a cart with shafts, upright and lashed to the mast, that the
headsails might work clear.  The space between the masts was occupied
by enormous open hatchways through which came the lowing of oxen, and
through these, peering down into the hold, I saw the backs of cattle
and horses moving in its gloom, and the bodies of men stretched in
the straw at their feet.

So much of the _Gauntlet's_ hugger-mugger I managed to discern before
Captain Pomery left the helm and hurried forward to give us welcome
on board.

"Mornin', Squire Prosper!  Mornin', Billy!  You know _me_, sir--Cap'n
Jo Pomery--which is short for Job, and 'tis the luckiest chance, sir,
you hailed me, for you'm nearabouts the first man I wanted to see.
Faith, now, and I wonder how your father (God bless him) will take
it?"

"Why, what's the matter?" asked I, with a glance at the monk, who had
drawn back a pace and stood, still silent, fingering his rosary.

"The matter?  Good Lord! isn't _this_ matter enough?"  Captain Jo waved
an arm to include all the deck-cargo.  "See them pot-plants, there,
and what they'm teeled [1] in?"

"Drinking-troughs?" said I.  "Or . . . is it coffins?"

"Coffins it is.  I'd feel easier in mind if you could tell me what
your father (God bless him) will say to it."

"But what has all this to do with my father?" I demanded, and,
seeking Billy's eyes, found them as frankly full of amaze as my own.

"Not but what," continued Captain Jo, "they've behaved well, though
dog-sick to a man from the time we left port.  Look at 'em!"--he
caught me by the arm and, drawing me to the hatchway, pointed down to
the hold.  "A round score and eight, and all well paid for as
passengers; but for the return journey I won't answer.  It depends on
your father, and that"--with a jerk of his thumb towards the tall
monk--"I stippilated when I shipped 'em.  'Never you mind,' was the
answer I got; 'take 'em to England to Sir John Constantine.'
And here they be!"

"But who on earth are they?" I cried, staring down into the gloom,
where presently I made out that the men stretched in the straw at the
horses' feet were monks all, and habited like the monk on the deck
behind me.  To him next I turned, to find his eyes, which were dark
and quick, searching me curiously; and as I turned he made a step
forward, put out a hand as if to touch me on the shirt-sleeve, and
anon drew it back, yet still continued to regard me.

"You are a son, signor, of Sir John Constantine?" he asked, in soft
Italian.

"I am his only son, sir," I answered him in the same language.

"Ah!  You speak my tongue?"  A gleam of joy passed over his grave
features.  "And you are his son?  So!  I should have guessed it at
once, for you bear great likeness to him."

"You know my father, sir?"

"Years ago."  His hands, which he used expressively, seemed to grope
in a far past.  "I come to him also from one who knew him years ago."

"Upon what business, sir!--if I am allowed to ask."

"I bring a message."

"You bring a tolerably full one, then," said I, glancing first at the
disorder on deck and from that down to the recumbent figures in the
hold.

"I speak for them," he went on, having followed the glance.
"It is most necessary that they keep silence; but I speak for all."

"Then, sir, as it seems to me, you have much to say."

"No," he answered slowly; "very little, I think; very little, as you
will see."

Here Captain Jo interrupted us.  He had stepped back to steady the
wheel, but I fancy that the word _silenzio_ must have reached him,
and that, small Italian though he knew, with this particular word the
voyage had made him bitterly acquainted.

"Dumb!" he shouted.  "Dumb as gutted haddocks!"

"Dumb!" I echoed, while the two seamen forward heard and laughed.

"It is their vow," said the monk, gravely, and seemed on the point to
say more.

But at this moment Captain Pomery sang out "Gybe-O!"  At the warning
we ducked our heads together as the boom swung over and the
_Gauntlet_, heeling gently for a moment, rounded the river-bend in
view of the great house of Constantine, set high and gazing over the
folded woods.  A house more magnificently placed, with forest, park,
and great stone terraces rising in successive tiers from the water's
edge, I do not believe our England in those days could show; and it
deserved its site, being amply classical in design, with a facade
that, discarding mere ornament, expressed its proportion and symmetry
in bold straight lines, prolonged by the terraces on which tall rows
of pointed yews stood sentinel.  Right English though it was, it bore
(as my father used to say of our best English poetry) the stamp of
great Italian descent, and I saw the monk give a start as he lifted
his eyes to it.

"We have not these river-creeks in Italy," said he, "nor these woods,
nor these green lawns; and yet, if those trees, aloft there, were but
cypresses--"  He broke off.  "Our voyage has a good ending," he
added, half to himself.

The _Gauntlet_ being in ballast, and the tide high, Captain Pomery
found plenty of Water in the winding channel, every curve of which he
knew to a hair, and steered for at its due moment, winking cheerfully
at Billy and me, who stood ready to correct his pilotage.  He had
taken in his mainsail, and carried steerage way with mizzen and jib
only; and thus, for close upon a mile, we rode up on the tide,
scaring the herons and curlews before us, until drawing within sight
of a grass-grown quay he let run down his remaining canvas and laid
the ketch alongside, so gently that one of the seamen, who had cast a
stout fender overside, stepped ashore, and with a slow pull on her
main rigging checked and brought her to a standstill.

"_Aut Lacedaemonium Tarentum_," said the monk at my shoulder quietly;
and, as I stared at him, "Ah, to be sure, this is your Tarentum, is
it not?  Yet the words came to me for the sound's sake only and their
so gentle close.  Our voyage has even such an ending."

"I had best run on," I suggested, "and warn my father of your
coming."

"It is not necessary."

"Nevertheless,"  I urged,  "they can be preparing breakfast for you,
up at the house, while you and your friends are making ready to come
ashore."

"We have broken our fast," he answered; "and we are quite ready, if
you will be so good as to guide us."

He stepped to the hatchways and called down, announcing simply that
the voyage was ended: and in the dusk there I saw monk after monk
upheave himself from the straw and come clambering up the ladder;
tall monks and short, old monks and young and middle-aged, lean monks
and thickset--but the most of them cadaverous, and all of them yellow
with sea-sickness; twenty-eight monks, all barefoot, all tolerably
dirty, and all blinking in the fresh sunshine.  When they were
gathered, at a sign from one of them--by dress not distinguishable
from his fellows--all knelt and gave silent thanks for the voyage
accomplished.

I could see that Billy Priske was frightened: for, arising, they
rolled their eyes about them like wild animals turned loose in an
unfamiliar country, and the whites of their eyes were yellow (so to
speak) with seafaring, and their pupils glassy with fever and from
the sea's glare.  But the monk their spokesman touched my arm and
motioned me to lead; and, when I obeyed, one by one the whole troop
fell into line and followed at his heels.

Thus we went--I leading, with him and the rest in single file after
me--up by the footpath through the woods, and forth into sunshine
again upon the green dewy bracken of the deer-park.  Here my
companion spoke for the first time since disembarking.

"Your father, sir," said he, looking about him and seeming to sniff
the morning air, "must be a very rich signor."

"On the contrary," I answered, "I have some reason to believe him a
poor man."

He stared down for a moment at his bare feet, and the skirts of his
gown wet to the knees with the grasses.

"Ah? Well, it will make no difference," he said; and we resumed our
way.

As we climbed the last slope under the terraces of the house, I
caught sight of my father leaning by a balustrade high above us, at
the head of a double flight of broad stone steps, and splicing the
top joint of a trout-rod he had broken the day before.  He must have
caught sight of us almost at the moment when we emerged from the
woods.

He showed no surprise at all.  Only as I led my guests up the steps
he set down his work and, raising a hand, bent to them in a very
courteous welcome.

"Good morning, lad!  And good morning to those you bring,
whencesoever they come."

"They come, sir," I answered "in Jo Pomery's ketch _Gauntlet_, I
believe from Italy; and with a message for you."

"My father turned his gaze from me to the spokesman at my elbow.
His eyebrows lifted with surprise and sudden pleasure.

"Hey?" he exclaimed.  "Is it my old friend--"

But the other, before his name could be uttered, lifted a hand.

"My name is the Brother Basilio now, Sir John: no other am I
permitted to remember.  The peace of God be with you, and upon your
house!"

"And with you, Brother Basilio, since you will have it so: and with
all your company!  You bear a message for me?  But first you must
break your fast."  He turned to lead the way to the house.

"We have eaten already, Sir John.  As soon as your leisure serves, we
would deliver our message."

My father called to Billy Priske--who hung in the rear of the monks--
bidding him fetch my uncle Gervase in from the stables to the State
Room, and so, without another word, motioned to his visitors to
follow.  To this day I can hear the shuffle of their bare feet on the
steps and slabs of the terrace as they hurried after him to keep up
with his long strides.

In the great entrance-hall he paused to lift a bunch of rusty keys
off their hook, and, choosing the largest, unlocked the door of the
State Room.  The lock had been kept well oiled, for Billy Priske
entered it twice daily; in the morning, to open a window or two, and
at sunset, to close them.  But it is a fact that I had not crossed
its threshold a score of times in my life, though I ran by it, maybe,
as many times a day; nor (as I believe) had my father entered it for
years.  Yet it was the noblest room in the house, in length
seventy-five feet, panelled high in dark oak and cedar and adorned
around each panel with carvings of Grinling Gibbons--festoons and
crowns and cherub-faces and intricate baskets of flowers.  Each panel
held a portrait, and over every panel, in faded gilt against the
morning sun, shone an imperial crown.  The windows were draped with
hangings of rotten velvet.  At the far end on a dais stood a porphyry
table, and behind it, facing down the room, a single chair, or
throne, also of porphyry and rudely carved.  For the rest the room
held nothing but dust--dust so thick that our visitors' naked feet
left imprints upon it as they huddled after their leader to the dais,
where my father took his seat, after beckoning me forward to stand on
his right.

But of all bewildered faces there was never a blanker, I believe,
since the world began than my uncle Gervase's; who now appeared in
the doorway, a bucket in his hand, straight from the stables where he
had been giving my father's roan horse a drench.  Billy's summons
must have hurried him, for he had not even waited to turn down his
shirt-sleeves: but as plainly it had given him no sort of notion why
he was wanted and in the State Room.  I guessed indeed that on his
way he had caught up the bucket supposing that the house was afire.
At sight of the monks he set it down slowly, gently, staring at them
the while, and seemed in act of inverting it to sit upon, when my
father addressed him from the dais over the shaven heads of the
audience.

"Brother, I am sorry to have disturbed you: but here is a business in
which I may need your counsel.  Will it please you to step this way?
These guests of ours, I should first explain, have arrived from over
seas."

My uncle came forward, still like a man in a dream, mounted the dais
on my father's left, and, turning, surveyed the visitors in front.

"Eh?  To be sure, to be sure," he murmured.  "Broomsticks!"

"Their spokesman here, who gives his name as the Brother Basilio,
bears a message for me; and since he presents it in form with a whole
legation at his back, I think it due to treat him with equal
ceremony.  Do you agree?"

"If you ask me," my uncle answered, after a pause full of thought,
"they would prefer to start, maybe, with a wash and a breakfast.
By good luck, Billy tells me, the trammel has made a good haul.
As for basins, brother, our stock will not serve all these gentlemen;
but if the rest will take the will for the deed and use the pump,
I'll go round meanwhile and see how the hens have been laying."

"You are the most practical of men, brother: but my offer of
breakfast has already been declined.  Shall we hear what Dom Basilio
has to say?"

"I have nothing to say, Sir John," put in Brother Basilio, advancing,
"but to give you this letter and await your answer."

He drew a folded paper from his tunic and handed it to my father, who
rose to receive it, turned it over, and glanced at the
superscription.  I saw a red flush creep slowly up to his temples and
fade, leaving his face extraordinarily pale.  A moment later, in face
of his audience, he lifted the paper to his lips, kissed it
reverently, and broke the seal.

Again I saw the flush mount to his temples as he read the letter
through slowly and in silence.  Then after a long pause he handed it
to me; and I took it wondering, for his eyes were dim and yet bright
with a noble joy.

The letter (turned into English) ran thus--

     "_To Sir John Constantine, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the
      Star, at his house of Constantine in Cornwall, England_.

     "MY FRIEND,

     "The bearer of this and his company have been driven by the
      Genoese from their monastery of San Giorgio on my estate of
      Casalabriva above the Taravo valley, the same where you will
      remember our treading the vintage together to the freedom of
      Corsica.  But the Genoese have cut down my vines long since,
      and now they have fired the roof over these my tenants and
      driven them into the _macchia_, whence they send message to me
      to deliver them.  Indeed, friend, I have much ado to protect
      myself in these days: but by good fortune I have heard of an
      English vessel homeward bound which will serve them if they can
      reach the coast, whence numbers of the faithful will send them
      off with good provision.  Afterwards, what will happen?
      To England the ship is bound, and in England I know you only.
      Remembering your great heart, I call on it for what help you
      can render to these holy men.  _Addio_, friend.  You are
      remembered in my constant prayers to Christ, the Virgin, and
      all the Saints.

     "EMILIA."

At a sign from my father--who had sunk back in his chair and sat
gripping its arms--I passed on this epistle to my uncle Gervase, who
read it and ran his hand through his hair.

"Dear me!" said he, running his eye over the attentive monks, "this
lady, whoever she may be--"

"She is a crowned queen, brother Gervase," my father interrupted;
"and moreover she is the noblest woman in the world."

"As to that, brother," returned my uncle, "I am saying nothing.
But speaking of what I know, I say she can be but poorly conversant
with your worldly affairs."

My father half-lifted himself from his seat.  "And is that how you
take it?" he demanded sharply.  "Is that all you read in the letter?
Brother, I tell you again, this lady is a queen.  What should a queen
know of my degree of poverty?"

"Nevertheless--" began my uncle.

But my father cut him short again.  "I had hoped," said he,
reproachfully, "you would have been prompt to recognize her noble
confidence.  Mark you how, no question put, she honours me.
'Do this, for my sake'--Who but the greatest in the world can appeal
thus simply?"

"None, maybe," my uncle replied; "as none but the well-to-do can
answer with a like ease."

"You come near to anger me, brother; but I remember that you never
knew her.  Is not this house large?  Are not four-fifths of my rooms
lying at this moment un-tenanted?  Very well; for so long as it
pleases them, since she claims it, these holy men shall be our
guests.  No more of this," my father commanded peremptorily, and
added, with all the gravity in the world, "You should thank her
consideration rather, that she sends us visitors so frugal, since
poverty degrades us to these economies.  But there is one thing
puzzles me."  He took the letter again from my uncle and fastened his
gaze on the Brother Basilio.  "She says she has much ado to protect
herself."

"Indeed, Sir John," answered Brother Basilio, "I fear the queen, our
late liege-lady, speaks somewhat less than the truth.  She wrote to
you from a poor lodging hard by Bastia, having ventured back to
Corsica out of Tuscany on business of her own; and on the eve of
sailing we heard that she had been taken prisoner by the Genoese."

"What!"  My father rose, clutching the arms of his chair.  Of stone
they were, like the chair itself, and well mortised: but his great
grip wrenched them out of their mortises and they crashed on the
dais.  "What!  You left her a prisoner of the Genoese!"  He gazed
around them in a wrath that slowly grew cold, freezing into contempt.
"Go, sirs; since she commands it, room shall be found for you all.
My house for the while is yours.  But go from me now."

[1] Tilled, planted.



CHAPTER VI.


HOW MY FATHER OUT OF NOTHING BUILT AN ARMY, AND IN FIVE MINUTES
PLANNED AN INVASION.


      Walled Townes, stored Arcenalls and Armouries, Goodly Races of
      Horse, Chariots of Warre, Elephants, Ordnance, Artillery, and
      the like: All this is but a Sheep in a Lion's Skin, except the
      Breed and disposition be stout and warlike.  Nay, Number it
      selfe in Armies importeth not much where the People is of weake
      courage: For (as _Virgil_ saith) It never troubles a Wolfe, how
      many the sheepe be."--BACON.

For the rest of the day my father shut himself in his room, while my
uncle spent the most of it seated on the brewhouse steps in a shaded
corner of the back court, through which the monks brought in their
furniture and returned to the ship for more.  The bundles they
carried were prodigious, and all the morning they worked without halt
or rest, ascending and descending the hill in single file and always
at equal distances one behind another.  Watching from the terrace
down the slope of the park as they came and went, you might have
taken them for a company of ants moving camp.  But my uncle never
wholly recovered from the shock of their first freight, to see man by
man cross the court with a stout coffin on his back and above each
coffin a pack of straw: nor was he content with Fra Basilio's
explanation that the brethren slept in these coffins by rule and
saved the expense of beds.

"For my part," said my uncle, "considering the numbers that manage
it, I should have thought death no such dexterity as to need
practice."

"Yet bethink you, sir, of St. Paul's words.  'I protest,' said he,
'I die daily.'"

"Why, yes, sir, and so do we all," agreed my uncle, and fell silent,
though on the very point, as it seemed, of continuing the argument.
"I did not choose to be discourteous, lad," he explained to me later:
"but I had a mind to tell him that we do daily a score of things we
don't brag about--of which I might have added that washing is one:
and I believe 'twould have been news to him."

I had never known my uncle in so rough a temper.  Poor man!
I believe that all the time he sat there on the brewhouse steps, he
was calculating woefully the cost of these visitors; and it hurt him
the worse because he had a native disposition to be hospitable.

"But who is this lady that signs herself Emilia?" I asked.

"A crowned queen, lad, and the noblest lady in the world--you heard
your father say it.  This evening he may choose to tell us some
further particulars."

"Why this evening?" I asked, and then suddenly remembered that to-day
was the 15th of July and St. Swithun's feast; that my father would
not fail to drink wine after dinner in the little temple below the
deer-park; and that he had promised to admit me to-night to make the
fourth in St. Swithun's brotherhood.

He appeared at dinner-time, punctual and dressed with more than his
usual care (I noted that he wore his finest lace ruffles); and before
going in to dinner we were joined by the Vicar, much perturbed--as
his manner showed--by the news of a sudden descent of papists upon
his parish.  Indeed the good man so bubbled with it that we had
scarcely taken our seats before the stream of questions overflowed.
"Who were these men?"  "How many!"  "Whence had they come, and why?"
etc.

I glanced at my father in some anxiety for his temper.  But he
laughed and carved the salmon composedly.  He had a deep and tolerant
affection for Mr. Grylls.

"Where shall I begin!" said he.  "They are, I believe, between twenty
and thirty in number, though I took no care to count; and they belong
to the Trappistine Order, to which I have ever been attracted; first,
because I count it admirable to renounce all for a faith, however
frantic, and secondly for the memory of Bouthillier de Rance, who a
hundred years ago revived the order after five hundred years of
desuetude."

"And who was he?" inquired the Vicar.

"He was a young rake in Paris, tonsured for the sake of the family
benefices, who had for mistress no less a lady than the Duchess de
Rohan-Montbazon.  One day, returning from the country after a week's
absence and letting himself into the house by a private key, he
rushed upstairs in a lover's haste, burst open the door, and found
himself in a chamber hung with black and lit with many candles.
His mistress had died, the day before, of a putrid fever.
But--worse than this and most horrible--the servants had ordered the
coffin in haste; and, when delivered, it was found to be too short.
Upon which, to have done with her, in their terror of infection, they
had lopped off the head, which lay pitiably dissevered from the
trunk.  For three years after the young man travelled as one mad, but
at length found solace in his neglected abbacy of Soligny-la-Trappe,
and in reviving its extreme Cistercian rigours."

"I had supposed the Trappists to be a French order in origin, and
confined to France," said the Vicar.

"They have offshoots: of which I knew but one in Italy, that settled
some fifty years back in a monastery they call Buon-Solazzo, outside
Florence, at the invitation of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.  But I have
been making question of our guests through Dom Basilio, their
guest-master and abbot _de facto_ (since their late abbot, an old man
whom he calls Dom Polifilo, died of exposure on the mountains some
three days before they embarked); and it appears that they belong to
a second colony, which has made its home for these ten years at
Casalabriva in Corsica, having arrived by invitation of the Queen
Emilia of that island, and there abiding until the Genoese burned the
roof over their heads."

The Vicar sipped his wine.

"You have considered," he asked, "the peril of introducing so many
papists into our quiet parish?"

"I have not considered it for a moment," answered my father,
cheerfully.  "Nor have I introduced them.  But if you fear they'll
convert--pervert--subvert--invert your parishioners and turn 'em into
papists, I can reassure you.  For in the first place thirty men, or
thirty thousand, of whom only one can open his mouth, are, for
proselytizing, equal to one man and no more."

"They can teach by their example if not by their precept," urged the
Vicar.

"Their example is to sleep in their coffins.  My good sir, if you
will not trust your English doctrine to its own truth, you might at
least rely on the persuasiveness of its comforts.  Nay, pardon me, my
friend," he went on, as the Vicar's either cheekbone showed a red
flush, "I did not mean to speak offensively; but, Englishman though I
am, in matters of religion my countrymen are ever a puzzle to me.
At a great price you won your freedom from the Bishop of Rome and his
dictation.  I admire the price and I love liberty; yet liberty has
its drawbacks, as you have for a long while been discovering; of
which the first is that every man with a maggot in his head can claim
a like liberty with yourselves, quoting your own words in support of
it.  Let me remind you of that passage in which Rabelais--borrowing,
I believe, from Lucian--brings the good Pantagruel and his
fellow-voyagers to a port which he calls the Port of Lanterns.
'There (says he) upon a tall tower Pantagruel recognized the Lantern
of La Rochelle, which gave us an excellent clear light.  Also we saw
the Lanterns of Pharos, of Nauplia, and of the Acropolis of Athens,
sacred to Pallas,' and so on; whence I draw the moral that
coast-lights are good, yet, multiplied, they complicate navigation."

"And apply your moral by erecting yet another!"

"Fairly retorted.  Yet how can you object without turning the sword
of Liberty against herself?  Have you never heard tell, by the way,
of Captain Byng's midshipman?"

"Who was he?"

"I forget his name, but he started his first night aboard ship by
kneeling down and saying his prayers, as his mother had taught him."

"I commend the boy," said my uncle.

"I also commend him: but the crowd of his fellow-midshipmen found it
against the custom of the service and gave him the strap for it.
This, however, raised him up a champion in one of the taller lads,
who protested that their conduct was tyrannous: 'and,' said he, very
generously, 'to-morrow night I too propose to say my prayers.
If any one object, he may fight me."  Thus, being a handy lad with
his fists, he established the right of religious liberty on board.
By-and-by one or two of the better disposed midshipmen followed his
example: by degrees the custom spread along the lower deck, where the
dispute had happened in full view of the whole ship's company, seamen
and marines; and by the time she reached her port of Halifax she
hadn't a man on board (outside the ward-room) but said his prayers
regularly."

"A notable Christian triumph," was the Vicar's comment.

"Quite so.  At Halifax," pursued my father, "Captain Byng took aboard
out of hospital another small midshipman, who on his first night no
sooner climbed into his hammock than the entire mess bundled him out
of it.  'We would have you to know, young man,' said they, 'that
private devotion is the rule on board our ship.  It's down on your
knees this minute or you get the strap.'

"I leave you," my father concluded, "to draw the moral.  For my part
the tale teaches me that in any struggle for freedom the real danger
begins with the moment of victory."

Said my uncle Gervase after a pause, "Then these Corsicans of yours,
brother, stand as yet in no real danger, since the Genoese are yet
harrying their island with fire and sword."

"In no danger at all as regards their liberty," answered my father,
poising his knife for a first cut into the saddle of mutton, "though
in some danger, I fear me, as regards their queen.  They have,
however, taken the first and most important step by getting the news
carried to me.  The next is to raise an army; and the next after
that, to suit the plan of invasion to our forces.  Indeed," wound up
my father with another flourish of his carving-knife, "I am in
considerable doubt where to make a start."

"I hold," said my uncle, eyeing the saddle of mutton, "that you save
the gravy by beginning close alongside the chine."

"I was thinking for my part that either Porto or Sagone would serve
us best," said my father, meditatively.


Dinner over, the four of us strolled out abreast into the cool
evening and down through the deer-park to the small Ionic temple,
where Billy Priske had laid out fruit, wine, and glasses; and there,
with no more ceremony than standing to drink my health, the three
initiated me into the brotherhood of St. Swithun.  It gave me a
sudden sense of being grown a man, and this sense my father very
promptly proceeded to strengthen.

"I had hoped," said he, putting down his glass and seating himself,
"to delay Prosper's novitiate.  I had designed, indeed, that after
staying his full time at Oxford he should make the Grand Tour with me
and prepare himself for his destiny by a leisured study of cities and
men.  But this morning's news has forced me to reshape my plans.
Listen--

"In the early autumn of 1735, being then at the Court of Tuscany, I
received sudden and secret orders to repair to Corte, the capital of
Corsica, an island of which I knew nothing beyond what I had learnt
in casual talk from the Count Domenico Rivarola, who then acted as
its plenipotentiary at Florence.  He was a man with whom I would
willingly have taken counsel, but my orders from England expressly
forbade it.  Rivarola in fact was suspected--and justly as my story
will show--of designs of his own for the future of the island; and
although, as it will also show, we had done better to consult him,
Walpole's injunctions were precise that I should by every means keep
him in the dark.

"The situation--to put it as briefly as I can--was this.  For two
hundred years or so the island had been ruled by the Republic of
Genoa; and, by common consent, atrociously.  For generations the
islanders had lived in chronic revolt, under chiefs against whom the
Genoese--or, to speak more correctly, the Bank of Genoa--had not
scrupled to apply every device, down to secret assassination.
_Uno avolso non deficit alter_: the Corsicans never lacked a leader
to replace the fallen: and in 1735 the succession was shared by two
noble patriots, Giafferi and Hyacinth Paoli.

"Under their attacks the Genoese were slowly but none the less
certainly losing their hold on the island.  Their plight was such
that, although no one knew precisely what they would do, every one
foresaw that, failing some heroic remedy, they must be driven into
the sea, garrison after garrison, and lose Corsica altogether; and of
all speculations the most probable seemed that they would sell the
island, with all its troubles, to France.  Now, for France to acquire
so capital a _point d'appui_ in the Mediterranean would obviously be
no small inconvenience to England: and therefore our Ministers--who
had hitherto regarded the struggles of the islanders with
indifference--woke up to a sudden interest in Corsican affairs.

"They had no pretext for interfering openly.  But if the Corsicans
would but take heart and choose themselves a king, that king could at
a ripe moment be diplomatically acknowledged; and any interference by
France would at once become an act of violent usurpation.  (For let
me tell you, my friends--the sufferings of a people count as nothing
in diplomacy against the least trivial act against a crown.)
The nuisance was, the two Paolis, Giafferi and Hyacinth, had no
notion whatever of making themselves kings; nor would their devoted
followers have tolerated it.  Yet--as sometimes happens--there was a
third man, of greater descent than they, to whom at a pinch the crown
might be offered, and with a far more likely chance of the Corsicans'
acquiescence.  This was a Count Ugo Colonna, a middle-aged man,
descended from the oldest nobility of the island, and head of his
family, which might more properly be called a clan; a patriot, in his
way, too, though lacking the fire of the Paolis, to whom he had
surrendered the leadership while remaining something of a
figure-head.  In short my business was to confer with him at Corte,
persuade the Corsican chiefs to offer him the crown, and persuade him
to accept it.

"I arrived then at the capital and found Count Ugo willing enough,
though by no means eager, for the honour.  He was, in fact, a
mild-mannered gentleman of no great force of character, and
frequently interrupted our conference to talk of a bowel-complaint
which obviously meant more to him than all the internal complications
of Europe: and next to his bowel-complaint--but some way after--he
prized his popularity, which ever seemed more important than his
country's welfare: or belike he confused the two.  He was at great
pains to impress me with the sacrifices he had made for Corsica--
which in the past had been real enough: but he had come to regard
them chiefly as matter for public speaking, or excuse for public
bowing and lifting of the hat.  You know the sort of man, I dare say.
To pass that view of life, at his age, is the last test of greatness.

"Still, the notion of being crowned King of Corsica tickled his
vanity, and would have tickled it more had he begotten a son to
succeed him.  It opened new prospects of driving through crowds and
bowing and lifting his hat: and he turned pardonably sulky when the
two Paolis treated my proposals with suspicion.  They had an immense
respect for England as the leader of the free peoples: but they
wanted to know why in Tuscany I had not taken their Count Rivarola
into my confidence.  In fact they were in communication with their
plenipotentiary already, and half way towards another plan, of which
very excusably they allowed me to guess nothing.

"The upshot was that my interference threw Count Ugo into a pet with
them.  He only wanted them to press him; was angry at not being
pressed; yet believed that they would repent in time.  Meanwhile he
persuaded me to ride back with him to one of his estates, a palace
above the valley of the Taravo.

"I know not why, but ever the vow of Jephthah comes to my mind as I
remember how we rode up the valley to Count Ugo's house in the hour
before sunset.  'And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with
timbrels and with dances, and she was his only child.'  He had made
no vow and was incapable, poor man, of keeping any so heroic; and she
came out with no timbrel or dance, but soberly enough in her
sad-coloured dress of the people.  Yet she came out while we rode a
good mile off, and waited for us as we climbed the last slope, and
she was his only child.

"How shall I tell you of her?  She helped my purpose nothing, for at
first she was vehemently opposed to her father's consenting to be
king.  Her politics she derived in part from the reading of
Plutarch's Lives and in part from her own simplicity.  They were
childish, utterly: yet they put me to shame, for they glowed with the
purest love of her country.  She has walked on fiery ploughshares
since then; she has trodden the furnace, and her beautiful bare feet
are seared since they trod the cool vintage with me on the slopes
above the Taravo. . . . Priske, open the first of those bottles,
yonder, with the purple seal!  Here is that very wine, my friends.
Pour and hold it up to the sunset before you taste.  Had ever wine
such a royal heart?  I will tell you how to grow it.  Choose first of
all a vineyard facing south, between mountains and the sea.  Let it
lie so that it drinks the sun the day through; but let the protecting
mountains carry perpetual snow to cool the land breeze all the night.
Having chosen your site, drench it for two hundred years with the
blood of freemen; drench it so deep that no tap-root can reach down
below its fertilizing virtue.  Plant it in defeat, and harvest it in
hope, grape by grape, fearfully, as though the bloom on each were a
state's ransom.  Next treat it after the recipe of the wine of Cos;
dropping the grapes singly into vats of sea water, drawn in stone
jars from full fifteen fathoms in a spell of halcyon weather and left
to stand for the space of one moon.  Drop them in, one by one, until
the water scarcely cover the mass.  Let stand again for two days, and
then call for your maidens to tread them, with hymns, under the new
moon.  Ah, and yet you may miss!  For your maidens must be clean, and
yet fierce as though they trod out the hearts of men, as indeed they
do.  A king's daughter should lead them, and they must trample with
innocence, and yet with such fury as the prophet's who said 'their
blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my
raiment: for the day of vengeance is in my heart, and the year of my
redeemed is come.' . . ."

My father lifted his glass.  "To thee, Emilia, child and queen!"

He drank, and, setting down his glass, rested silent for a while, his
eyes full of a solemn rapture.

"My friends," he went on at length, with lowered voice, "know you
that old song?

     "'Methought I walked still to and fro,
       And from her company could not go--
       But when I waked it was not so:
           In youth is pleasure, in youth is pleasure.'

"All that autumn I spent under her father's roof, and--my leave
having been extended--all the winter following.  The old Count had
convinced himself by this time that by accepting the crown he would
confer a signal service on Corsica, and had opened a lengthy
correspondence with the two Paolis, whose hesitation to accept this
view at once puzzled and annoyed him.  For me, I wished the
correspondence might be prolonged for ever, for meanwhile I lived my
days in company with Emilia, and we loved.

"I was a fool.  Yet I cannot tax myself that I played false to duty,
though by helping to crown her father I was destroying my own hopes,
since as heiress to his throne Emilia must be far removed from me.
We scarcely thought of this, but lived in our love, we two.
So the winter passed and the spring came and the _macchia_ burst into
flower.

"Prosper, you have never set eyes on the _macchia_, the glory of your
kingdom.  But you shall behold it soon, lad, and smell it--for its
fragrance spreads around the island and far out to sea.  It belts
Corsica with verdure and a million million flowers--cistus and myrtle
and broom and juniper; clematis and vetch and wild roses run mad.
Deeper than the tall forests behind it the _macchia_ will hide two
lovers, and under the open sky hedge off all the world but their
passion . . . In the _macchia_ we roamed together, day after day, and
forgot the world; forgot all but honour; for she, my lady, was a
child of sixteen, and as her knight I worshipped her.  Ah, those
days! those scented days!

"But while we loved and Count Ugo wrote letters, the two Paolis were
doing; and by-and-by they played the strangest stroke in all
Corsica's history.  That spring, at Aleria on the east coast, there
landed a man of whom the Corsican's had never heard.  He came out of
nowhere with a single ship and less than a score of attendants--to be
precise, two officers, a priest, a secretary, a major-domo, an
under-steward, a cook, three Tunisian slaves, and six lackeys.
He had sailed from Algiers, with a brief rest in the port of Leghorn,
and he stepped ashore in Turkish dress, with scarlet-lined cloak,
turban, and scimetar.  He called himself Theodore, a baron of
Westphalia, and he brought with him a ship-load of arms and
ammunition, a thousand zechins of Tunis, and letters from half a
dozen of the Great Powers promising assistance.  Whether these were
genuine or not, I cannot tell you.

"Led by the two Paolis--this is no fairy tale, my friends--the
Corsicans welcomed and proclaimed him king, without even waiting for
despatches from Count Rivarola (who had negotiated) to inform them of
the terms agreed upon.  They led him in triumph to Corte, and there,
in their ancient capital, crowned and anointed him.  He gave laws,
issued edicts, struck money, distributed rewards.  He put himself in
person at the head of the militia, and blocked up the Genoese in
their fortified towns.  For a few months he swept the island like a
conqueror.

"All this, as you may suppose, utterly disconcerted the Count Ugo
Colonna, who saw his dreams topple at one stroke into the dust.
But the chiefs found a way to reconcile him.  Their new King Theodore
must marry and found a dynasty.  Let a bride be found for him in
Colonna's daughter, and let children be born to him of the best blood
in Corsica.

"The Count recovered his good temper: his spirits rose at a bound: he
embraced the offer.  His grandsons should be kings of Corsica.
And she--my Emilia--

"We met once only after her father had broken the news to her.
He had not asked her consent; he had told her, in a flutter of pride,
that this thing must be, and for her country's sake.  She came to me,
in the short dusk, upon the terrace overlooking the Taravo.
She was of heart too heroic to linger out our agony.  In the dusk she
stretched out both hands--ah, God, the child she looked! so helpless,
so brave!--and I caught them and kissed them.  Then she was gone.

"A week later they married her to King Theodore in the Cathedral of
Corte, and crowned her beside him.  Before the winter he left the
island and sailed to Holland to raise moneys! for the promises of the
Great Powers had come to nothing, even if they were genuinely given.
For myself, I had bidden good-bye to Corsica and sailed for Tuscany
on the same day that Emilia was married.

"Now I must tell you that on the eve of sailing I wrote a letter to
the queen--as queen she would be by the time it reached her--wishing
her all happiness, and adding that if, in the time to come, fate
should bring her into poverty or danger, my estate and my life would
ever be at her service.  To this I received, as I had expected, no
answer: nor did she, if ever she received it, impart its contents to
her husband.  He--the rascal--had a genius for borrowing, and yet
'twas I that had to begin by seeking him out to feed him with money.

"News came to me that he was in straits in Holland, and had for a
year been drumming the banks in vain: also that the Genoese, whom his
incursion had merely confounded, were beginning to lift their heads
and take the offensive again.  At first he had terrified them like a
mad dog; the one expedient they could hit on was to set a price upon
his head.  Certainly he had gifts.  He contrived--and by sheer
audacity, mark you, backed by a fine presence--to drive them into
such a panic that, months after he had sailed, they were petitioning
France to send over troops to help them.  The Corsicans sent a
counter-embassy.  'If,' said they to King Louis, 'your Majesty force
us to yield to Genoa, then let us drink this bitter cup to the health
of the Most Christian King, and die.'  King Louis admired the speech
but nibbled at the opportunity.  Our own Government meanwhile had
either lost heart or suffered itself to be persuaded by the Genoese
Minister in London.  In the July after my Emilia's marriage, our late
Queen Caroline, as regent for the time of Great Britain, issued a
proclamation forbidding any subject of King George to furnish arms or
provisions to the Corsican malcontents.

"And now you know, my dear Prosper, why I cast away the career on
which I had started with some ambition.  My lady lacked help, which
as a British subject I was prohibited from offering.  My conscience
allowed me to disobey: but not to disobey and eat His Majesty's
bread.  I flung up my post, and as a private man hunted across Europe
for King Theodore."

I ran him to earth in Amsterdam.  He was in handsome lodgings, but
penniless.  It was the first time I had conversed with him; and he, I
believe, had never seen my face.  I found him affable, specious,
sanguine, but hollow as a drum.  For _her_ sake I took up and renewed
the campaign among the Jew bankers.

"To be short, he sailed back for Corsica in a well-found ship, with
cannon and ammunition on board, and some specie--the whole cargo
worth between twenty and thirty thousand pounds.  He made a landing
at Tavagna and threw in almost all his warlike stores.  His wife
hurried to meet him: but after a week, finding that the French were
pouring troops into the island, and becoming (they tell me) suddenly
nervous of the price on his head, he sailed away almost without
warning.  They say also that on the passage he murdered the man whom
his creditors had forced him to take as supercargo, sold the vessel
at Leghorn, and made off with the specie--no penny of which had
reached his queen or his poor subjects.  She--sad childless soul--
driven with her chiefs and counsellors into the mountains before the
combined French and Genoese, escaped a year later to Tuscany, and hid
herself with her sorrows in a religious house ten miles from
Florence.

"So ended this brief reign: and you, Prosper, have met the chief
actor in it.  A very few words will tell the rest.  The French
overran the island until '41, when the business of the Austrian
succession forced them to withdraw their troops and leave the Genoese
once more face to face with the islanders.  Promptly these rose
again.  Giafferi and Hyacinth Paoli had fled to Naples; Hyacinth with
two sons, Pascal and Clement, whom he trained there (as I am told) in
all the liberal arts and in undying hatred of the Genoese.
These two lads, returning to the island, took up their father's fight
and have maintained it, with fair success as I learn.  From parts of
the island they must have completely extruded the enemy for a while;
since my lady made bold, four years ago, to settle these visitors of
ours in her palace above the Taravo.  It would appear, however, that
the Genoese have gathered head again, and his business with them may
explain why Pascal Paoli has not answered the letter I addressed to
him, these eight months since, notifying my son's claim upon the
succession.  Or he may have reckoned it indecent of me to address him
in lieu of his Queen, who had returned to the island.  I had not
heard of her return.  I heard of it to-day for the first time, and of
her peril, which shall hurry us ten times faster than our
pretensions.  Prosper," my father concluded, "we must invade Corsica,
and at once."

"Good Lord!" exclaimed my uncle.  "How!"

"In a ship," my father answered him as simply.  "How otherwise?"

Said my uncle, "But where is your ship?"

Answered my father, "If you will but step outside and pick up one of
these fir-cones in the grass, you can almost toss it on to her deck.
She is called the _Gauntlet_, and her skipper is Captain Jo Pomery.
I might have racked my brain for a month to find such a skipper or a
ship so well found and happily named as this which Providence has
brought to my door.  I attach particular importance to the name of a
ship."

My uncle ran his hands through his hair.  "But to invade a kingdom,"
he protested, "you will need also an army!"

"Certainly.  I must find one."

"But where?"

"It must be somewhere in the neighbourhood, and within twenty-four
hours," replied my father imperturbably.  "Time presses."

"But an army must be paid.  You have not only to raise one, but to
find the money to support it."

"You put me in mind of an old German tale," said my father, helping
himself to wine.  "Once upon a time there were three brothers--but
since, my dear Gervase, you show signs of impatience, I will confine
myself to the last and luckiest one.  On his travels, which I will
not pause to describe in detail, he acquired three gifts--a knapsack
which, when opened, discharged a regiment of grenadiers; a cloth
which, when spread, was covered with a meal; and a purse which, when
shaken, filled itself with money."

"Will you be serious, brother?" cried my uncle.

"I am entirely serious!" answered my father.  "The problem of an army
and its pay I propose to solve by enlisting volunteers; and the
difficulty of feeding my troops (I had forgotten it and thank you for
reminding me) will be minimized by enlisting as few as possible.
Myself and Prosper make two; Priske, here, three; I would fain have
you accompany us, Gervase, but the estate cannot spare you.
Let me see--"  He drummed for a moment on the table with his fingers.
"We ought to have four more at least, to make a show: and seven is a
lucky number."

"You seriously design," my uncle demanded, "to invade the island of
Corsica with an army of seven persons?"

"Most seriously I do.  For consider.  To begin with, this Theodore--
a vain hollow man--brought but sixteen, including many
non-combatants, and yet succeeded in winning a crown.  You will allow
that to win a crown is a harder feat than to succeed to one.
On what reckoning then, or by what Rule-of-Three sum, should Prosper,
who goes to claim what already belongs to him, need more than seven?

"Further," my father continued, "it may well be argued that the fewer
he takes the better; since we sail not against the Corsicans but
against their foes, and therefore should count on finding in every
Corsican a soldier for our standard.

"Thirdly, the Corsicans are a touchy race, whom it would be impolitic
to offend with a show of foreign strength.

"Fourthly, we must look a little beyond the immediate enterprise, and
not (if we can help it) saddle Prosper's kingdom with a standing
army.  For, as Bacon advises, that state stands in danger whose
warriors remain in a body and are used to donatives; whereof we see
examples in the turk's Janissaries and the Pretorian Bands of Rome.

"And fifthly, we have neither the time nor the money to collect a
stronger force.  The occasion presses: and _fronte capillata est,
post haec Occasio calva_.  Time turns a bald head to us if we miss
our moment to catch him by the forelock."

"The Abantes," put in Mr. Grylls, "practised the direct contrary: of
whom Homer tells us that they shaved the forepart of their heads, the
reason being that their enemies might not grip them by the hair in
close fighting.  I regret, my dear Sir John, you never warned me that
you designed Prosper for a military career.  We might have bestowed
more attention on the warlike customs and operations of the
ancients."

My father sipped his wine and regarded the Vicar benevolently.
For closest friends he had two of the most irrelevant thinkers on
earth and he delighted to distinguish between their irrelevancies.

"But I would not," he continued, "have you doubt that the prime cause
of our expedition is to deliver my lady from the Genoese; or believe
that Prosper will press his claims unless she acknowledge them."

"I am wondering," said my uncle, "where you will find your other four
men."

"Prosper and I will provide them to-morrow," my father answered, with
a careless glance at me.  "And now, my friends, we have talked
over-long of Corsica and nothing as yet of that companionship which
brings us here--it may be for the last time.  Priske, you may open
another four bottles and leave us.  Gervase, take down the book from
the cupboard and let the Vicar read to us while the light allows."

"The marker tells me," said the Vicar, taking the book and opening
it, "that we left in the midst of Chapter 8--_On the Luce or Pike_.

"Ay, and so I remember," my uncle agreed.

The Vicar began to read--

    "'And for your dead bait for a pike, for that you may be taught
      by one day's going a-fishing with me or any other body that
      fishes for him; for the baiting of your hook with a dead
      gudgeon or a roach and moving it up and down the water is too
      easy a thing to take up any time to direct you to do it.
      And yet, because I cut you short in that, I will commute for it
      by telling you that that was told me for a secret.  It is this:
      Dissolve gum of ivy in oil of spike, and therewith anoint your
      dead bait for a pike, and then cast it into a likely place, and
      when it has lain a short time at the bottom, draw it towards
      the top of the water and so up the stream, and it is more than
      likely that you have a pike follow with more than common
      eagerness.  And some affirm that any bait anointed with the
      marrow of the thigh-bone of a heron is a great temptation to
      any fish.

    "'These have not been tried by me, but told me by a friend of
      mine, that pretended to do me a courtesy.  But if this
      direction to catch a pike thus do you no good, yet I am certain
      this direction how to roast him when he is caught is choicely
      good--'"

"Upon my soul, brother," interrupted my uncle Gervase, removing the
pipe from his mouth, "this reads like a direction for the taking of
Corsica."



CHAPTER VII.


THE COMPANY OF THE ROSE.


     "Alway be merry if thou may,
      But waste not thy good alway:
      Have hat of floures fresh as May,
      Chapelet of roses of Whitsonday
      For sich array ne costneth but lyte."
                                   _Romaunt of the Rose_.

     _Somerset_.        "Let him that is no coward
                   Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me."
                                      _First Part of King Henry VI_.

Early next morning I was returning, a rosebud in my hand, from the
neglected garden to the east of the house, when I spied my father
coming towards me along the terraces, and at once felt my ears
redden.

"Good morning, lad!" he hailed.  "But where is mine?"

I turned back in silence and picked a bud for him.  "So," said I,
"'twas you, sir, after all, that wrote the advertisement?"

"Hey?" he answered.  "I? Certainly not.  I noted it and sent you the
news-sheet in half a hope that you had been the advertiser."

"You were mistaken, sir."

He halted and rubbed his chin.  "Then who the devil can he be, I
wonder?  Well, we shall discover."

"You ride to Falmouth this morning?"

"We have an army to collect," he answered, gripping me not unkindly
by the shoulder.

We rode into Falmouth side by side in silence, Billy Priske following
by my father's command, and each with a red rose pinned to the flap
of his hat.  Upon the way we talked, mainly of the Trappist Brothers,
and of Dom Basilio, who (it seemed) had at one time been an agent of
the British legation at Florence, and in particular had carried my
father's reports and instructions to and fro between Corsica and that
city, avoiding the vigilance of the Genoese.

"A subtle fellow," was my father's judgment, "and, as I gave him
credit, in the matter of conscience as null as Cellini himself: the
last man in the world to turn religious.  But the longer you live the
more cause will you find to wonder at the divine spirit which bloweth
where it listeth.  Take these Methodists, who are to preach in
Falmouth to-day.  I have seen Wesley, and stood once for an hour
listening to him.  For aught I could discover he had no great
eloquence.  He said little that his audience might not have heard any
Sunday in their own churches.  His voice was hoarse from overwork,
and his manner by no means winning.  Yet I saw many notorious
ruffians sobbing about him like children: some even throwing
themselves on the ground and writhing, like the demoniacs of
Scripture.  The secret was, he spoke with authority: and the secret
again was a certain kingly neglect of trifles--he appeared not to see
those signs by which other men judge their neighbours or themselves
to be past help.  Or take these Trappists: Dom Basilio tells me that
more than half of them are ex-soldiers and rough at that.  To be sure
I can understand why, having once turned religious, an old soldier
runs to the Trappist rule.  He has been bred under discipline, and
has to rely on discipline.  'Tis what he understands, and the harder
he gets it the more good he feels himself getting--"

We were nearing the town by the way of Arwennack, and just here a
turn of the road brought us in sight of a whitewashed cottage and put
a period to my father's discourse, as a garden gate flew open and out
into the highway ran a lean young man with an angry woman in pursuit.
His shoulders were bent and he put up both hands to ward off her
clutch.  But in the middle of the road she gripped him by the collar
and caught him two sound cuffs on the nape of the neck.

She turned as we rode up.  "The villain!" she cried, still keeping
her grip.  "Oh, protect me from such villains!"

"But, my good woman," remonstrated my father, reining up,
"it scarcely appears that you need protecting.  Who is this man?"

"A thief, your honour!  Didn't I catch him prowling into my garden?
And isn't it for him to say what his business was?  I put it to your
honour"--here she caught the poor wretch another cuff--"what honest
business took him into my garden, and me left a widow-woman these
sixteen years?"

"Ai-ee!" cried the accused, still shielding his neck and cowering in
the dust--a thin ragged windlestraw of a youth, flaxen-headed,
hatchet-faced, with eyes set like a hare's.  "Have pity on me sirs,
and take her off!"

"Let him stand up," my father commanded.  "And you sir, tell me--
What were you seeking in this good woman's garden?"

"A rose, sir--hear my defence!--a rose only, a small rose!"
His voice was high and cracked, and he flung his hands out
extravagantly.  "Oh, York and Lancaster--if you will excuse me,
gentlemen--that I should suffer this for a mere rose?  The day only
just begun too!  And why, sirs, was I seeking a rose?  Ay, there's
the rub."  He folded his arms dramatically and nodded at the woman.
"There's the gall and bitterness, the worm in the fruit, the peculiar
irony--if you'll allow me to say so--of this distressing affair.
Listen, madam!  If I wanted a rose of you, 'twas for your whole sex's
sake: your sex's, madam--every one of whom was, up to five or six
months ago, the object with me of something very nearly allied to
worship."

"Lord help the creature!" cried the woman.  "What's he telling
about?  And what have you to do with my sex, young man? which is what
the Lord made it."

"It is _not_, madam.  Make no mistake about it: 'twere blasphemy to
think so.  But speaking generally, what I--as a man--have to do with
your sex is to protect it."

"A nice sort of protector you'd make!" she retorted, planting her
knuckles on her hips and eyeing him contemptuously.

"I am a beginner, madam, and have much to learn.  But you shall not
discourage me from protecting you, though you deny me the rose which
was to have been my emblem.  Every woman is a rose, madam, as says
the poet Dunbar--

    "'Sweet rose of vertew and of gentilness,
      Richest in bonty and in bewty clear
      And every vertew that is werrit dear,
      Except only that ye are merciless--"

"You take me?  'Merciless,' madam?"

"I don't understand a word," said she, puzzled and angry.

"He was a Scotsman: and you find it a far cry to Loch Awe.
Well, well--to resume--

    "'Into your garth this day I did pursue--'"

"by 'garth' meaning 'garden': a good word, and why the devil it
should be obsolescent is more than I can tell you--"

But here my father cut him short.  "My good Mrs. Ede," said he,
turning to the woman, "I believe this young man intended no harm to
you and very little to your garden.  You are quits with him at any
rate.  Take this shilling, step inside, and choose him a fair red
rose for the price and also in token of your forgiveness, while he
picks up his hat which is lying yonder in the dust."

"Hey?"  The youth started back, for the first time perceiving the
badges in our hats.  "Are you too, sirs, of this company of the
rose?"  His face fell, but with an effort he recovered himself and
smiled.

"You are not disappointed, I hope?" inquired my father.

"Why--to tell you the truth, sir--I had looked for a rendezvous of
careless jolly fellows.  For cavaliers of your quality it never
occurred to me to bargain."  He held up a flap of his ragged coat and
shook it ruefully.

My father frowned.  "And I, sir, am disappointed.  A moment since I
took you for an original; but it appears you share our common English
vice of looking at the world like a lackey."

"I, sir?"  The young man waved a hand.  "I am original?  Give me
leave to assure you that this island contains no more servile
tradesman.  Why, my lord--for I take it I speak to a gentleman of
title?--"

"Of the very humblest, sir.  I am a plain knight bachelor."

The original cringed elaborately, rubbing his hands.  "A title is a
title.  Well, sir, as I was about to say, I worship a lord, but my
whole soul is bound up in a ledger: and hence (so to speak) these
tears: hence the disreputable garb in which you behold me.  If I may
walk beside you, sir, after this good woman has fetched me the rose--
thank you, madam--and provided me with a pin from the _chevaux de
frise_ in her bodice--and again, madam, I thank you: you wear the
very cuirass of matronly virtue--I should enjoy, sir, to tell you my
history.  It is a somewhat curious one."

"I feel sure, sir"--my father bowed to him from the saddle--"it will
lose nothing in the telling."

The young man, having fastened the rose in his hat, bade adieu to his
late assailant with a bow; waved a hand to her; lifted his hat a
second time; turned after us and, falling into stride by my father's
stirrup, forthwith plunged into his story.

    THE TRAVELS OF PHINEAS FETT.

"My name, sir, is Phineas Fett--"

He paused.  "I don't know how it may strike you: but in my infant
ears it ever seemed to forebode something in the Admiralty--a
comfortable post, carrying no fame with it, but moderately lucrative.
In wilder flights my fancy has hovered over the Pipe Office (Addison,
sir, was a fine writer; though a bit of a prig, between you and me)."

"There was a Phineas Pett, a great shipbuilder for the Navy in King
Charles the Second's time.  I believe, too, he had a son christened
after him, who became a commissioner of the Navy."

"You don't say so!  The mere accident of a letter . . . but it proves
the accuracy of our childish instincts.  A commissionership--whatever
the duties it may carry--would be the very thing, or a
storekeepership, with a number of ledgers: it being understood that
shipping formed my background, in what I believe is nautically termed
the offing.  I know not what exact distance constitutes an offing.
My imagination ever placed it within sight and sufficiently near the
scene of my occupation to pervade it with an odour of hemp and tar."

He paused again, glanced up at my father, and--on a nod of
encouragement--continued--

"The nuisance is, I was born in the Midlands--to be precise, at West
Bromicheham--the son of a well-to-do manufacturer of artificial
jewellery.  The only whiff of the brine that ever penetrated my
father's office came wafted through an off-channel of his trade.
He did an intermittent business in the gilding of small idols, to be
shipped overseas and traded as objects of worship among the negroes
of the American plantations.  Jewellery, however, was his stand-by.
In the manufacture of meretricious ware he had a plausibility
amounting to genius, in the disposing of it a talent for hard
bargains; and the two together had landed him in affluence.
Well, sir, being headed off my boyhood's dream by the geographical
inconvenience of Warwickshire--for a lad may run away to be a sailor,
sir, but the devil take me if ever I heard of one running off to be a
supercargo, and even this lay a bit beyond my ambition--I recoiled
upon a passion to enter my father's business and increase the already
tidy patrimonial pile.

"But here comes in the cross of my destiny.  My father, sir, had
secretly cherished dreams of raising me above his own station.
To him a gentleman--and he ridiculously hoped to make me one--was a
fellow above working for his living.  He scoffed at my enthusiasm for
trade, and at length he sent for me and in tones that brooked no
denial commanded me to learn the violin.

"Never shall I forget the chill of heart with which I received that
fatal mandate.  I have no ear for music, sir.  In tenderer years
indeed I had made essay upon the Jew's harp, but had relinquished it
without a sigh.

"'The violin!' I cried, though the words choked me.  'Father,
anything but that!  If it were the violoncello, now--'

"But he cut me short in cold incisive accents.  'The violin, or you
are no son of mine.'

"I fled from the house, my home no longer.  On the way to the front
door I had sufficient presence of mind, and no more, to make a
_detour_ to the larder and possess myself of the longest joint; which
my heated judgment, confusing temporal with linear measurement,
commended to me as the most lasting.  It proved to be a shin of beef:
unnutritious except for soup (and I carried no tureen), useless as an
object of barter.  With this and two half-crowns in my pocket I
slammed the front-door behind me and faced the future."

Mr. Fett paused impressively.

"And you call me an original, sir!" he went on in accents of
reproach; "me, who started in life with two half-crowns in my pocket,
the conventional outfit for a career of commercial success!"

"They have carried you all the way to Falmouth!"

"The one of them carried me so far as to Coventry, sir: where,
finding a fair in progress as I passed through the town, and falling
in with three bridesmaids who had missed their wedding-party in the
crowd, I spent the other in treating them to the hobby-horses at one
halfpenny a ride.  Four halfpennies--there were four of us--make
twopence, and two's into thirty are fifteen rides; a bold investment
of capital, and undertaken (I will confess it) not only to solace the
fair ones but to ingratiate myself with the fellow who turned the
handle of the machine.  To him I applied for a job.  He had none to
offer, but introduced me to a company of strolling players who (as
fortune would have it) were on the point of presenting _Hamlet_ with
a _dramatis_ personae decimated by Coventry ale.  They cast me for
'Polonius' and some other odds and ends.  You may remember, sir, that
at one point the Prince of Denmark is instructed to 'enter reading.'
That stage direction I caught at, and by a happy 'improvisation'
spread it over the entire play.  Not as 'Polonius' only, but as
`Bernardo' upon the midnight platform, as 'Osric,' as 'Fortinbras,'
as the 'Second Gravedigger,' as one of the odd Players--always I
entered reading.  In my great scene with the Prince we entered
reading together.  They killed me, still reading, behind the arras;
and at a late hour I supped with the company on Irish stew; for,
incensed by these novelties, the audience had raided a greengrocer's
shop between the third and fourth acts and thereafter rained their
criticism upon me in the form of cabbages and various esculent roots
which we collected each time the curtain fell.

"Every cloud, sir, has a silver lining.  I continued long enough with
this company to learn that in our country an actor need never die of
scurvy.  But I weary you with my adventures, of which indeed I am yet
in the first chapter."

"You shall rehearse them on another occasion.  But will you at least
tell us how you came to Falmouth?"

"Why, in the simplest manner in the world.  A fortnight since I
happened to be sitting in the stocks, in the absurd but accursed town
of Bovey Tracey in Devonshire. My companion--for the machine
discommodated two--was a fiddler, convicted (like myself) of
vagrancy; a bottle-nosed man, who took the situation with such phlegm
as only experience can breed, and munched a sausage under the
commonalty's gaze.  'Good Lord,' said I to myself, eyeing him,
'and to think that he with my chances, or I with his taste for music,
might be driving at this moment in a coach and pair!'

"'Sir,' said I, 'are you attached to that instrument of yours?'
'So deeply,' he answered, 'that, like Nero, I could fiddle if Bovey
Tracey were burning at this moment.'  'You can perform on it
creditably?' I asked.  'In a fashion to bring tears to your eyes,' he
answered me, and offered to prove his words.  'Not for worlds,' said
I; 'but it grieves me to think how Fortune distributes her favours.'
I told him of my father.  'I should like to make the acquaintance of
such a man,' said he.  'You shall,' said I; and fetching a pencil and
a scrap of paper out of my pocket, I wrote as follows:--

     "_To Mr. Jonathan Fett, Manufacturer of Flams,
                                W. Bromicheham_."

                         "The Public Stocks, Bovey Tracey, Devon.
                                     June 21st (longest day)."

"DEAR FATHER,
           Adopt bearer, in lieu of
                      Your affectionate son,
                                     PHINEAS."

"The fiddler at first suspected a jest: but on my repeated assurances
took the letter thankfully, and at parting, on our release, pressed
on me the end of his sausage wrapped in a piece of newspaper.
I ate the sausage moodily and was about to throw the paper away when
my eye caught sight of an advertisement in the torn left-hand corner.
I read it, and my mind was made up.  I am here, and (thanks to you,
sir) with a rose in my hat."

By the time Mr. Fett concluded his narrative we had reached the
outskirts of the town, and found ourselves in a traffic which,
converging upon the Market Strand from every side-street and alley,
at once carried us along with it and constrained us to a walking
pace.  My father, finding the throng on the Market Strand too dense
for our horses, turned aside to the Three Cups Inn across the street,
gave them over to the ostler, and led us upstairs to a window which
overlooked the gathering.

The Market Strand at Falmouth is an open oblong space, not very wide,
leading off the main street to the water's edge, and terminating in
steps where as a rule the watermen wait to take off passengers to the
Packets.  A lamp-post stands in the middle of it, and by the base of
this the preachers--a grey-headed man and two women in ugly bonnets--
were already assembled, with but a foot or two dividing them from the
crowd.  Close behind the lamp-post stood a knot of men conversing
together one of whom stepped forward for a word with the grey-headed
preacher.  He wore a rose in his hat, and at sight of him my heart
gave a wild incredulous leap.  It was Nat Fiennes!

I pushed past my father and flung the open window still wider.
The grey-haired preacher had opened the Bible in his hand and was
climbing the stone base of the lamp-post when a handful of filth
struck the back of the book and bespattered his face.  I saw Nat whip
out his sword and swing about angrily in the direction of the shot,
while the two women laid hands on either arm to check him; and at the
same moment my father spoke up sharply in my ear.

"Tumble out, lad," he commanded.  "We are in bare time."

I vaulted over the window-ledge and dropped into the street; my
father after me, and Mr. Fett and Billy close behind.  Indeed, that
first shot had but given the signal for a general engagement; and as
we picked ourselves up and thrust our way into the crowd, a whole
volley of filth bespattered the group of Methodists.  In particular I
noted the man with whom Nat Fiennes, a minute since, had been
conversing--a little bald-headed fellow of about fifty-five or sixty,
in a suit of black which, even at thirty paces distant, showed rusty
in the sunshine.  An egg had broken against his forehead, and the
yellow of it trickled down over his eyes; yet he stood, hat in hand,
neither yielding pace nor offering to resist.  Nat, less patient, had
made a rush upon the crowd, which had closed around and swallowed him
from sight.  By its violent swaying he was giving it something to
digest.  One of the two women shrank terrified by the base of the
lamp-post.  The other--a virago to look at, with eyes that glared
from under the pent of her black bonnet--had pulled the grey-headed
preacher down by his coat-tails, and, mounting in his room, clung
with an arm around the lamp-post and defied the persecutors.

"Why am I here, friends?" she challenged them.  "O generation of
vipers, why am I here?  Answer me, you men of Belial--you, whose
fathers slew the prophets!  Because I glory to suffer for the right;
because to turn the other cheek is a Christian's duty, and as a
Christian woman I'll turn it though you were twice the number, and
not be afraid what man can do unto me."

Now, my father was well known in Falmouth and pretty generally held
in awe.  At sight of him advancing, the throng fell back and gave us
passage in a sudden lull which reached even to where Nat Fiennes
struggled in the grasp of a dozen longshoremen who were hailing him
to the quay's edge, to fling him over.  He broke loose, and before
they could seize him again came staggering back, panting and
dishevelled.

"Prosper!" he cried, catching sight of me, and grinning delightedly
all over his muddied face.  "I knew you would come!  And your father,
too?  Splendid, lad, splendid?"

"Ye men of Falmouth"--the woman by the lamp-post lifted her voice
more shrilly--"what shall I testify of the hardness of your hearts?
Shall I testify that your Mayor sending his crier round, has
threatened to whip us through Falmouth streets at the cart-tail?
Shall I testify--"

But here my father lifted a hand.  "Gently, madam; gently, I am not
defending his Worship if he issued any such proclamation; but 'tis an
ancient punishment for scolds, and I advise you to lend him no colour
of excuse."

"And who may _you_ be, sir?" she demanded, looking down, angry, but
checked in spite of herself by my father's air of authority.

"One," he answered, "who has come to see fair play, and who has--as
you may see--for the moment some little influence with this rabble.
I will continue to exert it while I can, if you on your part will
forbear to provoke; for the tongue, madam, has its missiles as well
as the hands."

"I thank you, sir," said the grey-headed preacher, stepping forward
and thrusting a book into my father's hands.  "We had best begin with
a hymn, I think.  I have some experience of the softening power of
music on these occasions."

"We will sing," announced the woman, "that beautiful hymn beginning,
'Into a world of ruffians sent.'  Common metre, my friends, and
Sister Tresize will give the pitch:

     "Into a world of ruffians sent,
        I walk on hostile ground--"

My father bared his head and opened the hymn-book; the rest of us,
bareheaded too, ranged ourselves beside him; and so we stood facing
the mob while the verses were sung in comparative quiet.  The words
might be provocative, but few heard them.  The tune commanded an
audience, as in Cornwall a tune usually will.  The true secret of the
spell, however, lay in my father's presence and bearing.  A British
crowd does not easily attack one whom it knows as a neighbour and
born superior; and it paid homage now to one who, having earned it
all his life, carelessly took it for granted.

"Begad, sir," said Mr. Fett in my ear, "and the books say that the
feudal system is dead in England!  Why, here's the very flower of it!
Damme, though, the old gentleman is splendid; superlative, sir;
it's ten to one against Coriolanus,  and no takers.  Between
ourselves, Coriolanus was a pretty fellow, but talked too much.
Phocion, sir?   Did I hear you mention Phocion?"

"You did not," I answered.

"And quite right," said he; "with your father running, I wouldn't
back Phocion for a place.  All the same," Mr. Fett admitted, "this is
what Mr. Gray of Peterhouse, Cambridge, would call a fearful joy, and
I'd be thankful for a distant prospect of the way out of it."

"Indeed, sir"--my father, overhearing this, turned to him affably--
"you touch the weak spot.  For the moment I see no way out of the
situation, nor any chance but to prolong it; and even this," he
added, "will not be easy unless the lady on the lamp-post sensibly
alters the tone of her discourse."

Indeed, at the conclusion of the singing she had started again to
address the crowd, albeit--acting on my father's hint--in more
moderate tones, and even, as I thought, somewhat tepidly.  Her theme
was what she called convictions of sin, of which by her own account
she had wrestled with a surprising quantity; but in the rehearsal of
them, though fluent, she seemed to lose heart as her hearers relaxed
their attention.

"Confound the woman!" grumbled my father.  "She had done better,
after all, to continue frantic.  The crowd came to be amused, and is
growing restive again."

"Sir," interposed Mr. Fett, "give me leave to assure you that an
audience may be amused and yet throw things.  Were this the time and
place for reminiscences, I could tell you a tale of Stony Stratford
(appropriately so-called, sir), where, as 'Juba' in Mr. Addison's
tragedy of _Cato_, for two hours I piled the Pelion of passion upon
the Ossa of elocutionary correctness, still without surmounting the
zone of plant life; which in the Arts, sir, must extend higher than
geographers concede.  And yet I evoked laughter; from which I may
conclude that my efforts amused.  The great Demosthenes, sir,
practised declamation with his mouth full of pebbles--for retaliatory
purposes, I have sometimes thought."

Here my father, who had been paying no attention to Mr. Fett's
discourse, interrupted it with a sharp but joyful exclamation; and
glancing towards him I saw his face clear of anxiety.

"We are safe," he announced quietly, nodding in the direction of the
Three Cups.  "What we wanted was a fool, and we have found him."



CHAPTER VIII.


TRIBULATIONS OF A MAYOR


     "Like the Mayor of Falmouth, who thanked God when the Town Jail
      was enlarged."--_Old Byword_.

His nod was levelled at a horseman who had ridden down the street and
was pressing upon the outskirts of the crowd: and this was no less a
dignitary than the Mayor of Falmouth, preceded on foot by a beadle
and two mace-bearers, all three of them shouting "Way!  Make way for
the Mayor!" with such effect that in less than half a minute the
crowd had divided itself to form a lane for them.

"Eh? eh?  What is this?  What is the meaning of all this?" demanded
his Worship, magisterially, as, having drawn rein, he fumbled in his
tail pocket, drew forth a pair of horn spectacles, adjusted them on
his nose, and glared round upon the throng.

"That, sir," answered my father, stepping forward, "is what we are
waiting to learn."

"Sir John Constantine?"  The Mayor bowed from his saddle.  "You will
pardon me, Sir John, that for the moment I missed to recognize you.
The fact is, I suffer, Sir John, from some--er--shortness of sight: a
grave inconvenience, at times, to one in my position."

"Indeed?" said my father, gravely.  "And yet, as I have heard, 'tis a
malady most incident to borough magistrates."

"You don't say so?"  The Mayor considered this for a moment.
"The visitations of Providence are indeed inscrutable, Sir John.
It would give me pleasure to discuss them with you, on some--er--more
suitable occasion, if I might have the honour.  But as I was about to
say, I am delighted to see you, Sir John: your presence here will
strengthen my hands in dealing with this--er--unlawful assembly."

"_Is_ this an unlawful assembly?" my father asked.

"It is worse, Sir John; it is far worse.  I have been studying the
law, and the law admits of no dubiety.  It is unlawful assembly where
three or more persons meet together to carry out some private
enterprise in circumstances calculated to excite alarm.  Mark those
words, Sir John--" some private enterprise.  "When the enterprise is
not private but meant to redress a public grievance, or to reform
religion, the offence becomes high treason."

"Does the law indeed say so?"

"It does, Sir John.  The law, let me tell you, is very fierce against
any reforming of religion.  Nay more, Sir John, under the first of
King George the First, statute two--I forget what chapter--by the Act
commonly called the Riot Act, it is enacted that if a dozen or more
go about reforming of religion or otherwise upsetting the public
peace and refuse to go about their business within the space of one
hour after I tell 'em to, the same becomes felony without benefit of
clergy."

"Good Lord!" exclaimed Billy Priske, pulling off his hat and eyeing
the rose in its band.

"And further," his Worship continued, "any man wearing the badge or
ensign of the rioters shall himself be considered a rioter without
benefit of clergy."

All this while the crowd had been pressing closer and closer upon us,
under compulsion (as it seemed) of reinforcements from the waterside,
the purlieus of the Market Strand being, by now, so crowded that men
and women were crying out for room.  At this moment, glancing across
the square, I was puzzled to see a woman leaning forth from a
first-floor window and dropping handfuls of artificial flowers upon
the heads of the throng.  While I watched, she retired--her hands
being empty--came back with a band-box, and scattered its contents
broadcast, pausing to blow a kiss towards the Mayor.

I plucked my father's sleeve to call his attention to this; but he
and the Mayor were engaged in argument, his Worship maintaining that
the Methodists--and my father that their assailants--were the prime
disturbers of the peace.

"And how, pray," asked my father, "are these poor women to disperse,
if your ruffians won't let 'em?"

"As to that, sir, you shall see," promised the Mayor, and turned to
the town crier.  "John Sprott, call silence.  Make as much noise
about it as you can, John Sprott.  And you, Nandy Daddo, catch hold
of my horse's bridle here."

He rose in his stirrups and, searching again in his tail-pocket, drew
forth a roll of paper.

"Silence!" bawled the crier.

"Louder, if you please, John Sprott: louder, if you can manage it!
And say 'In the name of King George,' John Sprott; and wind up with
'God save the King.'  For without 'God save the King' 'tis no riot,
and a man cannot be hanged for it.  So be very particular to say
'God save the King,' John Sprott, and put 'em all in the wrong."

John Sprott bawled again, and this time achieved the whole formula.

"That's better, John Sprott.  And you--" his Worship turned upon the
Methodists, "you just listen to this, now--"

"_Our sovereign Lord the King--_"

Here, as the Methodists stood before him with folded hands, a lump of
filth flew past the Mayor's ear and bespattered the lamp-post.

"Damme, who did that?" his Worship demanded.  "John Sprott, who threw
that muck?"

"I don't know the man's name, your Worship: but he's yonder, there,
in a striped shirt open at the neck, with a little round hat on the
back of his head; and, what's more, I see'd him do it."

"Then take down his description, John Sprott, and write that at the
words 'Our sovereign Lord' he shied a lump of muck."

John Sprott pulled out a note-book and entered the offence.

"And after 'muck,' John Sprott, write 'God save the King.' I don't
know that 'tis necessary, but you'll be on the safe side."
His Worship unfolded the proclamation again, cleared his throat, and
resumed:

"_Our sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons,
being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves and peacefully to
depart to their habitations or to their lawful business, upon the
pains contained in the Act made in the first year of George the First
for preventing--_"

A handful of more or less liquid mud here took him on the nape of the
neck and splashed over the paper which he held in both hands.

"Arrest that man!" he shouted, bouncing about in a fury.  At the same
moment my father gripped my elbow as a volley of missiles darkened
the air, and we fell back--all the Company of the Rose--shoulder to
shoulder, to protect the Methodists, as a small but solid phalanx of
men came driving through the crowd with mischief in their faces.

"But wait awhile! wait awhile!" called out Billy Priske, as my
father plucked out his sword.  "These be no enemies, master, to us or
the Methodists, but honest sea-fardingers--packet-men all--and, look
you, with roses in their hats!"

"Roses?  Faith, and so they have!" cried my father, lowering his
guard.  "But what the devil, then, is the meaning of it?"

He was answered on the moment.  The official whom his Worship called
Nandy Daddo had made a rush into the crowd, charging it with his mace
as with a battering-ram, and was in the act of clutching the man who
had thrown the filth, when the phalanx of packet-men broke through
and bore him down.  A moment later I saw his gold-laced hat fly
skimming over the heads of the throng, and his mace wrenched from him
and held aloft in the hands of a red-faced man, who flourished it
twice and rushed upon the Mayor, shouting at the same time with all
his lungs: "Townshends!  This way, Townshends!" whereat the
packet-men cheered and pressed after him, driving the crowd of
Falmouth to right and left.

Clearly what mischief they meant was intended for the Mayor: and the
Mayor, for a short-sighted man, detected this very promptly.  Also he
showed surprising agility in tumbling out of his saddle; which he had
scarcely done before the crupper resounded with a whack, of which one
of the borough maces bears an eloquent dent to this day.

The Mayor, catching his toe in the stirrup as he slipped off,
staggered and fell at our feet.  But the body of his horse,
interposed between him and the rioters, protected him for an instant,
and in that instant my father and Nat Fiennes dragged him up and
thrust him to the rear while we faced the assault.  For now, and
without a word said, the Methodists were forgotten, and we of the
Rose were standing for law and order against this other company of
the Rose, of whose quarrel we knew nothing at all.

Our attitude indeed, and the sight of drawn swords (to oppose which
they had no weapons but short cudgels), appeared to take them aback
for the moment.  The press, however, closing on us, as we backed to
cover the Mayor's retreat, offered less and less occasion for sword
play; and, the seamen still advancing and outnumbering us by about
three to one, the whole affair began to wear an ugly look.

At this juncture relief came to us in the strangest fashion.  I had
clean forgotten the little Methodist man in black; whom, to be sure,
I had no occasion to remember but for the quiet resolution of his
carriage as he had stood with the burst egg trickling over his face.
But now, to the surprise of us all, he sprang forward upon the second
mace-bearer, snatched the mace from his hand and laid about him in a
sudden frenzy; at the first blow, delivered at unawares, catching the
ringleader on the crown and felling him like an ox.  For a second,
perhaps, he stared, amazed at his own prowess, and with that the lust
of battle seized him.

He rained blows; yet with cunning, running forth and back into our
ranks as each was delivered; and between the blows he capered,
uttering shrill inarticulate cries.  This diversion indeed saved us.
For the rabble, pressing up to see the fun, left a space more or less
clear on the far side of the Market Strand, and for this space we
stampeded, dragging the Mayor along with us.

The next thing I remember was fighting side by side with Nat before a
door beneath the window where I had seen the woman throwing down her
handfuls of artificial flowers.  The lower windows were barred, but
the door stood open; and we fought to defend it whilst my father
lifted the Mayor of Falmouth by his coat-collar and the seat of his
breeches and flung him inside.  Then we too backed and, ducking
indoors under the arms of the little man in black--who stood on the
step swinging the borough mace as though to scythe off the head of
any one who approached within five feet of it--seized him by the
coat-tails, dragged him inside and, slamming to the door (which shut
with two flaps), locked and bolted it and leant against it with all
our weight.

Yet a common house-door is but a flimsy barricade against a mob,
especially if that mob be led by five-and-twenty stout-bodied seaman.
We had shut it merely to gain time, and when the cudgels outside
began to play tattoo upon its upper panels I looked for no more than
a minute's respite at the best.

It puzzled me therefore when--and immediately upon two ugly blows
that had well-nigh shaken the lock from its fastenings--the shouting
suddenly subsided into a confused hubbub of voices, followed by a
clang and rattle of arms upon the cobblestones.  This last sound
appeared to hush the others into silence.  I stood listening, with my
hip pressed against the lock to hold it firm against the next
concussion.  None came: but presently some one rapped with his
knuckles on the upper panel and a voice, authoritative but civil
enough, challenged us in the name of King George to open.

To this I had almost answered bidding him go to the devil, when a
damsel put her head over the stair-rail of the landing above and
called down to us to obey and open at once: and looking up in the dim
light of the passage I recognized her for the one who had scattered
the flowers, just now, to the rioters.

"Pardon me," said I, "but how shall I know you are not playing us a
trick?"

"My good child," she replied, "open the door and don't stand arguing.
The riot is over and the square full of military.  The person who
knocks is Captain Bright of the Pendennis Garrison.  If you don't
believe me, step upstairs here and look out of window."

"My father--" I began.

"Your father is right enough, and so is that fool of a Mayor--or will
be when he has drunk down a glass of cordial."

Nevertheless I would not obey her until I had sent Nat Fiennes
upstairs to look; who within a minute called over the stair-head that
the woman told the truth and I had my father's leave to open.
Thereupon I pulled open the upper flap of the door, and stood
blinking at a tall officer in gorgeous regimentals.

"Hullo!" said he.  "Good morning!"

"Good morning!" said I.  "And forgive me that I kept you waiting."

"Don't mention it," said he very affably.  "My fault entirely, for
coming late; or rather the Mayor's, who sent word that we weren't
needed.  I took the liberty to doubt this as soon as my sentries
reported that a couple of boats' crews were putting ashore from the
_Townshend_ packet: and here we are in consequence.  Got him safe?"

"The Mayor?" said I.  "Yes, I believe he is upstairs at this moment,
drinking brandy-and-water and pulling himself together."

The Captain grinned amiably.  "Sorry to disturb him," said he;
"but the mob is threatening to burn his house, and I'd best take him
along to read the Riot Act and put things ship-shape."

"He has read it already, or some part of it."

"Some part of it won't do.  He must read the whole proclamation, not
forgetting 'God save the King.'"

"If you can find the paper," said I, "there's a lump of mud on it,
marking the place where he left off."

The Captain grinned again.  "I doubt he'll have to begin afresh after
breaking off to drink brandy-and-water with Moll Whiteaway.  For a
chief magistrate that will need some explaining.  And yet," mused the
Captain, as he stepped into the passage, "you may have done him a
better turn than ever you guessed; for, when the mob sees the humour
of it, belike it'll be more for laughing than setting fire to his
house."

"But who is Moll Whiteaway?" I asked.

He stared at me.  "You mean to say you didn't know?" he asked slowly.
"You didn't bring him here for a joke?"

"A joke?" I echoed.  "A mighty queer joke, sir, you'd have thought
it, if your men had been five minutes earlier."

He leaned back against the wall of the passage.  "And you brought him
here _by accident?_  Well, if this don't beat cock-fighting!"

"But who is this Moll Whiteaway?" I repeated.

The question again seemed to take his breath away.  For answer he
could only point to a small brass plate in the lower flap of the
door; and, stooping, I read: _Miss Whiteaway, Milliner, Modes and
Robes_.

"Oh!" said I.  "That accounts for the band-box of flowers."

"Does it?" he asked.

"She flung them out of window to the packet-men."

"Which, doubtless, seemed to you an everyday proceeding--just a
milliner's usual way of getting rid of her summer stock.  My good
young sir, did you ever hear tell of a 'troacher'?  Nay, spare that
ingenuous blush: Moll is a loose fish, but I mean less than your
modesty suspects.  A 'troacher' is a kind of female smuggler that
disposes of the goods the packet-men bring home in their bunks; and
Moll Whiteaway is the head of the profession in Falmouth.  Now, our
worthy Mayor took oath the other day to put down this smuggling on
board the packets; and he began yesterday with the _Townshend_.
He and the Port Searcher swept the ship, sir.  They dug Portuguese
brandy in kegs out of the seamen's beds and parcels of silk out of
the very beams.  They shook two case-bottles out of the chaplain's
breeches, which must have galled him sorely in his devotions.
They netted close on two hundred pounds' worth of contraband in the
fo'c's'le alone--"

"Good Heavens!" I interjected.  "And as the riot began he was calling
himself short-sighted!"

Captain Bright laughed, clapped me on the shoulder and led the way
upstairs, where (strange to say) we found the Mayor again deploring
his defective vision.  He lay in an easy-chair amid an army of
band-boxes, bonnet stands, and dummies representing the female
figure; and sipped Miss Whiteaway's brandy while he discoursed in
broken sentences to an audience consisting of that lady, my father,
Nat Fiennes, Mr. Fett, and the little man in black (who, by the way,
did not appear to be listening, but stood and pondered the borough
mace, which he held in his hands, turning it over and examining the
dents).

"It is a great drawback, Sir John--a great drawback," his Worship
lamented.  "A man in my position, sir, should have the eye of an
eagle; instead of which on all public occasions I have to rely on
John Sprott.  My good woman"--he turned to Miss Whiteaway--"would you
mind taking a glance out of window and telling me what has become of
John Sprott?"

"He's down below under protection of the soldiers," announced Miss
Whiteaway; "and no harm done but his hat lost and his gown split up
the back."

"I shall never have the same confidence in John Sprott.  He takes
altogether too sanguine a view of human nature.  Why, only last
November--you remember the great gale of November the 1st, Sir John?
I was very active in burying the poor bodies brought ashore next day
and for several days after; for, as you remember, a couple of
Indymen dragged their anchors and broke up under Pendennis Battery:
and John Sprott said to me in the most assured way, 'The town'll
never forget your kindness, sir.  You mark my words,' he said,
'this here action will stand you upon the pinnacles of honour till
you and me, if I may respectfully say it, sit down together in the
land of marrow and fatness.'  After that you'd have thought a man
might count on some popularity.  But what happened?  A day or two
later--that is to say, on November the 5th--I was sitting in my shop
with a magnifying glass in my eye, cleaning out a customer's watch,
when in walked half a dozen boys carrying a man's body between 'em.
You could tell that life was extinct by the way his head hung back
and his legs trailed limp on the floor as they brought him in, and
his face looked to me terribly swollen and discoloured.
'Dear, dear!' said I.  'What?  Another poor soul?  Take him up to the
mortewary, that's good boys,' I said; 'and you shall have twopence
apiece out of the poor-box.'  How d'ye think they answered me?
They bust out a-laughing, and cries one:  'If you please, sir, 'tis
meant for _you!_  'Tis the fifth of November, and we'm goin' to burn
you in effigy.'  I chased 'em out of the shop, and later on in the
day I spoke to John Sprott about it.  'Well now,' said John Sprott,'
I passed a lot of boys just now, burning a guy at the top of the
Moor, and I had my suspicions; but the thing hadn't a feature of
yours to take hold on, barrin' the size of its feet.'  And that's
what you call popularity!" wound up the Mayor with bitterness.
"That's what a man gets for rising early and lying down late to serve
his country!"

"Excuse me, Mr. Mayor," put in Captain Bright, "but they are
threatening to burn worse than your effigy fact I heard some talk of
setting fire to your house and shop.  Nay," he went on as the Mayor
bounced up to his feet, "there's no real cause for alarm.  I have
sent on my lieutenant with fifty men to keep the mob on the move, and
have stationed a dozen outside here to escort you home."

"The Riot Act--where's my Riot Act?" cried his Worship, searching his
pockets.  "I never read out 'God save the King,' and without
'God save the King' a man may burn all my valybles and make turbulent
gestures and show of arms, and harry and murder to the detriment of
the public peace, and refuse to move on when requested, and all the
time in the eyes of the law be a babe unborn.  Where's the Riot Act,
I say? for without it I'm a lost man and good-bye to Falmouth!"

"Then 'tis lucky that I came provided with a copy."  Captain Bright
produced a paper from the breast of his tunic.

The Mayor took it with trembling hands.  "Why, 'tis a duplicity!" he
cried.  "A very duplicity! and, what's more, printed in the same
language word for word."  He caught the mace from the little man in
black.  "Lead the way, Captain!"



CHAPTER IX.


I ENLIST AN ARMY.


     "If I be not ashamed of my soldiers, I am a soused gurnet."
                                                 _Sir John Falstaff_.

My father turned to me as they descended the stair.  "This is all
very well, lad," said he, "but we have yet to find our army.
After the murder of Julius Caesar, now--"

"I did enact Julius Caesar once," quoted Mr. Fett, in parenthesis.
"I was killed i' the capitol; Brutus killed me."

My father frowned.  "After the murder of Julius Caesar, when the mob
for two days had Rome at their mercy, I have read somewhere that two
men appeared out of nowhere, and put themselves at the head of the
rioters.  None knew them; but so boldly they comported themselves,
heading the charges, marshalling the ranks, here throwing up
barricades, there plucking down doors and gates, breaking open the
prisons and setting fire to private houses, that presently the
whisper spread they were Castor and Pollux; till, at length, falling
into the hands of the aediles, these _dioscuri_ were found to be two
poor lunatics escaped from a house of detention.  If we could
discover another such pair among the mob, now!"

"We are wasting time here for certain," said I.  "And where, by the
way, is Billy Priske?"

"If you waste your time upstairs here, gentlemen," said Miss
Whiteaway, "belike you may do better in the parlour, where I had
prepared for some friends of mine with two-three chickens and a ham."

"Ah, to be sure," said I; "the packet-men!"

"Never you worry, young sir," she answered tartly, "so long as they
don't mind eating after their betters.  And as for your man Priske, I
saw him twenty minutes ago escape towards Church Street with the
Methodists."

"Hang it!" put in Nat Fiennes, "if I hadn't clean forgotten the
Methodists!"

"We left them scurvily," said I; "every Jack and Jill of them but our
friend here."  I nodded toward the little man in black.  "And he not
only saved himself, but was half the battle."

The little man seemed to come out of himself with a start, and gazed
from one to another of us perplexedly.

"Excuse me, gentlemen."  He drew himself up with dignity.
"Do my ears deceive me, or are you mistaking me for a Methodist?"

"Indeed, and are you not, sir?" asked my father.  "Why, good God,
gentlemen!--if you'll excuse me--but I'm the parish clerk of
Axminster!"

My father recovered himself with a bow.  "In Devon?" he asked
gravely, after a pause in which our silence paid tribute to the
announcement.

"In Devon, sir; a county remarkable for its attachment to the
principles of the Church of England.  And that I should have lived to
be mistaken for a Methodist!"

"But, surely, John Wesley himself is a Clerk in Holy Orders? and, I
have heard, a great stickler for the Church's authority."

"He may say so, sir," answered the little man, darkly.  "He may say
so.  But, if he means it, why does he go about encouraging such a
low class of people?  A man, sir, is known by the company he keeps."

"Is that in the Bible?" my father inquired.  "I seem to remember, on
the contrary, that in the matter of consorting with publicans and
sinners--"

"It won't work, sir.  It has been tried in Axminster before now, and
you may take my word for it that it won't work.  You mustn't suppose,
gentlemen," he went on, including us all in the argument, "you
mustn't take me for one of those parrot-Christians who just echo what
they hear in the pulpits on Sundays.  I _think_ about these things;
and I find that your extreme doctrines may do all very well for the
East and for hot countries where you can go about half-naked and
nobody takes any notice; but the Church of England, as its name
implies, is the only Church for England.  A truly Christian Church,
gentlemen, because it selects its doctrines from the Gospels; and
English, sir, to the core, because it selects 'em with a special view
to the needs of our beloved country.  And what (if I may so put it)
is the basis of that selection?  The same, sirs, which we all admit
to be the basis of England's welfare and the foundation of her
society; in other words, the land.  The land, gentlemen, is solid;
and our reformed religion (say what you will, I am not denying that
it has, and will ever have, its detractors) is the religion for solid
Englishmen."

My father put out a hand and arrested Mr. Fett, who had been
regarding the speaker with joyful admiration, and at this point made
a movement to embrace him.

"I must have his name!" murmured Mr. Fett.  "He shall at least tell
us his name!"

"Badcock, sir; Ebenezer Badcock," answered the little man, producing
a black-edged visiting-card.

"But," urged my father, "you must forgive us, Mr. Badcock, if we find
it hard to reconcile your conduct this morning with these sentiments,
on which, for the moment, I offer no comment except that they are
admirably expressed.  What song the Sirens sang, Mr. Badcock, or what
name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, are questions
(as Sir Thomas Browne observes) not beyond conjecture, albeit the
Emperor Tiberius posed his grammarians with 'em.  But when a man
openly champions street-preaching, and goes on to lay about him with
a mace--"

"Ah!" exclaimed Mr. Badcock, with sudden eagerness.  "And what--by
the way, sir--did you think of that performance?"

"Why, to be sure, you behaved valiantly."

The little man blushed with pleasure.  "You really think so?
It struck you in that light, did it?  Well, now I am glad--yes, sir,
and proud--to hear that opinion; because, to tell you the truth, I
thought it pretty fair myself.  The fact is, gentlemen, I wasn't
altogether sure what my behaviour would be at the critical moment.
You may deem it strange that a man should arrive at my time of life
without being sure whether he's a coward or a brave man; but
Axminster--if you knew the place--affords few opportunities for that
sort of thing."

"Allow us to reassure you, then," said my father.  "But there remains
the question, why you did it?"

Mr. Badcock rubbed his hands.  "Appearances were against me, I'll
allow," he answered, with a bashful chuckle; "but you may set it down
to tchivalry.  We all have our weaknesses, I hope, sir; and tchivalry
is mine."

"Chivalry?" echoed my father.

"You spell it with an 's'?  Excuse me; whatever schooling I have
picked up has been at odd times; but I am always open to correction,
I thank the Lord."

"But why call it a weakness, Mr. Badcock?"

"Call it a hobby; call it what you like.  _I_ look upon it as a debt,
sir, due to the memory of my late wife.  An admirable woman, sir, and
by name Artemisia; which, I have sometimes thought, may partially
account for it.  Allow me, gentlemen."  He drew a small shagreen case
from his breast-pocket, opened it, and displayed a miniature.

"Her portrait?"

"In a sense.  As a matter of fact, I will not conceal from you,
gentlemen, that it came to me in the form of a pledge--that being my
late profession--and I have never been able to trace the original.
But, as I said when first I showed it to the late Mrs. B., 'My dear,
you might have sat for it.'  A well-developed woman, gentlemen,
though in the end she went out like the snuff of a candle, that being
the way sometimes with people who have never known an hour's
sickness.  'Am I really like that, Ebenezer?' she asked.  'In your
prime, my dear,' said I--she having married me late in life owing to
her romantic nature--'in your prime, my dear, I'll defy any one to
tell you and this party from two peas.'  'I wish I knew who she was,'
said my wife.  'Hadn't you best leave well alone?' said I; 'for I
declare till this moment I hadn't dreamed that another such woman as
yourself existed in the world, and it gives me a kind of bigamous
feeling which I can't say I find altogether unpleasant.'  'Then I'll
keep the thing,' says she, very positively, 'until the owner turns up
and redeems it;' which he never did, being, as I discovered, a
strolling portrait painter very much down on his luck.  So there the
mystery remained.  But (as I was telling you), though a first-rate
manager, my poor dear wife had a number of romantic notions; and
often she has said to me after I'd shut up shop, 'If wishes grew on
brambles, Ebenezer, it's not a pawnbroker's wife I'd be at this
moment.'  'Well, my dear,' I'd say to soothe her, 'there _is_ a
little bit of that about the profession, now you come to mention it.'
'And them there was a time,' she'd go on, 'when I dreamed of marryin'
a red-cross knight!' 'I have my higher moments, Artemisia,' I'd say,
half in joke; 'Why not try shutting your eyes?'  But afterwards, when
that splendid woman was gone for ever, and my daughter Heeb (which is
a classical name given her by her mother) comfortably married to a
wholesale glover, and me left at home a solitary grandfather--which,
proud as you may be of it, is a slight occupation--I began to think
things over and find there was more in my poor wife's notions than
I'd ever allowed.  And the upshot was that seeing this advertisement
by chance in a copy of the _Sherborne Messenger_, I determined to
shut up shop and let Axminster think I was gone on a holiday, while I
gave it a trial; for, you see, I was not altogether sure of myself."

"Excuse me, Badcock," interrupted Mr. Fett, advancing towards him
with outstretched arms; "but have you perused the books of chivalry,
or is this the pure light of nature?"

"Books, sir?" answered Mr. Badcock, seriously.  "I never knew there
were any books about it.  I never heard of tchivalry except from my
late wife; and you'll excuse the force of habit, but she pronounced
it the same as in chibbles."

"You never read of the meeting of Amadis and Sir Galaor?"

Mr. Badcock shook his head.

"Nor of Percival and Galahad, nor of Sir Balin and Sir Balan?  No?
Then embrace me!"

"Sir?"

"Embrace me!"

"Sit down, the pair of you," my father commanded.  "I have a proposal
to make, which, if I mistake not, will interest you both.
Mr. Badcock, I have heard your aspirations, and can fulfil them in a
degree that will surprise you.  I like you, Mr. Badcock."

"The feeling, sir, is mutchual." Mr. Badcock bowed with much
amiability.

"Is time an object with you?"

"None whatever, sir.  I am on a holiday."

"Will you be my guest to-night?"

"With the more pleasure, sir, after my experience of the inns in
these parts.  Though I may have presented her to you in a somewhat
romantic light, my Artemisia _did_ know how to make a bed; and
twenty-two years of her ministrations, not to mention her
companionship, have coddled me in this particular."

"And you, sir"--my father turned to Mr. Fett--"will you accompany
us?"

"With what ulterior object?" demanded Mr. Fett.  "You will excuse my
speaking as a business man, and overlook the damned bad manners of
the question for the sake of its pertinence."

My father smiled.  "Why, sir, I was proposing to invite you to a sea
voyage with me."

"There was a time, before commerce claimed me, when the mere hint of
a nautical expedition had evoked an emotion which, if it survive at
all, lingers but as in a sea-shell the whisper of the parent ocean."

"As a supercargo, at four shillings _per diem_," suggested my father.

"Say no more, sir; I am yours."

"As for Mr. Fiennes--nay, lad, I remember you well."  My father
turned to him with that sweet courtesy which few ever resisted.
"And blush not, lad, if I guess that to you we all owe this meeting;
'twere a bravery well beseeming your blood.  As for Mr. Fiennes, he
will accompany us in heart if he cannot in presence--being, as I
understand, destined for the law?"

"Why, sir, as for that," stammered Nat, "I have had the devil's own
dispute with my father."

"You treated him with all respect, I hope?"

"With all the respect in the world, sir.  But it scarcely matters,
since he has cast me off, and without a penny."

"Why, then, you can come too!" cried my father, gripping him by the
hand.  "Bravo, Prosper! that makes five; and with Billy Priske, when
we can find him, six; and that leaves but one to find before
dinner-time."  He pulled out his watch.  "Lord!" he cried, "and 'tis
high time to feel hungry, too.  If this lady now will repeat her
hospitable offer--"

I thought at the moment, and I thought once or twice during the meal
downstairs, that my father was taxing this poor woman's hospitality.
I doubted that he, himself so carelessly hospitable, might forget to
offer her payment; and lingered after the others had trooped into the
passage, with purpose to remind him privately.

"Come," said he, and made a notion to leave, still without offering
to pay.  On the threshold I had almost turned to whisper to him when
the woman came after and touched his arm.

"Nay, Sir John," said she, eagerly, in a low hoarse voice, "let the
lad hear me thank you.  He is old enough to understand and clean
enough to profit.  Shut the door, child.  You know me, Sir John?"

My father bent his head.  "I never forget a face," said he, quietly.

"Take notice of that, boy.  Your father remembers me, whom to my
knowledge he never saw but once, and then as a magistrate, when he
sat to judge me.  Never mind the offence, lad.  I am a sinful woman,
and the punishment was--"

"Nay, nay!" put in my father, gently.

"The punishment was," she continued, hardening her voice, "to strip
me to the waist and whip me in public.  The law allowed this, and
this they would have done to me.  But your father, being chairman of
the bench--for the offence lay outside the borough--would have none
of it, and argued and forced three other magistrates to give way.
Little good he did, you may say, seeing that my name is such in
Falmouth that, only by entering my door, the Mayor just now did what
all his cleverness could never have done--stopped a riot by a silly
brutal laugh--the chief magistrate taking shelter with Moll
Whiteaway!  You can't get below that for fun, as the folk will take
it; and yet I say your father did good, for he saved me from the
worst.  And to-day of his goodness he has not remembered my sins, but
treated me as though they were not; and today, as only a good man
can, he goes from my house, no man thinking to laugh except at his
simplicity, even though it were known that I kissed his hand.
God bless you, Sir John, and teach your son to be merciful to women!"

My father was ever so shy of his own kind actions that, when detected
by chance or painfully tracked out in one, he kept always a quotation
ready to justify what pure impulse had prompted.  So now, as we
hurried across the deserted Market Strand to catch up with the other
three, he must needs brazen things out with the authority of Bishop
Jeremy Taylor.

"It was a maxim of that excellent divine," said he, "that Christian
censure should never be used to make a sinner desperate; for then he
either sinks under the burden or grows impudent and tramples upon it.
A charitable modest remedy, says he, preserves that which is virtue's
girdle-fear and blushing.  Honour, dear lad, is the peculiar
counsellor of well-bred natures, and these are few; but almost in all
men you will find a certain modesty toward sin, and were I a king my
judges should be warned that their duty is to chasten; whereas by
punishing immoderately they can but effect the exact opposite."

We found our trio waiting for us on the far side of the square; and,
having fetched our horses and left an order at the inn for Billy
Priske on his return to mount and follow us, wended our way out of
the town.  The streets on this side were deserted and mournful, the
shopkeepers having fastened their shutters for fear of the mob, of
whose present doings no sound reached us but a faint murmuring hubbub
borne on the afternoon air from the northward--that is, from the
direction of the Green Bank and the Penryn Road.

My father led the way at a foot's pace, and seemed to ride pondering,
for his chin was sunk on his chest and he had pulled his hat-brim
well over his eyes (but this may have been against the July sun).
After him tramped Mr. Fett in eager converse with the little
pawnbroker, now questioning him, now halting to regard him, as a man
who has dug up a sudden treasure and for the moment can only gaze at
it and hug himself.  Nat and I brought up the rear, he striding at my
stirrup and pouring forth the tale of his adventures since we parted.
A dozen times he rehearsed the scene of the parental quarrel, and
interrupted each rehearsal with a dozen anxious questions.  "Ought he
to have given this answer?--to have uttered that defiance?  Did I
think he had shown self-control; Had he treated the old gentleman
with becoming respect?  Would I put myself in his place?  Suppose it
had been my own father, now--"

"But yours, lad, is a father in a thousand," he broke off bitterly.
"I had never a notion that father and son could be friends, as are
you and he.  He is splendid--splendid!"

I glanced at him quickly and turned my face aside, suspecting that he
took my father for a madman, and was kindly concealing the discovery.
Nevertheless I hardened my voice to answer--

"You will say so when you know him better.  And my Uncle Gervase runs
him a good second."

"Faith, then, I wish you'd persuade your uncle to adopt me.  I'm not
envious, Prosper, in a general way, but your luck gives me a duced
orphanly feeling.  Have I been over-hasty?  That is the question;
whether 'twas nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of
accusing conscience or to up and have it out with the old man."

"Pardon me, gentlemen"--Mr. Fett wheeled about suddenly on the road
ahead of us--"but it was by accident that I overheard you, and by a
singular coincidence at that moment I happened to be discussing the
same subject with Mr. Badcock here."

"What subject?"

"Missiles, sir.  It appears that, when his blood is up, Mr. Badcock
finds himself absolutely careless of missiles.  He declares that,
with a sense of smell as acute as most men's, he was unaware to-day
of having been struck with a rotten egg until I, at ten paces'
distance, drew his attention to it.  Now, that is a degree of
courage--insensibility--call it what you will--to which I make no
pretence.  The cut and thrust, gentlemen, the couched lance, even,
within limits, the battering ram, would have, I feel confident,
comparatively few terrors for me.  But missiles I abominate.
Drawing, as I am bound to do, my anticipations of the tented field
from experience gathered--I say it literally, gathered--before the
footlights, I confess to some sympathy with the gentleman who assured
Harry Percy that but for these vile guns he would himself have been a
soldier.  You will not misunderstand me.  I believe on my faith that
as a military man I was born out of my time.  The scythed chariots of
Boadicea, for instance, must have been damned inconvenient; yet I can
conceive myself jumping 'em.  But a stone, as I learnt in my
boyhood--a stone, sirs, and _a fortiori_ a bullet--"

"Hist!" broke in my father, at the same moment reining up.
"Prosper, what do you make of that noise, up yonder?"

I listened.  "It sounds to me like a heavy cart--"

"Or a waggon.  To my hearing there are two horses."

"And runaway ones, by the shouting."

We had reached a point of the road, not far from home, where a steep
lane cut across it: a track seldom used but scored with old ruts,
sunk between hedges full sixteen feet high, leading down from a back
gate of Constantine and a deserted lodge to a quay by the waterside.
Not once in three months, within my remembrance, did cart or waggon
pass along this lane, which indeed grew a fine crop of grass and
docks between the ruts.

"Nay," said my father, after a few seconds, "I gave you a false
alarm, gentlemen.  The shouting, whatever it means, is over.
Your pardon, Mr. Fett, that I interrupted you."

"Sir," said Mr. Fett, stepping put him to reconnoitre the lane,
"I was but remarking what a number of the wise have observed before
me, that a stone which has left the hand is in the hands of the
dev--"

He ducked his head with a cry as a stone whizzed past him and within
a foot of it.  On the instant the loud rattle and thunder of
cartwheels broke forth again, and now but a short distance up the
lane; also a voice almost as loudly vociferating; and, almost before
Mr. Fett could run back to us, a whole volley of stones flew hurtling
across the road.

"Hi, there!  Halt!"  My father struck spur and rode forward, in time
to catch at and check the leader of two horses slithering downhill
tandem-fashion before the weight of a heavy cart.  "Confound you,
sir!  What the devil d'you mean by flinging stones in this manner
across the middle of the King's highway."

The man--he was one of the seamen of the _Gauntlet_--stood up in the
cart upon a load of stones and grinned.  In one hand he gripped the
reins, in the other a fistful of flints.

"Your honour's pardon," said he, lifting his forearm and drawing the
back of it across his dripping brow, "but the grey mare for'rad won't
pull, and the whip here won't reach her.  I couldn't think upon no
better way."

"You mean to tell me you have been pelting that poor brute all down
the lane?"

"I couldn't think upon no better way," the seaman repeated wistfully,
almost plaintively.  "She's what you might call sensitive to stones."

"Intelligent beast!" commented Mr. Fett.  "And I bought that mare
only six months ago!"  (In truth my father had found the poor
creature wandering the roads and starving, cast off by her owner as
past work, and had purchased her out of mere humanity for thirty
shillings.)

"But what business have you to be driving my cart and horses?" he
demanded.  "And what's the meaning of these stones you're carting?"

"Ballast, your honour."

"Ballast?"

"I don't know how much of it'll ever arrive at this rate," confessed
the seaman, dropping the handful of flints and scratching his head.
"Tis buying speed at a terrible cost of jettison.  But Cap'n Pomery's
last order to me was to make haste about it, if we're to catch
to-morrow's tide."

"Captain Pomery sent you for these stones?"

"Why, Lord love your honour, a vessel can't discharge two dozen
Papist monks and cattle and implements to correspond without wantin'
_something_ in their place.  Nice flat stones, too, the larger-sized
be, and not liable to shift in a sea-way."

But here another strange noise drew our eyes up the lane, as an old
man in a smock-frock--a pensioner of the estate, and by name John
Worthyvale--came hobbling round the corner and down the hill towards
us, using his long-handled road hammer for a staff and uttering
shrill tremulous cries of rage.

"Vengeance, Sir John!  Vengeance for my l'il heap o' stones!"

"Why, Worthyvale, what's the matter?" asked my father, soothingly.

"My l'il heap o' stones, Sir John; my poor l'il heap o' stones!
What's to become o' me, master?  Where will your kindness find a
bellyful for me, if these murderin' seamen take away my l'il heap o'
stones?"

My father laid a hand on the old man's shoulder.

"Captain Pomery wants them for ballast, Worthyvale.  You understand?
It appears he can find none so suitable.''

"No, I _don't_ understand!" exclaimed the old fellow, fiercely.
"This has been a black week for me, Sir John.  First of all my
darter's youngest darter comes and tells me she've picked up with a
man.  Seems 'twas only last year she was runnin' about in short
frocks; but, dang it! the time must ha' slipped away somehow whilst
I've a-sat hammerin' stones, an' now there'll be no person left to
mind me.  Next news, I hear from Master Gervase that you be goin'
foreign, Sir John, with Master Prosper here.  The world gets that
empty, I wish I were dead, I do.  An' now they've a-took my l'il heap
o' stones!"

"And this old man's sires," said my father to me, but so that he did
not hear, "held land in Domesday Book--twelve virgates of land with
close on forty carucates of arable, villeins and borderers and
bondservants, six acres of wood, a hundred and twenty of pasture; and
he makes his last stand on this heap of stones.  Ballast?"  He turned
to the seaman.  "Did I not tell Captain Pomery to ballast with wine?"

"We were carrying it all the forenoon," the seaman answered.
"There was two hogsheads of claret."

"And the hogshead of Madeira, with what remained of the brown sherry?
Likewise in bottles twelve dozen of the Hermitage and as much again
of the Pope's wine, of Avignon?"

"It all went in, sir.  Master Gervase checked it on board by the
list."

"For the rest we are reduced to stones?  Then, Prosper, there remains
no other course open to us."

"Than what, sir?" I asked.

"We must enlist this old man; and that fulfils our number."

"Old John Worthyvale?"

"Why not?  He can sit in the hold and crack stones until I devise his
part in the campaign.  Say no more.  I have an inkling he will prove
not the least useful man of our company."

"As to that, sir," I answered, with a shrug of the shoulders and a
glance at Mr. Fett and Mr. Badcock, "I don't feel able to contradict
you."

"Then here we are assembled," said my father, cheerfully, with the
air of one closing a discussion; "the more by token that here comes
Billy Priske.  Why, man," he asked, as Billy rode up--but so
dejectedly that his horse seemed to droop its ears in sympathy--
"what ails you?  Not wounded, are you?"

"Worse," answered Billy, and groaned.

"We were told you got quit of the crowd.

"So I did," said Billy.  "Damn it!"

"They followed you?" I asked.

"No, they didn't, and I wish they had."

"Then what on earth has happened?"

"What has happened?"  Having no hair of his own to speak of, Billy
reached forward and ran his fingers through his horse's mane.
"I've engaged to get married.  That's what has happened."

"Good Lord!"

"To a female Methody, in a Quaker bonnet.  I had no idea of any such
thing when I followed her.  She was sittin' on the first milestone
out of Falmouth and jabbin' her heel into the dust, like a person in
a pet.  First of all, when I spoke to her, she wouldn't tell what had
annoyed her; but later on it turned out she had come expectin' to be
made a martyr of, and everything was lookin' keenly that way until
Sir John came and interfered, as she put it."

"And she said," suggested Mr. Fett, "that she didn't mind what man
could do unto her?"

"The very words she used, sir!" said Billy, his brow clearing as a
prisoner's will when counsel supplies him with a defence.

"And, when you took her at her word, like a Christian woman she
turned the other cheek?"

"She did, sir, and no harm meant; but just doing it gay, as a man
will."

"But when you explained this, she wouldn't take no for an answer?"

"She would not, sir.  She seemed not to understand.  Then I looked at
her bonnet and, a thought striking me, I tried `nay' instead.
But that didn't work no better than the other.  If you could hide me
for tonight, Sir John--"

"You had best sleep on the _Gauntlet_ to-night," said my father.
"If the woman calls, I will have a talk with her.  What is her name,
by the way?"

"Martha."

"But I mean her full name."

"I didn't get so far as to inquire, Sir John.  But the point is, she
knows mine."



CHAPTER X.


OF THE DISCOURSE HELD ON BOARD THE "GAUNTLET."


     "The Pilot assured us that, considering the Gentleness of the
      Winds and their pleasant Contentions, as also the Clearness of
      the Atmosphere and the Calm of the Current, we stood neither in
      Hope of much Good nor in Fear of much Harm . . . and advised us
      to let the Ship drive, nor busy ourselves with anything but
      making good Cheer."
         --_The Fifth Book of the Good Pantagruel_.

It appeared that, unknown to me, my father had already made his
arrangements with Captain Pomery, and we were to sail with the
morning's tide.  During supper--which Billy Priske had no sooner laid
than he withdrew to collect his kit and carry it down to the ship,
taking old Worthyvale for company--our good Vicar arrived, as well to
bid us good-bye as in some curiosity to learn what recruits we had
picked up in Falmouth.  I think the sight of them impressed him; but
at the tale of our day's adventures, and especially when he heard of
our championing the Methodists, his hands went up in horror.

"The Methodists!"  For two years past the Vicar had occupied a part
of his leisure in writing a pamphlet against them: and by "leisure" I
mean all such days as were either too inclement for fishing, or
thunderous so that the trout would not rise.

"My dear friend, while you have been sharpening the sword of Saint
Athanasius against 'em, the rabble has been beforehand with you and
given 'em bloody noses.  The blood of the martyrs is the seed of
heresy--if you call the Wesleyans heretics--as well as of the
Church."

The Vicar sighed.  "I have been slack of pace and feeble of will.
Yes, yes, I deserve the reproach."

My father laid a hand on his shoulder.  "Tut, tut!  Cannot you see
that I was not reproaching, but rather daring to commend you for an
exemplar?  There is a slackness which comes of weak will; but there
is another and a very noble slackness which proceeds from the two
strongest things on earth, confidence and charity; charity, which
naturally inclines to be long-suffering, and confidence which, having
assurance in its cause, dares to trust that natural inclination.
Dissent in the first generation is usually admirable and almost
always respectable: men don't leave the Church for fun, but because
they have thought and discovered, as they believe, something amiss in
her--something which in nine cases out of ten she would be the better
for considering.  But dissent in the second and third generation
usually rests on bad temper, which is not admirable at all, though
often excusable because the Church's persecution has produced it.
Believe me, my dear Vicar, that if all the bishops followed your
example and slept on their wrath against heresy, they would wake up
and find nine-tenths of the heretics back in the fold.  Indeed I wish
your good lady would let you pack your nightcap and come with us.
You could hire a curate over from Falmouth."

"Could I write my pamphlet at sea?"

"No: but, better still, by the time you returned the necessity for it
would be over."

The Vicar smiled.  "_You_ counsel lethargy?--you, who in an hour or
two start for Corsica, and with no more to-do than if bound on a
picnic!"

"Ay, but for love," answered my father.  "In love no man can be too
prompt."

"I believe you, sir," hiccuped Mr. Fett, who had been drinking more
than was good for him.  "And so, begad, does your man Priske.
Did any one mark, just now, how like a shooting star he glided in the
night from Venus' eye?  Love, sir?" he turned to me.  "The tender
passion?  Is that our little game?  Is _that_ the face that launched
a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium?  O Troy!
O Helen!  You'll permit me to add, with a glance at our friend
Priske's predicament, O Dido!  At five shillings _per diem_ I realize
the twin ambitions of a life-time and combine the supercargo with the
buck.  Well, well! _cherchez la femme!_"

"You pronounce it 'share-shay?'" inquired Mr. Badcock.  "Now I have
seen it spelt the same as in 'church.'"

"The same as in ch--?"  Mr. Fett fixed him with a glassy but
reproachful eye.  "Badcock, you are premature, premature and
indelicate."

Here my father interposed and, heading the talk back to the
Methodists, soon had the Vicar and the little pawnbroker in full
cry--parson and clerk antiphonal, "matched in mouth like bells"--on
church discipline; which gave him opportunity, while Nat and I at our
end of the table exchanged the converse and silences of friendship,
to confer with my Uncle Gervase and run over a score of parting
instructions on the management of the estate, the ordering of the
household, and, in particular, the entertainment of our Trappist
guests.  Perceiving with the corner of his eye that we two were
restless to leave the table, he pushed the bottle towards us.

"My lads," said he, "when the drinking tires let the talk no longer
detain you."

We thanked him, and with a glance at Mr. Fett--who had fallen asleep
with his head on his arms--stepped out upon the moonlit terrace.
I waited for Nat to speak and give me a chance to have it out with
him, if he doubted (as he must, methought) my father's sanity.
But he gazed over the park at our feet, the rolling shadows of the
woodland, the far estuary where one moonray trembled, and stretching
out both hands drew the spiced night-air into his lungs with a sob.

"O Prosper!"

"You are wondering where to find your room?" said I, as he turned and
glanced up at the grey glimmering facade.  "The simplest way is to
pick up the first lantern you see in the hall, light it, walk
upstairs, enter what room you choose and take possession of its bed.
You have five hours to sleep, if you need sleep.  Or shall I guide
you?"

"No," said he; "the first is the only way in this enchanted house.
But I was thinking that by rights, while we are standing here, those
windows should blaze with lights and break forth with the noise of
dancing and minstrelsy.  To such a castle, high against such a velvet
night as this, would Sir Lancelot come, or Sir Gawain, or Sir
Perceval, at the close of a hard day."

"Wait for the dawn, lad, and you will find it rather the castle
overgrown with briers."

"And, in the heart of them, the Rose!"

"You will find no Sleeping Beauty, though you hunt through all its
rooms.  She lies yonder, Nat, somewhere out beyond the sea there."

"In a few hours we sail to her.  O Prosper, and we will find her!
This is better than any dream, lad: and this is life!"

He gazed into my eyes for a moment in the moonlight, turned on his
heel, and strode away from me toward the great door, which--like
every door in the house--stood wide all the summer night.  I was
staring at the shadow of the porch into which he had disappeared,
when my father touched my elbow.

"There goes a good lad," said he, quietly.

"And my best friend."

"He has sobered down strangely from the urchin I remember on
Winchester meads; and in the sobering he has grown exalted.
A man might almost say," mused my father, "that the imp in him had
shed itself off and taken flesh in that Master Fett I left snoring
with his head on my dining-table.  An earthy spirit, that Master
Fett; earthy and yet somewhat inhuman.  Your Nat Fiennes has the clue
of life--if only Atropos do not slit it."

Here the Vicar came out to take his leave, winding about his neck and
throat the comforter he always wore as a protective against the
night-air.  It appeared later that he was nettled by Mr. Badcock's
collapsing beneath the table just as they had reached No. XX. of the
Thirty-nine Articles and passed it through committee by consent.

"God bless you, lad!" said he, and shook my hand.  "In seeking your
kingdom you start some way ahead of Saul the son of Kish.  You have
already discovered your father's asses."

He trudged away across the dewy park and was soon lost in the
darkness.  In the dim haze under the moon, having packed Mr. Badcock
and Mr. Fett in a hand-cart, we trundled them down to the shore and
lifted them aboard.  They resisted not, nor stirred.

By three o'clock our dispositions were made and Captain Pomery
professed himself ready to cast off.  I returned to the house for the
last time, to awake and fetch Nat Fiennes.  As I crossed the wet
sward the day broke and a lark sprang from the bracken and soared
above me singing.  But I went hanging my head, heavy with lack of
sleep.

I tried five rooms and found them empty.  In the sixth Nat lay
stretched upon a tattered silk coverlet.  He sprang up at my touch
and felt for his sword.

"Past three o'clock and fine clear mornin'!" sang I, mimicking the
Oxford watch, and with my foot the tap of his staff as he had used to
pass along Holy well.

     "Hey! now the day dawis,
      The jolly cock crawis--"

"The wind will head us in the upper reach: but beyond it blows fair
for Corsica!"

He leapt to his feet and laughed, blithe as the larks now chorussing
outside the window.  But my head was heavy, and somehow my heart too,
as we walked down to the shore.

My Uncle Gervase stood on the grass-grown quay; my father on the
deck.  They had already said their goodbyes.  With his right hand my
uncle took mine, at the same time laying his left on my shoulder; and
said he--

"Farewell, lad.  The rivers in Corsica be short and eager, as I hear;
and slight fishing in them near the coast, the banks being overgrown.
But it seems there are good trout, and in the mountain pools.

"Whether they be the same as our British trout I cannot discover.
I desire you to make certain.  Also if the sardines of those parts be
the same as our Cornish pilchards, but smaller.  Belike they start
from the Mediterranean Sea and reach their full size on our coasts.

"The migrations of fishes are even less understood than those of the
birds.  Yet both (being annual) will teach you, if you consider them,
to think little of this parting.  God knows, lad, how sorely I spare
you.

"Do justice, observe mercy, and walk humbly before thy God.  This if
they should happen to make you king, as your father promises.

"They have an animal very like a sheep, but wilder and fiercer.
If you have the luck to shoot one, I shall be glad of his skin.

"'Twill be a job here, making two ends meet.  But as our Lord said,
Sufficient for the day is its evil.  I have put a bottle of tar-water
in your berth.

"I have often wished to set eyes on the Mediterranean Sea.
A sea without tides must be but half a sea--speaking with all respect
to the Almighty, who made it.

"You will pick up the wind in the lower reach.

"There was a trick or two of fence I taught you aforetime.
I had meant to remind you of 'em.  But enough, lad.  Shake hands.
 . . . The Lord have you in His keeping!"

Good man!  For a long while after we had thrust off from the quay,
the two seamen in the cock-boat towing us, he stood there and waved
farewells; but turned before we reached the river bend, and went his
way up through the woods--since in Cornwall it is held unlucky to
watch departing friends clean out of sight.

Almost at once I went below in search of my hammock, and there slept
ten solid hours by the clock; a feat of which I never witted until,
coming upon deck, I rubbed my eyes to find no sight of land, but the
sea all around us, and Captain Pomery at the helm, with the sun but a
little above his right shoulder.  The sky, but for a few fleeced
clouds, was clear; a brisk north-westerly breeze blew steady on our
starboard quarter, and before it the ketch ran with a fine hiss of
water about her bluff bows.  My father and Nat were stretched with a
board between them on the deck by the foot of the mizzen, deep in a
game of chequers: and without disturbing them I stepped amidships
where Mr. Fett lay prone on his belly, his chin propped on both
hands, in discourse with Billy and Mr. Badcock, who reclined with
their backs against the starboard bulwark.

"Tut, man!" said Mr. Fett, cheerfully, addressing Billy.  "You have
taken the right classical way with her: think of Theseus and Ariadne,
Phaon and Sappho. . . . We are back in the world's first best age;
when a man, if he wanted a woman to wife, sailed in a ship and
abducted her, as did the Tyrian sea-captain with Io daughter of
Inachus, Jason with Medea, Paris with Helen of Greece; and again,
when he tired of her, left her on an island and sailed away.
There was Sappho, now; she ran and cast herself off a rock.
And Medea, she murdered her children in revenge.  But we are over
hasty, to talk of children."

Billy groaned aloud, "I meant no harm to the woman."

"Nor did these heroes.  As I was saying, on board this ship I find
myself back in the world's dawn, ready for any marvels, but
responsible (there's the beauty of it) only to my ledger.
As supercargo I sit careless as a god on Olympus.  My pen is trimmed,
my ink-pot filled, and my ledger ruled and prepared for miracles.
_Item_, a Golden Fleece.  _Item_, A king's runaway daughter, slightly
damaged:

     "Whatever befel the good ship _Argo_
      It didn't affect the supercargo,"

who whistled and sat composing blank verse, having discovered that
Jason rhymed most unheroically with bason:

     "Neglecting the daughter of Aeson
      Sat Jason, a bason his knees on--"

"You don't help a man much, sir, so far as I understand you,"
grumbled Billy, with a nervous glance around the horizon.

"Well, then I'll prescribe you another way.  Nobody believes me when
I tell the following story: but 'tis true nevertheless.  So listen--


MR. FETT'S STORY OF THE INTERRUPTED BETROTHAL.


"To the south of the famous city of Oxford, between it and the town
of Abingdon, lies a neat covert called Bagley Wood: in the which, on
a Sunday evening a bare two months ago, I chose to wander with my
stage copy of Mr. Otway's _Orphan_--a silly null play, sirs, if not
altogether the nonsense for which Abingdon, two nights later,
condemned it.  While I wandered amid the undergrowth, conning my
part, my attention was arrested by a female voice on the summer
breeze, most pitiably entreating for help.  I closed my book and bent
my steps in the direction of the outcries.  Judge of my amazement
when, parting the bushes in a secluded glade, I came upon a
distressed but not uncomely maiden, buried up to her neck in earth
beneath the spreading boughs of a beech.  To exhume and release her
cost me, unprovided as I was with any tool for the purpose, no little
labour.  At length, however, I disengaged her and was rewarded with
her story; which ran, that a faithless swain, having decoyed her into
the recesses of the wood, had pushed her into a pit prepared by him;
and that but for the double accident of having miscalculated her
inches and being startled by my recitations of Otway into a terror
that the whole countryside was after him with hue and cry, he had
undoubtedly consummated his fell design.  After cautioning her to be
more careful in future I parted from the damsel (who to the last
protested her gratitude) and walked homeward to my lodgings, on the
way reflecting how frail a thing is woman when matched against man
the libertine."

Billy Priske's eyes had grown round in his head.  Mr. Badcock, after
sitting in thought for a full minute, observed that the incident was
peculiar in many respects.

"Is that the end of the yarn?" I asked.

"I never met the lady again," confessed Mr. Fett.  "As for the
story," he added with a sigh, "I am accustomed to have it
disbelieved.  Yet let me tell you this.  On my return I related it to
the company, who received it with various degrees of incredulity--all
but a youthful stroller who had joined us at Banbury and earned
promotion, on the strength of his looks, from 'walking gentleman' to
what is known in the profession as 'first lover.'  On the strength of
this, again, he had somewhat hastily aspired to the hand of our
leading tragedy lady--a mature person, who knew her own mind.
My narrative seemed to dispel the atmosphere of gloom which had hung
about him for some days; and the next morning, having promised to
accompany his betrothed on a stroll up the river bank, he left the
inn with a light, almost jaunty, tread.  From the balcony I watched
them out of sight.  By-and-by, however, I spied a figure returning
alone by the towpath; and, concealing myself, heard young Romeo in
the courtyard carelessly demanding of the ostler the loan of a spade.
From behind my curtain I watched him as again he made his way up the
shore with the implement tucked under his arm.  I waited in a
terrible suspense.  Each minute seemed an hour.  A thunderstorm
happening to break over the river at this juncture (as such things
do), the scene lacked no appropriate accessory.  At length, between
two flashes of lightning, I perceived in the distance my two turtles
returning, and gave voice to my relief.  They were walking side by
side, but no longer arm-in-arm.  Young Romeo hung his head
dejectedly: and on a closer view the lady's garments not only dripped
with the storm but showed traces of earth to the waist.  The rest
they kept to themselves.  I say no more, save that after the
evening's performance (of 'All for Love') young Romeo came to me and
announced that his betrothal was at an end.  They had discovered (as
he put it) some incompatibility of temper."

My father and Nat Fiennes had finished their game and come forward in
time to hear the conclusion of this amazing narrative.  Billy Priske
stared at his master in bewilderment.

"A spade!" growled Billy, mopping his brow and letting his gaze
travel around the horizon again before settling, in dull wrath, on
Mr. Fett.  "What's the use, sir, of makin' a man feel like a villain
and putting thoughts into his head without means to fulfil 'em?"

"Sit you quiet," said my father, "while I try to drive Mr. Fett's
story out of your head with an honester one."

"About a spade, master?"

"There is a spade in the story."


MY FATHER'S STORY OF THE SHIPWRECKED LOVERS.


"In the year 1416 a certain Portuguese sea-captain, Gonsalvez Zarco
by name, and servant of the famous Henry of Portugal, was cruising
homeward in a leaky caravel from a baffled voyage in search of the
Fortunate Islands.  He had run into a fog off Cape Blanco in Africa,
and had been pushing through it for two days when the weather lifted
and the look-out spied a boat, empty but for one man, drifting a mile
and more to leeward.  Zarco ran down for the boat, and the man, being
brought aboard, was found to be an escaped Moorish prisoner on his
way back to Spain.  He gave his name as Morales, and said that he had
sometime been a pilot of Seville, but being captured by the Moors off
Algeciras, had spent close on twenty years in servitude to them.
In the end he and six other Christians had escaped in a boat of their
own making, but with few victuals.  When these were consumed his
companions had perished one by one, horribly, and he had been sailing
without hope, not caring whither, for a day and a night before his
rescue came.

"Now this much he told them painfully, being faint with fasting and
light-headed: but afterwards falling into a delirium, he let slip
certain words that caused Captain Zarco to bestow him in a cabin
apart and keep watch over him until the ship reached Lagos, whence he
conveyed him secretly and by night to Prince Henry, who dwelt at that
time in an arsenal of his own building, on the headland of Sagres.
There Prince Henry questioned him, and the old man, taken by
surprise, told them a story both true and wonderful.

"In his captivity he had made friends with a fellow prisoner, an
Englishman named Prince or Prance (since dead, after no less than
thirty years of servitude), who had fallen among the Moors in the
manner following.  In his youth he had been a seaman, and one day in
the year 1370 he was standing idle on Bristol Quay when a young
squire accosted him and offered to hire him for a voyage to France,
naming a good wage and pressing no small share of it upon him as
earnest money.  The ship (he said, naming her) lay below at Avonmouth
and would sail that same night.  Prince knew the ship and her master,
and judged from the young squire's apparel and bearing that here was
one of those voluntary expeditions by which our young nobles made it
a fashion to seek fame at the expense of our enemies the French; a
venture dangerous indeed but carrying a hopeful chance of high
profits.  He agreed, therefore, and joined the ship a little after
nightfall.  Toward midnight arrived a boat with our young squire and
one companion, a lady of extreme beauty, who had no sooner climbed
the ship's side than the master cut the anchor-cable and stood out
for sea.

"The names of these pretty runaways were Robert Machin and Anne
d'Arfet, wife of a sour merchant of Bristol; and all their care was
to flee together and lose all the world for love.  But they never
reached France; for having run prosperously down Channel and across
from the Land's End until they sighted Ushant, they met a
north-easterly gale which blew them off the coast; a gale so blind
and terrible and persistent that for twelve days they ran before it,
in peril of death.  On the thirteenth day they sighted an island,
where, having found (as they thought) good anchorage, they brought
the ship to, and rowed the lady ashore through the surf.
Between suffering and terror she was already close upon death.

"Now this man Prince said that 'though the seamen laid their peril at
her door, holding the monstrous storm to be a judgment direct from
Heaven upon her sin, yet not one of them, considering her childish
beauty, had the heart to throw her an ill word or so much as an
accusing look: but having borne her ashore they built a tabernacle of
boughs and roofed it with a spare sail for her and for her lover, who
watched beside her till she died.

"On the morning of her death the seamen, who slept on the beach at a
little distance, were awakened by a terrible cry: whereat, gazing
seaward--as a seaman's first impulse is--they missed all sight of
their ship.  Either the gale, reviving, had parted her moorings and
blown her out to sea, or else the two or three left on board her
treacherously slipped her cable.  At all events, no more was ever
heard of her.

"The seamen supposed then that Master Machin had called out for the
loss of the ship.  But coming to him they found him staring at the
poor corpse of his lady; and when they pointed to sea he appeared to
mark not their meaning.  Only he said many times, 'Is she gone?
Is she gone?'  Whether he spoke of the ship or of the lady they could
not tell.  Thereafter he said nothing, but turned his face away from
all offers of food, and on the fifth day the seaman buried him beside
his mistress and set up a wooden cross at their heads.

"After this (said Prince), finding no trace of habitation on the
island, and being convinced that no ship ever passed within sight of
it, the seamen caught and killed four of the sheep which ran wild
upon the cliffs, and with the flesh of them provisioned the boat in
which they had come ashore, and took their leave.  For eleven days
they steered as nearly due east as they could--that being the quarter
in which they supposed the mainland to lie, until a gale overtook
them, and, drowning the rest, cast four of them alive on the coast
near Mogador, where the Moors fell on them and sold them into
slavery, to masters living wide apart.  Yet, and howsoever the others
perished, in the mouth of this one man the story lived and came after
many days to ears that understood it.

"For Prince Henry, hearing the pilot's tale, believed verily that
this must be the island for which his sea-captains had been
searching, and in 1420 sent Zarco forth again to seek it, with the
old man on board.  They reached Porto Santo, where they heard of a
dark line visible in all clear weather on the southern horizon, and
sailing for it through the fogs, came to a marshy cape, and beyond
this cape to high wooded land which Morales recognized at once from
his fellow-prisoner's description.  Yes, and bringing them to shore
he led them, unerring, to the wooden cross above the beach; and
there, over the grave of these lovers, Zarco took seizin of the
island in the name of King John of Portugal, Prince Henry, and the
Order of Christ.

"From this," my father concluded, "we may learn, first, that human
passion, of all things the most transient, may be stronger and more
enduring than death; of all things the unruliest and most deserving
to be chastened, it may rise naked from the scourge to claim the
homage of all men; nay, that this mire in which the multitude wallows
may on an instant lift up a brow of snow and challenge the Divinity
Himself, saying, 'We are of one essence, Shall not I too work
miracles?'  Secondly--"

"Your pardon, master," put in Billy, "but in all the fine speeches
about Love and War and suchlike that I've heard you read out of books
afore now, I could never make out what use they be to common fellows
like myself.  Say 'tis a battle: you start us off with a shout, which
again starts off our betters a-knocking together other folks' heads
and their own: but afterwards, when I'm waiting and wondering what
became of Billy Priske, all the upshot is that some thousand were
slaughtered and maybe enough to set some river running with blood.
Likewise with these seamen, that never ran off with their neighbours'
wives, but behaved pretty creditable under the circumstances, which
didn't prevent their being spilt out of boats and eaten by fishes or
cast ashore and barbecued by heathen Turks--a pretty thing this Love
did for them, I say.  And so to come to my own case, which is where
this talk started, I desire with all respect, master, that you will
first ease my mind of this question--be I in love, or bain't I?"

"Surely, man, _you_ must know that?"

Billy shook his head.  "I've what you might call a feeling t'wards
the woman: and yet not rightly what you might call a feeling, nor yet
azactly, as you might say, t'wards her.  And it can't be so strong as
I reckoned, for when she spoke the word 'marriage' you might ha'
knocked me down with a straw."

"Eh?" put in Mr. Fett, "was she the first to mention it?"

"Me bein' a trifle absent-minded, maybe, on that point," explained
Billy.  His gaze happening to wander to the wheel, encountered
Captain Jo Pomery's; and Captain Jo, who had been listening, nodded
encouragement.

"Speakin' as a seafarin' man and the husband o' three at one time and
another," said he, "they always do so."

"My Artemisia," said Mr. Badcock, "was no exception; though a
powerful woman and well able to look after herself."

"'Tis their privilege," agreed Captain Pomery.  "You must allow 'em a
few."

"But contrariwise," Billy resumed, "it must be stronger than I
reckoned, for here I be safe, as you may say, and here I should be
grateful; whereas I bain't, and, what's more, my appetite's failin'.
Be you goin' to give me something for it?" he asked, as Mr. Badcock
dived a hand suddenly into a tail pocket and drew forth what at first
appeared to be the neck of a bottle, but to closer view revealed
itself as the upper half of a flute.  A second dive produced the
remainder.

"Good Lord! Badcock has another accomplishment!" ejaculated Mr. Fett.

"The gift of music," said Mr. Badcock, screwing the two portions of
the instrument together, "is born in some.  The great Batch--John
Sebastian Batch, gentlemen--as I am credibly informed, composed a
fugue in his bed at the tender age of four."

"He was old enough to have given his nurse warning," said Mr. Fett.

"With me," pursued Mr. Badcock, modestly, "it has been the result of
later and (I will not conceal the truth, sirs) more assiduous
cultivation.  This instrument"--he tapped it affectionately--"came to
me in the ordinary way of trade and lay unredeemed in my shop for no
less than eight years; nor when exposed for sale could it tempt a
purchaser.  'You must do something with it,' said my Artemisia--an
excellent housewife, gentlemen, who wasted nothing if she could help
it.  I remember her giving me the same advice about an astrolabe, and
again about a sun-dial corrected for the meridian of Bury St.
Edmunds.  'My dear,' I answered, 'there is but one thing to be done
with a flute, and that is to learn it.'  In this way I discovered
what I will go no further than to describe as my Bent."

Mr. Badcock put the flute to his lips and blew into it.  A tune
resulted.

"But," persisted Billy Priske, after a dozen bars or so, "the latest
thing to be mentioned was my appetite: and 'tis wonderful to me how
you gentlemen are letting the conversation stray, this afternoon."

"The worst of a flute," said Mr. Badcock, withdrawing it from his
lips with obvious reluctance, "and the objection commonly urged by
its detractors, is that a man cannot blow upon it and sing at the
same time."

"I don't say," said Billy, seriously, "as that mayn't be a reas'nable
objection; only it didn't happen to be mine."

"You have heard the tune," said Mr. Badcock.  "Now for the words--

     "I attempt from love's sickness to fly, in vain,
      Since I am myself my own fever and pain."

"Bravo!" my father cried.  "Mr. Badcock has hit it.  You are in love,
Billy, and beyond a doubt."

"Be I?" said Billy, scratching his head.  "Well, as the saying is,
many an ass has entered Jerusalem."



CHAPTER XI.


WE FALL IN WITH A SALLEE ROVER.


     "We laid them aboard the larboard side--
        With hey! with ho! for and a nonny no!
      And we threw them into the sea so wide,
        And alongst the Coast of Barbary."
                            _The Sailor's Onely Delight_.

My father, checked in the midst, or rather at the outset, of a
panegyric upon love, could not rest until he had found an ear into
which to deliver it; but that same evening, after the moon had risen,
drew Nat aside on the poop, and discharged the whole harangue upon
him; the result being that the dear lad, who already fancied himself
another Rudel in quest of the Lady of Tripoli, spent the next two
days in composing these verses, the only ones (to my knowledge) ever
finished by him:


    NAT FIENNES' SONG TO THE UNDISCOVERED LADY.

        "Thou, thou, that art
      My port, my refuge, and my goal,
         I have no chart,
         No compass but a heart
      Trembling t'ward thee and to no other pole.

        "My star!  Adrift
      On seas that well-nigh overwhelm,
         Still when they lift
         I strain toward the rift,
      And steer, and hold my courage to the helm.

        "With ivory comb,
      Daylong thou dalliest dreaming where
         The rainbow foam
         Enisles thy murmuring home:
      Home too for me, though I behold it ne'er!

        "Yet when the bird
      Is tired, and each little wave,
         Aloft is heard
         A call, reminds thee gird
      Thy robe and climb to where the summits rave:

        "Yea, to the white
      Lone sea-mark shaken on the verge--
        'What of the night?'
         Ah, climb--ah, lift the light!
      Ah, lamp thy lover labouring in the surge!

        "Fray'd rope, burst sail,
      Drench'd wing, as moth toward the spark--
         I fetch, I fail,
         Glad only that the gale
      Breaks not my faith upon the brutal dark.

        "Be it frost or fire,
      Thy bosom, I believed it warm:
         I did aspire
         For that, and my desire--
      Burn thou or freeze--fought thro' and beat the storm.

        "Thou, thou, that art
      My sole salvation, fixed, afar,
         I have no chart,
         No compass but a heart
      Hungry for thee and for no other star."

"Humph!" said I, by way of criticism, when these verses were shown to
me.  "Where be the mackerel lines, Captain Jo?  There's too much
love-talk aboard this ship of yours."

"Mackerel?" said Captain Jo.  "Why, where's your bait?"

"You shall lend me an inch off your pipe-stem," said I, and, to tease
Nat, began to hum the senseless old song:

     "She has ta'en a siller wand
         An' gi'en strokes three,
      An' chang'd my sister Masery
         To a mack'rel of the sea.
      And every Saturday at noon
         The mack'rel comes to me,
      An' she takes my laily head
         An' lays it on her knee,
      An' kames it wi' a kame o' pearl,
         An' washes it i' the sea--"

"Mackerel?" said Captain Pomery.  "If ye found one fool enough to
take hold at the rate we're sailing, ye'd pull his head off."

"Why, then, he would be off his head," answered I: "and there are
plenty here to make him feel at home."

In truth I was nettled; jealous, as a lad in his first friendship is
quick to be.  Were not Nat and I of one age?  Then why should he be
leaving thoughts we might share, to think of woman?  I had chafed at
Oxford against his precocious entanglements.  Here on shipboard his
propensity was past a joke; with no goose in sight to mistake for a
swan, he must needs conjure up an imaginary princess for his
devotion.  What irritated most of all was his assuming, because I had
not arrived at his folly, the right to treat me as a child.

South and across the Bay of Biscay the weather gave us a halcyon
passage; the wind falling lighter and lighter until, within ten
leagues of Gibraltar, we ran into a flat calm, and Captain Pomery's
face began to show his vexation.

The vexation I could understand--for your seaman naturally hates calm
weather--but scarcely the degree of it in a man of temperament so
placid.  Hitherto he had taken delight in the strains of Mr.
Badcock's flute.  Suddenly, and almost pettishly, he laid an embargo
on that instrument, and moreover sent word down to the hold and
commanded old Worthyvale to desist from hammering on the ballast.
All noise, in fact, appeared to irritate him.

Mr. Badcock pocketed his flute in some dudgeon, and for occupation
fell to drinking with Mr. Fett; whose potations, if they did not
sensibly lighten the ship, heightened, at least, her semblance of
buoyancy with a deck-cargo of empty bottles.  My father put no
restraint upon these topers.

"Drink, gentlemen," said he; "drink by all means so long as it amuses
you.  I had far rather you exceeded than that I should appear
inhospitable."

"Magnifshent old man," Mr. Fett hiccuped to me confidentially,
"_an'_ magnifshent liquor.  As the song shays--I beg your pardon, the
shong says--able 'make a cat speak an' man dumb--

     "Like 'n old courtier of the queen's
       An' the queen's old courtier--"

Chorus, Mr. Bawcock, _if_ you please, an', by the way, won't mind my
calling you Bawcock, will you?  Good Shakespearean word, bawcock:
euphonious, too--

     "Accomplisht eke to flute it and to sing,
      Euphonious Bawcock bids the welkin ring."

"If," said Mr. Badcock, in an injured tone and with a dark glance aft
at Captain Pomery, "if a man don't _like_ my playing, he has only to
say so.  I don't press it on any one.  From all I ever heard, art is
a matter of taste.  But I don't understand a man's being suddenly
upset by a tune that, only yesterday, he couldn't hear often enough."

Out of the little logic I had picked up at Oxford I tried to explain
to him the process known as _sorites_; and suggested that Captain
Pomery, while tolerant of "I attempt from Love's sickness to fly" up
to the hundredth repetition, might conceivably show signs of tiring
at the hundred-and-first.  Yet in my heart I mistrusted my own
argument, and my wonder at the skipper's conduct increased when, the
next dawn finding us still becalmed, but with the added annoyance of
a fog that almost hid the bowsprit's end, his demeanour swung back to
joviality.  I taxed him with this, in my father's hearing.

"I make less account of fogs than most men," he answered.  "I can
smell land; which is a gift and born with me.  But this is no weather
to be caught in anywhere near the Sallee coast; and if we're to lose
the wind, let's have a good fog to hide us, I say."

He went on to assure us that the seas hereabouts were infested with
Moorish pirates, and to draw some dismal pictures of what might
happen if we fell in with a prowling Sallateen.

With all his fears he kept his reckoning admirably, and we
half-sailed, half-drifted through the Strait, and so near to the Rock
of Gibraltar that, passing within range of it at the hour of
reveilly, we heard the British bugles sounding to us like ghosts
through the fog.  Captain Pomery here was in two minds about
laying-to and waiting for a breeze; but a light slant of wind
encouraged him to carry the _Gauntlet_ through.  It bore us between
the invisible strait, and for a score of sea-miles beyond; then, as
casually as it had helped, it deserted us.

Day broke and discovered us with the Moorish coast low on our
starboard horizon.  To Mr. Fett and Mr. Badcock this meant nothing,
and my father might have left them to their ignorance had he not in
the course of the forenoon caught them engaged upon a silly piece of
mischief, which was, to scribble on small sheets of paper various
affecting narratives--as that the _Gauntlet_ was sinking, or
desperately attacked by pirates, in such and such a latitude and
longitude--insert them in empty bottles, and commit them to the
chances of the deep.  The object (as Mr. Fett explained it) being to
throw Billy Priske's sweetheart off the scent.  For two days past he
had been slyly working upon Billy's fears, and was relating to him
how, with two words, a Moorish lady had followed Gilbert a Becket
from Palestine to London, and found him there--when my father,
attracted by the smell of pitch, strolled forward and caught Mr.
Badcock in the act of sealing the bottles from a ladle which stood
heating over a lamp.  In the next five minutes the pair learnt that
my father could lose his temper, and the lesson visibly scared them.

"Your pardon, sir," twittered Mr. Fett.  "'Twas a foolish joke, I
confess."

"I may lend some point to it," answered my father grimly, "by telling
you what I had a mind to conceal, that you stand at this moment at no
far remove from one of the worst dangers you have playfully invented.
The wind has dropped again, as you perceive.  Along the coast yonder
live the worst pirates in the world, and with a glass we may all but
discern the dreadful barracks in which so many hundreds of our
fellow-Christians lie at this moment languishing.  Please God we are
only visible from the hill-country, and coast tribes may miss to
descry us!  For our goal lies north and east, and to fail of it would
break my heart.  But 'twere a high enterprise for England some day to
smoke out these robbers, and I know none to which a Christian man
could more worthily engage himself."

Mr. Badcock shivered.  "In our parish church," said he, "we used to
take up a collection for these poor prisoners every Septuagesima.
Many a sermon have I listened to and wondered at their sufferings,
yet idly, as no doubt Axminster folk would wonder at this plight of
mine, could they hear of it at this moment."

"My father, his wrath being yet recent, did not spare to paint our
peril of capture and the possible consequences in lively colours; but
observing that Nat and I had drawn near to listen, he put on a
cheerfuller tone.

"He will turn all this to the note of love, and within five minutes,"
I whispered to Nat, "or I'll forfeit five shillings."

My father could not have heard me; yet pat on the moment he rose to
the bet as a fish to a fly.

"Yet love," said he, "love, the star of our quest, has shone before
now into these dungeons, these dark ways of blood, these black and
cruel hearts, and divinely illuminated them; as a score of histories
bear witness, and among them one you shall hear."

THE STORY OF THE ROVER AND THE LORD PROVOST'S DAUGHTER.

"In Edinburgh, in the Canongate, there stands a tenement known as
Morocco Land, over the second floor of which leans forward, like a
figure-head, the wooden statue of a Moor, black and naked, with a
turban and a string of beads; and concerning this statue the
following tale is told.

"In the reign of King James or King Charles I.--I cannot remember
which--there happened a riot in Edinburgh.  Of its cause I am
uncertain, but in the progress of it the mob, headed by a young man
named Andrew Gray, set fire to the Lord Provost's house.  The riot
having been quelled, its ringleaders were seized and cast into the
Tol-booth, and among them this Andrew Gray, who in due course was
brought to judgment, and in spite of much private influence (for he
came of good family) condemned to die.  Before the day of execution,
however, his friends managed to spirit him out of prison, whence he
fled the country; and so escaped and in time was forgotten.

"Many years after, at a time when the plague was raging through
Edinburgh, a Barbary corsair sailed boldly up the Firth of Forth and
sent a message ashore to the Lord Provost, demanding twenty thousand
pounds ransom, and on a threat, if it were not paid within
twenty-four hours, to burn all the shipping in the firth and along
the quays.  He required, meanwhile, a score of hostages for payment,
and among them the Lord Provost's own son.

"The Lord Provost ran about like a man demented; since, to begin
with, audacious as the terms were, the plague had spared him scarcely
a hundred men capable of resistance.  Moreover, he had no son, but an
only daughter, and she was lying sick almost to death with the
distemper.  So he made answer, promising the ransom, but explaining
that he for his part could send no hostage.  To this the Sallee
captain replied politely--that he had some experience of the plague,
and possessed an elixir which (he made sure) would cure the maiden if
the Lord Provost would do him the honour to receive a visit; nay,
that if he failed to cure her, he would remit the city's ransom.

"You may guess with what delight the father consented.  The pirate
came ashore in state, and was made welcome.  The elixir was given;
the damsel recovered; and in due course she married her Paynim foe,
who now revealed himself as the escaped prisoner, Andrew Gray.
He had risen high in the service of the Emperor of Morocco, and had
fitted out his ship expressly to be revenged upon the city which had
once condemned him to death.  The story concludes that he settled
down, and lived the rest of his life as one of its most reputable
citizens."

"But what was the elixir?" inquired Mr. Badcock.

"T'cht!" answered my father testily.

"I agree with you, sir," said Mr. Fett.  "Mr. Badcock's question was
a foolish one.  Speaking, however, as a mere man of business, and
without thought of rounding off the story artistically, I am curious
to know how they settled the ransom?"

Captain Pomery had taken in all canvas, to be as little conspicuous
as possible; and all that day we lay becalmed under bare poles.
Not content with this, he ordered out the boat, and the two seamen
(Mike Halliday and Roger Wearne their names were) took turns with Nat
and me in towing the _Gauntlet_ off the coast.  It was back-breaking
work under a broiling sun, but before evening we had the satisfaction
to lose all sight of land.  Still we persevered and tugged until
close upon midnight, when the captain called us aboard, and we
tumbled asleep on deck, too weary even to seek our hammocks.

At daybreak next morning (Sunday) my father roused me.  A light wind
had sprung up from the shore, and with all canvas spread we were
slipping through the water gaily; yet not so gaily (doubted Captain
Pomery) as a lateen-sailed craft some four or five miles astern of
us--a craft which he announced to be a Moorish xebec.

The _Gauntlet_--a flattish-bottomed ship--footed it well before the
wind, but not to compare with the xebec, which indeed was little more
than a long open boat.  After an hour's chase she had plainly reduced
our lead by a mile or more.  Then for close upon an hour we seemed to
have the better of the wind, and more than held our own; whereat the
most of us openly rejoiced.  For reasons which he kept to himself
Captain Pomery did not share in our elation.

For sole armament (besides our muskets) the ketch carried, close
after of her fore-hatchway, a little obsolete 3-pounder gun, long
since superannuated out of the Falmouth packet service.  In the dim
past, when he had bid for her at a public auction, Captain Pomery may
have designed to use the gun as a chaser, or perhaps, even then, for
decoration only.  She served now--and had served for many a peaceful
passage--but as a peg for spare coils of rope, and her rickety
carriage as a supplement, now and then, for the bitts, which were
somewhat out of repair.  My father casting about, as the chase
progressed, to put us on better terms of defence, suggested unlashing
this gun and running her aft for a stern-chaser.

Captain Pomery shook his head.  "Where's the ammunition? We don't
carry a single round shot aboard, nor haven't for years.
Besides which, she'd burst to a certainty."

"There's time enough to make up a few tins of canister," argued my
father.  "Or stay--"  He smote his leg.

"Didn't I tell you old Worthyvale would turn out the usefullest man
on board?"

"What's the matter with Worthyvale?"

"While we've been talking, Worthyvale has been doing.  What has he
been doing?"  Why, breaking up the ballast, and, if I'm not mistaken,
into stones of the very size to load this gun."

"Give Badcock and me some share of credit," pleaded Mr. Fett.
"Speaking less as an expert than from an imagination quickened by
terror of all missiles, I suggest that a hundredweight or so of empty
bottles, nicely broken up, would lend a d--d disagreeable diversity
to the charge--"

"Not a bad idea at all," agreed my father.

"And a certain sting to our defiance; since I understand these
ruffians drink nothing stronger than water," Mr. Fett concluded.

We spent the next half-hour in dragging the gun aft, and fetching up
from the hold a dozen basket-loads of stone.  It required a personal
appeal from my father before old Worthyvale would part with so much
of his treasure.

During twenty minutes of this time, the xebec, having picked up with
the stronger breeze, had been shortening her distance (as Captain
Pomery put it) hand-over-fist.  But no sooner had we loaded the
little gun and trained her ready for use, than my father, pausing to
mop his brow, cried out that the Moor was losing her breeze again.
She perceptibly slackened way, and before long the water astern of
her ceased to be ruffled.  An oily calm spreading across the sea from
shoreward overhauled her by degrees, overtook, and held her, with
sails idle and sheets tautening and sagging as she rolled on the
heave of the swell.

Captain Pomery promptly checked our rejoicing, telling us this was
about the worst that could happen.  "We shall carry this wind for
another ten minutes at the most," he assured us.  "And these devils
have boats."

So it proved.  Within ten minutes our booms were swinging uselessly;
the sea spread calm for miles around us; and we saw no fewer than
three boats being lowered from the xebec, now about four miles away.

"There is nothing but to wait for 'em," said my father, seating
himself on deck with his musket across his knees.  "Mr. Badcock!"

"Sir?"

"To-day is Sunday."

"It is, sir.  Six days shalt thou labour and do all thou hast to do,
but on the Seventh day (if you'll excuse me) there's a different kind
of feeling in the air.  At home, sir, I have observed that even the
rooks count on it."

"You have a fine voice, Mr. Badcock, and have been, as I gather, an
attentive hearer of sermons."

"I may claim that merit, sir."

"If you can remember one sufficiently well to rehearse it to us, I
feel that it would do us all good."

Mr. Badcock coughed.  "Oh, sir," he protested, "I couldn't! I reelly
couldn't.  You'll excuse me, but I hold very strong opinions on
unlicensed preaching."  He hesitated; then suddenly his brow cleared.
"But I can read you one, sir.  _Reading_ one is altogether another
matter."

"You have a book of sermons on board?"

"Before starting, sir, happening to cast my eye over the book-case in
the bedroom . . . a volume of Dr. South's, sir, if you'll excuse my
liberty in borrowing it."

He ran and fetched the volume, while we disposed ourselves to listen.

"Where shall I begin, sir?"

"Wherever you please.  The book belongs to my brother Gervase.
For myself I have not even a bowing acquaintance with the good
Doctor."

"The first sermon, sir, is upon Human Perfection."

"It should have been the last, surely?"

"Not so, sir; for it starts with Adam in the Garden of Eden."

"Let us hear, then."

Mr. Badcock cleared his throat and read:

     "The image of God in man is that universal rectitude of all the
      faculties of the soul, by which they stand apt and disposed to
      their respective offices and operations."

"Hold a moment," interrupted my father, whose habit of commenting
aloud in church had often disconcerted Mr. Grylls.  "Are you quite
sure, Mr. Badcock, that we are not starting with the Doctor's
peroration?"

"This is the first page, sir."

"Then the Doctor himself began at the wrong end.  Prosper, will you
take a look astern and report me how many boats are coming?"

"Three, sir," said I.  "The third has just pushed off from the ship."

"Thank you.  Proceed, Mr. Badcock."

     "And first for its noblest faculty, the understanding.  It was
      then sublime, clear, and aspiring, and as it were the soul's
      upper region, lofty and serene, free from the vapours and
      disturbances of the inferior affections. . . . Like the sun it
      had both light and agility; it knew no rest but in motion; no
      quiet but in activity. . . . It did arbitrate upon the several
      reports of sense, and all the varieties of imagination; not
      like a drowsy judge, only hearing, but also directing their
      verdict.  In sum, it was vegete quick and lively; open as the
      day, untainted as the morning, full of the innocence and
      sprightliness of youth; it gave the soul a bright and a full
      view into all things."

"A fine piece of prose," remarked Mr. Fett as Mr. Badcock drew
breath.

"A fine fiddlestick, sir!" quoth my father.  "The man is talking
largely on matters of which he can know nothing; and in five minutes
(I bet you) he will come a cropper."

Mr. Badcock resumed--

     "For the understanding speculative there are some general maxims
      and notions in the mind of man, which are the rules of
      discourse and the basis of all philosophy."

"As, for instance, never to beg the question," snapped my father, who
from this point let scarce a sentence pass without pishing and
pshawing.

     "Now it was Adam's happiness in the state of innocence to have
     these clear and unsullied.  He came into the world a
     philosopher--"

("Instead of which he went and ate an apple.")

     "He could see consequents yet dormant in their principles, and
      effects yet unborn and in the womb of their causes."

("'Tis a pity, then, he took not the trouble to warn Eve.")

     "His understanding could almost pierce to future contingencies.
      . . ."

("Ay, 'almost.'  The fellow begins to scent mischief, and thinks to
set himself right with a saving clause.  Why 'almost'?" )

     "his conjectures improving even to prophecy, or to certainties
      of prediction.  Till his fall he was ignorant of nothing but
      sin; or, at least, it rested in the notion without the smart of
      the experiment."

My father stamped the butt of his musket upon deck.  "'Rested in the
notion,' did it?  Nothing of the sort, sir!  It rested in the apple,
which he was told not to eat; but, nevertheless, ate.  Born a
philosopher, was he?  And knew the effect of every cause without
knowing the difference between good and evil?  Why, man, 'twas
precisely against becoming a philosopher that the Almighty took pains
to warn him!"

Mr. Badcock hastily turned a page.

     "The image of God was no less resplendent in that which we call
      man's practical understanding--namely, that storehouse of the
      soul in which are treasured up the rules of action and the
      seeds of morality.  Now of this sort are these maxims: 'That
      God is to be worshipped,'  'That parents are to be honoured,'
     'That a man's word is to be kept.'  It was the privilege of Adam
      innocent to have these notions also firm and untainted--"

My father flung up both hands.  "Oh!  So Adam honoured his father and
his mother?"

"Belike," suggested Billy Priske, scratching his head, "Eve was
expecting, and he invented it to keep her spirits up."

"I assure you, sir," Mr. Badcock protested with dignity, "Dr. South
was the most admired preacher of his day.  Her late Majesty offered
him the Deanery of Westminster."

"I could have found a better preferment for him, then; that of Select
Preacher to the Marines."

"If you will have patience, sir--"

"Prosper, how near is the leading boat?"

"A good mile away, sir, as yet."

"Then I will have patience, Mr. Badcock."

"The Doctor, sir, proceeds to make some observations on Love, with
which you will find yourself able to agree.  Love, he says--

    "'is the great instrument and engine of Nature, the bond and
      cement of society; the spring and spirit of the universe. . . .
      Now this affection in the state of innocence was happily
      pitched upon its right object--'"

"'Happily,' did you say?  'Happily'?  Why, good heavens, sir! how
many women had Adam to go gallivanting after?  Enough, enough,
gentleman!  To your guns! and in the strength of a faith which must
be strong indeed, to have survived its expositors!"

By this time, through our glasses, we could discern the faces of the
pirates, who, crowded in the bows and stern-sheets of the two leading
boats, weighted them almost to the water's edge.  The third had
dropped, maybe half a mile behind in the race, but these two came on,
stroke for stroke, almost level--each measuring, at a guess, some
sixteen feet, and manned by eight rowers.  They bore down straight
for our stern, until within a hundred yards; then separated, with the
evident intention of boarding us upon either quarter.  At fifty yards
the musketeers in their bows opened fire, while my father whistled to
old Worthyvale, who, during Dr. South's sermon, had been bringing the
points of half a dozen handspikes to a red heat in the galley fire.
The two seamen, Nat and I, retorted with a volley, and Nat had the
satisfaction to drop the steersman of the boat making towards our
starboard quarter.  Unluckily, as it seemed--for this was the boat on
which my father was training our 3-pounder--this threw her into
momentary confusion at a range at which he would not risk firing, and
allowed her mate to run in first and close with us.  The confusion,
however, lasted but ten seconds at the most; a second steersman
stepped to the helm; and the boat came up with a rush and grated
alongside, less than half a minute behind her consort.

Now the _Gauntlet_, as the reader will remember, sailed in ballast,
and therefore carried herself pretty high in the water.  Moreover,
our enemies ran in and grappled us just forward of her quarter, where
she carried a movable panel in her bulwarks to give access to an
accommodation ladder.  While Nat, Captain Pomery, Mr. Fett, and the
two seamen ran to defend the other side, at a nod from my father I
thrust this panel open, leapt back, and Mr. Badcock aiding, ran the
little gun out, while my father depressed its muzzle over the boat.
In our excess of zeal we had nearly run her overboard; indeed, I
believe that overboard she would have gone had not my father applied
the red-hot iron in the nick of time.  The explosion that followed
not only flung us staggering to right and left, but lifted her on its
recoil clean out of her rickety carriage, and kicked her back and
half-way across the deck.

Recovering myself, I gripped my musket and ran to the bulwarks.
A heave of the swell had lifted the boat up to receive our discharge,
which must have burst point-blank upon her bottom boards; for I
leaned over in bare time to see her settling down in a swirl beneath
the feet of her crew, who, after vainly grabbing for hold at the
_Gauntlet's_ sides, flung themselves forward and were swimming one
and all in a sea already discoloured for some yards with blood.

My father called to me to fire.  I heard; but for the moment the
dusky upturned faces with their bared teeth fascinated me.
They looked up at me like faces of wild beasts, neither pleading nor
hating, and in response I merely stared.

A cry from the larboard bulwarks aroused me.  Three Moors, all naked
to the waist, had actually gained the deck.  A fourth, with a long
knife clenched between his teeth, stood steadying himself by the main
rigging in the act to leap; and in the act of turning I saw Captain
Pomery chop at his ankles with a cutlass and bring him down.  We made
a rush on the others.  One my father clubbed senseless with the butt
of his musket; another the two seamen turned and chased forward to
the bows, where he leapt overboard; the third, after hesitating an
instant, retreated, swung himself over the bulwarks, and dropped back
into the boat.

But a second cry from Mr. Fett warned us that more were coming.
Mr. Fett had caught up a sack of stones, and was staggering with it
to discharge it on our assailants when this fresh uprush brought him
to a check.

"That fellow has more head than I gave him credit for," panted my
father.  "The gun, lad!  Quick, the gun!"

We ran to where the gun lay, and lifted it between us, straining
under its weight; lurched with it to the side, heaved it up, and sent
it over into the second boat with a crash.  Prompt on the crash came
a yell, and we stared in each other's faces, giddy with our triumph,
as John Worthyvale came tottering out of the cook's galley with two
fresh red-hot handspikes.

The third boat had come to a halt, less than seventy yards away.
A score of bobbing heads were swimming for her, the nearer ones
offering a fair mark for musketry.  We held our fire, however, and
watched them.  The boat took in a dozen or so, and then, being
dangerously overcrowded, left the rest to their fate, and headed back
for the xebec.  The swimmers clearly hoped nothing from us.
They followed the boat, some of them for a long while.  Through our
glasses we saw them sink one by one.



CHAPTER XII.


HOW WE LANDED ON THE ISLAND.


     "Friend Sancho," said the Duke, "the isle I have promised you
      can neither stir nor fly.  And whether you return to it upon
      the flying horse, or trudge back to it in misfortune, a pilgrim
      from house to house and from inn to inn, you will always find
      your isle just where you left it, and your islanders with the
      same good will to welcome you as they ever had."--
                                             _Don Quixote_.

Night fell, and the xebec had made no further motion to attack: but
yet, as the calm held, Captain Pomery continued gloomy; nor did his
gloom lift at all when the enemy, as soon as it was thoroughly dark,
began to burn flares and torches.

"That will be a signal to the shore," said he.  "Though, please God,
they are too far for it to reach."

The illumination served us in one way.  While it lasted, no boat
could push out from the xebec without our perceiving it.  The fires
lasted until after eight bells, when the captain, believing that he
scented a breeze ahead, turned us out into the boat again, to tow the
ketch toward it.  For my part, I tugged and sweated, but scented no
breeze.  On the contrary, the night seemed intolerably close and
sultry, as though brooding a thunderstorm.  When the xebec's fires
died down, darkness settled on us like a cap.  The only light came
from the water, where our oars swirled it in pools of briming,[1] or
the tow-rope dropped for a moment and left for another moment a trail
of fire.

Neither Mr. Fett nor Mr. Badcock could pull an oar, and old
Worthyvale had not the strength for it.  The rest of us--all but the
captain, who steered and kept what watch he could astern--took the
rowing by hourly relays, pair and pair: Billy Priske and I, my father
and Mike Halliday, Nat and Roger Wearne.

It had come round again to Billy's turn and mine, and the hour was
that darkest one which promises the near daylight.  Captain Pomery,
foreboding that dawn would bring with it an instant need of a clear
head, and being by this time overweighted with drowsiness, had
stepped below for forty winks, leaving Wearne in charge of the helm.
My father and Nat had tumbled into their berths.  We had left Mr.
Badcock stationed and keeping watch on the larboard side, near the
waist; and now and then, as we tugged, I fancied I could see the dim
figures of Mr. Fett and Mike Halliday standing above us in converse
near the bows.

Of imminent danger--danger close at hand--I had no fear at all,
trusting that the still night would carry any sound of mischief, and,
moreover, that no boat could approach without being signalled, a
hundred yards off, by the briming in the water.  So intolerably hot
and breathless had the night become that I spoke to Billy to ease a
stroke while I pulled off my shirt.  I had drawn it over my head and
was slipping my arms clear of the sleeves, when I felt, or thought I
felt, a light waft of wind on my right cheek--the first breath of the
gathering thunderstorm--and turned up my face towards it.  At that
instant I heard a short warning cry from somewhere by the helm; not a
call of alarm, but just such a gasp as a man will utter when slapped
on the shoulder at unawares from behind; then a patter of naked feet
rushing aft; then a score of outcries blending into one wild yell as
the whole boatload of Moors leapt and swarmed over the starboard
bulwarks.

The tow-rope, tautening under the last stroke of our oars, had drawn
the boat back in its recoil, and she now drifted close under the
_Gauntlet's_ jibboom, which ran out upon a very short bowsprit.
I stood up, and reaching for a grip on the dolphin-striker, swung
myself on to the bobstay and thence to the cap of the bowsprit, where
I sat astride for a moment while Billy followed.  We were barefoot
both and naked to the waist.  Cautiously as a pair of cats, we worked
along the bowsprit to the foremast stay, at the foot of which the
foresail lay loose and ready for hoisting.  With a fold of this I
covered myself and peered along the pitch-dark deck.

No shot had been fired.  I could distinguish no sound of struggle, no
English voice in all the din.  The ship seemed to be full only of
yellings, rushings to-and-fro of feet, wild hammerings upon timber,
solid and hollow: and these pell-mell noises made the darkness, if
not darker, at least more terribly confusing.

The cries abated a little; the noise of hammering increased, and at
the same time grew persistent and regular, almost methodical.  I had
no sooner guessed the meaning of this--that the ruffians were
fastening down the hatches on their prisoners--than one of them, at
the far end of the ship, either fetched or found a lantern, lit it,
and stood it on the after-hatch.  Its rays glinted on the white teeth
and eyeballs and dusky shining skins of a whole ring of Moors
gathered around the hatchway and nailing all secure.

Now for the first time it came into my mind that these rovers spared
to kill while there remained a chance of taking their prisoners
alive; that their prey was ever the crew before the cargo; and that,
as for the captured vessel, they usually scuttled and sank her if she
drew too much water for their shallow harbours, or if (like the
_Gauntlet_) she lacked the speed for their trade.  The chances were,
then, that my father yet lived.  Yet how could I, naked and unarmed,
reach to him or help him?

A sound, almost plumb beneath me, recalled me to more selfish alarms.
The Moors, whether they came from the xebec or, as we agreed later,
more probably from shore, in answer to the xebec's signal-lights--
must have dropped down on us without stroke of oars.  It may be that
for the last half a mile or more they had wriggled their boat down to
the attack by means of an oar or sweep shipped in the stern notch: a
device which would avoid all noise and, if they came slowly, all
warning but the ripple of briming off the bows.  In any case they had
not failed to observe that the ketch was being towed; and now, having
discharged her boarding-party, their boat pushed forward to capture
ours, which lay beneath us bumping idly against the _Gauntlet's_
stem.  I heard some half a dozen of them start to jabber as they
found it empty.  I divined--I could not see--the astonishment in
their faces, as they stared up into the darkness.

Just then--perhaps in response to their cries--a comrade on deck ran
forward to the bows and leaned over to hail them, standing so close
to me that his shoulder brushed against the fold of the foresail
within which I cowered.  Like me he was bare to the waist, but around
his loins he wore a belt scaled with silver sequins, glimmering
against the ray of the lantern on the after-hatch, and maybe also in
the first weak light of the approaching dawn. . . .

A madness took me at the sight.  In a sudden rage I gripped the
forestay with my left hand, lowered my right, and, slipping my
fingers under his belt, lifted him--he was a light man--swung him
outboard and overboard, and dropped him into the sea.

I heard the splash; with an ugly thud, which told me that some part
of him had struck the boat's gunwale.  I waited--it seemed that I
waited many seconds--expecting the answering yell, or a shot perhaps.
Still gripping the forestay with my left hand, I bent forward, ready
to leap for deck.  But even as I bent, the bowsprit shook under me
like a whip, and the deck before me opened in a yellow sheet of fire.
The whole ship seemed to burst asunder and shut again, the flame of
the explosion went wavering up the rigging, and I found myself
hanging on to the forestay and dangling over emptiness.  While I
dangled I heard in the roaring echoes another splash, and knew that
Billy Priske had been thrown from his hold; a splash, and close upon
it a heavy grinding sound, a crash of burst planks, an outcry ending
in a wail as the lifting sea bore back the Moor's boat and our own
together upon the Gauntlet's stem and smashed them like egg-shells.

Then, as the ketch heaved and heaved again in the light of the flames
that ran up the tarry rigging, at one stride the dawn was on us; with
no flush of sunshine, but with a grey, steel-coloured ray that cut
the darkness like a sword.  I had managed to hoist myself again to
the bowsprit, and, straddling it, had time in one glance aft to take
in the scene of ruin.  Yet in that glance I saw it--the yawning hole,
the upheaved jagged deck-planks, the dark bodies hurled to right and
left into the scuppers--by three separate lights: by the yellow light
of the flames in the rigging, by the steel-grey light of dawn, and by
a sudden white-hot flush as the lightning ripped open the belly of
heaven and let loose the rain.  While I blinked in the glare, the
mizzen-mast crashed overside.  I cannot tell whether the lightning
struck and split it, or whether, already blasted by the explosion, it
had stood upright for those few seconds until a heave of the swell
snapped the charred stays and released it.  Nay, even the dead beat
of the rain may have helped.

In all my life I have never known such rain.  Its noise drowned the
thunderclap.  It fell in no drops or threads of drops, but in one
solid flood as from a burst bag.  It extinguished the blaze in the
rigging as easily as you would blow out a candle.  It beat me down
prone upon the bowsprit, and with such force that I felt my ribs
giving upon the timber.  It stunned me as a bather is stunned who,
swimming in a pool beneath a waterfall, ventures his head into the
actual cascade.  It flooded the deck so that two minutes later, when
I managed to lift my head, I saw the bodies of two Moors washed down
the starboard scuppers and clean through a gap in the broken
bulwarks, their brown legs lifting as they toppled and shot over the
edge.

No wind had preceded the storm.  The lightning had leapt out of a
still sky--still, that is, until jarred and set vibrating by the
explosion.  But now, as the downpour eased, the wind came on us with
a howl, catching the ship so fierce a cuff, as she rolled with
mainsail set and no way on her, that she careened until the sea ran
in through her lee scuppers, and, for all the loss of her
mizzen-mast, came close to being thrown on her beam ends.

While she righted herself--which she began to do but slowly--I leapt
for the deck and ran aft, avoiding the jagged splinters, in time to
catch sight of my father's head and shoulders emerging through the
burst hatchway.

"Hullo!" he sang out cheerfully, lifting his voice against the wind.
"God be praised, lad!  I was fearing we had lost you."

"But what has happened?" I shouted.

Before he could answer a voice hailed us over stern, and we hurried
aft to find Billy Priske dragging himself towards the ship by the
raffle of mizzen-rigging.  We hoisted him in over the quarter, and
he dropped upon deck in a sitting posture.

"Is my head on?" he asked, taking it in both hands.

"You are hurt, Billy?"

"Not's I know by," answered Billy, and stared about him.
"What's become o' the brown vermin?"

"They seem to have disappeared," said my father, likewise looking
about him.

"But what on earth has happened?" I persisted, catching him by the
shoulder and shouting in his ear above the roar of a second sudden
squall.

"I--blew up--the ship.  Captain wouldn't listen--academical fellows,
these skippers--like every one else brought up in a profession.
So I mutinied and blew--her--up.  He's wounded, by the way."

"Tell you what," yelled Billy, staggering up, "we'll be at the bottom
in two shakes if somebody don't handle her in these puffs.
Why, where's the wheel?"

"Gone," answered my father.  "Blown away, it appears."

"_And_ she don't right herself!"

"Ballast has shifted.  The gunpowder blew it every way.  Well,
well--poor old John Worthyvale won't mourn it.  I left him below past
praying for."

"Look here, Master Prosper," shouted Billy.  "If the ship won't steer
we must get that mains'l in, or we're lost men.  Run you and cast off
the peak halliards while I lower!  The Lord be praised, here's Mike,
too," he cried, as Mike Halliday appeared at the hatchway, nursing a
badly burnt arm.  "Glad to see ye, Mike, and wish I could say the
same to poor Roger.  The devils knifed poor Roger, I reckon."

"No, they did not," said my father, in a lull of the wind.
"They knocked him on the back of the head and slid his body down the
after-companion.  The noise of him bumping down the ladder was what
first fetched me awake.  He's a trifle dazed yet, but recovering."

"'Tis a short life he'll recover to, unless we stir ourselves."
Billy clutched my father's arm.  "Look 'ee, master!  See what they
heathens be doin'!"

"We have scared 'em," said my father.  "They are putting about."

"_Something_ has scared 'em, sure 'nough.  But if 'tis from us they
be in any such hurry to get away, why did they take in a reef before
putting the helm over?  No, no, master: they know the weather
hereabouts, and we don't.  We've been reckonin' this for a
thunderstorm--a short blow and soon over.  They know better, seemin'
to me.  Else why don't they tack alongside and finish us?"

"I believe you are right," said my father, after a long look to
windward.

"And I'm sure of it," insisted Billy.  "What's more, if we can't
right the ballast a bit and get steerage way on her afore the sea
works up, she'll go down under us inside the next two hours.
There's the pumps, too: for if she don't take in water like a basket
I was never born in Wendron parish an' taught blastin'.  Why, master,
you must ha' blown the very oakum out of her seams!"

My father frowned thoughtfully.  "That's true," said he; "I have been
congratulating myself too soon.  Billy, in the absence of Captain
Pomery I appoint you skipper.  You have an ugly job to face, but do
your best."

"Skipper, be I?  Then right you are!" answered Billy, with a cheerful
smile.  "An' the first order is for you and Master Prosper here to
tumble below an' heft ballast for your lives.  Be the two specimens
safe?"

"Eh?" It took my father a second, maybe, to fit this description to
Messrs. Badcock and Fett.  "Ah, to be sure!  Yes, I left them safe
and unhurt."

"What's no good never comes to harm," said Billy.  "Send 'em on deck,
then, and I'll put 'em on to the pumps."

We left Billy face to face with a job which indeed looked to be past
hope.  The wheel had gone, and with it the binnacle; and where these
had stood, from the stump of the broken mizzen-mast right aft to the
taffrail, there yawned a mighty hole fringed with splintered
deck-planking.  The explosion had gutted after-hold, after-cabin,
sail-locker, and laid all bare even to the stern-post.  `Twas a
marvel the stern itself had not been blown out: but as a set-off
against this mercy--and the most grievous of all, though as yet we
had not discovered it--we had lost our rudder-head, and the rudder
itself hung by a single pintle.

"Nevertheless," maintained my father, as we toiled together upon the
ballast, "I took the only course, and in like circumstances I would
venture it again.  The captain very properly thought first of his
ship: but I preferred to think that we were in a hurry."

"How did you contrive it?" I asked, pausing to ease my back, and
listening for a moment to the sound of hatchets on deck.
(They were cutting away the tangle of the mizzen rigging.)

"Very simply," said he.  "There must have been a dozen hammering on
the after-hatch, and I guessed they would have another dozen looking
on and offering advice: so I sent Halliday to fetch a keg of powder,
and poured about half of it on the top stair of the companion.
The rest Halliday took and heaped on a sea-chest raised on a couple
of tables close under the deck.  We ran up our trains on a couple of
planks laid aslant, and touched off at a signal.  There were two
explosions, but we timed them so prettily that I believe they went
off in one."

"They did," said I.

"My wits must have been pretty clear, then--at the moment.
Afterwards (I don't mind confessing to you) I lay for some minutes
where the explosion flung me.  In my hurry I had overdone the dose."

We had been shovelling for an hour and more.  Already the ship began
to labour heavily, and my father climbed to the deck to observe the
alteration in her trim.  He dropped back and picked up his shovel
again in a chastened silence.  In fact, deputy-captain Priske (who
had just accomplished the ticklish task of securing the rudder and
lashing a couple of ropes to its broken head for steering-gear) had
ordered him back to work, using language not unmixed with
objurgation.

For all our efforts the _Gauntlet_ still canted heavily to leeward,
and as the gale grew to its height the little canvas necessary to
heave-to came near to drowning us.  Towards midnight our plight grew
so desperate that Billy, consulting no one, determined to risk all--
the unknown dangers of the coast, his complete ignorance of
navigation, the risk of presenting her crazy stern timbers to the
following seas--and run for it.  At once we were called up from the
hold and set to relieve the half-dead workers at the pumps.

All that night we ran blindly, and all next day.  The gale had
southerned, and we no longer feared a lee-shore: but for forty-eight
hours we lived with the present knowledge that the next stern wave
might engulf us as its predecessor had just missed to do.  The waves,
too, in this inland sea, were not the great rollers--the great kindly
giants--of our Atlantic gales, but shorter and more vicious in
impact: and, under Heaven, our only hope against them hung by the two
ropes of Billy's jury steering-gear.

They served us nobly.  Towards sunset of the second day, although to
eye and ear the gale had not sensibly abated, and the sea ran by us
as tall as ever, we knew that the worst was over.  We could not have
explained our assurance.  It was a feeling--no more--but one which
any man will recognize who has outlived a like time of peril on the
sea.  We did not hope again, for we were past the effort to hope.
Numb, drenched, our very skins bleached like a washerwoman's hands,
our eyes caked with brine, our limbs so broken with weariness of the
eternal pumping that when our shift was done, where we fell there we
lay, and had to be kicked aside--we had scarcely the spirit to choose
between life and death.  Yet all the while we had been fighting for
life like madmen.

Towards the close of the day, too, Roger Wearne had made shift to
crawl on deck and bear a hand.  Captain Pomery lay in the huddle of
the forecastle, no man tending him: and old Worthyvale awaited
burial, stretched in the hold upon the ballast.

At whiles, as my fingers cramped themselves around the handle of the
pump, it seemed as though we had been fighting this fight, tholing
this misery, gripping the verge of this precipice for years upon
years, and this nightmare sat heaviest upon me when the third morning
broke and I turned in the sudden blessed sunshine--but we blessed it
not--and saw what age the struggle had written on my father's face.
I passed a hand over my eyes, and at that moment Mr. Fett, who had
been snatching an hour's sleep below--and no man better deserved it--
thrust his head up through the broken hatchway, carolling--

     "To all you ladies now at land
        We men at sea indite,
      But first would have you understand
        How hard it is to write:
      Our paper, pen, and ink and we
      Roll up and down our ships at sea,
        With a fa-_la_-LA!"

"Catch him!" cried my father, sharply; but he meant not Mr. Fett.
His eyes were on Billy Priske, who, perched on the temporary
platform, where almost without relief he had sat and steered us,
shouting his orders without sign of fatigue, sank forward with the
rudder ropes dragging through, his hands, and dropped into the hold.

For me, I cast myself down on deck with face upturned to the sun, and
slept.


I woke to find my father seated close to me, cross-legged, examining
a sextant.

"The plague of it is," he grumbled, "that even supposing myself to
have mastered this diabolical instrument, we have ne'er a compass on
board."

Glancing aft I saw that Mike Halliday had taken Billy's place at the
helm.  At my elbow lay Nat, still sleeping.  Mr. Badcock had crawled
to the bulwarks, and leaned there in uncontrollable sea-sickness.
Until the gale was done I believe he had not felt a qualm.  Now, on
the top of his nausea, he had to endure the raillery of Mr. Fett,
whose active fancy had already invented a grotesque and wholly
untruthful accusation against his friend--namely, that when assailed
by the Moors, and in the act of being kicked below, he had dropped on
his knees and offered to turn Mohammedan.

That evening we committed old Worthyvale's body to the sea, and my
father, having taken his first observation at noon, carefully entered
the latitude and longitude in his pocket-book.  On consulting the
chart we found the alleged bearings somewhere south of Asia-Minor--to
be exact, off the coast of Pamphylia.  My father therefore added the
word "approximately" to his entry, and waited for Captain Pomery to
recover.

Though the sea went down even more quickly than it had arisen, the
pumps kept us fairly busy.  All that night, under a clear and starry
sky, we steered for the north-east with the wind brisk upon our
starboard quarter.

     "I have no chart,
      No compass but a heart,"

quoted I in mischief to Nat.  But Nat, having passed through a real
gale, had saved not sufficient fondness for his verse to blush, for
it.  We should have been mournful for old Worthyvale, but that night
we knew only that it was good, being young, to have escaped death.
Under the stars we made bad jokes on Mr. Badcock's sea-sickness, and
sang in chorus to Mr. Fett's solos--

        "With a fa-la, fa-la, fa-la-la!
      To all you ladies now at land . . ."

Next morning Captain Pomery (whose hurt was a pretty severe
concussion of the skull, the explosion having flung him into the
panelling of the ship's cabin, and against the knee of a beam)
returned to duty, and professed himself able, with help, to take a
reckoning.  He relieved us of another anxiety by producing a
pocket-compass from his fob.

My father held the sextant for him, while Nat, under instructions,
worked out the sum.  With a compass, upon a chart spread on the deck,
I pricked out the bearings--with a result that astonished all as I
leapt up and stared across the bows.

"Why, lad, by the look of you we should be running ashore!"
exclaimed my father.

"And so we should be at this moment," said I, "were not the reckoning
out."

Captain Pomery reached out for the paper.  "The reckoning is right
enough," said he, after studying it awhile.

"Then on what land, in Heaven's name, are we running?" my father
demanded testily.

"Why, on Corsica," I answered, pointing with my compass's foot as he
bent over the chart.  "On Corsica.  Where else?"


It wanted between three and four hours of sunset when we made the
landfall and assured ourselves that what appeared so like a low cloud
on the east-north-eastern horizon was indeed the wished-for island.
We fell to discussing our best way to approach it; my father at first
maintaining that the coast would be watched by Genoese vessels, and
therefore we should do wisely to take down sail and wait for
darkness.

Against this, Captain Pomery maintained--

1.  That we were carrying a fair wind, and the Lord knew how long
that would hold.

2.  That the moon would rise in less than three hours after dark, and
thenceforth we should run almost the same risk of detection as by
daylight.

3.  That in any case we could pass for what we really were, an
English trader in ballast, barely escaped from shipwreck, dismasted,
with broken steerage, making for the nearest port.

"Man," said Captain Pomery, looking about him, "we must be a poor set
of liars if we can't pitch a yarn on _this_ evidence!"

My father allowed himself to be persuaded, the more easily as the
argument jumped with his impatience.  Accordingly, we stood on for
land, making no concealment; and the wind holding steady on our beam,
and the sun dropping astern of us in a sky without a cloud, 'twas
incredible how soon we began to make out the features of the land.
It rose like a shield to a central boss, which trembled, as it were,
into view and revealed itself a mountain peak, snowcapped and
shining, before ever the purple mist began to slip from the slopes
below it and disclose their true verdure.  No sail broke the expanse
of sea between us and the shore; and, as we neared it, no scarp of
cliff, no house or group of houses broke the island's green monotony.
From the water's edge to the high snow-line it might have been built
of moss, so vivid its colour was, yet soft as velvet, and softer and
still more vivid as we approached.

Within two miles of shore, and not long before dark, the wind (as
Captain Pomery had promised) broke off and headed us, blowing cool
and fresh off the land.  I was hauling in the foresheet and belaying
when a sudden waft of fragrance fetched me upright, with head thrown
back and nostrils inhaling the breeze.

"Ay," said my father, at my elbow, "there is no scent on earth to
compare with it.  You smell the _macchia_, lad.  Drink well your
first draught of it, delicious as first love."

"But somewhere--at some time--I have smelt it before," said I.
"The same scent, only fainter.  Why does it remind me of home?"

My father considered.  "I will tell you," he said.  "In the corridor
at home, outside my bedroom door, stands a wardrobe, and in it hang
the clothes I wore, near upon twenty years ago, in Corsica.
They keep the fragrance of the _macchia_ yet; and if, as a child, you
ever opened that wardrobe, you recall it at this moment."

"Yes," said I, "that was the scent."

My father leaned and gazed at the island with dim eyes.

Still no sign of house or habitation greeted us as we worked by short
tacks towards a deep bay which my father, after a prolonged
consultation of the chart, decided to be that of Sagona.  A sharp
promontory ran out upon its northern side, and within the shelter of
this Captain Pomery looked to find good anchorage.  But the
_Gauntlet_, after all her battering, lay so poorly to the wind that
darkness overtook us a good mile from land, and before we weathered
the point and cast anchor in a little bight within, the moon had
risen.  It showed us a steep shore near at hand, with many grey
pinnacles of granite glimmering high over dark masses of forest
trees, and in the farthest angle of the bight its rays travelled in
silver down the waters of a miniature creek.

The hawser ran out into five fathoms of water.  We had lost our boat:
but Billy Priske had spent his afternoon in fashioning a raft out of
four empty casks and a dozen broken lengths of deck-planking; and on
this, leaving the seamen on board, the rest of us pushed off for
shore.  For paddles we used a couple of spare oars.

The water, smooth as in a lake, gave us our choice to make a landing
where we would.  My father, however, who had taken command, chose to
steer straight for the entrance of the little creek.  There, between
tall entrance rocks of granite, we passed through it into the shadow
of folding woods where the moon was lost to us.  Sounding with our
paddles, we found a good depth of water under the raft, lit a
lantern, and pushed on, my father promising that we should discover a
village or at least a hamlet at the creek-head.

"And you will find the inhabitants--your subjects, Prosper--
hospitable, too.  Whatever the island may have been in Seneca's time,
to deserve the abuse he heaped on it in exile, to-day the Corsicans
keep more of the old classical virtues than any nation known to me.
In vendetta they will slay one another, using the worst treachery;
but a stranger may walk the length of the island unarmed--save
against the Genoese--and find a meal at the poorest cottage, and a
bed, however rough, whereon he may sleep untroubled by suspicion."

The raft grated and took ground on a shelving bank of sand, and Nat,
who stood forward holding the lantern, made a motion to step on
shore.  My father restrained him.

"Prosper goes first."

I stepped on to the bank.  My father, following, stooped, gathered a
handful of the fine granite sand, and holding it in the lantern's
light, let it run through his fingers.

"Hat off, lad! and salute your kingdom!"

"But where," said I, "be my subjects?"

It seemed, as we formed ourselves into marching order, that I was on
the point to be answered.  For above the bank we came to a causeway
which our lanterns plainly showed us to be man's handiwork; and
following it round the bend of a valley, where a stream sang its way
down to the creek, came suddenly on a flat meadow swept by the pale
light and rising to a grassy slope, where a score of whitewashed
houses huddled around a tall belfry, all glimmering under the moon.

"In Corsica," repeated my father, leading the way across the meadow,
"every householder is a host."

He halted at the base of the village street.

"It is curious, however, that the dogs have not heard us.
Their barking, as a rule, is something to remember."

He stepped up to the first house to knock.  There was no door to
knock upon.  The building stood open, desolate.  Our lanterns showed
the grass growing on its threshold.

We tried the next and the next.  The whole village lay dead,
abandoned.  We gathered in the street and shouted, raising our
lanterns aloft.  No voice answered us.

[1] Phosphorescence.



CHAPTER XIII.


HOW, WITHOUT FIGHTING, OUR ARMY WASTED BY ENCHANTMENT.


     "ADRIAN.   The air breathes upon us here most sweetly. . . .
      GONZALO.   Here is everything advantageous to life.
      ANTONIO.   True: save means to live."

      "CALIBAN.  Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
                 Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt
                 not."
                                                   _The Tempest_.

Upon a sudden thought my father hurried us towards the tall belfry.
It rose cold and white against the moon, at the end of a nettle-grown
lane.  A garth of ilex-oaks surrounded it; and beside it, more than
half-hidden by the untrimmed trees, stood a ridiculously squat
church.  By instinct, or, rather, from association of ideas learnt in
England, I glanced around this churchyard for its gravestones.
There were none.  Yet for the second time within these few hours I
was strangely reminded of home, where in an upper garret were stacked
half a dozen age-begrimed paintings on panel, one of which on an idle
day two years ago I had taken a fancy to scour with soap and water.
The painting represented a tall man, crowned and wearing Eastern
armour, with a small slave in short jacket and baggy white breeches
holding a white charger in readiness; all three figures awkwardly
drawn and without knowledge of anatomy.  For background my scouring
had brought to light a group of buildings, and among them just such a
church as this, with just such a belfry.  Of architecture and its
different styles I knew nothing; but, comparing the church before me
with what I could recollect of the painting, I recognized every
detail, from the cupola, high-set upon open arches, to the round,
windowless apse in which the building ended.

My father, meanwhile, had taken a lantern and explored the interior.

"I know this place," he announced quietly, as he reappeared, after
two or three minutes, in the ruinous doorway; "it is called Paomia.
We can bivouac in peace, and I doubt if by searching we could find a
better spot."

We ate our supper of cold bacon and ship-bread, both slightly damaged
by sea-water--but the wine solaced us, being excellent--and stretched
ourselves to sleep under the ilex boughs, my father undertaking to
stand sentry till daybreak.  Nat and I protested against this, and
offered ourselves; but he cut us short.  He had his reasons, he said.

It must have been two or even three hours later that I awoke at the
touch of his hand on my shoulder.  I stared up through the boughs at
the setting moon, and around me at my comrades asleep in the grasses.
He signed to me not to awake them, but to rise and follow him softly.

Passing through the screen of ilex, we came to a gap in the stone
wall of the garth, and through this, at the base of the hillside
below the forest, to a second screen of cypress which opened suddenly
upon a semicircle of turf; and here, bathed in the moon's rays that
slanted over the cypress-tops, stood a small Doric temple of
weather-stained marble, in proportions most delicate, a background
for a dance of nymphs, a fit tiring-room for Diana and her train.

Its door--if ever it had possessed one--was gone, like every other
door in this strange village.  My father led the way up the white
steps, halted on the threshold, and, standing aside lest he should
block the moonlight, pointed within.

I stood at his shoulder and looked.  The interior was empty, bare of
all ornament.  On the wall facing the door, and cut in plain letters
a foot high, two words in Greek confronted me--

             PHILOPATRI STEPHANOPOULOI.

"A tomb?" I asked.

"Yes, and a kinsman's; for the Stephanopouli were of blood the
emperors did not disdain to mate with.  In the last rally the Turks
had much ado with them as leaders of the Moreote tribes around Maina,
and north along Taygetus to Sparta.  Yes, and there were some who
revived the Spartan name in those days, maintaining the fight among
the mountains until the Turks swarmed across from Crete, overran
Maina and closed the struggle.  Yet there was a man, Constantine
Stephanopoulos, the grandfather of this Philopater, who would buy
nothing at the price of slavery, but, collecting a thousand souls--
men, women, and children--escaped by ship from Porto Vitilo and
sailed in search of a new home.  At first he had thought of Sicily;
but, finding no welcome there, he came (in the spring of 1675, I
think) to Genoa, and obtained leave from the Genoese to choose a site
in Corsica."

"And it was here he planted his colony?"

"In this very valley; but, mind you, at the price of swearing fealty
to the Republic of Genoa--this and the repayment of a beggarly
thousand piastres which the Republic had advanced to pay the captain
of the ship which brought them, and to buy food and clothing.
Very generous treatment it seemed.  Yet you have heard me say before
now that liberty never stands in its worst peril until the hour of
success; then too often men turn her sword against her.  So these men
of Lacedaemon, coming to an island where the rule of Genoa was a
scourge to all except themselves, in gratitude, or for their oath's
sake, took sides with the oppressor.  Therefore the Corsicans, who
never forget an injury, turned upon them, drove them for shelter to
Ajaccio, and laid their valley desolate; nor have the Genoese power
to restore them.

"Fate, Prosper, has landed you on this very spot where your kinsmen
found refuge for awhile, and broke the ground, and planted orchards,
hoping for a fair continuance of peace and peaceful tillage.

     "'Per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum
       Tendimus in Latium--'

"How will you read the omen?"

"You say," said I, "that had we found our kinsmen here we had found
them in league against freedom, and friends of the tyranny we are
here to fight?"

"Assuredly."

"Then, sir, let me read the omen as a lesson, and avoid my kinsmen's
mistake."

My father smiled and clapped me on the shoulder.  "You say little, as
a rule, Prosper.  It is a good fault in kings."

We walked back to the churchyard, where Mr. Fett sat up, rubbing his
eyes in the dawn, and hailed us.

"Good morning, signors!  I have been dreaming that I came to a
kingdom which, indeed, seemed to be an island, but on inspection
proved to be a mushroom.  What interpretation have you when a man
dreams of mushrooms?"

"Why, this," said I, "that we passed some score of them in the meadow
below.  I saw them plain by the moonlight, and kicked at them to make
sure."

"I did better," said Mr. Fett; I gathered a dozen or two in my cap,
foreseeing breakfast.  Faith, and while you have been gadding I might
have had added a rasher of bacon.  Did you meet any hogs on your way?
But no; they turned back and took the path that appears to run up to
the woods yonder."

"Hogs?" queried my father.

"They woke me, nosing and grunting among the nettles by the wall--
lean, brown beasts, with Homeric chines, and two or three of them
huge as the Boar of Calydon.  I was minded to let off my gun at 'em,
but refrained upon two considerations--the first, that if they were
tame, to shoot them might compromise our welcome here, and perhaps
painfully, since the dimensions of the pigs appeared to argue
considerable physical strength in their masters; the second, that if
wild they might be savage enough to defend themselves when attacked."

"Doubtless," said my father, "they belong to some herdsman in the
forest above us, and have strayed down in search of acorns.
They cannot belong to this village."

"And why, pray?"

"Because it contains not a single inhabitant.  Moreover, gentlemen,
while you were sleeping I have taken a pretty extensive stroll.
The vineyards lie unkempt, the vines themselves unthinned, up to the
edge of the forest.  The olive-trees have not been tended, but have
shed their fruit for years with no man to gather.  Many even have
cracked and fallen under the weight of their crops.  But no trace of
beast, wild or tame, did I discover; no dung, no signs of trampling.
The valley is utterly desolate."

"It grows mushrooms," said Mr. Fett, cheerfully, piling a heap of dry
twigs; "and we have ship's butter and a frying-pan."

"Are you sure," asked Mr. Badcock, examining one, "that these are
true mushrooms?"

"They were grown in Corsica, and have not subscribed to the
Thirty-nine Articles; still, _mutatis mutandis_, in my belief they
are good mushrooms.  If you doubt, we can easily make sure by stewing
them awhile in a saucepan and stirring them with a silver spoon, or
boiling them gently with Mr. Badcock's watch, as was advised by Mr.
Locke, author of the famous 'Essay on the Human Understanding.'"

"Indeed?" said my father.  "The passage must have escaped me."

"It does not occur in the 'Essay.' He gave the advice at Montpellier
to an English family of the name of Robinson; and had they listened
to him it would have robbed Micklethwaite's 'Botany of Pewsey and
Devizes' of some fascinating pages."

MR. FETT'S STORY OF THE FUNGI OF MONTPELLIER.

"About the year 1677, when Mr. Locke resided at Montpellier for the
benefit of his health, and while his famous 'Essay' lay as yet in the
womb of futurity, there happened to be staying in the same _pension_
an English family--"

"Excuse me," put in my father, "I do not quite gather where these
people lodged."

"The sentence was faultily constructed, I admit.  They were lodging
in the same _pension_ as Mr. Locke.  The family consisted of a Mrs.
Robinson, a widow; her son Eustace, aged seventeen; her daughter
Laetitia, a child of fourteen, suffering from a slight pulmonary
complaint; her son's tutor, whose name I forget for the moment, but
he was a graduate of Peterhouse, Cambridge, and an ardent botanist;
and a good-natured English female named Maria Wilkins, an old servant
whom Mrs. Robinson had brought from home--Pewsey, in Wiltshire--to
attend upon this Laetitia.  The Robinsons, you gather, were
well-to-do; they were even well connected; albeit their social
position did not quite warrant their story being included in the late
Mr. D'Arcy Smith's 'Tragedies and Vicissitudes of Our County
Families.'

"It appears that the lad Eustace, perceiving that his sister's
delicate health procured her some indulgences, complained of
headaches, which he attributed to a too intense application upon the
'Memorabilia' of Xenophon, and cajoled his mother into packing him
off with the tutor on a holiday expedition to the neighbouring
mountains of Garrigues.  From this they returned two days later about
the time of _dejeuner_, with a quantity of mushrooms, which the
tutor, who had discovered them, handed around for inspection,
asserting them to be edible.

"The opinion of Mr. Locke being invited, that philosopher took up the
position he afterwards elaborated so ingeniously, declaring that
knowledge concerning these mushrooms could only be the result of
experience, and suggesting that the tutor should first make proof of
their innocuousness on his own person.  Upon this the tutor, a
priggish youth, retorted hotly that he should hope his Cambridge
studies, for which his parents had pinched themselves by many small
economies, had at least taught him to discriminate between the
_agarici_.  Mr. Locke in vain endeavoured to divert the conversation
upon the scope and objects of a university education, and fell back
on suggesting that the alleged mushrooms should be stewed, and the
stew stirred with a silver spoon, when, if the spoon showed no
discolouration, he would take back his opinion that they contained
phosphorus in appreciable quantities.  He was called an empiricist
for his pains; and Mrs. Robinson (who hated a dispute and invariably
melted at any allusion to the tutor's _res angusta domi_) weakly gave
way.  The mushrooms were cooked and pronounced excellent by the
entire family, of whom Mrs. Robinson expired at 8.30 that evening,
the tutor at 9 o'clock, the faithful domestic Wilkins and Master
Eustace shortly after midnight, and an Alsatian cook, attached to the
establishment, some time in the small hours.  The poor child, who had
partaken but sparingly, lingered until the next noon before
succumbing."

"A strange fatality!" commented Mr. Badcock.

Mr. Fett paused, and eyed him awhile in frank admiration before
continuing.

"The wonder to me is you didn't call it a coincidence," he murmured.

"Well, and so it was," said Mr. Badcock, "only the word didn't occur
to me."

"The bodies," resumed Mr. Fett, "in accordance with the by-laws of
Montpellier, were conveyed to the town mortuary, and there bestowed
for the time in open coffins, connected by means of wire attachments
with a bell in the roof--a municipal device against premature
interment.  The wires also carried a number of small bells very
sensitively hung, so that the smallest movement of reviving animation
would at once alarm the night-watchman in an adjoining chamber.

"This watchman, an honest fellow with literary tastes above his
calling, was engaged towards midnight in reading M. de la Fontaine's
'Elegie aux Nymphes de Vaux,' when a sudden violent jangling fetched
him to his feet, with every hair of his head erect and separate.
Before he could collect his senses the jangling broke into a series
of terrific detonations, in the midst of which the bell in the roof
tolled one awful stroke and ceased.

"I leave to your imagination the sight that met his eyes when,
lantern in hand, he reached the mortuary door.  The collected
remains, promiscuously interred next day by the municipality of
Montpellier, were, at the request of a brother-in-law of Mrs.
Robinson, and through the good offices of Mr. Locke, subsequently
exhumed and despatched to Pewsey, where they rest under a suitable
inscription, locally attributed to the pen of Mr. Locke.  His
admirers will recognize in the concluding lines that conscientious
exactitude which ever distinguished the philosopher.  They run--

                "'And to the Memory of one
                    FRITZ (? Sempach)
                 a Humble Native of Alsace
             whose remains, by Destiny commingled
                   with the foregoing,
              are for convenience here deposited.
                    II. Kings iv. 39.'

"But the extraordinary part of my story, gentlemen, remains to be
told.  Some six weeks ago, happening, in search of a theatrical
engagement, to find myself in the neighbourhood of Stonehenge, I fell
in with a pedestrian whose affability of accost invited me to a
closer acquaintance.  He introduced himself as the Reverend Josias
Micklethwaite, a student of Nature, and more particularly of the
mosses and lichens of Wilts.  Our liking (I have reason to believe)
was mutual, and we spent a delightful ten days in tracking up
together the course of the Wiltshire Avon, and afterwards in
perambulating the famous forest of Savernake.  Here, I regret to say,
a trifling request--for the loan of five shillings, a temporary
accommodation--led to a misunderstanding, and put a period to our
companionship, and I remain his debtor but for some hours of
profitable intercourse.

"Coming at the close of a day's ramble to Pewsey, a small town near
the source of the Avon, we visited its parish churchyard and happened
upon the memorial to the unfortunate Robinsons.  An old man was
stooping over the turf beside it, engaged in gathering mushrooms,
numbers of which grew in the grass around this stone, _but nowhere
else in the whole enclosure_.  The old man, who proved to be the
sexton, assured us not only of this, but also that previous to the
interment of the Robinsons no mushrooms had grown within a mile of
the spot.  He added that, albeit regarded with abhorrence by the more
superstitious inhabitants of Pewsey, the fungi were edible, and gave
no trouble to ordinary digestions (his own, for example); nor upon
close examination could Mr. Micklethwaite detect that they differed
at all from the common _agaricus campestris_.  So, sirs, concludes my
tale."

Mr. Fett ended amid impressive silence.

"I don't feel altogether so keen-set as I did five minutes back,"
muttered Billy Priske.

"For my part," said Mr. Fett, anointing the gridiron with a pat of
ship's butter, "I offer no remark upon it beyond the somewhat banal
one by which we have all been anticipated by Hamlet.  'There are more
things in heaven and earth, Horatio--'."

"Faith, and so there are," broke in Nat Fiennes, catching me on a
sudden by the arm.  "Listen!"

High on the forest ridge, far and faint, yet clear over the
pine-tops, a voice was singing.

The voice was a girl's--a girl's, or else some spirit's; for it fell
to us out of the very dawn, pausing and anon dropping again in little
cadences, as though upon the waft of wing; and wafted with it, wave
upon wave, came also the morning scent of the _macchia_.

We could distinguish no words, intently though we listened, or no
more than one, which sounded like _Mortu, mortu, mortu_, many times
repeated in slow refrain before the voice lifted again to the air.
But the air itself was voluble between its cadences, and the voice,
though a woman's, seemed to challenge us on a high martial note, half
menacing, half triumphant.

Nat Fiennes had sprung to his feet, musket in hand, when another and
less romantic sound broke the silence of the near woods; and down
through a glade on the slope above us, where darkness and day yet
mingled in a bluish twilight under the close boughs, came scampering
back the hogs described to us by Mr. Fett.  Apparently they had
recovered from their fright, for they came on at a shuffling gallop
through the churchyard gate, nor hesitated until well within the
enclosure.  There, with much grunting, they drew to a standstill and
eyed us, backing a little, and sidling off by twos and threes among
the nettles under the wall.

"They are tame hogs run wild," said my father, after studying them
for a minute.  "They have lost their masters, and evidently hope we
have succeeded to the care of their troughs."

He moistened a manchet of bread from his wine-flask and flung it
towards them.  The hogs winced away with a squeal of alarm, then took
courage and rushed upon the morsel together.  The most of them were
lean brutes, though here and there a fat sow ran with the herd, her
dugs almost brushing the ground.  In colour all were reddish-brown,
and the chine of each arched itself like a bent bow.  Five or six
carried formidable tusks.

These tusks, I think, must have struck terror in the breast of Mr.
Badcock, who, as my father enticed the hogs nearer with fresh morsels
of bread until they nuzzled close to us, suddenly made a motion to
beat them off with the butt of his musket, whereupon the whole herd
wheeled and scampered off through the gateway.

"Why, man," cried my father, angrily, "did I not tell you they were
tame! And now you have lost us good provender!"  He raised his gun.

But here Nat touched his arm.  "Let me follow them, sir, and see
which way they take.  Being so tame, they have likely enough some
master or herdsman up yonder--"

"Or herdswoman," I laughed.  "Take me with you, Nat."

"Nay, that I won't," he answered, with a quick blush.  "You have the
temper of Adonis--

     "'Hunting he lov'd, but love he laughed to scorn,'

"and I fear his fate of you, one little Adonis among so many boars!"

"Then take _me_" urged Mr. Badcock.  "Indeed, sir," he apologized,
turning to my father, "the movement was involuntary.  I am no coward,
sir, though a sudden apprehension may for the moment flush my nerves.
I desire to prove to you that on second thoughts I am ready to face
all the boars in Christendom."

"I did not accuse you," said my father.  "But go with Mr. Fiennes if
you wish."

Nat nodded, tucked his musket under his arm, and strode out of the
churchyard with Mr. Badcock at his heels.  By the gateway he halted a
moment and listened; but the voice sang no longer from the ridge.

We watched the pair as they went up the glade, and turned to our
breakfast.  The meal over, my father proposed to me to return to the
creek and fetch up a three days' supply of provisions from the ship,
leaving Mr. Fett and Billy Priske to guard the camp.  (In our
confidence of finding the valley inhabited, we had brought but two
pounds of ship's biscuit, one-third as much butter, and a small keg
only of salt pork.)

We were absent, maybe, for two hours and a half; and on our way back
fell in with Billy, who, having suffered no ill effects from his
breakfast of mushrooms (though he had eaten them under protest), was
roaming the meadow in search of more.  We asked him if the two
explorers had returned.

He answered "No," and that Mr. Fett had strolled up into the wood in
search of chestnuts, leaving him sentry over the camp.

"And is it thus you keep sentry?" my father demanded.

"Why, master, since this valley has no more tenantry than Sodom or
Gomorrah, cities of the plain--"  Billy began confidently; but his
voice trailed off under my father's frown.

"You have done ill, the pair of you," said my father, and strode
ahead of us across the meadow.

At the gate of the enclosure he came to an abrupt halt.

The hogs had returned and were routing among our camp-furniture.
For the rest, the churchyard was empty.  But where were Nat Fiennes
and Mr. Badcock, who had sallied out to follow them?  And where was
Mr. Fett?

We rushed upon the brutes, and drove them squealing out of the
gateway leading to the woods.  They took the rise of the glade at a
scamper, and were lost to us in the undergrowth.  We followed,
shouting our comrades' names.  No answer came back to us, though our
voices must have carried far beyond the next ridge.  For an hour we
beat the wood, keeping together by my father's order, and shouting,
now singly, now in chorus.  Nat, likely enough, had pressed forward
beyond earshot, and led Mr. Badcock on with him.  But what had become
of Mr. Fett, who, as Billy asseverated, had promised to take but a
short stroll?

My father's frown grew darker and yet darker as the minutes wore on
and still no voice answered our hailing.  The sun was declining fast
when he gave the order to return to camp, which we found as we had
left it.  We seated ourselves amid the disordered baggage, pulled out
a ration apiece of salt pork and ship's bread, and ate our supper in
moody silence.

During the meal Billy kept his eye furtively on my father.

"Master," said he, at the close, plucking up courage as my father
filled and lit a pipe of tobacco, "I be terribly to blame."

My father puffed, without answering.

"The Lord knows whether they be safe or lost," went on Billy,
desperately; "but we be safe, and those as can ought to sleep
to-night."

Still my father gave no answer.

"I can't sleep, sir, with this on my conscience--no, not if I tried.
Give me leave, sir, to stand sentry while you and Master Prosper take
what rest you may."

"I don't know that I can trust you," said my father.

"'Twas a careless act, I'll allow.  But I've a-been your servant, Sir
John, for twenty-two year come nest Martinmas; and you know--or else
you ought to know--that for your good opinion, being set to it, I
would stand awake till I watched out every eye in my head."

My father crammed down the ashes in his pipe, and glanced back at the
sun, now dropping into the fold of the glen between us and the sea.

"I will give you another chance," he said.

Thrice that night, my dreams being troubled, I awoke and stretched
myself to see Billy pacing grimly in the moonlight between us and the
gateway, tholing his penance.  I know not what aroused me the fourth
time; some sound, perhaps.  The dawn was breaking, and, half-lifted
on my elbow, I saw Billy, his musket still at his shoulder, halt by
the gateway as if he, too, had been arrested by the sound.  After a
moment he turned, quite casually, and stepped outside the gate to
look.

I saw him step outside.  I was but half-awake, and drowsily my eyes
closed and opened again with a start, expecting to see him back at
his sentry-go.  He had not returned.

I closed my eyes again, in no way alarmed as yet.  I would give him
another minute, another sixty seconds.  But before I had counted
thirty my ears caught a sound, and I leapt up, wide awake, and
touched my father's shoulder.

He sat up, cast a glance about him, and sprang to his feet.
Together we ran to the gateway.

The voice I had heard was the grunting of the hogs.  They were
gathered about the gateway again, and, as before, they scampered from
us up the glade.

But of Billy Priske there was no sign at all.  We stared at each
other and rubbed our eyes; we two, left alone out of our company of
six.  Although the sun would not pierce to the valley for another
hour, it slanted already between the pine-stems on the ridge, and
above us the sky was light with another day.

And again, punctual with the dawn, over the ridge a far voice broke
into singing.  As before, it came to us in cadences descending to a
long-drawn refrain--_Mortu, mortu, mortu!_

"Billy!  Billy Priske!" we called, and listened.

"_Mortu, mortu, mortu!_" sang the voice, and died away behind the
ridge.

For some time we stood and heard the hogs crashing their way through
the undergrowth at the head of the glade, with a snapping and
crackling of twigs, which by degrees grew fainter.  This, too, died
away; and, returning to our camp, we sat among the baggage and stared
one another in the face.



CHAPTER XIV.


HOW BY MEANS OF HER SWINE I CAME TO CIRCE.


     "So saying I took my way up from the ship and the sea-shore.
      But on my way, as I drew near through the glades to the home of
      the enchantress Circe, there met me Hermes with his golden rod,
      in semblance of a lad wearing youth's bloom on his lip and all
      youth's charm at its heyday.  He clasped my hand and spake and
      greeted me.  'Whither away now, wretched wight, amid these
      mountain-summits alone and astray? And yonder in the styes of
      Circe, transformed to swine, thy comrades lie penned and make
      their lairs!'"--_Odyssey, bk. X_.

"Prosper," said my father, seriously, "we must return to the ship."

"I suppose so," I admitted; but with a rising temper, so that my tone
contradicted him.

"It is most necessary.  We are no longer an army, or even a
legation."

"Nothing could be more evident.  You may add, sir, that we are badly
scared, the both of us.  Yet I don't stomach sailing away, at any
rate, until we have discovered what has happened to the others."
I cast a vicious glance up at the forest.

"Good Lord, child!" my father exclaimed.  "Who was suggesting it?"

"You spoke of returning to the ship."

"To be sure I did.  She can work round to Ajaccio and repair.
She will arrive evidently from the verge of total wreck, an ordinary
trader in ballast, with nothing suspicious about her.  No questions
will be asked that Pomery cannot invent an answer for off-hand.
She will be allowed to repair, refit, and sail for reinforcements."

"Reinforcements?  But where will you find reinforcements?"

"I must rely on Gervase to provide them.  Meanwhile we have work on
hand.  To begin with, we must clear up this mystery, which may oblige
us to camp here for some time."

"O-oh!" said I.

"You do not suggest, I hope, that we can abandon our comrades,
whatever has befallen them?"

"My dear father!" I protested.

"Tut, lad! I never supposed it of you.  Well, it seems to me we are
more likely to clear up the mystery by sitting still than by beating
the woods.  Do you agree?"

"To be sure," said I, "we may spare ourselves the trouble of
searching for it."

"I propose then, as our first move, that we step down to the ship
together and pack Captain Pomery off to Ajaccio with his orders--"

"Excuse me, sir," I interrupted.  "_You_ shall step down to the ship,
while I wait here and guard the camp."

"My dear Prosper," said he, "I like the spirit of that offer: but,
upon my word, I hope you won't persist in it.  These misadventures,
if I may confess it, get me on the raw, and I cannot leave you here
alone without feeling damnably anxious."

"Trust me, sir," I answered, "I shall be at least as uncomfortable
until you return.  But I have an inkling that--whatever the secret
may be, and whether we surprise it or it surprises us--it will wait
until we are separated.  Moreover, I have a theory to test.  So far,
every man has disappeared outside the churchyard here and somewhere
on the side of the forest.  The camp itself has been safe enough, and
so have the meadow and the path down to the creek.  You will remember
that Billy was roaming the meadow for mushrooms at the very time we
lost Mr. Fett: yet Billy came to no harm.  To be sure, the enemy,
having thinned us down to two, may venture more boldly; but if I keep
the camp here while you take the path down to the creek, and nothing
happens to either, we shall be narrowing the zone of danger, so to
speak."

My father nodded.  "You will promise me not to set foot outside the
camp?"

"I will promise more," said I.  "At the smallest warning I am going
to let off my piece.  You must not be annoyed if I fetch you back on
a false alarm, or even an absurd one.  I shall sit here with my
musket across my knees, and half a dozen others, all loaded, close
around me: and at the first sign of something wrong--at the crackling
of a twig, maybe--I shall fire.  You, on your way to the creek, will
keep your eyes just as wide open and fire at the first hint of
danger."

"I don't like it," my father persisted.

"But you see the wisdom of it," said I.  "We must stay here: that's
agreed.  So long as we stay here we shall be desperately
uncomfortable, fearing we don't know what: that also is agreed.
Then, say I, for God's sake let us clear this business up and get it
over."

My father nodded, stood up and shouldered his piece.  I knew that his
eyes were on me, and avoided meeting them, afraid for a moment that
he was going to say something in praise of my courage, whereas in
truth I was horribly scared.  That last word or two had really
expressed my terror.  I desired nothing but to get the whole thing
over.  My hand shook so as I turned to load the first musket that I
had twice to shorten my grasp of the ramrod before I could insert it
in the barrel.

From the gateway leading to the lane my father watched till the
loading was done.

"Good-bye and good luck, lad!" said he, and turned to go.  A pace or
two beyond the gateway he halted as if to add a word, but thought
better of it and resumed his stride.  His footsteps sounded hollow
between the walls of the narrow lane.  Then he reached the turf of
the meadow, and the sound ceased suddenly.

I wanted--wanted desperately--to break down and run after him.
By a bodily effort--something like a long pull on a rope--I held
myself steady and braced my back against the bole of the ilex tree,
which I had chosen because it gave a view through the gateway towards
the forest.  Upon this opening and the glade beyond it I kept my
eyes, for the first minute or two scarcely venturing to wink, only
relaxing the strain now and again for a cautious glance to right and
left around the deserted enclosure.  I could hear my heart working
like a pump.

The enclosure--indeed the whole valley--lay deadly silent in the
growing heat of the morning.  On the hidden summit behind the wood a
raven croaked; and as the sun mounted, a pair of buzzards, winging
their way to the mountains, crossed its glare and let fall a
momentary trace of shadow that touched my nerves as with a whip.
But few birds haunt the Corsican bush, and to-day even these woods
and this watered valley were dumb of song.  No breeze sent a shiver
through the grey ilexes or the still paler olives in the orchard to
my right.  On the slope the chestnut trees massed their foliage in
heavy plumes of green, plume upon plume, wave upon wave, a still
cascade of verdure held between jagged ridges of granite.  Here and
there the granite pushed a bare pinnacle above the trees, and over
these pinnacles the air swam and quivered.

The minutes dragged by.  A caterpillar let itself down by a thread
from the end of the bough under which I sat, in a direct line between
me and the gateway.  Very slowly, while I watched him, he descended
for a couple of feet, swayed a little and hung still, as if
irresolute.  A butterfly, after hovering for a while over the wall's
dry coping, left it and fluttered aimlessly across the garth,
vanishing at length into the open doorway of the church.

The church stood about thirty paces from my tree, and by turning my
head to the angle of my right shoulder I looked straight into its
porch.  It struck me that from the shadow within it, or from one of
the narrow windows, a marksman could make an easy target of me.
The building had been empty over-night: no one (it was reasonable to
suppose) had entered the enclosure during Billy's sentry-go; no one
for a certainty had entered it since.  Nevertheless, the fancy that
eyes might be watching me from within the church began now to worry,
and within five minutes had almost worried me into leaving my post to
explore.

I repressed the impulse.  I could not carry my stand of muskets with
me, and to leave it unguarded would be the starkest folly.  Also I
had sworn to myself to keep watch on the gateway towards the forest,
and this resolution must obviously be broken if I explored the
church.  I kept my seat, telling myself that, however the others had
vanished, they had vanished in silence, and therefore all danger from
gunshot might be ruled out of the reckoning.

I had scarcely calmed myself by these reflections when a noise at
some distance up the glade fetched my musket halfway to my shoulder.
I lowered it with a short laugh of relief as our friends the hogs
came trotting downhill to the gateway.

For the moment I was glad; on second thoughts, vexed.  They explained
the noise and eased my immediate fear.  They brought back--absurd as
it may sound--a sense of companionship: for although half-wild, they
showed a disposition to be sociable, and we had found that a wave of
the arm sufficed to drive them off when their advances became
embarrassing.  On the other hand, they would certainly distract some
attention which I could very ill afford to spare.

But again I calmed myself, reflecting that if any danger lurked close
at hand, these friendly nuisances might give me some clue to it by
their movements.  They came trotting down to the entrance, halted and
regarded me, pushing up their snouts and grunting as though uncertain
of their welcome.  Apparently reassured, they charged through, as
hogs will, in a disorderly mob, rubbing their lean flanks against the
gateposts, each seeming to protest with squeals against the crush to
which he contributed.

One or two of the boldest came running towards me in the hope of
being fed; but, seeing that I made no motion, swerved as though their
courage failed them, and stood regarding me sideways with their
grotesque little eyes.  Finding me still unresponsive, they began to
nose in the dried grasses with an affected unconcern which set me
smiling; it seemed so humanlike a pretence under rebuff.  The rest,
as usual, dispersed under the trees and along the nettle-beds by the
wall.  It occurred to me that, if I let these gentlemen work round to
my rear, they might distract my attention--perhaps at an awkward
moment--by nosing up to the forage-bags or upsetting the
camp-furniture, so with a wave of my musket I headed them back.
They took the hint obediently enough, and, wheeling about, fell to
rooting between me and the entrance.  So I sat maybe for another five
minutes, still keeping my main attention on the gateway, but with an
occasional glance to right and left, to detect and warn back any
fresh attempt to work round my flanks.

Now, in the act of waving my musket, I had happened to catch sight of
one remarkably fine hog among the nettles, who, taking alarm with the
rest, had winced away and disappeared in the rear of the church,
where a narrow alley ran between it and the churchyard wall.  If he
followed this alley to its end, he would come into sight again around
the apse and almost directly on my right flank.  I kept my eye
lifting towards this corner of the building, Waiting for him to
reappear, which by-and-by he did, and with a truly porcine air of
minding his own business and that only.

His unconcern was so admirably affected that, to test it, instead of
waving him back I lifted my musket very quietly, almost without
shifting my position, and brought the butt against my shoulder.

He saw the movement; for at once, even with his head down in the
grasses, he hesitated and came to a full stop.  Suddenly, as my
fingers felt for the trigger-guard, my heart began to beat like a
hammer.

_There_ lay my danger; and in a flash I knew it, but not the extent
of it.  This was no hog, but a man; by the start and the quick
arrested pose in which the brute faced me, still with his head low
and his eyes regarding me from the grasses, I felt sure of him.
But what of the others?  Were they also men?  If so, I was certainly
lost, but I dared not turn my eyes for a glance at them.  With a
sudden and most natural grunt the brute backed a little, shook his
head in disgust, and sidled towards the angle of the building.
"Now or never," thought I, and pulled the trigger.

As the musket kicked against me I felt--I could not see--the rest of
the hogs swerve in a common panic and break for the gateway.
Their squealing took up the roar of the report and protracted it.
They were real hogs, then.

I caught up a second musket, and, to make sure, let fly into the mass
of them as they choked the gateway.  Then, without waiting to see the
effect of this shot, I snatched musket number three, and ran through
the drifting smoke to where my first victim lay face-downwards in
the grasses, his swine's mask bowed upon the forelegs crossed--as a
man crosses his arms--inwards from the elbow.  As I ran he lifted
himself in agony on his knees--a man's knees.  I saw a man's hand
thrust through the paunch, ripping it asunder; and, struggling so, he
rolled slowly over upon his back and lay still.  I stooped and tore
the mask away.  A black-avised face stared up at me, livid beneath
its sunburn, with filmed eyes.  The eyes stared at me unwinking as I
slipped his other hand easily out of its case, which, even at close
view, marvellously resembled the cleft narrow hoof of a hog.  I could
not disengage him further, his feet being strapped into the disguise
with tight leathern thongs: but having satisfied myself that he was
past help, I turned on a quick thought to the gateway again, and ran.

A second hog--a real hog--lay stretched there on its side, dead as a
nail.  Its companions, scampering in panic, had by this time almost
reached the head of the glade.  Forgetting my promise to my father, I
started in pursuit.  The thought in my mind was that, if I kept them
in sight, they would lead me to my comrades; a chance unlikely to
return.

The glade ran up between two contracting spurs of the hill.  As I
climbed, the belt of woodland narrowed on either side of the track,
until the side-valley ended in a cross ridge where the chestnuts
suddenly gave place to pines and the turf to a rocky soil carpeted
with pine needles.  Here, in the spaces between the tree-trunks, I
caught my last glimpse of the hogs as two or three of the slowest ran
over the ridge and disappeared.  I followed, sure of getting sight of
them from the summit.  But here I found myself tricked.  Beyond the
ridge lay a short dip--short, that is, as a bird flies.  Not more
than fifty yards ahead the slope rose again, strewn with granite
boulders and piled masses of granite, such as in Cornwall we call
"tors"; and clear away to the mountain-tops stretched a view with
never a tree, but a few outstanding bushes only.  Yet from ridge to
ridge green vegetation filled every hollow, and in the hollow between
me and the nearest the hogs were lost.

I heard, however, their grunting and the snapping of boughs in the
undergrowth: and in that clear delusive air it seemed but three
minutes' work to reach the next ridge.  I followed then, confidently
enough--and made my first acquaintance with the Corsican _macchia_ by
plunging into a cleft twenty feet deep between two rocks of granite.
I did not actually fall more than a third of the distance, for I
saved myself by clutching at a clematis which laced its coils, thick
as a man's wrist, across the cleft.  But I know that the hole cannot
have been less than twenty feet deep, for I had to descend to the
bottom of it to recover my musket.

That fall committed me, too.  Within five minutes of my first
introduction to the _macchia_ I had learnt how easily a man may be
lost in it; and in less than half of five minutes I had lost not only
my way but my temper.  To pursue after the hogs was nearly hopeless:
all sound of them was swallowed up in the tangle of scrub.  Yet I
held on, crawling through thickets of lentisk, tangling my legs in
creepers, pushing my head into clumps of cactus, here tearing my
hands and boots on sharp granite, there ripping my clothes on prickly
thorns.  Once I found what appeared to be a goat-track.  It led to
another cleft of rock, where, beating down the briers, I looked down
a chasm which ended, thirty feet below, in a whole brake of cacti.
The scent of the crushed plants was divine: and I crushed a plenty of
them.

After a struggle which must have lasted from twenty minutes to half
an hour, I gained the ridge which had seemed but three minutes away,
and there sat down to a silent lesson in geography.  I had given up
all hope of following the hogs or discovering my comrades.  I knew
now what it means to search for a needle in a bottle of hay, but with
many prickles I had gathered some wisdom, and learnt that, whether I
decided to go forward or to retreat, I must survey the _macchia_
before attempting it again.

To go forward without a clue would be folly, as well as unfair to my
father, whom my two shots must have alarmed.  I decided therefore to
retreat, but first to mount a craggy pile of granite some fifty yards
on my left, which would give me not only a better survey of the bush,
but perhaps even a view over the tree-tops and down upon the bay
where the _Gauntlet_ lay at anchor.  If so, by the movements on board
I might learn whether or not my father had reached her with his
commands before taking my alarm.

The crags were not easy to climb: but, having hitched the musket in
my bandolier, I could use both hands, and so pulled myself up by the
creepers which festooned the rock here and there in swags as thick as
the _Gauntlet's_ hawser.  Disappointment met me on the summit.
The trees allowed me but sight of the blue horizon; they still hid
the shores of the bay and our anchorage.  My eminence, however,
showed me a track, fairly well defined, crossing the _macchia_ and
leading back to the wood.

I was conning this when a shout in my rear fetched me right-about
face.  Towards me, down and across the farther ridge I saw a man
running--Nat Fiennes!

He had caught sight of me on my rock against the skyline, and as he
ran he waved his arms frantically, motioning to me to run also for
the woods.  I could see no pursuer; but still, as he came on, his
arms waved, and were waving yet when a bush on the chine above him
threw out a little puff of grey smoke.  Toppling headlong into the
bushes he was lost to me even before the report rang on my ears
across the hollow.

I dropped on my knees for a grip on the creepers, swung myself down
the face of the crag, and within ten seconds was lost in the
_macchia_ again, fighting my way through it to the spot where Nat
lay.  Wherever the scrub parted and allowed me a glimpse I kept my
eye on the bush above the chine; and so, with torn clothes and face
and hands bleeding, crossed the dip, mounted the slope and emerged
upon a ferny hollow ringed about on three sides with the _macchia_.
There face-downward in the fern lay Nat, shot through the lungs.

I lifted him against one knee.  His eyelids flickered and his lips
moved to speak, but a rush of blood choked him.  Still resting him
against my knee, I felt behind me for my musket.  The flint was gone
from the lock, dislodged no doubt by a blow against the crags.
With one hand I groped on the ground for a stone to replace it.
My fingers found only a tangle of dry fern, and glancing up at the
ridge, I stared straight along the barrel of a musket.  At the same
moment a second barrel glimmered out between the bushes on my left.
"_Signore, favorisca di rendersi_," said a voice, very quiet and
polite.  I stared around me, hopeless, at bay: and while I stared and
clutched my useless gun, from behind a rock some twenty paces up the
slope a girl stepped forward, halted, rested the butt of her musket
on the stone, and, crossing her hands above the nozzle of it, calmly
regarded us.

Even in my rage her extraordinary wild beauty held me at gaze for a
moment.  She wore over a loose white shirt a short waist-tunic of
faded green velvet, with a petticoat or kilt of the same reaching a
little below her knees, from which to the ankles her legs were cased
in tight-fitting leathern gaiters.  Her stout boots shone with
toe-plates of silver or polished steel.  A sad-coloured handkerchief
protected her head, its edge drawn straight across her brow in a
fashion that would have disfigured ninety-nine women in a hundred.
But no head-dress availed to disfigure that brow or the young
imperious eyes beneath it.

"Are you a friend of this man?" she asked in Italian.

"He is my best friend," I answered her, in the same language.
"Why have you done this to him?"

She seemed to consider for a moment, thoughtfully, without pity.

"I can talk to you in French if you find it easier," she said, after
a pause.

"You may use Italian," I answered angrily.  "I can understand it more
easily than you will use it to explain why you have done this
wickedness."

"He was very foolish," she said.  "He tried to run away.  And you
were all very foolish to come as you did.  We saw your ship while you
were yet four leagues at sea.  How have you come here?"

"I came here," answered I, "being led by your hogs, and after
shooting an assassin in disguise of a hog."

"You have killed Giuseppe?"

"I did my best," said I, turning and addressing myself to three
Corsicans who had stepped from the bushes around me.  "But whatever
your purpose may be, you have shot my friend here, and he is dying.
If you have hearts, deal tenderly with him, and afterwards we can
talk."

"He says well," said the girl, slowly, and nodded to the three men.
"Lift him and bring him to the camp."  She turned to me.  "You will
not resist?" she asked.

"I will go with my friend," said I.

"That is good.  You may walk behind me," she said, turning on her
heel.  "I am glad to have met one who talks in Italian, for the rest
of your friends can only chatter in English, a tongue which I do not
understand.  Step close behind me, please; for the way is narrow.
For what are you waiting?"

"To see that my friend is tenderly handled," I answered.

"He is past helping," said she, carelessly.  "He behaved foolishly.
You did not stop for Giuseppe, did you?"

"I did not."

"I am not blaming you," said she, and led the way.



CHAPTER XV.


I BECOME HOSTAGE TO THE PRINCESS CAMILLA.


     "Silvis te, Tyrrhene, feras agitare putasti?
      Advenit qui vestra dies muliebribus armis
      Verba redarguerit."
                            VIRGIL, Aeneid, xi.

Ahead of us, beyond the rises and hollows of the _macchia_, rose a
bare mountain summit, not very tall, the ascent to it broken by
granite ledges, so that from a distance it almost appeared to be
terraced.  On a heathery slope at the foot of the first terrace the
Corsicans set down poor Nat and spoke a word to their mistress, who
presently halted and exchanged a few sentences with them in _patois_;
whereupon they stepped back a few paces into the _macchia_, and,
having quickly cut a couple of ilex-staves, fell to plaiting them
with lentisk, to form a litter.

While this was doing I stepped back to my friend's side.  His eyes
were closed; but he breathed yet, and his pulse, though faint, was
perceptible.  A little blood--a very little--trickled from the corner
of his mouth.  I glanced at the girl, who had drawn near and stood
close at my elbow.

"Have you a surgeon in your camp?" I asked.  "I believe that a
surgeon might save him yet."

She shook her head.  I could detect no pity in her eyes; only a touch
of curiosity, half haughty and in part sullen.

"I doubt," she answered, "if you will find a surgeon in all Corsica.
I do not believe in surgeons."

"Then," said I, "you have not lived always in Corsica."

Her face flushed darkly, even while the disdain in her eyes grew
colder, more guarded.

"What do you mean by that?" she asked.

"Why," said I, "you are not one, I believe, to speak so positively in
mere ignorance.  But see!" I went on, pointing down upon the bay over
which this higher slope gave us a clear view, "there goes the ship
that brought us here."

She gazed at it for a while, with bent brow, evidently puzzled.

"No," said I, watching her, "I shall not tell you yet why she goes,
nor where her port lies.  But I have something to propose to you."

"Say it."

"It leaves one man behind, and one only, in our camp below.  He is my
father, and he has some knowledge of surgery; I believe he could save
my friend here."

She stood considering.  "So much was known to me," she answered at
length; "that, after you, there would be but one left.  Three of my
men have gone down to take him.  He will be here before long."

"But, pardon me--for as yet I know not whether your aim is to kill us
or take us alive--"

She interrupted me with a slight shrug of her shoulders.  "I have no
wish to kill you.  But I must know what brings you here, and the rest
can talk nothing but English.  As for this one"--with a gesture of
the hand towards Nat--"he was foolish.  He tried to run away and warn
you."

"Then, signorina, let me promise, who know my father, that you will
not take him alive."

"I have sent three men."

"You had done better to send thirty; but even so you will not
succeed."

"I have heard tell," she said, again with a little movement of her
shoulders, "that all Englishmen are mad."

I laughed; and this laugh of mine had a singular effect on her.
She drew back and looked at me for an instant with startled eyes, as
though she had never heard laughter in her life before, or else had
heard too much.

"Tell me what you propose," she said.

"I propose to send down a message to my father, and one of your men
shall carry it with a white flag (for that he shall have the loan of
my handkerchief).  I will write in Italian, that you may read and
know what I say."

"It is unnecessary."

"I thank you." I found in my pockets the stump of a pencil and a
scrap of paper--an old Oxford bill--and wrote--

     "DEAR FATHER,

     "We are prisoners, and Nat is wounded, but whether past help or
      not I cannot say.  I believe you might do something for him.
      If it suit your plans, the bearer will give you safe conduct:
      if not, I remain your obedient son,"
                                                  "PROSPER."

I translated this for her, and folded the paper.

"Marc'antonio!" she called to one of the three men, who by this time
had finished plaiting the litter and were strewing it with fern.

Marc'antonio--a lean, slight fellow with an old scar on his cheek--
stepped forward at once.  She gave him my note and handkerchief with
instructions to hurry.

"Excuse me, principessa"--he hesitated, with a glance at me and
another at his comrades--"but these two, with the litter, will have
their hands full; and this prisoner is a strong one and artful.
Has he not already slain 'l Verru?"

"You will mind your own business, Marc'antonio, which is to run, as I
tell you."

The man turned without another word, but with a last distrustful
look, and plunged downhill into the scrub.  The girl made a careless
sign to the others to lay Nat on his litter, and, turning, led the
way up the rocky front of the summit, presenting her back to me,
choosing the path which offered fewest impediments to the
litter-bearers in our rear.

The sun was now high overhead, and beat torridly upon the granite
crags, which, as I clutched them, blistered my hands.  The girl and
the two men (in spite of their burden) balanced themselves and sprang
from foothold to foothold with an ease which shamed me.  For a while
I supposed that we were making for the actual summit; but on the
second terrace my captress bore away to the left and led us by a
track that slanted across the northern shoulder of the ridge.
A sentry started to his feet and stepped from behind a clump of arid
sage-coloured bushes, stood for a moment with the sun glinting on his
gun-barrel, and at a sign from the girl dropped back upon his post.
Just then, or a moment later, my ears caught the jigging notes of a
flute; whereby I knew Mr. Badcock to be close at hand, for it was
discoursing the tune of "The Vicar of Bray"!

Sure enough, as we rounded the slope we came upon him, Mr. Fett, and
Billy Priske, the trio seated within a semi-circle of admiring
Corsicans, and above a scene so marvellous that I caught my breath.
The slope, breaking away to north and east, descended sheer upon a
vast amphitheatre filled with green acres of pine forest and pent
within walls of porphyry that rose in tower upon tower, pinnacle upon
pinnacle, beyond and above the tree-tops; and these pillars, as they
soared out of the gulf, seemed to shake off with difficulty the
forest that climbed after them, holding by every nook and ledge in
their riven sides--here a dark-foliaged clump caught in a chasm,
there a solitary trunk bleached and dead but still hanging by a last
grip.

On the edge of this green cauldron the Corsicans and my comrades sat
like so many witches, their figures magnified uncannily against the
void; and far beyond, above the rose-coloured crags, deep-set in
miles of transparent blue, shone the snow-covered central peaks of
the island.

As I rounded the corner, Mr. Fett hailed me with a shout and a vocal
imitation of a post-horn.

"Another," he cried, and slapped his thigh triumphantly.  "Another
blossom added to the posy!  Badcock, my flosculet, you owe me five
shillings.  Permit me to explain, sir"--he turned to me--"that Mr.
Badcock has been staking upon an anthology, I upon the full basket
and the whole hog.  It is cut and come again with these Corsicans;
and, talking of hogs--"

His chatter tailed off in a pitiful exclamation as the
litter-carriers came around the angle of the ridge with Nat's body
between them.

"Poor lad!  Ah, poor lad!" I heard Billy say.  Mr. Badcock nervously
disjointed his flute.  "I warned him, sir.  Believe me, my last words
were that, being in Rome, so to speak, he should do as the Romans
did--"

"There is one more," announced the girl, to her Corsicans, "and I
have sent for him.  He will come under conduct; and, meanwhile, I
have to say that any man who offers to harm this prisoner, here, will
be shot."

"But why should we harm him, principessa?" they asked; and, indeed, I
felt inclined to echo their question, seeing that she pointed at me.

"Because he has killed Giuseppe," she answered simply.

"Giuseppe?  He has slain Giuseppe?"  The simultaneous cry went up in
a wail, and by impulse the hand of each one moved to his knife.

"Your pardon, principessa--" began one black-avised bandit, dropping
the haft of his knife and feeling for the gun at his back.

She waived him aside and turned to me.  "I should warn you, sir, that
we are of one clan here, though I may not tell you our name; and
against the slayer of one it is vendetta with us all.  But I spare
you until your father arrives."

"I thank you," answered I, feeling blue, but fetching up my best bow.
(Here was a pleasant prospect!) "I only beg to observe that I killed
this man--if I have killed him--in self-defence," I added.

"Do you wish me to repeat that as your plea?" she asked, half in
scorn.

"I do not," said I, with a sudden rush of anger.  "Moreover, I dare
say that these savages of yours would see no distinction."

"You are right," she replied carelessly, "they would see no
distinction."

"But excuse me, principessa," persisted the scowling man, "a feud is
a feud, and if he has slain our Giuse--"

"Attend to me, sir," I broke in.  "Your Giuseppe came at me like a
hog, and I gave him his deserts.  For the rest, if you move your hand
another inch towards that gun I will knock your brains out." I
clubbed my musket ready to strike.

"Gently, sir!" interposed the girl.  "This is folly, as you must
see."

I shrugged my shoulders.  "You will allow me, Princess.  If it come
to vendetta, you have slain my friend."

She gave her back to me and faced the ring.  "I tell you," she said,
"that Giuseppe's death rests on the prisoner's word alone.
Marc'antonio and Stephanu have gone down and will bring us the truth
of it.  Meanwhile I say that this one is our prisoner, like as the
others.  Give him room and let him wait by his friend.  Does any one
say 'nay' to that?" she demanded.

The scowling man, with a glance at his comrades' faces, gave way.
I could not have told why, but from the start of the dispute I felt
that this girl held her bandits, or whatever they were, in imperfect
obedience.  They obeyed her, yet with reserve.  When pressed to the
point between submission and mutiny, they yielded;  but they yielded
with a consent which I could not reconcile with submission.
Even whilst answering deferentially they appeared to be looking at
one another and taking a cue.

For the time, however, she had prevailed with them.  They stood aside
while Billy and I lifted the litter and bore it to the shade of an
overhanging rock.  One even fetched me a panful of water which he had
collected from a trickling spring on the face of the cliffs hard by,
and brought me linen, too, when he saw me preparing to tear up my own
shirt to bind Nat's wound.

We could not trace the course of the bullet, and judged it best to
spare meddling with a hurt we could not help. So, having bathed away
the clotted blood and bandaged him, we strewed a fresh bed of fern,
and watched by him, moistening his lips from time to time with water,
for which he moaned.  The sun began to sink on the far side of the
mountain, and the shadow of the summit, falling into the deep gulf at
our feet, to creep across the green tree-tops massed there.  While it
crept, and I watched it, Billy related in whispers how he had been
sprung upon and gagged, so swiftly that he had no chance to cry alarm
or to feel for the trigger of his musket.  He rubbed his hands
delightedly when in return I told the story of my lucky shot.  In his
ignorance of Italian he had caught no inkling of the peril that lucky
shot had brought upon me, nor did I choose to enlighten him.

The shadow of the mountain was stretching more than halfway across
the valley, and in the slanting light the rosy tinge of the crags
appeared to be melting and suffusing the snow-peaks beyond, when my
father walked into the camp unannounced.  He carried a gun and a
folding camp-stool, and was followed by Marc'antonio, who fluttered
my white handkerchief from the ramrod of his musket.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen!" said my father, lifting his hat and
looking about him.

I could see at a glance that his stature and bearing impressed the
Corsicans.  They drew back for a moment, then pressed around him like
children.

"Mbe!  E bellu, il Inglese," I heard one say to his fellow.

After quelling the brief tumult against me, and while I busied myself
with Nat, the girl had disappeared--I could not tell whither.
But now one of the band ran up the slope calling loudly to summon
her.  "O principessa, ajo, ajo! Veni qui, ajo!" and, gazing after
him, I saw her at the entrance of a cave some fifty feet above us,
erect, with either hand parting and holding back the creepers that
curtained her bower.

She let the curtains fall-to behind her, and, stepping down the
hillside, welcomed my father with the gravest of curtsies.

"Salutation, O stranger!"

"And to you, O lady, salutation!" my father made answer, with a bow.
"Though English," he went on, slipping easily into the dialect she
used with her followers, "I am Corsican enough to forbear from asking
their names of gentlefolk in the _macchia_; but mine is John
Constantine, and I am very much at your service."

"My men call me the Princess Camilla."

"A good name," said my father, and seemed to muse upon it for a
moment while he eyed her paternally.  "A very good name, O Princess,
and beloved of old by Diana--

     "'Aeternum telorum et virginitatis amorem
      Intemerata--'

"But I come at your bidding and must first of all apologize for some
little delay; the cause being that your messenger found me busy
patching up a bullet-hole in one of your men."

"Giuseppe is not dead?"

"He is not dead, and on the whole I incline to think he is not going
to die, though you will allow me to say that the rogue deserved it.
The other three gentlemen-at-arms despatched by you are at this
moment bringing him up the hill, very carefully, following my
instructions.  He will need care.  In fact, it will be touch-and-go
with him for many days to come."

While he talked, my father, catching sight of me, had stepped to
Nat's couch.  Nodding to me without more ado to lift the patient and
cut away his shirt, he knelt, unrolled his case of instruments, and
with a "Courage, lad!" bent an ear to the faint breathing.  In less
than a minute, as it seemed, his hand feeling around the naked back
came to a pause a little behind and under the right arm-pit.

"Courage, lad!" he repeated.  "A little pain, and we'll have it, safe
as a wasp in an apple."

The Corsicans under his orders had withdrawn to a little distance and
stood about us in a ring.  While he probed and Nat's poor body
writhed feebly in my arms, I lifted my eyes once with a shudder, and
met the Princess Camilla's.  She was watching, and without a tremor,
her face grave as a child's.

With a short grunt of triumph, my father caught away his hand, dipped
it swiftly into the pan of water beside him, and held the bullet
aloft between thumb and forefinger.  The Corsicans broke into quick
guttural cries, as men hailing a miracle.  As Nat's head fell back
limp against my shoulder I saw the Princess turn and walk away alone.
Her followers dispersed by degrees, but not, I should say, until
every man had explained to every other his own theory of the wound
and the operation, and how my father had come to find the bullet so
unerringly, each theorist tapping his own chest and back, or his
interlocutor's, sometimes a couple tapping each other with vigour,
neither listening, both jabbering at full pitch of the voice with
prodigious elisions of consonants and equally prodigious drawlings of
the vowels.  For us, the dressing of the wound kept us busy, and we
paid little attention even when a fresh jabbering announced that the
litter-bearers had arrived with Giuseppe.

By-and-by, however, my father rose from his knees and, leaving me to
fasten the last bandages, strolled across the slope to see how his
other patient had borne the journey.  Just at that moment I heard
again a voice calling to the Princess Camilla: "Ajo, ajo! O
principessa, veni qui!" and simultaneously the voice of Billy Priske
uplifted in an incongruous British oath.

My father halted with a gesture of annoyance, checked himself, and,
awaiting the Princess, pointed towards an object on the turf--an
object at which Billy Priske, too, was pointing.

It appeared that while his comrades had been attending on Giuseppe,
the third Corsican (whom they called Ste, or Stephanu) had filled up
his time by rifling our camp; and of all our possessions he had
chosen to select our half-dozen spare muskets and a burst coffer,
from which he now extracted and (for his comrade's admiration) held
aloft our chiefest treasure--the Iron Crown of Corsica.

"Princess," said my father, coldly, "your men have broken faith.
I came to you under no compulsion, obeying your flag of truce.
It was no part of the bargain that our camp should be pillaged."

For a while she did not seem to hear; but stood at gaze, her eyes
round with wonder.

"Stephanu, bring it here," she commanded.

The man brought it.  "O principessa," said he, with a wondering grin,
"who are these that travel with royal crowns?  If we were true folk
of the _macchia_, now, we could hold them at a fine ransom."

She took the crown, examined it for a moment, and turning to my
father, spoke to him swiftly in French.

"How came you by this, O Englishman?"

"That," answered my father, stiffly, "I decline to tell you.
It has come to your hands, Princess, through violation of your flag
of truce, and in honour you should restore it to me without
question."

She waved a hand impatiently.  "This is the crown of King Theodore,
O Englishman.  See the rim of mingled oak and laurel, made in
imitation of that hasty chaplet wherewith the Corsicans first crowned
him in the Convent of Alesani.  Answer me, and in French, for all
your lives depend on it; yet briefly, for the sound of that tongue
angers my men.  For your life, then, how did you come by this?"

"You must find some better argument, Princess," said my father,
stiffly.

"For your son's life then."

I saw my father lift his eyes and scan her beautiful face.

"My son is not a coward, Princess; the less so that--"  Here my
father hesitated.

"Quickly, quickly!" she urged him.

He threw up his head.  "Yes, quickly, Princess; and in no fear, nor
upon any condition.  You are islanders; therefore you are patriots.
You are patriots; therefore you hate the Genoese and love the Queen
Emilia, whose servant I am.  As I was saying, then, my son has the
less excuse to be a coward in that he hopes, one day, with the Queen
Emilia's blessing, to wear this crown bequeathed to him by the late
King Theodore."

"_He?_" The girl swung upon me, scornfully incredulous.

"Even he, Princess.  In proof I can show you King Theodore's deed of
gift, signed with his own hand and attested."

For the first time, then, I saw her smile; but the smile held no
correspondence with the tone of slow, quiet contempt in which she
next spoke.

"You are trustful, O sciu Johann Constantine.  I have heard that all
Englishmen tell the truth, and expect it, and are otherwise mad."

"I trust to nothing, Princess, until I have the Queen Emilia's word.
That I would trust to my life's end."

She nodded darkly.  "You shall go to her--if you can find her."

"Tell me where to seek her."

"She lies at Nonza in Capo Corse; or peradventure the Genoese, who
hold her prisoner, have by this time carried her across to the
Continent."

"Though she were in Genoa itself, I would deliver her or die."

"You will probably die, O Englishman, before you receive her answer;
and that will be a pity--yes, a great pity.  But you are free to go,
you and your company--all but your son here, this King of Corsica
that is to be, whom I keep as hostage, with his crown.  Eh?  Is this
not a good bargain I offer you?"

"Be it good or bad, Princess," my father answered, "to make a bargain
takes two."

"That is true," said I, stepping forward with a laugh, and thrusting
myself between the Corsicans, who had begun to press around with
decided menace in their looks.  "And therefore the Princess will
accept me as the other party to the bargain, and as her hostage."

Again at the sound of my laugh she shrunk a little; but presently
frowned.

"Have you considered, cavalier," she asked coldly, "that Giuseppe is
not certain of recovery?"

"Still less certain is my friend," answered I, and with a shrug of
the shoulders walked away to Nat's sick-couch.  There, twenty minutes
later, my father took leave of me, after giving some last
instructions for the care of the invalid.  In one hand he carried his
musket, in the other his camp-stool.

"Say the word even now, lad," he offered, "and we will abide till he
recovers."

But I shook my head.

Billy Priske carried an enormous wine-skin slung across his
shoulders; Mr. Fett a sack of provender.  Mr. Badcock had begged or
borrowed or purchased an enormous gridiron.

"But what is that for? I asked him, as we shook hands.

"For cooking the wild goose," he answered solemnly, "which in these
parts, as I am given to understand, is an animal they call the
_mufflone_.  He partakes in some degree of the nature of a sheep.
He will find me his match, sir."

One by one, a little before the sun sank, they bade me farewell and
passed--free men--down the path that dipped into the pine forest.
On the edge of the dip each man turned and waved a hand to me.
The princess, with Marc'antonio beside her, stood and watched them as
they passed out of sight.



CHAPTER XVI.


THE FOREST HUT.


     "Then hooly, hooly rase she up,
        And hooly she came nigh him,
      And when she drew the curtain by--
       'Young man, I think you're dyin'.'"
                         _Barbara Allan's Cruelty_.

Evening fell, of a sudden filling the great hollow with purple
shadows.  As the stars came out the Corsicans on the slope to my left
lit a fire of brushwood and busied themselves around it, cooking
their supper.  They were no ordinary bandits, then; or at least had
no fear to betray their whereabouts, since on the landward side on so
clear a night the glow would be visible for many miles.

I watched them at their preparations.  Their dark figures moved
between me and the flames as they set up a tall tripod of pine poles
and hung their cauldron from the centre of it, upon a brandice.
The princess had withdrawn to her cave and did not reappear until
Stephanu, who seemed to be head-cook, announced that supper was
ready, whereupon she came and took her seat with the rest in a ring
around the fire.  Marc'antonio brought me my share of seethed kid's
flesh with a capful of chestnuts roasted in the embers; a flask of
wine too, and a small pail of goat's milk with a pannikin, for Nat.
The fare might not be palatable, but plainly they did not intend us
to starve.

Marc'antonio made no answer when I thanked him, but returned to his
seat in the ring, where from the beginning of the meal--as at a
signal--his companions had engaged in a furious and general dispute.
So at least it sounded, and so shrill at times were their contending
voices, and so fierce their gesticulations, that for some minutes I
fully expected to see them turn to other business the knives with
which they attacked their meal.

The Princess sat listening, speaking very seldom.  Once only in a
general hush the firelight showed me that her lips were moving, and I
caught the low tone of her voice, but not the words.  Not once did
she look in my direction, and yet I guessed that she was speaking of
me: for the words "ostagiu," "Inglese," and the name "Giuseppe" or
"Griuse"--of the man I had shot--had recurred over and over in their
jabber, and recurred when she ceased and it broke forth again.

It had lasted maybe for half an hour when at a signal from
Marc'antonio (whom I took to be the Princess's lieutenant or
spokesman in these matters, and to whom she turned oftener than to
any of the others, except perhaps Stephanu) two or three picked up
their muskets, looked to their priming, and walked off into the
darkness.  By-and-by came in the sentinels they had relieved, and
these in turn were helped by Stephanu to supper from the cauldron.
I watched, half-expecting the dispute to start afresh, but the others
appeared to have taken their fill of it with their food; and soon,
each man, drawing his blanket over his head, lay back and stretched
themselves to sleep.  The newcomers, having satisfied their hunger,
did likewise.  Stephanu gave the great pot a stir, unhitched it from
the brandice, and bore it away, leaving the Princess and Marc'antonio
the only two wakeful ones beside the fire.

They sat so long without speaking, the Princess with knees drawn up,
hands clasping them, and eyes bent on the embers into which (for the
Corsican nights are chilly) Marc'antonio now and again cast a fresh
brand--that in time my own eyes began to grow heavy.  They were
smarting, too, from the smoke of the burnt wood.  Nat had fallen into
a troubled sleep, in which now and again he moaned: and always at the
sound I roused myself to ease his posture or give him to drink from
the pannikin; but, for the rest, I dozed, and must have dozed for
hours.

I started up wide awake at the sound of a footstep beside me, and sat
erect, blinking against the rays of a lantern held close to my eyes.
The Princess held it, and at Nat's head and feet stood Marc'antonio
and Stephanu, in the act of lifting his litter.  She motioned that I
should stand up and follow.  Marc'antonio and Stephanu fell into file
behind us.  Each carried a gun in a sling.

"I will hold the light where the path is difficult," she said
quietly; "but keep a watch upon your feet.  In an hour's time we
shall have plenty of light."

I looked and saw the sickle of the waning moon suspended over the
gulf.  It shot but the feeblest glimmer along the edges of the
granite pinnacles, none upon the black masses of the pine-tops.
But around it the darkness held a faint violet glow, and I knew that
day must be climbing close on its heels.

There was no promise of day, however, along the track into which we
plunged--the track by which my comrades had descended to cross the
valley.  It dived down the mountain-side through a tunnel of pines,
and in places the winter streams, now dry, had channelled it and
broken it up with land-slides.

"You do not ask where I am leading you," she said, holding her
lantern for me at one of these awkward places.

"I am your hostage, Princess," I answered, without looking at her, my
eyes being busy just then in discovering good foothold.  "You must do
with me what you will."

"_If I could!  Ah, if I could!_"

She said it hard and low, with clenched teeth, almost hissing the
words.  I stared at her, amazed.  No sign of anger had she shown
until this moment.  What cause indeed had she to be angered?  In what
way had my words offended?  Yet angry she was, trembling with such a
gust of wrath that the lantern shook in her hand.

Before I could master my surprise, she had mastered herself: and,
turning, resumed her way.  For the next twenty minutes we descended
in silence, while the dawn, breaking above the roofed pines, filtered
down to us and filled the spaces between their trunks with a brownish
haze.  By-and-by, when the slope grew easier and flattened itself out
to form the bottom of the basin, these pines gave place to a chestnut
wood, and the carpet of slippery needles to a tangled undergrowth
taller than a very tall man: and here, in a clearing beside the
track, we came on a small hut with a ruinous palisade beside it,
fencing off a pen or courtyard of good size--some forty feet square,
maybe.

The Princess halted, and I halted a few paces from her, studying the
hut.  It was built of pine-logs sawn lengthwise in half and set
together with their untrimmed bark turned outwards: but the most of
their bark had peeled away with age.  It had two square holes for
windows, and a doorway, but no door.  Its shingle roof had buckled
this way and that with the rains, and had taken on a tinge of grey
which the dawn touched to softest silver.  Lines of more brilliant
silver criss-crossed it, and these were the tracks of snails.

"O King of Corsica"--she turned to me--"behold your palace!"

Her eyes were watching me, but in what expectation I could not tell.
I stepped carelessly to the doorway and took a glance around the
interior.

"It might be worse; and I thank you, Princess."

"Ajo, Marc'antonio!  Since the stranger approves of it so far, go
carry his friend within."

"Your pardon, Princess," I interposed; "the place is something too
dirty to house a sick man, and until it be cleaned my friend will do
better in the fresh air."

She shrugged her shoulders.  "Your subjects, O King, have left it in
this mess, and they will help you very little to improve it."

I walked over to the palisade and looked across it upon an unsightly
area foul with dried dung and the trampling of pigs.  For weeks, if
not months, it must have lain uninhabited, but it smelt potently even
yet.

"My subjects, Princess?"

"With Giuse lying sick, the hogs roam without a keeper: and my people
have chosen you in his room."  She paused, and I felt, rather than
saw, that both the men were eyeing me intently.  I guessed then that
she was putting on me a meditated insult; to the Corsican mind,
doubtless a deep one.

"So I am to keep your hogs, Princess?" said I, with a deliberate air.
"Well, I am your hostage."

"I am breaking no faith, Englishman."

"As to that, please observe that I am not accusing you.  I but note
that, having the power, you use it.  But two things puzzle me: of
which the first is, where shall I find my charges?"

"Marc'antonio shall fetch them down to you from the other side of the
mountain."

"And next, how shall I learn to tend them?" I asked, still keeping my
matter-of-fact tone.

"They will give you no trouble.  You have but to pen them at night
and number them, and again at daybreak turn them loose.  They know
this forest and prefer it to the other side: you will not find that
they wander.  At night you have only to blow a horn which
Marc'antonio will bring you, and the sound of it will fetch them
home."

"A light job," said Stephanu, with a grin, "when a man can bring his
stomach to it."

"Not so light as you suppose, my friend," I answered.  "The sty,
here, will need some cleansing; since if these are to be my subjects,
I must do my best for them.  It may not amount to much, but at least
my hogs shall keep themselves cleaner than some Corsicans, even than
some Corsican cooks."

"Stephanu," said Marc'antonio, gravely, "the Englishman meant that
for you: and I tell you what I have told you before, that yours are
no fitly kept hands for a cook.  I have travelled abroad and seen the
ways of other nations."

"The sty will need mending too, Princess," said I: "but before
nightfall I will try to have it ready."

"You will find tools in the hut," she answered, with a glance at
Marc'antonio, who nodded.  "For food, you shall be kept supplied.
Stephanu has brought, in his suck yonder, flesh, cheese, and wine
sufficient for three days, with milk for your friend: and day by day
fresh milk shall be sent down to you."

Her words were commonplace, yet her cheeks wore an angry flush
beneath their sun-burn; and I knew why.  Her insult had miscarried.
In accepting this humiliation I had somehow mastered her: even the
tone she used, level and matter-of-fact, she used perforce, in place
of the high scorn with which she had started to sentence me.
My spirits rose.  If I could not understand this girl, neither could
she understand me.  She only felt defeat, and it puzzled and angered
her.

"You have no complaint to make?" she asked, hesitating in spite of
herself as she turned to go.

I laughed, having discovered that my laugh perplexed her.

"None whatever, Princess.  Am I not your hostage?"


When they were gone I laughed again, with a glance at Nat who lay
with closed eyes and white still face where Marc'antonio and Stephanu
had made a couch of fern and some heather for him under the chestnut
boughs.  The sight of the heather gave me an idea, and I walked back
to where, at the end of the chestnut wood, a noble clump of it grew,
under a scarp of rock where the pines broke off.  With my knife I cut
an armful of it and returned to the hut, pausing on my way to gather
some strings of a creeper which looked to be a clematis and
sufficiently tough for my purpose.  My next step was to choose and
cut a tolerably straight staff of ilex, about five feet in length and
close upon two inches thick.  While I trimmed it, a blackbird began
to sing in the undergrowth behind the hut, and, listening, my ears
seemed to catch in the pauses of his song a sound of running water,
less loud but nearer and more distinct than the murmur of the many
rock-streams that tinkled into the valley.  I dropped my work for a
while and, passing to the back of the hut, found and followed through
the bushes a foot-track--overgrown and tangled with briers, but still
a track--which led me to the water.  It ran, with a murmur almost
subterranean, beneath bushes so closely over-arched that my feet were
on the brink before I guessed, and I came close upon taking a bath at
unawares.  Now this stream, so handy within reach, was just what I
wanted, and among the bushes by the verge grew a plant--much like our
English osier, but dwarfer--extremely pliant and tougher than the
tendrils of the clematis; so, that, having stripped it of half a
dozen twigs, I went back to work more blithely than ever.

But for fear of disturbing Nat I could have whistled.  It may even be
that, intent on my task, I did unwittingly whistle a few bars of a
tune: or perhaps the blackbird woke him.  At any rate, after half an
hour's labour I looked up from my handiwork and met his eyes, open,
intent on me and with a question in them.

"What am I doing, eh?  I am making a broom, lad,"  I held it up for
him to admire.

"Where is she?" he asked feebly.

"She?" I set down my broom, fetched him a pannikin-ful of milk, and
knelt beside him while he drank it.  "If you mean the Princess
Camilla, she has gone back to her mountain, leaving us in peace."

"Camilla?" he murmured the word.

"And a very suitable name, it seems to me.  There was, if you
remember, a young lady in the Aeneid of pretty much the same
disposition."

"Camilla," he repeated, and again but a little above his breath.
"Your father . . . he is helping her?"

"Helping her?" I echoed.  "My dear lad, if ever a young woman could
take care of herself it is the Princess. . . . And as for my father
helping her, she has packed him off northwards across the mountains
with a flea in his ear.  And, talking of fleas--"  I went on with a
glance at the hut.

He brought me to a full stop with a sudden grip on my arm,
astonishingly strong for a wounded man.

"Nay, lad--nay!" I coaxed him, but slipped a hand under him as he
insisted and sat upright.

"She needs help, I tell you," he gasped.  "Needs help . . . it was
for help I ran when--when--"

"But what dreaming is this?  My dear fellow, she makes prisoners of
us, shoots you down when you try to escape, treats me worse than a
dog, banishes us to this hut which--not to put too fine a point on
it--is a pigs'-sty, and particularly filthy at that.  I don't blame
her, though some little explanation might not come amiss: but if she
has any need of help, you must admit that she dissembles it pretty
thoroughly."

Nat would not listen.  "You did not see?  You did not see?--And yet
you know her language and have talked with her!  Whereas I--O blind!"
he broke out passionately, "blind that you could not see!"

A fit of coughing seized and shook him, and as I eased him back upon
his fern pillow, blood came away upon the handkerchief I held to his
lips.

"Damn her!" I swore viciously.  "Let her need help if she will, and
let her ask me for it!  She has tried her best to kill you; and
what's more, she'll succeed if you don't lie still as I order.
Help?  Oh yes, I'll help her--when I have helped _you!_"

He moved his head feebly, as if to shake it: but lay quiet, panting,
with closed eyes: and so, the effusion of blood having ceased, I left
him and fell to work like a negro slave.

By the angle of the hut there stood a pigs' trough of granite,
roughly hewn and hollowed, and among the tools within I found a leaky
wooden bucket which, by daubing it with mud from the brink of the
stream, I contrived to make passably watertight.  A score of times I
must have travelled to and fro between the hut and the stream before
I had the cistern filled.  Then I fell-to upon the foul walls within,
slushing and brooming them.  Bats dropped from the roof and flew
blundering against me: I drove them forth from the window.  The mud
floor became a quag: I seized a spade and shovelled it clean, mud and
slime and worse filth together.  And still as I toiled a song kept
liddening (as we say in Cornwall) through my head: a song with two
refrains, whereof the first was the old nursery jingle--"Mud won't
daub sieve, sieve won't hold water, water won't wet stone, stone
won't edge axe, axe won't cut rod, rod won't make a gad, a gad to
hang Manachar who has eaten my raspberries every one."  (So ran the
rigmarole with which Mrs. Nance had beguiled my infancy.)  The second
refrain echoed poor Nat's cry, "She needs help, needs help, and you
could not see!  Blind, blind, that you could not see!"

How should she need help?  Little cared I though she needed it, and
sorely!  But how had the notion taken hold of Nat?

Weakness?  Delirium?  No: he had been running to get help for her
when they shot him down.  I had his word for that. . . . But she had
pursued with the others.  For aught I knew, she herself had fired the
shot.

If she needed help, why was she treating us despitefully--putting
this insult upon me, for example?  Why had she used those words of
hate?  They had been passionate words, too; spoken from the heart in
an instant of surprise.  Then, again, to suppose her a friend of the
Genoese was impossible.  But why, if not a friend of the Genoese, was
she a foe of their foes?  Why had she taken to the _macchia_ with
these men?  Why were they keeping watch on the coast while careless
that their watchfire showed inland for leagues?  Why, if she were a
patriot, had the sight of King Theodore's crown awakened such scorn
and yet rage against me, its bearer?  Why again, at the mere word
that my father sought the Queen Emilia, had she let him pass on,
while redoubling her despite against me?

On top of these puzzles Nat must needs propound another, that this
girl stood in need of help! Help?  From whom?

As my mind ran over these questions, still at every pause the old
rigmarole kept dinning--"Mud won't daub sieve, sieve won't hold
water, water won't wet stone . . ." on and on without ceasing, and
still I toiled and sweated.

By noon the hut was clean, at any rate tolerably clean; but its
soaked floor would certainly take many hours in drying, and Nat must
spend another night under the open sky.  I left the hut, snatched a
meal of bread and cheese, and, after a pull at the wine flask, turned
my attention to the sty.  To cleanse it before nightfall was out of
the question.  I examined it and saw three good days' labour ahead of
me.  But the palisading could be repaired and made secure after a
fashion, and I started upon it at once, sharpening the rotten posts
with my axe, driving, fixing, nailing, binding them firmly with
osier-twists, of which I had fetched a fresh supply from the
stream-side.  I had rolled my jacket into a pillow for Nat, that he
might lie easily and watch me.

The sun was sinking beyond the mountain, staining with deep rose the
pinnacles of granite that soared eastward above the pines, when a
horn sounded on the slope and Marc'antonio came down the track
driving the hogs before him.  He instructed me good-naturedly enough
in the art of penning the brutes, breaking off from time to time to
compliment me on my labours, the sum of which appeared to affect him
with a degree of wonder not far short of awe.  "But why are you doing
it?  Perche? perche?" he broke off once or twice to ask, eyeing me
askance with a look rather fearful than unfriendly.

"The Princess laid this task upon me," I answered cheerfully, indeed
with elation, feeling that so long as I could keep my tyrants puzzled
I still kept, somehow, the upper hand.

"I have travelled, in my time," said Marc'antonio with a touch of
vainglorious pride.  "I have made the acquaintance of many
continentals, even with some that were extremely rich.  But I never
crossed over to England."

"You would have found it full of eccentrics," said I.

"I dare say," said he.  "For myself, I said to myself when I took
ship, 'Marc'antonio,' said I, 'you must make it a rule to be
surprised at nothing.'  But do Englishmen clean hogs'-sties for
pleasure?"

"And the Princess? She has also travelled?" I asked, meeting his
question with another.

For the moment my question appeared to disturb him.  Recovering
himself, he answered gravely--

"She has travelled, but not very far.  You must not do her an
injustice. . . . We form our opinions on what we see."

"It is admittedly the best way," I assented, with equal gravity.

At the shut of night he left me and went his way up the mountain
path, and an hour later, having attended to Nat's wants, tired as in
all my life I had never been, I stretched myself on the turf and
slept under the stars.

The grunting of the hogs awakened me, a little before dawn.  I went
to the pen, and as soon as I opened the hatch they rushed out in a
crowd, all but upsetting me as they jostled against my legs.
Then, after listening for a while after they had vanished into the
undergrowth and darkness, I crept back to my couch and slept.

That day, though the sun was rising before I awoke again and broke
fast, I caught up with it before noon: that is to say, with the work
I had promised myself to accomplish.  Before sunset I had scraped
over and cleaned the entire area of the sty.  Also I had fetched fern
in handfuls and strewn the floor of the hut, which was now dry and
clean to the smell.

In the evening I blew my horn for the hogs, and they returned to
their pen obediently as the Princess had promised.  I had scarcely
finished numbering them when Marc'antonio came down the track, this
time haling a recalcitrant she-goat by a halter.

He tethered the goat and instructed me how to milk her.

The next evening he brought, at my request, a saw.  I had cleaned out
the sty thoroughly, and turned-to at once to enlarge the
window-openings to admit more light and air into the hut.

Still, as I worked, my spirits rose.  Nat was bettering fast.
In a few more days, I promised myself, he would be out of danger.
To be sure he shook his head when I spoke of this hope, and in the
intervals of sleep--of sleep in which I rejoiced as the sweet
restorer--lay watching me, with a trouble in his eyes.

He no longer disobeyed my orders, but lay still and watched.  My last
rag of shirt was gone now, torn up for bandages.  Marc'antonio had
promised to bring fresh linen to-morrow.  By night I slept with my
jacket about me.  By day I worked naked to the waist, yet always with
a growing cheerfulness.

It was on the fourth afternoon, and while yet the sun stood a good
way above the pines, that the Princess Camilla deigned to revisit us.
I had carried Nat forth into the glade before the hut, where the sun
might fall on him temperately, after a torrid day--torrid, that is to
say, on the heights, but in our hollow, pight about with the trees,
the air had clung heavily.

Marc'antonio, an hour earlier than usual, came down the track with a
bundle of linen under his left arm.  I did not see that any one
followed him until Nat pulled himself up, clutching at my elbow.

"Princess! Princess!" he cried, and his voice rang shrill towards her
under the boughs.  "Help her . . . I cannot--"

His voice choked on that last word as she came forward and stood
regarding him carelessly, coldly, while I wiped the blood and then
the bloody froth from his lips.

"Your friend looks to be in an ill case," she said.

"You have killed him," said I, and looked up at her stonily, as Nat's
head fell back, with a weight I could not mistake, on my arms.



CHAPTER XVII.


THE FIRST CHALLENGE.


     "The remedye agayns Ire is a vertu that men clepen Mansuetude,
      that is Debonairetee; and eek another vertu, that men callen
      Patience or Suffrance. . . . This vertu disconfiteth thyn
      enemy.  And therefore seith the wyse man, `If thou wolt
      venquisse thyn enemy, lerne to suffre.'"--
                              CHAUCER, _Parson's Tale_.

"You have killed him." I lowered Nat's head, stood up and accused her
fiercely.

She confronted me, contemptuous yet pale.  Even in my wrath I could
see that her pallor had nothing to do with fear.

"Say that I have, what then?"  She very deliberately unhitched the
gun from her bandolier, and, after examining the lock, laid it on the
turf midway between us.  "As my hostage you may claim vendetta; take
your shot then, and afterwards Marc'antonio shall take his."

"No, no, Englishman!"  Marc'antonio ran between us while yet I stared
at her without comprehending, and there was anguish in his cry.
"The Princess lies to you.  It was I that fired the shot--I that
killed your friend!"

The girl shrugged her shoulders indifferently.  "Ah, well then,
Marc'antonio, since you will have it so, give me my gun again and
hand yours to the cavalier.  Do as I tell you, please," she
commanded, as the man turned to her with a dropping jaw.

"Princess, I implore you--"

"You are a coward, Marc'antonio."

"Have it so," he answered sullenly.  "It is God's truth, at all
events, that I am afraid."

"For me? But I have this."  She tapped the barrel of her gun as she
took it from him.  "And afterwards--if that is in your mind--
afterwards I shall still have Stephanu."

She said it lightly, but it brought all the blood back to his brow
and cheek with a rush.  Not for many days did I learn the full
meaning of the look he turned on her, but for dumb reproach I never
saw the like of it on man's face.

Her foot tapped the ground.  "Give him the gun," she commanded; and
Marc'antonio thrust it into my hands.  "Now turn your back and walk
to that first tree yonder, very slowly, pace by pace, as you hear me
count."

Her face was set like a flint, her tone relentless.  Marc'antonio
half raised his two fists, clenching them for a moment, but dropped
them by his side, turned his back, and began to walk obediently
towards the tree.

"One--two--three--four--five," she counted, and paused.  "Englishman,
this fellow has killed your friend, and you claim yourself worthy to
be King of Corsica.  Prove it."

"Excuse me, Princess," said I, "but before that I have some other
things to prove, of which some are easy and others may be hard and
tedious."

"Seven--eight--nine."  With no answer, but a curl of the lip, she
resumed her counting.

"Marc'antonio!" I called--he had almost reached the tree.
"Come here!"

He faced about, his eyes starting, his cheeks blanched.  As he drew
nearer I saw that his forehead shone with sweat.

"I have a word for you," I said slowly.  "In the first place an
Englishman does not shoot his game sitting; it is against the rules.
Secondly, he is by no means necessarily a fool, but, if it came to
shooting against two, he might have sense enough to get his first
shot upon the one who held the musket--a point which your mistress
overlooked perhaps."  I bowed to her gravely.  "And thirdly," I went
on, hardening my voice, "I have to tell you, Ser Marc'antonio, that
this friend of mine, whom you have killed, was not trying to escape
you, but running to seek help for the Princess."

Marc'antonio checked an exclamation.  He glanced at the girl, and she
at him suspiciously, with a deepening frown.

"Help?" she echoed, turning the frown upon me, "What help, sir,
should I need?"

It was my turn now to shrug the shoulders.  "Nay," I answered,
"I tell you but what he told me.  He divined, or at least he was
persuaded, that you stood in need of help."

She threw a puzzled, questioning look at the poor corpse, but lifted
her eyes to find mine fixed upon them, and shrank a little as I
stepped close.  Her two hands went behind her, swiftly.  I may have
made a motion to grip her by the wrists; I cannot tell.  My next
words surprised myself, and the tone of my voice speaking and the
passion in it.

"You have killed my friend," said I, "who desired only your good.
You have chosen to humiliate me, who willed you no harm. And now you
say 'it shall be vendetta.'  Very well, it shall be vendetta, but as
_I_ choose it.  Keep your foolish weapons; I can do without them.
Heap what insults you will upon me; I am a man and will bear them.
But you are a woman, and therefore to be mastered.  For my friend's
sake I choose to hate you and to be patient.  For my friend's sake,
who discovered your need, I too will discover it and help it; and
again, not as you will, but as I determine.  For my friend's sake,
mistress, and if I choose, I will even love you and you shall come to
my hand.  Bethink you now what pains you can put on me; but at the
last you shall come and place your neck under my foot, humbly, not
choosing to be loved or hated, only beseeching your master!"

I broke off, half in wonder at my own words and the flame in my
blood, half in dismay to see her, who at first had fronted me
bravely, wince and put up both hands to her face, yet not so as to
cover a tide of shame flushing her from throat to brow.

"Give me leave to shoot him, Princess," said Marc'antonio.  But she
shook her head.  "He has been talking with some one. . . .
With Stephanu?"  His gaze questioned me gloomily.  "No, I will do the
dog justice; Stephanu would not talk."

"Lead her away," said I, "and leave me now to mourn my friend."

He touched her by the arm, at the same time promising me with a look
that he would return for an explanation.  The Princess shivered, but,
as he stood aside to let her pass, recollected herself and went
before him up the path beneath the pines.

I stepped to where Nat lay and bent over him.  I had never till now
been alone with death, and it should have found me terribly alone.
 . . . I closed his eyes. . . . And this had been my friend, my
schoolfellow, cleverer than I and infinitely more thoughtful, lacking
no grace but good fortune, and lacking that only by strength of a
spirit too gallant for its fate.  In all our friendship it was I that
had taken, he that had given; in the strange path we had entered and
travelled thus far together, it was he that had supplied the courage,
the loyalty, the blithe confidence that life held a prize to be won
with noble weapons; he who had set his face towards the heights and
pinned his faith to the stars; he, the victim of a senseless bullet;
he, stretched here as he had fallen, all thoughts, all activities
quenched, gone out into that night of which the darkness gathering in
this forsaken glade was but a phantom, to be chased away by
to-morrow's sun.  To-morrow . . . to-morrow I should go on living and
begin forgetting him.  To-morrow?  God forgive me for an ingrate, I
had begun already. . . . Even as I bent over him, my uppermost
thought had not been of my friend.  I had made, in the moment almost
of his death and across his body, my first acquaintance with passion.
My blood tingled yet with the strange fire; my mind ran in a tumult
of high resolves of which I understood neither the end nor the
present meaning, but only that the world had on a sudden become my
battlefield, that the fight was mine, and at all cost the victory
must be mine.  It was, if I may say it without blasphemy, as if my
friend's blood had baptized me into his faith; and I saw life and
death with new eyes.

Yet, for the moment, in finding passion I had also found self; and
shame of this self dragged down my elation.  I had sprung to my feet
in wild rage against Nat's murder; I had spoken words--fierce,
unpremeditated words--which, beginning in a boyish defiance, had
ended on a note which, though my own lips uttered it, I heard as from
a trumpet sounding close and yet calling afar.  In a minute or so it
had happened, and behold! I that, sitting beside Nat, should have
been terribly alone, was not alone, for my new-found self sat between
us, intruding on my sorrow.

I declare now with shame, as it abased me then, that for hours, while
the darkness fell and the stars began their march over the tree-tops,
the ghostly intruder kept watch with me as a bodily presence mocking
us both, benumbing my efforts to sorrow. . . . Nor did it fade until
calm came to me, recalled by the murmur of unseen waters.
Listening to them I let my thoughts travel up to the ridges and forth
into that unconfined world of which Nat's spirit had been made free.
 . . . I went to the hut for a pail, groped my way to the stream, and
fetched water to prepare his body for burial.  When I returned the
hateful presence had vanished.  My eyes went up to a star--love's
planet--poised over the dark boughs.  Thither and beyond it Nat had
travelled.  Through those windows he would henceforth look back and
down on me; never again through the eyes I had loved as a friend and
lived to close.  I could weep now, and I wept; not passionately, not
selfishly, but in grief that seemed to rise about me like a tide and
bear me and all fate of man together upon its deep, strong
flood. . . .

At daybreak Marc'antonio and Stephanu came down the pass and found me
digging the grave.  I thought at first that they intended me some
harm, for their faces were ill-humoured enough in all conscience; but
they carried each a spade, and after growling a salutation, set down
their guns and struck in to help me with my work.

We had been digging, maybe, for twenty minutes, and in silence, when
my ear caught the sound of furious grunting from the sty, where I had
penned the hogs overnight, a little before sundown.  Nat had watched
me as I numbered them, and it seemed now so long ago that I glanced
up with a start almost guilty, as though in my grief I had neglected
the poor brutes for days.  In fact I had kept them in prison for a
short hour beyond their usual time, and some one even now was
liberating them.

It was the Princess, of whose presence I had not been aware.
She stood by the gate of the pen, her head and shoulders in sunlight,
while the hogs raced in shadow past her feet.

Marc'antonio glanced at her across his shoulder and growled angrily.

"Your pardon, Princess," said I, slowly, as she closed the gate after
the last of the hogs and came forward.  "I have been remiss, but I
need no help either for this or for any of my work."

She halted a few paces from the grave.  "You would rather be alone?"
she asked simply.

"I wish you to understand," said I, "that for the present I have no
choice at all but your will."

She frowned.  "I thought to lighten your work, cavalier."

I was about to thank her ironically when the sound of a horn broke
the silence about us, its notes falling through the clear morning air
from the heights across the valley.  The Corsicans dropped their
spades.

"Ajo, listen! Listen!" cried Marc'antonio, excitedly.  "That will be
the Prince--listen again!  Yes, and they are answering from the
mountain.  It can be no other than the Prince, returning this way!"

While we stood with our faces upturned to the granite crags, I caught
the Princess regarding me doubtfully.  Her gaze passed on as if to
interrogate Marc'antonio and Stephanu, who, however, paid no heed,
being preoccupied.

Again the horn sounded; not clear as before, although close at hand,
for the thick woods muffled it.  For another three minutes we
waited--the Princess silent, standing a little apart, with thoughtful
brow, the two men conversing in rapid guttural undertones; then far
up the track beneath the boughs a musket-barrel glinted, and another
and another, glint following glint, as a file of men came swinging
down between the pines, disappeared for a moment, and rounding a
thicket of the undergrowth emerged upon the level clearing.  In dress
and bearing they were not to be distinguished from Marc'antonio,
Stephanu, or any of the bandits on the mountain.  Each man carried a
musket and each wore the jacket and breeches of sad-coloured velvet,
the small cap and leathern leggings, which I afterwards learnt to be
the uniform of patriotic Corsica.  But as they deployed upon the
glade--some forty men in all--and halted at sight of us, my eyes fell
upon a priest, who in order of marching had been midmost, or nearly
midmost, of the file, and upon a young man beside him, toward whom
the Princess sprang with a light step and a cry of salutation.

"The blessing of God be upon you, O brother!"

"And upon you, O sister!"  He took her kiss and returned it, yet
(as I thought) with less fervour.  Across her shoulder his gaze fell
on me, with a kind of peevish wonder, and he drew back a little as if
in the act to question her.  But she was beforehand with him for the
moment.

"And how hast thou fared, O Camillo?" she asked, leaning back, with a
hand upon his either shoulder, to look into his eyes.

He disengaged himself sullenly, avoiding her gaze.  There could be no
doubt that the two faces thus confronting one another belonged to
brother and sister, yet of the two his was the more effeminate, and
its very beauty (he was an excessively handsome lad, albeit
diminutively built) seemed to oppose itself to hers and caricature
it, being so like yet so infinitely less noble.

"We have fared ill," he answered, turning his head aside, and added
with sudden petulance, "God's curse upon Pasquale Paoli, and all his
house!"

"He would not receive you?"

"On the contrary, he made us welcome and listened to all we had to
say.  When I had done, Father Domenico took up the tale."

"But surely, brother, when you had given him the proofs--when he
heard all--"

"The mischief, sister," he interrupted, stabbing at the ground with
his heel and stealing a sidelong glance at the priest, "the mischief
was, he had already heard too much."

She drew back, white in the face.  She, too, flung a look at the
priest, but a more honest one, although in flinging it she shrank
away from him.  The priest, a sensual, loose-lipped man, whose mere
aspect invited one to kick him, smiled sideways and downwards with a
deprecating air, and spread out his hands as who should say that here
was no place for a domestic discussion.

I could make no guess at what the youth had meant; but the girl's
face told me that the stroke was cruel, and (as often happens with
the weak) his own cruelty worked him into a passion.

"But who is this man with you?" he demanded, the blood rushing to his
face.  "And how came you alone with him, and Stephanu, and
Marc'antonio?  You don't tell me that the others have deserted!"

"No one has deserted, brother.  You will find them all upon the
mountain."

"And the recruits?  Is this a recruit?"

"There are no recruits."

"No recruits?  By God, sister, this is too bad!  Has this cursed
rumour spread, then, all over the countryside that honest men avoid
us like a plague--us, the Colonne!"  He checked his tongue as she
drew herself up and turned from him, before the staring soldiery,
with drawn mouth and stony eyes; but stepped a pace after her on a
fresh tack of rage.

"But you have not answered me.  Who is this man, I repeat?  And eh?--
but what in God's name have we here?"  He halted, staring at the
half-digged grave and Nat's body laid beside it.

 Marc'antonio stepped forward.  "These are two prisoners, O Prince,
of whom, as you see, we are burying one."

"Prisoners?  But whence?"

"From England, as they tell us, O Prince."



CHAPTER XVIII.


THE TENDER MERCIES OF PRINCE CAMILLO.


     "Tyranny is the wish to have in one way what can only be had in
      another."--_Blaise Pascal_.

The young man eyed me insolently for a moment and turned again to his
sister.

"Camilla! will you have the goodness to explain?" he demanded.

But here, while she hesitated, searching her brother's face proudly
yet pitifully, as though unable quite to believe in the continued
brutality of his tone, I struck in.

"Pardon me, Signore," said I, "but an explanation from me may be
shorter."

"Eh? so you are English, and speak Corsican?"

"Or such Tuscan," answered I, modestly, "as may pass or a poor
attempt at it.  Yes, I am English, and have come hither--as the
Princess, your sister, will tell you--on a political errand which you
may or may not consider important."

The Princess, who had turned and stood facing her brother again,
threw me a quick look.

"I know nothing of that," she said hurriedly, "save that he came with
five others in a ship from England and encamped at Paomia below;
that, being taken prisoners, they professed to be seeking the Queen
Emilia, to deliver her; and that thereupon of the six I let four go,
keeping this one as hostage, with his friend, who has since died."

"And the crown," put in Stephanu.  "The Princess has forgotten to
mention the crown."

"What crown?"

"The crown, sir," said I boldly, seeing the Princess hesitate,
"of the late King Theodore of Corsica, given by him into my keeping."

I saw the priest start as if flicked with a whip, and shoot me a
glance of curiosity from under his loose upper lids.  His pupil
stepped up and thrust his face close to mine.

"Eh?  So you were seeking _me?_" he demanded.  "You are mistaken, sir,"
said I, "whatever your reason for such a guess.  My companions--one
of them my father, an Englishman and by name Sir John Constantine--
are seeking the Queen Emilia, whom they understand to be held
prisoner by the Genoese.  Meanwhile your sister detains me as
hostage, and the crown in pawn."

I had kept an eye on the priest as I pronounced my father's name: and
again (or I was mistaken) the pendulous lids flickered slightly.

"You do not answer my main question," the young man persisted.
"What are you doing here, in Corsica, with the crown of King
Theodore?"

"I am the less likely to answer that question, sir, since you can
have no right to ask it."

"No right to ask it?" he echoed, stepping back with a slow laugh.
"No right to ask it--I!  King Theodore's son?"

I shrugged my shoulders.  I had a mind to laugh back at his
impudence, and indeed nothing but the mercy of Heaven restrained me
and so saved my life.  As it was, I heard an ominous growl and
glanced around to find the whole company of bandits regarding me with
lively disfavour, whereas up to this point I had seemed to detect in
their eyes some hints of leniency, even of good will.  By their looks
they had disapproved of their master's abuseful words to his sister,
albeit with some reserve which I set down to their training.
But even more evidently they believed to a man in this claim of his.

My gesture, slight as it was, gave his anger its opportunity.
He drew back a pace, his handsome mouth curving into a snarl.

"You doubt my word, Englishman?"

"I have no evidence, sir, for doubting King Theodore's," I answered
as carelessly as I could, hoping the while that none of them heard
the beating of my heart, loud in my own ears as the throb-throb of a
pump.  "If you be indeed King Theodore's son, then your father--"

"Say on, sir."

"Why, then, your father, sir, practised some economy in telling me
the truth.  But my father and I will be content with the Queen
Emilia's simple word."

As I began this answer I saw the Princess turn away, dropping her
hands.  At its conclusion she turned again, but yet irresolutely.

"We will find something less than the Queen Emilia's word to content
you, my friend," her brother promised, eyeing me and breathing hard.
"Where is the crown, Stephanu?"

"In safe keeping, O Prince.  I beg leave to say, too, that it was I
who found it in the Englishmen's camp and brought it to the
Princess."

"You shall have your reward, my good Stephanu.  You shall put the
bearer, too, into safe keeping.  Stand back, take your gun, and shoot
me this dog, here beside his grave."

The Princess stepped forward.  "Stephanu," she said quietly,
"you will put down that gun."

Her brother rounded on her with a curse.  For the moment she did not
heed, but kept her eyes on Stephanu, who had stepped back with musket
half lifted and finger already moving toward the trigger-guard.

"Stephanu," she repeated, "on my faith as a Corsican, if you raise
that gun an inch--even a little inch--higher, I will never speak to
you again."  Then lifting a hand she swung round upon her brother,
whose rage (I thank Heaven) for the moment choked him.  "Is it meet,
think you, O brother, for a King of Corsica to kill his hostage?"

"Is it meet, O sister," he snarled, "for you, of all women, to
champion a man--and a foreigner--before my soldiers?  Shoot him,
Stephanu!"

Her head went up proudly.  "Stephanu will not shoot.  And you, my
brother, that are so careful--I sometimes think, so over-careful--of
my honour, for once bethink you that your own deserves attention.
This Englishman placed himself in my hands freely as a hostage.
From the first, since you force me to say it, I had no liking for
him.  Afterwards, when I knew his errand, I hated him for your sake:
I hated him so that in my rage I strained all duty towards a hostage
that I might insult him.  Marc'antonio will bear me witness."

"The Princess is speaking the truth before God," said Marc'antonio,
gravely.  "She made the man a keeper of swine yonder."  He waved a
hand toward the sty.  "And he is, as I understand, a cavalier in his
own country."

"I did more than that," the Princess went on.  "Having strained the
compact, I tempted him to break it--to shoot me or to shoot
Marc'antonio, so that one or other of us might be free to kill him."

She paused, again with her eyes on Marc'antonio, who nodded.

"And that also is the truth," he said.  "She put a gun into his
hands, that he might kill me for having killed his friend.
I did not understand at the time."

"A pretty coward!"  The young man flung this taunt out at me
viciously; but I had enough to do to hold myself steady, there by the
grave's edge, and did not heed him.

"I do not think he is a coward," said she.  (O, but those words were
sweet! and for the first time I blessed her.)  "But coward or no
coward, he is our hostage, and you must not kill him."

He turned to the priest, who all this while had stood with head on
one side, eyes aslant, and the air and attitude of a stranger who
having stumbled on a family squabble politely awaits its termination.

"Father Domenico, is my sister right?  And may I not kill this man?"

"She is right," answered the reverend father, with something like a
sigh.  "You cannot kill him consistently with honour, though I admit
the provocation to be great.  The Princess appears to have committed
herself to something like a pledge."  He paused here, and with his
tongue moistened his loose lips.  "Moreover," he continued, "to kill
him, on our present information, would be inadvisable.  I know--at
least I have heard--something of this Sir John Constantine whom the
young man asserts to be his father; and, by what has reached me, he
is capable of much."

"Do you mean," asked the Prince, bridling angrily, "that I am to fear
him?"

"Not at all," the priest answered quickly, still with his eyes
aslant.  "But, from what I have heard, he was fortunate, long ago, to
earn the esteem of the good lady your mother, and"--he paused and
felt for his snuff-box--"it would appear that the trick runs in the
family."

"By God, then, if I may not kill him, I may at least improve on my
sister's treatment," swore the young man.  "Made him her
swine-keeper, did she?  I will promote him a step.  Here, you!
Take and truss him by the heels!--and fetch me a chain, one of you,
from the forage-shed. . . ."

In the short time it took him to devise my punishment the Prince
displayed a devilishly ingenious turn of mind.  Within ten minutes
under his careful directions they had me down flat on my back in the
filth of the sty, with my neck securely chained to a post of the
palisade, my legs outstretched, and either ankle strapped to a peg.
My hands they left free, to supply me (as the Prince explained) with
food and drink: that is to say, to reach for the loaf and the
pannikin of water which Marc'antonio, under orders, fetched from the
hut and laid beside me.  Marc'antonio's punishment (for bearing
witness to the truth) was to be my gaoler and sty-keeper in my room.
He was promised, moreover, the job of hanging me as soon as my
comrades returned.

In this pleasant posture they left me, whether under surveillance or
not I could not tell, being unable to turn my head, and scarce able
even to move it an inch either way.

So I lay and stared up at the sky, until the blazing sun outstared
me.  I will dwell on none of my torments but this, which toward
midday became intolerable.  Certainly I had either died or gone mad
under it, but that my hands were free to shield me; and these I
turned in the blistering glare as a cook turns a steak on the
gridiron.  Now and again I dabbled them in the pannikin beside me,
very carefully, ekeing out the short supply of water.

I had neither resisted nor protested.  I hugged this thought and
meant, if die I must, to die hugging it.  I had challenged the girl,
promising her to be patient.  To be sure protest or resistance would
have been idle.  But I had kept my word.  I don't doubt that from
time to time a moan escaped me. . . . I could not believe that
Marc'antonio was near me, watching.  I heard no sound at all, no
distant voice or bugle-call from the camp on the mountain.  The woods
were silent . . . silent as Nat, yonder, in his grave.  Surely none
but a fiend could sit and watch me without a word. . . .

Toward evening I broke off a crust of bread and ate it.  The water I
husbanded.  I might need it worse by-and-by, if Marc'antonio delayed
to come.

But what if no one should come?

I had been dozing--or maybe was wandering in slight delirium--when
this question wrote itself across my dreams in letters of fire, so
bright that it cleared and lit up my brain in a flash, chasing away
all other terrors. . . .

Mercifully, it was soon answered.  Far up the glade a horn sounded--
my swine-horn, blown no doubt by Marc'antonio.  The hogs were coming.
 . . . Well, I must use my hands to keep them at their distance.

I listened with all my ears.  Yes, I caught the sound of their
grunting; it came nearer and nearer, and--was that a footstep, close
at hand, behind the palisade?

Something dropped at my side--dropped in the mire with a soft thud.
I stretched out my hand, felt for it, clutched it.

It was a file.

My heart gave a leap.  I had found a friend, then!--but in whom?
Was it Marc'antonio?  No: for I heard his voice now, fifty yards
away, marshalling and cursing the hogs.  His footstep was near the
gate.  As he opened it and the hogs rushed in, I slipped the file
beneath me, under my shoulder blades.

The first of the hogs, as he ran by me, put a hoof into my pannikin
and upset it; and while I struck out at him, to fend him aside,
another brute gobbled up my last morsel of crust.  The clatter of the
pannikin brought Marc'antonio to my side.  For a while he stood there
looking down on me in the dusk; then walked off through the sty to
the hut and returned with two hurdles which he rested over me, one
against another, tentwise, driving their stakes an inch or two into
the soil.  Slight as the fence was, it would protect me from the
hogs; and I thanked him.  He growled ungraciously, and, picking up
the pannikin, slouched off upon a second errand.  Again when he
brought it replenished, and a fresh loaf of bread with it, I thanked
him, and again his only answer was a growl.

I heard him latch the gate and walk away toward the hut.  Night was
falling on the valley.  Through my roof of hurdles a star or two
shone down palely.  Now was my time.  I slipped a hand beneath me and
recovered my file--my blessed file.

The chain about my neck was not very stout.  I had felt its links
with my fingers a good score of times in efforts, some deliberate,
others frantic, to loosen it even by a little.  Loosen it I could
not; the Prince had done his work too cleverly: but by my calculation
an hour would suffice me to file it through.

But an hour passed, and two hours, and still I lay staring up at the
stars, listening to the hogs as they rubbed flanks and chose and
fought for their lairs: still I lay staring, with teeth clenched and
the file idle in my hand.

I had challenged, and I had sworn.  "Bethink you now what pains you
can put upon me. . . ."  These tortures were not of her devising; but
I would hold her to them.  I was her hostage, and, though it killed
me, I would hold her to the last inch of her bond.  As a Catholic,
she must believe in hell.  I would carry my wrong even to hell then,
and meet her there with it and master her.

I was mad.  After hours of such a crucifixion a man must needs be
mad. . . . "Prosper, lad, your ideas are naught and your ambitions
earth: but you have a streak of damned obstinacy which makes me not
altogether hopeless of you!"  These had been Nat's words, a month
ago; and Nat lay in his grave yonder. . . . The cramp in my legs, the
fiery pain ringing my neck, met and ran over me in waves of total
anguish.  At the point where my will failed me to hold out, the power
failed me (I thank Heaven) to lift a hand.  Yet the will struggled
feebly; struggled on to the verge over which all sensation dropped
plumb, as into a pit.


I unclosed my eyes upon the grey dawn; but upon what dawn I knew not,
whether of earth or purgatory or hell itself.  They saw it swimming
in a vague light: but my ears, from a sound as of rushing waters,
awoke to a silence on which a small footfall broke, a few yards away.
Marc'antonio must have unpenned the hogs; for the sty was empty.
And the hogs in their rush must have thrown down the hurdles
protecting me; for these lay collapsed, the one at my side, the other
across me.

The light footfall drew close and halted.  I looked up into the face
of the Princess.

She came, picking her way across the mire; and with caution, as if
she feared to be overheard.  Clearly she had expected to find the sty
empty, for even to my dazed senses her dismay was evident as she
caught sight of me beneath the hurdle.

"You have not gone!  Oh, why have you not gone?"

She was on her knees beside me in the filth.  I heard her calling to
Marc'antonio, and presently Marc'antonio came, obedient as ever, yet
protesting.

"He has not gone!" She moved her hands with a wringing gesture.

I tried to speak, but for answer could only spread my hand, which
still grasped the file: and for days after it kept a blue weal bitten
across the palm.

I heard Marc'antonio's voice protesting as she took the file and
sawed with it frantically across my neck-chain.

"But he must escape and hide, at least."

"He cannot, Princess.  The torture has worn him out."

"It were better he died, then.  For I must go."

"It were better he died, Princess: but his youth is tough.  And that
you must go is above all things necessary.  The Prince would kill
me. . . ."

"A little while, Marc'antonio!   The file is working."

"To what end, Princess?--since time is wanting.  The bugle will
call--it may call now at any moment.  And if the Prince should miss
you--Indeed it were better that he died--"

Their voices swam on my ear through giddy whirls of mist, I heard him
persuade her to go--at the last insist upon her going.  Still the
file worked.

Suddenly it ceased working.  It seemed to me that they both had
withdrawn, and my neck still remained in bondage, though my legs were
free.  I knew that my legs were free though I had not the power to
test this by drawing them up.  I tried once, and closed my eyes,
swooning with pain.

Upon the swoon broke a shattering blow, across my legs and below the
knees; a blow that lifted my body to clutch with both hands upon
night and fall back again upon black unconsciousness.



CHAPTER XIX.


HOW MARC'ANTONIO NURSED ME AND GAVE ME COUNSEL.


     "Yet sometimes famous Princes like thyself,
      Drawn by report, adventurous by desire,
      Tell thee, with speechless tongues and semblance pale,
      That without covering, save yon field of stars,
      They here stand martyrs, slain in Cupid's wars;
      And with dead cheeks advise thee to desist
      For going on Death's net, whom none resist."
                                _Pericles, Prince of Tyre_.

His honour forbidding him to kill me, the Prince Camillo had given
orders to break my legs: and since to abandon me in this plight went
against the conscience of his followers (and even, it is possible,
against his own), he had left Marc'antonio behind to nurse me--thus
gratifying a second spite.  The Prince was an ingenious young man.

So much I gathered in faint intervals between anguish while
Marc'antonio bound me with rude splints of his own manufacture.
Yet he said little and did his surgery, though not ungently, with a
taciturn frown which I set down to moroseness, having learnt somehow
that the bandits had broken up their camp on the mountain and marched
off, leaving us two alone.

"Did the Princess know of this?" I managed to ask, and I believe this
was my first intelligible question.

Marc'antonio paused before answering.  "She knew that you were to be
hurt, but not the manner of it.  It was she that brought you the
file, by stealth.  Why did you not use it, and escape?"

"She brought me the file?"   I knew it already, but found a fierce
satisfaction in the words.  "And she--and you--tried to use it upon
my chain here and deliver me: I forced you to that, my friends!
As for using it myself, you heard what I promised her, yesterday,
before her brother came."

"I heard you talk very foolishly; and now you have done worse than
foolishly.  I do not understand you at all--no, by the Mother of God,
I do not!  You had the whole night for filing at your chain: and it
would have been better for you, and in the end for her."

"And for you also, Marc'antonio."

He was silent.

"And for you also, Marc'antonio?" I repeated it as a question.

"Your escape would have been put down to me, Englishman.  I had
provided for that," he answered simply.

"Forgive me," I muttered, thrown back upon sudden contrition.
"I was thinking only that you must feel it a punishment to be left
alone with me.  I had forgot--"

"It is hard," he interrupted, "to bear everything in mind when one is
young."  His tone was quiet, decisive, as of one stating a fact of
common knowledge; but the reproof cut me like a knife.

"The Princess has gone too?" I asked.

"She has gone.  They are all gone.  That is why it would have been
better for her too that you had escaped."

I pondered this for a minute.  "You mean," said I, "that--always
supposing the Prince had not killed you in his rage--you would now be
at her side?"

He nodded.  "Still, she has Stephanu.  Stephanu will do his best," I
suggested.

"Against what, eh?" He put his poser to me, turning with angry eyes,
but ended on a short laugh of contempt.  "Do not try make-believe
with me, O Englishman."

"There is one thing I know," said I, doggedly, "that the Princess is
in trouble or danger.  And a second thing I know, that you and
Stephanu are her champions.  But a third thing, which I do not know,
is why you and Stephanu hate one another."

"And yet that should have been the easiest guess of the three," said
he, rising abruptly and taking first a dozen paces toward the hut,
then a dozen back to the shadow of the chestnut tree against the bole
of which my head rested as he had laid me, having borne me thither
from the sty.

"_Campioni?_  That is a good word, and I thank you for it,
Englishman.  Yet you wonder why I hate Stephanu?  Listen.  Were you
ever in Florence, in the Boboli gardens?"

"Never.  But why?"

"Mbe!  I have travelled, for my part."  Marc'antonio now and always
mentioned his travels with an innocent boastfulness.  "Well, in the
gardens there you will find a fountain, and on either side of it a
statue--the statues of two old kings.  They sit there, those two,
carved in stone, face to face across the fountain; and with faces so
full of hate that I declare it gives you a shiver down the spine--all
the worse, if you will understand, because their eyes have no sight
in them.  Now the story goes that these two kings in life were
friends of a princess of Tuscany far younger than themselves, and
championed her, and established her house while she was weak and her
enemies were strong; and that afterwards in gratitude she caused
these statues to be set up beside the fountain.  Another story (to me
it sounds like a child's tale) says that at first there was no
fountain, and that the princess knew nothing of the hatred between
these old men; but the sculptor knew.  Having left the order with
him, she married a husband of her own age and lived for years at a
foreign court.  At length she returned to Florence and led her
husband one day out through the garden to show him the statues, when
for the first time she saw what the sculptor had done and knew for
the first time that these dead men had hated one another for her
sake; whereupon she let fall one tear which became the source of the
fountain.  To me all this part of the story is foolishness: but that
I and Stephanu hate one another not otherwise than those two old
kings, and for no very different cause, is God's truth, cavalier."

"You are devoted to her, you two?" I asked, tempting him to continue.

He gazed down on me for a moment with immeasurable contempt.

"I give you a figure, and you would put it into words!  Words!"
He spat.  "And yet it is the truth, Englishman, that once she called
me her second father.  'Her second father'--I have repeated that to
Stephanu once or twice when I have lost my temper (a rare thing with
me).  You should see him turn blue!"

I could get no more out of Marc'antonio that day, nor indeed did the
pain I suffered allow me to continue the catechism.  A little before
night fell he lifted me again and carried me to a bed of
clean-smelling heather and fern he had prepared within the hut; and,
all the night through, the slightest moan from me found him alert to
give me drink or shift me to an easier posture.  Our total solitude
seemed from the first to breed a certain good-fellowship between us:
neither next day nor for many days did he remit or falter in his care
for me.  But his manner, though not ungentle, was taciturn.
He seemed to carry about a weight on his mind; his brow wore a
constant frown, vexed and unhappy.  Once or twice I caught him
talking to himself.

"To be sure it was enough to madden all the saints: and the Prince is
not one of them. . . ."

"What was enough to madden all the saints, O Marc'antonio?" I asked
from my bed.

Already he had turned in some confusion, surprised by the sound of
his own voice.  He was down on hands and knees, and had been blowing
upon the embers of a wood fire, kindled under a pan of goat's milk.
The goat herself browsed in the sunlight beyond the doorway, in the
circuit allowed by a twenty-foot tether.

"What was enough to madden all the saints, O Marc'antonio?"

"Why," said he, savagely, "your standing up to him and denying his
birth and his sister's before all the crowd.  I did not think that
anything could have saved you."

"If I remember, I added that the Queen Emilia's bare word would be
enough for me."

"So.  But you denied it on his father's, and that is what his
enemies, the Paolists all, would give their ears to hear--yes, and
Pasquale Paoli himself, though he passes for a just man."

"Marc'antonio," said I, seriously, "are the Prince and Princess in
truth the children of King Theodore?"

"As God hears me, cavalier, they are his twin children, born in the
convent of Santa Maria di Fosciandora, in the valley of the Serchio,
some leagues to the north of Florence; and on the feast-day of Saint
Mark these sixteen years ago."

"Then King Theodore either knew nothing of it, or he was a liar."

"He was a liar, cavalier."

"Stay a moment.  I have a mind to tell you the whole story as it came
to me, and as I should have told it to the Prince Camillo, had he
treated me with decent courtesy."

Marc'antonio ceased blowing the fire and sitting back on his heels
disposed himself to listen.  Very briefly I told him of my journey to
London, my visit to the Fleet, and how I received the crown with
Theodore's blessing.

"That he denied having children I will not say: but (I remember well)
my father took it for granted that he had no children, and he said
nothing to the contrary.  Indeed on any other assumption his gift of
the crown to me would have been meaningless."

Marc'antonio nodded, following my argument.  "But there is another
difficulty," I went on.  "My father, who does not lie, told me once
that King Theodore returned to the island in the year 'thirty-nine,
where he stayed but for a week; and that not until a year later did
his queen escape across to Tuscany."

But here Marc'antonio shook his head vigorously.  "Whoever told your
father that, told him an untruth.  The Queen fled from Porto Vecchio
in that same winter of 'thirty-nine, a few days before Christmas.
I myself steered the boat that carried her."

"To be sure," said I, "my father may have had his information from
King Theodore."

"The good sisters of the convent," continued Marc'antonio, "received
the Queen and did all that was necessary for her.  But among them
must have been one who loved the Genoese or their gold: for when the
children were but ten days old they vanished, having been stolen and
handed secretly to the Genoese--yes, cavalier, out of the Queen's own
sleeping-chamber.  Little doubt had we they were dead--for why should
their enemies spare them?  And never should we have recovered trace
of them but for the Father Domenico, who knew what had become of them
(having learnt it, no doubt, among the sisters' confessions, to
receive which he visited the convent) and that they were alive and
unharmed; but he kept the secret, for his oath's sake, or else
waiting for the time to ripen."

"Then King Theodore may also have believed them dead," I suggested.
"Let us do him that justice.  Or he may never have known that they
existed."

Marc'antonio brushed this aside with a wave of his hand.

"The cavalier," he answered with dignity, "may have heard me allude
to my travels?"

"Once or twice."

"The first time that I crossed the Alps"--great Hannibal might have
envied the roll in Marc'antonio's voice--"I bore the King tidings of
his good fortune.  It was Stephanu who followed, a week later, with
the tale that the children were stolen."

"Then Theodore _did_ believe them dead."

"At the time, cavalier; at the time, no doubt.  But more than twelve
years later, being in Brussels--"  Here Marc'antonio pulled himself
up, with a sudden dark flush and a look of confusion.

"Go on, my friend.  You were saying that twelve years later,
happening to be in Brussels--"

"By the merest chance, cavalier.  Before retiring to England King
Theodore spent the most of his exile in Flanders and the Low
Countries: and in Brussels, as it happened, I had word of him and
learned--but without making myself known to him--that he was seeking
his two children."

"Seeking them in Brussels?"

"At a venture, no doubt, cavalier.  Put the case that you were
seeking two children, of whom you knew only that they were alive and
somewhere in Europe--like two fleas, as you might say, in a bundle of
straw--"

I looked at Marc'antonio and saw that he was lying, but politely
forbore to tell him so.

"Then Theodore knew that his children were alive?" said I musing.
"Yet he gave my father to understand that he had no children."

"Mbe, but he was a great liar, that Theodore?  Always when it
profited, and sometimes for the pleasure of it."

"Nevertheless, to disinherit his own son!"

Marc'antonio's shoulders went up to his ears.  "He knew well enough
what comedy he was playing.  Disinherit his own son?  We Corsicans,
he might be sure, would never permit that: and meanwhile your
father's money bought him out of prison.  Ajo, it is simple as
milking the she-goat yonder!"

"If you knew my father better, Marc'antonio, you would find it not
altogether so simple as you suppose.  King Theodore might have told
my father that these children lived, and my father would yet have
bought his freedom for their sake; yes, and helped him to the last
shilling and the last drop of blood to restore them to the Queen
their mother."

"Verily, cavalier, I knew your father to be a madman," said
Marc'antonio, gravely, after considering my words for awhile.
"But such madness as you speak of, who could take into account?"

"Eh, Marc'antonio?  What acquaintance have you with my father, that
you should call him mad?"

"I remember him well, cavalier, and his long sojourning with my late
master the Count Ugo at his palace of Casalabriva above the Taravo,
and the love there was between him and my young mistress that is now
the Queen Emilia.  Lovers they were for all eyes to see but the old
Count's.  Mbe! we all gossiped of it, we servants and clansmen of the
Colonne--even I, that kept the goats over Bicchivano, on the road
leading up to the palace, and watched the two as they walked
together, and was of an age to think of these things.  A handsomer
couple none could wish to see, and we watched them with good will;
for the Englishman touched her hand with a kind of worship as a
devout man touches his beads, and they told me that in his own
country he owned great estates--greater even than the Count's.
Indeed, cavalier, had your father thought less of love and more of
ambition there is no saying but he might have reached out for the
crown, and his love would have come to him afterwards.  But, as the
saying goes, while Peter stalked the mufro Paul stole the mountain:
and again says the proverb, 'Bury not your treasure in another's
orchard.'  Along came this Theodore, and with a few lies took the
crown and the jewel with it.  So your father went away, and has come
again after many years; and at the first I did not recognize him, for
time has dealt heavily with us all.  But afterwards, and before he
spoke his name, I knew him--partly by his great stature, partly by
his carriage, and partly, cavalier, by the likeness your youth bears
to his as I remember it.  So you have the tale."

"And in the telling, Marc'antonio," said I, "it appears that you, who
champion his children, bear Theodore's memory no good will."

"Theodore!" Marc'antonio spat again.  "If he were alive here and
before me, I would shoot him where he stood."

"For what cause?" I asked, surprised by the shake in his voice.

But Marc'antonio turned to the fire again, and would not answer.


As I remember, some three or four days passed before I contrived to
draw him into further talk; and, curiously enough, after trying him a
dozen times _per ambages_ (as old Mr. Grylls would have said) and in
vain, on the point of despair I succeeded with a few straight words.

"Marc'antonio," said I, "I have a notion about King Theodore."

"I am listening, cavalier."

"A suspicion only, and horribly to his discredit."

"It is the likelier to be near the truth."

"Could he--think you--have _sold_ his children to the Genoese?"

Marc'antonio cast a quick glance at me.  "I have thought of that," he
said quietly.  "He was capable of it."

"It would explain why they were allowed to live.  A father, however
deep his treachery, would make that a part of the bargain."

Marc'antonio nodded.

"I would give something," I went on, "to know how Father Domenico
came by the secret.  By confession of one of the sisters, you
suggest.  Well, it may be so.  But there might be another way--only
take warning that I do not like this Father Domenico--"

"I am listening."

"Is it not possible that he himself contrived the kidnapping--always
with King Theodore's consent?"

"Not possible," decided Marc'antonio, after a moment's thought.
"No more than you do I like the man: but consider.  It was he who
sent us to find and bring them back to Corsica.  At this moment, when
(as I will confess to you) all odds are against it, he holds to their
cause; he, a comfortable priest and a loose liver, has taken to the
bush and fares hardly for his zeal."

"My good friend," said I, "you reason as though a traitor must needs
work always in a straight line and never quarrel with his paymaster;
whereas by the very nature of treachery these are two of the
unlikeliest things in the world.  Now, putting this aside, tell me if
you think your Prince Camillo the better for Father Domenico's
company? . . . You do not, I see."

"I will not say that," answered Marc'antonio, slowly.  "The Prince
has good qualities.  He will make a Corsican in time.  But, I own to
you, he has been ill brought up, and before ever he met with Father
Domenico.  As yet he thinks only of his own will, like a spoilt
child; and of his pleasures, which are not those of a king such as he
desires to be."

Said I at a guess, "But the pleasures--eh, Marc'antonio?--such as a
forward boy learns on the pavements; of Brussels, for example?"

I thought for the moment he would have knifed me, so fiercely he
started back and then craned forward at me, showing his white teeth.
I saw that my luck with him hung on this moment.

"Tell me," I said, facing him and dragging hard on the hurry in my
voice, "and remember that I owe no love to this cub.  You may be
loyal to him as you will, but I am the Princess's man, I! You heard
me promise her.  Tell me, why has she no recruits?"

He drew back yet farther, still with his teeth bared.  "Am _I_ not
her man?" he almost hissed.

"So you tell me," I answered, with a scornful laugh, brazening it
out.  "You are her man, and Stephanu is her man, and the Prince too,
and the Father Domenico, no doubt.  Yes, you are all her men, you
four: but why can she collect no others?"  I paused a moment and,
holding up a hand, checked them off contemptuously upon my fingers.
"Four of you! and among you at least one traitor!  Stop!" said I, as
he made a motion to protest.  "You four--you and Stephanu and the
Prince and Fra Domenico--know something which it concerns her fame to
keep hidden; you four, and no other that I wot of. You are all her
men, her champions: and yet this secret leaks out and poisons all
minds against the cause.  Because of it, Paoli will have no dealing
with you.  Because of it, though you raise your standard on the
mountains, no Corsicans flock to it.  Pah!" I went on, my scorn
confounding him, "I called you her champion, the other day!  Be so
good as consider that I spoke derisively.  Four pretty champions she
has, indeed; of whom one is a traitor, and the other three have not
the spirit to track him down and kill him!"

Marc'antonio stood close by me now.  To my amazement he was shaking
like a man with the ague.

"Cavalier, you do not understand!" he protested hoarsely: but his
eyes were wistful, as though he hoped for something which yet he
dared not hear.

"Eh? I do not understand?  Well, now, listen to me.  I am her man,
too, but in a different fashion.  You heard what I swore to her, that
day, beside my friend's body; that whether in hate or love, and be
her need what it might, I would help her.  Hear me repeat it, lying
here with my both legs broken, helpless as a log.  Let strength
return to me and I will help her yet, and in spite of all her
champions."

"In hate or in love, cavalier?" Marc'antonio's voice shook with his
whole body.

"That shall be my secret," answered I.  (Yet well I knew what the
answer was, and had known it since the moment she had bent over me in
the sty, filing at my chain.) "It had better be hate--eh,
Marc'antonio?--seeing that for some reason she hates all men, except
you, perhaps, and Stephanu, and her brother."

"We do not count, I and Stephanu.  Her brother she adores.  But the
rest of men she hates, cavalier, and with good cause."

"Then it had better be hate?"

"Yes, yes"--and there was appeal in his voice--"it had a thousand
times better be hate, could such a miracle happen."  He peered into
my eyes for a moment, and shook his head.  "But it is not hate,
cavalier; you do not deceive me.  And since it is not--"

"Well?"

"It were better for you--far better--that Giuse had died of the wound
you gave him."

"Why, what on earth has Giuse to do with this matter?" I demanded.
Indeed I had all but forgotten Giuse's existence.

"Only this; that had Giuse died, they would have killed you out of
hand in _vendetta_."

"You are an amiable race, you Corsicans!"

"And you came, cavalier, meaning to reign over us!  Now, I have taken
a liking to you and will give you a warning.  Be like your father,
and give up all for love."

"Suppose," said I, after a pause, "that for love I choose rather to
dare all?"

"Signore"--he stepped back and, raising himself erect, flung out both
hands passionately--"Take her, if you must take her, away from
Corsica!  She is innocent, but here they will never understand.
What she did she did for her brother, far from home: yet he--he has
no thanks, no bowels of pity, and here at home it is killing her!
There was a young man, a noble, head of the family of Rocca Serra by
Sartene--" Marc'antonio broke off, trembling.

"You must finish," said I, in a voice cold and slow as the chilled
blood about my heart.

"There was no harm in her.  By her brother's will they were
betrothed.  She hated the youth, and he--he was eager--until the day
before the marriage--"

"What happened, Marc'antonio?"

"He slew himself, cavalier.  Some story reached him, and he slew
himself with his own gun.  O cavalier, if you can help us, take her
away from Corsica!"

He cast up both hands and ran from me.



CHAPTER XX.


I LEARN OF LIBERTY, AND AM RESTORED TO IT.


     "A!  Fredome is a noble thing:
      Fredome mayse man to haif liking."
                                BARBOUR, _The Bruce_.

     "Non enim propter gloriam divitas aut honores pugnanus,
      sed propter libertatem solummodo, quam nemo bonus nisi cum vita
      amittit.--"
      _Lit. Comit. et Baron_.  Scotoe ad Pap.  A.D. 1320
                                           (quoted by BOSWELL).

     "When corn ripeth in every steade
      Mury it is in feld and hyde;
      Sinne hit is and shame to chyde.
      Knyghtis wolleth on huntyng ride,
      The deor galopith by wodis side,
      He that can his tyme abyde,
      At his wille him schal betyde."
                               _Alisaunder_.

More than this Marc'antonio would not tell me, though I laid many
traps for more during the long weeks my bones were healing.
But although he denied me his confidence in this matter, he told me
much of this Corsica I had so childishly invaded, and a great deal to
make me blush for my random ignorance; of the people, their untiring
feud with Genoa, their insufferable wrongs, their succession of
heroic leaders.  He did not speak of their passion for liberty, as a
man will not of what is holiest in his love.  He had no need.
It spoke for itself in the ring of his voice, in the glooms and
lights of his eyes, as we lay on either side of our wood fire; and I
listened, till the embers died down, to the deeds of Jean Paul de
Leca, of Giudice della Rocca, of Bel Messer, of Sampiero di Ornano,
of the great Gaffori and other chiefs, all famous in their day, each
in his turn assassinated by Genoese gold.  I heard of Venaco, where
the ghost of Bel Messer yet wanders, with the ghosts of his wife and
seven children drowned by the Genoese in the little lake of the Seven
Bowls.  I heard of the twenty-one shepherds of Bastelica who marched
down from their mountains, and routed eight hundred Greeks and
Genoese of the garrison of Ajaccio; how at length they were
intercepted and slain between the river and the marshes--all but one
youth, who, stretched among his comrades and feigning death, was
taken and led to execution through the streets of the town, carrying
six heads, and each a kinsman's.  I heard how Gaffori besieged his
own house; how the Genoese, having stolen his infant son, exposed the
child in the breach to stop the firing; and how Gaffori called to
them "I was a Corsican before I was a father," and the cannonade went
on, yet the child miraculously escaped unhurt.  I heard of Sampiero's
last fight with his murderers, in the torrent bed under the castle of
Giglio; of Maria Gentili of Oletta, who died to save her brother from
death. . . . And until now these had not even been names to me!
I had adventured to win this kingdom as a man goes out with a gun to
shoot partridges.  I could not hide my shame of it.

"You have taught me much in these evenings, O Marc'antonio," said I.

"And you, cavalier, have taught me much."

"In what way, my friend?"

Marc'antonio looked across the fire with a smile, and held up a
carved piece of wood he had been sharpening to a point.  In shape it
resembled an elephant's tusk, and it formed part of an apparatus to
keep a pig from straying, two of these tusks being so fastened above
the beast's neck that they caught and hampered him in the
undergrowth.

"Eccu!" said Marc'antonio.  "You have taught me to be a swinekeeper,
for instance.  There is no shame in any calling but what a man brings
to it.  You have taught me to endure lesser things for the sake of
greater, and that is a hard lesson at my age."

From Marc'antonio I learned not only that this Corsica was a land
with its own ambitions, which no stranger might share--a nation small
but earnest, in which my presence was merely impertinent and
laughable withal--but that the Prince Camillo's chances of becoming
its king were only a trifle less derisory than my own.  Marc'antonio
would not admit this in so many words; but he gave me to understand
that Pasquale Paoli had by this time cleared the interior of the
Genoese, and was thrusting them little by little from their last grip
on the extremities of the island--Calvi and some smaller strongholds
in the north, Bonifacio in the south, and a few isolated forts along
the littoral; that the people looked up to him and to him only; that
the constitution he had invented was working and working well; that
his writ ran throughout Corsica, and his laws were enforced, even
those which he had aimed at vendetta and cross-vendetta; and that the
militia was faithful to him, almost to a man.  "Nor will I deny,
cavalier," he added, "that he seems to me an honest patriot and a
wise one.  They say he seeks the Crown, however."

"Well, and why not?" I demanded.  "If he can unite Corsica and win
her freedom, does he not deserve to be her king?"

Marc'antonio shook his head.

"Would your Prince Camillo make a better one?" I urged.

"It is a question of right, cavalier.  I love this Paoli for
trouncing the Genoese; but for denying the Prince his rights I must
hate him, and especially for the grounds of his denial."

"Tell me those grounds precisely, Marc'antonio."

But he would not; and somehow I knew that they concerned the
Princess.

"Paoli is generous in that he leaves us in peace," he answered,
evading the question; "and I must hate him all the more for this,
because he spares us out of contempt."

"Yet," said I, musing, "that priest must have a card up his sleeve.
Rat that he looked, I cannot fancy him sticking to a ship until she
foundered."


Certainly we were left in peace.  For any sign that reached to us
there, in our cup of he hills, the whole island might have been
desolate.  The forest and the beasts in it, tame and wild,
belonged--so Marc'antonio informed me--to the Colonne; the slopes
between us and the sea to the lost great colony of Paomia.
No one disturbed us.  Week followed week, yet since the Prince had
passed with his men no traveller came down the path which ran between
our hut and Nat's grave, over which the undergrowth already was
pushing its autumn shoots.  Indeed, the path led no whither but to
the sea and the forsaken village.  Twice a week Marc'antonio would
leave me for five or six hours and return with bread, and at whiles
with a bag of dried figs or a basket of cheeses and olives for
supplement.  I learned that he purchased them in a _paese_ to the
southward, beyond the forest and beyond the ridge of the hills; but
he made a mystery of this, and I had to be content with his word that
in Corsica folk in the bush need never starve.  Also, sometimes I
would hear his gun, and he would bring me home five or six brace of
blackbirds strung on a wand of osier; and these birds grew plumper
and made the better eating as autumn painted the arbutus with scarlet
berries.

To me, so long held a prisoner within the hut, this change of season
came with a shock upon the never-to-be-sufficiently-blessed day when
Marc'antonio, having examined and felt my bones and pronounced them
healed, lifted and bore me, as you might carry a child, up the path
to the old camp on the ridge.  He was proud (good man) as he had a
right to be.  Surgeons in Corsica there might be none, as he assured
me, or none capable of probing an ordinary bullet wound.  But in
youth he had learnt the art of bone-setting, and practised it upon
the sheep which slipped and broke themselves in the gorge of the
Taravo; and his care of me was a masterpiece, to be boasted over to
his dying day.  "The smallest limp, at the outside!" he promised me;
he would not answer entirely for the left leg, that thrice-teasing,
thrice-accursed fracture.  Another ten days, and we might be sure; he
could not allow me to set foot to ground under ten days.  But while
he carried me he whistled a lively air, and broke off to promise me
good shooting before a month was out--shooting of blackbirds, of deer
perhaps, perhaps even of a _mufro_.  Here the whistling grew _largo
espressivo_.

And I?  I drew the upland air into my lungs, and the scent of the
recovered _macchia_ through my nostrils, and inhaled it as a man
inhales tobacco-smoke, and could have whooped for joy.  Not by
one-fifth was the scent so intense as I have since smelt it in
spring, when all Corsica breaks into flower; yet intense enough and
exhilarating after the dank odours of the valley.  But the colours!
On a sudden the _macchia_ had burst into fruit--carmine berries of
the sarsaparilla, upon which a few late flowerets yet drooped, duller
berries of the lentisk, olive-like berries of the phillyria, velvet
purple berries of the myrtle, and (putting all to shade) yellow and
scarlet fruit of the arbutus, clustering like fairy oranges, here and
there so thickly that the whole thicket was afire and aflame, enough
to have deceived Moses!  God, how good to see it and be alive!

Marc'antonio bore me up through the swimming air and laid me in the
shadow of the cave--_her_ cave.  It was empty as she had left it, and
my back pressed the very bed of fern on which she had lain.  The fern
was dry now, after long winnowing by the wind that found its way into
every crevice of this mountain summit.

How could I choose but think of her?  Thinking of her, how could I
choose but weary myself in vain speculation, by a hundred guesses
attempting to force my way past the edge of the mystery, the sinister
shadow which wrapped her round, and penetrate to the heart of it?
I recalled her beauty, childlike yet sullen; her eyes, so forthright
at times and transparently innocent, yet at times so swiftly clouded
with suspicion, not merely shy, but shy with terror, like the eyes of
a wild creature entrapped; her bearing, by turns disdainful and
defiant with a guarded shame.  This turf, these boulders, had made
her bower, these matted creepers her curtain.  Here she had lived
secure among savage men, each one of them ready to die--so
Marc'antonio assured me, and all that I had seen confirmed it--rather
than injure a hair of her head or suffer it to be injured.  She was a
king's daughter.  Yet this lad of the Rocca Serras, noble, of the
best blood of the island, had turned his own gun upon himself rather
than wed with her.

I thought much upon this lad Rocca Serra.  Why had he died?
Was it for loathing her?  But men do not easily loathe such beauty.
Was it for love of her?  But men do not slay themselves for fortunate
love.  Had _her_ loathing been in some way the secret of his despair?
I recalled my words to her, and how she had answered them, turning in
the steep track among the pines "I am your hostage.  Do with me as
you will."  "_If I could! Ah, if I could!_"  I liked to think that
the lad had loved her and been disdained; yet I pitied him for being
disdained, and half hated him for having dared to love her.
Yes, for certain he had loved her.  But, if so, her secret had need
be as strange almost as that of Sara, the daughter of Raguel, whom
seven husbands married, to perish on the marriage eve--"_for a wicked
spirit loveth her, which hurteth nobody but those which come unto
her_."

In dreams I found myself travelling beyond the grave in search of
this dead lad, to question him; and not seldom would awake with these
lines running in my head, remembered as old perplexing favourites
with my father, though God knows how I took a fancy that they held
the clue--

     "I long to talk with some old lover's ghost
        Who dy'd before the God of Love was born.
      I cannot think that he, who then loved most,
        Sunk so low as to love one which did scorn.
      But since this god produc'd a Destiny,
      And that Vice-Nature Custom lets it be,
        I must love her that loves not me.

     "O, were we waken'd by this tyranny
        T'ungod this child again, it could not be
      I should love her who loves not me.

     "Rebel and Atheist too, why murmur I
        As though I felt the worst that love could do?
      Love may make me leave loving, or might try
        A deeper plague--to make her love me too;
      Which, since she loves before, I'm loth to see:
      Falsehood is worse than hate: and that must be
        If she whom I love should love me."

Many wild conjectures I made and patiently built upon, which, if I
were to write them down here, would merely bemuse the reader or drive
him to think me crazy.  There on my enchanted mountain summit, ringed
about day after day by the silent land, removed from all human
company but Marc'antonio's, with no clock but the sun and no calendar
but the creeping change of the season upon the _macchia_, what wonder
if I forgot human probabilities at times in piecing and unpiecing
solutions of a riddle which itself cried out against nature?

Marc'antonio was all the while as matter-of-fact as a good nurse
ought to be.  He had fashioned me a capital pair of crutches out of
boxwood, and no sooner could I creep about on them than he began to
discourse, over the camp-fire, on the hunting excursions we were soon
to make together.

"_Pianu, pianu_; we will grow strong, and get our hand in by little
and little.  At first there will be the blackbirds and the foxes--"

"You shoot foxes in Corsica?" I asked.

Marc'antonio stared at me.  "And why not, cavalier?  You would not
have us run after them and despatch them with the stiletto!"

I endeavoured to explain to him the craft and mystery of fox-hunting
as practised in England.  He shook his head over it, greatly
bewildered.

"It seems a long ceremony for one little fox," was his criticism.

"But if we did it with less ritual the foxes would disappear out of
the country," I answered him.

"And why not?"

This naturally led me into a discourse on preserving game and on our
English game laws, which, I regret to say, gravelled him utterly.

"A peace of God for foxes and partridges! Why, what do you allow,
then, for a _man?_"

I explained that we did not shoot men in England.  His jaw dropped.

"Mbe! In the name of the Virgin, whatever do you do with them?"

"We hang them sometimes, and sometimes we fight duels with them."
I expounded in brief the distinction between these processes and
their formalities, whereat he remained for a long while in a brown
study.

"Well," he admitted, "by all accounts you English have achieved
liberty; but, _per Baccu_, you do strange things with it!"

"Blackbirds, to begin with," he resumed, "and foxes, and a hare,
maybe.  Then in the next valley there are boars--small, and wild, and
fierce, but our great half-tame ones have driven them off this
mountain.  After them we will extend ourselves and stalk for deer."

He described the deer to me and its habits.  It was, as I made out,
an animal not unlike our red deer, but smaller, and of a duller coat;
shy, too, and scarce.  He gave me reasons for this.  In summer the
Corsican shepherds, each armed with a gun, pasture their sheep on the
mountains, in winter along the plains and valleys; in either season
driving off the poor stag, which in summer is left to range the
parched lowlands and in winter the upper snows.  Of late years,
however, owing to the unsettled state of politics, the shepherds
pastured not half the numbers of sheep that Marc'antonio remembered
in his youth, and by consequence the deer had multiplied and grown
bolder.  He could promise me a stag.  Nay, he even hoped that owing
to these same causes the _mufri_ were pushing down by degrees to the
seaboard from the inland mountains, which they mostly haunted.
Ah, that was sport for kings!  If fortune, one of these fine days,
would send us a full-grown _mufrone_ now!

But we began upon the blackbirds.  I remember yet my first, and how,
while I stood trembling a little with that excitement which only a
sick man can know who takes up his gun again, Marc'antonio held up
the bird and ripped open its crop, filled to bursting with myrtle
berries; and the exquisite violet scent they exhaled.

Already I had flung my crutches away, and three weeks later we were
after the deer in good earnest.  I had lost all account of time; but
winter was upon us, with a wealth of laurestinus flower upon the
_macchia_ and a sense of stillness in the air such as we feel at home
on windless sunny mornings in December after a night of frost.
We had started before dawn, and crossed the valley by the track
leading past our deserted hut and up between the granite pinnacles on
which, when the sunset touched them, I had so often gazed.
We had followed it up beyond the pines and over a pass leading out
among a range of undulating foot-hills, which seemed to waver and
lose heart a dozen times before making up their minds to unite and
climb, and be a snowcapped mountain.  But they mounted to the snows
at length, and the snows had driven down the stag which, under
Marc'antonio's guidance, I stalked for two hours, and shot before
noon-day.  We left him in the track, to be recovered as we returned,
and very cautiously made our way to the crest of the next ridge.
I chose a granite boulder for my shelter, gained it, crawled under
its lee, and, peering over, had whipped my gun to my shoulder and
very nearly pulled the trigger--was, in fact, looking along the
sight--when I found that I was aiming at a man; and not only that,
but at Billy Priske!

I believe, on my faith that thenceforward he owed his life to the
shape of his legs--so unlike a deer's.

He was picking his way across the dry bed of a torrent in the dip not
fifty yards below us, leaping from slab to slab of outcropping
granite as a man crosses a brook by stepping-stones; and upon a slab
midway he halted, drew off his hat, extracted a handkerchief, and
stood polishing his bald head while he took stock of the climb before
him.

"Billy!  Billy Priske!"

He tilted his head still higher, towards the ridge and the rock on
which I stood against his skyline, frantically waving.

"HOO-ROAR!"

"And to think, lad," he panted, ten minutes later, as he stretched
himself on the heath beside me--"to think of your mistaking me for a
deer!"

"Did I say so, Billy?  Then I lied.  It was for a _mufro_ I took you.
Marc'antonio here had as good as promised me one."

His beaming smile changed on the instant to a look of extreme
gravity.

"See you, lad," he said, "have you ever come across one of these here
wild sheep?"

"Not yet."

"I thought not.  Well, I have; and I advise you not to talk
irreligious about 'em."

"I will talk about nothing," said I, "until you tell me how my father
is, and of all your adventures."

"He's well, lad--hearty, and well, and thriving.  And he sends you
his love, and a paper for your friend here.  'Tis from the Princess;
and the upshot is, you're released from your word and free to come
back with me."

Marc'antonio, proud of an opportunity to display his scholarship,
broke the seal and read the letter with a magisterial frown, which
changed, however, to a pleasant, friendly smile as he handed it
across to me.

"Your captivity is at an end, cavalier.  You said well, after all,
that your patience would win the day."

"_My_ patience, Marc'antonio?  What, then, of yours?"

The tears sprang suddenly to his eyes, good fellow that he was, and
now my good friend.  I stretched out a hand, and he grasped and held
it for a moment between his twain.  We used no more words.

"So my father is with the Princess?" I asked, turning on Billy, who
stared--and excusably--at this evidence of our emotion.

"No, he bain't," said Billy; "leastways, he was with her when I left
him, at a place called Olmeta, or something of the sort.  But by this
time he've a-gone north again."

"And why goes he north?"

"Because that's where the Genoese have shut up the lady."

"Meaning the Queen Emilia?"

Billy nodded.

"And you have travelled the length of Corsica alone to tell me this
and take me back with you?"

"No, I didn't.  Leastways--"  Billy opened his bag of provender,
selected a crust, and began to munch it very deliberately.
"There's a saying," he went on between mouthfuls, "about somebody or
other axin' more questions in one breath than a wise man can answer
in a week; and likewise, there's another saying that even a bagpipe
won't speak till his belly be full.  Well, now, as for coming alone,
in the first place and in round numbers I didn't; and as for coming
to tell you this, partly it was and partly it wasn't; and as for your
going back with me, that's for you to choose."

"Well, then," said I, humouring him, "we will take you point by
point, in order.  To begin with, you did not come alone--_ergo_, you
had company.  What company?"

"Very poor company, lad, and by name Stephanu.  That hatchet-faced
Prince Camillo chose him out for a guide to me--"  Billy paused, with
his mouth open for a bite.  "Why, whatever is the matter?" he asked;
for I had turned to translate this to Marc'antonio, and Marc'antonio
had started up with a growl and an oath.

"Did Stephanu come willingly?" I asked.

"As I was tellin', the Prince chose him for guide to me, and he
couldn't have chosen a worse one.  If you'll believe me, there wasn't
an ounce of comfort in the man from the start; and this morning,
having put me in the road so that I couldn't miss it, he turned back
and left me--in a sweatin' hurry, too."

I glanced at Marc'antonio, who had risen and was striding to and fro
upon the ridge with his fists clenched.  There was mischief here for
a certainty, and Stephanu's behaviour confirmed it.  For a moment,
however, I forbore to translate further, and resumed my catechising
of Billy.

"In the second place you came with my release, and to bring me news,
and--with what purpose beside?"

"Why, with a message for the ship, to be sure."

"The ship?"  I stared at him.  "What ship?"

"Why, the _Gauntlet_ ketch!  You don't tell me," said Billy, with a
glance westward, where, however, the hills intervened and hid the
coast from us--"you don't tell me you haven't sighted her!
But she's here, lad--she _must_ be here!  Your father sent home word
by her that she was to be back wi' reinforcements by the first day of
November; and did you ever in your life know your uncle disappoint
him?"

"Marc'antonio," said I, "what is this I hear from Billy about a
ship?"

Marc'antonio gave a start, and looked from me to Billy in evident
confusion.

"Truly, cavalier, there was a ship.  I spied her there three days
ago, at sunset, making for the island."

"Was she the same ship that first brought us to the island?"

"She was very like," he answered unwillingly.  "Yes, indeed,
cavalier, I have no doubt she was the same ship."

"And you never told me!  Nay, I see now why for these three days we
have been hunting to the east of our camp, and always where the coast
was hidden.  Yes, yes, I see now a score of tricks you have played me
while I trusted to your better knowledge--Marc'antonio," I said
sternly, "did you indeed believe so ill of me as that at sight of the
ship I should forget my parole?"

"It was not that, cavalier; believe me, it was not that.  I feared--"

"Speak on, man."

"I feared you might forget our talks together, and, when your release
came, forget also that other adventure on which I had hoped to bind
you.  The Princess--"

"Then your fear, my friend, did me only a little less injustice.
You have heard how my father perseveres for a woman's sake; and I am
my father's son, I hope.  As for the Princess--"

"She is in worse case than ever, cavalier, since they have contrived
to get rid of Stephanu."

"On the contrary, my friend, her case is hopeful at length; since
this release sets us free to help her."


We trudged back to the camp, pausing on the way while Marc'antonio
skewered the deer's legs and slung him on a pole between us.
As we started afresh Billy observed for the first time that I walked
with a limp.

"A broken leg," said I, carelessly; for it would not have done to
tell him all the truth.

"Well, well," said he, content with the explanation, "accidents will
happen to them that travel; and a broken leg, they say, is stronger
when well set."

"If that's so," said I, "I've a double excuse to be thankful"--which
he did not understand, as I did not mean him to.


Darkness fell on us a little before we reached the camp.  From the
first I had recognized there could be no chance to-day of visiting
the shore and seeking the _Gauntlet_ at her anchorage.  We were
weary, too, and hungry, and nothing remained to do but light the camp
fire, cook our supper, and listen to Billy's tale of his adventures,
a good part of which will be found in the following chapter.  I ought
to say, rather, that Billy and I conversed, while Marc'antonio--for
we spoke in English--sat by the fire busy with his own thoughts; and,
by his face, they were gloomy ones.

"What puzzles me, Billy," said I, as we parted for the night, "is who
can be aboard of the ketch.  Reinforcements?  Why, what
reinforcements could my uncle send?"

"The devil a one of me knows, as the Irishman said," answered Billy,
cheerfully.  "But sent 'em he has, and, if I know anything of
Mr. Gervase, they're good ones."


I was up before dawn, and the sun rose over the shoulder of our
mountain to find me a mile and more on my way down the track which
led to the sea.  I passed the clearing and the copse where Nat had
taken his wound, and the rock, high on my right, where I had stood
and spied him running, the _macchia-filled hollows and dingles, the
wood, the village (still desolate), the graveyard where we had first
encamped; and so came to the meadow below it, where Mr. Fett had
gathered his mushrooms.  It was greener than I remembered it, owing
to the autumn rains.

I pulled up with a start.  At the foot of the meadow, where the
stream ran in a curve between it and the woods, stood a man.
He held a fishing-rod in his hand, and was stepping back to make a
cast; but, at a cry from me, paused and turned slowly about.

"Uncle Gervase!"

"My _dear_ Prosper!"  He dropped his rod and advanced, holding out
his hands to me.  "Why lad, lad, you have grown to a man in these
months!"

"And it really is you, uncle!" I cried again, as yet scarcely
believing it, though I clasped him by both hands.  "And what are
_you_ doing here?"

"Why," said he, quizzically, "'tis a monstrous confession for this
time of the year, but I was fishing for trout; and, what is more, I
have taken two, with Walton's number two June-fly, lad--Mr. Grylls's
variety--the wings, if you remember, made of the black drake's
feathers, with a touch of grey horsehair on the shank.  I wished to
know, first, if a Corsican trout would answer to a Cornish fly, and,
next, if they keep the same seasons as in England.  They do,
Prosper--there or thereabouts.  To tell you the truth--though, as
they say an angler may catch a fish, but it takes a fisherman to tell
the truth about him--I found them woundily out of condition, and
restored them, as Mr. Grylls would put it, to their native element."

"You don't tell me that the Vicar is here, too?" I asked, prepared at
this time to be surprised at nothing.

"He is not, lad, though I pleaded with him very earnestly to come,
being, as you may guess, put to my wits' end by your father's
message."

"But how, then, have you managed?"

"Pretty well, Prosper--pretty well.  But come and see for yourself.
The _Gauntlet_ lies at her old anchorage--or so Captain Pomery tells
me--and 'tis but a step down the creek to where my boat is waiting."

We walked down beside the stream, my uncle, as we went, asking a
score of questions about our adventures and about my father and his
plans--questions which I was in no state of mind to answer
coherently.  But this mattered the less since he had no leisure to
listen to my answers.

I felt, as I said just now, ready to be surprised at nothing.
But in this I was mistaken, as I found when we rounded the corner by
the creek's head, and my eyes fell on a boat waiting, a stone's throw
from the landing-place, and on the crew that manned her.

"Good Lord!" I cried, and stood at a halt.

They were seven--six rowers and a coxswain--and all robed in russet
gowns that reached to their ankles.  The Trappist monks!



CHAPTER XXI.


OF MY FATHER'S ANABASIS; AND THE DIFFERENT TEMPERS OF AN ENGLISH
GENTLEMAN AND A WILD SHEEP OF CORSICA.


    "Bright thoughts, clear deeds, constancy, fidelity, bounty, and
     generous honesty are the gems of noble minds; wherein
     (to derogate from none) the true heroick English Gentleman hath
     no peer."--SIR THOMAS BROWNE.

    "La domesticite n'a eu aucune influence sur le developpement
     intellectuel des _mouflons_ que nous avons possedes. . . .
     Les hommes ne les effrayaient plus; il semblait meme que ces
     animaux eussent acquis plus de confiance dans leur force en
     apprenant a nous connaitre.  Sans doute on ne peut point
     conclure de quelques individus a l'espece entiere; mais on peut
     assurer sans rien hasarder, que le _mouflon_ tient une des
     dernieres places parmis les mammiferes quant a
     l'intelligence.--"
     SAINT-HILIAR ET CUVIER, _Histoire Naturelle des Mammiferes_.

"You will find them very good fighters," said my uncle.  "The most of
them, as I understand from Dom Basilio, were soldiers at one time or
another before they embraced their present calling."

"But the devil of it is," said I, "how you contrived to enlist 'em?"

My uncle stood still and rubbed the back of his head.  "I don't know,
Prosper, that I used any arguments.  I just put the case to them;
through Dom Basilio, you understand."

"In other words, you made them an eloquent speech."

"I did nothing of the sort," he corrected me hastily.  "In the first
place because I have never made a speech and couldn't manage one if I
tried; and next, because it is against their rules.  I just put the
case to Dom Basilio.  All the credit belongs to him."

Dom Basilio--for the coxswain of the boat proved to be he and no
other--gave me a different account as we pulled toward the
_Gauntlet_.  Yet it agreed with my uncle's in the main.

"In faith," said he, "if there be any credit in what we have done or
are about to do, set it down to your uncle.  Against goodness so
simple no man can strive, though he bind himself by vows.
Gratitude may have helped a little; but you can say, and you will not
be far out, that for very shame we are here."

Captain Pomery who hailed me over the ship's side, proudly invited me
to row around and inspect the repairs in her--particularly her new
stern-post--before climbing on board.  For my part, while
congratulating him upon them and upon his despatch, I admired more
the faces of Mike Halliday and Roger Wearne, grinning welcome to me
over the bulwarks.  They, too, called my attention to the repairs; to
the new rudder, fitted with chains in case of accident to the helm,
to the grain of the new mizzen-mast (a beautiful spar, and without a
knot), to the teak hatch-coverings which had replaced those shattered
by the explosion.  They desired me to marvel at everything; but that
they themselves after past perils should be here again and ready, for
no more than seamen's pay, to run their heads into perils yet
unhandselled, was to these honest fellows no matter worth
considering.

"But whither be we bound, Master Prosper?" demanded Captain Jo.
"For 'tis ill biding for orders after cracking on to be punctual; and
tho' I say naught against the anchorage _as_ an anchorage, the wind,
what with these hills and gullies, is like Mulligan's blanket, always
coming and going; and by fits an' starts as the ague took the goose;
and likewise backwards and forwards, like Boscastle fair: so that our
cables be twisted worse than a pig's tail."

"As for that," said I, "your next rendezvous, I hear, is the island
of Giraglia; but, for the whole plan of campaign, you must come and
hear it from Billy Priske, who will tell you what my father has done
and what he intends."

Accordingly, after breakfasting aboard, we were landed again and went
up the mountain together--my uncle Gervase, Captain Pomery, Dom
Basilio and I: and on the slope below the Princess's cave we sat and
listened to Billy's story, the Trappist translating it to
Marc'antonio, who sat with his gun across his knees and his eyes
fastened on my uncle's gentle venerable face.


BILLY PRISKE'S STORY OF MY FATHER'S CAMPAIGN.

"As Master Prosper has told you, gentlemen all, we left him sitting
alongside poor Mr. Fiennes, and took the path that leads down and
across the valley yonder and out again on the north side.  There were
four of us--my master, myself, and the creatures Fett and Badcock--
each man with his gun and good supply of ammunition.  Besides this
Sir John carried his camp-stool and spy-glass, and in his pocket a
map along with his Bible and tobacco pouch; I the wine and his spare
gun: Fett the bag of provisions; and Badcock his flute and a
gridiron."

"Why a gridiron?" asked my uncle.

"The reason he gave, sir, was that it's just these little things that
get left behind, on a picnic; which Sir John, when I reported it,
pronounced to be a very good reason.  'And, as it happens,' said he,
''tis the very reason why Mr. Badcock himself goes with us: for my
son, when he becomes king, will need a Fool, and I have brought a
couple in case of accidents.'

"We started then, as Master Prosper will remember, a little before
dark; and having lanterns to light the track, and now and then the
north star between the tree-tops to give us our bearings, we crossed
the valley and came out through a kind of pass upon a second slope, a
little nor'-west of the spot where I happened yesterday on Master
Prosper.  By this, Sir John's watch marked ten o'clock and finding us
dead-beat by the roughness of the track, he commanded us to lie down
and sleep.

"The next morning, after studying his map, he started afresh, still
holding northward in the main but bearing back a little to the left--
that is, toward the sea, which before noon we brought in sight at a
place he called La Piana, where, he said, was a fishing village; and
so no doubt there was, for we spied a two-three boats moored a little
way out from the shore--looking down upon them through a cleft in the
rocks.  The village itself we did not see, but skirted it upon high
ground and came down to the foreshore a short two miles beyond it;
where we found a beach and a spit of rock, and on the spit a
tumble-down tower standing, as lonely as a combed louse.  Above the
beach ran a tolerable coast road, which divided itself into two,
after crossing a bridge behind the tower; the one following the
shore, the other striking inland up the devil of a gorge.
This inland road we took, for two reasons; the first, that by the map
it appeared to cut off a corner of our journey; the second, because
the map showed a village, not three miles up the gorge, where we
might get advice.

"After an hour's climbing then (for the road twisted uphill along the
edge of the torrent) we came to the village, which was called Otta.
Now, the first thing to happen to us in Otta was that we found it
empty--not so much as a dog in the street--but all the inhabitants on
the hill above, in a crowd before a mighty great stone: and Badcock
would have it that they were gathered together in fear of us.
But the true reason turned out to be something quite different.
For this stone overhangs the village, which is built on a stiff
slope; and though it has hung there for hundreds of years without
moving, the villagers can never be easy that it will not tumble on
top of them; and once a year regularly, and at odd times when the
panic takes them, they march up and tie it with ropes.  This very
thing they were doing as we arrived, and all because some old woman
had dreamed of an earthquake.  We took notice that in the crowd and
in the gang binding the stone there was no man the right side of
fifty (barring a cripple or two); the reason being that all their
young men had enlisted in the militia.

"These people made us welcome (and I will say, gentlemen, once for
all and in spite of what has happened to Master Prosper here, that
there is no such folk as the Corsicans for kindness to strangers),
but they told us we were on the wrong road.  By following the pass we
should find ourselves in forest-tracks which indeed would lead us
down to the great plain of the Niolo and across it to Corte, whence a
good road ran north to Cape Corso; but our shorter way was the
coast-road, which (they added) we must leave before reaching Calvi--
for fear of the Genoese--and take a southerly one which wound through
the mountains to Calenzana.  They explained this many times to Sir
John, and Sir John explained it to us; and learning that we were
English, and therefore friends of liberty, they forced us to drink
wine with them--lashins of wine--until just as my head was beginning
to feel muzzy, some one called out that we were heroes and must drink
the wine of heroes, the pride of Otta, the Invincible St. Cyprien.

"By this time we were all as sociable together as mice in malt,
except that these Corsicans never laughed at all, but stared at us
awsome-like even when the creature Fett put one foot on a chair and
another on the table and made 'em a long tom-fool speech in English,
calling 'em friends Romans and countrymen and asking them to lend him
their ears, as though his own weren't long enough.  Then they brought
in the Invincible St. Cyprien, and Sir John poured out a glass, and
sniffed and tasted it and threw up his head, gazing round on the
company and looking every man full in the eyes.  I can't tell you
why, gentlemen, but his bearing seemed so noble to me at that moment
I felt I could follow him to the death (though of course there wasn't
the leastest need for it, just then).  I reached out for the bottle,
filled myself a glass, drank it off, and stared around just as
defiant.  It gave me a very pleasant feeling in the pit of the
stomach, and the taste of it didn't seem calculated to hurt a fly.
So I took two more glasses quickly, one after the other; and every
one looked at me with their faces very bright all of a sudden--and
the room itself grown brighter--and to my astonishment I heard them
calling upon me in English for a speech.  Whereby, being no public
speaker, I excused myself and walked out into the village street,
which was bright as day with the moon well over the cliffs on the
other side of the gorge, and (to my surprise) crowded with people so
that I couldn't have believed the whole City of London held half the
number, let alone a god-forsaken hole like Otta.  I stood for a while
on the doorstep counting 'em, and the next thing I remember was
crossing the street to a low wall overhanging the gorge and leaning
upon it and watching the cliffs working up and down like mine-stamps.
This struck me as curious, and after thinking it over I made up my
mind to climb across and discover the reason."

"I fear, Billy," said my uncle, "that you must have been
intoxicated."

"But the worst, sir, was the moon; which was not like any ordinary
moon, but kept swelling and bursting in showers of the most beautiful
fireworks, so that I said to myself, 'O for the wings of a dove,' I
said, 'so that I fetch some one to put a stop to this!'  And I'd
hardly said the words before it was broad day, and me lying in the
street with a small crowd about me, very solemn and curious, and my
head in the lap of a middle-aged woman that smelt of garlic, but
without any pretensions to looks.  And she was lifting up her head
and singing a song, and the sound of it as melancholy as a gib-cat in
a garden of cucumbers.  Whereby the whole crowd stood by and stared,
without offering to help.  Whereby I said to myself, 'This is a
pretty business, and no mistake.'  Whereby I saw Sir John come forth
from the house where the drinking had been, and his face was white
but his step steady; and says he, 'What have you been doing to this
woman?'  'Nothing at all,' said I; 'or, leastways, nothing to warrant
this behaviour on her part.'  'Well,' said he, 'you may be surprised
to hear it, but she maintains that you are betrothed to her.'
'A man,' said I, 'may woo where he will, but must wed where his wife
is.  If this woman be my fate, I'll say no more except that 'tis
hard; but as for courting her, I never did so.'  'You are in a worse
case than you guess,' said he; 'for, to begin with, the lady is a
widow; and, secondly, she is marrying you, not for your looks, but
for revenge.'  'Why, what have I done?' said I.  'Nothing at all,'
said he; 'but from what I can hear of it, five years ago a man of
Evisa, up the valley, stole a goat belonging to this woman's husband;
whereupon the husband took a gun and went to Evisa and shot the
thief's cousin, mistaking him for the thief; whereupon the thief came
down to Otta and shot the honest man one day while he was gathering
olives in his orchard.  He himself left neither chick nor child; but
his kinsmen of the family of Paolantonuccio (I can pronounce the
name, gentlemen, if you will kindly look the other way) took up the
quarrel, and with so much liveliness that to-day but three of them
survive, and these are serving just now with the militia.  For the
while, therefore, the Widow Paolantonuccio has no one to carry on the
custom of the country; nor will have, until a husband offers.'
'For pity's sake, Sir John,' said I, `get me out of this!  Tell them
that if any man has been courting this woman 'tis not I, William
Priske, but another in my image.'  'Why, to be sure!' cried Sir John.
'It must have been the Invincible St. Cyprien!'

"So stepping back and seating himself again upon the doorstep, he
began to argue with the villagers, the woman standing sullen all the
while and holding me by the arm.  I could not understand a word, of
course, but later on he told me the heads of his discourse.

"'I began,' he said, 'by expounding to 'em all the doctrine of
cross-revenge, or _vendetta trasversa_, as they call it; and this I
did for two reasons--the first because in an argument there's naught
so persuasive as telling a man something he knows already--the second
because it proved to them, and to me, that I wasn't drunk.  For the
doctrine has more twists in it than a conger.

"'Next I taught them that the doctrine was damnable; and that it
robbed Corsica of men who should be fighting the Genoese, on which
errand we were bound.

"'And lastly I proved to them out of the mouths of several wise men
(some of Greece, and others of my own inventing) that a man with
three glasses of their wine in his belly was a man possessed, and
therefore that either nothing had happened, or, if anything had
happened, the fellow to blame must be that devil of a warrior the
Invincible St. Cyprien.

"'Yet (as so often happens) the argument that really persuaded them,
as I believe, was one I never used at all; which was, that the woman
had money and a parcel of land, and albeit no man could pick up
courage to marry her, they did not relish a stranger stepping in and
cutting them out.'

"Be that as it may, gentlemen, in twenty minutes the crowd had come
round to Sir John's way of thinking; and they not only sold us mules
at thirty livres apiece--which Sir John knew to be the fair current
price--but helped us to truss up Mr. Fett and Mr. Badcock, each on
his beast, and walked with us back to the cross-roads, singing hymns
about Corsican liberty.  Only we left the woman sadly cast down.

"From the cross-roads, where they left us and turned back, our road
led through a great forest of pines.  Among these pines hung
thousands of what seemed to be balls of white cotton, but were the
nests of a curious caterpillar; which I only mention because Mr.
Fett, coming to, picked up one of these caterpillars and slipped it
down the nape of Mr. Badcock's neck, whereby the poor man was made
uncomfortable all that day and the next; for the hairs of the insect
turned out to be full of poison.  In the end we were forced to strip
him and use the gridiron upon him for a currycomb; so it came in
handy, after all.

"On the second day, having crossed a river and come to a village
which, if I remember, was called Manso, we bore away southward among
the most horrible mountains.  Among these we wandered four days,
relying always on Sir John's map: but I reckon the man who made it
must have drawn the track out of his own head and trusted that no
person would ever be fool enough to go there.  Hows'ever, the weather
keeping mild, we won through the passes with no more damage than the
loss of Mr. Fett's mule (which tumbled over a precipice on the third
day), and a sore on Mr. Fett's heel, brought about by his having to
walk the rest of the way into Calenzana.

"Now at Calenzana, a neat town, we found ourselves nearly in sight of
Calvi and plumb in sight of the Genoese outposts that were planted a
bare gunshot from the house where we lodged, on the road leading
northward to Calvi gate.  To the south, as we heard--though we never
saw them--lay a regiment of Paoli's militia; and, between the two
forces Calenzana stood as a sort of no-man's-land, albeit the Genoese
claimed what they called a 'supervision' over it.  In fact they never
entered it, mistrusting its defences, and also the temper of its
inhabitants, who were likely enough to rise at their backs if the
patriots gave an assault.

"They contented themselves, then, with advancing their outposts to a
bend on the Calvi road not fifty yards from our lodging, which
happened to be the last house in the suburbs; and from his window,
during the two days we waited for Mr. Fett's sore to heal, Sir John
would watch the guard being relieved, and sometimes pick up his gun
and take long aim at the sentry, but lay it down with a sort of sigh:
for though the sight of a Genoese was poison to him, he reckoned
outpost-shooting as next door to shooting a fox.

"Our hosts, I should tell you, were an old soldier and his wife.
The man, by his own account, followed the trade of a bird-stuffer;
which was just an excuse for laziness, for no soul ever entered his
shop but to hear him talk of his campaigning under Gaffori and under
the great Pascal Paoli's father, Hyacinth Paoli.  This he would do at
great length, and, for the rest, lived on his wife, who was a
well-educated woman and kept a school for small children when they
chose to come, which again was seldom.

"This Antonio, as we called him, owned a young ram, which was his pet
and the pride of Calenzana: for, to begin with, it was a wild ram;
and in addition to this it was tame; and, to cap all, it wasn't a bit
like a ram.  And yet it was a wild ram--a wild Corsican ram.

"Being an active sort of man in his way, though well over fifty, and
given to wandering on the mountains above Calenzana, he had come one
day upon a wild sheep with a lamb running at her heels.  He let fly a
shot (for your Corsican, Master Prosper, always carries a gun) and
ran forward.  The mother made off, but the lamb sat and squatted like
a hare; and so Antonio took him up and carried him home.

"By the time we came to Calenzana the brute had grown to full size,
with horns almost two feet long.  As we should reckon, they were
twisted the wrong way for a ram's, and for fleece he had a coat like
a Gossmoor pony's, brown and hairy.  But a ram he was; and, the first
night, when Mr. Badcock obliged us with a tune on the flute, he came
forward and stared at him for a time and then butted him in the
stomach.

"We had to carry the poor man to bed.  We slept, all four of us, in a
loft, which could only be reached by a ladder; and a ram, as you
know, can't climb a ladder.  It's out of nature.  Yet the brute tried
its best, having taken such a fancy to Badcock, and wouldn't be
denied till his master beat him out of doors with a fire-shovel and
penned him up for the night.

"The next morning, being loosed, he came in to breakfast with the
family, and butted a crock of milk all over the kitchen hearth, but
otherwise bore himself like a repentant sinner; the only difference
being that from breakfast onward he turned away from his master and
took to following Mr. Fett, who didn't like the attention at all.
Badcock kept to his bed; and Mr. Fett too, who could only manage to
limp a little, climbed up to the loft soon after midday and lay down
for a rest.

"Sir John and I, left alone downstairs, took what we called a siesta,
each in his chair, and Sir John's chair by the shaded window.
For my part, I was glad enough for forty winks, and could have
enlisted among the Seven Sleepers after those cruel four days in the
mountains.  So, with Sir John's permission, I dozed off; and sat up,
by-and-by--awake all of a sudden at the sound of my master's
stirring--to see him at the window with his gun half-lifted to his
shoulder, and away up the road a squad of Genoese soldiers marching
down to relieve guard.

"With that there came a yell from the loft overhead.  I sprang up,
rubbing my eyes, and, between rubbing 'em, saw Sir John lower his gun
and stand back a pace.  The next instant--_thud, thud!_--over the
eaves upon the roadway dropped Fett and Badcock and picked themselves
up as if to burst in through the window.  No good!  A second later
that ram was on top of them.

"How he had contrived to climb up the ladder and butt the pair over
the roof, there's no telling.  But there he was; and gathering up his
legs from the fall as quick as lightning he headed them off from the
house and up the road.  There was no violence.  So far as one could
tell from the clouds of dust, he never hurt 'em once, but through the
dust we could see the Genoese staring as he nursed the pair up the
road straight into their arms.  The queer part of it," wound up
Billy, reflectively, "was that, after the first moment, Sir John had
never the chance of a shot.  You may doubt me, gentlemen, but Sir
John is a shot in a thousand, and, what with the dust and the
confusion, there was never a chance without risk to human life.
The Genoese giving back, in less than half a minute the road was
clear."

"But what happened?" asked my uncle.

"Well, sir, this here Corsica being an island, it follows that they
must have stopped somewhere.  But where there's no telling."

"You never saw them again."

"Never," said Billy, solemnly; and, having asked and received
permission to light his pipe, resumed the tale.

"There being now no reason to loiter in Calenzana, we left the town
next morning and rode along the hill tracks to Muro, when again we
struck the high road running northward to the coast.  Sir John had
sold Mr. Badcock's mule to our hosts in Calenzana, and here in Muro
he parted with our pair also, reck'nin' it safer to travel the next
stage on foot; since by all accounts we were about to skirt the
Genoese outposts to the east of Calvi.  The Corsicans, to be sure,
held and patrolled the high road (by reason that every week-day a
train of waggons travelled along it with material for the new town
a-building on the seashore, at Isola Rossa), yet not so as to
guarantee it safe for a couple of chance riders.  Also Sir John had
no mind to be stopped a dozen times and questioned by the Corsican
patrols.  We kept, therefore, along the hills to the east of the
road; and on our way, having halted and slept a night in an olive
orchard about five miles from the coast, we woke up a little after
daylight to the sound of heavy guns firing.

"The meaning of this was made plain to us as we fetched our way round
to the eastward and came out upon the face of a steep hill that broke
away in steep cliffs to the very foreshore.  There, below us, lay a
neat deep-water roadstead covered to westward by a small island with
a tower on it and a battery.  The shore ran out towards the island,
and the two had been joined by a mole, or the makings of one, about
thirty yards long; and well back in the bight of the shore, where it
curved towards us, was a half-built town, all of new stone, with
scaffoldings standing everywhere, yet not a soul at work on 'em.
Out in the roadstead five small gunboats were tacking and blazing
away, two at the mole and three at the town itself; and the town and
the island blazing and banging back at the gunboats.  We could not
see the town battery, but the island one mounted three guns, and Sir
John's spy-glass showed the people there running from one to another
like emmets.

"Sir John studied the boats and the town through his glass for five
minutes, and after them the inshore water and the beach on our side
of the town, that was of white sand with black rocks here and there,
and ran down pretty steep as it neared the foot of our hill.
'If those fellows had any sense--' he began to say, and with that, as
if struck by a sudden thought, he looked close around him, and
towards the edge of the cliff where it broke away below us.  The next
moment he was down on his stomach and crawling to the brink for a
look below.  I did the same, of course; and overtook him just as he
drew back his head, and gave a sort of whistle, looking me in the
face--as well he might; for right underneath us lay a sixth gunboat,
and the crew of her ashore already with a six-pounder and hoisting it
by a tackle to a slab of rock about fifty feet above the water's
edge.  A neater spot they couldn't have chosen, for it stood at an
angle the town battery couldn't answer to (which was plain, from its
sending no shot in this direction), and yet it raked the whole town
front as easy as ninepins.

"To make things a bit fairer, this landing-party offered us as simple
pretty a target as any man could wish for; nothing to do but fire
down on 'em at forty yards, bob back and reload, with ne'er a chance
of their climbing up to do us a mischief or even to count how many we
were.  I touched Sir John's elbow and tapped my gun-stock, and for
the moment he seemed to think well of it.  'Cut the tackle first,'
said he, lifting his gun.  ''Twill be as good as hamstringing 'em':
and for him the shot would have been child's play.  But after a
second or two he lowered his piece and drew back.  'Damme,' said he,
'I'm losing my wits.  Let 'em do their work first, and we'll get
cannon and all.  If only'--and here he looked nervous-like over his
shoulder up the hill--'if only those fellows from the town don't
hurry up and spoil sport!'

"I couldn't see his face, but I could feel that he was chuckling as
the fellows below us swung up the gun and fixed it in position and
handed up the round shot.  But when they followed up with two kegs of
powder and dumped 'em on to the platform, my dear master's hand went
up and he rubbed the back of his head in pure delight.  After that--
as I thought, for nothing but frolic--he even let 'em load and train
the gun for us, and only lifted his musket when the gunner--a
dark-faced fellow with a red cap on his head--was act'lly walking up
with the match alight in his linstock.

"'I don't want to hurt that man afore 'tis necessary,' says Sir John;
and with that he takes aim and lets fly, and shears the linstock
clean in two, right in the fellow's hand.  I saw the end of it--match
and all--fly halfway across the platform, and popped back my head as
the dozen Genoese there turned their faces up at us.  The pity was,
we hadn't time for a look at 'em!

"Sir John had warned me to hold my fire.  But neither he nor I were
prepared for what happened next.  For first one of them let out a
yell, and right on top of it half a dozen were screaming '_Imboscata!
Imboscata!_"--and with that we heard a rush of feet and, looking
over, saw the last two or three scrambling for dear life off the edge
of the platform and down the rocks to their boat.

"'Quick, Billy--quick!  Damme, but we'll risk it!' cried Sir John,
snatching up his spare gun.  'If we make a mess of it,' says he,
'plug a bullet into one of the powder kegs!  Understand?' says he.

"'Sakes alive, master!' says I.  'You bain't a-going to clamber down
that gizzy-dizzy place sure 'nuff!'

"'Why, o' course I be,' says he, and already he had his legs over and
was lowering himself.  'Turn on your back, stick out your heels, and
hold your gun wide of you, _so_,' says he; 'and you'll come to no
harm.'

"Well, as it happened, I didn't.  Not for a hundred pound would I go
down that cliff again in cold blood, and my stomach turns wambly in
bed o' nights when I dream of it.  But down it I went on the flat of
my back with my heels out, as Sir John recommended, and with my eyes
shut, about which he'd said nothing.  I felt my jacket go rip from
tail to collar--you can see the rent in it for yourselves--and my
shirt likewise; and what happened to the seat of my breeches 'twould
be a scandal to mention.  But in two shakes or less we were at the
bottom of the cliff together, safe and sound, and not a moment too
soon, neither: for as I picked myself up I saw Sir John lurch across
and catch up the burning fuse that lay close alongside one of the
powder kegs.  Whereby, although the danger was no sooner seen than
over, I pretty near turned sick on the spot.

"But Sir John gave me no time.  'Hooray!' he sings out.  'Help me to
slew this blessed gun round, and we'll sink boat and all for 'em
unless she slips her moorings quick!'

"Well, sir, that was the masterpiece.  We heaved and strained, and
inside of two minutes we had it trained upon the gunboat.  The men
that had quitted the platform were down by the shore before this; and
a dozen had pushed their boat off and sat in her, some pulling,
others backing, and all jabbering and disputing whether to return and
take off the five or six that stood in a huddle by the water's edge
and were crying out not to be left behind.  And mean time on the
gunboat some were shouting to 'em not to be a pack of cowards--for
the crew on board could see us on the platform (which the others
couldn't) and that we were only two--and others were running to cut
her cable, seeing the gun trained on 'em and not staying to think
that the wind was light and the current setting straight onshore.
And in the midst of this Sir John finds a fresh fuse, and lights it
from the old one, and bang! says we.

"It took her plump in the stern-works, knocking her wheel and
taffrail to flinders and ripping out a fair six feet of her larboard
bulwarks.  This much I saw while the smoke cleared; but Sir John was
already calling for the reload.  The Genoese by good luck had left a
rammer; and the pair of us had charged her and were pushing home shot
number two as merry as crickets, when we heard a horn blown on the
hill above us, and at the same instant spied a body of Corsicans on
the beach below, marching towards us from the town.

"Well, Sir John decided that we might just as well have a second shot
at the boat while our hand was in; and so we did, but trained it too
high in our excitement and did no damage beyond knocking a hole in
her mainsail.  And our ears hadn't lost the noise of it before a man
put his head over the cliff above and spoke to us very politely in
Corsican.

"He seemed to be asking the way down; for Sir John pointed to the way
we had come.  Whereby he laughed and shook his head.  And a dozen
others that had gathered beside him looked down too and laughed and
waved their hands to us.  By-and-by they went off, still waving, to
look for a better way down: but they took a good twenty minutes to
reach us, and before this the gunboat had drifted close upon the
rocks and no hope for it but to surrender to the party marching along
the beach and now close at hand.

"Well, sirs, the upshot was that this party, which had marched out
for a forlorn hope, took the gunboat and her crew as easily as a man
gathers mushrooms.  And the rest of the boats, dispirited belike,
sheered off after another hour's banging and left the roadstead in
peace.  But, while this was happening, the party on the cliffs had
worked their way down to our rock by a sheep-track on the western
side, and the first man to salute us was the man who had first spoken
to us from the top of the cliff: and this, let me tell you, was no
less a person than the General himself."

"The General?" exclaimed my uncle.

"The General Paoli, sir: a fresh-complexioned man and fairer-skinned
than any Corsican we had met on our travels; tall, too, and
upstanding; dressed in green-and-gold, with black spatter-dashes, and
looking at one with an eye like a hawk's.  Compliments fly when
gentlefolks meet.  Though as yet I didn't know him from Adam, 'twas
easy to mark him for a person of quality by the way he lifted his hat
and bowed.  Sir John bowed back, though more stiffly; and the more
compliments the General paid him, the stiffer he grew and the shorter
his answers, till by-and-by he said in English, 'I think you know a
little of my language, sir: enough, at any rate, to take my meaning?'

"The General bowed again at this, still keeping his smile.
'You do not wish my men to overhear?  Yes, yes, I speak the English--
a very little--and can understand it, if you will be so good as to
speak slowly.'

"'Very well, then, sir,' said Sir John; 'if I and my man here have
been of some small service to you to-day I reckon myself happy to
have obliged so noble a patriot as Signor Pascal Paoli.'  And here
they both bowed again.  'But I must warn you, sir, that my service
here is due only to the Queen Emilia, whom you also should serve, and
whom I am sworn to seek and save.  The Genoese have shut her, I
believe, in Nonza, in Cape Corso.'

"The General frowned a bit at this, but in a moment smiled at him in
an open way that was honest too, as any one could see.  'I have later
news of the Queen Emilia,' said he; 'which is that the Genoese have
removed her to the island of Giraglia, off Cape Corso.  I fear, sir,
you will not reach her this side of Doomsday.'

"'I will reach her or die,' said Sir John, stoutly.

"The General took a glance at the Genoese gunboats.  'At present it
is hopeless,' said he; 'but I tell you, as man to man, that in two
months I hope to clear the sea of those gentry yonder.  Meantime, if
you _will_ press on to Cape Corso, and, without listening to reason,
I'll beg you to accept a pass from me which will save trouble if you
fall in, as you will, with my militia.  It's small enough thanks,'
said he, 'for the service you have done us this day.'

"Those were the General's words, sirs, as I heard them and got them
by heart.  And Sir John took the pass from him, scribbled there and
then on the fly-leaf of the General's pocket Bible, and put it
carefully between the leaves of his own: and so, having led us back
along the track by which he and his men had come, the General pointed
out our way to us and bade us farewell in the Lord's name.
He saw that my master wanted no thanks, and a gentleman (as they say)
would rather be unmannerly than troublesome.

"That, sirs, is all my story, except that by the help of the
General's pass we made our way up the long length of Cape Corso: and
at first Sir John, learning there were yet some Genoese left in a
valley they call Luri, pitched his camp at the head of it, and day by
day took out his camp-stool and stalked the mountains till little by
little he cleared the valley, driving the enemy down to the _marina_
in terror of his sharp-shooting.  After that we lodged for a while in
a tower on the top of a crag, where (the country people said) a
famous old Roman had once lived out his exile.  Last of all we moved
to the shore opposite the island of Giraglia; but the Genoese had
burnt the village which stood there.  Among the ruins we camped, and
day after day my master conned the island across the strait, waiting
for the time when the _Gauntlet_ should be due.  A tower stands in
the island, which is but a cliff of bare rock; and there must be deep
water close inshore, for once a Genoese vessel drew alongside and
landed stores: but, for the rest, day after day, my master could see
through his glass no sign of life but a sentry or two on the platform
above the landing-quay.

"At last there came a day when, from a goatherd who brought us meat
and wine from the next _paese_, we learned that a body of armed men,
Corsicans, had pushed up to Olmeta, near by Nonza, to press the
Genoese garrison there.  Sir John, sick of waiting idle, proposed
that we should travel back and help them, if only to fill up the
time.  It would be on our way, at any rate, to send word to the
ketch, which was near-about due.  So we travelled back to Olmeta; and
behold, we tumbled upon the Princess and her men who had first taken
us prisoners; and the Princess's brother with her--and be dashed if I
like his looks!  So Sir John told his tale, and the Princess sent me
along with Master Prosper's letter of release.  And here's a funny
thing now!" wound up Billy, glancing at me.  "The Prince was willing
enough your release should be sent, and even chose out that fellow
Stephanu to come along with me.  But something in his eye--I can't
azackly describe it--warned me he had a sort of reason for thinking
that 'twouldn't do you much good.  There was a priest, too: I took a
notion that _he_ didn't much expect to see you again, sir.  And this
kept me in a sweat every mile of the journey, so that when you
pointed your gun at me yesterday, as natural as life, you might have
knocked me down with a feather."

"Then it is settled," decided my uncle, as Billy came to a full stop.
"Sir John has gone north again, you say, and will be expecting us off
the island?  There's naught to prevent our starting this evening?"

"Nothing at all," agreed Captain Pomery, to whom by a glance he had
appealed.  "Leastways and supposing I can get my hawsers out of
curl-papers."

"That suits you, Prosper?" asked my uncle.  I looked across the fire
at Marc'antonio, who sat with his eyes lowered upon the gun across
his knees.

"Marc'antonio," said I, "my friends here are proposing to sail
northward to Cape Corso to-night.  They require me to sail with them.
Am I free, think you?"

"Beyond doubt you are free, cavalier," answered Marc'antonio, still
without lifting his eyes.

"Now, for my part," I said, "I am not so sure.  Suppose--look at me
please, my friend--suppose that you and I were to go first to the
Princess together and ask her leave?"

My uncle gazed up at Marc'antonio, who had sprung to his feet; and--
after a long look at his face--from Marc'antonio to me.

"Prosper," he said quietly, "we shall sail to-night.  If we sail
without you, will your father forgive us?  That is all I ask."

"Dear uncle," said I, "for the life of me I cannot tell you; but that
in my place he would do the like, I am sure."



CHAPTER XXII.


THE GREAT ADVENTURE.


     "He that luvith a starre
        To follow her, sinke or swym,
      Hath never a feare how farre,
        For the world it longith to hym:
      For the road it longith to hym
        And the fieldes that marcche beside--
      Lift up thi herte, my maister then,
        So inery to-morn we ride."
                         _The Squyres Delyt_.

So the _Gauntlet_ sailed for the island of Giraglia; and we two,
having watched her for a while as she stood out to make her
offing, trod out our camp-fire and turned our faces northward.
Marc'antonio's last action before starting was to unhobble the goats
and free the hogs from their wooden collars and headpieces.  As he
finished operating he turned them loose one by one with a parting
smack on the buttocks, and they ran from us among the thickets, where
we heard their squeals change to grunts of delight.

Brutes though they were, I could understand their delight, having
lived with them, and in even such thraldom as theirs.  From my neck
also it seemed that a heavy collar-weight fell loose and slipped
itself as, having passed Nat's grave in the hollow, we left the
pine-forest at our feet and wound our way up among the granite
pinnacles, upward, still upward, into the clear air.  Aloft there,
beyond the pass, the kingdom of Corsica broke on our view, laid out
in wide prospect; the distant glittering peaks of Monte d'Oro and
Monte Rotondo, the forests hitched on their shoulders like green
mantles, the creased valleys leading down their rivers to the shore;
a magic kingdom ringed with a sea of iris blue; a kingdom bequeathed
to me.  A few months ago I had shouted with joy to possess it;
to-day, with more admiring eyes, I worshipped it for the lists of my
greater adventure; and surely Nat's spirit marched with me to the air
of his favourite song--

     "If doughty deeds my lady please,
        Right soon I'll mount my steed;
      And strong his arm and fast his seat
        That bears frae me the meed . . ."

But, in fact, it was not until the third morning of our journey that
Marc'antonio (who, like every Corsican, abhorred walking) was able to
purchase us a steed apiece in the shape of two lean and shaggy hill
ponies.  They belonged to a decayed gentleman--of the best blood in
the island, as he assured me--whom poverty had driven with his family
to inhabit a shepherd's hut above the Restorica on the flank of Monte
Rotondo where it looks towards Corte.  We had slept the night under
his roof, and I remember that I was awakened next morning on my bed
of dry fern by the small chatter of the children, themselves awaking
one by one as the daylight broke.  After breakfast our host led us
down to the pasture where the ponies were tethered; and when he and
Marc'antonio had haggled for twenty minutes, and I was in the act of
mounting, three of the children, aged from five downwards, came
toddling with bunches of a blue flower unknown to me, but much like a
gentian, which they had gathered on the edge of the tumbling
Restorica, some way up-stream.  I took my bunch and pinned it on my
hat as I rode, hailing the omen--

     "For you alone I ride the ring,
      For you I wear the blue . . ."

And--how went the chorus?

     "Then tell me how to woo thee, love;
        O tell me how to woo thee;
      For thy dear sake nae care I'll take--"

The only care taken by Marc'antonio was to follow the bridle-tracks
winding among the foothills, and give a wide berth to the highroad
running north and south through Corte, especially to the bridges
crossing the Golo River, at each of which, he assured me, we should
find a guard posted of Paoli's militia.  Luckily, he knew all the
fords, and in the hill-villages off the road the inhabitants showed
no suspicion of us, but took it for granted that we were the good
Paolists we passed for.  Marc'antonio answered all their guileless
questions by giving out that we were two roving commissioners
travelling northward to delimit certain _pievi_ in the Nebbio, at the
foot of Cape Corso--an explanation which secured for us the best of
victuals as well as the highest respect.

For awhile our course, bending roughly parallel with the Golo, led us
almost due east, and at length brought us out upon the flat shore of
the Tuscan Sea.  Here the mountains, which had confined us to the
river valley, run northward with a sharp twist, and turning with them
we rode once more with our faces set toward our destination, keeping
the tall range on our left hand, and on our right the melancholy
sea-marshes where men cannot dwell for the malaria, and where for
hour after hour we rode in a silence unbroken save by the plash of
fish in the lagoon, or the cry of a heron solitary among the reeds.
This desolation lasted all the way to Biguglia, where we turned aside
again among the foothills to avoid the fortress of Bastia and the
traffic of the roads about it.  Beyond Bastia we were safe in the
fastnesses of Cape Corso, across which, from this eastern shore to
the western, and to the camp at Olmeta, one only pass (so
Marc'antonio informed me) was practicable.  I guessed we were nearing
it when he began to mutter to himself in the intervals of scanning
the crags high on our left; for this was to him, he confessed, an
almost unknown country.  But the gap, when we came abreast of it,
could scarcely be mistaken.  With a glance around, as though to take
our bearings, he abruptly headed off for it, and, having climbed the
first slope, reined up and sat for a moment, rigid in his saddle as a
statue, listening.

The sun had sunk behind the range, and the herbage at our feet lay in
a bronze shadow; but light still bathed the sea behind us, and over
it a company of gulls kept flashing and wheeling and clamouring.
While I listened, following Marc'antonio's example, it seemed to me
that an echo from the summit directly above us took up the gull's cry
and repeated it, prolonging the note.  Marc'antonio lifted and waved
a hand.

"That will be Stephanu," he announced; and sure enough, before we had
pushed a couple of furlongs up the slope, we caught sight of Stephanu
descending a steep scree to meet us.

He and Marc'antonio nodded salutation brusquely, as though they had
parted but a few hours ago.  Marc'antonio, though relieved to see
him, wore a judicial frown.

"What of the Princess, O Stephanu?" he demanded.

"The Princess is well enough, for aught I know," answered Stephanu,
with a glance at me.

"You can speak before the cavalier.  He knows not everything until we
tell him; but he is one of us, and that I will engage."

Stephanu shrugged his shoulders.  "The Princess is well enough, for
aught I know," he repeated.

"But what fool's talk is this?  The Prince packed you off, meaning
mischief of some kind--what mischief you, being on the spot, should
have been able to guess."

"It is God's truth, then, that I could not," Stephanu admitted
sullenly; "and what is more, neither could you in my place have made
a guess--no, not with all your wisdom."

"But you travelled back with all speed?  You have seen her?"

"I travelled back with all speed."  Stephanu repeated the words as a
child repeats a lesson, but whether ironically or not his face did
not tell.  "Also I have seen her.  And that is the devil of it."

"Will you explain?"

"She will have nothing to do with me; nor with you.  I told her that
you would be upon the road and following close after me.  Naturally I
said nothing of the cavalier here, for I knew nothing--"

"Did she ask?" I inquired.

Stephanu appeared to search his memory.  "Now I come to think of it
she _did_ let fall a word. . . . But I for my part supposed you to be
dead; and, by the way, signore, you will accept my compliments on
your recovery."

Marc'antonio's frown had deepened.  "You mean to tell me, Stephanu,"
he persisted, "that the Princess will have none of us?"

"She bade me go my ways, and not come near her; which was cold
welcome for a man after a nine day's sweat.  She added that if I or
Marc'antonio came spying upon her, or in any way interfering until
she sent for us, she would appeal to her brother against us."

"Was the Prince present when she said this?"

"He was not.  He was away hunting, she said, in the direction of
Nonza; but in fact he must have gone reconnoitring, for he had left
the camp all but empty--no one at home but Andrea and Jacopo Galloni,
whose turn it was with the cooking--these and the Princess.  But the
Prince has returned since then, for I heard his horn as I crossed the
pass."

Stephanu, as we moved forward, kept alongside Marc'antonio's bridle,
or as nearly alongside as the narrow track allowed.  I, bringing up
the rear, could not see the trouble in Marc'antonio's face, but I
heard it in his voice as he put question after question.
"The Princess was not a prisoner."  "No; nor under any constraint
that Stephanu could detect.  She had her gun; was in fact cleaning
and oiling its lock very leisurably when he had walked into camp.
He had found her there, seated on a rock, with Andrea and Jacopo
Galloni at a little distance below preparing the meal and taking no
notice of her.  In fact, they could not see her, because the rock
overhung them."

"She must have been sitting there for sentry," said Stephanu, "At any
rate, there was no other guard set on the camp.  Well, if so, she
took it easily enough; but catching sight of me she stood up, put her
finger to her lip and pointed over the ledge.  Thereupon I peered
over, but drew back my head before Andrea and Jacopo could spy me.
So I stood before her, expecting to be praised for the despatch I had
made on the road; but she praised me not.  She motioned me to follow
her a little way out of earshot of the men below, to a patch of
tall-growing junipers within which, when first we pitched camp, she
had chosen to make her bower.  Then she turned on me, and I saw that
in some way I had vexed her, for her eyes were wrathful; and, said
she, 'Why have you made this speed?'  'Because, O Princess, you have
need of me,' I answered.  'I have no need of you,' she said;
'but where is Marc'antonio?  And the young Englishman--is he yet
alive?'  'O Princess,' I answered again, 'I did not go all the way to
the old camp, but only so far that the man Priske could not mistake
his road to it.  Then, having put him in the way, I turned back and
have travelled night and day.  Of the young Englishman I can tell you
nothing; but of Marc'antonio I can promise that he will be on the
road and not far behind me.'"

"_Grazie_," muttered Marc'antonio; "but how could you be sure I had
received the message?"

"Because the Princess had charged you to be at that post until
released.  Therefore I knew you would not have quitted it, if alive;
and if you were dead--"  Stephanu shrugged his shoulders.  "I was in
a hurry, you understand; and in a hurry a man must take a few risks."

"I am not saying you did ill," growled Marc'antonio, slightly
mollified.

"The Princess said so, however.  'You are a fool, O Stephanu,' she
told me; 'and as for needing you or Marc'antonio, on the contrary, I
forbid you both to join the camp for a while.  Go back.  If you meet
Marc'antonio upon the road, give him this message for me.'
'But where, O Princess,' I asked, 'are we to await your pleasure?'
'Fare north, if you will, to Cape Corso,' she said, 'where that old
mad Englishman boasts that he will reach my mother in her prison at
Giraglia.  He has gone thither alone, refusing help; and you may
perhaps be useful to him.'"

Marc'antonio's growl grew deeper.  "Was that all?" he asked.

"That was all."

"Then there is mischief here.  The Prince, O Stephanu, did not
without purpose send you out of the way.  Now, whatever he purposed
he must have meant to do quickly, before we two should return to the
camp--"

"He had mischief in his heart, I will swear," assented Stephanu,
after a glance at me and another at Marc'antonio, who reassured him
with a nod.  "And that the Princess plainly guessed, by her manner at
parting, when I set out with the man Priske.  She was sorry enough
then to say good-bye to me," he added, half boastfully.

"Nevertheless," answered Marc'antonio with some sarcasm, "she appears
to have neglected to confide to you what she feared."

Stephanu spread out his hands.  "The Prince, and the reverend
Father--who can tell what passes in their minds?"

"Not you, at any rate!  Very well, then--the Princess was
apprehensive. . . . Yet now, when the mischief (whatever it is)
should either be done or on the point of doing, she will have none of
our help.  Clearly she knows more, yet will have none of our help.
That is altogether puzzling to me. . . . And she sends us
north. . . . Very well again; we will go north, but not far!"

He glanced back at me over his shoulder.  I read his meaning--that he
wished to plan his campaign privately with Stephanu--and, reining in
my pony, I fell back out of earshot.

The pass towards which we were climbing stood perhaps three thousand
feet above the shore and the high road we had left; and the track,
when it reached the steeper slopes, ran in long zigzagging terraces
at the angles of which our ponies had sometimes to scramble up
stairways cut in the living rock.  As the sun sank a light mist
gradually spread over the coast below us, the distant islands grew
dim, and we rode suspended, as it were, over a bottomless vale and a
sea without horizon.  Slowly, out of these ghostly wastes, the moon
lifted herself in full circle, and her rays, crossing the cope of
heaven, lit up a tall grey crag on the ridge above us, and the stem
of a white-withered bush hanging from it--an isolated mass which
(my companions told me) marked the summit of the ascent.

"The path leads round the base of it," said Stephanu.  "We shall
reach it in another twenty minutes."

"But will it not be guarded?" I asked.

He hunched his shoulders.  "The Prince is no general.  A hundred
times our enemies might have destroyed us; but they prefer to leave
us alone.  It is more humiliating."

Marc'antonio rode forward deep in thought, his chin sunk upon his
breast.  At the summit, under the shadow of the great rock, he reined
up, and slewing himself about in his saddle addressed Stephanu again.

"As I remember, there is a track below which branches off to the
right, towards Nonza.  It will take us wide of Olmeta and we can
strike down into the lowland somewhere between the two.  The Princess
commands us to make for the north; so we shall be obeying her, and at
the same time we can bivouac close enough to take stock at sunrise
and, maybe, learn some news of the camp--yet not so close that our
horses can be heard, if by chance one should whinny."

"As to that you may rest easy," Stephanu assured him.  "It is known
that many of the farms below keep ponies in stable."

From the pass we looked straight down upon another sea, starlit and
dimly discernible, and upon slopes and mountain spurs descending into
dense woodland over which, along the bluffs of the ridge, the lights
of a few lonely hill-farms twinkled.  Stephanu found for us the track
of which Marc'antonio had spoken, and although on this side of the
range the shadows of the crags made an almost total darkness, our
ponies took us down at a fair pace.  After thirty, or it may be
forty, minutes of this jolting and (to me) entirely haphazard
progress, Marc'antonio again reined up, on the edge of a
mountain-stream which roared across our path so loudly as to drown
his instructions.  But at a sign from him Stephanu stepped back and
took my bridle, and within a couple of minutes I felt that my pony's
feet were treading good turf and, at a cry from my guide, ducked my
head to avoid the boughs as we threaded our way down through an
orchard of stalwart olives.

The slope grew gentler as we descended, and eased almost to a level
on the verge of a high road running north and south under the glimmer
of the moon--or rather of the pale light heralding the moon's advent.
Marc'antonio looked about him and climbed heavily from his saddle.
He had been riding since dawn.

I followed his example, though with difficulty--so stiff were my
limbs; picketed my pony; and, having unstrapped the blanket from my
saddle-bow, wrapped it about me and stretched myself on the thin turf
to munch the ration of crust which Marc'antonio doled out from his
bag; for he carried our provender.

"Never grudge a hard day's work when 'tis over," said he, as he
passed me the wine-skin.  "Yonder side of the mountain breeds malaria
even in winter, but on this side a man may sleep and rise fit for
adventure."

He offered, very politely, to share his blanket with Stephanu, but
Stephanu declined.  Those two might share one loyalty and together
take counsel for it, but between them as men there could be no liking
nor acceptance of favours.

I lay listening for a while to the mutter of their voices as they
talked there together under the olives; but not for long.  The few
words and exclamations that reached me carried no meaning.  In truth
I was worn out.  Very soon the chatter of the stream, deep among the
trees--the stream which we had just now avoided--confused itself with
their talk, and I slept.


Of a sudden I started and sat up erect.  I had been dreaming, and in
my dream I had seen two figures pass along the road beyond the fringe
of the trees.  They had passed warily, yet hurriedly, across the
patch of it now showing white between the olive trunks, under the
risen moon.  Yet how could this have happened if I had dreamed it
merely?  The moon, when I fell asleep, had not surmounted the ridge
behind me, and that patch of road, now showing so white and clear,
had been dim, if not quite invisible.  None the less I could be sworn
that two figures had passed up the road . . . two men . . .

Marc'antonio and Stephanu?--reconnoitring perhaps?  I rubbed my eyes.
No: Marc'antonio and Stephanu lay a few paces away, stretched in
profound sleep under the moonlight drifting between the olive boughs;
and yonder, past the fringe of the orchard, shone the patch of white
high road.  Two figures, half a minute since, had passed along it.
I could be sworn to it, even while reason insisted that I had been
dreaming.

I flung off my rug, and, stepping softly to the verge of the
orchard's shadow, peered out upon the road.  To my right--that is to
say, northward--it stretched away level and visibly deserted so far
as the bend, little more than a gunshot distant, where it curved
around the base of low cliff and disappeared.  A few paces on this
side of the cliff glimmered the rail of a footbridge, and to this
spot my ears traced the sound of running water which had been singing
through my dreams--the same stream which had turned us aside to seek
our bivouac.  Not even yet could I believe that my two wayfarers had
been phantoms merely.  I had given them two minutes' start at least,
and by this time they might easily have passed the bend.
Threading my way swiftly between the boles of the olive trees, I
skirted the road to the edge of the stream and stood for a moment at
pause before stepping out upon the footbridge and into the moonlight.

The water at my feet, scarcely seen through the dark ferns, ran
swiftly and without noise as through a trough channelled in the
living rock; but it brought its impetus from a cascade that hummed
aloft somewhere in the darkness with a low continuous thunder as of a
mill with a turning wheel.  I lifted my head to the sound, and in
that instant my ears caught a slight creak from the footbridge on my
left.  I faced about, and stood rigid, at gaze.  A woman was stepping
across the bridge, there in the moonlight; a slight figure, cloaked
and hooded and hurrying fast; a woman, with a gun slung behind her
and the barrel of it glimmering.  It was the Princess.

I let her pass, and as she turned the bend of the road I stole out to
the footbridge and across it in pursuit.  I knew now that the two
wayfarers had not been phantoms of my dreaming; that she was
following, tracking them, and that I must track and follow her.
Beyond the bend the road twisted over a low-lying spur of the
mountain between outcrops of reddish-coloured rock, and then ran
straight for almost three hundred yards, with olive orchards on
either hand; so that presently I could follow and hold her in sight,
myself keeping well within the trees' line of shadow.

Twice she turned to look behind her, but rapidly and as if in no
great apprehension of pursuit; or perhaps her own quest had made her
reckless.  At the end of this straight and almost level stretch the
road rose steeply to wind over another foot-hill, and here she broke
into a run.  I pressed after her up the ascent, and from the knap of
it, with a shock, found myself looking down at close hand upon a
small dim bay of the sea with a white edge of foam curving away into
a loom of shore above which a solitary light twinkled.  The road,
following the curve of the shore a few paces above the waves, lay
bare in the moonlight, without cover to right or left, until, a mile
away perhaps, it melted into the grey of night.  Along that distance
my eyes sought and sought in vain for the figure that had been
running scarcely two hundred yards ahead of me.  The Princess had
disappeared.

For a short while I stood at fault; but searching the bushes on my
left, I was aware of a parting between them, overgrown indeed, yet
plainly indicating a track; along which I had pushed but two-score of
paces--perhaps less--before a light glimmered between the greenery
and I stepped into an open clearing in full view of a cottage, the
light of which fell obliquely across the turf through a warped or
cracked window-shutter.

"Camillo!"--it was the Princess's voice, half imperious, half
pleading; and from beyond the angle of the cottage wall came the
noise of a latch shaken.  "Open to me, Camillo, or by the Mother of
Christ I will blow the door in!  I have a gun, Camillo, and I swear
to you!"

The challenge was not answered.  Crouching almost on all fours I
sprang across the ray of light and gained the wall's shadow.  There,
as I drew breath, I heard the latch shaken again, more impatiently.

"Camillo!"

The bolt was drawn.  Peering around the angle of the wall, I saw the
light fall full on her face as the door opened and she stepped into
the cottage.



CHAPTER XXIII.


ORDEAL AND CHOOSING.


                         "Thou coward!  Yet
     Art living? canst not, wilt not find the road
     To the great palace of magnificent death?--
     Though thousand ways lead to his thousand doors
     Which day and night are still unbarr'd for all."
                             NAT. LEE.--_Oedipus_.

"No man"--I am quoting my father--"can be great, or even wise, or
even, properly speaking, a man at all, until he has burnt his boats";
but I imagine that those who achieve wisdom and greatness burn their
boats deliberately and not--as did I, next moment--upon a sudden wild
impulse.

My excuse is, the door was already closing behind the Princess.
I knew she had tracked the Prince Camillo and his confessor, and that
these two were within the cottage.  I knew nothing of their business,
save that it must be shameful, since she who had detected and would
prevent it chose to hide her knowledge even from Marc'antonio and
Stephanu.  Then much rather (you may urge) would she choose to hide
it from me.  The objection is a sound one, had I paused to consider
it; but (fortunately or unfortunately, as you may determine) I did
not.  She had stepped into peril.  The door was closing behind her:
in another couple of seconds it would be bolted again.  I sprang for
it, hurled myself in through the entry, and there, pulling myself
erect, stared about me.

Four faces returned my stare; four faces, and all dismayed as though
a live bombshell had dropped through the doorway.  To the priest,
whom my impact had flung aside against the wall, I paid no attention.
My eyes fastened themselves on the table at which, with a lantern and
some scattered papers between them, sat two men--the Prince, and a
grey-haired officer in the blue-and-white Genoese uniform.
The Prince, who had pushed back his chair and confronted his sister
with hands stretched out to cover or to gather up the papers on the
table, slewed round upon me a face that, as it turned, slowly
stiffened with terror.  The Genoese officer rose with one hand
resting on the table, while with the other he fumbled at a silver
chain hanging across his breast, and as he shot a glance at the
Prince I could almost see his lips forming the word "treachery."
The Princess's consternation was of all the most absolute.
"_The Crown!  Where is the Crown?_"--as I broke in, her voice, half
imperious, half supplicatory, had panted out these words, while with
outstretched hand and forefinger she pointed at the table.  Her hand
still pointed there, rigid as the rest of her body, as with dilated
eyes she stared into mine.

"Yes, gentlemen," said I, in the easiest tone I could manage, "the
Princess asks you a question, which allow me to repeat.  Where is
the Crown?"

"In the devil's name--" gasped the Prince.

The Genoese interrupted him.  "Shut and bolt the door!" he commanded
the priest, sharply.

"Master Domenico," said I, "if you move so much as a step, I will
shoot you through the body."

The Genoese tugged at the chain on his breast and drew forth a
whistle.  "Signore," he said quietly and with another side glance at
the Prince, "I do not know your name, but mine is Andrea Fornari, and
I command the Genoese garrison at Nonza.  Having some inherited
knowledge of the Corsicans, and some fifty years' experience of my
own, I do not walk into traps.  A dozen men of mine stand within call
here, at the back entrance, and my whistle will call me up another
fifty.  Bearing this in mind, you will state your business as
peaceably as possible."

"Nevertheless," said I, "since I have taken a fancy--call it a whim,
if you will--that the door remains at least unbolted. . . ."

He shrugged his shoulders.  "It will help you nothing."

"I am an Englishman," said I.

"Indeed? Well, I have heard before now that it will explain anything
and everything; but as yet my poor understanding scarcely stretches
it to cover your presence here."

"Faith, sir," I answered, "to put the matter briefly, I am here
because the Princess is here, whom I have followed--though without
her knowledge--because I guessed her to be walking into peril."

"Excuse me.  Without her knowledge, you say?"  The Commandant turned
to the Princess, who bowed her head but continued to gaze at me from
under her lowered brows.  "Absolutely, sir."

"And without knowledge of her errand?  Again excuse me, but does it
not occur to you that you may be intruding at this moment upon a
family affair?"

Here the Prince broke in with a scornful laugh.  For a minute or so
his brow had been clearing, but, though he sneered, he could not as
yet meet his sister's eye.  I noted this as his laugh drew my gaze
upon him, and it seemed that my contempt gave me a sudden clear
insight; for I found myself answering the Commandant very
deliberately--

"The Princess, sir, until a moment ago, perhaps knew not whether I
was alive or dead, and certainly knew not that I was within a hundred
miles of this place.  Had she known it, she would as certainly not
have confided her errand to me, mixed up as it is with her brother's
shame.  She would, I dare rather wager, have taken great pains to
hide it from me.  And yet I will not pretend that I am quite ignorant
of it, as neither will I allow--family affair though it be--that I
have no interest in it, seeing that it concerns the crown of
Corsica."

The Commandant glanced at the Prince, then at the priest, who stood
passive, listening, with his back to the wall, his loose-lidded eyes
studying me from the lantern's penumbra.

"What possible interest--" begun the Commandant.

"By the crown of Corsica," I interrupted, "I mean the material crown
of the late King Theodore, at this moment concealed (if I mistake
not) somewhere in this cottage.  In it I may claim a certain
interest, seeing that I brought it from England to this island, and
that the Prince Camillo here--whose father gave it to me--is trading
it to you by fraud.  Yes, _messere_, he may claim that it belongs to
him by right; but he obtained it from me by fraud, as neither he nor
his sister can deny.  That perhaps might pass: but when he--he a son
of Corsica--goes on to sell it to Genoa, I reassert my claim."

Again the Commandant shrugged his shoulders.  It consoled me to note
that his glance at the Prince was by no means an admiring one.

"I am a soldier," he said curtly.  "I do not deal in sentiment; nor
is it my business, when a bargain comes to me--a bargain in which I
can serve my country--to inquire into how's and why's."

"I grant that, sir," said I.  "It is your business, now that the
crown--with what small profit may go with it--lies under your hand,
to grasp it for Genoa.  But as a soldier and a brave man, you
understand that now you must grasp it by force.  God knows in what
hope, if in any, the Princess here tracked out your plot; but at
least she can compel you--I can compel you--we two, weak as we are,
can compel you--to use force.  The honour of a race--and that a royal
one--shall at least not pass to you on the mere signature of that
coward sitting there."  I swung round upon the Prince.  "You may give
up trying to hide those papers, sir, since every one in this room
knows what compact you were in the act of signing."

The Princess stepped forward.  "All this," she said to me in a low,
hard voice, "I could have done without help of you." Her tone
promised that she would never forgive, but she looked only at her
brother.  "Camillo," she said, standing before him, "this Englishman
has said only what I came to say.  It is not my fault that he is here
and has guessed.  When I was sure, I hid my knowledge even from
Marc'antonio and Stephanu;  and he--he shall die for having
overheard.  The Genoese will see to that, and the Commandant, as he
is a gentleman, will write in his report that he took the crown from
us,  having caught us at unawares. . . . I cannot shoot you, my
brother.  Even you would not ask this of me--of me that have served
you, and that serve you now in the end. . . . See, I make no
reproaches. . . . We were badly brought up, we two, and when you were
young and helpless, vile men took hold on you and taught you to be
capable of--of this thing.  But we are Colonne, we two, and can end
as Colonne."  She dipped a hand within the bosom of her bodice and
drew out a phial.  "Dear, I will drink after you.  It will not be
hard; no, believe me, it will not be so very hard--a moment, a pang
perhaps, and everything will yet be saved.  O brother, what is a
pang, a moment, that you can weigh it against a lifetime of
dishonour!"

The Prince sprang up cursing.

"Dishonour?  And who are you that talk to me of dishonour?--you that
come straying here out of the night with your _cicisbeo_ at your
heels?  You, with the dew on you and your dress bedraggled, arrive
straight from companioning in the woods and prate to me of shame--of
the blood of the Colonne!"  He smote a hand on the table and spat
forth a string of vile names upon her, mixed with curses;  abominable
words before which she drew back cowering, yet less (I think) from
the lash of them than from shock and horror of his incredible
baseness.  Passion twisted his mouth; his tongue stammered with the
gush of his abuse; but he was lying, and knew that he was lying, for
his eyes would meet neither hers nor mine.  Only after drawing breath
did he for a moment look straight at her, and then it was to demand;
"And who, pray, has driven me to this?  What has made Corsica so
bitter to me that in weariness I am here to resign it?  You, my
sister--you, and what is known of you. . . . Why can I do nothing with
the patriots?  Why were there no recruits?  Why, when I negotiated,
did the Paolists listen as to a child and smile politely and show me
their doors?  Again, because of you, O my sister!--because there is
not a household in Corsica but has heard whisperings of you, and of
Brussels, and of the house in Brussels where you were sought and
found.  Blood of the Colonne!--and now the blood of the Colonne takes
an English lover to warm it!  Blood of--"

With one hand I caught him by the throat, with the other by the
girdle, and flung him clean across the table into the corner,
oversetting the lantern, but not extinguishing the light, for the
Commandant caught it up deftly.  As he set it back on the table I
heard him grunt, and--it seemed to me--with approval.

"I will allow no shooting, sir," said he, quickly, yet with easy
authority, noting my hand go down to my gun-stock.

"You misunderstand me," I answered, and indeed I was but shifting its
balance on my bandolier, which had slipped awry in the struggle.
"There are reasons why I cannot kill this man.  But you will give me
leave to answer just two of his slanders upon this lady.  It is false
that I came here to-night by her invitation or in her company, as it
is God's truth that for many months until we met in this room and in
your presence she has not set eyes on me.  She could not have known
even that I lived since the hour when her brother there--yes,
Princess, your brother there--left me broken and maimed at the far
end of the island.  For the rest, he utters slanders to which I have
no clue save that I know them to be slanders.  But at a venture, if
you would know how they grew and who nurtured them, I think the
priest yonder can tell you."

The Commandant waved a hand politely.  "You have spoken well, sir.
Believe me, on this point no more is necessary.  I have no doubt--
there can be no doubt--that the Prince lies under a misapprehension.
Nevertheless, there are circumstances which lay me under obligation
to him."  He paused.  "And you will admit that you have placed the
lady--thoughtlessly no doubt--in a false position."

"Well and good, sir," I replied.  "If, in your opinion as a man of
honour, the error demands a victim, by all means call in your
soldiers and settle me.  I stipulate only that you escort the lady
back to her people with honour, under a flag of truce; and I protest
only, as she has protested, that this traitor has no warrant to sell
you his country's rights."

The Prince had picked himself up, and stood sulkily, still in his
corner.  I suppose that he was going to answer this denunciation,
when the priest's voice broke in, smooth and unctuous.

"Pardon me, _messeri_, but there occurs to me a more excellent way.
This Englishman has brought dishonour on one of the Colonne:
therefore it is most necessary that he should die.  But before dying
let him make the only reparation--and marry her."

I turned on him, staring: and in the flicker of his eyes as he lifted
them for one instant towards his master, I read the whole devilish
cunning of the plot.  They might securely let her go, as an
Englishman's widow.  The fact had merely to be proclaimed and the
islanders would have none of her.  I am glad to remember that--my
brain keeping clear, albeit my pulse, already fast enough, leapt
hotly and quickened its speed--I had presence of mind to admire the
suggestion coolly, impersonally, and quite as though it affected me
no jot.

The Commandant bent his brows.  Behind them--as it seemed to me--I
could read his thought working.

"If you, sir, have no objection," he said slowly, looking up and
addressing me with grave politeness, "I see much to be said for the
reverend father's proposal."

He turned to the Prince, who--cur that he was--directed his spiteful
glee upon his sister.

"It appears, O Camilla, that in our race to save each other's honour
I am to be winner.  Nay, you may wear your approaching widowhood with
dignity, and boast in time to come that your husband once bore the
crown of Corsica."

"Prince Camillo," said the Commandant, quietly, "I am here to-night
in the strict service of my Republic, to do my best for her: but I
warn you that if you a second time address your sister in that tone I
shall reserve the right to remember it later as a plain Genoese
gentleman.  Sir," he faced about and addressed me again, "am I to
understand that you accept?"

I looked at the Princess.  She met my look proudly, with eyes set in
a face pale as death.  I could not for the life of me read whether
they forbade me or implored.  They seemed to forbid, protest . . .
and yet (the bliss of it!) for one half instant they had also seemed
to implore.  Thank God at least they did not scorn!

"Princess," I said, "these men propose to do me an infinite honour--
an honour far above my deserving--and to kill me while my heart yet
beats with the pride of it.  Yet say to me now if I must renounce it,
and I will die bearing you no grudge.  Take thought, not of me, but
of yourself only, and sign to me if I must renounce."

Still she eyed me, pale and unblinking.  Her bosom panted, and for a
moment she half-raised her hand; but dropped it again.

"I think, sir," said I, facing around on the Commandant, I think by
this time the day must be breaking.  Will you kindly open the
shutters?  Also you would oblige me further--set it down to an
Englishman's whim--by forming up your men outside; and we will have a
soldier's wedding."

"Willingly, cavalier."  The Commandant stepped to the shutter and
unbarred it, letting in daylight with the cool morning breeze--a
greenish-grey daylight, falling across the glade without as softly as
ever through cathedral aisles, and a breeze that was wine to the
taste as it breathed through the exhausted air of the cottage--a
sacramental dawn, and somewhere deep in the arcades of the tree-boles
a solitary bird singing!

The Commandant leaned forth and blew his whistle.  The bird's song
ceased, and was followed by the tramp of men.  My brain worked so
clearly, I could almost count their footsteps.  I saw them, across
the Commandant's shoulder, as they filed past the corner of the
window and, having formed into platoon, grounded arms, the butts of
their muskets thudding softly on the turf--a score of men in
blue-and-white uniforms, spick and span in the clear morning light.

I counted them and drew a long breath.  "Master priest," said I, and
held out my hand to the Princess, "in your Church, I believe,
matrimony is a sacrament.  If you are ready, I am ready."

His loose lip twitched as he stepped forward. . . . When he paused in
his muttering I lifted the Princess's cold hand and drew a seal from
my pocket--a heavy seal with a ring attached, which I fitted on her
finger; and so I held her hand, letting drop on it by degrees the
weight of the heavy seal.

From the first she had offered no resistance, made no protest.
I pressed the seal into the palm of her hand, not telling her that it
was her own father's great seal of Corsica.  But I folded her fingers
back on it, reverently touched the one encircled by the ring, and
said I--

"It is the best I can give;" and a little later, "It is all I brought
in my pockets but this handkerchief.  Take that, too; lead me out;
and bandage my eyes, my wife."

She took my arm obediently and we stepped out by the doorway,
bridegroom and bride, in face of the soldiery.  A sergeant saluted
and came forward for the Commandant's orders.

"A moment, sir," said I, and, laying two fingers on the Commandant's
arm, I nodded towards the bole of a stout pine-tree across the
clearing.  "Will that distance suit you?"

He nodded in reply and as I swung on my heel touched my arm in his
turn.

"You will do me the honour, sir, to shake hands?"

"Most willingly, sir." I shook hands with him, casting, as I did so,
a glance over my shoulder at the Prince and Father Domenico, who hung
back in the doorway--two men afraid.  "Come," said I to the Princess,
and, as she seemed to hesitate, "Come, my wife," I commanded, and
walked to the pine-tree, she following.  I held out the handkerchief.
She took it, still obediently, and as she took it I clasped her hand
and lifted it to my lips.

"Nay," said I, challenging, "what was it you told your brother?
A moment?  A pang?  What are they to weigh against a lifetime of
dishonour?"

I saw her blench: yet even while she bandaged me at my bidding, I did
not arrive at understanding the folly--the cruel folly of that
speech.  Nay, even when, having bandaged me, she stepped away and
left me, I considered not nor surmised what second meaning might be
read in it.

Shall I confess the truth?  I was too consciously playing a part and
making a handsome exit.  After all, had I not some little excuse?
 . . . Here was I, young, lusty, healthful, with a man's career
before me, and across it, trenched at my feet, the grave.  A saying
of Billy Priske's comes into my mind--a word spoken, years after,
upon a poor fisherman of Constantine parish whose widow, as by will
directed, spent half his savings on a tombstone of carved granite.
"A man," said Billy, "must cut a dash once in his lifetime, though
the chance don't come till he's dead." . . . Looking back across
these years I can smile at the boy I was and forgive his poor brave
flourish.  But his speech was thoughtless: the woman (ah! but he
knows her better now) was withdrawn with its wound in her heart: and
between them Death was stepping forward to make the misunderstanding
final.

I remember setting my shoulder-blades firmly against the bole of the
tree.  A kind of indignation sustained me; a scorn to be cut off
thus, a scorn especially for the two cowards by the doorway.
They were talking with the Commandant.  Their voices sounded across
the interval between me and the firing-party.  Why were they wasting
time? . . .

I could not distinguish their words, save that twice I heard the
Prince curse viciously.  The hound (I told myself, shutting my teeth)
might have restrained his tongue for a few moments.

The voices ceased.  In a long pause I heard the insects humming in
the grasses at my feet.  Would the moment never come?

It came at last.  A flash of light winked above the edge of my
bandage, and close upon it broke the roar and rattle of the
volley . . . Death?  I put out my hands and groped for it.
Where was Death?

Nay, perhaps this _was_ Death?  If so, what fools were men to fear
it!  The hum of the insects had given place to silence--absolute
silence.  If bullet had touched me, I had felt no pang at all.
I was standing, yes, surely I was standing . . . Slowly it broke on
me that I was unhurt, that they had fired wide, prolonging their
sport with me; and I tore away the bandage, crying out upon them to
finish their cruelty.

At a little distance sat the Princess watching me, her gun across her
knees.  Beyond her and beyond the cottage, by the edge of the wood
the firing-party had fallen into rank and were marching off among the
pine-stems, the Prince and Father Domenico with them.  I stared
stupidly after the disappearing uniforms, and put out a hand as if to
brush away the smoke which yet floated across the clearing.
The Commandant, turning to follow his men, at the same moment lifted
his hand in salute.  So he, too, passed out of sight.

I turned to the Princess.  She arose slowly and came to me.



CHAPTER XXIV.


THE WOOING OF PRINCESS CAMILLA.


     "Take heed of loving me,
      At least remember I forbade it thee; . . .
      If thou love me, take heed of loving me."
                                 DONNE, _The Prohibition_.

"You have conquered."

She had halted, a pace or two from me, with downcast eyes.  She said
it very slowly, and I stared at her and answered with an unmeaning
laugh.

"Forgive me, Princess.  I--I fancy my poor wits have been shaken and
need a little time to recover.  At any rate, I do not understand
you."

"You have conquered," she repeated in a low voice that dragged upon
the words.  Then, after a pause,--"You remember, once, promising me
that at the last I should come and place my neck under your
foot . . ."  She glanced up at me and dropped her eyes again.  "Yes,
I see that you remember.  _Eccu_--I am here."

"I remember, Princess: but even yet I do not understand.  Why, and
for what, should you beseech me?"

"In the first place for death.  I am your wife . . ."  She broke off
with a shiver.  "There is something in the name, _messere_--is there
not?--that should move you to kindness, as a sportsman takes his game
not unkindly to break its neck.  That is all I ask of you--"

"Princess!"

She lifted a hand.  "--except that you will let me say what I have to
say.  You shall think hard thoughts of me, and I am going to make
them harder; but for your own sake you shall put away vile ones-if
you can."

I stared at her stupidly dizzied a little with the words _I am your
wife_, humming in my brain.  Or say that I am naturally not
quick-witted, and I will plead that for once my dullness did me no
discredit.

At all events it saved me for the moment: for while I stared at her,
utterly at a loss, a crackle of twigs warned us, and we turned
together as, by the pathway leading from the high-road, the bushes
parted and the face of Marc'antonio peered through upon the clearing.

"Salutation, O Princess!" said he gravely, and stepped out of cover
attended by Stephanu, who likewise saluted.

The Princess drew herself up imperiously.  "I thought, O Stephanu,
that I had made plain my orders, that you two were neither to follow
nor to watch me?"

"Nevertheless," Marc'antonio made answer, "when one misses a comrade
and hears, at a little distance, the firing of a volley . . . not to
mention that some one has been burning gunpowder hereabouts," he
wound up, sniffing the air with an expression that absurdly reminded
me of our Vicar, at home, tasting wine.

"I warn you, O Marc'antonio," said the Princess, "to be wise and ask
no more questions."

"I have asked none, O Princess," he answered again, still very
gravely, and after a glance at me turned to Stephanu.  "But it runs
in my head, comrade, that the time has come to consider other things
than wisdom."

"For example?" I challenged him sharply.

"For example, cavalier, that I cannot reconcile this smell with any
Corsican gunpowder."

"And you are right," said I.  "Nay, Princess, you have sworn not long
since to obey me, and I choose that they shall know.  That salvo,
sirs, was fired, five minutes ago, by the Genoese."

"A 'salvo' did you say, cavalier?"

"For our wedding, Marc'antonio." I took the Princess's hand--which
neither yielded nor resisted--and lifting it a little way, released
it to fall again limply.  So for a while there was silence between us
four.

"Marc'antonio," said I, "and you, Stephanu--it is I now who speak for
the Princess and decide for her; and I decide that you, who have
served her faithfully, deserve to be told all the truth.  It is
truth, then, that we are married.  The priest who married us was
Fra Domenico, and with assent of his master the Prince Camillo.
I can give you, moreover, the name of the chief witness: he is a
certain Signor or General Andrea Fornari, and commands the Genoese
garrison in Nonza."

"Princess!" Marc'antonio implored her.

"It is true," said she.  "This gentleman has done me much honour,
having heard what my brother chose to say."

"But I do not comprehend!"  The honest fellow cast a wild look around
the clearing.  "Ah, yes-the volley!  They have taken the Prince, and
shot him . . . But his body--they would not take his body--and you
standing here and allowing it--"

"My friends," I interrupted, "they have certainly taken his body, and
his soul too, for that matter; and I doubt if you can overtake either
on this side of Nonza.  But with him you will find the crown of
Corsica, and the priest who helped him to sell it.  I tell you this,
who are clansmen of the Colonne.  Your mistress, who discovered the
plot and was here to hinder it, will confirm me."

Their eyes questioned her; not for long.  In the droop of her bowed
head was confirmation.

"And therefore," I went on, "you two can have no better business than
to help me convey the Princess northward and bring her to her mother,
whom in this futile following after a wretched boy you have all so
strangely forgotten.  By God!" said I, "there is but one man in
Corsica who has hunted, this while, on a true scent and held to it;
and he is an Englishman, solitary and faithful at this moment upon
Cape Corso!"

"Your pardon, cavalier," answered Marc'antonio after a slow pause.
"What you say is just, in part, and I am not denying it.  But so we
saw not our duty, since the Queen Emilia bade us follow her son.
With him we have hunted (as you tell us) too long and upon a false
scent.  Be it so: but, since this has befallen, we must follow on the
chase a little farther.  For you, you have now the right to protect
our well-beloved; not only to the end of Cape Corso, but to the end
of the world.  But for us, who are two men used to obey, the Princess
your wife must suffer us to disobey her now for the first time.
The road to the Cape, avoiding Nonza, is rough and steep and must be
travelled afoot; yet I think you twain can accomplish it.  At the
Cape, if God will, we will meet you and stand again at your service.
But we travel by another road--the road which does not avoid Nonza."

He glanced at Stephanu, who nodded.

"Farewell then, O Princess; and if this be the end of our service,
forgive what in the past has been done amiss.  Farewell, O cavalier,
and be happy to protect her in perils wherein we were powerless."

The Princess stretched out both hands.

"Nay, mistress," said Marc'antonio, with another glance at Stephanu;
"but first cross them, that there be no telling the right from the
left: for we are two jealous men."

She crossed them obediently, and the two took each a hand and kissed
it.

Now all this while I could see that she was struggling for speech,
and as they released her hands she found it.

"But wherefore must you go by Nonza, O Marc'antonio?  And how many
will you take with you?"

Marc'antonio put the first question aside.  "We go alone, Princess.
You may call it a reconnaissance, on which the fewer taken the
better."

"You will not kill him!  Nay, then, O Marc'antonio, at least--at
least you will not hurt him!"

"We hope, Princess, that there will be no need," he answered
seriously, and, saluting once more, turned on his heel.  Stephanu
also saluted and turned, and the pair, falling into step, went from
us across the clearing.

I watched them till their forms disappeared in the undergrowth, and
turned to my bride.

"And now, Princess, I believe you have something to say to me.
Shall it be here?  I will not suggest the cottage, which is overfull
maybe of unpleasant reminders; but here is a tree-trunk, if you will
be seated."

"That shall be as my lord chooses."

I laughed.  "Your lord chooses, then, that you take a seat.  It seems
(I take your word for it) that there must be hard thoughts between
us.  Well, a straight quarrel is soonest ended, they say: let us have
them out and get them over."

"Ah, you hurt!  Is it necessary that you hurt so?"  Her eyes no less
than her voice sobered me at once, shuddering together as though my
laugh had driven home a sword and it grated on the bone.
I remembered that she always winced at laughter, but this evident
anguish puzzled me.

"God knows," said I, "how I am hurting you.  But pardon me.
Speak what you have to speak; and I will be patient while I learn."

"'A lifetime of dishonour,' you said, and yet you laugh . . .
A lifetime of dishonour, and you were blithe to be shot and escape
it; yet now you laugh.  Ah, I cannot understand!"

"Princess!" I protested, although not even now did I grasp what
meaning she had misread into my words.

"But you said rightly.  It is a lifetime of dishonour you have
suffered them to put on you: and I--I have taken more than life from
you, cavalier--yet I cannot grieve for you while you laugh.
O sir, do not take from me my last help, which is to honour you!"

"Listen to me, Princess," said I, stepping close and standing over
her.  "What do you suppose that I meant by using those words?
They were your own words, remember."

"That is better.  It will help us both if we are frank--only do not
treat me as a child.  You heard what my brother said.  Yes, and
doubtless you have heard other things to my shame?  Answer me."

"If your brother chose to utter slanders--"

"Yes, yes; it was easy to catch him by the throat.  That is how one
man treats another who calls a woman vile in her presence.  It does
not mean that he disbelieves, and therefore it is worthless; but a
gallant man will act so, almost without a second thought, and because
it is _dans les formes_."  She paused.  "I learned that phrase in
Brussels, cavalier."

I made no answer.

"In Brussels, cavalier," she repeated, "where it was often in the
mouths of very vile persons.  You have heard, perhaps, that we--that
my brother and I--lived our childhood in Brussels?"

I bent my head, without answering; but still she persisted.

"I was brought to Corsica from Brussels, cavalier.  Marc'antonio and
Stephanu fetched us thence, being guided by that priest who is now my
brother's confessor."

"I have been told so, Princess.  Marc'antonio told me."

"Did he also tell you where he found me?"

"No, Princess."

"Did he tell you that, being fetched hither, I was offered by my
brother in marriage to a young Count Odo of the Rocca Serra, and that
the poor boy slew himself with his own gun?"

I stuffed my hands deep in my pockets, and said I, standing over
her--

"All this has been told me, Princess, though not the precise reason
for it: and since you desire me to be frank I will tell you that I
have given some thought to that dead lad--that rival of mine (if you
will permit the word) whom I never knew.  The mystery of his death is
a mystery to me still; but in all my blind guesses this somehow
remained clear to me, that he had loved you, Princess;  and this
(again I ask your leave to say it), because I could understand it so
well, forbade me to think unkindly of him."

"He loved his honour better, sir." Her face had flushed darkly.

"I am sorry, then, if I must suffer by comparison."

"No, no," she protested.  "Oh, why will you twist my words and force
me to seem ungrateful?  He died rather than have me to wife: you took
me on the terms that within a few minutes you must die.  For both of
you the remedy was at hand, only _you_ chose to save me before taking
it.  On my knees, sir, I could thank you for that.  The crueller were
they that, when you stood up claiming your right to die, they broke
the bargain and cheated you."

"Princess," I said, after musing a moment, "if my surviving seemed to
you so pitiable, there was another way." I pointed to her musket.

"Yes, cavalier, and I will confess to you that when, having fired
wide, they turned to go and the cheat was evident, twice before you
pulled the bandage away I had lifted my gun.  But I could not fire
it, cavalier.  To make me your executioner!  Me, your wife--and while
you thought so vilely of me!"

"Faith," said I grimly, "it was asking too much, even for a Genoese!
Yet again I think you overrate their little trick, since, after
all"--I touched my own gunstock--"there remains a third way--the way
chosen by young Odo of Rocca Serra."

She put out a hand.  "Sir, that way you need not take--if you will be
patient and hear me!"

"Lady," said I, "you may hastily despise me; but I am neither going
to take that way, nor to be patient, nor to hear you.  But I am, as
you invited me, going to be very frank and confess to you, risking
your contempt, that I am extremely thankful the Genoese did not shoot
me, a while ago.  Indeed, I do not remember in all my life to have
felt so glad, as I feel just now, to be alive.  Give me your gun, if
you please."

"I do not understand."

"No, you do not understand. . . . Your gun, please . . . nay, you can
lay it on the turf between us.  The phial, too, that you offered your
brother. . . . Thank you.  And now, my wife, let us talk of your
country and mine; two islands which appear to differ more than I had
guessed.  In Corsica it would seem that, let a vile thing be spoken
against a woman, it suffices.  Belief in it does not count: it
suffices that a shadow has touched her, and rather than share that
shadow, men will kill themselves--so tender a plant is their honour.
Now, in England, O Princess, men are perhaps even more irrational.
They, no more than your Corsicans, listen to the evidence and ask
themselves, 'Is this good evidence or bad?  Do I believe it or
disbelieve?'  They begin father back, Princess--Shall I tell you how?
They look in the face of their beloved, and they say, 'Slander this,
not as you wish for belief, but only as you dare; for here my faith
is fixed beforehand.'

"And therefore, O Princess," I went on, after a pause in which we
eyed one another slowly, "therefore, I disbelieve any slander
concerning you; not merely because your brother's confessor was its
author--though that, to any rational man, should be enough--but
because I have looked in your face.  Therefore also I, your husband,
forbid you to speak what would dishonour us both."

"But, cavalier--if--if it were true?"

"True?"--I let out a harsh laugh.  "Take up that phial.  Hold it in
your hand, so.  Now look me in the face and drink--if you dare!
Look me in the face, read how I trust you, and so, if you can say the
lie to me say it--and drink!"

She lifted the phial steadily, almost to her lips, keeping her eyes
on mine--but of a sudden faltered and let it fall upon the turf:
where I, whose heart had all but stood still, crushed my heel upon it
savagely.

"I cannot.  You have conquered," she gasped.

"Conquered?"  I swore a bitter oath.  "O Princess, think you _this_
is the way I promised to conquer you?  Take up your gun again and
follow me. . . . Eh?  You do not ask where I lead?"

"It is enough that I follow you, my husband," she said humbly.

"It is something, indeed; but before God it is not enough, nor half
enough.  I see now that 'enough' may never come: almost I doubt if I,
who swore to you it should come, and since have desired it madly,
desire it any longer; and until it comes you are still the winner.
'Enough' shall be said, Princess--for my price rises--not when (as I
promised) you come to me without choosing to be loved or hated, only
beseeching your master, but when you shall come to me having made
your choice. . . . But so far, so good," said I, cheerfully, changing
my tone.  "You do not ask where I lead.  I am leading you, if I can
to Cape Corso, to my father; and by his help, if it shall serve, to
your mother."

"I thank you, cavalier," she said, still in her restrained voice.
"You are a good man; and for that reason I am sorry you will not
hearken to me."

"The mountains are before us," said I, shouldering my gun.
"Listen, Princess: let us be good comrades, us two.  Let us forget
what lies at the end of the journey--the convent for you, may be, and
for me at least the parting.  My life has been spared to-day, and I
tell you frankly that I am glad of the respite.  For you, the
mountains hold no slanders, and shall hold no evil.  Put your hand in
mine on the compact, and we will both step it bravely.  Forget that
you were ever a Princess or I a promised king of this Corsica!
O beloved, travel this land, which can never be yours or mine, and
let it be ours only for a while as we journey."

I turned and led the way up the path between the bushes: and she
followed my stride almost at a run.  On the bare mountain-spur above
the high-road she overtook and fell into pace with me: and so,
skirting Nonza, we breasted the long slope of the range.



CHAPTER XXV.


MY WEDDING DAY.


     Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge
     in the villages.  Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us
     see whether the vine hath budded and the tender grape appear.--
                                              _The Song of Songs_.

Ahead of us, high on our right, rose the mountain ridges, scarp upon
scarp, to the snowy peak of Monte Stella; low on our left lay Nonza,
and beyond it a sea blue as a sapphire, scarcely rippled, void save
for one white sail far away on the south-west horizon--not the
_Gauntlet_; for, distant though she was, I could make out the shape
of her canvas, and it was square cut.

Nonza itself lay in the shadow of the shore with the early light
shimmering upon its citadel and upper works--a fortress to all
appearance asleep: but the Genoese pickets would be awake and
guarding the northward road for at least a league beyond, and to
avoid them we must cross the high mountain spurs, using where we
could their patches of forest and our best speed where these left the
ridges bare.

The way was hard--harder by far than I had deemed possible--and kept
us too busy for talk.  Our silence was not otherwise constrained at
all.  Passion fell away from us as we climbed; fell away with its
strife, its confusion, its distempered memories of the night now
past; and was left with the vapours of the coast where the malaria
brooded.  Through the upper, clearer atmosphere we walked as gods on
the roof of the world, saw with clear eyes, knew with mind and spirit
untroubled by self-sickness.  We were silent, having fallen into an
accord which made all speech idle.  Arduous as the road soon became,
and, while unknown to both of us, more arduous to me because of my
inexperience, we chose without hesitating, almost without consulting.
Each difficulty brought decision, and with decision, its own help.
Now it was I who steadied her leap across a chasm; now came her turn
to underprop my foothold till I clambered to a ledge whence I could
reach down a hand and drag her up to me.  As a rule I may call myself
a blundering climber, my build being too heavy; but I made no mistake
that day.

In the course of a three hours' scramble she spoke to me (as I
remember) once only, and then as a comrade, in quiet approval of my
mountaineering.  We had come to a crag over which--with no word
said--I had lowered her by help of my bandolier.  She had waited at
the foot while I followed her down without assistance, traversing on
the way an outward-sloping ledge of smooth rock which overhung a
precipice and a sheer fall of at least three hundred feet.  The ledge
had nowhere a notch in it to grip the boot-sole, and was moreover
slippery with the green ooze of a mountain spring.  It has haunted my
dreams since then; I would not essay it again for my weight in money;
but I crossed it that day, so to speak, with my hands in my pockets.

The most curious (you might call it the most uncanny) part of the
whole adventure, was that from time to time we came out of these
breathless scrambles plump upon a patch of cultivated ground and a
hill-farm with its steading; the explanation being that these farms
stand each at the head of its own ravine, and, inaccessible one to
another, have communication with the world only by the tracks which
lead down their ravines.  Here, three thousand feet and more above
the sea--upon which we looked down between cliff and woodland as
through a funnel, and upon the roofs and whitewashed walls of
fishing-villages on the edge of the blue--lived slow, sedate folks,
who called their dogs off us and stared upon us as portents and gave
us goat's-milk and bread, refusing the coins we proffered.
The inhabitants of this Cape (I have since learned) are a race apart
in Corsica; slow, peaceable, without politics and almost (as we
should say) without patriotism.  We came to them as gods from the
heights, and they received and sped us as gods.  They were too slow
of speech to question us, or even to express their astonishment.

There was one farm with a stream plunging past it, and, by the house
wall, a locked mill-wheel (God knows what it had ever ground), and by
the door below it a woman, seated on a flight of steps, with her
bosom half-covered and a sucking-child laid asleep in her lap.
She blinked in the sunshine as we came across the yard to her, and
said she--

"Salutation, O strangers, and pardon that I cannot rise: but the
little one is sick of a fever and I fear to stir him, for he makes as
if he would sleep.  Nor is there any one else to entertain you, since
my husband has gone down to the _marina_ to fetch the wise woman who
lives there."

The Princess stepped close and stood over her.  "_O paesana_," said
she, "do you and your man live here alone, so far up the mountain?"

"There is the _bambino_," said the mother, simply.  "He is my first--
and a boy, by the gift of the Holy Virgin.  Already he takes notice,
and soon he will be learning to talk: but since we both talk to him
and about him, you may say that already there are three of us, and
anon the good Lord may send us others.  It is hard work, _O bella
donna_, on such a farm as ours, and doubly hard on my husband now for
these months that I have been able to help him but little.  But with
a good man and his child--if God spare the child--I shall want no
happiness."

"Give me the child," said the Princess, taking a seat on the stone
slab beside her.  "He shall not hurt with me while you fetch us a
draught of milk."

The woman stared at her and at me, fearfully at first, then with a
strange look in her eyes, between awe and disbelief and a growing
hope.

"Even when you came," she said hoarsely after a while, "I was praying
for an angel to help my child. . . . O blind, O hard of faith that I
am!  And when I lifted my eyes and saw you, I bethought me not that
none walk this mountain by the path you have come, nor has this land
any like you twain for beauty and stature. . . . O lady--whether from
heaven or earth--you will not take my child but to cure it?  He is my
only one."

"Give him to me."

The woman laid her child in the Princess's arms and ran into the
house, throwing one look of terror back at us from the doorstep.
The Princess sat motionless, gazing down on the closed lids,
frowning, deep in thoughts I could not follow.

"You will not," said I, "leave this good foolish soul in her error?"

"I have heard," she answered quietly, without lifting her eyes, "that
a royal touch has virtue to heal sometimes--and there was a time when
you claimed to be King of Corsica.  Nay, forgive me," she took
herself up quickly, "there is bitterness yet left in me, but that
speech shall be the last of it. . . . O husband, O my friend, I was
thinking that this child will grow into a man; and of what his mother
said, that there is such a thing as a good man: and I am trying to
believe her. . . . _Eccu!_ he sleeps, poor mite!  Listen to his
breathing."

The farm-wife came out with a full bowl of milk.  Her hands shook and
spilled some as she handed it to me, so eager were they to hold her
infant again.  Taking it and feeling the damp sweat as she passed a
hand over its brow, she broke forth into blessings.

We told her of her mistake: but I doubt if she heard.

"I have dwelt here these three years," she persisted, "and none ever
walked the mountain by the path you have come."  She watched us as I
held the bowl for the Princess to drink, and asked quaintly, "But is
there truly no marrying in heaven?  I have thought upon that many
times, and always it puzzles me."

We said farewell to her, and took her blessings with us as she
watched us across the head of the ravine.  Then followed another
half-hour of silence and sharp climbing: but the worst was over, and
by-and-by the range tailed off into a chain of lessening hills over
which in the purple distance rose a solitary sharp cone with a
ruinous castle upon it, which (said the Princess) was Seneca's Tower
at the head of the Vale of Luri.

We were now beyond the danger of the Genoese, and therefore turned
aside to the left and descended the slopes to the high-road, along
which we made good speed until, having passed the tower and the mouth
of the gorge which leads up to it from the westward, we came, almost
at nightfall, within sight of Pino by the sea.

Here I proposed that I should go forward to the village and find a
night's lodging for her, pointing out that, the night being warm and
dry, I could make my couch comfortably enough in one of the citron
orchards that here lined the road on the landward side.  To this at
first she assented--it seemed to me, even eagerly.  But I had
scarcely taken forty paces up the road before I heard her voice
calling me back, and back I went obediently.

"O husband," she said, "the dusk has fallen, and now in the dusk I
can say a word I have been longing all day to be free of.  Nay"--she
put out a hand--"you must not forbid me.  You must not even delay me
now."

"What is it, that I should forbid you?"

"It is--about Brussels."

I dropped my hand impatiently and was turning away, but she touched
my arm and the touch pleaded with me to face her.

"I have a right. . . . Yes, it was good of you to refuse it; but you
cannot go on refusing, because--see you--your goodness makes my right
the stronger.  This morning I could have told you, but you refused
me.  All this day I have known that refusal unjust."

"All this day?  Then--pardon, Princess--but why should I hear you
now, at this moment?"

"The daylight is past," she said.  "You can listen now and not see my
face."

On the hedge of the ditch beside the high-road lay a rough fragment
of granite, a stone cracked and discarded, once the base of an
olive-mill.  She found a seat upon it and motioned to me to come
close, and I stood close, staring down on her while she stared down
at her feet, grey with dust almost as the road itself.

"We were children, Camillo and I," she said at length, "in keep of an
ill woman we called Maman Trebuchet, and in a house near the entrance
of a court leading off the Rue de la Madeleine and close beside the
Market.  How we had come there we never inquired. . . . I suppose all
children take such things as they find them.  The house was of five
storys, all let out in tenements, and we inhabited two rooms on the
fourth floor to the left as you went up the staircase. . . . Some of
the men quarrelled with their wives and beat them.  There was always
a noise of quarrelling in the house: but outside, before the front
door, the men who were not beating their women would sit for hours
together and smoke and spit and tell one another stories against the
Church and against women.  The pavement where they sat and the street
before it were strewn always with rotting odds and ends of
vegetables, for almost every one in that quarter earned his living by
the Market, and Maman Trebuchet among the rest.  She divided her time
between walking the streets with a basket and drinking the profits
away in the cabarets, and in the intervals she cursed and beat us.
We lived for the most part on the refuse she brought home at night--
on so much of her stock as had found no purchaser--and we played
about the gutters and alleys of the Market.  So far as I remember we
were neither very happy nor yet very miserable.  We knew that we were
brother and sister, and that Maman Trebuchet was not our real mother.
Beyond this we were not inquisitive, but took life as we found it.

"Nevertheless, I know now that we were not altogether lost, but that
eyes in Brussels were watching us; though how far they were friendly
I cannot tell you.  I think sometimes that the agents of the Genoese,
who had hidden us there, must have been playing their own game as
well as their masters'.  There was, for example, a dark man who often
visited the Market: he called himself a lay-brother, and seemed to
be busy with religious work among the poor of the quarter.  We knew
him as Maitre Antoine at first, and so he was generally called: but
he told us that his real name was Antonio--or Antoniu, as he spoke
it--and that he came from Italy.  He took a great fancy to us and
obtained leave of Maman Trebuchet to teach us the Scriptures: but
what he really taught us was to speak with him in Italian.  We did
not know at the time that, though he called it Tuscan, he was all the
while teaching us our own Corsican.  Nor, I believe, did our guardian
know this; but one day, finding out by chance that we knew Italian
(for we had begun to talk it together, that she might not understand
what we said) and discovering how we had picked it up, she flew into
a dreadful rage, lay in wait next day to catch Maitre Antoine as he
came up the stairs, and fell upon him with such fury that the poor
man fled out of the house and we never saw him again.

"After this--I believe about a year later--there came a day when she
bought a new cap and shawl for herself and new clothes for us, and,
having seen that we were thoroughly washed, took us up the hill to a
fine street near the palace, and to a hotel which was almost the
grandest house in the street.  We entered, and were led into the
presence of a very noble-looking gentleman in a long yellow
dressing-gown, who blessed us and gave us a kiss apiece, and some
gold money, and afterwards poured out wine for Maman Trebuchet and
thanked her for taking such good care of us."

"That was your father, Princess."

"I have often thought so.  But I remember nothing of his face except
that he had tears in his eyes when we said good-bye to him; at which
I wondered a great deal, for I had never seen a man crying.  When we
were outside again in the street Maman Trebuchet took the gold away
from us.  I think she too must have received money: for from that
day she neglected her marketing and drank more heavily than before.
About a month later she was dead.

"On the day of the funeral there came to our house a man dressed like
a gentleman--yet I believe rather that he must have been some kind of
courier or valet.  He spoke to us very kindly, and said that we had
friends, who had sent him to us; that when we grew up we should not
want for money; but that just now it was most important we should be
put to school and made fit for our proper position in life.  We must
make up our minds to be separated, he said--and at this we both
wept--but we should see one another often.  For Camillo he had found
lodgings with an excellent tutor, in whose care, after a year's
study, he was to travel abroad and see the world: while for me he had
chosen a home with some discreet ladies who would attend to my
schooling."

"The house was in the Rue de Luxembourg--a corner house, where the
street is joined by a lane running from the Place du Parvis.  He led
me to it that same evening, and Camillo came too, to make sure that I
was comfortable.  It was a strange house and full of ladies, the most
of them young and all very handsomely dressed.  But for their dresses
I could almost have fancied it some kind of convent.  At all events,
they received me kindly, and many of them wept when they saw my
parting with Camillo."

Here the Princess paused, and sat silent for so long that I bent
forward in the dusk to read her face.  She drew away, shivering, and
put up both hands as if to cover it.

"Well, Princess?"

"That house, Cavalier! . . . that horrible house! . . . Ah, remember
that I was a child, scarcely twelve years old--I had heard vile words
among the market folk, but they were words and meant nothing to me:
and now I saw things which I did not understand and--and I became
used to them before ever guessing that these were the things those
vile words had meant.  The women were pretty, you see . . . and
merry, and kind to me at first.  Before God I never dreamed that I
was looking on harm--not at first--but afterwards, when it was too
late.  The people who had put me there ceased to send money, and
being a strong child and willing to work, at first I was put to make
the women their chocolate, and carry it up to them of a morning, and
so, little by little, I came to be their house-drudge.  I had lost
all news of Camillo.  For hours I have hunted through the streets of
Brussels, if by chance I might get sight of him . . . but he was
lost.  And I--O Cavalier, have pity on me!"

"Wife," said I, standing before her, "why have you told me this?
Did I not say to you that I have seen your face and believe, and no
story shall shake my belief? . . . Nay, then, I am glad--yes, glad.
Dear enough, God knows, you would have been to me had I met you, a
child among these hills and ignorant of evil as a child.
How much dearer you, who have trodden the hot plough-shares and come
to me through the fires! . . . See now, I could kneel to you, O
queen, for shame at the little I have deserved."

But she put out a hand to check me.  "O friend," she said sadly,
"will you never understand?  For the great faith you pay me I shall
go thankfully all my days: but the faith that should answer it I
cannot give you. . . . Ah, there lies the cruelty!  You are able to
trust, and I can never trust in return.  You can believe, but I
cannot believe.  I have seen all men so vile that the root of faith
is withered in me. . . . Sir, believe, that though everything that
makes me will to thank you must make me seem the more ungrateful, yet
I honour you too much to give you less than an equal faith.
I am your slave, if you command.  But if you ask what only can honour
us two as man and wife, you lose all, and I am for ever degraded."

I stepped back a pace.  "O Princess," I said slowly, "I shall never
claim your faith until you bring it to me. . . . And now, let all
this rest for a while.  Take up your story again and tell me the
story to the end."

So in the darkness, seated there upon the millstone with her gun
across her knees, she told me all the story, very quietly:--How at
the last she had been found in the house in Brussels by Marc'antonio
and Stephanu and fetched home to the island; how she had found there
her brother Camillo in charge of Fra Domenico, his tutor and
confessor; with what kindness the priest had received her, how he had
confessed her and assured her that the book of those horrible years
was closed; and how, nevertheless, the story had crept out, poisoning
the people's loyalty and her brother's chances.

I heard her to the end, or almost to the end: for while she drew near
to conclude, and while I stood grinding my teeth upon the certainty
that the whole plot--from the kidnapping to the spreading of the
slanders--had been Master Domenico's work, and his only, the air
thudded with a distant dull concussion: whereat she broke off,
lifting her head to listen.

"It is the sound of guns," said I, listening too, while half a dozen
similar concussions followed.  "Heavy artillery, too, and from the
southward."

"Nay; but what light is yonder, to the north?"

She pointed into the night behind me, and I turned to see a faint
glow spreading along the northern horizon, and mounting, and
reddening as it mounted, until the black hills between us and Cape
Corso stood up against it in sharp outline.

"O wife," said I, "since you must be weary, sleep for a while, and I
will keep watch: but wake soon, for yonder is something worth your
seeing."

"Whose work is it, think you?"

"The work," said I, "of a man who would set the whole world on fire,
and only for love."



CHAPTER XXVI.


THE FLAME AND THE ALTAR.


     "And when he saw the statly towre
        Shining baith clere and bricht,
      Whilk stood abune the jawing wave,
        Built on a rock of height,

    "'Says, Row the boat, my mariners,
        And bring me to the land,
      For yonder I see my love's castle
        Close by the saut sea strand."
                                _Rough Royal_.


     "As 'twixt two equal armies Fate
        Suspends uncertain victory,
      Our souls--which to advance our state
        Were gone out--hung 'twixt her and me:

     "And whilst our souls negotiate there,
        We like sepulchral statues lay;
      All day the same our postures were,
        And we said nothing, all the day."
                                DONNE, _The Ecstasie_.

She rose from the stone, but swayed a little, finding her feet.
The dim light, as she turned her face to it, showed me that she was
weary almost to fainting.  She had come to a pass where the more
haste would certainly make the worse speed.

"It is not spirit you lack, but sleep," said I; and she confessed
that it was so.  An hour's rest would recover her, she said, and
obediently lay down where I found a couch for her on a bank of
sweet-smelling heath above the road.  I too wanted rest, and settled
myself down with my back against a citron tree, some twenty paces
distant.

Chaucer says somewhere (and it is true), that women take less sleep
and take it more lightly than men.  It seemed to me that I had
scarcely closed my eyes before I opened them again at a touch on my
shoulder.  The night was yet dark around us, save for the glow to the
northward, and at first I would hardly believe when the Princess told
me that I had been sleeping near upon three hours.  Then it occurred
to me that for a long while the sky overhead had been shaking and
repeating the boom of cannon.

"There is firing to the south of us," she said; "and heavier firing
than where the light is.  It comes from Nonza or thereabouts."

"Then it is no affair of ours, even if we could reach it.  But the
flame yonder will lead us to my father."

So we took the white glimmering high-road again and stepped out
briskly, refreshed by sleep and the cool night air that went with us,
blowing softly across the ridges on our right.  We found a track that
skirted the village of Pino, leading us wide among orchards of citron
and olive, and had scarcely regained the road before the guns to the
south ceased firing.  Also the red glow, though it still suffused the
north, began to fade as we neared it and climbed the last of steep
hills that run out to the extremity of the cape.  There, upon the
summit, we came to a stand and caught our breath.

The sea lay at our feet, and down across its black floor to the base
of the cliff on which we stood there ran a broad ribbon of light.
It shone from a rock less than half a league distant: and on that
rock stood a castle which was a furnace--its walls black as the bars
of a grate, its windows aglow with contained fire.  For the moment it
seemed that this fire filled the whole pile of masonry: but
presently, while we stood and stared, a sudden flame, shooting high
from the walls, lit up the front of a tall tower above them, with a
line of battlements at its base and on the battlements a range of
roofs yet intact.  As though a slide had been opened and as rapidly
shut again, this vision of tower, roofs, battlements, gleamed for a
second and vanished as the flame sank and a cloud of smoke and sparks
rolled up in its place and drifted heavily to leeward.

With a light touch on the Princess's arm I bade her follow me, and
we raced together down the slope.  At the foot of it we plunged into
a grove of olives and through it, as through a screen, into the
street of a little _marina_--two dozen fisher-huts, huddled close
above the foreshore, and tenantless; for their inhabitants were
gathered all on the beach and staring at the blaze.

I have said that the folk at Cape Corso are a race apart: and surely
there never was a stranger crowd than that in which, two minutes
later, we found ourselves mingling unchallenged.  They accepted us,
may be, as a minor miracle of the night.  They gazed at us curiously
there in the light of the conflagration, and from us away to the
burning island, and talked together in whispers, in a patois of which
I caught but one word in three.  They asked us no questions.
Their voices filled the beach with a kind of subdued murmuring, all
alike gentle and patiently explanatory.

"It is the island of Giraglia," said one to me.  "Yes, yes; this will
be the work of the patriots--a brave feat too, there's no denying."

I pointed to a line of fishing-boats moored in the shoal water a
short furlong off the shore.

"If you own one," said I, "give me leave to hire her from you, and
name your price."

"_Perche, perche?_"

"I wish to sail her to the island."

"_O galant'uomo_, but why should any one desire to sail to the island
to-night of all nights, seeing that to-night they have set it on
fire?"

I stared at his simplicity.  "You are not patriots, it seems, at this
end of the Cape?"

He shook his head gravely.  "The Genoese on the island are our
customers, and buy our fish.  Why should men quarrel?"

"If it come to commerce, then, will you sell me your boat?  The price
of her should be worth many a day's barter of fish."

He shook his head again, but called his neighbours to him, men and
women, and they began to discuss my offer, all muttering together,
their voices mingling confusedly as in a dream.

By-and-by the man turned to me.  "The price is thirty-five livres,
signore, on deposit, for which you may choose any boat you will.
We are peaceable folk and care not to meddle; but the half shall be
refunded if you bring her back safe and sound."

"Fetch me a shore-boat, then," said I, while they counted my money,
having fetched a lantern for the purpose.

But it appeared that shore-boat there was none.  I learned later that
my father and Captain Pomery, acting on his behalf, had hired all the
shore-boats at these _marinas_ (of which there are three hard by the
extremity of the Cape) for use in the night attack upon the island.

"Hold you my gun, then, Princess," said I, "while I swim out to the
nearest:" and wading out till the dark water reached to my breast, I
chose out my boat, swam to her--it was but a few strokes--clambered
on board, caught up a sweep, and worked her back to the beach.
The Princess, holding our two guns high, waded out to me, and I
lifted her on board.

We heard the voices of the villagers murmuring behind us while I
hoisted the little sail and drew the sheet home.  The night-breeze,
fluking among the gullies, filled the sail at once, fell light again
and left it flapping, then drew a steady breath aft, and the voices
were lost in the hiss of water under the boat's stern.

But not until we had passed the extreme point of land did we find the
true breeze, which there headed us lightly, blowing (as nearly as I
can guess) from N.N.E., yet allowed us a fair course, so that by
hauling the sheet close I could point well to windward of the fiery
reflection on the water and fetch the island on a single tack.
It was here, as we ran out of the loom of the land, that the waning
moon lifted her rim over the hills astern; and it was here, as we
cleared the point, that her rays, traversing the misty sea between us
and Elba, touched the grey-white canvas of a vessel jeeling along (as
we say at the fishing in Cornwall) and holding herself to windward
for a straight run down upon the island--a vessel which at first
glance I recognized for the _Gauntlet_.

Plainly she was standing-by, waiting; plainly then her crew--or those
of them engaged for the assault--were detained yet upon the island;
whence (to make matters surer) there sounded, as our boat ran up to
it, a few loose dropping shots and a single cry--a cry that travelled
across to us down the lane of light directing us to the quay.
The blaze had died down; the upper keep, now overhanging us, stood
black and unlit against a sky almost as black; but on a stairway at
the base of it torches were moving and the flame of them shone on the
slippery steps of a quay to which I guided the boat.  There, jamming
the helm down with a thrust of the foot, I ran forward and lowered
sail.

We carried more way than I had reckoned for, and--the Princess having
no science to help me--this brought us crashing in among a press of
boats huddled in the black shadow alongside the quay-steps with such
force as almost to stave in the upper timbers of a couple and sink
them where they lay.  No voice challenged us.  I wondered at this as
I gripped at the dark dew-drenched canvas to haul it inboard, and
while I wondered, a strong light shone down upon us from the quay's
edge.

A man stood there, holding a torch high over his head and shading his
eyes as he peered down at the boat--a tall man in a Trappist habit
girt high on his naked legs almost to the knees.

"My father?" I demanded.  "Where is my father?"

He made no answer, but signed to us to make our landing, and waited
for us, still holding the torch high while I helped the Princess from
one boat to another and so to the slippery steps.

"My father?" I demanded again.

He turned and led us along the quay to a stairway cut in the living
rock.  At the foot of it he lowered his torch for a moment that we
might see and step aside.  Two bodies lay there--two of his brethren,
stretched side by side and disposedly, with arms crossed on their
breasts, ready for burial.  High on the stairway, where it entered
the base of a battlemented wall under an arch of heavy stonework, a
solitary monk was drawing water from a well and sluicing the steps.
The water ran past our feet, and in the dawn (now paling about us) I
saw its colour. . . .

The burnt building--it had been the Genoese barracks--stood high on
the right of the stairway.  Its roof had fallen in upon the flames
raging through its wooden floors, so that what had been but an hour
ago a blazing furnace was now a shell of masonry out of which a cloud
of smoke rolled lazily, to hang about the upper walls of the
fortress.  Through its window-spaces, void and fire-smirched, as now
and again the reek lifted, I saw the pale upper-sky with half a dozen
charred ends of roof-timber sharply defined against it--a black and
broken grid; and while yet I stared upward another pair of monks
crossed the platform above the archway.  They carried a body between
them--the body of a man in the Genoese uniform--and were bearing it
towards a bastion on the western side, that overhung the sea.
There the battlements hid them from me; but by-and-by I heard a
splash. . . .

By this time we were mounting the stairway.  We passed under the
arch--where a door, shattered and wrenched from its upper hinge, lay
askew against the wall--and climbed to the platform.  From this
another flight of steps (but these were of worked granite) led
straight as a ladder to a smaller platform at the foot of the keep;
and high upon these stood my uncle Gervase directing half a score of
monks to right an overturned cannon.

His back was toward me, but he turned as I hailed him by name--
turned, and I saw that he carried one arm in a sling.  He came down
the steps to welcome me, but slowly and with a very grave face.

"My father--where is he?"

"He is alive, lad."  My uncle took my hand and pressed it.  "That is
to say, I left him alive.  But come and see--"  He paused--my uncle
was ever shy in the presence of women--and with his sound hand lifted
his hat to the Princess.  "The signorina, if she will forgive a
stranger for suggesting it--she may be spared some pain if--"

"She seeks her mother, sir," said I, cutting him short; "and her
mother is the Queen Emilia."

"Your servant, signorina."  My uncle bowed again and with a
reassuring smile.  "And I am happy to tell you that, so far at least,
our expedition has succeeded.  Your mother lives, signorina--or,
should I say, Princess?  Yes, yes, Princess, to be sure--But come,
the both of you, and be prepared for gladness or sorrow, as may
betide."

He ran up the steps and we followed him, across the platform to a low
doorway in the base of the keep, through this, and up a winding
staircase of spirals, so steep and so many that the head swam.
Open lancet windows--one at each complete round of the stair--
admitted the morning breeze, and through them, as I clung to the
newel and climbed dizzily, I had glimpses of the sea twinkling far
below.  I counted these windows up to ten or a dozen, but had lost my
reckoning for minutes before we emerged, at my uncle's heels, upon a
semi-circular landing, and in face of an iron-studded door, the hasp
of which he rattled gently.  A voice answered from within bidding him
open, and very softly he thrust the door wide.

The room into which we looked was of fair size and circular in shape.
Three windows lit it, and between us and the nearest knelt Dom
Basilio, busy with a web of linen which he was tearing into bandages.
His was the voice that had commanded us to enter; and passing in, I
was aware that the room had two other occupants; for behind the door
stood a truckle bed, and along the bed lay my father, pale as death
and swathed in bandages; and by the foot of the bed, on a stool, with
a spinning-wheel beside her, sat a woman.

It needed no second look to tell me her name.  Mean cell though it
was that held her, and mean her seat, the worn face could belong to
no one meaner than a Queen.  A spool of thread had rolled from her
hand, across the floor; yet her hands upon her lap were shaped as
though they still held it.  As she sat now, rigid, with her eyes on
the bed, she must have been sitting for minutes.  So, while Dom
Basilio snipped and rent at his bandages, she gazed at my father on
the bed, and my father gazed back into her eyes, drinking the love in
them; and the faces of both seemed to shine with a solemn awe.

I think we must have been standing there on the threshold, we three,
for close upon a minute before my father turned his eyes towards me--
so far beyond this life was he travelling, and so far had the sound
of our entrance to follow and overtake his dying senses.

"Prosper! . . ."

"My father!"

He lifted a hand weakly toward the bandages wrapping his breast.
"These--these are of her spinning, lad.  This is her bed they have
laid me on. . . . Who is it stands there behind your shoulder?"

"It is the Princess, father.  You remember the Princess Camilla?
Yes, madam"--I turned to the Queen--"it is your daughter I bring--
your daughter, and, with your blessing, my wife."

The Queen, though her daughter knelt, did not offer to embrace her,
but lifted two feeble hands over the bowed head as though to bless,
while over her hands her gaze still rested on my father.

"We have had brave work, lad," he panted.  "I am sorry you come late
for it--but you were bound on your own business, eh?"  He turned with
a ghost of his old smile.  "Nay, child, and you did right; I am not
blaming you--The young to the young, and let the dead bury the dead!
Kiss me, lad, if you can find room between these plaguey bandages.
Your pardon, Dom Basilio: you have done your best, and, if I seem
ungrateful, let me make amends and thank you for giving me this last,
best hour. . . . Indeed, Dom Basilio, I am a dead man, but your
bandages are tying my soul here for a while, where it would stay.
Gervase"--he reached out a hand to my uncle, who was past hiding his
tears--"Gervase--brother--there needs no talk, no thanks, between
you and me. . . ."

I drew back and, touching Dom Basilio by the shoulder, led him to the
window.  "He has no single wound that in itself would be fatal," the
Trappist whispered; "but a twenty that together have bled him to
death.  He hacked his way up this stair through half a score of
Genoese; at the door here, there was none left to hinder him, and we,
having found and followed with the keys, climbed over bodies to find
him stretched before it."

"Emilia!"  It was my father's voice lifted in triumph; and the Queen
rose at the sound of it, trembling, and stood by the bed.  "Emilia!
Ah, love--ah, Queen, bend lower!--the love we loved--there, over the
Taravo--it was not lost. . . . It meets in our children--and we--and
we--"

The Queen bent.

"O great one--and we in Heaven!"  I raised the Princess and led her
to the window fronting the dawn.  We looked not toward the pillow
where their lips met; but into the dawn, and from the dawn into each
other's eyes.



CHAPTER XXVII.


MY MISTRESS RE-ENLISTS ME.


     "If all the world were this enchanted isle,
      I might forget that every man was vile,
      And look on thee, and even love, awhile."
                                      _The Voyage of Sir Scudamor_.

We had turned from the bed, that no eyes but the Queen's might
witness my father's passing.  Her arm had slipped beneath his head,
to support it, and I listened dreading to hear her announce the end.
But yet his great spirit struggled against release, unwilling to
exchange its bliss even for bliss celestial; and presently I heard
his voice speaking my name.

"Prosper," he said; but his eyes looked upward into the Queen's, and
his voice, as it grew firmer, seemed to interpret a vision not of
earth.  "Learn of me that love, though it delight in youth, yet
forsakes not the old; nay, though through life its servant follow and
never overtake.  Even such service I have paid it, yet behold I have
my reward!

"To you, dear lad, it shall be kinder; yet only on condition that you
trust it.

"You will need to trust it, for it will change.  Lose no faith in the
beam when, breaking from your lady's eyes, it fires you not as
before.  It widens, lad; it is not slackening; it is passing,
enlarging into a diviner light.

"By that light you shall see all men, women, children--yes, and all
living things--akin with you and deserving your help.  It is the
light of God upon earth, and its warmth is God's charity, though He
kindle it first as a selfish spark between a youth and a maid.

"Trust it, then, most of all when it frightens you, its first passion
fading.  For then, sickening of what is transient, it dies to put on
permanence; as the creature dies--as I am dying, Prosper--into the
greatness of the Creator.

"Take comfort and courage, then.  For though the narrow beam falls no
longer from heaven, you and she will remember the spot where it
surprised you, unsealing your eyes.  Let the place, the hour, be
sacred, and you the witnesses sacred one to another.  So He that made
you ministers shall keep your garlands from fading.

"O Lord of Love, high and heavenly King! who, making the hands of boy
and girl to tremble, dost of their thoughtless impulse build up
states, establish societies, and people the world, accept these
children!

"O Master, who payest not by time, take the thanks of thy servant!
O Captain, receive my sword!  O hands!"--my father raised his stiffly
towards the crucifix which Dom Basilio uplifted, standing a little
behind the Queen.  "O wounded hands--nay, they are shaped like thine,
Emilia--reach and resume my soul!  _In manus tuas, Domine--in manus--
in manus tuas. . . ."

"It is over," said Dom Basilio, slowly, after a long silence.

I saw the Queen lower the grey head back against its pillow, and
turned to the window, where the Princess gazed out over the sea.
For a minute--maybe for longer--I stood beside her following her
gaze; then, as she lifted a hand and pointed, I was aware of two
ships on the south-west horizon, the both under full sail and
standing towards the castle.

"Last night," said I, and paused, wondering if indeed so short a
while had passed; "theirs were the guns, off Nonza."

She nodded, meeting my eyes for an instant only, and averting hers
again to the horizon.  To my dismay they were dark and troubled.

"Not now--not now!" she murmured hurriedly, almost fiercely, as I
would have touched her hand.  Again her eyes crossed mine, and I read
that love no longer looked forth from them, but a gloomy doubt in its
place.

From the next window my Uncle Gervase had spied the ships, and now
drew Dom Basilio's attention to them.  The two discussed them for a
minute.  "Were they Corsican vessels, or Genoese?"  Dom Basilio
plucked me by the arm, to know my opinion.  I told him of the firing
we had heard off Nonza.

"In my belief," said I, "they are Corsicans that have drawn off from
the bombardment, though why I cannot divine, unless it be in
curiosity to discover why Giraglia was a-burning last night."

"If, on the other hand they be Genoese," answered my uncle, shaking
his head, "this is a serious matter for us.  The _Gauntlet_ has but
five men aboard, and will be culled like a peach."

"Had she fifty, she could not keep up a fight against two gunboats--
as gunboats they appear to be," said I.  "You will make a better
defence of it from the island here, with the few cannon you have not
dismounted."

"In that case I had best take boat, tell Captain Pomery to drop his
anchor, leaving the ketch to her fate, and fetch him ashore to help
us."

"Do so," said I.  "Yet I trust 'tis a false alarm; for that these are
Corsicans I'll lay odds."

"It may even be," suggested Dom Basilio, "that the two are enemies,
the one in chase of the other."

"No," I decided, scanning them; "for they have the look of being
sister ships.  And, see you, the leader has rounded the point and
caught sight of the _Gauntlet_.  Mark how she is carrying her
headsheets over to windward, to let her consort overtake her."

"The lad's right!" exclaimed my uncle.  "Well, God send they be not
Genoese! but I must pull out to the ketch and make sure.
You, Prosper, can help Dom Basilio meanwhile to muster his men and
right as many cannon as time allows."

He stepped to the door, tip-toeing softly, and we followed him--with
a glance, as we went, at the figure bending over the bed.  The Queen
did not heed us.

From the upper terrace at the foot of the tower the Princess and I
watched my uncle as, with two stalwart Trappists to row him, he
pushed out and steered for the _Gauntlet_.  We saw him run his boat
alongside and climb aboard.  Five slow minutes passed, and it became
apparent that Captain Pomery had views of his own about abandoning
the ship, for the _Gauntlet_ neither dropped anchor nor took in
canvas, but held on her tack, letting the boat drop astern on a
tow-rope.

Just then Dom Basilio sent up half a dozen stout monks to me from the
base of the rock; and for the next few minutes I was kept busy with
them on the eastern bastion, refixing a gun which had been thrown off
its carriage in the assault, until, casting another glance seaward, I
saw to my amazement that the ketch had run up her British colours to
her mizzen.

But happily Captain Pomery's defiance was thrown away.  A minute
later the leading gunboat ran up a small bundle on her main signal
halliards, and shook out the green flag of Corsica.

"You can let the gun lie," said I to my monks.  "These are friends."

"They are my countrymen," said the Princess at my elbow.  "That they
are friends is less certain."

"At any rate, they are lowering a boat," said I; "and see, my uncle
is jumping into his, to intercept them."

The Corsicans, manning their boat, pulled straight for the island;
but at half a mile's distance or less, being hailed by my uncle, lay
on their oars and waited while he bore down on them.  I saw him lift
his hat to a man seated in the stern-sheets, who stood up and saluted
politely in response.  The two boats drew close alongside, while
their commanders conversed, and after a couple of minutes resumed
their way abreast and drew to the landing-quay, where Dom Basilio
stood awaiting them.

"By his stature and bearing," said I, conning him through a glass
which one of the monks passed to me, "this must be the General
himself."

"Paoli?" queried the Princess.

I nodded.

"Shall we go down the rock to meet him?"

"It is Paoli's place to mount to us," said she proudly.

We waited therefore while my uncle led him up to us.  But Pascal
Paoli was too great a man to trouble about his dignity; and for
courtesies, he contented himself with omitting none.

"Salutation, O Princess!"  He halted within a few steps of the head
of the stairway, and lifted his hat.

"Salutation, O General!"

"And to you, Cavalier!"  He included me in his bow, "Pouf!" he
panted, looking about him; "the ascent is a sharp one, under the best
conditions.  And you carried it in the darkness, against odds?"
He turned upon my uncle.  "You English are a great race."

"Excuse me, General," said my uncle, indicating Dom Basilio and the
monks: "the credit belongs rather to my friends here."

"I had the pleasure to meet Sir John Constantine, a while ago,
outside our new town of Isola Rossa, where he did me a signal
service.  You are his son, sir?"

I bowed.

"I condole with you, since I come too late to thank him--on behalf of
Corsica, Princess--for a yet more brilliant service.  An assault such
as your party made last night requires brave men; but even more, it
requires a brave leader and a genius even to conceive it.  Let me
say, sirs, that we heard your fire and saw Giraglia blazing, as far
south as Nonza, where we were conducting a far meaner enterprise; and
came north in wonder where Corsica had found such friends."

"Say rather, sir, where my mother had found them," interposed the
Princess, coldly.  "Is this curiosity of yours all your business?"

The General met her look frankly.  If annoyed, he hid his annoyance.

"O Princess," answered he, "I will own that Corsica has left the
Queen, your mother, overlong here in captivity.  For reasons of state
it was decided to work northward from point to point, clearing the
Genoese as we went.  We did not reckon that, before we reached
Giraglia, an Englishman of genius would step in to anticipate us.
Our hopes, Princess, fell short of an event so happy.  But I can say
that every Corsican is glad, and would wish to be such a hero."

"Did you, then, clear the Genoese from Nonza?"  I put in hastily,
noting the curl of my mistress's lips.

"Sir, there were no Genoese to clear.  We bombarded it idly, only to
learn that the Commandant Fornari had abandoned it some hours before;
that he and his men had escaped northward in long boats, rowing close
under the land."

I glanced at the Princess, and saw her mouth whiten.  "Excuse me," I
said.  "Do you tell me that the whole garrison of Nonza had escaped?"

"Unfortunately, yes." Paoli, too, glanced at the Princess; but for an
instant only.  "We landed after the fortress had fired one single gun
at us, which we silenced.  Beside it we found two men standing at
bay; its only defenders; and they, strange to tell, were Corsicans.
I have brought them with me on my own ship."

"You need not tell me their names," said I.

"My brother?" the Princess gasped.  "Where is my brother?"

The General lowered his eyes.  "I regret to tell you, Princess, that
your brother has fallen into our enemies' hands.  They have carried
him north, to Genoa, and with him the Priest who was his confessor.
This I learned from your two heroes, who had entered Nonza with no
other purpose than to rescue him, but had arrived too late.
They shall be brought ashore, that you may question them.

"But what is this?" said a voice from the turret-door behind us.
"My son Camillo a prisoner, and in Genoa!"

We turned all, to see the Queen standing there, on the threshold.
The Princess, suddenly pallid, shot a look at Paoli--a look which at
once defied and implored him.

"It is true, dear mother," said she, steadying her voice.

"God help us all!" The Queen clasped her hands.  "The Genoese have no
pity."

"Let your Majesty be reassured," said Paoli, slowly, "The Genoese, to
be sure, have no pity; yet I can almost promise they will not proceed
to extremities with your son.  An enemy, madam, may have good reasons
for negotiating; and although the Genoese Government would be
delighted to break me on the wheel, yet, on some points, I can compel
them to bargain with me."

He lifted his eyes.  Mine were fixed on the Princess's, and I saw
them thank him for the falsehood.

"Come, dear mother," she said, taking the Queen's hand.
"Though Camillo be in Genoa he can be reached."

"My poor boy was ever too rash."

"He can be reached," the Princess repeated--but I saw her wince--
"and he shall be reached.  General, I pray you to send these two men
to me.  And now, mother, let one sorrow be enough for a time.
There is woman's work to be done upstairs; take me with you that I
may help."

I did not understand these last words, but was left puzzling over
them as the two passed through the turret-door and mounted the
stairway.  Nor did I remember the custom of the country until, ten
minutes later, I heard their voices lifted together in the upper
chamber intoning a lament over my father's body.

My father--so my uncle told me--had left express orders that he
should be buried at sea.  Throughout the long afternoon, with short
pauses, the voices wailed overhead, while we worked to set the
fortress in order for the garrison which Paoli sent (despatching his
second gunboat) to fetch from Isola Rossa; until, an hour before
sunset, two monks came down the stairway with the corpse, and bore it
to the quay, where Billy Priske waited with one of the _Gauntlet's_
boats.  Paoli and my uncle had taken their places in the
stern-sheets, and Dom Basilio and I, having lifted the body on board
and covered it with the _Gauntlet's_ flag, ourselves stepped into the
bows, where I took an oar and helped Billy to pull some twenty
furlongs off the shore.  Dom Basilio recited the funeral service; and
there, watched by his comrades from the quay, we let sink my father
into six fathoms, to sleep at the foot of the great rock which had
been his altar.

As I landed and climbed the path again, I caught sight of Camilla,
standing by the parapet of the east bastion, in converse with
Marc'antonio and Stephanu.  She had braided her hair, and done away
with all traces of mourning, At the turret door her mother met me,
equally neat and composed.

"I have been waiting for you," said the Queen.  "Come, O son, for I
want your advice."

She led me up past the second window of the turret, lifted the latch
of an iron-studded door in the opposite wall, and, pushing it open,
motioned me to enter.

"But what is this?" said I, gazing around upon two camp beds, spread
with white coverlets, and a dressing-table with a jugful of
lilac-coloured stocks, such as grew in the crannies of the keep and
the rock-ledges under the platform.

"I had no mother," said she, "to prepare my bride-chamber, and rough
is the best I can prepare for my child.  But it is done with my
blessing."

"Madame--" said I, flushing hotly, and paused at the sound of a
footstep on the stair.

It was the Princess who came; and in an angry haste.  She kissed her
mother, thrust her gently from the room, and so, closing the door,
stood with her back against it.

"You knew of this?" she demanded.

"Before God, I did not," I answered.

"It is folly."  She glanced around the room.  "You will admit that it
is folly," she insisted.

I bowed my head.  "It is folly, if you choose to call it so."

"I have been wanting to tell you . . . I believe you to be a good
man.  Oh yes, the fault is with me!  This morning--you remember what
your father said?  Well, I listened, and the truth was made clear to
me, that I cannot give you the like of such love--or the like of any
such as a woman ought to give, who--who--"

"Say no more," said I, as gently as might be.  "I understand."

"Ah, that is kind of you!"  She caught at the admission eagerly.
"It is not that I doubted; I see now that some men are not vile.
But until I can _feel_ it, what use is being convinced?"
She paused, "Moreover, to-night I go on a journey."

"And I, too," said I, meeting her eyes firmly.  "To Genoa, is it
not?"

"You guessed it? . . . But you have no right--" she faltered.

I laughed.  "But excuse me, my wife, I have all the right in the
world.  At what hour will Marc'antonio be ready with the boat?"



CHAPTER XXVIII.


GENOA.


     "_Gobbo_.      Master young gentleman, I pray you, which is the
                    way to Master Jew's?

     "_Launcelot_.  Turn up on the right hand at the next turning,
                    but at the very next turning of all, on your
                    left: marry at the very next turning, turn of no
                    hand, but turn down indirectly to the Jew's
                    house.

     "_Gobbo_.      By God's sonties, 'twill be a hard way to hit."
                                          _The Merchant of Venice_.

At eleven o'clock that night we four--the Princess, Marc'antonio,
Stephanu, and I--hoisted sail and stood away from the north shore of
Giraglia, carrying a fair wind with us.  Our boat had been very
cunningly chosen for us by Marc'antonio out of the small flotilla
which my father had hired at Cape Corso for the assault.  She was
undecked, measured some eighteen feet over-all, and carried a
fair-sized lateen sail; but her great merit for our purpose, lay in
her looks.  The inhabitants of Cape Corso (as the reader knows) have
neither the patriotism nor the prejudices of their fellow-islanders;
and this (however her owner had come by her) was a boat of Genoese
build.  So Marc'antonio had assured me; and my own observation
confirmed it next day, as we neared the coast off Porto Fino.

We had laid this course of set purpose, intending to work up to the
great harbour coastwise from the southward and enter it boldly,
passing ourselves off for a crew from Porto Fino with a catch of fish
for market.  The others had discarded all that was Corsican in their
dress, and the Princess had ransacked the quarters of the late
garrison on Giraglia to rig us out in odds and ends of Genoese
costume.  For the rest we trusted to fortune; but an hour before
starting I had sought out my Uncle Gervase and made him privy to the
plot.  He protested, to be sure; but acquiesced in the end with a wry
face when I told him that the Princess and I were determined.

This understood, at once my excellent and most practical uncle turned
to business.  Within ten minutes it was agreed between us that the
_Gauntlet_ should sail back with General Paoli and anchor under the
batteries of Isola Rossa to await our return.  She was to wait there
one month exactly.  If within that time we did not return, he was to
conclude either that our enterprise had come to grief or that we had
re-shaped our designs and without respect to the _Gauntlet's_
movements.  In any event, at the end of one calendar month he might
count himself free to weigh anchor for England.  We next discussed
the Queen.  My uncle opined, but could not say with certainty, that
the General had it in mind to offer her protection and an honourable
retirement on her own estates above the Taravo.  I bade him tell her
that, if she could wean herself from Corsica to follow her daughter,
our house of Constantine would be proud to lodge her--I hoped, for
the remainder of her days--for certain, until she should tire of it
and us.

The rest (I say) we left to chance, which at first served us
smoothly.  The breeze, though it continued fair, fell light soon
after daybreak, and noon was well past before we sighted the Ligurian
coast.  We dowsed sail and pulled towards it leisurably, waiting for
the hour when the fishing-boats should put out from Porto Fino: which
they did towards sunset, running out by ones and two's before the
breeze which then began to draw off the land, and making a pretty
moving picture against the evening glow.  When night had fallen we
hoisted our lateen again and worked up towards them.

These fishermen (as I reasoned, from our own Cornish practice) would
shoot their nets soon after nightfall and before the moon's rising--
to haul them, perhaps, two hours later, and await the approach of
morning for their second cast.  Towards midnight, then, we sailed
boldly up to the outermost boat and spoke her through Marc'antonio,
who (_fas est ab hoste doceri_) had in old campaigns picked up enough
of the Genoese patois to mimic it very passably.  He announced us as
sent by certain Genoese fishmongers--a new and enterprising firm
whose name he invented on the spur of the moment--to trade for the
first catch of fish and carry them early to market, where their
freshness would command good prices.  The fishermen, at first
suspicious, gave way at sight of the Genoese money in his hand, and
accepted an offer which not only saved them a journey but (as we
calculated) put from three to four extra livres in their pockets.
Within twenty minutes they had transferred two thousand fish to our
boat, and we sailed off into the darkness, ostensibly to trade with
the others.  Doubtless they wished us good night for a set of fools.

We did not trouble their fellows.  Two thousand fish, artfully spread
to look like thrice the number, ought to pass us under the eyes of
all Genoa: so for Genoa we headed forthwith, hauling up on the
starboard tack and heeling to our gunwale under the breeze which
freshened and blew steadily off the shore.

Sunrise found us almost abreast of the harbour: and the clocks from
the city churches were striking seven as we rounded up under the
great mole on the eastern side of the entrance and floated into the
calm basin within.  I confess that my heart sank as Genoa opened in
panorama before us, spreading in a vast semicircle with its dockyards
and warehouses, its palaces, its roofs climbing in terrace after
terrace to the villas and flower-gardens on the heights: nor was this
sense of our impudence lessened by reflecting that, once within the
mole, we had not a notion to which of the quays a fishing-boat ought
to steer to avoid suspicion.  But here, again, fortune helped us.
To the right, at the extreme inner corner of the mole, I espied half
a dozen boats, not unlike our own, huddled close under a stone
stairway; and I had no sooner thrust down the helm than a man,
catching sight of us, came running along the mole to barter.

Marc'antonio's conduct of the ensuing bargain was nothing short of
masterly.  The stranger--a fishmonger's runner--turned as he met us
and trotted alongside, shaping his hands like a trumpet and bawling
down his price.  Marc'antonio, affecting a slight deafness, signalled
to him to bawl louder, hunched his shoulders, shook his head
vehemently, held up ten fingers, then eight, then (after a long and
passionate protest from above) eight again.  By this time two other
traffickers had joined the contest, and with scarcely a word on his
side Marc'antonio kept them going, as a juggler plays with three
balls.  Not until our boat's nose grated alongside the landing was
the bargain concluded, and the first runner, a bag of silver in his
fist, almost tumbled upon us down the slippery stairs in his hurry to
clinch it.

I stepped ashore and held out a hand to the Princess who, in her
character of _paesana_, very properly ignored it.  Luckily the
courtesy escaped notice.  Stephanu was making fast the boat; the
runner counting his coins into Marc'antonio's hand.

The Princess and I mounted the stairs and, after a pretence to loiter
and await our comrades, strolled off towards the city around the
circuit of the quay.  We passed the great warehouses of the Porto
Franco, staring up at them, but impassively, in true country fashion,
and a little beyond them came to the entrance of a street which--for
it was strewn with cabbage leaves and other refuse--we judged to lead
to the vegetable market.

"Let us turn aside here," said the Princess.  "I was brought up in a
cabbage-market, remember; and the smell may help to put me at my
ease."

Now along the quays we had met and passed but a few idlers, the hour
being early for business; but in the market, when we reached it, we
found a throng--citizens and citizens' wives and housekeepers, all
armed with baskets and chaffering around the stalls.  The crowd
daunted me at first; but finding it too intent to heed us, I drew
breath and was observing it at leisure when my eyes fell on the back
of a man who, bending over a stall on my right, held forth a cabbage
in one hand while with the other--so far as the basket on his arm
allowed--he gesticulated violently, cheapening the price against an
equally voluble saleswoman.

Good heavens!  That back--that voice--surely I knew them!

The man turned, holding the cabbage aloft and calling gods, mortals,
and especially the population of Genoa, to witness.  It was Mr.
Pett!--and, catching sight of me, he stared wildly, almost dropping
the vegetable.

"Angels and ministers--" here, at a quick sign of warning from me, he
checked himself sharply.  "_O anima profetica, il mio zio!_ . . .
Devil a doubt but it sounds better in Shakespeare's mother-English,"
he added, as I hurried him aside; and then--for he still grasped the
cabbage, and the stallwoman was shouting after him for a thief.
"You'll excuse me, signora.  Two soldi, I think you said?  It is an
infamy.  What?  Your cabbage has a good heart?  Ah, but has it ever
loved?  Has it ever leapt in transport, recognizing a long-lost
friend?  Importunate woman, take your fee, basely extracted from me
in a moment of weakness.  O, heel of Achilles!  O, locks of Samson!
Go to, Delilah, and henceforth for this may a murrain light on thy
cucumbers!

"Though, strictly speaking," said Mr. Fett, as I drew him away and
down the street leading to the quay, "I believe murrain to be a
disease peculiar to cattle.  Well, my friend, and how goes it with
you?  For me"--here he tapped his basket, in which the cabbage
crowned a pile of green-stuff--"I am reduced to _buying_ my salads."
He wheeled about, following my glance, and saluted the Princess, who
had followed and overtaken us.

"Man," said I, "you shall tell us your story as soon as ever you have
helped us to a safe lodging.  But here are we--and there, coming
towards us along the quay, are two comrades--four Corsicans in all,
whose lives, if the Genoese detect us, are not worth five minutes'
purchase."

"Then, excuse me," said Mr. Fett, becoming serious of a sudden, "but
isn't it a damned foolish business that brings you?"

"It may be," I answered.  "But the point is, Can you help us?"

"To a lodging?  Why, certainly, as luck has it, I can take you
straight--no, not straight exactly, but the devil of a way round--to
one where you can lie as snug as fleas in a blanket.  Oh--er--but
excuse me--"  He checked himself and stood rubbing his chin, with a
dubious glance at the Princess.

"Indeed, sir," she put in, smoothing down at her peasant-skirt,
"I think you first found me lodging upon a bare rock, and even in
this new dress it hardly becomes me to be more fastidious."

"I was thinking less of the lodgings, Princess, than of the company:
though, to be sure, the girls are very good-hearted, and Donna Julia,
our _prima amorosa_, makes a most discreet _duenna_, off the boards.
There is Badcock too--il signore Badcocchio: give Badcock a hint, and
he will diffuse a most permeating respectability.  For the young
ladies who dwell at the entrance of the court, over the archway, I
won't answer.  My acquaintance with them has not passed beyond an
interchange of winks: but we might send Badcock to expostulate with
them."

"You are not dealing with a child, sir," said the Princess, with a
look at me and a somewhat heightened colour.  "Be assured that I
shall have eyes only for what I choose to see."

Mr. Fett bowed.  "As for the lodgings, I can guarantee them.
They lie on the edge of a small Jew quarter--not the main _ghetto_--
and within a stone's-throw of the alleged birthplace of Columbus; if
that be a recommendation.  Actually they are rated in the weavers'
quarter, the burgh of San Stefano, between the old and new walls, a
little on the left of the main street as you go up from Sant' Andrea
towards Porticello, by the second turning beyond the Olive Gate."

"I thank you," I interrupted, "but at a reasonable pace we might
arrive there before you have done giving us the direction."

"My loquacity, sir, did you understand it," said Mr. Fett, with an
air of fine reproach, "springs less from the desire to instruct than
from the ebullience of my feelings at so happy a rencounter."

"Well, that's very handsomely said," I acknowledged.  "Oh, sir, I
have a deal to tell, and to hear!  But we will talk anon.
Meanwhile"--he touched my arm as he led the way, and I fell into step
beside him--"permit me to note a change in the lady since I last had
the pleasure of meeting her--a distinct lessening of _hauteur_--a
touch of (shall I say?) womanliness.  Would it be too much to ask if
you are running away with her?"

"It would," said I.  "As a matter of fact she is in Genoa to seek her
brother, the Prince Camillo."

"Nevertheless," he insisted, and with an impertinence I could not
rebuke (for fear of drawing the attention of the passers-by, who were
numerous)--"nevertheless I divine that you have much either to tell
me or conceal."

He, at any rate, was not reticent.  On our way he informed me that
his companions in the lodgings were a troupe of strolling players
among whom he held the important role of _capo comico_.  We reached
the house after threading our way through a couple of tortuous alleys
leading off a street which called itself the Via Servi, and under an
archway with a window from which a girl blew Mr. Fett an unabashed
kiss across a box of geraniums.  The master of it, a Messer' Nicola
(by surname Fazio) had rooms for us and to spare.  To him Mr. Fett
handed the market-basket, after extracting from it an enormous melon,
and bade him escort the Princess upstairs and give her choice of the
cleanest apartments at his disposal.  He then led us to the main
living-room where, from a corner-cupboard, he produced glasses,
plates, spoons, a bowl of sugar, and a flask of white wine.
The flask he pushed towards Marc'antonio and Stephanu: the melon he
divided with his clasp-knife.

"You will join us?" he asked, profering a slice.  "You will drink,
then, at least?  Ah, that is better.  And will you convey my
apologies to your two bandits and beg them to excuse my conversing
with you in English?  To tell the truth"--here, having helped them to
a slice apiece and laid one aside for the Princess, he took the
remainder upon his own plate--"though as a rule we make collation at
noon or a little before, my English stomach cries out against an
empty morning.  You will like my Thespians, sir, when you see 'em.
The younger ladies are decidedly--er--vivacious.  Bianca, our
Columbine, has all the makings of a beauty--she has but just turned
the corner of seventeen; and Lauretta, who plays the scheming
chambermaid, is more than passably good-looking.  As for Donna Julia,
her charms at this time of day are moral rather than physical: but,
having married our leading lover, Rinaldo, she continues to exact his
vows on the stage and the current rate of pay for them from the
treasury.  Does Rinaldo's passion show signs of flagging?  She pulls
his ears for it, later on, in conjugal seclusion.  Poor fellow!--

     "_Non equidem invideo; miror magis_.

"Do the night's takings fall short of her equally high standard?
She threatens to pull mine: for I, cavalier, am the treasurer. . . .
But at what rate am I overrunning my impulses to ask news from you!
How does your father, sir--that modern Bayard?  And Captain Pomery?
And my old friend Billy Priske?"

I told him, briefly as I could, of my father's end.  He laid down his
spoon and looked at me for a while across the table with eyes which,
being unused to emotion, betrayed it awkwardly, with a certain shame.

"A great, a lofty gentleman! . . . You'll excuse me, cavalier, but I
am not always nor altogether an ass--and I say to you that half a
dozen such knights would rejuvenate Christendom.  As it is, we live
in the last worst ages when the breed can afford but one phoenix at a
time, and he must perforce spend himself on forlorn hopes.  Mark you,
I say 'spend,' not 'waste': the seed of such examples cannot be
wasted--"

      'Only the actions of the just
       Smell sweet and blossom in the dust:'

nay, not their actions only, but their every high thought which
either fate froze or fortune and circumstance choked before it could
put forth flower.  Did I ever tell you, Cavalier, the Story of My
Father and the Jobbing Gardener?"

"Not that I remember," said I.

"Yet it is full of instruction as an egg is full of meat.  My father,
who (let me remind you) is a wholesale dealer in flash jewellery, had
ever a passion for gardening, albeit that for long he had neither the
time nor the money nor even the space to indulge his hobby.
His garden--a parallelogram of seventy-two feet by twenty-three,
confined by brick walls--lay at the back of our domicile, which
excluded all but the late afternoon sunshine.  As the Mantuan would
observe--"

                      'nec fertilis illa juvencis,
      Nec Cereri opportuna seges, nec commoda Baccho.'

To attend to it my father employed, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, an
old fellow over whose head some sixty-five summers had passed without
imparting to it a single secret.  In short, he was the very worst
gardener in West Bromicheham, and so obstinately, so insufferably,
opinionated withal that one day, in a fit of irritation, my father
slew him with his own spade.

"This done, he had at once to consider how to dispose of the body.
Our garden, as I have said, was confined within brick walls, two long
and one short; and this last my father had screened with a rustic
shed and a couple of laurel-bushes; that from his back-parlour
window, where he sat and smoked his pipe on a Sunday afternoon, he
might watch the path 'wandering,' as he put it, 'into the shrubbery,'
and feast his eyes on a domain which extended not only further than
the arm could stretch, but even a little further than the eye could
reach.

"In the space, then, intervening between the laurels and the terminal
wall my father dug a grave two spits deep and interred the corpse,
covering it with a light compost of loam and leaf-mould.  This was on
a Wednesday--the second Wednesday in July, as he was always
particular to mention.  (And I have heard him tell the story a score
of times.)

"On the Sunday week, at half-past three in the afternoon, my father
had finished his pipe and was laying it down, before covering his
head (as his custom was) with a silk handkerchief to protect his
slumber from the flies, when, happening to glance towards the
shrubbery, he espied a remarkably fine crimson hollyhock overtopping
the laurels.  He rubbed his eyes.  He had invested in past years many
a shilling in hollyhock seed, but never till now had a plant bloomed
in his garden.

"He rubbed his eyes, I say.  But there stood the hollyhock.
He rushed from the room, through the back-doorway and down the
garden.  My excellent mother, aroused from her siesta by the slamming
of the door, dropped the Family Bible from her lap, and tottered in
pursuit.  She found my father at the angle of the shrubbery, at a
standstill before a tangled mass of vegetation.  Hollyhocks,
sunflowers, larkspurs, lilies, carnations, stocks--every bulb, every
seed which the dead man had failed to cultivate--were ramping now and
climbing from his grave high into the light.  My father tore his way
through the thicket to the tool-shed, dragged forth a hook and
positively hacked a path back to my mother, barely in time to release
her from the coils of a major convolvulus (_ipomoea purpurea) which
had her fast by the ankles.

"Now, this story, which my father used to tell modestly enough, to
account for his success at our local flower-shows, seems to me to
hold a deeper significance, and a moral which I will not insult your
intelligence by extracting for you . . . The _actions_ of the just?
Foh!" continued Mr. Fett, and filled his mouth with melon.
"What about their _passions?_  Why, sir, yet another story occurs to
me, which might pass for an express epologue upon your father's
career.  Did you never hear tell of the Grand Duchess Sophia of
Carinthia and her Three Wooers?"

"Pardon me, Mr. Fett--" I began.

"Pardon _me_, sir," he cut me short, with a flourish of his spoon.
"I know what you would say: that you are impatient rather to hear how
it is that you find me here in Genoa.  That also you shall hear, but
permit me to come to it in my own way.  For the moment your news has
unhinged me, and you will help my recovery by allowing me to talk a
little faster than I can think. . . . I loved your father, Cavalier.
. . . But our tale, just now, is of--"


"THE GRAND DUCHESS AND HER THREE WOOERS."


"Once upon a time, in Carinthia, there lived a Grand Duchess, of
marriageable age.  Her parents had died during her childhood, leaving
her a fine palace and an ample fortune, which, however, was not--to
use the parlance of the Exchange--easily realizable, because it
consisted mainly in an avenue of polished gold.  By this avenue,
which extended for three statute miles, the palace was approached
between two parallel lines of Spanish chestnuts.  It ran in an
easterly direction and was kept in a high state of polish by two
hundred retainers, so that it shone magnificently every morning when
the Grand Duchess awoke, drew her curtains, and looked forth towards
the sunrise.

"Her name was Sophia, and the charms of her young mind rivalled those
of her person.  Therefore suitors in plenty presented themselves, but
only to be rejected by her Chancellor (to whom she left the task of
preliminary inspection) until he had reduced the list to three, whom
we will call Prince Melchior, Prince Otto, and Prince Caspar.
The two former reigned over neighbouring states, but Prince Caspar, I
have heard, came from the north, beyond the Alps.

"A day, then, was fixed for these three to learn their fate, and they
met at the foot of the avenue, at the far end of which, on her palace
steps, stood the Grand Duchess to make her choice.  Now, when Prince
Melchior came to the golden road, he thought it would be a sin and a
shame were his horse to set hoof on it and scratch it and perchance
break off a plate of it; so he turned aside and rode up along the
right of it under the chestnuts.  Likewise and for the same reason
Prince Otto turned aside and rode on the left.  But Prince Caspar
thought of the lady so devoutly and wished so much to be with her
that he never noticed the golden pavement at all, but rode straight
up the middle of it at a gallop.

"When the three arrived, Sophia felt that she liked Prince Caspar best
for his impetuosity; but, on the other hand, she was terribly annoyed
with him for having dented her precious avenue with hoof-marks.
She temporized, therefore, professing herself unable to decide, and
dismissed them for three years with a promise to marry the one who in
that time should prove himself the noblest knight.

"Thereupon Prince Melchior and Prince Otto rode away in anger, for
they coveted the golden road as well as the lady.  Prince Melchior,
who loved fighting, went home to collect an army and avenge the
insult, as he called it.  Prince Otto, whose mind worked more subtly,
set himself by secret means to stir up disaffection among the
Carinthians, telling them that their labour and suffering had gone to
make the splendid useless avenue of gold; and he persuaded them the
more easily because it was perfectly true.  (He forbore to add that
ho coveted it for his own.) But Prince Caspar, having seen his
lady-love, could find no room in his heart either for anger or even
for schemes to prove his valour.  He could think of her and of her
only, day and night.  And finding that his thoughts brought her
nearer to him the nearer he rode to the stars, he turned his horse
towards the Alps, and there, on the summit, among the snows, lived
solitary in a little hut.

"His mountain overlooked the plain of Carinthia, but from such a
height that no news ever came to him of the Grand Duchess or her
people.  From his hut, to which never a woodman climbed, nor even a
stray hunter, he saw only a few villages shining when they took the
sun, a lake or two, and a belt of forest through which--for it hid
the palace--sometimes at daybreak a light glinted from the golden
avenue.  But one night the whole plain broke out far and wide with
bonfires, and from the grand-ducal park--over which the sky shone
reddest--he caught the sound of a bell ringing.  Then he bethought
him that the three years were past, and that these illuminations were
for the wedding; and he crept to bed, ashamed and sorrowful that he
had failed and another deserved.

"Towards daybreak, as he tossed on his straw, he seemed to hear the
bells drawing nearer and nearer, until they sounded close at hand.
He sprang up, and from the door of his hut he saw a rider on muleback
coming up the mountain track through the snow.  The rider was a
woman, and as she alighted and tottered towards him, he recognized
the Grand Duchess.  He carried her in and set her before his fire;
and there, while he spread food before her, she told him that the
Princes Melchior and Otto had harried her lands and burnt her palace,
and were even now fighting with each other for the golden avenue.

"Then," said Caspar, pulling his rusty sword from under a heap of
faggots, "I will go down and win it from them; for I see my hour
coming at last."

But the Princess said, "Foolish man, it is here!  And as for the
golden avenue, that too is here, or all that was ever worth your
winning."  And thereupon she drew aside her cloak, shaking the snow
from it; and when the folds parted and the firelight fell on her
bosom, he saw a breastplate gleaming--a single plate of gold--and in
the centre of it the imprint of a horse's hoof.

"So these two, Cavalier--or so the story reached me--lived content in
their silly hut, nor ever thought it worth their while to descend to
the plain and lose what they had found. . . . But you were good
enough just now to inquire concerning my own poor adventures."

"Billy Priske," said I, "has given me some account of them up to your
parting from my father--at Calenzana, was it not?"

"At Calenzana." Mr. Fett sighed assent.  "Ah!  Cavalier, it has been
a stony road we have travelled from Calenzana.  _Infandum jubes
renovare dolorem_ . . . but Badcock must bear the blame."

     Badcock with his flute made trees--

Has it ever struck you sir, that Orpheus possibly found the gift of
Apollo a confounded nuisance; that he must have longed at times to
get rid of his attendant beasts and compose in private?  Even so it
was with Badcock.

"That infernal _mufro_ chivvied us up the road to Calvi and into the
very arms of a Genoese picket.  The soldiers arrested us--there was
no need to arrest the _mufro_, for he trotted at our heels--and
marched us to the citadel, into the presence of the commandant.
To the commandant (acting, as I thought, upon a happy inspiration) I
at once offered the beast in exchange for our liberty.  I was met
with the reply that, as between rarities, he would make no invidious
distinctions, but preferred to keep the three of us; and moreover
that the _mufro_ (which had already put a sergeant and two private
soldiers out of action) appeared amenable only to the strains of Mr.
Badcock's flute. . . . And this was a fact, Cavalier.  At first, and
excusably, I had supposed the brute's behaviour to express aversion;
until, observing that he waited for the conclusion of a piece before
butting at Mr. Badcock's stomach, I discovered this to be his
rough-and-ready method of demanding an _encore_.

"The commandant proved to be a _virtuoso_.  Persons of that
temperament (as you may have remarked) are often unequal to the life
of the camp with its deadening routine, its incessant demand for
vigilance in details; and, as a matter of fact, he was on the point
of being superseded for incompetence.  His recall arrived, and for a
short while he was minded to make a parting gift of us to his late
comrades-in-arms, sharing us up among the three regiments that
composed the garrison and endowing them with a _mascot_ apiece;  but
after a sharp struggle selfishness prevailed and he carried us with
him to the mainland.  There for a week or two, in an elegant palace
behind the _Darsena_, we solaced his retirement and amused a select
circle of his friends, till (wearying perchance of Badcock's
minstrelsy) he dismissed us with a purse of sequins and bade us go to
the devil, at the same time explaining that only the ingratitude he
had experienced at the hands of his countrymen prevented his offering
us as a gift to the Republic.

"We left the city that afternoon and climbed the gorges towards Novi,
intending our steps upon Turin.  The _mufro_ trotted behind us, and
mile after mile at the brute's behest--its stern behest, Cavalier--
Mr. Badcock fluted its favourite air, _I attempt from love's sickness
to fly_.  But at the last shop before passing the gate I had provided
myself with a gun; and at nightfall, on a ledge above the torrent
roaring at our feet, I did the deed. . . . Yes, Cavalier, you behold
a sportsman who has slain a wild sheep of Corsica.  Such men are
rare.

"The echoes of the report attracted a company of pedestrians coming
down the pass.  They proved to be a party of comedians moving on
Genoa from Turin, whence the Church had expelled them (as I gathered)
upon an unjust suspicion of offending against public morals.
At sight of Badcock, their leader, with little ado, offered him a
place in the troupe.  His ignorance of Italian was no bar; for
pantomime, in which he was to play the role of pantaloon, is enacted
(as you are aware) in dumb-show.  Nay, on the strength only of our
nationality they enlisted us both; for Englishmen, they told me, are
famous over the continent of Europe for other things and for making
the best clowns.  We therefore turned back with them to Genoa.

"But oh,  Cavalier!  these bodily happenings which I recite to you,
what are they in comparison with the adventures of the spirit?
I am in Italy--in Genoa, to be sure, which of all Italian cities
passes for the unfriendliest to the Muse: but that is my probation.
I have embraced the mission of my life.  Here in Italy--here in the
land of the vine, the olive--of Maecenas and the Medicis--it shall
be mine to revive the arts and to make them pay; and if I can win out
of this city of skinflints at a profit, I shall have served my
apprenticeship and shall know my success assured.  The Genoese,
cavalier, are a banausic race, and penurious at that; they will go
where the devil cannot, which is between the oak and the rind;
opportunity given, they would sneak the breeches off a highlander:
they divide their time between commercialism and a licentiousness of
which, sordid as it is, they habitually beat down the price.  And yet
Genoa is Italy, and has the feeling of Italy--the golden atmosphere,
the clean outlines, the amplitude of its public spaces, the very
shadows in the square, the statues looking down upon the crowd, the
pose, the colouring, of any chance poor onion-seller in the market--"

But here Mr. Fett broke off his harangue to rise and salute the
Princess, who, entering with our host at her heels, turned to
Marc'antonio and bade him, as purse-bearer, count out the money for a
week's lodging.  Payment in advance (it seemed) was the rule in
Genoa.  Messer' Fazio bit each coin carefully as it was tendered, and
had scarcely pocketed the last before a noise at the front-door
followed by peals of laughter announced the arrival of our
fellow-lodgers.  They burst into the room singing a chorus,
_O pescatore da maremma_, and led by Mr. Badcock, who wore a wreath
of seaweed a-cock over one eye and waved a dripping basket of
sea-urchins.  Two pretty girls held on to him, one by each arm, and
thrust him staggering through the doorway.

"O pesca--to--o--o--"  Mr. Badcock's eyes, alighting on me, grew
suddenly large as gooseberries and he checked himself in the middle
of a roulade.  "Eh! why! bless my soul, if it's not--"

"Precisely," interjected Mr. Fett, with a quick warning wink and a
wave of his hand to introduce us.  "_I pescatori da maremma_.
. . . To them enter Proteus with his attendant nymphs. . . . They
rush on him and bind him with strings of sausages (will the Donna
Julia oblige by tucking up her sleeves and fetching the sausages from
the back kitchen, _with_ a brazier?)  The music, slow at first,
becomes agitated as the old man struggles with his captors; it then
sinks and breaks forth triumphantly, _largo maestoso_, as he
discourses on the future greatness of Genoa.  The whole written,
invented, and entirely stage-managed by Il Signore Fetto, Director of
Periodic Festivities to the Genoese Republic. . . . To be serious,
ladies, allow me to present to you four fellow-lodgers from--er--
Porto Fino, whom I have invited to share our repast.  What ho!
without, there!  A brazier!  Fazio--slave--to the macaroni!  Bianca,
trip to the cupboard and fetch forth the Val Pulchello.  Badcock,
hand me over the basket and go to the ant, thou sluggard; and thou,
Rinaldo, to the kitchen, where already the sausages hiss, awaiting
thee. . . ."

In less than twenty minutes we were seated at table.  Master Fazio's
hotel (it appeared) welcomed all manner of strange guests, and
(thanks to Mr. Fett's dextrous tomfooling) the comedians made us at
home at once, without questions asked.  Twice I saw Mr. Badcock, as
he held a mouthful of macaroni suspended on his fork, like an angler
dangling his bait over a fish, pause and roll his eyes towards me;
and twice Mr. Fett slapped him opportunely between the
shoulder-blades.

He had seated me between the Duenna and the pretty Bianca, to both of
whom--for both talked incessantly--I gave answers at random; which
by-and-by the Columbine observed, and also that I stole a glance now
and then across the Princess, who was trying her best to listen to
the conversation of the Matamor.

"Are you newly married, you two?" asked the Columbine, slily.
"Oh, you need not blush!  She puts us all in the shade.  You are in
love with her, at least?  Well, she scorns us and is not clever at
concealing it: but I will not revenge myself by trying to steal you
away.  I am magnanimous, for my part; and, moreover, all women love a
lover."



CHAPTER XXIX.


VENDETTA.


     "Have ye not seyn som tyme a pale face
      Among a prees, of him that hath be lad
      Toward his death, wher-as him gat no grace,
      And swich a colour in his face hath had,
      Men mighte knowe his face that was bistad,
      Amonges alle the faces in that route."
                               CHAUCER.  _Man of Lawe's Tale_.

"Criticism," said Mr. Fett, with his mouth full of sausage, "is the
flower of all the arts."

"For my part, I hate it," put in the melancholy Rinaldo.

"To be sure," Mr. Fett conceded, "if all men grasped this great
truth, there would be an end of artists; and in time, by consequence,
of critics, who live by them and for whom they exist.  Therefore I
keep my discovery as a Platonic secret, and utter it but
occasionally, in my cups, and when"--with a severe glance at Mr.
Badcock--"the vulgar are not attending."

Mr. Badcock woke up at once.  "On the contrary," he explained,
"I listen best with my eyes closed; a habit I acquired in Axminster
Parish Church.  Indeed, I am all ears."

"Indeed you are. . . . Well then, as I was about to say, the secret
of success in the Arts is to make other men do the work for you.
At this obviously he will excel who has learnt to appraise other
men's work, and knows exactly of what they are capable; that is to
say, the Critic.  Believe me, dear friends, the happiest moment of my
life will come when, as _impresario_ I shall have realized the
ambition of giving myself, as _capo comico_, the sack at twenty-four
hours' notice."

"A man should know his own worth," grumbled Rinaldo, "if only in
self-defence on pay-day."

"'Tis notorious, my dear Rinaldo, that your mere artist never does.
Intent upon expressing self, he misses the detachment which alone is
Olympian; whereas the critic--Tell me, why is an architect
architectonic?  Because he sits in his parlour, pushing the brown
sherry and chatting with his clients, while his clerks express their
souls for him in a back office.  This lesson, O Badcocchio, I learnt
from an uncle of mine, who had amassed a tidy competence by thus
vicariously erecting a quite incredible number of villa residences
for retired tradesmen in the midlands--to be precise, in and around
Wolverhampton.  I say vicariously, for on his deathbed it brought him
inexpressible comfort that he himself had not designed these things.

"He was in many respects a remarkable man, and came near to being a
great one.  His name originally was Lorenzo Smith, to which in later
years he added that of Desborough--partly for euphony, partly because
the initials made to his mind a pleasing combination, partly also in
pursuance of his theory of life, that he best succeeds who makes
others work for him.  By annexing the Desborough patronymic--which,
however, he tactfully spelled Desboro', to avoid conflict with the
family prejudices--he added, at the cost of a trifling fee to the
Consistory Court of Canterbury, a flavour of old gentility to the
artistic promise of Lorenzo, the solid commercial assurance of Smith.
Together the three proved irresistible.  He prospered.  He died worth
twenty-five thousand pounds, which had indeed been fifty thousand but
for an unlucky error.

"Like many another discoverer, he pushed his discovery too far.
He reasoned--but the reasoning was not _in pari materia_--that what
he had applied to Art he could apply to Religion.  In compliment to
what he understood to be the ancient faith of the Desboroughs he had
embraced the principles of Roman Catholicism--his motto, by the way,
was _Thorough_--and this landed him, shortly after middle age, in an
awkward predicament.  He had, in an access of spleen, set fire to the
house of a client whose payments were in arrear.  The good priest who
confessed him recommended, nay enjoined, an expiatory pilgrimage to
Rome; and my uncle, on the excuse of a rush of orders, despatched a
junior clerk to perform the pilgrimage for him.

"For a time all went well.  The young man (whom my uncle had promoted
from the painting of public-house sign-boards) made his way to Rome,
saluted the statue of the Fisherman, climbed on his knees up the
Scala Sancta, laid out the prescribed sum on relics, beads,
scapulars, medals, and what-not, and, in short, fulfilled all the
articles of my uncle's vow.  On the second evening, after an
exhausting tour of the churches, he sat down in a tavern, and
incautiously, upon an empty stomach, treated himself to a whole flask
of the white wine of Sicily.  It produced a revulsion, in which he
remembered his Protestant upbringing; and the upshot was, a Switzer
found him, late that night, supine in the roadway beneath the Vatican
gardens, gazing up at the moon and damning the Pope.  Behaviour so
little consonant with his letters of introduction naturally awoke
misgivings.  He was taken to the cells, where he broke down, and with
crapulous tears confessed the imposture; which so incensed His
Holiness that my uncle only bought himself off excommunication by
payment of a crippling sum down, and an annual tribute of his own
weight (sixteen stone twelve) in candles of pure spermaceti.
O Badcock, fill Donna Julia's glass, and pass the bottle!"


We spent the next five days in company with these strange
fellow-lodgers, and more than once it gave me an uncanny feeling to
turn in the midst of Mr. Fett's prattle and, catching the eye of
Marc'antonio or Stephanu as they sat and listened with absolute
gravity, to reflect on the desperate business we were here to do.
We went about the city openly, no man suspecting us.  On the day
after our arrival we discovered the Prince Camillo's quarters.
The Republic had lodged him, with a small retinue, in the Palazzo
Verde, a handsome building (though not to be reckoned among the
statelier palaces of the city), with a front on the Via Balbi, and a
garden enclosed by high walls, around which ran the discreetest of
_vicoli_.  One of the Dorias, so tradition said, had built it to
house a mistress, early in the seventeenth century.  I doubt not the
Prince Camillo found comfortable quarters there.  For the rest, he
had begun to enjoy himself after the fashion he had learnt in
Brussels, returning to dissipation with an undisguised zest.
The Genoese--themselves a self-contained people, and hypocritical, if
not virtuous--made less than a nine days' wonder of him, he was so
engagingly shameless, so frankly glad to have exchanged Corsica for
the fleshpots.  There was talk that in a few days he would make
formal and public resignation of his crown in the great hall of the
Bank of Saint George.  Meanwhile, he flaunted it in the streets, the
shops, the theatres.  His very publicity baulked us.  We tracked him
daily--his sister and I, in our peasant dress; but found never a
chance to surprise him alone.  His eyes, which rested nowhere, never
detected us.

We hunted him together, not consulting Marc'antonio and Stephanu, but
rather agreeing to keep them out of the way.  Indeed I divined that
the Princess's anxiety to hold him in sight was due in some degree to
her fear of these two and what they might intend.  For my part, I
watched them of an evening, at Messer' Fazio's board, expecting some
sign of jealousy.  But it appeared that they had resigned her to me,
and were content to be excluded from our counsels.

Another thing puzzled me.  Public as the Prince made himself, he was
never accompanied by his evil spirit (as I held him) the priest
Domenico.  Yet--_ame damnee_, or master devil, whichever he might
be--I felt sure that the key of our success lay in unearthing him.
So, while the Princess tracked her brother, I begged off at whiles to
haunt the purlieus of the Palazzo Verde--for three days without
success.  But on the fourth I made a small discovery.

The rear of the Palazzo Verde, I have said, was surrounded by narrow
alleys, of which that to the south was but a lane, scarcely five feet
in width, dividing its garden from the back wall of another palace
(as I remember, one of the Durazzi).  Halfway up this lane a narrow
door broke the wall of the Palazzo Verde's garden.  I had tried this
door, and found it locked.

On the afternoon of the fourth day, as I turned into this lane, a
middle-aged man met and passed me at the entrance, walking in a
hurry.  I had no proof that he came from the garden-door of the
Palazzo Verde, but I thought it worthwhile to turn and follow him;
which I did, keeping at a distance, until he entered a goldsmith's
shop in the Strada Nuova, where presently, through the pane, I saw
him talking with a customer across the counter.  I retraced my steps
to the lane.  The door (needless to say) was closed; but behind it,
not far within the garden, I heard a gentle persistent tapping, as of
a hammer, and wondered what it might mean.

It spoke eloquently for the Prince Camillo's zest after pleasure that
he pursued it abroad in spite of the weather, which was abominable.
A searching mistral blew through the streets for four days, parching
the blood, and on the night of the fourth rose to something like a
hurricane.  Our players fought their way against it to the theatre,
only to find it empty; and returned in the lowest of spirits.
The pretty Bianca was especially disconsolate.

Before dawn the gale dropped, and between eleven o'clock and noon, in
a flat calm, the snow began, freezing as it fell.

The Prince Camillo did not show himself in the streets that day.
But towards dusk, as we passed down the Via Roma, he drove by in an
improvised sleigh with bells jingling on the necks of his horses.
He was bound for the theatre, which stood at the head of the street.
The Princess turned with me, and we were in time to see him alight
and run up the steps, radiant, wrapped in furs, and carrying a great
bouquet of pink roses, such as grow in the Genoese gardens throughout
the winter.

But it appeared that, if we kept good watch on him, others had been
keeping better; for, five minutes later, as we stood debating whether
to follow him into the theatre, Marc'antonio and Stephanu emerged
from its portico and came towards us.

"O Princess," said Marc'antonio, "we have seen him at length and had
word with him.  When we told him that you were here in Genoa, he
looked at us for a moment like a man distraught--did he not,
Stephanu?"

"One would have said he was going to faint," Stephanu corroborated.

"I think, with all his faults, he is terrified for your sake, for the
risk you run.  He implored us to get you away from the city; and when
we told him it was impossible, he sent word that he would come to you
after the play, and himself try to persuade you.  We dared not let
him know where we lodged, for fear of treachery; so, being hurried,
we appointed the street by the Weavers' Gate, where, if you will meet
him, masked, a little after nine o'clock, Stephanu and I will be
near--in case of accidents--and doubtless the Cavalier also."

"Did he say anything of the crown, O Marc'antonio?"

"No, Princess, for we had not time.  The crowd was all around us, you
understand; and he drew up and talked to us, forcing himself to
smile, like a nobleman amusing himself with two peasants.  For the
crown, we shall leave you to deal with him."

"And I shall hold you to that bargain, O Marc'antonio," said she.
"But what will you two be doing with yourselves meanwhile?"

"With permission, Princess, we return to the theatre.  We shall watch
the play, and keep our eyes on him; and at half-past seven o'clock
the girl Bianca dances in the ballet.  Mbe!  I have not witnessed a
ballet since my days of travel."

"And I will run home, then, and fetch my mask.  At nine o'clock, you
say?"

"At nine, or a little after--and by the Weavers' Gate."

"And you will leave him to me?   You understand, you two, that there
is to be no violence."

"As we hope for Heaven, Princess."

"Farewell, then, until nine o'clock!"  She dismissed them, and they
returned to the portico and passed into the theatre.  "That is good,"
said she, turning to me with a sigh that seemed to lift a weight from
her heart.  "For, to tell the truth, I was afraid of them."

For me, I was afraid of them still, having observed some constraint
in Marc'antonio as he told his story, and also that, though I tried
him, his eyes refused to meet mine.  To be sure, there was a natural
awkwardness in speaking of the Prince to his sister.  Nevertheless
Marc'antonio's manner made me uneasy.

It continued to worry me after I had escorted the Princess back to
our lodgings.  Across the court, in the chamber over the archway,
some one was playing very prettily upon a mandolin.  In spite of the
cold I stepped to the outer door to listen, and stood there gazing
out upon the thick-falling snow, busy with my thoughts.
Yes, decidedly Marc'antonio's manner had been strange. . . .

While I stood there, a clock, down in the city, chimed out the
half-hour.  Its deep note, striking across the tinkle of the
mandolin, fetched me out of my brown study.  Half-past seven. . . .
I had an hour and a half to spare; ample time to step down to the
Palazzo Verde and reconnoitre.  If only I could hit upon some scent
of the priest Domenico!

I started at a brisk pace to warm my blood, which had taken a chill
from the draught of the doorway.  The snow by this time lay
ankle-deep, and even deeper in the pitfalls with which the ill-lit
streets abounded; but in twenty minutes I had reached the Via Balbi.
The wind was rising; in spite of the snow driven against my face I
had not noticed until I heard it humming in the alley which led under
the shadow of the garden wall.  I had scarcely noticed it before my
ears caught the jingle of bells approaching swiftly down the Via
Balbi.

"Eh?" thought I, "is the Prince returning, then, to change his dress?
Or has he sent home his carriage, meaning to pursue the adventure on
foot?"

There was no time to run back to the street corner and satisfy my
curiosity.  The horses went clashing past the head of the alley at a
gallop, and presently I heard the front gates of the palace grind
open on their great hinges.  Half a minute later they were closed
again with a jar, and almost immediately the clocks of the city began
to toll out the hour.

Was it my fancy?  Or did the last note die away with a long-drawn
choking sound, as of some one struggling for breath? . . .
And, last time, it had been the tap-tap of a hammer. . . .
Surely, strange noises haunted this alley. . . .

I listened.  I knew that I must be standing near the small door in
the wall, though in the darkness I could not see it.  The sinister
sound was not repeated.  I could be sworn, though, that my eyes had
heard it; and still, for two minutes perhaps, I stood listening, my
face lifted towards the wall's coping.  Then indeed I heard
something--not at all that for which I strained my ears, but a soft
muffled footfall on the snow behind me--and faced about on it,
clutching at the sailor's knife I wore in my belt.

It was a woman.  She had almost blundered into me as I stood in the
shadow of the wall, and now, within reach of my arm, drew back with a
gasp of terror.  Terror indeed held her numb while I craned forward,
peering into her face.

"Signorina Bianca!"

"But what--what brings you?" she stammered, still between quick gasps
for breath.

In the darkness, close by, a door slammed.

"Ah!" said I, drawing in my breath.  Stretching out a hand, I laid it
on her shoulder, from which the cloak fell away, disclosing a frosty
glint of tinsel.  "So it was for _you_ the Prince drove home early
from the theatre!  But why is the door left open?"

Pretty Bianca began to whimper.  "I--I do not know; unless some one
has stolen my key."  She put a hand down to fumble in the pocket of
her cloak.

"Then we had best discover," said I, and drew her (though not
ungently) to the door.  I found it after a little groping and,
lifting the latch--for the gust of wind had fastened it--thrust it
open upon a light which, though by no means brilliant, dazzled me
after the darkness of the alley.

I had counted on the door's opening straight into the garden.
To my dismay I found myself in a narrow vestibule floored with
lozenges of black and white marble and running, under the wall to my
left, towards an archway where a dim lamp burned before a velvet
curtain.  For a moment I halted irresolute, and then, slipping a hand
under Bianca's arm, led her forward to the archway and drew aside the
curtain.

Again I stood blinking, dazzled by the light of many candles--or were
they but two or three candles, multiplied by the mirrors around the
walls and the gleams from the gilded furniture?  And what--merciful
God, _what!_--was that foul thing hanging from the central
chandelier?--hanging there while its shadow, thrown upward past the
glass pendants, wavered in a black blot that seemed to expand and
contract upon the ceiling?

It was a man hanging there, with his neck bent over the curtain's
rope that corded it to the chandelier; a man in a priest's frock,
under which his bare feet dangled limp and hideous.

As the unhappy Bianca slid from under my arm to the floor, I tiptoed
forward and stared up into the face.  It was the face of the priest
Domenico, livid, distorted, grinning down at me.  With a shiver I
sprang past the corpse for a doorway facing me, that led still
further into this unholy pavilion.  The curtain before it had been
wrenched away from the rings over the lintel--by the hand, no doubt,
of the poor wretch as he had been haled to execution--since, save for
a missing cord, the furniture of the room was undisturbed.  The room
beyond was bare, uncarpeted, and furnished like a workshop.
A solitary lamp burned low on a bracket, over a table littered with
tools, and in the middle of the room stood a brazier, the coals in it
yet glowing, with five or sick steel-handled implements left as they
had been thrust into the heart of the fire.  Were they, then, also
torturers, these murderers?

My eyes turned again to the work-table.  On it, among the tools,
rested a crown--the crown of Corsica!  Nay, there were two--two
crowns of Corsica! . . . In what new art of treachery had the man
been surprised?  Treachery to Genoa, on top of treachery to Corsica.
. . . The crowns were surprisingly alike, even to the stones around
the band--and I bethought me of the jeweller I had met in the alley.
But, feeling around the rim of each, I recognized the true one by a
dent it had taken against the _Gauntlet's_ ballast.  Quick as
thought, then, I whipped it under my arm, ran back to Bianca, and
thrust it under her cloak as I bent over her.

She lay in a cold swoon.  I could not leave her in this horrible
place. . . .

I was lifting her to carry her out into the alley, when--in the
workshop or beyond it--a key grated in a lock; and I raised myself
erect as the Prince Camillo came through the pavilion, humming a
careless tune of opera.

"Hola!" he broke off and called, "Hola, padre, where the devil are
you hiding?  And where's the pretty Bianca? . . . O, confusion seize
your puss-in-the-corner!  I shall be jealous, I tell you--and br-r-h!
what a mistral of a draught!"

He came into the room rubbing his hands, half scolding, half
laughing, with the drops of melted snow yet shining on his furred
robe from his walk across the garden.  I saw him halt on the
threshold and look about him, prepared to call "Hola!" once again.
I saw his eyes fall on the corpse dangling from the chandelier, fix
themselves on it, and slowly freeze.  I saw him take one tottering
step forward; and then, from an alcove, Marc'antonio and Stephanu
stepped quietly out and posted themselves between him and retreat.

"It will be best done quietly," said Marc'antonio.  "The Cavalier,
there"--he pointed to me--"has the true crown, and will carry it to
good keeping.  You will pardon us, O Cavalier, that we were forced to
tell the Princess an untruth this evening; but right is right, and we
could not permit her to interfere."

In all my life I have never seen such a face as the Prince turned
upon us, knowing that he must die.  The face grinning from the
chandelier was scarcely less horrible.

He put up a hand to it.  "Not here!" he managed to say.  "In the next
room--not here!"

"As your highness wishes."  Marc'antonio let him pass into the
workshop and he stood before the brazier, stretching out his palms as
though to warm them.

"These!" he whispered hoarsely, pointing to the instruments on the
brazier.

"Your Highness misunderstands.  We are not torturers, we of the
Colonne," answered Marc'antonio, gravely.

A clock on the mantelpiece tinkled out the hour of nine.

"No, nor shall be murderers," I interposed.  "The Princess is yet
your mistress, O Marc'antonio, and I am her husband.  In the
Princess's name I command you both that you do not harm him."

To my amazement the wretched youth drew himself up, his cowardice
gone, his face twisted with sudden venomous passion.

"_You?  You_ will protect me?  Dog, I can die, but not owe _that!_"

I leapt forward, disregarding him, seeing that Marc'antonio's hand
was lifted, and that in it a dagger glittered.  But before I could
leap the Prince had snatched one of the steel rods from the brazier--
a charcoal rake.  And as I struck up Marc'antonio's arm, the rake
crashed down on my skull, tearing the scalp with its white-hot teeth.

I staggered back with both hands held to my head.  I did not see the
stroke itself; but between my spread fingers I saw the Prince sink to
the floor with the handle of Marc'antonio's dagger between his
shoulder-blades.  I saw the blood gush from his mouth.  And with that
I heard scream after scream from the doorway where Bianca stood
swaying, and shouts from the garden answering her screams.

"Foolish girl!" said Marc'antonio, quietly.  "And yet, perhaps, so
best!"

He stepped over the Prince's body, and taking me by both shoulders,
hurried me through the room where the priest hung, and forth into the
vestibule.  Stephanu did the same with Bianca, halting on his way to
catch up the crown and wrap it carefully in the girl's cloak.  At the
garden gate he thrust the bundle into my hands, even as Marc'antonio
pushed us both into the lane.

Outside the door I caught at the wall and drew breath, blinking while
the hot blood ran over my eyes.  I looked for them to follow and help
me, for I needed help.  But the door was closed softly behind us, and
a moment later I heard their footsteps as they ran back along the
vestibule, back towards the shouting voices; then, after a long
silence, a shot; then a loud cry, "CORSICA!" and another shot.


"They have killed him?"

I turned feebly to Bianca; but Bianca had not spoken.  She leaned,
dumb with fright, against the wall of the alleyway, and stared at the
Princess, who faced us, panting, in the whirls of snow.

"I tried"--it was my own voice saying this--"yes, indeed, I tried to
save him.  He would not, and they killed him . . . and now they also
are killed."

"Yes--yes, I heard them."  She peered close.  "Can you walk?  Try to
think it is a little way; for it is most necessary you should walk."

I had not the smallest notion whether I could walk or not.
It appeared more important that my head was being eaten with red-hot
teeth.  But she took my arm and led me.

"Go before us, foolish girl, and make less noise," she commanded the
sobbing Bianca.

"But you must try for _my_ sake," she whispered, "to think it but a
little way."


And I must have done so with success; for of the way through the
streets I remember nothing but the end--a light shining down the
passage of Messer' Fazio's house, a mandolin still tinkling over the
archway behind us, and a door opening upon a company seated at table,
the faces of all--and of Mr. Fett especially--very distinct under the
lamp-light.  They rose--it seemed, all at once--to welcome us, and
their faces wavered as they rose.



CHAPTER XXX.


THE SUMMIT AND THE STARS.


     "Aucassins, biax amis doux
      En quel terre en irons nous?
      --Douce amie, que sai jou?
      Moi ne caut u nous aillons,
      En forest u en destor,
      Mais que je soie aveuc vous!"
                          _Aucassin and Nicolete.

     "E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle."
                                       _Dante_.

I awoke to a hum of voices . . . but when my eyes opened, the
speakers were gone, and I lay staring at an open window beyond which
the sky shone, blue and deep as a well.  On a chair beside the window
sat the Princess, her hands in her lap. . . . While I stared at her,
two strange fancies played together in my mind like couples crossing
in a dance; the first, that she sat there waiting for something to
happen, and had been waiting for a very long, an endless, while; the
other that her body had grown transparent.  The sunlight seemed to
float through it as through a curtain.

I dare say that I lay incapable of movement; but this did not
distress me at all, for I felt no desire to stir--only a contentment,
deep as the sky outside, to rest there and let my eyes rest on her.
Yet either I must have spoken or (yes, the miracle was no less
likely!) she heard my thoughts; for she lifted her head and, rising,
came towards me.  As she drew close, her form appeared to expand,
shutting out the light . . . and I drifted back into darkness.

By-and-by the light glimmered again.  I seemed to be rising to it,
this time, like a drowned man out of deep water; drowned, not
drowning, for I felt no struggle, but rather stood apart from my body
and watched it ascending, the arms held downwards, rigid, the palms
touching its thighs--until at the surface, on the top of a wave, my
will rejoined it and forced it to look.  Then I knew that I had been
mistaken.  The sky was there, deep as a well; and, as before, it
shone through an opening; and the opening had a rounded top like the
arch of a window; yet it was not a window.  As before, my love sat
between me and the light, and the light shone through her.  My bed
rocked a little under me, and for a while I fancied myself on board
the _Gauntlet_, laid in my bunk and listening to the rolling of her
loose ballast--until my ear distinguished and recognized the sound
for that of wheels, a low rumble through which a horse's footfall
plodded, beating time.

I was scarcely satisfied of this before the sound grew indistinct
again and became a murmur of voices.  The arch that framed the
sunlight widened; the sky drew nearer, breaking into vivid separate
tinctures--orange, blood-red, sapphire-blue; and at the same time the
Princess receded and diminished in stature. . . . The frame was a
window again, and she a figure on a coloured pane, shining there in a
company of saints and angels.  But her voice remained beside me,
speaking with another voice in a great emptiness.

The other voice--a man's--talked most of the while.  I could not
follow what it said, but by-and-by caught a single word, "Milano";
and again two words, "The mountains" and yet again, but after an
interval, "The people are poor; they give nothing; from year's end to
year's end"--and the voice prolonged itself like an echo, repeating
the words until, as they died away, they seemed to measure out the
time.

"The more reason why _you_--" began the Princess's voice.
"There shall be spared one--a little one--for Our Lady."

But here I felt myself drifting off once more.  I was as one afloat
in a whirlpool, now carried near to a straw and anon swept away as I
clutched at it.

The eddy brought me round again to the window that was no window, the
rumble of wheels, the plodding of a horse's hoofs.  Beyond the low
arch--or was it a pent?--shone a star or two, and against their pale
radiance a shadow loomed--the shadow of the Princess, still seated,
still patient, still with her hands in her lap.  The rumble of the
wheels, the slow rocking of my bed beneath me, fitted themselves to
the intermittent flash of the stars, and beat out a rhythm in my
memory--a rhythm, and by degrees the words to fit it--

     "Tanto ch'io vidi delle cose belle
      Che porta il ciel, per un pertugio tondo,
      E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle."

_A riveder le stelle_--I closed my eyes, opened them again, and lo!
the stars were gone.  In their place shone pale dawn, touching the
grey-white arch of a tilt-waggon, on the floor of which I lay in a
deep litter of straw.  But still by the tilt, between me and the
dawn, rested my love, and drowsed, still patient, her hands in her
lap.

"At last!  At last!"

She called to the driver--I could not see him, for I lay with my face
to the tilt--and he pulled up his horse with a jolt.  Belike he had
been slumbering, and with the same jolt awoke himself.  I tried to
lift a hand--I think to brush away the illusion of the window and its
painted panes.

Maybe, slight as it was, she mistook the movement to mean that I felt
stifled under the hood of the waggon and wanted air.  At any rate,
she called again, and the driver (I have clean forgotten his face),
left his reins and came around to her.  Between them they lifted me
out and laid me on a bank between the road and a water-course that
ran beside it.  I heard the water rippling, near by, and presently
felt the cool, delicious touch of it as she dipped up a little in her
hollowed palms and moistened my bandages.

Our waggon had come to a halt in the very centre (as it seemed) of a
great plain, criss-crossed with dykes and lines of trees, and dotted
with distant hamlets.  The hamlets twinkled in the fresh daylight,
and in the nearest one--a mile back on the road--a fine campanile
stood up against the sun, which pierced through three windows in its
topmost story.  So flat was the plain that mere sky filled
nine-tenths of the prospect; and all the wide dome of it tinkled with
the singing of larks.

"_Ma dove? dove?_ . . ."

The Princess pointed, and far on the road, miles beyond the waggon,
I saw that which no man, sick or hale, sees for the first time in his
life without a lift of the heart--the long glittering rampart of the
Alps.

"Do we cross them?"

"_Pianu_. . . . In time, O beloved; thou and I . . . all in good
time."

I gazed up at her, half-frightened by the tenderness in her voice;
and what I saw frightened me wholly.  The sullenness had gone from
her eyes; as a mother upon the child in her lap, so she looked down
upon me; but her face was wan, even in the warm sunlight, and
pinched, and hollow-eyed.  I lifted her hand--a little way only, my
own being so weak.  It was frail, transparent, as though wasted by
very hunger.

She read the question I could not ask, and answered it with a brave
laugh.  (It appeared, then, that she had taught herself to laugh.)

"We have been sick, thou and I.  The mountains will cure us."

I looked along the road towards them, then up at her again.
I remembered afterwards that though she spoke so cheerfully of the
mountains, her gaze had turned from them, to travel back across the
plain.

"A little while!" she went on.  "We must wait a little while to
recover our strength.  But there are friends yonder, to help us."

"Friends?" I echoed, wondering that I possessed any.

"You must leave all talk to me," she commanded; "and, if you are
rested, we ought not to sit idling here."  She helped the driver to
lift me back into the waggon, where, as it moved on, she seated
herself in the straw and took my hand.  All her shyness had gone,
with all her sullenness.

"There is a farm," began she, "a bare twelve leagues from here, says
the waggoner, who knows it.  I carry a letter to the farmer from his
brother, who is the parish priest of Trecate, and a good man.
He says that his brother, too, is a good man, and will show us
kindness for his sake, because the farm once belonged to my friend,
as the elder, until he gave it up to follow God.  The pair have not
met since twenty years; for Trecate lies not far from Milan, and the
farm is deep in the mountains, above a village called Domodossola,
where the folk are no travellers. . . ."

Here her voice faded into a dream again; for a very little waking
wearied me, then and for weeks to come, and the word Milano brought
back the church, the stained window, the priest's voice talking, and
confused all these with the rumbling of the waggon.  But I held my
love's hand, and that was enough.

We came that same evening to the shore of a lake, beautiful as a pool
dropped out of Paradise, and the next day crawled uphill, hour after
hour, over a jolting road to the village, where I lay while the
driver climbed to the farm with the Princess's letter.  He was gone
five hours, but returned with the farmer, and the farmer's tall
eldest son; and the pair had brought a litter, in which to carry me
home.

The name of this good man was Bavarello--Giacomo Bavarello--and he
lived with his wife Battestina in a house full of lean children and
live-stock.  The house had deep overhanging eaves, held down by cords
and weighted with rocks; but this must have been rather in deference
to the custom of the country than as a precaution against storms, for
the farmstead lay cosily in a dingle of the mountain, where storms
never reached it.  Yet it took the sun from earliest dawn almost to
the last beam of midsummer daylight.  Behind it a pine forest climbed
to the snow; and up and across the snow a corniced path traversed the
face of the mountain and joined the _diligence_-road a little below
the summit of the pass.  At the point of junction stood a small
chapel, with a dwelling-room attached, where lived a brother from the
Benedictine _hospice_ on the far side of the pass.  His name was
Brother Polifilo, and it was supposed that he had fallen in love with
solitude (else how could he have endured to live in such a place?);
yet his smile justified his name, and his manner of playing with the
children when he descended to bring us the consolations of religion--
which he did by arrangement with the infirm parish priest in the
valley.  Also, on fine mornings when the snow held and the little
ones could be trusted along the path, the entire household of the
Bavarelli would troop up to Mass in his tiny chapel.

For me, it was many weeks before my sick brain allowed me to climb
beyond the pines; and many weeks, though the Princess always went
with me--before she told me all the story of what had happened in
Genoa.  Yet we talked much, at one time and another, though we were
silent more; for the silences told more.  Only our talk and our
silences were always of the present.  It was understood that the
whole story of the past would come, some day, when I had strength for
it.  Of the future we never spoke.  I could not then have told why;
though now all too well I can.

Sick man though I was, bliss filled those days for me, and their
memory is steeped in bliss.  Yet a thought began, after a while, to
trouble me.  We were living on these poor Bavarelli, and, for aught I
knew, paying them not a penny.  The good farmer might be grateful to
his priest-brother down yonder; but even if his gratitude were
inexhaustible we--strangers as we were--ought not to test it so.
To be sure, he and his wife wore a smile for us, morning and
evening--and this, though I had a notion that Donna Battestina was of
a saving disposition.  I had heard the pair of them protest when the
Princess offered to make herself useful in the farm-work--for which
she was plainly unfit--or, failing that, in the housework.  They had
made up their minds about us, that we were persons of gentle blood,
to whom all work must be derogatory.

The next day I insisted on climbing the slope to the pine-wood
without support of her arm.

"It is time," said I, "that I grew strong; unless somewhere you are
hiding a fairy purse."

She looked at me--for between us, by this time, one spoken word would
be the key to a dozen unspoken.  "You are not fit to start," she
stammered hastily, "nor will be for a long while.  There are
mountains behind these, and again more mountains--"  She broke off
and sat down upon a pine-log, trembling.

"I was not thinking of that," said I; "but of these people and their
hospitality.  Since we have no money I must work for them--at least,
until I can get money sent from England."

She glanced at me again, and with a shiver up at the snow peaks
beyond the pines.  I could read that she struggled with something,
deep within her, and I waited.  By-and-by she leaned forward, clasped
her hands about her knee, and sat silent for a long minute, gazing
southward over the plain at our feet.

"Listen," she said at length, but without turning her eyes.  "I have
something to confess to you."  Her voice dragged upon the words; but
she went on, "You have not asked me what has happened in Genoa
after--that night.  The snow covered up our footmarks and the
blood--for you were bleeding all the way; but at our lodgings the
actors were frightened out of their wits, and worse than ever when I
told them what had happened to Marc'antonio and Stephanu.  They would
all be arrested, they declared; the Bank of Genoa had eyes all over
the city.  Nevertheless one of them showed great courage.  It was
that strange friend of yours, Messer' Badcock.  My first thought was
to get you down to the boat and slip away to sea; and he offered--he
alone--first of all to make his way to the harbour and bring word if
the coast (as he said) was clear.  He went very cautiously, by way of
a cellar leading under our house and the next, and opening on a back
street--this, that his steps might not be traced to the front door;
and it was well that he went, for on the quay, hiding behind a stack
of timber, he saw two men in uniform posted at the head of the
water-stairs.  So he hastened back, using less caution, because by
this time the snow had smoothed over his tracks, and was falling
faster every moment.  The actors had already begun to pack, and
Messer' Fazio was running about in a twitter, albeit he declared
that, beside themselves, not a soul in Genoa knew of his having
lodged these Corsicans.  Doubtless, however, his house would be
searched in the morning, and the important, the pressing need was to
get rid of us.

"In his haste he could think of nothing better than an old
onion-loft, some sixty paces up the lane at the back.  It was a store
merely, not connected with any house, but owned by a rich merchant of
the city who had acquired it for some debt and straightway forgotten
all about it--at least, so Messer' Fazio declared.  If we were
discovered in hiding there, it could be explained that we had found
it, and used it for a lodging, asking no man's leave; and suspicion
would fall on no good citizen.

"I made sure that you were dying, and for myself I was past caring;
so I thanked him and told him to do with us as he thought best.
He and Messer' Badcock carried you out then, and I followed.
The building was of two floors, with a door to each.  A flight of
steps led from the lane to the upper door, which was padlocked; and
no one had used that way for twenty years, or so the landlord said.
We entered by the lower door, which was broken--both hasp and hinge--
and led straight from the lane into a dirty cellar, worse than any
cowshed and paved with mud.  But from this a ladder rested against
the wooden ceiling, and just above it was a plank that had worked
loose.  Messer' Fazio slipped the plank aside, and with great pains
we carried you up through the opening and into the loft.  I had
bandaged your head so that we left no traces of blood in the lane or
on the floor below.  Then Messer' Fazio gathered up some onions which
were strewn on the floor--I believe he had been drying them there on
the sly--and took leave of us in a hurry.  When he reached the bottom
again, he carried away the ladder, declaring that it belonged to him.

"I had brought with me but a loaf of bread, a flask of milk, and one
thing else--I will tell you what that was, by-and-by.  I sat by you,
waiting for you to die.  When morning came I forced you to drink some
of the milk.  The loft was bitterly cold, and I wondered indeed that
you were not dead.

"Towards evening I felt faint with hunger, and was gnawing a piece of
my loaf, when a voice spoke up to me from below.  It was a woman's
voice, and I took it at first for Lauretta's--she was the girl, you
remember, who played the confidante's part and such-like.  But when I
pulled the plank a little aside and looked down, I saw a girl unknown
to me--until I recognized her for one of those who lived above the
archway at the entrance of Messer' Fazio's court.  Lauretta had told
her, swearing her to be secret, and she was here in pity.  She called
herself Gioconda; and I bless her, for your sake.

"She fetched me bread, milk, and a little wine.  But for her--for
Messer' Fazio came never near us, and the actors, she told me, had
decamped--we should both have perished.  The cold lasted for ten
days; I cannot tell how you endured it; but at the end of them I
hoped you might recover, and with that I tried to think of some plan
for escaping from Genoa.  The worst was, I had no money. . . ."

The Princess paused, and shivered a little.

"That cold . . . it is in my bones yet.  I feel as though the least
touch of it now would kill me . . . and I want to live.  Ah, my love,
turn your eyes from me while I tell you what next I did!
The crown . . . it belonged to Corsica. I had denied your right to
it; but you had won it back from dishonour, and I remembered that in
the band of it were jewels, the price of which might save you.
Moreover, the little that kept us from starving came from--those
women; and it was hateful to owe them even for a little bread.
So I felt then.  Afterwards--But you shall hear; only turn away your
eyes.  I prayed to the Virgin, but my prayers seemed to get no clear
answer. . . . Then I pulled a staple from the wall, and with the
point of it prised out one of the jewels, an amethyst. . . . I had
spoken already to Gioconda.  That evening she brought me one of her
dresses, with shoes, stockings, and underskirt; a mirror, too, and
brush and comb, with paints, powders, and black stuff for the
eye-lashes, all in the same bundle, which she passed up through the
floor.  I dressed myself, painted my face, tired my hair, till I
looked like even such a woman as Gioconda; and then, letting myself
down at dark by a rope made of the sheet I drew from under you, I ran
through the streets to the quarter of the merchants.  La Gioconda had
forgotten to pack a cloak in the bundle; the night was snowing, with
snow underfoot; and I had run past the quays before the fear struck
me that, at so late an hour, the jewellers would have closed their
shops.  But in the street behind the Dogano I found one open, and the
jeweller asked no questions.  It appeared that he was used to such
women, and, having examined the stone through his magnifying-glass,
he counted me out three hundred livres.

"I ran back, faster than I had come, and climbed to the loft, hand
over hand, with the money weighing me down.  It was in my mind to
bribe one of the market-women, through Gioconda, to smuggle you out
through the North Gate, under the baskets in her cart.  But the day
had scarcely broken before Gioconda came (and she had never come yet
until evening) with terrible news.  She said that I must count on her
no more, for the accursed clericals (as she called them) had made
interest with the Genoese Government to clear all the stews, and that
she and her sisters by the gateway had orders to be quit of the city
within twenty-four hours; in fact her sisters had begun to pack
already, and the whole party would drive away, with their belongings,
soon after night-fall.  I asked her whither.  'To Milan,' she said;
for at Turin the Church was even stronger and more bigoted than in
Genoa.

"A new thought came to me then.  I handed down my money to Gioconda,
keeping back only a little, and prayed her to go to the woman, her
mistress, and bargain with her to carry you out of the city,
concealed beneath the furniture.  The girl clapped her hands at the
notion, and ran, but in an hour's time came creeping back in tears.
The woman would have more money--even threatened to betray us unless
I found her five hundred livres in all. . . .

"I borrowed Gioconda's shawl and sent her away, charging her to
return before evening.  Then I loosened another stone from the
crown--a sardonyx--and again I went out through the streets to the
jeweller's.  It was worse now than by night, for the people stared,
and certain men followed me.  I took them for spies at first; but
presently my stupid brain cleared, and I guessed for what they
mistook me; and then I kept them at their distance, using such tricks
as in Brussels I had seen the women use. . . ."

"O brave one!  O beloved!"

I stretched out my hand, but she turned from the caress, and hurried
on with her tale, her eyes still fastened on the distant plain, her
voice held level on the tone of a child reciting its task.

"The jeweller, too, asked many questions.  I think he was suspicious
at my coming twice in a few hours.  But the sardonyx was a finer
stone than the amethyst, and he ended by giving me three hundred and
fifty livres.  Two of the men were loitering for me outside the shop.
I gave them a false address and walked home quickly, longing to run
but not daring.  To mislead the men, in case they were following, I
made first for the house by the archway, and there on the stairs I
met the woman coming down with a bundle of stuff.

"I bargained with her, then and there.  There was a horrible man
belonging to the house, and at night-fall he fetched you, a little
before the carts arrived; and this was not a minute too soon.
For a crowd came with the carts.  While the loading went on they
stood around the door, calling out vile jokes, and afterwards they
followed through the streets, waving torches and beating upon old
pans.  I sat in the second cart, among half a dozen women.
My face was painted, and I smiled when they smiled.  But you lay
under the straw at my feet; and when the gate was passed, while the
women were calling back insults to the soldiers there, I gave thanks
to Our Lady.

"Beloved, that is my story.  At Tortona I parted from the women, and
hired the waggon which brought us the rest of the way.  But I had
done better, perhaps, to go with them to Milan, as Gioconda advised.
For my money began to run low, and, save Milan, there was no large
town on the road where I could sell another jewel.  Yet here again
Our Lady helped; for at Trecate I found the good priest, the brother
of these Bavarelli, and he, having heard my tale, offered to travel
to Milan and do my business.  So I parted with two more of the
stones; and yet a third--a little one--I gave him for Our Lady of
Trecate, as a thank-offering.  We have money enough to reward these
good people, though they lodge us for yet another six months; but the
crown has only one stone remaining.  It is a diamond--set in the very
front of the band--and, I think, more valuable than all the rest."

Her voice came to a halt.  "O beloved," she asked after a while,
quietly, almost desperately, "why are you silent?  Can you not
forgive?"

"Forgive?" I echoed.  "Dear, I was silent, being lost in wonder, in
love.  Forget that foolish crown; forget even Corsica!  Soon we will
take the diamond and cross the mountains together, to a kingdom
better than Corsica.  There," I wound up, forcing myself to speak
lightly, "if ever dispute should arise between us, as king and queen
we will ask my uncle Gervase to decide.  He, gallant man, will say,
'Prosper, to whom do you owe your life?' . . ."

"The mountains?  Ah, not yet--not yet!"  She put out her hands and
crept to me blindly, nestling, pressing her face against my ragged
coat.  "A little while," she sobbed while I held her so.  "A little
while!--until the child--until our child--"


How can I write what yet remains to be written?

Our child was never born.  So often, hand in hand, we had climbed to
the pine-woods that it escaped my notice how she, who had used to be
my support, came by degrees to lean on my arm.  I saw her broken by
fasting and vigil, and for me, I winced at the sound of her cough.
The blood on her handkerchief accused me.  "But we must wait until
the child is born," I promised myself, "and the mountain air will
quickly cure her."  Fool! the good farm-people knew better.  While I
gained strength, day by day she was wasting.  "Only let us cross the
mountains," I prayed, "and at home all my life shall pay for her
love!"  Fool, again!  She would never cross the mountains, now.

There came a day when I climbed the pine-wood alone.  With my new
strength, and because her weight was not on my arm, I climbed higher
than usual; and then the noise of chopping drew me on to the upper
edge of the forest, where I found Brother Polifilo with his sleeves
rolled, hacking at a tree.  He dropped his axe and stared at me, as
at a ghost.  I could not guess what perturbed him; for he had called
at the farm but the day before and heard me boast of my new strength.

I sat down to watch him.  But after a stroke or two his arm appeared
to fail him, and he desisted.  Without a word, almost without looking
at me, he laid the axe over his shoulder and went up the path towards
his chapel.

I gazed after him, wondering.  Then, of a sudden, I understood.


Three days later she died.  To the end they could not persuade me it
was possible; nay at the very end, while she lay panting against my
arm, I could not believe.

She died quietly--so quietly.  A little before the end she had been
restless, lying with a pucker on her brow, and eyes that asked
pitiably for something--I could not guess what, until she turned them
to the chair, over the back of which (for the day was sultry), I had
tossed my coat.

I reached for the coat and slipped it on.  Her eyes grew glad at
once.

"Closer!" she whispered.  As I bent closer, she nestled her face
against it.  "_La macchia! . . . la macchia!_"

With that last breath, drawing in the scent of it, she laid her head
slowly back, and slept.


The Bavarelli took it for granted that I would bury her in the
graveyard, down the valley.  But I consulted with Brother Polifilo.
I argued that every high mountain-top by its very nature came within
the definition of consecrated ground; and after a show of reluctance
he accepted the heresy, on condition I allowed him first to visit the
spot chosen and recite the prayer of consecration over it.

We laid her in the coffin that Brother Polifilo brought, and carried
her to the summit of the mountain overlooking the pass, where the
rock had allowed us to dig the shallowest of graves.  Beside it, when
the coffin was covered, I said good-bye to the Bavarelli and
dismissed them down the hill.  They understood that I had yet a word
to speak to the good monk.

"One thing remains," I said, and showed him the crown with the five
empty settings, and the one diamond yet glittering in its band.

"Help me to build a cairn," said I.

So he helped me.  We built a tall cairn, and I laid the crown within
it.

The sun was setting as we laid the last stone in place.  We walked in
silence down to the pass, and there I shook hands with him by the
little chapel, and received his blessing before setting my face
northwards.

I dare say that he stood for a long while, watching me as I descended
the curves of the road.  But I never once looked back until I had
crossed the valley, far below.  The great peak rose behind me; and it
seemed to me that on its summit a diamond shone amongst the stars.



POSTSCRIPT.


BY GERVASE ARUNDEL.


                             July 15 (St. Swithun's), 1761.

My nephew has asked me to write the few words necessary to conclude
this narrative.

The day after my brother's burial, the _Gauntlet_, in company with
General Paoli's gunboat, _Il Sampiero_, weighed and left the island
of Giraglia for Isola Rossa, where by agreement we were to wait one
calendar month before sailing for England.

The foregoing pages will sufficiently explain why the month passed
without my nephew's putting in an appearance.  For my part, albeit my
arguments had been powerless to dissuade him from going to Genoa, I
never expected him to return, but consoled myself with the knowledge
that he had gone to his fate in a good cause, and in a spirit not
unworthy of his father.

We were highly indebted during our stay at Isola Rossa to the
General, who, being detained there by the business of his new
fortifications, exerted himself that we should not lack a single
comfort, and seemed to inspire a like solicitude in his subjects.
I call the Corsicans his subjects since (if the reflection may be
permitted) I never met a man who carried a more authentic air of
kingliness--and I am not forgetting my own dear brother-in-law.
Alive, these two men met face to face but once; and Priske, who
witnessed the meeting, yet understood but a bare word or two of what
was said, will have it that for dignity of bearing the General would
not compare with his master.  The honest fellow may be right; for
certainly no one could speak with John Constantine and doubt that
here was one of a line of kings.  Nevertheless to me
(a matter-of-fact man), Paoli appeared scarcely less imposing in
person, and withal bore himself with a businesslike calm which, in a
subtle way I cannot describe, seemed to tolerate the others, yet
suggest that, beside his own purpose, theirs were something unreal.
As an Englishman I should say that he felt the weight of public
opinion behind him all the while, without which in these days the
kingliest nature must miss something of gravity.  Yet he has proved
more than once that no public man can be more quixotic, upon
occasion.

It distressed me to find that the Queen Emilia would have none of his
courtesies; as I think it distressed him, though he comported himself
perfectly.  She rejected, and not too graciously, his offer to
restore her to her palace at Casalabriva and secure her there against
all enemies.  From the first she had determined, failing her son's
return, to sail with us to England; and sail she did.

But from the first I doubted her reaching it alive.  Her sufferings
had worn her out, and it is a matter of dispute between Dom Basilio
(who administered the last sacrament), and me whether or no her eyes
ever saw the home to which we carried her.  They were open, and she
was certainly breathing, when we made the entrance of Helford river;
for we had lifted her couch upon deck and propped her that she might
catch the earliest glimpse of Constantine above the trees.  They were
open when we dropped anchor, but she was as certainly dead.  She lies
buried in the private chapel of the house, disused during my
brother-in-law's lifetime, but since restored and elaborately
decorated by our Trappist guests.  A slab of rose-pink Corsican
granite covers her, and is inscribed with the words, "Orate pro anima
Emiliae, Corsicorum Reginae," the date of her death, and beneath it a
verse which I took to be from the Vulgate until Parson Grylls
quarrelled with Dom Basilio over it--

     "CRAS AMET QVI NVNQVAM AMAVIT QVIQVE AMAVIT CRAS AMET."


As I have said, I had parted with all hope to see my nephew again:
and it but confirmed my despair when I received a letter from General
Paoli with news that the Prince Camillo had been assassinated; for
neither his sister nor Prosper had said word to me of the young man's
treachery, and I concluded that they had bound themselves to rescue
him, an unwilling prisoner.  In our last brief leave-taking on the
island, Prosper had confided to me certain wishes of his concerning
the house at Constantine, and the disposal of his estate; wishes of
which I need only say here that they obliged me after a certain
interval to get his death "presumed" (as the phrase is), and for that
purpose to ride up to London and seek counsel with our lawyer, Mr.
Knox.

I arrived in London early in the second week of November,  1760--a
few days after the decease of our King George II.; and, my business
with Mr. Knox drawing to a conclusion, it came into my head to
procure a ticket and go visit the Prince's chamber, near the House of
Peers, where his Majesty's body lay in state.  This was on the very
afternoon of the funeral, that would start for the Abbey after
nightfall, and at Westminster I found a throng already gathered in
the mud and murk.  In the _chambre ardente_, which was hung with
purple, a score of silver lamps depended from the roof around a tall
purple canopy, under which the corpse reposed in its open coffin,
flanked with six immense silver candelabra.  Between the candelabra
and at the head and foot of the coffin stood six gigantic soldiers of
the guard, rigid as statues, with bowed heads and arms reversed.
Only their eyes moved, and I dare say that I stared at them in
something like terror.  Certainly a religious awe held me as the
pressure of the sightseers carried me forth from the doors again and
into the street, where I wedged myself into the crowd, and waited for
the procession.  By this time a fog had rolled up from the river, and
the foot-guards who lined the road had begun to light their torches.
Behind them were drawn up the horse-guards, their officers erect in
saddle, with naked sabres and heavy scarves of crape.  There amid the
sounds of minute guns, and of bells tolling I must have waited a full
hour before the procession came by--the fifes, the muffled drums, the
yeomen of the guard staggering with the great coffin, the
pall-bearers and peers walking two and two, with pages bearing their
heavy trains.  All this I watched as it went by, and with a mind so
shaken that a hand from behind had plucked twice or thrice at my
elbow before I was aware that any one claimed my attention.
Then, turning with a moisture in my eyes--for the organ had begun to
sound within the abbey--I found myself staring past the torch of a
foot-guard and into the face of my nephew, risen from the dead!
He was haggard, unkempt in his hair and dress, and (I think) had been
fasting for a long while without being aware of his hunger.  He drew
me back and away from the crowd; but when I had embraced him, it
seemed that to all my eager questions he had nothing to answer.

"I was starting for Cornwall, to-morrow," he said.  "Shall we travel
together?"  And then, as though painfully recollecting, he passed a
hand over his forehead and added, "I have walked half-way across
Europe.  I am a good walker by this time."

"We will hire horses, to be sure," said I, finding nothing better to
say.

The age, the lines in his young face cut me to the heart, and I
longed to ask concerning the Princess, but dared not.

"Horses?  Ah, yes, to be sure, I come back to riches.  Nay, my dear
uncle, you are going to tell me that the estates are mortgaged deep
as ever--I know.  But allow me to tell you there is all the world's
difference between poverty that is behindhand with its interest, and
poverty that has to trust God for its next meal."

At the eating-house to which I carried him he held out his scarred
palms to me across the table.

"They have worked my way for me from the Alps," said he.  "I left my
crown there, and"--he laughed wearily--"I come back to find another
monarch in the act of laying aside a greater one.  My God!
The vanity of it!"

He drank off a glass of wine.  "Find me a bed, Uncle Gervase," said
he.  "I feel that I can sleep the clock round."


We rode out of London next day.  He started in a fret to be home, but
this impatience declined by the way, and by the time we crossed Tamar
had sunk to a lethargy.  Sore was I to mark the dull gaze he lifted
(by habit) at the corner of the road where Constantine comes into
view; and sorer the morning after, when, having put gun into his hand
and packed him off with Diana, the old setter, at his heel, I met him
an hour later returning dejectedly to the house.  For the next three
or four months he went listless as a man dragging a wounded limb.
But since spring brought back rod and angle, I think and pray that
the voice of running water (best medicine in Nature) begins to cure
him.  He has written the foregoing narrative in a hot fit which,
while it lasted, more than once kept his lamp burning till daybreak;
and although the last chapter was no sooner finished than he flung
the whole away in disgust.  I have hopes of him.  I may even live to
see a child running about these silent terraces . . .  But this, my
dearest wish, outruns all present indications; and if Prosper ever
marries again it will be as his father married, and not for love.[1]

By good fortune I am able to supply the reader with some later news
of two members of the expedition, Mr. Fett and Mr. Badcock.  It came
to me, early this summer, in the following letter:--

     _To Gervase Arundel, Esq., of Constantine in Cornwall, England_.

                                           "Venice.
                                 Ash Wednesday (4.30 a.m.), 1761.

     "Excellent Sir,

     "I take up my pen, and lay aside the false nose I have been
      wearing night and day for close on a week, to make a
      communication which will doubtless interest you as it has
      profoundly affected me.  It will also interest your nephew and
      his lady (whose hands I kiss) if they succeeded in effecting
      their escape to England--where, failing news of them, I do
      myself a frequent pleasure to picture them at rest upon the
      quiet waters of domestic felicity.  But I address myself rather
      to you, whom (albeit on the briefest acquaintance) I shall ever
      regard as the personification of stability and mild repose.
      Heracleitus and his followers may prate of a world of flux; but
      there are men to whom the recollections of their fellows ever
      turn confidently, secure of finding them in the same place; and
      of such, sir, you are the palmary example among my
      acquaintance.

     "On the circumstances of our retreat from Genoa I need not
      dilate.  We decamped--I and my brother _artistes_--to Pisa,
      where, after an unsatisfactory season, we broke up our company
      by mutual consent and went our various ways in search of
      fortune.  Mr. Badcock--by this time a pantaloon of considerable
      promise and not to be sneezed at in senile parts where
      affection or natural decay required, or at least excused, a
      broken accent--threw in his lot with me: and we bent our steps
      together upon this unique city, where for close upon twelve
      months I have drawn a respectable salary as Director of Public
      Festivities to the Sisterhood of the Conventual Body of Santa
      Chiara.  Nor is the post a sinecure; since these estimable
      women, though themselves vowed against earthly delights,
      possess a waterside garden which, periodically--and especially
      in the week preceding Lent--they throw open to the public; a
      practice from which they derive unselfish pleasure and a useful
      advertisement.

     "On Thursday last, the Giovedi Grasso, the Abbess had (in
      consultation with me) provided an entertainment which not only
      attracted the rank and fashion of Venice but (I will dare to
      say) made them forget the exhaustion of the maddest day of
      carnival with its bull-baiting and battles of _confetti_.
      An hour before midnight all Venice had taken to its gondolas
      and was being swept, with song and music, towards the Giudecca.
      The lagoons swam with the reflections of a thousand moving
      lanterns, and all their streaming ribbons of light converged
      upon the bridge of Santa Chiara, beyond which, where the
      gardens descended in stairways of marble to the water, I had
      lined the banks with coloured lamps.  Discreet narrow
      water-alleys, less flauntingly lit, but with here and there a
      caged nightingale singing in the boscage, intersected the
      sisters' pleasure-grounds; but the main canal led around an
      ample stretch of turf in the midst of which my workmen had
      reared a stage for a masque of my composing, entitled _The Rape
      of Helen_.  Badcock, who was to enact the part of Menelaus, had
      at my request attired himself early, for some few of my
      nightingales were young birds and not to be depended on, and I
      had an idea of concealing him in the shrubberies to supply a
      _flauto obbligato_ while our guests arrived.  I had interrupted
      my instructions to despatch him on some small errand connected
      with the coloured fires, and he had scarcely disappeared among
      the laurels, when along the path came strolling two figures I
      recognized as fellow-countrymen--the young Lord Algernon
      Shafto, of the English embassy, and his mother's brother, the
      Venerable John Kynaston Worley, Archdeacon of Wells.
      Lord Algernon wore a domino.  His uncle (I need scarcely say)
      had made no innovation upon the laced hat and gaiters proper to
      his archidiaconal rank--though it is likely enough that the
      Venetians found this costume as eccentric as any in the throng.
      He had arrived in the city a bare week before; and walked with
      an arm paternally thrust in his nephew's, while he made
      acquaintance with the luxurious frivolities of a Venetian
      carnival.

     "As they passed me I stooped to trim the peccant wick of one of
      the many lamps disposed like glowworms along the path: but a
      moment later their voices told me that my countrymen had found
      a seat a few paces away, in an arbour whence, by the rays of a
      paper lantern which overhung it, they could observe the
      passers-by.

    "'A wonderful nation,' the Archdeacon was saying, in that
      resonant voice of which the well-connected among the Anglican
      clergy (and their wives) alone possess the secret.  'I may tell
      you, my dear lad, that this visit to Venice has been a dream of
      my life, cherished though long deferred.  I had not your
      advantages when I was a young man.  The Grand Tour was denied
      me; and a country curacy with an increasing family promised to
      remove the realization of my dream to the Greek Kalends.
      But in all those years I never quite lost sight of it.
      There is a bull-dog tenacity in us British: and still from time
      to time I renewed the promise to myself that, should I survive
      my dear wife--as I hoped to do--'

     "Here, having trimmed my lantern, I straightened myself up to
      find that Mr. Badcock had returned and was standing behind my
      shoulder.  To my amazement he was trembling like an aspen.

    "'Hush!' said he, when I would have asked what ailed him.

     "I listened.  I suppose Lord Algernon responded with a polite
      hope that Venice fulfilled his uncle's long expectation: but I
      could not catch the words.

    "'Entirely so,' was the reply.  'I may even say that it surpasses
      them.  Such an experience enlarges the mind, the--er--outlook.
      And if a man of sixty can confess so much, how happy should you
      be, my dear Algy, to have received these impressions at _your_
      age!  Yet, my dear lad, remember they are of value only when
      received upon a previous basis of character.  The ladies, for
      instance, who own these delightful grounds . . . doubtless they
      are devout, in their way, but in a way how far removed from
      those God-fearing English traditions which one day, as a
      landlord among your tenantry and to that extent responsible for
      the welfare of dependent souls, it will be yours to foster!'

     "Here, warned by a choking cry, I put out a hand to catch Mr.
      Badcock by the sleeve of his pallium: but too late! With a wild
      gesture he broke loose from me and plunged down the pergola
      towards the arbour, at the entrance of which he flung himself
      on his knees.

    "'Oh, sir!' he panted, abasing himself and stretching forth both
      hands to the archidiaconal gaiters.  'Oh, sir, have pity!
      Teach me to be saved!'

     "The Archdeacon (I will say) after the momentary shock rose to
      the occasion like a sportsman.  A glance sufficed to assure him
      that the poor creature was in earnest, and with great presence
      of mind he felt in his pocket for a visiting-card.

    "'Certainly, my good fellow, certainly . . . if you will call on
      me to-morrow at my lodgings . . . two doors from the
      embassy. . . . Dear me, how provoking!  Would you mind,
      Algernon, lending me one of your cards?  I remember now leaving
      mine on the dressing-table.'

     "He fished out a pencil, took the card his nephew proffered and,
      having written down name and address, handed it to Badcock.

    "'The door of grace, my friend, stands ever open to him who
      knocks. . . . Shall we say at ten-thirty to-morrow morning?
      Yes, yes, a very convenient hour for me, if you have no
      objection?  Farewell, then, until to-morrow!'  With a
      benedictory wave of the hand he linked arms with Lord Algernon
      and strolled away down the walk.

    "'Badcock,' said I, stepping forward and clapping a hand on his
      shoulder.  'Hark to the gong calling you to the masque!'

     "But the creature stood as in a trance.  'His signature!' he
      answered in an awed whisper.  'The Archdeacon of Wells's own
      signature, and upon Lord Algernon's card!'--and I declare to
      you that he fell to kissing the pasteboard ecstatically.

     "Well, he was past all reason.  Luckily, having written it, I
      had his part by rote; and so, snatching his Menelaus' wig and
      beard, I ran towards the theatre.

     "That, sir, is all my tale.  The man is lost to me.  He left
      Venice yesterday in the Archdeacon's carriage, but in what
      precise capacity--whether as valet, secretary, or courier--he
      would not impart.  He told me, however, that his salary was
      sufficient, if not ample, and that he had undertaken as a
      repentant sinner to make himself generally useful.
      The Archdeacon, it appears, is collecting evidence in
      particular of the horrors of a Continental Sabbath.

     "Addio, sir! For me, I have now parted with the last of my
      comrades, yet my resolution remains unshaken.  On this sacred
      soil, where so many before me have cultivated the Arts, I will
      do more.  I will make them pay.  Meanwhile I beg you to accept
      my sincere regards, and to believe me

                              "Your obliged, obedient servant,

                                              "Phineas Fett."


William Priske has espoused Mrs. Nance, our good housekeeper; I
believe upon her own advice.

The Trappists (sixteen in number) yet dwell with us, and the left
wing of Constantine has been reserved for their use.  They have
deserved our gratitude, though, out of respect for their rules, I
could never convey it to them in words.  Indeed, it is but seldom
that I get speech even with Dom Basilio.  Sometimes when his walk
leads him by the river-bank where I stand a-fishing he will seat
himself for a while and watch; and then I find a comfort in his
presence, as though we conversed together without help of speech.
Then also, though my reason disapprove of our guest's rigour, an
inward voice tells me that there is good in their religion, as
perchance there is good wherever men have found anchorage for their
souls.

I remember once listening in our summer-house, upon St. Swithun's
feast, while my dear brother-in-law disputed with Mr. Grylls upon
action and contemplation--which of them was the properer end of man.
I thought then that each of them, though they talked up and down and
at large, was in truth defending his own temperament: and, because I
loved them both, that neither needed defending.  For my own part, the
small daily cares of Constantine have stolen away from me, not
altogether unhappily, the time of choosing, and I ask now but to
follow that counsel of the Apostle wherewith my master Walton closed
his book, and "Study to be Quiet."


G.A.


[1]  Here--for it scarcely appears in the narrative--let me say that
my sister was an exemplary wife and, while fate spared her, a devoted
mother.  I knew my brother-in-law for a great man, incapable of a
thought or action less than kingly, and I worshipped him (as Ben
Jonson would say) "on this side idolatry"; but if the Constantines
have a fault, it is that they demand too much of life, and exact it
somewhat too much as a matter of course.  I have heard this fault
attributed to other great men.--G.A.


FINIS





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